Tuesday, 29 January 2013

You Put The What In The Where Now?

Did you ever see a game that you just had to have? Not because it was the creme dela creme or, a shining example of games design... But because it was the odd one out.

There's been a game sitting on the shelf of a local thrift store for a while now that I have been drawn to for this very reason. On the face of things, Black Box looks like a fairly simple game. That is until you actually get to the rules that is, which are in German.


Now as much as this might settle many rules arguments (if you can't understand the rules, you can't exactly argue over the "right" way of  doing something), actually playing the game might also present, shall we say a "challenge".

Not to worry though, once I cracked open the box, I was happy to find that the rules where short enough to fit on the inside of the lid (something that's unlikely to happen with a modern game), so typing them by hand into a translation engine wouldn't be too much of a problem and, there was another rulebook inside.. In French.

Now whilst my German is limited, my French is virtually non-existent. Which means that the French rules may as well have been in double-dutch. For some reason they also stretched to several A4 pages to boot and, they were not quite the end of the languages saga.

The previous owner had obviously found themselves in a similar situation to me and, painstakingly had sat there and translated the rules into English, by hand!


As much as I appreciate the effort that the previous owner went to, their handwriting is pretty much illegible. Time to Google this one I think.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Alchemy's Workbench #9: Zombie Movie!

With so many incomplete projects sitting in a semi-permanent limbo state on the metaphorical workbench , the last thing I should probably be doing is throwing more fuel on the fire but, sometimes you dream up an idea that appeals to you so deeply, you just have to see where it's going to take you.. In this case a couple of ideas.

I'm really getting into Jerry Teleha's Campus Chaos adventure and, having at least a couple of zombie fans in my local gaming group, it's getting harder and harder to resist the idea of running a session of Stay Alive! myself. It's that good!

I do get the feeling that we'd be a lot more Shaun of the Dead than, Dawn of the Dead though, as even in our "serious" campaigns, humor tends to take over. Which is awesome! So I say, start as you mean to go on.

With that in mind, I have a couple of more absurd ideas in mind that I have spawned a few adventure seeds from:

Hold Out! A.K.A Zombies on a Boat: A generic corporation that may or not be related to a parasol has decided to smuggle their latest experiment overseas via civilian transport with disastrous consequences. Either that or it's a vile attempt to assassinate the head of the CDC who's holidaying on the cruise ship in question.. Whichever seems funnier at the time.

Speak Easy or Die Hard: Prohibition era America and, there's something in the bootleg moonshine. Grab your Tommy Gun and suit up, there's worse things than the "evils of alcohol" roaming the streets tonight.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Kremm 101

Commenting on a previous post, I complained (if complained is really the best word to use) about how I felt the allocation of WIZ costs within Tunnels and Trolls was fairly arbitrary (okay, it sounds a LOT like complaining).

However, after having spent the better part of this afternoon studying the spellbook like a first year apprentice at the Grand College of Wizardry, I have found that whether by coincidence or design, there is a pattern linking the level, cost, range and, duration of a spell. Of course, it doesn't apply to every spell in the book but, as the 7.5 manual I am working from had several different authors designing spells, that's no wonder.

Still, it makes for a nice framework when Wizards reach the 5th level and want to leave there own mark on the Trollish domain.. It'll also be all kinds of useful for my proposed plans to create new colleges of magic.

So here's what I have so far:

  • The base cost to cast any spell is the level of the spell multiplied by three.
  • Next apply the following range modifiers to the casting cost.
Up to 10 Feet: x1
Up to 20 Feet: x1.1
Up to 30 Feet: x1.15
Up to 40 Feet: x1.12
Up to 50 Feet: x1.25
Up to 100 Feet: x1.5

  • Now multiply this new value by the desired modifier for duration
Up to 1 Combat Round: x1
Up to 2 Combat Rounds: x1.1
Up to 3 Combat Rounds: x1.15
Up to 4 Combat Rounds: x1.12
Up to 5 Combat Rounds: x1.25
Up to 10 Combat Rounds: x1.5

That's level, range, cost and, duration covered! Now all I need to do is build up some kind of list of what effects you can expect to generate at each level. Which is probably the trickiest part of the task at hand.

Some effects seem much easier than others to pigeon hole from a peruse of the spellbook, such as how much damage a spell can dish out, but I'd really love to hear what other people think a spell should do at any given level.

Can you really become invisible at level 2? What are your thoughts guys?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

What Do You Know!?

Admission Fee: 10 DEX, 10 INT.
There's not much that I don't like about Tunnels and Trolls, but that's not to say it's perfect. Far from it, and one of the nagging problems I have with the latest edition (7.5, not the French 8th Edition or, the forthcoming deluxe edition) is the fact that 1st level Wizards start out with 20 spells spread across all four disciplines.

That's double the amount that their 5.5 counterparts started out with!

Granted, some of the new additions don't do anything towards tipping game balance but, that's not really the point. My problem isn't even the ever spiraling list of spells. My problem is that we've added so much new material and a Wizard is just a Wizard.

It's almost the assumption that everyone that goes off to Wizard college follows the same curriculum, when where in the real world we choose what to study based on the career we want to pursue or, we choose to learn more about the things that interest us. Either way, the keyword here is choice.

There is already a website out there (which I am struggling to find for some reason) that divided up the spells into such categories as "Fire Mage" and what not. Which, I felt was a great idea and, I have already archived Bruce V. Edwards great work on magical colleges over at my old website, which is exactly along the lines of what I would hope to achieve if I undertook this task myself.

So, my question is if you were in the driving seat of the deluxe Tunnels and Trolls project, how would you handle spells?

Flame On!

Human Torch by Covens Oz
When it comes to attack magic in Tunnels and Trolls, Take That You Fiend! is the standard, and, why not?

It's far more potent than any Magic Missile could ever be and, as the Wizard progresses and gains access to even more powerful magics it doesn't become redundant. Best of all, it's a part of your opening repertoire of spells, so it's a freebie!

This creates a bit of a problem though. With TTYF! at your disposal from the word go, why would you bother with spells like Call Flame and, Call Water? They cost more to cast and likely do less damage.. At least on the face of things, but take a look at that spell book again.

TTYF! cannot target inanimate objects. Call Flame can! So, whilst your TTYF! spell is always going to be subject to Kremm resistance, Call Flame can cause absolute havoc amongst your enemies with indirect attacks and the collateral damage that they can cause.

Don't believe me? Why not give some of these a try the next time you're at the gaming table:

  • Blast a bow string: Render the Ranger's missile adds moot with this one.
    • Flaming backpacks: Watch your foe struggle as the material sack he strapped to himself combusts. I hope there wasn't anything too expensive in there.. Or any flasks of oil.
    • That'll cost you: Burn a rivals wand to run up their Kremm costs.
    • Exploding lanterns: A sudden blast of fire should be more than enough to ignite all the oil in that lantern at once.
    • Feel the burn: A sudden blast of fire should also be more than enough to heat a metal weapon to the point where it is too painful to hold on to.
    • Blackpowder backfire: Gunnes are pricey, so why not trash one by igniting the powder in the breach. It might even go off with a bang.
    • Typo: Any magical object that relies on runes to weave its spell could be rendered useless by a blast or two (particularly those made of precious / soft metal), warping the metal. 

    Well worth the pandemonium for the cost of 1 extra WIZ.

    Monday, 21 January 2013

    Bloggish Hall Of Fame: Shout Out About A Shoot Out!

    It's been a while since I admitted an entry into the bloggish hall of fame, the informal way I like to recognise fellow bloggers and say great job. It's not an easy job putting out quality content tirelessly, so I think a pat on the back for all the enjoyment they bring folks is the least they deserve.

    As you've probably guessed from the graphic header, this kudos is going out to Jerry Teleha's Stay Alive! blog. A play-by-post survival horror that welcomes all those who want to drop in (and is going great guns).

    Not only is this proving to be a great jaunt but, Jerry has also been kind enough to post up the rule modifications that he is using, that will allow you to run a session of your very own, providing that you have a copy of Tunnels and Trolls to hand (which are also free here and here).

    Like what you see? Why not check out the The Delving Dwarf, Jerry's other blog that also hosts some early Stay Alive! content, including an in-depth look at how his zombie work. Essential for the GM looking to run a session of their own.

    A Brave New World #2: Lore Of The Land

    Fur and scales? Why not!
    Making the familiar fresh again was a topic that I hit upon in my last post and, since then I have a little more time to think about the idea. In particular, to think about my concept of "Hell Hounds" and, how they play into the world that I want to create.

    In order to do this, I took a look at the lore surrounding Hell Hounds, in order to map out the defining characteristics that make said hound, hellish. A re-occurring theme is fire. They breathe fire, are immune to fire and the associations with hell and fire no doubt has more than a small part to play in their name sake.

    My game worlds all about balance though, so the Hell Hounds aren't getting what is often described as an immunity to fire without an extreme penalty when it comes to water. So, I have decided that even the smallest of splashes are like acid to them and highly toxic, with some misguided priest along the ways thinking the reaction to his holy water came from their hellish nature and, not simply the water itself.. Yup, misinformation is the thing that legends are made of.

    So, if they're allergic to water, what do they drink?

    That was a tricky one! In the end I came up with two possible answers, one of which was blood. Which was all well and good but, I actually prefer the idea of lava. Yeah, lava!

    These pups have a quite literal immunity to fire, so with all the minerals flowing through the molten magma, lava is like gruel to these doggies! Also, if a passing adventurer happened to spy one spitting it's lunch up, it would certainly seem like it was spewing fire (which mine don't by nature, they're just BIG dogs with an immunity to flames that happen to live deep in the bowels of the earth).

    With the main points covered, I'd say that's mission accomplished! The hell hounds will seem familiar enough to any group that they will identify them on the spot but, the actual lore has been altered significantly. They're just over-sized canines that live deep in the earth and have adapted to do so.. They sure sound like hell hounds though don't they?

    Thursday, 17 January 2013

    A Brave New World #1: The Three.

    When devising my own Tunnels and Trolls setting, I have decided to tie as closely with the rule of three as possible. But what is the rule of three?

    For me it's the core of the original game. You have Warriors, Wizards and, Rogues. Warriors are purely physical, whilst Wizards are cerebral. Two sides of the same coin, with Rogues, at least earlier edition rogues being a balanced blend of the two. The same could be said of how I perceive some of the original kindreds. On the one hand, you have the Dwarves who are all about STR and, on the other you have the Elves, who focus on DEX, with Humans being the baseline between the two. So is it any wonder that we see a lot of Dwarven Warriors or, Elven Wizards? It's just the nature of the game as laid out by what I call the rule of three.

    So, how is this applicable?

    Well, the first thing I did when putting together a new setting was gut the old one, leaving only the humans intact. It seems bizarre that we can't seem to create a fantasy world without investing the most mundane of kindreds in it, but, hey as I said, they are the baseline against which most things are measured. Now I just needed to perch an "angel" and a "devil" on each and every one of those human shoulders to give me the symmetry required by by the rule of three.

    For the task at hand, I have chosen Elves. Not live in the woods, firing a bow Elves but full on Fae folk. Incorporable, seemingly immortal creatures of pure magic, living in harmony with the world and restoring balance. Well, that's one side of the coin but, what of the other?

    Well, Elves are far from perfect and some, more than a few, have picked up certain "bad habits" from humankind. Seeking power and, with more than a big enough bag of tricks to achieve it. They bend natural order and create un-natural things. If there's a "monster" walking the land, the chances are that they are behind it. Not that such crimes go unpunished amongst their kin, creating an effective state of war between the two kindreds. For every "monster" these tainted Elves create, their brothers and sisters must create an "antidote" to balance the scales. All this, with humanity stuck bang in the middle.

    The tainted created the Orcs of Hellhounds, so the Elves created the Half-elves, imbuing their own spirit into Human children still in the womb.. And that's only the start. Every time the tainted bend natural order, the Elves step in. With humanity stuck smack bang in the middle.

    Wednesday, 16 January 2013

    When Is An Orc Not An Orc?

    In my last post I outlined that rather than focusing too much on writing up my house rules of late, I had been working on fleshing out a setting. Not just a setting though. To be worth its salt or, weight in words a good setting has to be evocative and new, yet grounded in the familiar.

    It's a tall order.

    It's important though. I'd even go as far as saying that the setting is more important than the rules, as it's the setting that allows you to bring your character to life. It's your stage on which to roleplay. So this was not a task to be taken lightly.

    Okay, maybe that's a bit heavy a tone but, hey, it's important.

    So, I had been mulling over a couple of ideas but nothing seemed to have that certain sparkle that I felt the task at hand really called for. That was until by chance a couple of unrelated ideas clicked together to create something, which so far is really working for me. Like all works in progress, it's subject to change but, I'd like to take the opportunity to sight my sources that have led me this far, which would be the Peryton RPG and, Supernatural (the TV series).

    In particular it's the chapter concerning races in the Peryton RPG that peaked my interest and their approach. They DON'T tell you what an Elf looks like, in fact they clearly state that they aren't going to tell you that an Elf is willowy and thin, if the Elves in your setting are more childlike in appearance (or much to that effect). The net result is however that my Orc, may not be your Orc. It's still an Orc though, just a different take on the mythos.. Which brings me to my second inspiration, Supernatural.

    Supernatural is a great show but, the one thing that always kind of bugged me about the whole set-up for the show was their tendency to screw with the mythos surrounding the bad guy of the week and, how the names of the various angels and demons in the later seasons never really tied up with any of the actual lore surrounding them.

    Is that such a bad thing though?

    Sure, it still bugs the hell out of me but, reading the Peryton RPG has helped me realise that all the writers were doing was making the familiar fresh again. Which is exactly what I'm setting out to do.

    I still fully intend to draft in the Orcs. They'll just be different. Very different. Related to Werewolves and Hellhounds, all woven into being by dark elves for their own twisted reasons. Not that even the dark Elves will be run of the mill. Werewolves will still be very much allergic to silver, but for a very different reason.

    A blend of the familiar with the new. Just what I was shooting for.

    Now I just need to sit down and write it all up!

    A Work In Progress

    Stunning art by Liz Danforth.
    I know it's been a while since I brought the subject up but, behind the scene's I am still busy chipping away at my very own Tunnels and Trolls house rules. Well, it's a little more than house rules and, it's proving to be a project on a much more grandiose scale than I had actually imagined when I set out about it.

    For a long time now, I have had my own set of rules regarding weapons and armor that have allowed my characters to let their imaginations run wild in the apparel they wanted to face the perils of an adventurer. I do hope to post them sometime soon (along with the amendments that I have made for my new house rules, hence the reason of bringing it up) but, the long and short of it is that pretty much any weapon, no matter how elaborate you want to be with the detail can be thrown into a general category such as "axe", "club" or, "sword" (there are more categories but you get the idea) and, within that a sub-category that best fits it.

    For example, I'm creating a character with an oriental theme. Katana's appeal to me as a player but I decide to go with something a little less cliché (but only slightly) and, settle on a pair of sai. Now in the broadest sense, they are swords. Very small swords granted, but the general make up of any dagger is not unlike a sword and would therefore see it in the sword family of weapons, with daggers being the appropriate sub category within that grouping. So, I look up daggers on my  "sword chart" to get the relevant statistics, and bingo! I now have sai's within my campaign. Katana's would have been no more difficult though, I'd just look along the same "sword chart"  until I reached the longsword sub-category for the relevant info.

    Armor's just as simple too in my books, where it matters less what shape it takes (that's an aesthetic choice between the GM and the player) when compared to the material that it is made of. After all, a lot of what gives armor it's protective qualities is the material used in it's construction. So, as I see it, there is very little significant difference in the protective properties of say iron plate versus iron mail, as long as they are both covering the same area. It's still iron!

    Which leads me nicely to what I have been working of late, which is a series of modifiers to those rules, that allow the player (and GM of course) to manipulate the quality of a weapon, the material it is made from, and the individual intended to wield it (before these had all been steel / wood weapons of standard quality made by humans, for humans).

    This has been more time consuming and difficult than I had thought it would be to accomplish (mostly because I no longer have a lot of my original notes on how I arrived at certain conclusions) but, after a lot of work, I finally have my old tables sussed. At least for the close quarters weapons. I've even made a couple of improvements on the old figures.

    There is of course still a lot of work to do and, for the time being at least I am a little more focused on my setting, rather than the crunch behind it, which itself has come on leaps and bounds in the past 24 hours.

    Whilst still very much at the drawing board stage, there is at least enough in the way of ideas to share now and some good solid bones to flesh out. That though, is the subject for another post (coming very soon).