Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Chronology of the Flannaes: Why you should care

I've finally completed my annotated chronology of the Flannaes based on the works of an unnamed scholar or group of scholars/spies and translated by E. Gary Gygax in 1980, with a second edition published 3 years later.  Big deal you say?  So and so has already done this?  Ha!  Here's what's super cool about my version:

What's missing?
  1. I won't waste your time with all those made up events that may or may not have happened in the year -20,000 CY or whenever.
  2. In fact, I won't bother you with CY dates at all cuz all dates are given in Oeridian Reckoning (O.R.)*
  3. My chronology is not tainted with all the biased misinformation that has been published in publications such as From the Ashes, Living Greyhawk, or any of various modules.
  4.  My chronology is tainted with my own biased misinformation which, I'm certain you'll agree, is more informative and entertaining than anyone else's.
Anyway, you can download PDFs of it on my new downloads page.  Or at least I think you can.  Let me know if this is working or not, this is the first time I've tried this stunt.

*Why's that a positive feature when the rest of the world uses CY? A few reasons:
  • O.R. most closely conforms to the dates of the significant events detailed in the Chronology: it begins with the opening salvos of the Baksulian War in year 160, ending in 1220 with the apocalypse/publication of the Gaz, which is both economically as well as aesthetically pleasing; 
  • it avoids all the silly and mathematically challenging negative dating for events that happened before the arrogant king of Aerdy decided to make up his own calendar; and, most importantly, 
  • when looking at the Chronology in the Gazetteer or the 1983 Guide, the Oeridian dating is physically closest to the text--no scanning across 6 columns of numbers to find the year.

Monday, August 3, 2015

On Choosing Your Poison: Rogues vs. Thieves

Over the weekend I had a chance to play in a game run by a colleague who actually reads my blog.  Very embarrassing, running into these sort of people, but unfortunately it does happen.

Anyway, this dude--we'll call him Carl--runs a Moldvanian Basic game.  When I rolled up my newest character--Cranston the Thief--he offered me an interesting choice: 
Carl the DM:   I know how much d4 hit-diced thieves bother you, so I'll make you an offer: you can roll Cranston's hit points with a sixer if you want, but you'll have to call him a rogue henceforth.

Me:   Hmmmm.  How deep does this rogue business have to go?  Do I just have to write it on my character sheet?

Carl:   Heh heh heh... no.  From now on he has rogue abilities, not thief abilities.  He has to join the Rogues Guild of the nearest city.  He speaks Rogue's Cant--

Me:   STOP!  Stop.  Just... hand me... the 4-sider.

The moral of the story: Blogger beware!  There is a price to be paid for slathering the internet with your self-indulgent drivel.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Saving Throws: How many is too many?

In my game, I prefer the one universal saving throw category advanced by S&W White Box and perhaps a few other OSR ripoffs as well.  While I find the saving throw categories that Father G. devised back in the 70s to be as charmingly quirky as the next old schooler, they've always struck me as rather arbitrary, needlessly complex, and, ironically, uncomprehensive.  Instead, at my table everyone needs an 18 to save against everything.  Everyone.  Against everything.*

This doesn't mean that all saving throws are created equal however.  When I, as MC, declare that a save is in order, I don't just say "All right dickheads, make a save".  Oh no, there's always a descriptive component to the save.  Often it's "save vs. death" or "poison" or something standard like that, but it can also be extremely specific as well, here's a list of saving throws that I can remember offering to my players:
save vs. poison
save vs. traps
save vs. death
save vs. parallelization
save vs. nausea
save vs. libido
save vs. flesh-eating bile
save vs. watching-your-innards-spill-out-on-the-ground
But it really doesn't matter: in most cases the descriptor has no bearing on the saving throw. You still need to roll an 18 or higher.  As a fer instance, no PC class or race in my game has any advantage over another in watching their innards spill out on the ground.  You're still just hoping to roll an 18 or better.**

However, there are circumstances where I'd allow a bonus based on the characters race, class, or personal experience.  Thieves, I'd say, might be offered an advantage on saves vs. traps.  Or elves saving vs. libido; everyone knows how virtuously dull they are.  They get a +12 bonus in addition to level and any applicable wisdom bonus.  If, despite all that, they still manage to blow their save I'd offer them best 2 out of 3.

*You do, in most cases, get to add your level/hit dice to your die roll.  Possibly other bonuses.  Keep reading. 
** Gutless beings such as water elementals or stone golems would likely be immune to this sort of thing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kickstarting the Rants: CKG Incoming!

No, the title of this post does not refer to some cloud fundraising operation used by unappreciated creative types to raise undeserved cash for their unworthy projects.  Rather, I am trying to figuratively kickstart my blogging endeavors by purchasing a book that I am certain will irritate me to the point where I will be forced to eloquize my misery in print.  Which is to say, I've just ordered the C&C Castle Keepers Guide,* so be prepared for a boatload of ranting when this puppy finally arrives.

I have in the past tried to express my appreciation of the Castles & Crusades game, and yet somehow each effort has yielded a blathering screed on the various stylistic deficiencies of the game's rulebooks.  Plus it doesn't help that C&C chose to join the Rogue camp.

But at this moment, I am truly and deeply open to the possibility that I will actually be impressed with this tome when it arrives.  It is my deepest hope that the Trolllord pensters have learned to hold their hands steady in the presence of a thesaurus.  And that the artwork of P.B. Radley will reveal that he may actually be in possession of a soul, or is at least able to fake it on paper.  Occasionally.  And I even have some faint glimmering hope that the content of the book might have value too.

However, none of these are my expectation.

I expect to loathe this book because the authors and artist have failed to tailor their work to my particular preferences yet again.  But my deepest fear is that I will loathe it because it will have nothing to offer.   What if they boisterously purple prose of the original C&C PHB has been tempered and replaced with something rather banal?  Will the content shine through or will it be found wanting?  What if it's just plain old boring?  That would be worst of all.

* CKG doesn't quite roll off the tongue like DMG, eh?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rogue Rant: Suck it!

No, not her.
Like most of you, I like to pretend that I don't give a crap about the edition wars; as if they're beneath me and all that. Yet also like you, I actually prefer the older, mustier versions of the game to those 21st century editions that the kids are rabid about these days.

That's where our similarities end, however, because unlike you I've actually found indisputable evidence to support my personal bias. You see, post-Gygaxian versions of D&D are objectively inferior for one simple reason: the Rogue. Introduced, I believe, in the much-vaunted 2nd edition of Advanced Big D [EDIT: it was 3rd ed., not 2nd], rogues are essentially thieves with a coat of paint to give them somewhat less illegitimacy.  Or something.  I don't really know why they changed the name, but I do know that it has been scientifically proven that any edition of D&D that includes a class titled "Rogue"--regardless of any other merits it may have--is clearly the product of an inferior mind and should be derided mercilessly at every opportunity excepting only those situations when simply ignoring it seems more palatable.

I can almost rationalize why TSR [EDIT: it was Wizards, not TSR] might have decided to change the thief moniker--presumably cuz of its criminal baggage--this was around the same time that the title of Deities & Demigods was changed to Legumes & Lorries after all [EDIT: Actually it was much later than this].  But rogue?  Couldn't you try not to suck so bad at naming stuff?  Sure, thieves, by definition, tend to steal stuff; that could be kinda' off-putting to some.  But at least "thief" points to a skill set that has potential value in a dungeon setting.  Rogue, however, is just a disposition of scoundreliness. While that may be fun to run in the tavern, what the fug good is that gonna do a party of adventurers?  Who needs a jaunty-capped seducer of barmaids when your six levels down in the Acrid Tomb of Malcontents?
DM: The chamber is filled by a viscous, burbling, black blob; it reeks overpoweringly of vomit and strychnine and seems to be sliming its way toward you.  What do you do?
Roger the Rogue: I flash my most menacing grin and offer a defiant witticism.
DM: Ok, roll against your "Crack Wise in the Face of Danger" ability.  While you've got your 20-sider handy go ahead and make a save vs. flesh-eating bile.  
Truly though, the term rogue has come to mean an outlier, someone who lives beyond the norm, who is possessed of an attitude of nonconformity.  While definitely more open ended than "thief," this makes no sense at all as the name of a character class.  What you have is a class that specializes in not doing what's expected of it.  While there's no reason that you can't count on a well appellated thief to climb walls, decrypt codes, or defuse bombs for the good of the party, all you can expect from your rogue is that s/he's going to give you lip if you ask him or her to do something:
Fred the Fighter: I try to open the door on the west wall.
DM: It's locked.
[The rest of the party looks meaningfully at the "Rogue"]
Rachel the Rogue:  Stick it ya' buncha' hosebags, I'm not your lapdog. [Leaps onto a nearby table sending crockery flying and raises a fist in the air]  Fight the power!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sinister Location of Saltmarsh

I'm flying to England in a few days to meet with the location scout for the "Shakeshaft" tv series I have, of late, been hawking.  In preparation for the trip I've been researching the south coast of England since, as the U1 authors make explicit, that is the model setting for all things Saltmarshy.

Anyway, it took about 4 seconds on an internet search engine to find out that, while there doesn't appear to be a town by the name of Saltmarsh in southern England, there is a town named Seaton in Devon.  As Saltmarsh devotees will no doubt recall, Seaton was, along with Burle, one of the neighboring, more prosperous towns in the vicinity of backwater Saltmarsh.  Thinking that was pretty nifty, further investigation yielded this tidbit in an article about a grocery store opening in town:
"Sandwiched between the red and white cliffs of the Jurassic Coast and surrounded by acres of unspoilt saltmarsh, the Devon resort of Seaton has prided itself on its status as a serene backwater whose last serious skirmish with an unwanted invader was 700 years ago when it supplied Edward I with ships and sailors to fight off the Sahuagin." [Emphasis, c'est moi] The Independent, 25 March 2008.
So the town of Seaton, like U1's Saltmarsh, is a backwater village located on the seaside adjacent to a saltmarsh, and is within spitting distance of cliffs on which to position everyone's favorite haunted house.  An image search quickly revealed the cliffs upon which the Haunted House is perched:

These are the cliffs.

As well as the house itself: 

This house is haunted.

Except a closer look revealed that this cool old joint is actually in a different Seaton altogether--Seaton Delaval way up in Northumberland.  Apparently Seaton is a pretty popular name for any village within a stones throw or two from the sea, as Wikipedia lists 11 towns, villages, hamlets, dorfs and/or thorps named Seaton either wholly or in part.  The Seaton of County Durham is the most intriguing; here is its Wikipedia entry in its entirety:
"Seaton is a village in County Durham, in England. It is on the A19 road south of Sunderland. The village boasts two pubs." -- Wikipedia entry on Seaton, County Durham, 5/19/15

Anyway, I hope I get to visit both taverns on my upcoming tour of the Seatons.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shakeshaft Goes Hollywood!

Jack, circa 1953.
Thanks to Claw Carver--just hired on as the casting director of "Shakeshaft: the Series"--for pointing out the striking similarity in appearance between Saltmarsh's shadiest character and the young Jack Palance, see below.  The intense stare, pronounced brow, and peaked hairline; it's really uncanny isn't it?  The producer of the upcoming tv series is in discussions to secure 1950's J. P.  for the part.  This could be a real gold mine.

Ned, circa 1981.