Really, really, really soon!
When the original d20 Star Wars RPG was being released, Wizards of the Coast had a launch party for it at a local Planet Hollywood. Jake Lloyd and Peter Mayhew were there, as were some other Star Wars people of import, and I and several other designers ran intro games for them and anyone else who came along and was interested.
I ran the intro scenario several times, and most of those sessions are a blur. We used Star Wars action figures rather than miniatures, and most groups barely got through one encounter. It was fun, but most people did more laughing and movie quotes than gaming.
But one elderly couple with brilliant British accents came along and said they were on vacation and had just wanted to eat at a Planet Hollywood, but had been told there was a game launch. There knew they were welcome, and had grabbed some food from the buffet, but if there was a game they were interested in trying it. But they had no idea what “Star Wars” was.
So I showed them the good guy figures, and told them these were members of the Rebel Alliance, who fought for freedom and fairness against the tyrannical bad guys.
“Ah,” said the elderly gentlemen. His face was a lean angular shape covered in tiny wrinkles, he walked with a cane, his hair was sheet white, but his eyes seemed bright and alert. “So they’re the French Resistance, are they?”
Well I admitted, yeah basically.
Then he picked up an Imperial officer figure, and looked it over.
“And this is a Space Nazi?”
Ah… yes. Their troops are even called Stormtroopers.
“Oh!” said his wife. “It’s like The War.”
“Right,” said he sitting. “How do we play?”
I had those two wonderful people, with decades of experience and clearly a strong idea of what military work is actually like, and three teen fanboys. The elderly gentleman took charge, got the mission objective out of me, and…
And ran the PC team like real commandos. Scouts. Ambushes. Covering fire. Raiding enemy gear. Firing from cover. Sticking to the objective. I was making stuff up to cover some of the things he wanted to do, because *I* didn’t know the rules that well. And I was up front about it, and made it clear that was part of the fun. You can try *anything* in an RPG. The GM just works out what dice to roll.
The teens just started calling his character “The Lieutenant,” and hung on his every word. And unlike every other group I ran that night, they got through the whole short introductory adventure. And won. Without Jedi.
Everyone smiled and clapped when they were done. And the couple decided they’d pick up a copy back home, and introduce the game to their friends. I’m pretty sure they were both in their mid 80s back when this happened, in 2000. But I like to think they are still playing some RPG, with their group of friends in England, merrily making commando raids to this day.
Twenty-two years ago today, I married Lj Hamilton, who opted to stick my last name onto the end of hers and become Lj Stephens.
Lj was already my best friend. She was also already a bad-ass gamer chick, an artist, a writer in her own right, she had a lot more going on than I did. I knew it was a big step and it scared me, but since we’d been living together for more than a year, and dating on-and-off for a while before that, I thought I knew what being married to her would be like. In many ways I was right. In the crucial ones, I was wrong. Being married is different than living together, in the same way camping is different than sleeping in a tent in your backyard.
I’ve now been married to my wife for more than half my life. We have had ups and down, both together and in regards to one another, but I have never regretted getting down on one knee and asking her to be a permanent part of my life. But make no mistake, marriage is work. Having someone be part of your life means they are there for your good and bad, and for their own, and you promised to never elave, which can make you feel stuck. We did the work a marriage takes, and we love each other enough to keep doing the work. The results are worth it.
Everything good I have done in 22 years she suggested, helped with, or encouraged me to do. Every bad habit I have gotten rid of she helped me fight. Every sorrow has been comforted by her, and every victory celebrated. I have no doubt she has helped me be a better man, and that’s just a small part of why I love her.
Twenty-two years ago today, I made the best decision I have ever made. Once Lj gets done with work, she and I are going to spend the day together, celebrating this milestone. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up to an alarm again, groan and moan as we get up and get to work again, and smile when we hold hands in the car again. That’s what marriage is. A joining, but a joining that has to move forward with real life.
I plan for many more milestones with my wife, and many more celebrations of that one really good decision.
SUPER GENIUS GAMES ACQUIRES ‘WARLORDS OF THE APOCALYPSE’ FROM ADAMANT ENTERTAINMENT
Super Genius Games, critically-acclaimed publisher of supplemental material for the Pathfinder, Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu role-playing game systems, has acquired the rights to the Pathfinder-compatible WARLORDS OF THE APOCALYPSE game setting from original developer Adamant Entertainment.
WARLORDS OF THE APOCALYPSE, first announced in 2010, brings the gonzo, over-the-top world of classic post-apocalypse science-fantasy to the Pathfinder rules system, featuring mutants, psychic powers, radioactive beasts and warriors of the wasteland.
“The game ran into some major snags during development,” says Gareth-Michael Skarka, director of Adamant Entertainment. ”We soldiered on, trying to pull it together, but it became apparent that the property would be far better in the hands of Pathfinder experts like the crew at Super Genius. We’re very glad they expressed an interest and that we were able to come to an agreement that honors not only WOTA, but the existing pre-order customers, who were our primary concern.”
Customers who had pre-ordered WARLORDS OF THE APOCALYPSE will see those orders fulfilled by Super Genius Games. “We are well aware folks have already been waiting a very long time, and shown amazing patience,” says Owen K.C. Stephens, the Line Developer for WOTA at Super Genius. ”We’ll be outlining our full plans soon, and setting up a forum for open discussions. We know we’ll eventually put the book in the hands of the pre–order customers, and we’re working out how the general public can get involved. Since we want the biggest, best release possible for Warlords of the Apocalypse, we’re even considering a Kickstarter campaign.”
Stephens and Skarka both expressed enthusiasm for the project and it’s future in the hands of Super Genius Games. “It’s such a fun genre, and Super Genius has strongly established themselves as seriously excellent developers,” said Skarka. ”I look forward to seeing WARLORDS OF THE APOCALYPSE in its final form. I’m sure it will be brilliant!”
Super Genius Games was founded in fall 2007 by game industry veterans Hyrum Savage and Stan!, SGG is dedicated to publishing quality PDF and print products for a wide range of games and game systems. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adamant Entertainment is a digital media company founded in 2003 by Gareth-Michael Skarka. For more information, visit http://www.adamantentertainment.com.
Really, really, really soon!
There are only 4 classes in the new Dungeon! Boardgame, but there are SO many more fantasy character tropes. Below are 10 additional classes for Dungeon!, each with its own special rules and victory conditions. Adding these classes allows more characters to be questions at different levels and requiring different tactics, and can increase the replay value of Dungeon! As with the original classes, you can’t have more than 2 of the same class in a game of Dungeon!
The bard uses the green dagger (rogue) attack numbers.
If a bard fails to defeat a monster, before the monster gets to make a Monster Strikes Back roll, the bard may attempt to lull the monster to sleep with a song. The bard makes a second attack roll. (This roll gains no bonuses from magic swords or, if they are in use, feats.) If this roll is successful, the monster falls asleep and the bard moves out of the room (back into the bard’s previous space). The monster then does not make a Monster Strikes Back check.
The black pudding, gelatinous cube, and green slime are immune to this
The bard needs 10,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 1-3.
The barbarian uses the better of the blue mace (priest) or green dagger (rogue) attack numbers. If the barbarian fails to defeats a monster, he goes into Rage, and gains a +4 bonus to attack rolls on his next turn.
The barbarian needs 20,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 2-4.
The death knight uses the purple sword (fighter) attack numbers. If a death knight kills a monster in a chamber, it receives treasure equal to the level of the monster x500 gp. (No treasure card is drawn for this, just note it on an index card.) The death knight never loses a turn as a result of a Monster Strikes Back roll.
The death knight needs 30,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 3-5.
The druid uses the blue mace (priest) attack numbers. The druid has an animal companion. When the druid’s animal companion is healthy the druid attacks with the purple sword (fighter) attack numbers. If the druid takes any effect from a Monster Strikes Back roll, his animal companion is injured (but the druid suffers no other effect). When the druid’s animal companion is injured the druid uses his own blue mace attack numbers and suffers normal effects from Monster Strikes Back checks. The druid must spend a full round in the Great Hall to heal his animal companion.
The druid needs 30,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 4-6.
The monk uses the green dagger (rogue) attack numbers. The monk has a move of 6 (rather than the normal 5) (and, if feats are in use, a move of 7 if it takes the Fleet feat). If a monk is the first character to attack a monster, he may use Flurry of Blows, and make a second attack roll if his first attack roll fails. (A monk may not use this ability the second time he attacks a monster, even if no one else has attacked it).
The monk needs 20,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 2-4.
The ninja uses the green dagger (rogue) attack numbers. The ninja gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls against monsters that were revealed before the ninja’s current turn. A ninja may attempt to sneak past chambers without encountering any monster. Roll 1d6. On a 1-4, the ninja sneaks past. On a 5-6, the ninja must face monsters in the chamber normally.
The ninja needs 20,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 2-4.
The peasant uses the worst attack number on any monster card. The peasant never rolls to see if a magic sword is +2.
The peasant needs 5,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 1-2.
The ranger uses the better of the blue mace (priest) or green dagger (rogue) attack numbers. The ranger may make a Ranged Attack 2d6+6 times during the game. On a ranged attack if the ranger fails to defeat the monster the monster cannot make a Monster Strikes Back check, as the ranger is too far away. Ranged attacks do not gain bonuses from magic swords. A ranger may restore his arrows the same way a wizard restores his spells.
The ranger needs 20,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 3-5.
The paladin uses the purple sword (fighter) attack numbers. The paladin always gets a +2 bonus from a magic sword, and can Smite Evil (gaining a +1 bonus to attacks against Evil characters, undead, and dragons). The paladin may take feats as a cleric, if feats are in use.
The paladin needs 30,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 4-6.
The sorcerer uses the red book (wizard) base attack numbers. The sorcerer selects one spell (fireball, lightning bolt, or teleport) and may cast it 2d6+6 times. The sorcerer may restore spells as a wizard does, and unlike a wizard may use the magic sword.
The sorcerer needs 30,000 gp of treasure to win, and is safest on levels 4-6.
For people unfamiliar with the last few versions of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game (and for that matter its stepchild the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game), feats are special abilities players can select to customize and improve their heroes. The Dungeon! boardgame doesn’t have anything like feats in its core rules – but there’s no reason they can’t be added! While there could easily be dozens of feats in the game, I started with a fairly basic set of eight.
Prior to play, each player may select one of more feats to add to his heroes abilities. Feats are entirely optional, even in a game using feats a player is not required to add feats. Each feat a character adds increases the amount of treasure that hero needs to escape with by 5,000 gp. Clerics and rogues may select a maximum of 2 feats, while fighters and wizards may select a maximum of 4.
Only a cleric may take cleric spells. The cleric gets 1d6 spells. (You can use index cards to track a cleric’s spells). The cleric may choose any number of the following spells, up to the limit rolled. Like a wizard’s spells these can be used only once. Unlike a wizard, a cleric cannot replace spells by spending a round in the Great hall.
Cure Wounds: When the cleric is seriously wounded or wounded as a result of a Monster Strikes Back roll, he may use this spell to instead only be stunned (drop 1 treasure card).
Divine Might: The cleric may use the wizard’s attack number to fight a monster. (This is only a good option for one of the monsters that wizards have lower numbers against.)
Only a hero who has toughness may take Die hard. The hero beings with 1d6 Die hard tokens (you can use anything to track these). When the hero suffers a Monster Strikes Back result, he may spend one Die Hard token to force the monster to reroll. Then hero is stuck with the second result, even if it is worse.
The hero does not lose a turn when a trap says to lose a turn.
The hero may move up to 6 spaces, instead of the normal 5.
Select one spell (fireball or lightning bolt if a wizard, divine might if a cleric with the Cleric Spells feat). When fighting a monster with this spell, add 1 to the die roll.
The hero does not drop a treasure if stunned by a Monster Strikes Back roll.
If the hero rolls doubles on a die roll to fight a monster, the hero may add +1 to the result. This does not apply to spells.
Only a fighter may take Weapon Specialization, and the fighter must also have taken Weapon Focus. The fighter adds 1 to all die rolls to fight monsters.
The playstyle and rules of the new Dungeon! boardgame are very, very close to the way the original ran when I played it back in the late 1970s. There are some name changes (elves are now rogues, heroes are now clerics, superheroes are now fighters), some new monsters, and some new management details, but in general the play experience is about the same. I’d say this was more a clean-up and updating than a revision, and that’s fine by me. I loved the original, and am enjoying the current version as a quick-and-easy diversion with friends.
However, just because the new Dungeon! isn’t a major revision doesn’t mean you can’t take it farther. While playing the game this week, it struck me that all the elements for making it a cooperative game, where everyone works to win together, are already in place. With just a few extra rules, the existing boardgame can offer an entirely different style of play. Below are more initial rules for Cooperative Dungeon!
In Cooperative Dungeon!, either all the players win, or they all lose. To win, the players must “bank” treasure equal to the combined victory treasure values for all their heroes. (Thus a group of two dwarves and one wizard must bank 50,000 gp to win). The following rules are added to a Cooperative Dungeon! game.
*A hero “banks” treasure by ending a turn in the Great Hall, and placing treasure in a “bank” cup. (Any space where you can keep the treasure that has been banked separate from treasure in play will do.) It doesn’t matter which treasure is banked by which player – all banked treasure counts towards the amount needed for the players to win.
*Banked treasure can no longer be used by players. This makes the decision to bank items like the ESP medallion and magic swords tricky.
*If a hero dies (gets a “12” on a roll of The Monster Strikes Back table), and unused heroes are available, the player begins a new hero in the Great Hall as normal. However, the amount of treasure the group needs to bank to win increases by the value of treasure the new hero would have needed to win in a normal game.
*If a hero dies and there is not an unused hero available (all eight possible heroes have been used or are currently in play) the players lose the game.
*When anyone gets a treasure card, they may decide to keep it or give it to another hero, as long as that hero is not in the Great Hall. This can be useful for moving treasure from lower levels to heroes closer to the Great Hall, or for moving useful treasures like magic swords to heroes who can best use them. A treasure can only be given to another hero when it is first obtained – afterwards it stays with whoever has it until it is banked.
*Any cards that are revealed (such as those uncovered with the ESP medallion or crystal ball) are shown to all players and placed face-up.
I have lots more rules expansion ideas – new heroes, new treasures, new monsters, even feats to customize heroes — and I hope to present those as time goes on, after I see how many people are interested in these.
A gaming thought experiment.
Players decide what their character looks like – just their bodily description – and nothing else. They are told the game is Pathfinder, and each given a blank character sheet. The setting is modern, but players do not known their character names, role, class, skills, or anything similar. Explain that their characters are similarly amnesiac – they know what society is like and who is president, but not the month, day, or their own histories.
Each character awakes in a dirty room, with a pair of pants and a surgical gown. Have players describe their pants, but the gowns are all identical.
Characters will obviously want their characters to get out of their rooms and do something. Doors are locked, the building they are in dingy and abandoned. As players try things (Knowledge checks to recognize thigns, Strength or Dex checks to force open doors or squeeze through tight spaces, and so on) have them roll d20s with no modifiers. Include some threat appropriate to the genre you want to run (see LOST, Persons of Interest, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, Cube, Cabin in the Woods, and similar fiction for an idea of what to use).
Whenever a character misses a check, ask it the player would like a reroll. If the player does, tell them to increase the relevant ability/skill by 1. So a failed Str check reroll results in the character’s Str going from 10 to 11. Make sure to have a variety of kinds of things to do (an NPC in the same circumstance encourages social as well as physical efforts). If a characters rolls a natural 20 on a check, that also results in an ability/skill increase.
When an ability/skill hits the highest level possible for the game level you want to run, stop giving reroll offers. (For ability scores you may want to keep track along with the player, so you know if they have hit the point-buy limit. Of simply things, and just let players hit a maximum of +8 total ability score bonus, with half their ability scores being odd and half even).
For bonus points, give characters options of equipment from time to time, but limit what they can take. For example in each character’s starting room is a tool kit, a medical kit, a revolver, an automatic pistol, a crowbar, a pair of shoes, a riot shield, a utility knife, a laptop, a journal with a pen, and a make-up kit. Each is connected to a panel on the wall, out of reach of the others. When one is removed, the rest are hit by flamethrowers and destroyed. Whatever the character chooses, the character is proficient with. (Choosing shoes could be light armor proficiency – a desire to have protection, or the Run feat, or any of a number of options).
As the first game progresses, periodically have players decide on things their characters remember. The character’s name, nationality, favorite meal, and so on.
By the end of the first session, the characters find whoever or whatever brought them together, and overcome it. Then they get their memories back, and between the first and second game create their full characters, but must keep anything determined during the first session.
What dungeon, you ask? Dragon’s Delve — a massive 27-level mega-dungeon more than half-a-million words long! It’s an adventure with 661 encounters, none of which are empty rooms or featureless corridors, arranged over nearly 30 maps! A whole campaign worth of material, capable of taking characters from 1st to 20th level, that begins with a bell on a string set by goblins and ends with a battle against a great wyrm red dragon demigod where the fate of a god hangs in the balance!
And while Dragon’s Delve may not be the biggest dungeon in the world, it has the distinction of having been conceived by Monte Cook (Ptolus, 3E Dungeon Master Guide) as the initial offering for Dungeonaday.com — a subscription website that created a classic “dungeon delve” style dungeon by releasing a single hyperlinked, cross-referenced encounter every weekday (each of which now has years of forum posts giving ideas on how to tweak, improve, or survive its challenges).
Over the site’s original lifecycle Monte designed 14 levels of Dragon’s Delve, and then turned to Super Genius Games to finish the massive adventure location with 13 more levels! Originally begun as a d20 OGL fantasy adventure, Super Genius Games supported the dungeon’s original rules system but also added rules for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to their expansions. The final battle with the Dragon Prince went live in July of 2011, and Dragon’s Delve came to an end. Shortly afterwards it was decided to close the site for new patrons—existing memberships were honored, and four more (shorter) adventures released, but the encounter-a-day format ended.
Since that time, numerous additional customers have expressed an interest in gaining access to the five dungeons of Dungeonaday.com, but that posed a problem. The words and maps of these adventures could be saved and be sold in the form of PDFs, but what really made Dungeonaday.com special—the vast network of hyperlinks between the encounters that could continually be modified and added to—could not be maintained without the proprietary content management software that was used in the site’s creation.
So, now we have an opportunity to enter a new stage of Dungeonaday.com. We want to make the site available again, and allow new customers to experience Dragon’s Delve, and it’s companion adventures (Necropolis of Pergia, Tomb-World of Alak-Amur, Night of the Starbird, and Temple of the Black Goat).
We have lots of additional things we’d like to do with the dungeon. We have a 3-D walkthrough video already finished for one level, and would love to produce more for the crucial levels of the Dragon’s Delve. The Pathfinder game rules for some levels are not integrated into the early encounters, and many new Pathfinder supplements have been produced in the meanwhile, so we’d love to give the entire dungeon a top-down overhaul to fully take advantage of the rules, classes, monsters, and other awesome content that Paizo Publishing has released.
But those are things we can talk about a bit later—first what we want to do is offer patrons access to five complete online dungeons in all their hyperlinked glory, beginning the week after our Kickstarter campaign funds. Even if we never get the chance to do all the other amazing things we’d love to try (which we will add in the form of stretch goals once our basic target is met), this funding campaign aims to make some of the coolest dungeons ever written available to a broader audience.