Archive for December, 2011

Pool of Radiance etc.

December 29, 2011

I find myself thinking about the old SSI computer game Pool of Radiance. I stole several elements for my current 1E AD&D game, though not the main package. That is: the dungeon is the ruined city itself, separated by difficulty into quarters which connect with each other and with the outside. Then you have the overland map with scattered small dungeons which generally tie into the city adventure.

I like the setup, though I think it was developed mainly to accomodate the limited computing ability of the time. Separating the world into 16×16 (as I recall) blocks was 1988’s equivalent of using fog to disguise limited draw distances in 3D games.

The continuity of characters that you could port over to other Gold Box games like Curse of the Azure Bonds, then Secret of the Silver Blades, and ultimately Pools of Darkness was cool. Unfortunately you lose all your stuff every time :/ (I might be wrong on this regarding Pools of Darkness).

That said, the solid-ness and interactivity of 1990’s Eye of the Beholder is just timeless. While it has semi-realtime rather than turn-based combat and exploration, there is so much you can do with the persistent world and puzzles and stuff. I based version 2 of our Hirst Arts dungeon tiles on this game. The Eye of the Beholder sequels aren’t that hot, and games made with its engine were not much better than it. One, Dungeon Hack, was nice because it procedurally generated your dungeon randomly or by seed every game. Just one character in the party, though.

Then we have Ultima Underworld in 1992. Nice, actual 3D, lots of cool environmental opportunities, but we haven’t figured out that WASD+mouse is the definitive FPS control scheme. The engine was used for System Shock, which I love.

1998 saw Baldur’s Gate, which while pretty, eliminated 3D and most environmental interaction. I think it was a huge step back in gameplay in favor of eye candy. The engine produced Icewind Dale (superior to Baldur’s Gate I think) and Planescape: Torment (one of the best-written games I know of and the most creative of the BG engine).

Both Neverwinter Nights and Dungeon Siege were released in 2002. While NWN was easier to develop for and more fun to do multiplayer, and had more depth in general, DS was very pretty and technically had some excellent features like rolling area loading so there aren’t loading screens. In total I think NWN was very much in the vein of Pool of Radiance, while Dungeon Siege was more like Diablo (though not random or procedural, just the gameplay). In any case, a HUGE step up in graphics and as good or better gameplay than Baldur’s Gate.

Since then I haven’t played many new RPGs. A little NWN2 (SO SLOW AND BORING but I hear you just have to get past the first dozen hours and it starts getting good). Mostly I’ve been mining old games that I never got a chance to play.

Speaking of, I picked up an Avalon Hill copy of Wooden Ships and Iron Men at a thrift store yesterday for $4, which is pretty sweet. It has the rules, advanced sheet, two boards, almost all the counters. I might just send it along to someone else who needs spare counters because I see a nice version out there with stand-up ship figures. Do want. Not just for WS&IM, but because those counters would be cool for naval actions in D&D.

Random follower types

December 21, 2011

Hey dude roll d20 and get some followers. I suggest rolling these as supplementary, so the player still gets some “regulars” if things go badly, or else roll several times per player. It would also be good to give the player the chance to swap out a set of followers for a new roll (which might suck just as bad) once in a while if he’s been running his barony well. Generally, in parentheses is a list of possibilities. Roll the appropriate die and count across (they’re all 3, 4, 6, or something). The one with the M-U house staff is supposed to include all those people though. If you can come up with more, cool! Add them to your list. Just try to come up with a die-size. That means if you really want a 13th choice you had better be able to come up with another 7. These are arranged with the best ones at the high roll, so a bonus or penalty makes sense.

Cleric-Types
1. Pilgrims following a religious mass-vision (they speak in tongues)
2. Young acolytes sent to keep them from the temptations of the city
3. Disaffected acolytes from another deity
4. New converts excited to learn
5. Hard-nosed orthodox agricultural folk
6. Monks from an antique monastery
7. A gaggle of miscellaneous philosophers
8. Priests who communicate only in singsong chants
9. Book-thumping folk who interpret the religion literally
10. Recalcitrant youths sent here as punishment
11. Third sons from middle-class families
12. Reincarnated unfortunates paying for past misdeeds
13. Rejected missionaries
14. Foreign converts who almost have it right
15. Shamans interested in learning of your ways
16. A team of hooded, penitent masons
17. Street-savvy lycanthrope-hunters
18. Fresh-faced and idealistic paladins
19. Knowledgeable undead-hunters
20. Smart and well-behaved holy animals (based on deity)

Fighter-Types
1. Viking-barbarians decided they like the warmer weather down here
2. Foreign mercenaries like the booze and women around here
3. Peasant militia
4. Bristly-bearded mountain men
5. Gladiators (show-offs)
6. Street-strongmen from the city
7. Laid-off private guards
8. Footsore caravan guards
9. Desert raiders enamored with civilized life
10. Boorish huntsmen
11. Plainsmen obsessed with taboos
12. Crazed bearskin-wearing berserkers
13. She-warrior javeliniers
14. Bearded, peak-capped archers
15. Smug, shaven, toga-wearing slingers
16. Hound-master and pack of hounds (spiked dog barding, silvered fangs, little snow booties)
17. Bearded seige engineers / sappers
18. Military professionals (pike and crossbow, halberd, shield-wall spear and shortsword, longbowmen)
19. Heavy cavalry with squires (heavy horses, camels, 1/3 elephants)
20. Aerial cavalry (giant owls, pegasi, manticora, doom-bats)

Thief-Types
1. Band of urchins skilled in pickpocketing
2. Remnants from a disbanded gang of kidnappers
3. Military deserters (infantry, archery, artillery, sappers)
4. Remnants from a broken smuggling ring
5. Pirates discharged for perpetual seasickness
6. Escaped slaves
7. Town watch drummed out for excessive viciousness
8. Grizzled frontier commandos
9. Failed extortioners (they had too much heart)
10. Slum-folk skilled at gambling and insult-fighting
11. Theater troupe
12. Carnival folk
13. Tattooed jungle blowgunners
14. Jovial rat-catchers
15. Corrupt minor officials (police, taxation, records, public works, permits, religious)
16. Adventurer-archaeologists
17. Nimble-fingered locksmiths turned safecrackers
18. Clock-makers turned trap-makers
19. Assassins with no reputation
20. Skilled forgers (documents and seals, jewelry, art)

Magic-User-Types
1. Peasants with sudden aptitude at magic after touching a glowing meteorite
2. Nomads who all bathed in a mysterious vanished oasis
3. Hedge witches and midwives
4. Bespectacled literati
5. Aggrandizing poets
6. Eager young apprentices
7. Sullen nobles’ sons and daughters
8. Stout and quick-witted manor staff (ALL: butler, maid, winekeeper, groom, watchman, herald, gardener, cook)
9. Scribes all obsessed with details
10. Gifted youths who just can’t buckle down and study
11. Animal handlers (1d8+2 fingers each)
12. A brace of stiff-faced bodyguards
13. Young sages long on library knowledge but short on experience
14. Curious and energetic alchemists (1d3-1 eyebrows each, roll monthly)
15. Captured a magical beast! (resurrected dinosaur, rust monster, slime or jelly)
16. Extraplanar visitors (salamander, elemental, deva, demon, mephits, tinker gnomes)
17. Found a golem but it needs some work (slow movement, can’t attack, low Max HP, obvious vulnerability)
18. Magical goons (flying monkeys, white apes, nymphs, mudmen)
19. Curious magical creature (couatl, shedu, lamia, naga)
20. Young dragon (not interested in getting artificially aged!)

Circus Performers as D&D Classes

December 5, 2011

Think about it:

Mustachioed Strongman (Lifting, hurling, intimidation, acrobat’s assistant)
Favored tools: Bracers, striped unitard, big hammer, moustache

Acrobat (Climbing, contortion, leaping, pole vaulting, trapeze, trampoline, tightrope, stilt walking)
Favored tools: Rope, 10′ pole, hand chalk

Knife Thrower (Throwing, trick shots, juggling, catching)
Favored tools: Knives, hatchets, leather vest and white poofy shirt

Mystic (Mind over matter, fortune-telling, pickpocketing, legerdemain, fire-walking)
Favored tools: Plumed turban, voluminous robe, jeweled rings, crystal ball, tarot cards, smoke powder, flash paper

Fire-Breather / Sword Swallower (Fire breath, fire eating, regurgitation, minor swordfighting, fire dancing)
Favored tools: Flexible sword, vodka, lighter, flaming staff, flaming chain

Animal Tamer (Trained animals, animal handling, bullwhip, lasso, trick riding, beard of bees)
Favored tools: Bullwhip, lasso, footstool, weasel, falcon, lion, elephant, horse, beard of bees, charmed snake and flute

Clown (Distraction, pantomime, disguise, ventriloquism, puppetry, buffoonery)
Favored tools: Quick-change clothes, makeup, rubber chicken, whoopi cushion, snakes-in-a-can, megaphone

Tattooed One (Piercing, hook suspension, pulling with the hair, iron tongue, bed of nails, glass eating)
Favored tools: Tattoos, loincloth, rapier, long needles, blowgun