Thursday, September 21, 2017
So it's time for me to get serious about a cover design. I also will need to figure out layout and stuff for print and pdf versions. The pdf will have convenient hyperlinks while the print version will have references to "see page XX". That should take some time. Luckily, we have a 10 day super-Chuseok holiday this year. Plenty of time to work on this stuff then.
The publishing plan for Chanbara will be a full color pdf version and a color cover/b&w interior print version in soft cover (print on demand). I want to keep the print version as economical as possible. I may put out a full color hardback deluxe edition if people want that, but at less than 70 pages, I don't think many would. I may have a local printer do up some as a vanity project or to send out as thanks for people who helped along the way.
I'm just glad to finally be nearing completion on this. Two of the editors have mentioned maybe publishing mods for the game, one to make it more anime style, another to play up the weird Japan angle. I'm likely to put out an expanded monster book for the game as well as try to work up my play test notes into modules. So hang in there, Chanbara fans! I'm really close to done!
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
But a few months back, I started DMing a face-to-face game again, using 5E. My son wanted to play in a game, and our normal Saturday night G+ games are too late for him to finish. So I started up a West Marches game using 5E. And while it's not a bad system, I keep constantly saying to myself, "Why didn't I just try to run this with my Classic D&D houserules, or Labyrinth Lord?"
Basically it comes down to a few points. I may elaborate on each later in their own blog posts (I need some impetus to get back into blogging semi-regularly). For now, it's just a list with a bit of commentary for each based on my WM game.
- Lack of Morale rules. I've been estimating what I think a creature's Morale score should be, and rolling 2d6 like in Classic D&D. Yes, I could just wing it and have creatures flee or surrender when I feel like it, but I like the uncertainty of the dice.
- Not much variety in treasure. There's no risk/reward analysis when it comes to deciding to face a monster or not, it's simply a threat assessment.
- Spell lists are too combat focused. This is actually something I chafe at as a player as well. It's hard to plan interesting encounters where magical utility spells might make the difference between an easy encounter and a too tough one (something I like to do) when there are so few utility spells, and spell durations are for the most part just not that long. As a player, it's hard to come up with that creative solution with a well-used spell when most just do damage.
- Too much player rolling, not enough DM rolling. Maybe some DMs like that. They can focus on the details of the adventure, the NPCs and monsters, the "plot" and whatnot. Let the players make all the rolls. As a DM, though, sometimes I want to build suspense by making the roll myself (and having the option to ignore a result I don't like). This applies to things like getting lost or foraging in the wilderness.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Don't get me wrong, there's some good stuff here. But I wasn't expecting it to be what it was, which is basically all setup. The entire four episode "season" is basically just all Act 1 of the drama. And because of that, it's a bit unfulfilling. I'll break it down episode by episode, but avoid spoilers as much as I can while doing so.
Episode 1 tells us of Dracula's motivation for unleashing his army of monsters on Wallachia.
Episode 2 introduces Trevor Belmont and explains his family's background.
Episode 3 introduces Sypha Belnades and explains why her people, the Seekers, want to help.
Episode 4 introduces Alucard and why he wants to defeat Dracula.
And that's it. There are some cliches from horror movies, some of which seem to contradict things in the video games a bit, but mostly it keeps the gothic horror vibe of the games. And Trevor teaming up with Sypha and Alucard (but no Grant Danasty) to defeat Dracula is what Castlevania III is all about.
I read on Wikipedia that originally it was set to be a feature length movie. The switch to a series was probably a good idea, but I guess it would have been nice if Netflix had had enough faith in this project to fund the whole thing in one 10 or
12 episode series, rather than split it up. Still, I hope it gets enough viewers that Netflix doesn't kill it. I think my opinion of it will go up if they can ramp up the action in the next season.
Basically, watch this so that they keep making it. But it will likely be more satisfying once the show is complete and you can binge-watch it from start to finish.
Oh, and before I sign off here, if you're a parent wondering if there's "cursing" in the show? Yes, quite a bit. And plenty of animated gore and dismemberment. It's a horror themed show based on a horror themed video game, after all. I won't be letting my older boy watch it for several years yet.
Monday, June 26, 2017
What I'm proposing is a bit different from my perception of DCC's spell system, but somewhat similar. I'm not sure how well this would work in play, it's just a random idea I had. But enough blather, what was my shower thought last week?*
So, using a TSR version of D&D, or a retroclone of the same, here's an idea for Magic-Users (I probably wouldn't allow it for Clerics, but then again, maybe I might) that might give them a bit more oomph. Once they've cast all of their prepared spells for the day (or if a situation calls for a spell in their spellbook but not prepared), they can cast it, but need to make a roll using the Chainmail spell chances (2d6 rolls) to see if the spell goes off or fizzles.
Probably too powerful if it's just "cast or fail" so (like DCC) it would need some chance of misfire of some sort (Wild Magic tables? Reverse effects or targets? Page in the spellbook is burned and the spell is lost?) to make it a gamble to keep casting spells when you've exhausted your spells per day or are casting something you didn't prepare. Higher level spells would also incur a higher chance of a negative effect besides just not casting the spell.
It might be fun to try this some day.
*Or was it 2 weeks ago? I'm so behind on blogging. We've had two sessions of Dean's game that I haven't posted about. I've also been doing the West Marches for 2 months now, and it's going well. Chanbara is nearly ready for publication. And I've seen a movie or two I could review. No time for any of that recently.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Today was a good day. During my breaks between classes, I rewrote some sections of Chanbara, and I think really improved what I had.
I mentioned in the last post that I was cutting out theoretical blather (that can and should go here on the blog) and replacing it with more concrete tools that should make Chanbara easier to run.
I'm not always trying to reinvent the wheel here. If subsystems from Classic D&D work, I'll copy and slightly modify them for Chanbara. But one thing that is very different, and vital to get a distinctly Japanese (Confucian) feel to the game is the Allegiance system.
This replaces alignment, and gives your PC some ties to the game world. It also has an effect like sword & sorcery carousing rules. To get XP for gold, you need to turn it over to one of your lieges. I like it, because it dispenses with bean counting 'honor' systems like in the original OA but should serve the purpose of making behavior have consequences. My new work today gives some solid guidelines for that, I hope.
So I'm more confident now that Chanbara will be worth people's money. All the delays...and they have been numerous...have given me the time to get this right. Or at least pretty dang good, if not exactly right. So for those of you following the blog and my work on this, thank you for your patience. I hope to amply reward you with a kickass game.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
As you probably read, if you follow this blog, I lost my USB that had the most recent updates to the game on it, and I'm slowly rebuilding the draft, trying to remember what changes I'd made and how I made them. It's coming along, if slowly.
And one thing that has actually been a bit of a blessing is it got me to re-read the previous version more closely. I've noticed, especially in the GM Section, that I have lots of sections where I outline a philosophy for gaming, rather than give the reader useful tools for running the game. While I think the game will play best in a certain way, it's not really what most people want when reading an RPG rulebook. It's not like many novice GMs are going to be finding and playing Chanbara, after all. Most of you are gaming veterans. And a rulebook is not a blog.
So I've been trying to excise those sections, and replace them with useful stuff you can use (or ignore) when running your own Chanbara games. A lot of it is getting cribbed from BX and BECMI D&D, because why not? The systems there work well. Right now, I'm revising the Dungeon Exploration section, and getting rid of the philosophical/theoretical banter and replacing them with charts and tables and guidelines. In the lost draft, I'd done that for Wilderness Exploration, but not for the Dungeon Exploration section. It's being done now.
So maybe losing that USB was a good thing after all. It's slowed down my progress, but similar to my decision to keep plugging away at the game while doing my dissertation rather than rush the version I had two years ago out, this will only make the game better when I finally get it published.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Flynn had a Dragonborn Monk and Richard had a Human Monk. Michael came with three or four PCs prepared, and decided to play a High Elf Rogue.
After I explained a bit about the campaign concept (it's of course my own spin on the West Marches idea) and introduced the main points of interest in the home town. Rather than ask around at any of the locations I'd just described for information or leads, they headed straight across the bridge and into the Wilds for their first adventure.
While still in the first hex, they stumbled upon a baboon lair. While the more experienced players were content to just let them be, Flynn decided to sneak up behind one and pull its tail! And he succeeded on his rolls! Once he yanked the tail, of course it set to screaming and scrambled up atop its large pile of deadwood lair, along with all its companions, which started pelting the party with sticks and stones. Taking a bit of damage, they retreated back to town to heal up.
BTW, I'm doing 5E rests similarly to Dean. Rest up in town, and it's just like in the book. All hit points, hit dice, and abilities are back to full. Take a long rest in the wilds, and abilities refresh, as do half of your hit dice, but no hit points. I need there to be some risk/reward trade-off to continuing to explore vs. camping all the time.
They made a second expedition, and encountered some giant rats while crossing into their second hex. Not finding much of interest in the hex (there's stuff there, they just missed it due to rolls), they again went back to town to rest up after having been slightly wounded by the rats.
The third expedition was much more eventful. They managed to penetrate to a third hex and discovered a ruined "scorpion" temple with a bit of loot. They also fought kobolds on the way, scaring them off after getting the drop on them, killing one with an arrow and wounding another, plus taunts and threats to intimidate them. At the temple, they discovered some loot, as I mentioned, and had to fight some more giant rats. Exploring just a bit more, they encountered a pair of worgs, and Richard's monk was taken down to 0 hp.
BTW, the rules for surviving at 0 hp are pretty generous. You can make saving throws at DC 10 to stabilize, and need 3 successes before you get three failures (so 3 to 5 rounds). During that time, any healing magic, or a DC 10 Medicine check (or untrained...Wis? Int? check) stabilizes the companion.
Long story short, Richard's monk was stabilized by Michael's rogue, and they made it back to town without further incident. Richard was moaning that they'd need to spend their sparse hard earned loot to get him healed up, but I reminded him that he only needed to rest to get his HP back to max. PCs can get healing at the temple, but only need to pay for it if they're in a rush and want to get back out quickly, or need a Lesser Restoration or similar magic cast on them.
My thoughts? I've been sorta mixing in some BX hex crawling rules to use, but they don't really mesh that well with the players' expectations. Rather than wander through several hexes at a time, they were carefully exploring each hex. And some hexes are pretty much empty, and none so far have more than 2 non-random encounters in them. So I may need to redo my system for finding things in a hex. Instead of BX/BECMI style random rolls, I may instead leave it to the 5E skill system, where they can roll things like Nature, Survival, History, Perception, and the like to discover certain facets of the hex (ruins, monster lairs, resources that could be exploited, oddities).
Or maybe I'll do both. Random rolls for them to just stumble across something interesting, and if they call for the above rolls or describe their actions in a way that would seem to call for one, I can have them roll to also find whatever it is they're looking for.
Also, next session, I need to make sure they talk to some of the people in town. There are bits of information that may lead them to more profitable locations, and warnings of dangers...if they bother to ask.