Thursday, March 27, 2008

Oz belongs in 1959

You Belong in 1959

You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!


Read the rest!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

4e Fan compiled PHB Lite

By compiling all of the info that has come to light so far, someone has compiled a preview "PHB Lite".

Check it out for some interesting tidbits on how $e is put together.

Labels: ,

Read the rest!

d20 UTH - Skills

*crunch* *crunch* *crunch*

Erm, excuse me. I've just been chewing on rules for skills. Talk about trying to balance ease of use versus detail. I've seen systems ranging from one end of the spectrum (Marvel Saga) to the other end (GURPS). Even in the history of d20/D&D, we've had everything from no skills (other than thieving abilities) to the current incarnation. The questions for this post are what is sufficient/too much detail and what are we looking at for the future of d20?

Let's take a moment to look at the current 3.5 incarnation of skills. The origins of the skill list are based in the old school thief abilities, expanded to include things non-thieves might do. On the surface, the 3.5 system is pretty straight forward. If I have a +5 to my Jump skill, I roll a d20 and add 5.

It becomes a little more complex when you start throwing in feats and synergies (i.e. having 5 or more ranks in Tumble gives me an additional +2 to my Jump checks). Nothing game-stopping or requiring a calculator, just a little more crunch.

Complexity comes from the book-keeping to buy skills in the first place, especially if you multi-class. You have to mind not only what class you took first, but which skill points at what level and class do you use to buy which skills? Maybe not so bad for players, who can spend a week stewing on skill purchases upon leveling, but it can be a minor headache for GMs either auditing PCs or fleshing out NPCs. Of course, being the GM, if you want a blacksmith to have +10 Craft Armor, you can just hand wave it rather than worry about what level Expert the smith would have to be in order to have a skill rank that high.

Also, the current skill list is a little bloated. What almost every other system calls Stealth is split into 2 separate skills, Move Silent and Hide In Shadows. What is normally termed Perception is broken down into Spot, Listen and Search. Some skills seem so specialized that it's almost a shame to waste precious skill points on them (until the lack of Use Rope comes back to haunt you).

The latest wave of d20 material, namely Stars Wars Saga d20, shows the apparent intent of WotC designers. They are doing two things.

First they are consolidating the Skill List. Stealth replaces Move and Hide, Perception replaces Spot, Listen and Search, Acrobatics replaces Balance and Tumble and Athletics replaces Climb, Jump and Swim. I've heard other gamers express dissatisfaction with the latter, citing real world people they know as examples of someone who is a great climber but sinks like a rock. While they are correct, I am okay with this consolidation for game purposes.

They have also eliminated a lot of "fluff" skills. Crafting, Profession, Perform and a few others that I'm missing are out the window. I'm still chewing on the homebrew rules for these under consolidated skills, as skill picks are now more valuable.

The other thing they are doing is simplifying the mechanic. In 4e (and SWS), you don't buy individual Ranks (+1) to skills. Instead characters add 1/2 their level plus Ability Bonus (ie Dex for Stealth) plus Racial Bonus, and if they are Trained in a skill, +5.

This assumes that characters progress equally in all untrained and trained skills (without considering feats). It does make it easy to throw together NPCs and judge their skill bonus (that merchant is a 6th level Expert with a 14 Charisma and trained in Diplomacy, so his total Diplomacy bonus is 3 + 2 + 5 equals +10).

In my 3.8 rules, I added another step, so skills fall into three basic levels. All characters start off as Proficient in the class skills for their first class. They get a number of skill picks (based on class and Int) to improve Proficient Skills to Trained or an Untrained Skill (one that doesn't appear on their class list) to Proficient. All other skills are Untrained. The bonus breaks down to:

Untrained - Ability Bonus
Proficient - Ability Bonus + 1/2 Character Level
Trained - Ability Bonus + 1/2 Character Level + 5

I'm still debating fluff skills, balancing them with crunch. I may add skills such as Craftsman or Performer, where the skill would have a specialization that it counted full value towards, and possibly additional lower valued specialties as you advanced. Or I may create secondary skills... free(ish) fluff skills that may not have a lot of use but would round out characters.

I've also noticed some missing skills, namely Appraise and Gather Info. I'm thinking these will have to be added, especially since the characters in my current campaign have created a trading company and are busy trying to a name (and some gold) for themselves.

Labels: , ,

Read the rest!

Monday, March 24, 2008

HS Students > Auto Industry Engineers?

This falls into the category of WTEffingF? High school students in Indiana enter a competition to create extremely fuel efficient cars. We aren't talking 50 mpg, 100 mpg, even 200 mpg. These kids are creating cars with mileage in excess of 1,000 mpg!

Check out the article here.

If high school kids can figure this out and build them, why the frak don't we have production cars with triple digit mileage? Oil company conspiracy? WTF?


Read the rest!

Friday, March 21, 2008

d20 Under The Hood

It's no secret that I like to tinker with rules. In my Marvel SAGA game, the original blue rulebook is referred to as "the suggestion book". And I've been home-brewing rules for D&D almost since I started playing. A lot of these are rules I've seen elsewhere and adapted, some are ones I come up with on my own.

With 4e coming out, I've been thinking a lot about the d20 system and almost every session of my D&D campaign has some new tweaked rule, either something I've read for 4e or another d20 system, or something that didn't work like I wanted. Fortunately my players are good sports about it.

With d20, I weigh in a couple of factors. One obviously is balance. There are some things out of whack, sometimes because of my tampering but also sometime because of the original design. The other is ease-of-use. It's easy for me to get carried away with "crunch", but I've had players that are put off by excessively complicated rules.

I've found sometimes writing thoughts down helps me look at ideas more objectively. Plus if I share them, maybe I'll get some feedback.

I've found sometimes writing thoughts down helps me look at ideas more objectively. Plus if I share them, maybe I'll get some feedback. Maybe my idea for combining five different bonuses based on situation to get a score isn't so good after all, or maybe I'll suggest something someone will think "cool, I'm going to use that too."

I'll be tagging these with d20 UTH so that they can be filtered from other gaming posts.

(Now let's see if I ever follow through on this...)

Labels: , ,

Read the rest!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bookstores becoming endangered?

Barnes & Nobles reported a 9% drop in fourth quarter profits, but the big news is that Borders Bookstores may be up on the block.

I guess between discount stores like Wal-Mart and online retailers like Amazon, traditional bookstores are finding it hard to compete.

While I love to browse bookstores, now that I have one of those Border reward program cards, I wait until I get a coupon to buy a book. I'm guessing I'm not the only one.


Read the rest!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Shape-shifting owl

I'm not sure which is weirder... this owl or the rest of the Japanese tv show.


Read the rest!

Speed Racer trailer

Either this movie is going to be awesome or it is going to suck the sweat off a dead donkey's balls. Hopefully another childhood memory isn't about to get trashed.


Read the rest!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is it wrong...

Is it wrong to tell a girl scout...

"Sure, I'll buy some cookies if your mommy gives me her number."

Not that I did this... I had no cash on me to buy cookies anyways.


Read the rest!

I hate this campaign...

I stumbled across this comic while searching for pictures of wargs.

Being a DM, I am especially amused.

Labels: ,

Read the rest!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Incredible Hulk trailer

Just think of Ang Lee's Hulk as a test platform for the CGI.


Read the rest!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Burning Safari

Yes, it's odd. But it amused me.


Read the rest!

Russian Skittles commercial

Skittles Bear

I used to be a Skittles junkie, but even I'd never eat them off a live bear.


Read the rest!

Monday, March 10, 2008

More 4e rules stuff

The rules appendix used for the DDXP has been scanned, OCRed and posted as a PDF here. One of the most significant things is that we get the official skills list.

One skill I noticed that was missing was Gather Info. Maybe it's because my players spend a lot of time role-playing and not much time in the dungeon that this stuck out to me. Also, all crafting and perform skills are gone.

I feel Oz rules a-brewing.


Read the rest!

Silly stuff around the web

Off on a weekday and LOTRO down for server maintenance, so instead of doing something productive this morning I browsed.

Luke Skywalker's Lost Letters From Dagobah

Five Movie Fighting Styles
Note of amusement - Kung Fu Magazine declared the bat'leh a viable weapon.

The lolcat bible translation

Oo... Flying Spaghetti Monster may have some competition from Ceiling Cat.

Labels: , , ,

Read the rest!

MavenCon report

Nothing like a convention, a late night party, daylight savings time, and a 12 hour inventory to mess with you. But now I am recovering, so I'll tap a few notes about MavenCon.

Friday was shortish. I got there after work and waiting for rush hour to abate. I was able to get in on a playtest session for a game. Because of the NDA, I can't say much. It's an RPG system with an interesting concept but way too complicated to catch on. I know whenever I start tinkering with a rule system, I have to watch for crunch bloat, where my "cool ideas" to add detail bog the game down. I try to think of my more casual players and contemplate whether my latest addition would be so complex that they would be put off.

More MavenCon after the jump...

We also had our Mavens meeting, the largest yet (that I've been to) since folks at MCon could attend the meeting. Since the hotel was kind enough to provide every seat in the meeting with a pad of paper an impromptu paper airplane contest erupted.

After the meeting was a fun filled drive home in blowing snow. I love when someone annoyed passes me in a snowstorm only to find out the hard way there is a reason I'm driving slow.

Saturday was the long day. I mixed up the start time for two games I was interested in, so showed up on time for the one that was already full and too late for the one that would have had space. I was able to play a few games of Lifeboats, not to be confused with Lifeboat, a game with a similar name and theme. I won two of three games mainly by hanging onto my trumps until the end, after my opponents had burnt theirs early on.

I was able to meet up with a friend from my college days and we hung out and had dinner with some mutual friends. Feel old moment: his son is old enough to drink now.

Eventually, I made it to the BarFleet party. I ended up joining BarFleet (surprise there... Sci Fi + Booze = win) and was saddled with the BarFleet nickname of Ihavenoclue, my response to the XO when he asked what my BarFleet name was. In retrospect, it could come in handy after too many of the really evil drinks they make new recruits and promoted members drink.

"What's your name?"
"I have no clue."

Fortunately, I didn't get too hammered, though it could have been easy with all you can drink booze and some of the stealth concoctions. There were enough people there that I knew that I didn't spend the evening holding up a bulkhead.

And since daylight savings time meant 1 less hour of sleeping time, I didn't stay to the bitter end and called it a night around 3 am. I didn't set a wake-up call because I knew my internal clock wouldn't let me sleep too late. Fortunately, my hangover was a dull yellow alert and gone by the time I got to Kokomo to start their inventory.

Labels: , ,

Read the rest!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

MavenCon starts tomorrow

I plan on being there Friday night and all of Saturday, including the BarFleet party.

Sunday will be spent nursing a hangover until I go to do an inventory.

Labels: ,

Read the rest!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tributes to Gygax

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gary Gygax 1938 - 2008

Gary Gygax, one of the founder fathers of Dungeons and Dragons passed away this morning. See the news article here.

Back in the 80's I was lucky enough to have lunch with Mr. Gygax as part of an interview. I didn't get the job (I still blame Don Turnbull for not telling me that the copy editing test was timed), but then again that company went under within a year. But I was still able to have a very interesting conversation with the co-creator of a game that has been a large and arguably formative facet of my life.

I suspect there will be something at GenCon honoring him.


Read the rest!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

More 4e tidbits

I've been checking EN World's 4th Edition page regularly as news continues to trickle in from the DDXP (Dungeons & Dragons Experience).

A couple of highlights:
The character sheets being used at the DDXP are available for download.

Massawyrm from AICN posted his second 4e review, this one focusing on the DM's perspective.

So far, it looks encouraging, though it will be a bit of a shift for old-timers (like me). I'm already starting to formulate ideas for a home-brew monk class to tide my campaign over until something official comes out. I intend to do the same for bard and druid (the latter I suspect will be the hardest).

Fortunately, the two players I have in my D&D campaign right now are good sports about being rules guinea pigs.


Read the rest!