Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Complete Metropolis

Fritz Lang's 1927 silent film Metropolis is widely held to be the beginning of modern science-fiction film. Its imagery is certainly iconic; the famous robot was the basis for the design of George Lucas' C-3P0.

But until recently, it was always known that the original version of the film, which had been heavily edited to make it palatable to distributors, was forever lost.

Most fortunately, a nearly-complete version of the original was found in 2008 in a museum in Argentina, with an extra 25 minutes (approximately 20% more footage). The whole was restored, and was debuted in its newly-restored state a month or so ago in Berlin. For aficionados of the genre, this was akin to finding the missing 2 commandments. Nearly a whole half-hour of additional film, which not only fleshes out the characters and plot, but adds entirely new sub-plots and a ton of extra detail. (Including the original 1927 score.)

It's getting a very limited US release; you can see it if you live in New York, Los Angeles, and Cleveland (!). It will be released by Kino.com sometime this year, but in the meantime, you can feast your eyes on the trailer they have put together. I can't wait to get this sucker in my collection.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Castle of the Mad Archmage April Release Now Available!

Hear ye! Hear ye! Three months have gone by, but I am pleased to present to you three complete levels of the Castle of the Archmage in recompense for your weekend reading pleasure. (So I'm actually right on schedule!) Once you start reading the file, you'll see why I needed to release levels 9, 10, and 11 together.

The Lesser and Greater Caves and Caverns all come together in a massive cavern-- the fungus forest-- and there are openings into it throughout all three levels. Lots of cross-movement is built into this section, and so I thought it would be appropriate to release them together. I hope you all approve.

There are a few touches I am especially proud of. A certain prominent bad-guy from the Gord the Rogue novels makes a pseudonymical appearance, along with two of his closest pals. The gates to other worlds for which the original Castle was so famous are here in strength, both those well-known to aficionados and some new ones to befuddle your players who think they know what to expect. More new monsters (beetles!), and a passel of new spells (many to accommodate a singularly odd inhabitant of the fungus forest), and hopefully lots of pleasant surprises for you and your players.

As always, feedback is more than welcome, and if you ever end up actually running this for your players, either as part of your regular campaign or at a convention, please do let me know.

Just two more levels to go, my lovelies! The catacombs and then the maze await, wherein lies the deepest depths of the dungeons, and the secret of the whole. We're on track to have the whole complete to you by Midsummer. Stay tuned!

Download the whole thing --> HERE <--

Secondary Skills in Emprise!™

As a follow-up to my previous post on character skills, here is the current list of secondary skills in Emprise!™
  • Alchemy
  • Ambush
  • Animal Training and Handling
  • Armor Making
  • Artist
  • Blacksmithing
  • Bullying
  • Business
  • Construction
  • Detection
  • Forgery
  • Generalship
  • Healing
  • Horsemanship
  • Jeweler
  • Judgement
  • Knowledge (specific area)
  • Seamanship
  • Suborning
  • Swindling
  • Thespianism
  • Woodcraft
Some of these (woodcraft, forgery, etc.) come from or are similar to character class abilities, but most of them are not. Some might not even be something that most characters would want to spend x.p. on. The list is by no means finalized, but it will give you some idea of where I'm heading with the system. Basically, characters spend x.p. to gain a skill level in a particular skill (or a speciality within the skill, such as the music speciality within the artist skill). It is possible to gain more than one skill level, making it easier to do really impressive things with that skill, or do everyday things that much better.

I think this will turn out better than the non-weapon proficiency system in the Dungeoneers and Wilderness Survival Guides, for the reason that those two books just gave characters slots for proficiencies as they rose in level, automatically. So players (at least in my experience) were left to keep filling up the slots with proficiencies just for the sake of doing so, leading to characters walking around like Christmas trees decked out with all sorts of non-sensical non-weapon proficiencies, just because they had to fill the slots. In the Emprise™ system, taking secondary skills is not only a conscious decision, but one that drains x.p., so it's a real choice.

Bear in mind that the skill system isn't exclusive; that is, it is not the case that unless you have taken the seamanship (swimming) skill, you can't swim. (Well, that might apply to something like alchemy, but that's a special case, and common sense must prevail.) But characters that have invested in an actual skill level in something are recognized to be better at that thing, and so could swim longer, or faster, or deeper, than someone who had not taken the skill level.

And as a bonus, it forms the basis of the NPC hireling system. Win-win!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Classes as Skill Bundles

While putting together the secondary skills section for Emprise!™, it struck me that it would be possible to describe the character classes in terms of collections of discrete skills, rather than as monolithic constructs.

For example, a ranger could said to be a class that consists of the following skills/advantages:

  • Experience point bonus
  • Multiple attacks per round
  • Weapon specialization
  • Bonuses in combat vs. giants and humanoids
  • Increased surprise
  • Tracking
  • Limited spell casting ability
  • Expanded magic item use
  • Attract followers at high level
  • Collect taxes after building strongholds
And the following disadvantages:

  • High minimum attributes
  • Alignment restriction
  • Weapon restrictions
  • Travelling light
  • Limits on hirelings

What this allows is not only for consistency in how skills are applied (the verbal patter of mountebanks and jesters, for example, or the woodcraft of barbarians and druids), but it allows for the eventual learning of those skills by other classes; there would be nothing preventing a magic-user from knowing how to disguise himself like an assassin, for example.

Mechanically, this would work pretty well; it's mostly a question of organization in the rulebook. The essential question is, does this move too far away from the core concept of a class-based game? I'm going to be having a skill system (inspired by that created by Gary Gygax for his Yggsburg setting in C&C), but does pulling all or most of the character abilities out and turning them into skills take the principle too far into the realm of all-skills games?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dragon Subdual

Randall over at RetroRoleplaying has recently posted a couple of items that make reference to his party subduing a young dragon that crossed their path.

I know it's been a part of the game since the hoary mists of its genesis, but I've always hated the idea of subduing dragons. Why the hell should dragons, the iconic big badass monsters of the game, be able to be vanquished with only a fraction of their hit points gone, only to roll over and provide a big pot of gold when they're sold? That never made any sense to me. Does anyone have any literary antecedent for this? Giants throwing rocks comes from Tolkien. Fine. Where the heck did this come from?

I've never used dragon subdual, and never will. (Spoiler for those following the Emprise!™ development process.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What I'm Running At DexCon 13

So I just submitted my event proposals for the upcoming DexCon convention in Morristown, NJ July 7-11 (unfortunately the same weekend as Historicon, but what can I do?). Here's the bill of fare...
  • 2 sessions of the Castle of the Mad Archmage (AD&D)
  • The biannual Diplomacy tournament
  • A panel on "What is the Old School Revival?"
  • 1 session of Tomb of Horrors (AD&D)
What was that last one? A joke?

Oh, yeah, I'm dead serious. Tomb of Horrors, 1st edition AD&D, baby. Muhahahaha...

There's your invasion of the Grognards for you!

Speaking of which, we've also got lined up:
  • Stonehell (Labyrinth Lord) and a sandbox LL game
  • Another AD&D megadungeon crawl
  • The Albuquerque Starport (Gamma World 1/2E)
  • Star Frontiers
If anyone else wants to get in on the Invasion of the Grognards at the con this year, let me know (the email's off to the right) and I can help you coordinate stuff.

This is going to be great!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

End-Game Implications

The end-game for (A)D&D is something that many in the OSR are rediscovering, and it's something that I'll be placing some emphasis on in my own Emprise!™ game. However, in thinking about it, there are some interesting setting implications that the stated end-game rules pose that are possibly not all that apparent at first blush.

First off, a quick review. Clerics (at 9th level) can clear an area, attract followers, and get 9 s.p. per month per inhabitant. Fighters and rangers (also at 9th level) can clear an area, attract followers, and get 7 s.p. per inhabitant. Magic-users (at 12th level) can do the same, and get a 5 s.p. per person tax every month. Thieves (at 10th level) set up their headquarters in or near an existing town, and start their own guild, so their end-game experience is very different than other classes.

In those simple rules there are some interesting things unstated. First off, there is assumed to be land that can be "cleared". Enough that, following the rules on p. 93 of the DMG, areas of seven 30-mile hexes can be cleared as part of a single freehold. Thus, the campaign setting needs to have some borderlands that can be pushed out and expanded as civilization grows and more hexes are cleared of monsters. Where's this land? In the World of Greyhawk, for example, there don't seem to be many places where there's wilderness to expand into. Is it the areas "between" the kingdoms? If so, the DM has to make sure he's accounted for this, and that the kingdoms' claimed territory is much larger than the actual, populated and "tame" land.

There is also the prospect that there are people-- peasants, tradesmen, artisans, etc.-- in the campaign that are both free to move around (not a very historical thing in a medieval setting) and willing to go out to the new edge of the wilderness to settle in under the PC in the newly cleared region. Where are these folks coming from? What sort of social forces are at work that encourage the establishment of new hamlets and villages? What's the motivation for picking up and moving? Are the taxes under a PC going to be lower than those in the core of the realm? If so, the numbers cited above give some baselines for what to expect in the interior. And what are the existing landlords going to think of these periodic exoduses of taxpayers out to the edge of the wilderness? Are they trying to get rid of their malcontents by sending them out that way?

That brings up another interesting rule from the DMG, on p. 94. Apparently, those little silver-piece generators will go into open revolt no less than once every 5 years! And that's going to be 20% of the population, growing by 10% and getting more and more capable every month. Egads!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Playing in Real-Time

One of the things I've been considering with Emprise!™ is doing things in real units of time. That is, rather than segments, rounds, and turns, things would actually be listed in seconds, minutes, and hours.

With spell-casting, this presents little problem. It's simplicity itself to say that a spell takes 36 seconds to cast, rather than 6 segments.

In combat, on the other hand, things get a little dicey (heh... no pun intended). Initiative is a pain in the butt enough already without having to time things down to the second, which I'm afraid this conversion might lead to.

One solution might just be to round everything to 10-second increments, so that there are 6 possible points of action within any given minute. But that has me wondering if it's all that different from the current AD&D system of 6-second segments, 1-minute rounds, and 10-minute turns. I don't want to change things just for the sake of changing them; any changes I make are going to be done with the intention of making things either easier or more fun.

Thoughts?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A quick Emprise! Update

In the Player's Guide, the new mountebank class is done, and work continues apace on the spell descriptions. The outline of the now-retitled "Game Masters Toolkit" has grown exponentially; I'm including sections on the differences between Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance settings (and how to combine them), rules for hunting and jousts/tournaments/gladiatorial games, and a whole lot more. Dumalduns are a new addition to the Bestiary, as well as rules for the locus deus, which will eventually transform a dryad, sylf, nyxie, etc. into a demigod, and perhaps beyond.

Sorry details are scarce; I have a choice between being loquacious or productive...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Favorite April Fool's Joke Ever

Sorry I'm a little late in the day with this, but it's been "one of those days"...