Apr 30 2012

Monday Monster: Vanity Duchesne

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Vanity Duchesne was, in life, a well-to-do social climber who married a retired admiral and lived large among the elite of Washington, D.C. Little did her husband know, when he bought her that bracelet for her 85th birthday, that it was a cursed focus for dark PKE.

She died later that same year, respected by all, and was buried in the Duchesne family plot– the second largest in the cemetery. But now she has risen from the grave… to demand that she be moved to a plot with a better view of the Potomac.

Vanity Duchesne

Class IV Focused Full Torso Repeater (Physical, Intelligent)
Muscles 3 (Claw Her Way Up From the Grave 6)
Moves 3 (Duck Behind Cover 6)
Brains 2 (Know Social Status 5)
Cool 2 (Raise a Fuss 5)
Power 4; Ectopresence 8

Goal Be the Belle of the Cemetery
Special Abilities Fly, Poltergeist, Summon Pests
Weaknesses Motivator (remove her bracelet, and she will be put to rest); Restricted (only manifests midnight-dawn)
Appearance Rich, portly, snobbish, and dead; sort of a zombie Margaret duMont. Whenever she uses a power, someone looking for unusual effects may attempt a Brains 15 roll to spot that her bracelet glows even more than usual.

Animated Mink Wrap

Class V Materialized Focused Fashion Faux-Pas (Physical, Mindless)
Muscles 4 (Entangle 7)
Moves 3 (Dodge 6)
Ectopresence 3

Goal Protect Mommy!
Appearance Vanity’s favorite fashion accessory, she was buried with it. Now it growls, bites, and attacks anybody who threatens her.

Bitey Skulls

Class II Materialized Focused Nuisance (Physical, Mindless)
Muscles 1 (Bite 4)
Moves 2 (Dodge 5)
Ectopresence 1 (destroyed on successful hit)

Goal Bite Ghostbusters
Appearance Bouncy, roly-poly, clattering pile of skulls that Vanity animates with her Summon Pests power. Roll 4d6 (Vanity’s Power): every 3 points rolled creates a pile of Bitey Skulls. If she rolls a ghost, add +1 to the stats of all piles created. These are not terribly dangerous, but they do give Vanity time to flee when threatened.

Ghostly Yap Dogs

Class VI Focused Status Symbol (Ectoplasmic, Mindless)
Power 3; Ectopresence 3

Goal Protect Mommy
Special Abilities Horrid Barking (Power vs. Cool or Ghostbuster is at +5 Difficulty to all actions for a round from distraction); Slime Bite
Appearance A small pack of ghostly yap dogs with diamond-studded collars (unfortunately also ghostly). Although it appears as 3-5 dogs in any given manifestation, it is a single creature created by Vanity’s Summon Pests power (DC 10, rolling a ghost gives the dogs +1 to all stats).

Who ya gonna call?

-The Gneech

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Apr 19 2012


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“Argh! I can’t take it any more!” said Greg, waving his hands at his laptop.

“What?” said Brigid, raising her eyebrows at the uncommon burst of emotion.

“All the sniping! All the indignant posting back and forth and bickering about stuff that doesn’t matter. All these blogs, my Twitter feed, even people sending me IMs. It’s like everybody’s unreasonably touchy and ready to start ranting and attacking and sneering each other at the slightest provocation.”

“Not at all like you, for instance,” said Brigid.

“…” said Greg.

“Dammit,” he added, and sank into a funk.

-The Gneech

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Apr 16 2012

Monster Monday: Goblin Wolfrider

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Not as dangerous as a full-blown worg rider, goblin wolfriders are still very effective scouts, infiltrators (thanks to their pass without trace spell) or light cavalry. Wolves are also less likely to get annoyed at their goblin riders, turn on them, and eat them in the middle of combat.

Not that it doesn’t happen. Just not as often.

NOTE: Golarion goblins may (and usually do) take Goblin Dogs in place of wolves as animal companions. The statblock here is for my own game, in which the gobbies stick with wolves.

Somebody save that poor pooch!

Goblin Wolfrider (CR 1/2)

Male Goblin Druid 1/Warrior 1 NE Small Humanoid (Goblinoid)
Init +1; Senses Darkvision (60 feet); Perception +6

AC 17, touch 12, flat-footed 16 (+4 armor, +1 shield, +1 Dex, +1 size)
hp 16 (1d10+1d8+2)
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +4

Spd 20 ft. (on foot); 50 ft. (mounted)
Melee Lance +3 (1d6+1/20/x3)
Ranged Shortspear +3 (1d4+1/20/x2)
Druid Spells Known (CL 1, 3 melee touch, 3 ranged touch):
1 (2/day) Pass without Trace (DC 13), Jump (DC 13)
0 (at will) Resistance (DC 12), Know Direction (DC 12), Spark (DC 12)

Str 13/+1, Dex 13/+1, Con 12/+1, Int 10, Wis 14/+2, Cha 8/-1
Base Atk +1; CMB +1; CMD 12
Feats Druid Weapon Proficiencies, Mounted Combat
Skills Handle Animal +3, Intimidate +3, Perception +6, Ride +5, Stealth +9, Survival +8
Languages Common, Druidic, Goblin
SQ Animal Companion Link (Ex), Nature Sense (Ex), Share Spells with Companion (Ex), Spontaneous Casting, Wild Empathy +0 (Ex)

Mounted Combat Once per round you can attempt to negate a hit to your mount in combat.
Share Spells with Companion (Ex) Spells cast on you can also affect your Companion, if it’s within 5 feet.
Spontaneous Casting The Druid can convert stored spells into Summon Nature’s Ally spells.

Wolf Goblin Mount (Animal Companion) (CR –)

Male Wolf N Medium Animal
Init +2; Senses Low-Light Vision, Scent; Perception +5

AC 14, touch 12, flat-footed 12 (+2 Dex, +2 natural)
hp 13 (+4)
Fort +5, Ref +5, Will +1

Spd 50 ft.
Melee Bite +3 (1d6+1/20/x2) plus Trip

Str 13/+1, Dex 15/+2, Con 15/+2, Int 2/-4, Wis 12/+1, Cha 6/-2
Base Atk +1; CMB +2; CMD 14 (18 vs. Trip)
Feats Weapon Focus: Bite
Tricks Attack, Combat Riding, Come, Defend, Down, Guard, Heel, Track
Skills Perception +5, Stealth +6
SQ Combat Riding, Track

Scent (Ex) Detect opponents within 15+ feet by sense of smell.
Track The animal will track a scent. +4 to Survival when tracking by Scent.
Trip (Ex) You can make a trip attempt on a successful attack.

-The Gneech

The text is open content using the OGL. “Goblin Wolfrider” was created by John “The Gneech” Robey. The illustration is from Paizo Publishing’s Rise of the Runelords and belongs to them. Stat blocks created by Hero Lab®.

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Apr 13 2012

Thoughts On the Silmarillion

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Finally reading The Silmarillion through for the first time. I’ve tried to read it a few times but always gotten bogged down before, but somehow I’m finally ready for it. The Tolkien Professor has helped quite a bit, if nothing else just by helping me keep the threads in my mind.

So far, I have two observations:

1) Fëanor is a prick.

2) Man, Maedhros never gets a break, does he?

That’s all for now! More insightful commentary later as my readings of this deep and stirring work continue.

-The Gneech

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Apr 12 2012

When the Dice Hit the Mat

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Well it looks like my new campaign is going to start this weekend. I spent most of last weekend working up the first scenario (hanging out at the in-laws’ place with no internet to speak of makes for lots of focused time with a notebook and pen), and having received the campaign “handbook” the players are tossing character ideas around (so far 2/4 on halflings, which is strangely appropriate).

I mentioned before that this game isn’t like the others I’ve done recently, but is a “dig in, make lots of lore and background, go heavy on plot” type of game. This is fine and dandy as a mental exercise when putting the background together, but at some point it all has to become “real” and the character party has to inhabit the world. When the dice hit the mat, will all that pre-work make it awesome, or will the whole thing just go thud?

By a peculiar coincidence, Gnome Stew once again posts a blog entry that meshes up with the issues at hand nicely, this time about “Campaign Greatness.”

Some campaigns are not that good, some are fine, and some are ones we never forget. In my last article I talked about my Elhal campaign, and how it was one of the great ones. In a discussion on G+ (btw, Circle +Gnome Stew), some Plussers asked me what made Elhal so great. So I did some soul searching, as well as asked some of my players and we came up with some factors that not only made Elhal great, but could make any game achieve greatness.

Why Did It Work?

On the surface there is nothing about Elhal that was different from a hundred other fantasy stories. What then made it stand out? Here are some of the conclusions my players and I came up with:

Clear Sense of Purpose – From the initial pitch for the campaign, it was clear that the goal of the campaign was to de-throne the Demon King. Other things would happen along the way, but everyone knew where the game was going. This purpose was a beacon for the players. No matter what was going on, they knew what they were working towards.

Epic Feel – Elhal was an epic story, and thus it was clear that the fate of humanity was at stake. Likewise, it was clear that the characters were not just adventurers but people of purpose. That was conveyed through the tone of the game especially in the way NPC’s regarded the players.

Characters Tied To the Setting – The players did a great job of making characters who were tied directly into the setting. There were no Weirdos and no lone wolves. One character was the son of one of the Kings who fell to the Demon King, the other was the grandson of the King’s assassin. The third initially had a mysterious background with hints of the divine, but I would add some elements to that and fully embed him into the core of the game.

Say “Yes, And…” – There was a lot of saying Yes on my part. I worked very hard not to stifle any of the players enthusiasm, so when a player asked for something, I tried very hard to make that happen within the game, and the characters would have to earn the thing they wanted. When the players said that they would need a base of operations to mount their rebellion, I worked up an arc that would lead them to liberating a city under a terrible curse.

Outside Communication – The players were so excited that discussions of the game would spill into email between sessions. These discussions were almost always in first person and often represented in depth discussions about the situations the characters faced. Those metagame moments reinforced the game and added great depth to the campaign, and growth to the characters.

These are all elements that I’ve looked at with this game. Not all of them directly apply yet– there isn’t a single obvious “Demon King” for the players to rally against at this stage for instance, aside from an obvious Sauron-esque[1] Lord of Darkness too remote and powerful to be confronted directly any time soon.

The “Weirdos” points vs. “Say ‘Yes And…'” is an interesting balance that needs to be juggled. (And the linked article about the Weirdo Card is a very interesting one as well.) The players need to be able to create characters and situations that will interest them in order to get (and stay) invested in the game, but those things have to be woven into the setting and campaign in a way that works. Figuring out what to do when you are trying for a string quartet and half the players bring kazoos is part of the Gamemaster gig.

One thing I’m thinking of doing on that score is implementing a “Goals” and “Wishlists” system once the campaign has a good start. The “Goals” part (lifted from the old WEG Ghostbusters RPG) would be fairly simple: each character has a broad goal they wish to accomplish, and each session they get an XP bonus if they achieve it. Using the Lord of the Rings characters as examples, Aragorn might have a goal of “Lead Well,” Pippin would have a goal of “Get Into Trouble” or something similar, and Sam Gamgee would have a goal of “Serve Frodo.”

The “Wishlists” is even more straightforward: the players get together periodically and give me a list of things they’d like in upcoming sessions, both as a group and individually. Party wishes might be things like “a party mentor” or “to fight a dragon,” whereas individual wishes could be anything from “a magic spear” to “an NPC romance.”

Since the character creation process has been a bit more curtailed for this game than it usually is for my games, and there are limited options for things like buying gear upgrades over time, the idea is that these things will give players some extra control over the long-term story to compensate.

-The Gneech

[1] Strictly speaking, more Morgoth-esque, actually. Point is: definitely not an immediate concern.

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Apr 12 2012


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Greg had just finished putting away the breakfast dishes when a loud pounding came from the door. Opening it, he discovered Treville standing in the corridor, looking peevish. “Hullo, albatross,” said Greg. “What brings you here?”

“I’ve had it with you!” said Treville.

“Oh?” said Greg. “Okay then.”

“From now on, we go our separate ways!” Treville added.

“Excellent,” said Greg. “Thanks for letting me know.” He started to close the door, but Treville was still talking.

“That’s right! You won’t have old Treville to kick around any more. I’m not putting up with it! Just back off, man!”

“Right,” said Greg. “I’ll do that.” He started to close the door again, but Treville was still talking.

“Yeah! Just bug off! Go away! Leave me alone, man!”

“Whose doorstep are you on, again?” said Greg, but then his phone beeped. “Eh?” he said, and pulled it out of his pocket.

“Oh,” said Treville. “That’s probably me. I left you a voice message telling you to stop bothering me. And I sent you a text letting you know I didn’t want to talk to you.”

“Hmm,” said Greg.

“I sent you an e-mail about it, too.”

“Did you,” said Greg, flatly.

“So you’ll get the point. I’m serious: bug off!”

Greg said nothing further, but closed the door in Treville’s face, locked it, put on his headphones, and started his day’s writing.

“Hey!” shouted Treville in the corridor, pounding on the door. “Don’t you ignore me when I’m telling you to go away and leave me alone!”

-The Gneech

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