Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bullet Review: Crawl! Issue #4

This issue is entirely devoted to a DCC RPG adventure, The Tainted Forest Near Thorum by Yves Larochelle

Price: $3.50 postpaid from the Crawl! fanzine blog
Print Quality: Very good. It's a pleasure to look at and handle. 24 pp. (5.5 by 8.5 in.) and unattached cover with a rather impressionistic and hard to read map (I guess that would be an exception to the "pleasure to look at" comment).
HD per Encounter: All along the range from 2d8 for nuisances to 12d8 for the biggest guys. The pitched fights are around 9d8.
Awesomeness Factor: Low. A big bad river monster that acts like a kitten is pretty amusing though.
Dungeon Design: Linear, with nary even a detour. Some of the encounters are half-baked, but I like the NPCs and the surrounding locales.

Comments: I don't think this adventure is worth the money (but it is a tiny amount, so I'm about 60% satisfied). The 'zine looks really nice (though Scott Ackerman's art probably needs to presented in larger format to live up to its phantasmagoric promise) and the NPCs could be useful elsewhere, but this dungeon is mediocre.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Revelation of the Apocalypse of Calypso

"The sea nymph Calypso delayed Odysseus on her island Ogygia* for seven years." (American Heritage, 4e--my 5e is at home)

Her name comes from the Greek kaluptein 'to conceal' or 'to cover' presumably because that's what she did to Odysseus. (American Heritage doesn't know how Calypso music got its name. That is concealed to us.)

So, in Greek apo+kaluptein (the source of "apocalypse") means to uncover, or to reveal. So, Revelation is a calque (or loan translation, like Superman from Ubermensch) of the Greek, which referred, it would appear, to no more than the revealing of how the end times were going to go.

This is interesting to me because the "apocalypse" has a lot of rhetorical force today, and conjures images of rushing waves of flame and floods worthy of the name Diluvian, but it started out rather unassuming.

Here's an Amazon UK link to something called Apocalypse Calypso.

*Wikipedia says that Ogygia is also known as Atlantis, so there's a campaign angle.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Are you ready to meet your mechanical overlords?

Watching Robot & Frank yesterday (see it if you can), I started to think about the rapidly approaching technological singularity (because that Robot is very smart and a surrogate for a failing human memory). How many generations do you think until our offspring are the servants of machines? The software-mind idea of useful lives for humans, I think, will not be welcome to us. But I do like my iphone. And you haven't loved a robot as much as you will love Frank's Robot since Artoo and Threepio.

The three Mass Effect games deal with machine intelligence a great deal, but in the context of that Babylon 5 galaxy-reset nonsense that makes the whole story worthless to me as reflection of a real situation that humans will eventually have to face.

I imagine the South will rise again, associated national rifles in hand, as soon as the first President Robot starts a takeover of the economy in the name of efficiency. So there's a campaign setting.

By the way, Asimov's Laws of Robotics are cold comfort to me, but all I have is my gut there.

I guess the only idea I had was that post-apocalypses* in the '80s were all about nuclear holocaust, so the blasted mutant wasteland has a special place in my child of the '80s heart; but nowadays, they should probably be about the Robot Wars and Humanity First freedom fighters.

That does it, I'm reading Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep next.

What else is is the cannon of this subject that you can recommend?

*there might be an Etymonday in apocalypse and revelation--or you could just look 'em up.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

11: Empty Room

(This room is empty.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bullet Review: Beneath the Ruins by Alex Fotinakes

Beneath the Ruins (Psychedelic Fantasies Module 1) by Alex Fotinakes

Price: $5.50 postpaid for print and PDF from Psychedelic Fantasies.
Print Quality: Pleasant to handle and easy to read. 16 pp. (4.5 by 11 in.) and unattached cover with maps.
HD per encounter: Generally in the 3-5 range.
Awesomeness Factor: Quite high. There's lasers.
Dungeon Design: Quite good. I will happily use it as-is. The dungeon has some loops.

Comments: Keep in mind that this module has no art at all and that appealed to me. I wish more OSR products were produced without art. Obviously, if you want art with your adventures, you may find Beneath the Ruins less desirable.

Because of the creepy mythic atmosphere of the beginning, and the weird science theme--and because it includes many new monsters--I think this module was well worth my money, and I look forward to more from Psychedelic Fantasies and Alex Fotinakes (of Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols).

Choice Quote: "The cassette inside has some alien operas on it that sound like people screaming at someone using a Weed Eater."

Note: A different version of this dungeon was, as mentioned on WMLP published in the 'zine of the same name.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Suppose Dungeon Crawl Classics had 15 ability scores

A long time ago I posted about using D&D ability scores as a sort of skill system, like so:

Str+Dex: leap, somersault
Str+Con: withstand
Str+Wis: grapple
Str+Int: lift or bend
Str+Chr: flex or flaunt
Dex+Con: run
Dex+Wis: dodge
Dex+Int: throw
Dex+Chr: dance, sing, act
Con+Wis: abstain
Con+Int: persevere
Con+Chr: seduce
Wis+Int: strategize
Wis+Chr: lead
Int+Chr: impress
(My friend Tommy also suggested that they ability scores be added to themselves, but it was on Facebook and I guess I deleted it. Oops. I remember Str+Str: push)

At the time I wanted to use them with a Risus resolution mechanic, but now I want to use them in DCC, with a d20 roll-type resolution.

First, the skills with DCC ability scores. I'm leaving out Luck since it's not a physical or mental ability and I haven't realized yet how it fits my scheme.

Str+Agl: leap
Str+Sta: withstand
Str+Per: bluster
Str+Int: lift bars or bend gates (I'm not sure I like this. It should be "fight.")
Str+Str: push
Agl+Sta: run
Agl+Per: dance
Agl+Int: throw and climb
Agl+Agl: dodge
Sta+Per: filibuster?
Sta+Int: elude
Sta+Sta: endure
Per+Int: impress, seduce
Per+Per: charm
Int+Int: solve, remember (since "solve" is the province of the player)

The different names lead me to different ideas about what the combinations should be used for, and we can see that the DCC ability scores (without integrating Luck) offer a smaller range of skills.

My question today is, what is the proper size die to use to test the resulting range of 6-36? The totals give the obvious answer of 6d6, but that's inconvenient to add up, plus it's too on-the-nose and dice pool-y. Risus is a dice pool, though, so I guess it's cool.

D&D uses d20 to test ability scores in the 3-18 range but we don't have a d40. 2d20 would work fine, but I can't be the only one who doesn't respond to 2d20 positively. That's no reason at all not to use it, except that it is.

The question of how to test these skills becomes more important to me as I consider making this the core mechanic for my games. The ability scores become the center of the game (and Str+Int probably does become "fight" though that doesn't seem quite right for fighter.

I don't want to divide the totals by 2 (and make it a d20 test) because that adds busy work on the front end (I think the kids call it "chargen" but they should get their own language to wreck).

What would you do?

(Thanks to everybody who directed me to yesterday. It's the bee's knees.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Who is your favorite OSR reviewer?

I want to read more reviews of the dizzying cornucopia od OSR releases, so who's the best?

(I know Grognardia is the best. Besides Grognardia)

Thank you!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Well, this is a useful list

It even has Naglfar, The Ship of Fingernails, which, why it's not in Skyrim I'll never understand. Fingers (and nails) crossed for Elder Scrolls Online. In high school I thought it was called Naglnar. So, I'll probably always think that's what it's called.

In other news, a new installment of $3 or $4 Wednesdays is coming (on 10/10) in which I'll cover Beneath the Ruins by Alex Fotinakes (of Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols, the best-named blog of them all). It's first Psychedelic Fantasies (Geoffrey McKinney) release, and it's only a couple of months old.

Here's the cover (image from Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols):