Monday, November 29, 2010

Week of Encounters - progressing over at "Valley of the Old Ones"

My week of encounters is progressing nicely over at Valley of the Old Ones. This is my answer to my own "Seven Encounters Challenge" that was posted a short while back, here at Gaming with Chuck.

With lots of Holiday travel this past week, I got off schedule a little bit, but I have 5 of my promised 7 postings done already, and the next two are coming in the next day or so.

These are all encounters (some simple combat encounters, some descriptions of more in-depth adventures to be developed by a GM as he/she sees fit) that reveal a little bit of something or other concerning my game setting- the Valley of the Old Ones.

Valley of the Old Ones is intended to be an old school fantasy roleplaying setting. The idea is that there is a lot of weird stuff out there (to capture that feeling we had 30 years ago when first playing FRPGs and all the stuff - monsters, magic, settings - were new and needed to be discovered), and there is a sinister undertone to some elements of the world. There was a race of "high men" - very magically advanced men - who dwelt in the valley a long time ago. They were involved in the active worship of four of the Great Old Ones (known to us under other names - such as Cthulhu and Azathoth, etc). That race eventually (and mysteriously) vanished, and the younger races took their place in the great valley (which is some 1600 miles long and 900 miles wide). Their ancient places are somewhat still around to be explored and discovered, and a lot of the legacy of their weird magics and practices are around. An interesting setting, I think.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Secret Santa has Delivered

I am participating in the Secret Santa program hosted every year by Board Game Geek, this year. I have already gotten a fantastic Christmas present sent to me by my Secret Santa. I will soon be ordering the gift (probably this weekend) for my secret target.

So, what did I get?

None other than "Battles of Westeros" which I had been waiting to get, and also had written about in this blog most recently, in my article about the Dice methods in the Commands and Colors series.
Thank you Secret Santa, and I'll pay back the community by writing up a review just as soon as I find time in my schedule to play a game.

Week of Encounters progressing nicely over at "The Valley of the Old Ones"

Over at The Valley of the Old Ones (my FRPG blog) I have been working on the week of encounters challenge. So far I have two days down, and five to go. The first two challenges are "The King's Highway" and "The Fell-Beast of Riven Moor".

More coming, watch this space . . .

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seven Encounters Challenge

What is it that makes your RPG setting unique? Why should people be interested in your setting, over all of the other ones out there? Sure, you think it is cool to run adventures in "The Land of the Pickle People" or the "Lost Bedrooms" - but why should other GMs or players care? In short - what are the hooks that make your world unique?

I think that it should be possible to expose some of the Really Cool elements of a world within just a few short encounters. Do you have an alien race, school of magic, fantastic setting, flavor of monster or something else that makes your setting unique and fun? If so, write a couple of short encounters describing it.

This is a challenge to all blog writers (old school, new school, etc) who have blogs about Roleplaying Game Settings. And even those who are even vaguely interested in RPGs. Also - it doesn't just have to be a world of your own creation - if you really like Glorantha (for instance) and have been itching to get your players to play Runequest, use this as an excuse to write up some really cool encounters to make them want to play there.

Use this as an excuse to have a Week of Encounters, where you write one encounter (no matter how brief, or how detailed) each day for a week. It gets some really cool content out there on blogs - gives the GMs who are writing about their worlds an excuse for cool content - will generate some great encounters that players will be exposed to - and is a good way to give people an excuse to see what your world is all about.

The Valley of the Old Ones setting described over at the Blog of the same name will be taking up this challenge. I may (if time permits) also do something similar for the Fourteen Suns blog.

Those taking up the challenge, leave a comment with a link to your blog.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Great Schism - RPG posts split from Gaming with Chuck

In order to split content, I am now moving all posts related to FRPG to my new blog, Valley of the Old Ones. Initially, this will have a lot to do with the setting of the same name, and also the fantasy games I plan to run at MarsCon. In the future, who knows? It is still an in-house publication, run by the "Gaming with Chuck" staff, and will be linked to from here regularly.

See you on the other side....


Forest Abbey of the Hedgehog People (part 2)

Here is the basic area map for the countryside surrounding Finch Abbey.  I am planning a more detailed version, but the details are not meant for the eyes of the scenario players, so it will remain safe and secure in my GM notebook.

The key to the map is as follows:

1.Finch Abbey – former abbey of St. Brigid – Hedgehog people monastery
2.Trevor Landing – Out of use boat landing
3.Kliban Tower – Tower of a dead wizard
4.Village of Nosh – Western most village of Gorrem Castle
5.Tozen Quarry – flooded stone quarry
6.Raifhome Keep – Home to the retired mercenary, Raif the Spear.
7.The Red House – Very old marble villa, now a nest to a clan of ogres.
8.Haunt of the Spider – Tower of a dead wizard
9.Ruins of Fernrush – Once a wealthy trading town, now ruins.
Although the scenario of the game centers around the player-characters starting out at the Village of Nosh (in a tavern called "The Happy Lute" no less...) and then traveling to Finch Abbey, I wanted to populate the map with other interesting locations that could be of use later on for other gaming sessions.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Forest Abbey of the Hedgehog People (part 1)

One of the keys to the old school adventure I am dreaming up for MarsCon is the peaceful fantasy race known as the Hedgehog People. Their own name for themselves is the Roikkitikki, but everyone else just calls them the Hedgehog People, or just the Hedgehogs.

For visual inspiration, I take my cues from the marvelous artwork done for the Ironclaw rpg, especially the hedgehogs.

In my setting of "The Valley of the Old Ones" the hedgehogs usually inhabit relatively peaceful forests,near (but not too close) to the civilized lands of peaceful people. When encountered outside of their forests, they are usually in small groups consisting of monks and clerics of St. Brigid. They don't usually deal in magic, get along well with halflings and gnomes, admire humans of the better sort, but distrust the elves. Hedgehogs are excessively fond of feasting, and usually tend towards the pacifistic.

For my scenario, the group in question is a community associated with the Abbey of Finch, in the Redsmoke Woods. This small forest lies along the Fernrush River, which is a southern tributary to the Great River. Nearest the Abbey, the Fernrush is about a mile wide, and is home to sporadic trade and fishing.

East of the forest, the rolling hills in the demesne of Gorrem Castle. The lands have been lawless for several years, and most of the villages and holdings have started looking to their own defense, without the castle to protect them. During this period, a number of bands of goblins have worked their way north into the Redsmoke and have been raiding out, threatening outlying settlements that were once under the protection of Gorrem. Finch Abbey has recently fallen to one of those bands, but there must be something more sinister at play, because of the degree of evil coming out of the former peaceful sanctuary. A band of raiding goblins couldn't possibly be responsible for the atrocities committed.

Maps and write-ups coming soon, subject to real life demands, of course!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Classic Fantasy Gaming Monsters

There are some classic monsters that exist almost exclusively because of gaming. You know the sort I am thinking of - the Beholder, the Carrion Crawler, the Shrieker. What is your favorite, and why? Please comment...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Veteran's Day, Remembrance Day, WWI and Wargaming

Yes, the fact that Veteran's Day (known under other names, such as Remembrance Day) is on November 11 is for a very real reason. The Armistice that ended WWI was signed in a Railway Car on November 11, in 1918. It was signed by the Allied commander in chief, Foch, and also by the German representative Erzberger. Although the signing took place at 5am, the effective time of the ceasefire between Western Front belligerents took place at 11am. So 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month of 1918. Okay, enough history (I had to write this because I recently saw an article on Remembrance Day comparing it Memorial Day in the US, and mentioned that by coincidence it was also Veteran's Day, but never mentioning why the date is important - one wonders if the author of that article knew what was important about 11/11).
Now, on to WWI wargaming.  This article focuses on Board Games, but I may do a similar treatment for Miniatures Rules.  There have been a lot. From some Avalon Hill standards like Guns of August and 1914 to more modern fare like Clash of Giants and Paths of Glory.  The magazine Command had two that were very appealing to me - 1914: Glory's End and 1918: Storm in the West.
There have been some wonderful boardgames on the Naval aspect of the war, again going back to the venerable Jutland from Avalon Hill, Dreadnought from SPI and the more recent Avalanche Press tour de force series, The Great War at Sea.  Once again, Command Magazine also had a great treatment - Jutland, the Duel of Dreadnoughts.  In fact if we limit our examination to just games with the name Jutland in the title (which is not surprising, since it was far and away the single more important naval engagement of the conflict), we uncover the two player card game Jutland from the prolific Lloyd Krassner of Warpspawn Games.
Moving on to the dan of warfare between aircraft, we see a number of titles - from the excellent Avalon Hill title Richthofen's War through GDW's Blue Max, the very clever Ace of Aces published by Nova Games, and in modern times the immensely successful Wings of War.
Finally, there are some very interesting grand scale games that attempt to show the entire war, at a highly aggregated level of detail, but one which gives a great overview. Amongst these, of course, is the revolutionary game Diplomacy, which is about the origins of the war.  But also in this category is the new First World War published by Mayfair and Phalanx.
Lots to pick from, and to make things even MORE interesting, within ODMS we have a new design for the battle of Tannenberg (the 1914 version) based on the excellent Napoleonic 20 series of games from Victory Point games.  At our Nov 11 meeting of the club, John Dent and I got to play the game a couple of times, and it is really enjoyable.  Look here for some interesting additions to the game, and some cool reuse of the same idea for other battles.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Valley of the Old Ones

A setting for some Old School roleplaying. Drawn using Autorealm.

Once, ages ago, before even the dragons remember, the Old Ones held court on the sunny face of the world.  At that time, Ba'a Zarn, the king of the Old Ones, ruled a mighty empire.  His craftsmen were the source of many things - the stars, music, time - but one of the the strongest things they built was the King's Highway.

This highway is a massive stone lane, large enough for the King's chariots to ride over, built on top of a mound that varies between 100 and 200 feet above the surrounding plains.  Periodically, there are ancient guard towers that still stand, and massive stone lined tunnels that go through the mound.  There are even tunnels under the mound for the tributaries of the Great River to run through.

The Great River circles the entire world, and the King's Highway generally follows its course.

The Valley of the Old Ones is one spot along the Great River, home to the ancient human city of Narn.  The valley measures 1600 miles from end to end. The city is old and crumbling, but was once mighty enough to withstand attacks from the warlords out of the mountains surrounding the valley.  Now it is mostly bereft of riches, so is not the subject of attack nearly so much.

In the plains throughout the valley, countless small unknown villages dot the countryside.  With the collapse of Narn some generations back, local nobles began the construction of many of their own castles and keeps, to keep safe from the mountain raiders.

Today, Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Halflings dwell in the valley, trying to make a peaceful life.  The surrounding ancient ruins and wonderous sites remind them that the Old Ones once roamed here.  Those same sites can be the home of adventure and exploration, but can also be the source of great, unnatural danger.

This will be the setting of a number of old school adventures that I am brewing up.  I hope to reveal the first at MarsCon (January 2011).


Monday, November 8, 2010

Retro-Clone RPG based on the RC of BD&D

Okay, I think that is the most Acronym laden title of any article here at Gaming with Chuck.  (The Staff is currently on a Health Improvement Program (HIP) and that means increased levels of vitamins being consumed.  So there is a big fascination with letters....)

Okay, a Retro Clone of a Role Playing Game is one of a new-ish batch of RPGs that seek to capture either the specific rules or the flavor of classic RPGs.  You know - like Good Old Dungeons & Dragons (or Basic D&D).  One of the versions of that game (a pretty good one) was the old Rules Compendium.  A great collection of rules.  It has everything in it that I usually like in a simple RPG - good distinct classes.  Nice list of spells and equipment.  Skill system.  Weapon system.  In fact, for me, the only things missing would be (1) Speed factors on spells and weapons (easy to add in), and (2) Tactical moves for doing combat with miniatures (also easy to add in).

Alright - so there is this great new retro-clone of the RC version of BD&D called "Dark Dungeons" (yes, named after the made-up game in the old Chick comic.  If you have to ask, then you are better off not knowing).

It has it all.  And in true to form honesty to old Basic D&D (or OD&D - Original D&D, although that is sometimes more narrowly defined as old White Box D&D - again, if you have to ask, you are better off not knowing, although it might be a good plan for the Staff to write a history of versions of D&D) there are only Classes, not the Race/Class combination we have seen in so many other RPGs.  This means that if you want to play an Elf - then that is your class.  This bodes well for the geek tshirt I once saw that said "I Remember when Hobbit was a Class" - and it was in OD&D.  It is again in Dark Dungeons (although, for several legal reasons, they are called Halflings).

How does this race-as-class thing work out?  Well it makes the race of non-humans Really important.  As in it is a big deal if you say you are an Elf.  Unlike in, say, AD&D when you are an Elf MU or an Elf Fighter, or an Elf F-M-C, then there is not too much of a big deal about the Elf Part.  Especially in 2E, 3E or 4E (remember the vitamins thing and acronyms).  But in OD&D - and in Dark Dungeons - being an Elf is a big deal.

So what are these races as class all about?  More coming in a future article but briefly - Elf is a Fighter/Magic User mix.  Halfling is a Fighter/Thief mix.  And Dwarf is crusty.  Like I said - more coming soon.

Also - look for some coming up articles on content for Dark Dungeons.  I am inspired . . .

ps- thank you especially to Matt and Braz, whom I saw at Battlefield Band in Williamsburg on Nov 5 - and they got me jazzed up on Dark Dungeons.  Previously my favorite retro-clones included Castles & Crusades (which I still love - and the Castle Keeper's Guide finally came out - w00t), and Mutant Futures.  Both of those generated a fair amount of press here at GWC.