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Showing posts from 2013

Hopes for the New Year

Resolve:  a firm determination to do something.

Since the move is nearing and so many things are still up in the air and underway, I really don't have any resolve for actions in the new year.   Instead, I think I just have a lot of hopes, and with all things, I think I will decide what to do as the year progresses.  It is going to be a big year of change.  So here are my hopes for the future.

I hope to get back to a regular gaming schedule.I hope to find a nice balance between working time, commuting time, and time to recharge, with my new job and my new extended commute.I hope to improve my health and become more fit.I hope to become part of a new in-person gaming group in our new hometown.I hope to set up a nice gaming area at the new house.I hope to set up an efficient woodshop at the new house and start using it to make useful things, some of which will be for gaming.I hope to get in a full solid year of beta testing for my new rule extension for Pathfinder.I hope to improve my…

Finding Weaknesses in Pathfinder Characters and Exploiting Them

This article isn't finished yet -- it is more of a living document to accumulate knowledge as I gather it.  In any case, I thought it would be worthwhile to publish and collect comments on.  Thanks for help from Michael Bell on Cavalier weaknesses.


Unlike other systems, Pathfinder doesn't explicitly include weaknesses in character as a choice made by the player on character creation.  Instead, the GM has to ascertain what abilities, skills, saves, background, or class properties represent the weakness of the character and exploit them.  Think of it this way -- when building some characters, everything starts at a base level and a lot of things get better and some get worse.  In Pathfinder, characters start at a lower level and everything gets better, except because of the balance of things, only a subset of everything gets better.  What doesn't get better, is the weakness of the character.

Now normally I am not an evil GM.  I don't see the GM as an adver…

A Matter of Space: The Mythical 5' Square

As of late, having switched mostly these days to virtual tabletop gaming, I have come to notice the great difficulty in running on 5' square maps with 5' square tokens.  It is a simple enough explanation in the rule books -- that the 5 foot square is the fighting space for a single party member.  Still it bugs me.  In the older D&D tomes, you can find reference of a "3 wide shoulder-to-shoulder in a 10 foot hallway" reference and even 3 1/2 foot per inch squares in some OSR allowing 3 to fight side-by-side in a ten foot hallway.  On VTT this really doesn't need to translate to a new grid, but just smaller tokens with a bit more zoom.  Change noted.

As I move through my own home now, investigating the use of space, especially as we look to pick all these items up and move them to a new home in a new layout with a new sense of space, I don't find many mythical 5 foot squares left.  In this house, built in the 60s, there was space enough for things, but more…

The Move: Fighting Coax

It is unfortunate, but even the pre-move things don't seem to be going as well as expected, and it has impacted even my online games.  I had hoped to be hosting games at either the new or old house, but the new house has an evil secret.

Deep in the bowels of the new house, which supposedly has cable internet hooked up now, is a nest of around 40 coax cables running to everywhere.  It turns out the house was wired for dual satellite plus cable, meaning many of the rooms have three coax drops.  There are also phone and DSL drops.  That is a lot of cable.

In the beginning it seemed simple, in that the cable TV drops were unfinished, and I could just hook them up and voila... internet.  But no -- one of the previous occupants decided to "fix" this and now there is a mangled mes of unlabeled cables that may or may not hold the key to getting cable hooked up.  It is nice that they are mostly housed behind the panels of the drop ceiling in the basement, but still, it is impossi…

Cthulu and Howard

Posted by Craig Engler, Cthulu and Howard (in the style of Calvin and Hobbes)

The Port Wayne Campaign

So I wrote an extension to Pathfinder for post-modern because I was tired of fighting Shadowrun and not looking to invest another wad of money in 5th edition.  Mostly, I like Pathfinder because of the OGL aspect so my players can play basically for free, and the greater community makes money off of me buying books and supplements.

The extension is lovingly referred so far to as Dead Channel Sky, an obvious tribute to the cyberpunk genre king William Gibson.  My design goal was to extend, not rewrite, normal Pathfinder.  By simplifying a lot of extension rules and rebalancing using new equipment, new archetypes, new classes, and a couple of new races, I am trying to make Pathfinder come alive in a post modern campaign.  Traditional Pathfinder sorcerers can now fight alongside modern gunslingers with machines guns and hackers.  The best part, however, for DCS, is that it has nothing too closely tied to setting.  As a result, I am taking my own homebrew Port Wayne Shadowrun setting and r…

Ranier Leaves: The Rise of the Runelords

The week the party rescued the beautiful Xeneshu.  She was the most beautiful hal-elf he had ever seen (Ranier was charmed by her.)  She kept her safe while they turned in the judge to the authorities.  Once everything cleared through and they received their reward, Xeneshu was gone.

Ranier followed the party onward to investigate reports at a local fort near Turtleback Ferry.  His heart just wasn't in it though.  While the party slept on the way out of town, Ranier left the party and left behind this note:

My Fellows,

I've reached the end of this road and I am taking my leave of all of you.  Bigger things await me.  My destiny is yet to be found.

To my friend Alex, I return the deed to the townhouse in Magnimar.  Unfortunately, my path still requires access to the Misgivings, and so that deed I am keeping.  Do not follow me there and do not venture there for the next two weeks.  I will recover what I need from that place and then be gone.  The deed will be left behind the pain…

The Things I Don't and Do Hate about Pathfinder

Iron Tavern has some thought provoking articles now and then, and I was inspired by the article I saw today:  The Thing I Hate about Pathfinder.  It turns out the pet peeve in question pointed out by Iron is the rules bloat that comes with feats.  Every feat rewrites the rules slightly.

Underlying this problem, I think ultimately in Pathfinder, is a bigger problem that comes with the stack of legacy underneath the Pathfinder rules.  In many cases, folks GMing Pathfinder haven't really played it.  They played D&D 3 or 3.5 and have transplanted themselves into Pathfinder thinking its just the same.  And quite frankly, the problem is that you can't GM Pathfinder well if you haven't played it a lot.

Feats are a good example of that.  Certain combinations of feats work really well with classes and other things to basically rewrite the rules for characters.  Knowing the feats, when they are useful, and how they are used is a big challenge for a player.  For example, I am cur…

Rise of the Runelords: Sessions 12 and 13

Ranier reports in after a couple of very long adventures:

Well, into the next room we went, and there were some baddies, including old Aldern himself.  He was wearing some sort of strange mask.  It was a touch fight, but in the end, we slaughtered all the unspeakable creatures in there, even some sort of fungal residue of one of the older Foxgloves that was trying to bring him back.  Aldern is dead, and Iesha is layed to rest, her spirit no longer seeking revenge on Aldern.  I wish this was the end, but the trails leads farther on to Magnamar.

So we said our goodbyes and hit the road.  Shadowmist (the horse we saved from the goblins at Thistletop) is doing better now and took easily to the trail.  Jericho took his own path there, looking up his family.  We grabbed a room at Trent Towers and then headed over to visit Pug, the guy who made the cages for Aldern's little laboratory animals.  Getting information out of Pug is like squeezing blood from a stone.  Sooner or later we head …

I am not Strange *sigh*

Though I am a big fan of Monte Cooke, I decided not to participate in the Strange Kickstarter.  Quite frankly, this year has been a really good year for gaming with Numenera, 13th Age, and DnD Next all coming to fruition.  It is sad to say, but I have too many other good RPGs to play.  Oh, and I am moving, which doesn't exactly make for the most opportune time to get involved in new kickstarters.

I guess I have other reasons too.  Kickstarters that offer non-exclusive content make it hard for me to feel special as a backer.  For Numenera, my book came in after GenCon, and while I was there, I saw lots of other folks buying up Numenera stuff without taking the risk of the kickstarter.  So how was being part of the kickstarter worth the risk?  Because my name was in the book?  Did I get a big discount?  Its hard to tell on RPG books and certainly what risk is their with receiving PDFs?  I remember at the end of Numenera, there was an email about Amazon underselling the kickstarter p…

GM Tip: Changing the Effective Font Size in Roll20

I've seen this complaint a few times in roll 20:  can't adjust the font in the chat window.  Unfortunately, they haven't added controls for this yet, at least not at the level of account I have.  For me the font is just too big, but I know for a lot of people it is too small.

I am using chrome to do this, but I am sure it will work in other browsers.

The method basically allows to increase/decrease the size of the font/controls by about a factor of 2 easily.

To increase the effective font size, zoom in with the browser (ctrl-plus), and reduce the zoom on the map, until it is back to the size you want.

To decrease the effective font size, zoom out with the browser (ctrl-minus), and increase the zoom on the map until its back to the size you want.

The main limit of this is the limited range of the map zoom, which really limited me to fonts doubling to halving in size.

Default size with chat font
Decrease browser zoom and increase map zoom to reduce font effective size

Friday Night Pathfinder Horror on Roll20: Session 1

The first session for any campaign can be a bit daunting for any GM.  A new group of people, a new group of characters that no one knows, a new setting, maybe even some new rules and new tech -- it all adds up to a lot to learn, keep track of, and keep moving.  The first online Friday night Pathfinder horror game lived up to all of that.

In the first session of using a tool like Roll20, I knew our focus had to be about tech, first and foremost.  If the players can't talk, roll dice, interact with me and the other players in meaningful ways, the game is going to be a failure.  As expected from pre-session testing, the audio on Roll20 was flakey on a couple people's laptops -- namely in that they could only hear a few of the audio sources, not all.  Some players couldn't hear other players.  That is a non-starter.  Luckily in the background, I had already set up a teamspeak3 server.  I gave the IP, password, and download location and we were up and running with good audio in…

Anticpating the Advanced Class Guide

So take a moment and read this overview of what we know so far about the Advanced Class Guide from Paizo.  It is interesting too, that I got an email that said that a beta version will be available for download and testing (Tuesday November 19th), and that it will immediately become legal for Pathfinder Society, even though the release isn't until next August.  They seem to be very serious about playtesting this new content before the release.  That is very good.

So let's take a look at where we're at and where we're going with this new content.  Core Pathfinder has 11 classes, Advanced Players Guide adds 6 more, Ultimate Magic adds Magus, and there are 3 more in Ultimate Combat.  That is 20 base classes folks.  Add archetypes, and you have plethora of base class options.

So Advanced Class Guide is going to increase this by 50%, including adding archetypes for these new base classes.  I have a hard enough time as a GM keeping track of all of the details of the existing…

Setup for a Roll20-based Online Pathfinder Horror Campaign

So we've been getting things set up for the new campaign.  I helped set up character sheets in Roll20 for everyone.  We even did some testing tonight.  Audio was a bit iffy, so I decided to set up a teamspeak3 server as a backup, just in case.

Some observations:

Roll20 doesn't always give a good indication of what the players will see to the GM.  To get around this, I often end up running one pane as a user and one pane as the GM.Managing a large number of pages in Roll20 seems painful.  I am always scrolling around.  It also seems like the page scroller should disappear automatically sometimes but doesn't.It seems like I am setting page settings over and over again for things like distance in Pathfinder/3.5 units.Modern maps seems ill-supported on Roll20.Getting players to generate characters in advance is difficult.PCGen is a resource hog.  I don't know how they can possibly keep moving it up in version without addressing the resource usage.  1 character sheet load to…

Rise of the Runelords: Session 11

Ranier reports in:

We're searching the Misgivings, House of the Foxglove Family.  It isn't good.  Upstairs we found a room with a pictoral representation of powerful necromancy that seems to indicate that the progenitor of this family here in Sandpoint was trying to become immortal by becoming a lich and generating a phlactery.  It isn't a good thing.  I sat the rest of the group down to explain the danger we face.  They took it well, though Jericho still can't pronounce phlactery.  My magical background is known now.

The whole place is haunted by the things that have happened here.  We found paintings that seem to give us a view of the family and perhaps what their outcome was:

Tall middle age man in blue, VorillBurnette woman with graying hair in blue, Vorill's wife CassandraTrevor, who apparently got his throat cutSerial, Trevor's wife, whose wife turned black, burned?Sindelli and Ziva, their daughters, frostedAldern, turning undead, likely into the ghast we …

Friday Night Pathfiner Returns: Pathfinder Horror on Roll20

It has been a long time coming, but my Friday night Pathfinder game is restarting.  This time, because I know the move is coming up, I am starting a game online in Roll20.  I am running a Pathfinder horror game.

I was lucky to get a solid party of 4 with another joining in the next month or so.

I am trying out a lot of things at once on this game, so it is going to be a big learning experience.  Here are some of the new stuff in the mix: is new, which I have used slightly before, but has gotten a lot better.  It has really been a breeze to use it to set things up so for.  I even got a subscription so I could get dynamic lighting and help support them.DCC-style level "0" characters are a new concept for me.  In my case, I had everyone make two level 1 characters, but nerfed them just slightly by requiring a drawback for every trait and by requiring two skill points to be spent on a profession.  15 point build too, to keep things weak.  I have guaranteed my players t…

A Character with Some Courage in It

I am a big fan of Joss Whedon for a lot of reasons, with The Avengers only be a small recent reason.  This video delves into the question Joss gets asked over and over again:  So, Joss, why do you always write these strong women characters?  I can identify.

In gaming, playing a strong woman character, I've been asked the similar question:  why are you playing woman character?  Joss gives all the right answers in this video.

For me, the biggest woman character I play and explore in my fiction is Crayla.  Crayla is strong, slightly defiant, and has a complete psychological profile that I have worked on, pieced my way through, and tried to figure out.  In some ways, I never quite figure her out all the way, and that too, is part of the enjoyment.  There comes a unique perspective in playing a woman character that you just don't get with playing a male character, as either a man or a woman.  Joss explains that too.

It is cool too, since all the gaming systems have pretty much st…

Bestiary 4

I received my copy of Bestiary 4, and it is a really good read, as are all of the Paizo bestiaries.  This one has a good collection of Lovecraftian horrors, including big, green and tentacley himself.  I would definitely recommend picking up a copy if you are a GM for Pathfinder and use that sort of thing.

Cthulu Comes Home

Just picked this up at my FLGS:

Armor History

Check out @critj_doc's Tweet:

Q & A: RPG Profile

I'm currently running (at flgs):  Custom Pathfinder extension for modern on Tuesdays
Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (at flgs) include: Sunday Rise of Runelords
I'm currently running (online): Nothing yet
Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (online) include:  Shadowrun
I would especially like to play/run:  Numenera, 13th Age
...but would also try:  Call of Cthulu
I live in:  Indiana
2 or 3 well-known RPG products other people made that I like:  Ultimate Equipment (Paizo), everything Forgotten Realms (Ed Greenwood, et al), Numenera (Monte Cooke)
2 or 3 novels I like:  Neuromancer, Snowcrash, Giant Series (John P. Hogan)
2 or 3 movies I like:  Groundhog's Day, Gattaca, The Avengers
Best place to find me on-line:  Who knows?
I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's: Well thought out, insightful, positive
I really do not want to hear about: Failed kickstarters (aka beating a dead horse)
I think dead orc babies are ( circle one: funny / problematic / ....well, ok…

Gaming Tables

With a new gaming room coming into my life soon, I've been taking a look at options for gaming tables.  This is a quick overview of what I've found so far.

First up is a Kickstarter I helped fund by the newly created Mortise and Magic.  The kickstarter has a good overview of this add-on style gaming table.  By setting this on a good sized table, like a dining room table or a coffee table you can create a cool set of gaming nooks.  There is also a version that is stand-alone.  Some neat features include book slots on the corners and integrated lighting.  The kickstarted version will have additional features.  I like this table as an inspiration piece, though I'm not sure it is exactly what I'm looking for.  I look forward to getting a copy of the plans so I can potentially hack them in the direction I want.

The next table is the "Ultimate Gaming Table", aka "The Avenger", which has its own dedicated website with lots of pictures.  This one has lots o…

Friday Shadowrun: Just to Make Things More Interesting

Vlad reports in...

When it rains, it pours, and time, it seems is slipping at its usual duty of keeping everything from happening at once.  You almost get the idea that there is someone, somewhere plotting and scheming all of this reality, trying to make it into some sort of story.

So I finally made it back to the bus without incident.  I have to admit it creeps me out a bit having it parked on the edge of the crater that we created on a previous mission.  It is the constant reminder of what happens when things get complicated.

So we split the cases we had gathered into two piles -- cold cases and warm cases.

Opening the cold cases we found a mismatch of about three people's worth (minus the torso and skulls, of course) of cyberware.  Some of it was old; some was normal stuff; some was foreign.

We opened one of the warm cases and saw a glowing head.   It was as creepy as one can imagine -- I think I saw the thing move. I'm thinking radioactive, so we aren't going to open a…

Lovecraft: Blasphemy, Abomination, and Insanity for Role-Playing

Deep in one of the many packed boxes, a mint condition book of Call of Cthulu D20 awaits for its next victim to find it.  Reading the blasphemous book will rend the mind with aeons-old pieces of the greater chaos that awaits, lurking, within the places that humans do not look, the place where false assumptions hide the real chaos.  Insanity could be the only outcome, if there weren't something far darker and deeper yet to be awakened.

Lovecraftian horror awaits you.  But what is it that defines Lovecraftian horror, over all the various subgenres of horror that evolved since?  Simply put, Lovecraftian horror is defined by the discovery of new knowledge that destroys the human assumptions of the world so profoundly, that it causes insanity.

I cannot emphasize enough how utterly brilliant the piece "Lovecraft's Concept of Blasphemy" by Robert M. Price is in describing the true nature of the dangers in Lovecraftian horror.  If you truly want to capture the dangers in you…

Rise of the Runelords Update

After a bit of a hiatus, our humble party got back underway on the Rise of the Runelords campaign.  Ranier was in good form this week.  We started this week having split all the loot and gold from the end of the first big adventure and wearing a shiney new level 4.  For Ranier, this meant now having the ability to use wands to perform melee attacks with his scimitar.  Here's his report:


It's been a quite couple of weeks in town.  The sheriff is still grumbling because we left town to deal with the goblins and others.  Oh well, we saved the town... again... from evil.  And the town guards does squat.

I've been copying scrolls into my spellbook and have quite a collection now.  It is unfortunate that some of them I have not truly figured out yet.  I have found a new trick -- being able to charge my scimitar attacks with spells from wands.  I suppose I'll have to share this one with the group, because certainly they will notice.

I've been working with Sol, and be…

The Karma Economy: Increasing Skills

Playing Shadowrun (4th Ed) has gotten me thinking about the contrast between leveling up in traditional D&D and its derivatives (Pathfinder, 13th Age, etc), and completely different games (Numenera) in contrast with Shadowrun.  Shadowrun has a very unique economy with the gaining of karma points over time.

Numenera and Shadowrun both have a mechanic that allow a player to accumulate a few points each session and you can use these points to make you character better.  The D&D sphere and Numenera both also have significant level ups that occur after many sessions, unlocking all sorts of new things.  Where Shadowrun is substantially different, is that once you are really good at doing something, getting even a little bit better requires some significant hoarding of karma points over time.  It simply isn't easy.

So for example, I was a bit of a dunce and didn't put much into my perception at the beginning of Shadowrun.  To make up for this and other skills that I've go…