Wednesday, August 31, 2011

X-Plorers Psychic Characters

X-Plorers just feels like it needs an psionic class. Maybe it's just that whenever I think science fiction I think Firefly, but I feel it could just be a fun addition to  the game. Here's a rough draft of what I came up with:

Psychic (optional class)

Psychics are gifted with extremely rare cognitive abilities, the ability to see the future, move matter around with their mind, and delve in memories of other sentient creatures. The cause of which is unknown, but the result is extreme dangerous. When uncontrolled, these gifts may manifest absolute genius or insanity, often both. Psychics are often hunted down and captured by both private and government research agencies.

The psychic is an optional class in the sense that it does not universally fit into all settings. There are three basic ways to use this class: Allow Psychic characters as one would allow scientists or soldiers; remove it entirely from the game; or allow Psychic skills to be only accessed via multi-classing.

Mind Blast (Pre): A Psychic can create a surge of electrical energy in the mind of an opponent.  The damage dealt is 1d6 points plus the Psychic’s Presence bonus and temporary stuns the opponent for 1 round. Any creature brought to 0 hit points by a Mind Blast falls comatose for 1d6 hours instead of rolling on critical hit table.

Precognition (Pre): This is a Psychic’s ability to predict the future based on a specific choice, such as what would happen if the Psychic injected himself with an unknown substance or whether or not a rope bridge would snap when crossed. The precognition skill cannot discern long term long term consequences or even what would happen further than a few minutes into the future.

Telekinesis (Pre): A Psychic can move matter around with the raw mental force. The speed, mass, and distance an object can be moved is dependent on the Psychic’s level. The exact details of which are left up to the referee. A rough guideline if 20 pounds of force per level is appropriate, however. 

Telepathy (Pre): The ability to read minds, communicate through a telepathic connection, and even suggest curtain course action to another sentient creature or cause him forget vital information are all lumped under the telepathy skill. If the psychic is actually attempting to command or otherwise tamper with the memories or thoughts of another sentiment’s mind, the creature is allow a Presence saving throw to resist the Psychic’s influence.

X-plorers: Recap and Reaction

I played X-Plorers yesterday via google+ yesterday. Despite even two of the players down print copies of the rules, none of us had played the game before.

As I expected it was a lot of fun, but in some need to major tweaking. The adventure I set up was pretty simple: the party was on a transport between worlds taken hostage by drug-smuggling pirates. I had some nearby planets for them to explore as well, but we never got that far.

It's three in the morning right now, so I'm just going to give a basic run down of things I noticed from the game:

- Weapons deal a hell of a lot of damage compared to character hit points. A 3rd level character has only a 50% chance to survive the damage of a single lazer blast. No character, PC or NPC survived a single shot. Now, I don't shy away form character death, but this is too much even for me. I felt like I had to pull some strings to make sure the character had a fighting chance, like giving the party surprise in just about every combat (although, I should give most of the credit to the players' cunning plans). Having a character die in the first ten minutes of the game was pretty exciting though, I have to say. Poor Anthony (also a player in my Vats of Mazarin game) doesn't have great luck with his character's surviving, even with the critical hit table.

- The scout feels more like a infiltrator/criminal than a scout. No survival skills, but lost of sneaking around pocketing credit cards. It's almost as if the class if trying too hard to cover two archtypes and failing at both.

- 1st level characters don't have very good odds with their skills. Poor Will (also a Vats of Mazarin player) failed five piloting rolls during a space combat with two fighters. Not a single success.

- Pilots and, especially, Navigators doesn't really don't feel like they affect the outcome of space combat much. Gunners blow things up; Navigators can heal the ship. Pilots and Navigators can only grant +1 bonuses to the ships defenses or other characters' rolls. I guess the Pilot gets to move the ships around the board and can try to escape entirely. The Navigator, while useful, just doesn't seem like a very fun position to fill. I had a pretty in-depth discussion after the game with Mark, who seemed to share my sentiments. However, we both agreed that both the narrative and teamwork the system creates is excellent. All the guns are pointing in the right direction, but there's still a little tweaking that needs to be done, I reckon.

- The miscellaneous Agility/Intelligence/Physique/Presence saving throws worked out great! One of my favorite things about the game. Simple, but very clever. I especially likes Anthony trying to convince a crowed of cowering civilians to save his ass from an old fashioned shoot out with a rifleman. He failed (although they joined in and battered the pirate around a little bit after Sargent Stiles, Anthony's character, took him down).

That isn't to say X-Plorers doesn't get a lot of things right. Overall, I thought it would pretty fun. This is pretty much a list of things for me to fix up and tweak.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Character Level / Dungeon Level Conflicts

In my Vats of Mazarin game, I've been beginning to discover that character level seems to progress much faster than dungeon level. Now, the first level of my megadungeon is quite large, about 80 rooms, but even after exploring only 50 of them (although they've found all but two areas of interest), the party has reached 2nd and/or 3rd level. Maybe it's because the party is quite small and thus splits the experience only a few ways, but they seem to be stocking up on hirelings and henchmen. There have even been five character deaths and everyone is still progressing so quickly compared to the level of the dungeon they are on.

Part of the problem, is that I've made the dungeon too interesting. That might be the wrong word, but seem like the players are apprehensive about missing anything - they want to explore everything that there is to be explored and gleam every bit of knowledge out of it they can find.

I'm starting to appreciate more the Arnesoian three level system: Flunky, Hero, and Superhero. Different parts of the dungeon could geared towards the three character levels with each level of the dungeon being more of a thematic change that an increase in difficulty.

On a completely different note, I've begun to think more about X-Plorers. The Fight On! Random Tables book has some really great gonzo science-fiction related tables within and I'm just itching to get some use out of them. I have some definite issues with the game, rules wise, but who knows, it might play great even if I don't really get it on paper. I want to get some experience with it under my belt before I start house-ruling the crap out of it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wandering Monsters and Dungeon Re-Stocking

When restocking my Vats of Mazarin dungeon, I have been heavily reliant on wondering monster tables. Rather than completely rewrite sections of  the map key between each session, I have taken to stocking the dungeon on the fly.

Here's an example of one of my wandering monster tables that I have been using:

1. Berserkers (1-8)
2. Mole Men (1-8)
3. Magic-Users (1-4; lvl 1-4)
4. Giant Ferrets (1-8)
5. Bandits (1-8) 
6. Crystal Statues (1-6)
7. Crab Spiders (1-4) 
8. Centipedes, giant (1-8)
9. Fire Beetles (1-8)
10. Green Slime (1)
11. Adventurers (5-8)
12. Roll on “Vats lvl 2”

I'd love to elaborate about the role of each of these creatures in the dungeon, but I'll save that for another post, once more of the complex has been thoroughly explored.

But to give you an example of how all of this has worked, in the previous session, the party returned to the site of the berserkers' encampment. I decided that in ~12 rooms there would be at least one new monsters, so I rolled on the wandering monster chart, generating two magic-users. These magic-users became, after a good reaction roll, "Fred" and "George" (fake names), two companions in search a map written by Fred's great grandfather, a former student of Mazarin's.

While it was useful to have a sentence detailing each room at the beginning of the campaign, and will probably continue to do so with each dungeon level, I am now comfortable enough with the first level of the complex to run off almost pure improvisation, instead of roughly half and half preparation and making everything up on the fly.

However, this table has its limits. I've gotten to the point where I do need to rewrite the first dungeon level. The barbarians have been driven out, the Mole-Men weakened and angry, a new group of white cloaked men lead by a magic-user of at least 5th level have come in, and roughly half of the level has been explored. Instead of completely restrocking the entire dungeon level, however, I am learning that I only really need to rewrite a couple room of interest if I revamp my wandering monster chart of reflect the new inhabitants.

Vats of Mazarin - Session #4

 Medium: Google+ Hangouts
System: B/X D&D

  • Brother Hoyle, cleric 3 (Matt)
  • Abbador, magic-user 2 (Will/Coffee)
  • Squolia, thief 1 (Anthony)
  • Murd, fighter 1 (retainer)
  • Belgon, magic-user 1 (retainer)
  • Mike, normal man (hireling)

Another great session, although Jake was unable to join us this week. The party first explored the area they located last week that the former barbarian chieftain has refused to entry due to a fear of the gold snakes within. Turns out that it was only the shrine to the Snake Men, and the gold snakes were merely statues. Inside the alter, however, the party located a passage down into a lower section of the dungeon, which they deemed to dangerous to yet explore.

The group also met up with two magic-users, who introduced themselves using the names "Fred" and "George" (a wander encounter with a good reaction roll - and no, they're not identical) who were exploring the Mazarin's complex in search of a map that beloned to Fred's great grandfather - a former student of Mazarin's. They made a deal agreed to team up with the party - who is more interested in treasure than maps.

The map was found in a sort of dorm block for Mazarin's students along with a pyramid of 10 deep-blue gems. The map showed an ancient pyramid located deep below the Vats of Mazarin, the two magic-user's new destination. According to the magic-users, the gems must be ground into a powder in order to enter the pyramid. In addition to Fred's great grandfather's room there would six other quirky apprentices. One of which trapped his room after being expelled (letter of expulsion left on his desk and poisoned needles in the bed).

Before heading out of the dungeon, the party made their way to a gold statue that depicted the solar system. Using a lever on the wall, the planets were made to arrange themselves in four specific configurations. Using an inaccurate star chart found in the room of one of the apprentices and the number of books collected during their excursions, the party was able to calculate the approximate time of the four arrangements - relatively close future, present day, about 50 thousand years in the past and about 100 thousand years in the past.

After copying down the configurations, the party rolled the planets outside the complex and began to scrap the gold plating off of them, during which a group of wanderers in white robes (another wandering encounter) walked into the dungeon, paying no attention to the party, but blasting away a single mole man with a lightning bolt before allowing him a chance to act.

This session also saw the demise of Murd, the fighter retainer and veteran of two delves into the dungeon, the poison of a giant spider did him in. His body was given to the Mole Men - the party claiming that they had "killed off the traitor," a reference to the Murd and Squalia's previous expedition, in which 7 Mole Men were murdered for their bars of gold.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vats of Mazarin - Session #3

Medium: Google+ Hangouts
System: B/X D&D

  • Squolia, thief 1 (Anthony)
  • Thangor, dwarf magic-user 2 (Joe; died, but resurrected)
  • Murd, fighter 1 (retainer)
  • Leoden, fighter 1 (hireling)
  • Meltot, magic-users 1 (retainer)
  • Belgon, magic-user 1 (retainer)
  • Mike, normal man (hireling)
Last night was a pretty tiny session, only two players, during which two separate dungeon expositions. I'm typically not a fan of smaller games, and I think that showed in my DMing ability last night. Reguardless, I still had an enjoyable time and the session added a heavy dose of depth to the game which will hopefully be built upon more in the future.

In the first delve into the Vats of Mazarin, Squalia, Thangor, Murd, and Leoden swung north from the bridge over the steaming pit into the tunnels of the Mole Men. The exposition proved deadly for 7 Mole Men and awarded the party 45 gold bars, worth 10 gold a piece. This should prove interesting to see how it affects the previous adventuring party's tentative alliance with the Mole Men, which will likely be dependent on whether or not Murd was recognized. Before shimmying back up the rope to the bridge, Murd was spotted by Thangor's infravision walking back into the Mole Men's tunnels with a small iron chest of gold bars and star-speckled snakes. Questioned after his return, Murd's only answer was, "Gettin' rid of them snakes."

Before the second exposition, the group took a couple of days to acquire two new retainers and a hireling. Actually, Melot and Belgon, two magic-users, hired the party to safely take them into the dungeon in search of artifacts of the Snake Men, of which little reliable information is known. These magic-users are in the employment of a man named Lord Garond or, as he was more commonly refereed to, the Archeologist. They agreed to give the party 10gp each up front plus an addition 100gp per downwards staircase found and an additional 1000gp per each artifact of the Snake Men collected. In addition to these two magic-user, the party also hired Mike the torchbearer.

Heading back into the Vats of Mazarin, Murd unknowing set off a newly placed trip-wire at the back of the cave entrance just before the bridge, presumably set by the Mole Men. A canister of magical gas dropped from the ceiling, causing the Murd, Leoden, Mike and Meltot to go into a berserk rage. After a minute of in-fighting, Murd has killed Leoden and Mike had ended Belgon, at which point the two survivors made their way towards the rest of party, who has fled out of the cave mouth. Luckily, Thangor managed to down them, (in addition to Belgon) with a well-placed sleep spell.

Thangor and  Squalia tied up their sleeping companions and searched the bodies of their fallen comrades. Leoden possessed nothing of note, but Meltot wore a jade snake medallion around his neck and carried the floating disk spell in his spell book. The two adventurers then decided to check and see if Belgon wore a similar amulet: he did indeed. Now believing the two to belong to some sort of snake-worshiping cult, the party looked through Belgon's spells book and checked Meltot's body more carefully. In Belgon's spells book the party found map and drawing of an alter with two snake statues labeled the Caverns of Lycin. Upon Meltot's ankle, they found a green tattoo of an eye writhed in the red tongue of a serpent; such a mark could not be round on Belgon. After being woken up, Belgon explained, under threat of torture, that the Cavers of Lycin was the last location given to him to explore by the Archeologist, but claimed not to understand the meaning of the tattoo possessed by his late partner.

After the interrogation, the party lined up the bodies next to those of the previously fallen adventurers and ventured back into the complex. They made their way through an abandoned alchemy laboratory, down into the second level of the dungeon, and into the room of the legendary Vats. After opening up one of the nine iron hatches sealing each of the vats, the party decided not to mess the substances, believing them to be the source of the canisters' power. At that point, however, Thangar felt a dagger pierce his back before keeling over dead. After violently dealing with the thief, an npc inhabiting the dungeon's second level, the party retreated out of the complex.

They then decided to get Thangar resurrected by the high priest of Kelin, leaving Thangar, Squalia, and even Murd impoverished, and journeyed three days west to the city of Parithian. Thangar will now forever be haunted by nightmares.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vats of Mazarin - Session #2

Medium: Google+ Hangouts
System: B/X D&D

  • Brother Hoyle, cleric 2 (Matt) - now level 3
  • Abbador, magic-user 1 (Will/Coffee) - now level 2
  • Murd, fighter 1 (Abbador's retainer)
  • Groffer, dwarf 1 (Anthony)
  • Owsy, thief 1 (Jake) - now level 2
  • Vera, halfling 1 (Gabrielle)
  • Xawatlem, [not quite sure on his class or level], Anthony

The session began with a short interfiled in town (when I once again gain the use of technology, I'll start working more on the world outside the Vats) were twine and 2 chickens where purchased; the purple potion was identified as a potion of invisibility; and Abbador hired Murd as a retainer (fighter 1).

In the Vats, the group encountered many of the Mole Men's traps, later making allies with them in exchange for routing out the barbarians. Two Mole Men, Lits and Poden, accompanied the group on the expodition along with a number of magical glass vials that expel various gasses (explosive, magical darkness, pyrotechnics, laughing gas, etc). Among other things, the party learned that there are 5 generations of Mole Men, Lits and Poden being among the Fifths. Only 2 "Firsts" are known to exist, Old Tolgen, who died in a mining accident, and a legendary other (identity unknown). Apparently, the Mole Men refer to the creator of the complex as the Master -who may or may not be Mazarin - (and who only the firsts had met), and work to sustain and refurbish his creation.

With the help of the canisters, 6 of which remain, the party expelled the barbarians, killing 10, giving 4 as captives to the Mole Men, and the 6 of harem women were wooed by Abbador. During the battle, Groffer met his end to a fireball expelled from one of the canisters exploding in too small a room - Owsy was only saved by hiding in the flat of an arch just outside the room.  Handing over the new Barbarian chief, Gandin, who had recently mutinied again the previous war leader, Oolog - whose body the party found just outside the cave entrance to the Vats - created a permanent alliance with the Mole Men. The Mole Men were likewise exited to find out what would happen if they stuck a human man inside the "Vats" in the level below, which piked the party's interest.

In the end, the party came out with 799 GP, 800 CP, 116 SP, a sack of jewels taken off the barbarian harem, a caldron lined with alchemical runes (which was being used by the barbarians to cook the flesh of Mole Men and other denizens of the vats for dinner), a green unidentified potion, an unidentified magic sword, 1 pink gem, a silver gem, and a gold-plated orb - which the barbarians stole from a statue elsewhere in the complex.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vats if Mazarin - Session #1

Medium: Google+ Hangouts
System: B/X D&D
  • Brother Hoyle, cleric 1 of Turia, goddess of luck, fortune, and coincidence (Matt)
  • Samuel Axelord, fighter 1 (Jake)
  • Abbador, magic-user 1 (Will/Coffee)
  • Isac, thief 1 (Anthony)
  • Groffer, dwarf 1 (also Anthony)
  • Aleta, cleric 1 of Francesca , goddess of love, marriage, and wealth 1 ( also Jake; poor Jake)

For the first session, I thought we'd begin with a good, old fashioned dungeon delve. Brother Hoyle, an acolyte of Turnia, the "Lady Luck," has discovered some religious documents related to an abandoned complex known as the Vats of Mazarin.

Thus the company made it west from Tytheron, a small mining village, through the jungles of Avalion to the Vats of Mazarin. The first things the party noticed was that opening to the complex spewed steam and there was some sort of metal spike protruding from the mountain, about 200 ft upwards and slightly off to the left of the opening.

In their journey, the group discovered a rivalry between the Mole Men and Berserkers in the severance; a humanoid beetle; a cursed fountain filled with treasure and sculpted in form of Zenith, god of the stars and planets; a four-armed white ape chained to the back wall of a room with descending stairs; an iron bucket filled with blueish acid and a book titled Gates to Azeron in a broom closet turned bedroom, which may have been recently or is currently being used by some denizen of the megadungeon.

We only went through a handfull rooms, 11 to be exact, but the group managed to accumulate a total of 5178 experience points, a sack filled with  600 gold coins, an unidentified potion (purple), an unidentified magic ring (silver), and a few pieces of jewelry, including a diamond studded monocle now worn by Groffer.

Isac the theif was gored through by a humanoid fire beetle (simulaneous combat resulted in Samuel also running the beetle through with his pole arm). Samuel Axelord then met his end  - although after he and Groffer freed the white ape from captivity - in a battle with three berserkers. Finally, after getting a little too greedy, Aleta's skin was pulled into and her skin dissolved by the cursed fountain, resulting in her death.

All three bodies are now piled outside the megadungeon complex.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Galactic Colonization Game

[I've finally figured out how to use labels in the new blogger set up. So you all should start seeing those starting to pop up again.]

Now that I'm running the Vats of Mazarin for ConstantCon, at least for the time being, I'm going to stop posting in-depth updates concerning its development. I'm perfectly fine with and would even encourage anyone whose read everything I've ever posted concerning my new megadungeon to play in the pick-up games, but at the same time I don't want to run out of cards in my hand.

Thus, I'm going to switch gears completely. To what, I'm not sure about.

Back in high school, I had an idea for a game where earth was becoming increasingly uninhabitable. Seeing Earth's distress, a group of benign aliens made contact with the most powerful nations on the planet and offered to solve all of their problems. However, the aliens were turned down by the terrestial governments, preferring for the planet to go on as it always had. Instead, the nations of Earth set up a new program to allow those wishing to leave the planet the training and means to do so with the mission of exploring, colonizing, and investigating another inhabited planet.

The colonists (players) would be give a list of 100 survey questions to complete with additional (and often more specialized) supplies sent for every 5 questions completed.

In my original brainstorming, I decided that it would be the job of one player to create the alien world for the colonists to explore. That, however, proved to be too large of a job and I abandoned the project.

Now, in my new, more enlightened state, I'm considering taking up the project again. This time, however, while the planet would be narrated by one player, the world itself would be created primarily via random tables and referee interpretation.

If I think of some clever way of making this game work, you'll hear more about. If not, maybe I'll revisit it again in 5 years.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Opening night went well. First night nothing major didn't go wrong, so that's certainly a plus. The guys whose playing both a puppet and stilted giant wrestler (in the same scene no less) finally got his stilts on in time. Everything went over all right.

In other news, I finally finished keying the Second and Sub-Level of the Vats of Mazarin, a long overdue task. Total room count: 155. Not too bad.

By the way, if you've read the key for level, you're still welcome to play in the future Google+ game. I've still got plenty of tricks up my sleeve and, honestly, level 1 doesn't give much away (nor do the cross section and level descriptions).

Hopefully I'll get the first or second section of The Shaft done today. At that point I'll have my bases covered and should be able to start actually running some adventuring expeditions in the new megadungeon.

What I need now, is a name for the complex as a whole. Any suggestions?