Jan 30, 2011
My old fanzine, Digital Ogre, was a monthly publication. At times, this was not enough time given many of us were producing original and varied content. There were, if I recall correctly, differences of opinion regarding the direction, layout, and general content. It was a labor of love, however, and looking back these fifteen years, I feel more respect and admiration for my friends and fellow gamers. The December 1996 issue contains the following:
Suspiria Soundtrack Review
Lovecraft Fiction Review
Fearless Vampire Killers Review
A Horror Filmography
White Wolf RPG Review
The Second Part of An Original Special Operations RPG
Fantasy/Sci Fi Quiz
D&D Campaign Supplement
Sci Fi Short Story: Weightless Dreams
Horror Short Story: Living with the Dead
Horror/Sci Fi/Fantasy Crossword Puzzle
You can find links to this issue and others on the right side of this blog. Enjoy!
Jan 28, 2011
Gradually we were able to make our way through a maze of piping deeper into the building and presumably closer to our target; the Brood Lord. There were occasional signs of previous struggles; blood and bullet holes, but no bodies. The genestealers, being able to charge from great distances, would attack unexpectedly, then quickly retreat into the shadows. Because of our need for lighting there was no chance for sneaking.
A few of us sustained minor injuries until I made an unlucky dodge roll and Jeff, our game master, made a lucky attack. I went from +20 to -22 in a single strike from a genestealer. I, of course, spent a fate point to stabilize until Dynn could revive me completely.
This was a night of near constant battle, the maps and dry erase markers in constant use. Unfortunately, it was well after nine by the time we ran in to the Brood Lord, so I had to leave my character in my friend's hands*. I hurried home to my wife and daughter. Later my buddy texted that the Brood Lord was defeated after some serious firepower and three more fate points. Sheesh.
* Our team is complementary and balanced, so we never take our characters with us when we leave. This way if one of us can't make it, someone else runs the character.
This is the second issue of a fanzine my friends and I published in 1996. Like the others, this issue contained original art and ideas. It included movie and music reviews, dungeon master advice, a military rpg called "Mission One", campaign maps, character sheets, short stories, and a crossword puzzle. You can read it here, or by clicking on the link to the side of this blog.
Jan 26, 2011
In 1996 a few friends and I created a fanzine called Digital Ogre dedicated to, you guessed it, gaming. We included reviews, stories, and rules for existing and new systems. I still have old hard copies of each of the four editions we ended up printing. The name of this blog, in fact, would have been "Digital Ogre" if it hadn't been taken already. In 1996 I was playing a lot of both fantasy and science fiction games, so I wanted a title that articulated such a dichotomy and so lend itself to multiple genres.
Jan 22, 2011
Jan 20, 2011
Jan 16, 2011
As a label, “cyberpunk” is perfection. It suggests the apotheosis of postmodernism. On the one hand, pure negation: of manners, history, philosophy, politics, body, will, affect, anything mediated by cultural memory; on the other, pure attitude: all is power, and “subculture,” and the grace of Hip negotiating the splatter of consciousness as it slams against the hard-tech future, the techno-future of artificial impermanence, where all that was once nature is simulated and elaborated by technical means, a future world-construct that is as remote from the “lessons of history” as the present mix-up is from the pitiful science fiction fantasies of the past that tried to imagine us. The oxymoronic conceit in “cyberpunk” is so slick and global it fuses the high and the low, the complex and the simple, the governor and the savage, the techno-sublime and rock and roll slime. The only thing left out is a place to stand. So one must move, always move.Resource
Vol. 16, No. 2/3 (1988), pp. 266-278
(article consists of 13 pages)
Jan 15, 2011
In the mid-nineties David Mack wrote and illustrated a fantastic comic book called Kabuki. Set in Japan in the near future, it's more esoteric "punk" rather than "cyber", but I still consider it on the fringe of the Cyberpunk genre. In this piece I used a pose from the original series of the main character, codenamed Kabuki.
Mack used a variety of mediums to tell a story that was more memory and subjective recall rather than straight-up typical comic book action. Here, I sketched the image using a number two pencil, then composed the final in black ink.
The story and characters, by the way, would make a fantastic Cyberpunk 2020 campaign.
Personal Note: This marks my 50th post here on Digital Orc. I've finally settled on an aesthetic, layout, and content for this blog. My plan is to continue publishing art, maps, and documents for a variety of existing systems and making up a few of my own. My current projects include a zombie rpg/board game, an angel rpg, Labyrinth Lord (LL) adventure module, and LL campaign setting. Thanks for reading and your feedback. I'm proud to consider myself both a gamer and member of the OSR!
Jan 14, 2011
Once in a while, at the end of a session, I would hand each player a sticky note (I always have index cards and sticky notes at hand while running a game). I asked them to give me one thing they liked and one thing they disliked. That's it. There are other, more complicated, ways of soliciting and analyzing feedback, but this worked for me and that's why I chose to share this method here.
The next time I sat down to plan the upcoming session I'd go over the notes. This format is succinct enough to make a thoughtful but quick impact on the planning. Sure, sometimes I'd receive non-serious responses (see picture above), but often I would see the game from a new and helpful perspective. If nothing else, I was listening to my players and was better informed to give them what they wanted.
Jan 12, 2011
"Move along, move along, like I know you do,
And even when your hope is gone,
move along, move along, just to make it through."
-All American Rejects "Move Along"
I had a fantastic night of gaming tonight! I showed up at the game master's house early and we chatted about various things, some actually having to do with gaming. As most of you may know, early reg for Gen Con emails went out a short time ago, so that was a topic of discussion. Mainly we discussed how the Con is growing, almost to the point of being overwhelming. Ok, Ok, we're well past "almost".
Last Gen Con, Jeff (herein referred to as the Game Master) and I met up and hung out at in the middle of the dealer's room at the White Wolf booth. The booth was actually a bar, which was fairly interesting. I don't remember seeing something like it before. Pretty girls and guys done up in Victorian and turn of the Century New Orleans dress (with fangs, of course) served expensive Heinekins as we sat on antique furniture, surrounded by gamers navigating the labyrinthine floor. Has anyone else ever felt that Gen Con dealer's room is so large now, and so filled with people, that navigating the bloody floor takes nearly as much attention as the merchandise?
Anyway, back to gaming tonight. We discussed some of the mechanics of Deathwatch and Dark Heresy in general. I developed a better understanding of mass warfare, and came to the conclusion that I should stop looking at Dark Heresy through my Labyrinth Lord lens. I love Labyrinth Lord and Dark Heresy, and appreciate the differences each bring to the table. My GM said that his biggest motivation and pleasure is in storytelling. He spends enormous amounts of time doing back story and developing maps, etc. He has a firm understanding of the mechanics, but the main purpose of the mechanics is to allow the story to unfold.
That said, the story last week left us looking for the brood lord. As we continued into the city, we came into a building were we captures a low-level mutant we were able to question. Immediately after questioning we made the mistake of splitting up to take on what we thought was a frontal attack. Soon we heard a scream from our scribe at the side of the building. A genestealer had attacked and done enough damage in a single round to put her down. I immediately came running, but was set upon by a smaller warrior. I managed to do some damage before the larger beast came into range and put me into the negatives right away. Luckily, I didn't pass out.
I decided to stick it out, and had a series of rolls that are, at this point, the luckiest I've ever had in my life. I had two percentage rolls both fall below ten when I needed them to. I then had three rolls above 90 of another series of percentage rolls when I needed them. Back to back! Side note: As the meat shield, it was doing my duty to die trying to protect my boss.
Backup came in the form of our psyker, Dinn, and in no time I was healed, but only after barely escaping death. I've played this character for over a year every Wednesday now and, while I try to play the character accurately, I still didn't want to die. Tonight was the closest I came. I only hope it doesn't bode poorly for the future (yes, that's my character turned over in the picture above).
It was an exciting game, book-ended by stimulating discussion about role-playing games in general. It's a night I'm glad to be a gamer!
Jan 10, 2011
Nearly ten years ago I designed, wrote, illustrated, and even got around to play-testing a role-playing game based on angles. I had just seen The Prophecy with my friends and thought the topic would make a cool game. All but this illustration has been lost lost through various moves and floods and, like all lost work, grows steadily in reputation in my mind. In reality I doubt it was much of an accomplishment. Though it would be cool to find a copy (I made ten in my "first edition").
I remember creating three basic alignments; good, bad, and neutral. I created an Angelic language and level names based on various angel references in the Bible, Book of Enoch, Gnostic Gospels, etc. I also created a series of alternate worlds aligned from heaven to hell. Much of the mechanics are now lost to memory.
Above is a class picture from the "bad" alignment. I called them something along the lines of "Zakyim" or "Zakikym". Most of my names were amalgamations of Latin. The "good" guys were the "Actinalbu"... I think. Angels were powerful, multi-dimensional creatures who were essentially immortal in the physical realm. They could be, however, destroyed through various extra-dimensional means. I also remember creating modifiers for combat and skill checks the further away from their base dimension they traveled.
I know various angel role-playing games have since been published, such as In Nomine. This game, however, will always remind me to keep sketching, keep designing, keep playing, ... and start making copies.
Jan 9, 2011
dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20) (optional)
Step 1: Download Labyrinth Lord Core Rules and the screen.
Step 2: Visit Gozzy's, then build and print the dungeon of your choice.
Step 3: Skim through the rules and screen while you eat chips and salsa while Pet Shop Boys or Midnight Oil plays in the background. Wait for your friends to arrive.
Step 4: Ask your players what class/race they want to be and visit the Labyrinth Lord Character Generator. Generate and print a character for each player.
Step 5: Use page 104 to populate your dungeons as your players explore.
Optional Step 5: Use this Random Dungeon Generator to not only build your dungeon, but populate it, provide locations and all pertinent monster data.
Optional Step 5: Just use the pre-made dungeon from page 129-131 from the Core book.
Optional Step 5: Visit the forum and download one of the many adventures that sound appealing.
Step 6: Play game. Refer to screen as needed.
This dish is best served in a relatively quiet area. Tradition calls for a basement, but bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and even tents may suffice.
This post is dedicated to Aaron. A great friend with a great mind.
Jan 8, 2011
All major cultures have myths that, in some way, reference what is thought to be the Gwyntmar. The age of this magical item is disputed by Old World historians, however, because the weapon contains several skins of species that have supposedly never co-existed at the time of its forging.
The Gwyntmar emits Fear at a radius of 15 feet. Whoever picks up the Gwyntmar must make a save versus spells. A failed save causes the character to commit suicide using the weapon. If the character saves successfully, their alignment becomes chaotic. If any living creature is killed by the player using Gwyntmar, the corpse resurrects and becomes a permenant zombie retainer after 1d4 turns. As long as the character has possession of the Gwyntmar the zombie retainers will follow all verbal commands. If the character attempts to destroy or abandon the Gwyntmar, they must make a save versus spells or commit suicide. If the character successfully saves, any remaining zombie retainers will immediately fight the character to the death.
No. Enc.: -
Armor Class: 9
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Hoard Class: None
Zombie Retainers are slow moving reanimated corpses that are gradually decomposing. They are immune to charm and sleep, and attack last each round. Unable to use convention weapons, they tend to overwhelm opponents through numbers. They have an insatiable desire for humanoid brains. Zombie Retainers follow simple verbal commands.
Jan 6, 2011
My gaming group got together after a two week break to resume our Dark Heresy game last night. We've only recently switched over to Deathwatch and I don't have a copy of the book (though I did just get a PDF of Ascension), so I'm not up on the new rules. My game master, though, is pretty good about mechanics, so I feel somewhat safe in saying we need to modify mass warfare. It's ironic that I'm playing a role-playing game that is based on large army miniature battles that has cumbersome mass combat mechanics. By cumbersome I mean the amount of rolling per battle per participant quickly becomes a handful if you have more than ten or so. Thank god our party's psyker, Dynn, is adept with Holocaust and several other abilities that tend to wipe out swaths of enemies often wrecking the enemy's morale in the act.
Anyway, even though I've referred to our campaign as "Final Sanction", our game master has significantly modified the story from the Deathwatch text. Officially the campaign is broken into two large sections; one in which the PC's land and resist the Tyrranid swarm and two; the PC's pilot a ship into the hive in a suicide mission. This second part is an optional adventure, and I should think so. My current character requires eight pages of information. For those of you who don't know, Dark Heresy is a fairly crunchy game with books for character sheets... I'm not kidding. Part of the girth comes from recording every spent XP on various upgrades as you progress through your "Career Path". I'll save this topic, though, for another post.
Having dropped on the planet, we moved into the capital city of Lordshomme and quickly came across evidence of genestealers. The big question is; how far gone is the planet? Coming into the city proper, we discover all transmissions are jammed and things don't look up for the good guys. Uh, I forget who the "good guys" are at this point...
We engage and defeat small PDF forces and other groups and move into the Governor's property. There, we are finally able to communicate with the guard and gain access to the main structure. Inside is a surprising scene; the governor is in full-on denial mode. He doesn't accept our assertions that the planet is being overwhelmed. He asserts the genestealer problem has been blown out of proportion and victory is near. We barely stop our boss, Inquisitor Graves, from smashing this guy with his power fist when, you guessed it, a group of genestealers literally drop in, causing extreme destruction. I, myself, am referred to as the "meat shield" and was nearly killed. The governor, by a series of extremely unlikely rolls, manages to evade death and locks himself into a back room. Eventually we clean up the mess, largely with our psyker's assistance, and move into the back property.
There we come across a massive army which, again, our psyker basically defeats single-handed by dropping his fetters and immolating the army. In the aftermath of this battle I am reminded that Dark Heresy needs to streamline their mass battle mechanics, and that our party, which is composed of three warriors, one scribe, and one wizard (psyker) is largely impotent compared to the psyker. I'll get into a discussion about balance in another post.
Now we are faced with several decisions. Is the planet doomed? Do we bother looking for a brood lord? How do we find the brood lord? We continue to investigate...
Jan 5, 2011
Mentzer’s Red Box included a single-player game. Several of the following B-series modules could be run by oneself. That is, the person playing was both the referee and player. This may fly in the face of some gamers, but why? Clearly role-playing games have social aspects, but, when created properly, some rpgs can be just as much fun alone as in group play.
Is the game designed for multiple players, but is also fun when you’re not playing with others? In my opinion, this is something that can increase the fun factor no matter what genre or goal. Most role-playing games have a high meta-game factor for the referees, but not for players. How to increase this for players is a question a good designer asks themselves.
What makes such a game fun? Each person may have different concepts of fun, but if we’ve gathered around a common game, there must also be something each person can get out of it to derive pleasure. Fun is critical, but it is also vague and only part of the picture. I agree with Ian Schreiber that a game designer should pay close attention to, not only how much fun players are having, but what they spend their time doing during game play. Do the players spend large amounts of time in melee combat when the goal of your game is political maneuvering? Good games are designed to reward players based on the game’s goal.
What is the game’s goal? This should be an important consideration when designing a game. Akin to learning objectives for teachers, this is the framework or praxis that undergirds everything. The mechanics, art, layout, pace, etc, all feed into a concept which attempts to accomplish a goal or goals. All aspects of the game don’t have to drive towards a goal, but most should.
What mechanic is used a lot? Is it used consistently? Can gamers understand it easily? Does it match the goal/setting? Do the mechanics increase or decrease fun? Is working out a good combination of rolls a fun and challenging part of the game, or does it get overly complicated and bog down the fun? The answer to these questions varies from gamer to gamer. They are questions to consider, however, when designing a game for your friends. Will they want to understand the mechanics?
Dice probability quickly gets complicated. What referees and players are asked to do with the outcomes and the use of charts further complicates the math behind the mechanics. However, just because the mathematics behind the rolling is complicated doesn’t mean understanding how to play the game is complicated, too. I’ve had fourth grade students learn to play a variety of card games successfully that have extremely complicated probabilities behind them.
When designing games it behooves the designer to understand, to some extent, probability. In this way, s/he can create a game engine that does what s/he wants it to. I’m not talking about balancing of powers, but balancing of probabilities when it’s needed. The goal of the game, in many cases, dictates what the mechanics should be. For example, are you designing a near future game, with a focus on politics? A good game design might be to increase the probability of death by firearm combat and increase the chances of both succeeding and needing to apply political means. Understanding a little about probability also enables gamers to create effective house rules.
Bell curves offer a quick way to understand probability. Image the x-axis as the number of different possible outcomes and the y-axis as the probability of those outcomes occurring. The frequency of the rolls is important when selecting dice and combinations. For example, if rolling for stats, you should probably increase the number of dice rolled to “flatten” your bell curve. If you have a low number of dice for stat rolling, there is a greater probability of rolling extreme stats. On the flip side, if you’re doing a specific roll often, you may want to reduce the number of die. You will adhere to the bell curve over time, while still allowing players a higher probability of extreme rolls (which are fun in combat, but not so much during character generation). As the number of dice in the pool is increased, the standard deviation also tends to increases and the mean result lowers. In other words, as you increase the dice pool you are more likely to roll closer to the average.
As you increase the number of faces on your die, you obviously increase the number of possible results, but you also increase the range of results. A low number of die with a high number of faces provides an extremely wide bell curve. Assuming you add the die results, as you increase the number of die in the pool, the bell curve gets wider and flattens out on top. As you increase the number of faces on the die, only the bell curve base widens.
Die Roll Combinations
Low die/high face: With this roll, extremes are likely. When there are large number of possible outcomes that are nearly equally likely to happen, this is a good selection. Charts and tables benefit from this type of die roll.
Low die/low face: This combination gives a small range of likely outcomes. This works well for damages. It provides a tightly controlled variation of outcomes. When there are a small number of possible outcomes that are nearly equal, this is a good selection.
High die/high face: This works well for conflicting roll. When you need an extremely large number of possible outcomes, this is a good selection.
High die/low face: Large range, average or close to average likely. This works well for character stats. When there are a large number of possible outcomes, but most results are grouped around the mean, this is a good selection.
These are a few characteristics of role-playing games that I consider when playing, running, and designing games. They are far from clear or complete. I hope to continue these thoughts in future posts.