Monthly Archives: June 2017
It is, I have concluded, inevitable that making my living creating role-playing games means I am going to often see people accuse me of being stupid, lazy, short-sited, and ignorant (as specifically different from stupid) on a fairly regular basis. I believe the reason for this is twofold.
First, roleplaying games, by their nature, invite deep senses of involvement. They are designed to be extremely engaging, to suck in players and GMs and provide glimpses of alternate lives where (hopefully) those playing are more interesting and more able to affect change than they are in reality. This is obviously a place where the small percentage of really dedicated fans will have deep senses of ownership. And since any addition or alteration I create for such games (which is kinda inevitable for someone paid to make stuff for them) can’t please everyone, SOMEONE is going to think the things they don’t like are a result of being unsmart, or being uninterested in doing the hard work to produce something better, or not being able to see the consequences that “should be obvious,” or not be well-educated and informed on either technical or emotional aspects of the material I am working with.
Second, the internet means the information about what has been added or altered can be easily (though often incompletely) disseminated to a large audience quickly, and cheaply, so the total population of people who know about it can be enormous, and thus the small percentage of those people that may hate a change, and the percentage of those people who feel that is a result of some failing on my part (as opposed to personal preference), still leaves a big enough pool that the percentage of THOSE people who are assholes about expressing those opinions have no trouble finding the places where their opinion can be quickly and easily (and perhaps incompletely) transmitted to me.
I understand and accept that.
It does not, however, either justify or indemnify the people who choose to be assholes for the dickish nature of their actions.
If you say in your living room that only a total moron would make a specific change, you’re venting.
If you take the time to type that as a post in a online venue the entire point of which is to allow you to give feedback to the people who made that change, you are calling those people total morons. Backpeddling and claiming that obviously your hyperbolic language is just your opinion doesn’t change the fact you were a dick.
It makes me wonder if the consequences for trying to make games that make people happy may not, inherently and inevitably, involve more abuse than if I wrote ad copy for a cereal company for a living.
Of course, as I note, I know this, and have for a long time. Being able to accept that fact, and work to deescalate where possible, and certainly avoid fanning flames, it part of my job whether expressly called out as such or not.
As long as I am here, I am choosing to place myself in that situation, and I need to take ownership of that as well—though my acceptance is still not license to those who act rudely or inappropriately.
There are some great fireworks in Ultimate Equipment and Player Companion: Alchemy Manual. Jumping jenny’s, flame fountains, and so on. A lot of them can even do damage or cause effects, which is cool for adventures. But, sadly, they all have a very narrow range of character levels when they are useful, and that is both sad and limiting. While it makes sense for off-the-shelf fireworks, characters who are adventuring experts with explosives (alchemists in particular) are missing out on great, thematic, cinematic options by the non-scaling nature of fireworks.
So, given the season, we proudly present: The Pyrotechnist Discovery!
Pyrotechnist (Alchemist Discovery)
You can double the range (but not area) of any firework you use. When you set off a firework, you may expend one use of your bombs to add the bomb damage to any damage the firework does. You may not use any other talent that alters bomb damage when you do this. Also, any save DC of the firework uses its base DC or a DC of 10 +1/2 your ranks in Craft (alchemy) plus your Intelligence bonus, whichever is higher.
When you set off a firework, you can make a Craft (alchemy) check to focus the sounds and light from the explosion to specifically startle up to one creature per rank in Craft (alchemy) you have, no two of which can be more than 30 feet apart, all of which must be able to see or hear the firework. The DC of this check is the same as a Bluff check to feint the targets (make a single check and compare it to all the targets). Once you have attempted this ability, the DC to startle any creature who saw or heard the attempt goes up by +5 for 24 hours.
Additionally, you can alter the color, sound, and shape of fireworks in ways that have no effect on their range, size, or impact on the environment, but that can be used to convey concealed messages. Whenever you set off a firework you can convey secret messages (as the function of the Bluff skill) of up to 10 words by making a Craft (alchemy) check. Anyone who sees the firework can attempt to make a check to interpret your message, using Craft (alchemy) or Sense Motive, whichever of their skills has a lower bonus. If you have a chance to confer with a group for 5 or more minutes in advance about what message you will send them with fireworks, the DC for anyone else to understand increases by +20.
Finally, if you can cast spells or use alchemist extracts, you can always sacrifice a spell slot, prepared spell, or alchemist extract of 1st level or higher to cast snapdragon fireworks or pyrotechnics as a spell-like ability (using your caster level or alchemist level as the caster level, and calculating any save DCs as you do your spells or extracts).
This discovery can also be taken as a talent or feat by any character with a class feature that creates bombs.
People backing my Patreon also have the minor exclusive benefit of seeing what I did for “Greater Pyrotechnist,” a simple add-on advanced discovery! This is something new I am trying — the same free content for everyone, and a little something extra for my backers. Check it out for just a few dollars a month!
Monopoly was originally designed as “The Landlord’s Game” by a woman, Lizzie Maggie, and was intended to be a teaching game that showed that rents enriched property owners to the financial detriment of renters, who had little power to change the situation.
The design was patented twice, and despite that stolen by someone else, and turned into a hit with none of the teaching intent maintained, the original patent bought, and by the 1970s it was commonly stated the man who stole it was the sole creator of it.
So, yes. Credit matter. Presentation matters. Intent matters. And games can normalize concepts and help shape societal thought, despite the fact “they’re just games.”
Patreon. I has one.
Be on the lookout for these common signs of impending disaster.
10. There’s a creepy doll that always follows you. It’s got a ruined eye that’s always open.
9. You live in a neighborhood that is described as sleepy, untouched by time, or Castle Rock, Maine.
8. Someone went outside to take care of what should have been a minor issue, and has been gone for longer than you’d expect, but it seems perfectly reasonable for another single, solitary person to go outside to see what happened to the first person.
7. There is a persistent stain you can’t get rid of, no matter how you try. This is less about the stain than with the fact you are obsessing over it. Look, things get stained. We’re all adults. Deal with it. Bonus warning points if the stain is the color of dried blood and seems to spell something in ancient Sumerian.
6. You were mean to an old woman who tells fortunes.
5. Children are singing indistinctly in the background. Bonus warning if the sound seems to be coming from an abandoned child’s sanatorium from the 1930s.
4. Somehow, someone convinced you to stay one or more nights in an otherwise abandoned structure they inherited from a distant relative. I know housing prices are out of control, but that just means if Cousin Ida’s Quaint Cabin is empty, it’s because there’s a copy of the Splatternomicon in the basement.
3. You realize you and your four companion each represent one discrete, different archetype of annoying person audiences would enjoy seeing get killed.
2. The cat just sits in the corner, staring at you with might be pity, or might be disdain. Note that you do not have a cat.
1. There’s a local legend of a madman in the woods with unusual headgear (Halloween mask, hockey mask, welder’s mask, and a brown fedora are popular but not mandatory choices) who killed with a bladed melee weapon (axe and machete most common — bladed glove is overdone, and why can’t maniac killers ever go for a glaive-guisarme?). Bonus warning if you are part of a group researching said legend.
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When you mix high tech and high fantasy, all sorts of new options open up! BUT… not all those options turn out to be good ideas!
10. Atomic Grenades. A classic, and easier when you can use magical extradimensional spaces to neatly cut atoms. BUT – atomic explosions have a minimum amount of force possible: less than that and you didn’t create it through fission or fusion (magically enhanced or not). That minimum is still WAY more than you want for anything you need to throw. Minimum safe distances in miles do not go well with grenades.
.9 Underslung Spell Launchers. Oh sure, the idea of a wand or rod bolted to the bottom of a fully automatic laser rifle sounds cool at first… but who the heck ahs the skills to both lay down suppressing fire and know when to petrify the enemy? How much does it cost to reload that thing? And isn’t Gandalf dangerous enough without heavy ordinance?
8. Holy Weapons. I mean, they aren’t a bad idea for a few, specific users. But in general, you want your sci-fi weapons to be mass produced, and you don’t want that to change just because you’re adding magic to them. And does anyone *really* think there are enough holy soldier in the armies of the world to justify mass-producing these? Plus, eventually someone makes a holy hand grenade, and then the Monty Python jokes begin…
7. Earththrowers. No, not a sling, a genuine earth-thrower, that sprays a huge cone of earth, the way a flamethrower sprays a huge cone of fire. Neat huh? Well…. Not really. First, the reload tanks would make you sink like lead, and secondly once fire burns up everything, it’s gone. Earth just sits there, in huge mounds, making post-battle clean-up MUCH more expensive. And that’s not even considering the impact of creating hills around your primary target – WHY are you creating cover for the enemy? Best avoided.
6. Sonic Disruptor Axes. No sonic versions of axes. Because inevitably, someone will turn them up to “11.” Shrieking hammers are fine, however… as long as you are not prone to migraines.
5. Dancing Machine Guns. Having a sword that fights on its own is cool, so why not add that magic ability to heavy ranged weapons? Well, because machine guns already have “runaway” as an issue, and with no wielder to help take the recoil, the dance of the machine gun is too likely to involve 360-degree spins… and then everyone is a target.
4. Singularity Cannons. Yes, with enough science and magic you can create a singularity slug. But if it’s got enough gravitational pull to harm your enemies, you probably don’t want it anywhere near you, even in unfired-shell form.
3. Ghoulpikes. Oh sure, it SOUNDS like a good idea. Get an energized force pike, and mount a paralyzing ghoul hand on the end. But you know what happens when you energize a severed ghoul hand? You get charred-dead-cannibal smell, and NO ONE wants to be carrying that smell around. Also, it turns out most everyone is in armor anyway, so it’s hard to get the hand in to touch their flesh unless you shove it in a feeding port or something. Too difficult, and too disturbing if you succeed. Hard pass.
2. Vorpal Laser Pistols. So if I shoot him in the hand… his head falls off?
1. Plasma-Chuks. Look, we’re not saying laser swords make sense, exactly, but they sure seem safer than two glowing rods of death connected by a flexible joint, especially if you are expected to be able to hold those plasma-rods as part of wielding the weapon. Even if you have plasma-proof gloves (and if you do, why don’t you make ALL your clothes out of that material), it’s not a great idea to swing burning hot severing lines around your body.
Honorable Mentions: Monomolecular whip (a “finger-severing-device’), grenade of wonder, bazooka of the magi, and baleful transformation rounds (or “bunny bullets”).
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Continuing the theme for the week!
10. One of the orcs has the “glaive” from Krull, another the “caber” from beastmaster, and a third has the bladed boomerang from The Road Warrior. And they all glow like the discs from TRON.
9. There’s a maze, which you have to map out every t-intersection, dead-end, and L-junction to escape. For bonus points, David Bowie is in it.
8. While there are shadows, there’s nothing else to hide in. And no real use for any other skills, of which you have 2.
7. When you’re not killing them, the monsters just hang around and talk shop or discuss the most recent episode of The Great Mordor Bake-Off.
6. If you score a critical hit, there’s a chance you remove your foe’s spleen. Even if you’re using a staff.
5. Treasure troves include an elfin mindstone, a clockwork owl, the 3-bladed sword from The Sword and the Sorcerer, a stringless bow that shoots energy arrows, the wishstones of Shannara, a sliver of the Dark Crystal, a lightsaber, an acorn of petrification, the Loc-Nar, and a map of the holes in creation that let you travel through time.
4. The entire dungeon is painted in non-photocopy blue.
3. There’s nothing for you, or anything else living here, to eat. And that seems perfectly normal and reasonable, and unlikely to cause an ecological disaster.
1. The most dangerous monster is the Dragon… from Dragonslayer. Riding an AT-AT.
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Summer often means new game systems are released, and new major campaigns are begun. So as a nod to the new games I know people will be playing in the coming months, here is the Top Ten RPG genre Mashups!
(And the systems they should be run in)
10. Champions of Cthulu (Hero) “With great power comes great responsibility. And great madness…”
9. Greyhawk Down (1st Ed D&D and 1st Ed Top Secret) “Barony troops serving in Bright Desert announced today a MX-14 Magic Carpet was shot down by City of Brass militia forces. A rescue mission is being assembled now at the Allied Command Inn.”
8. TOON 40k (FUDGE) “It’s Rabbit Season, marine Fudd. Heretical-mad-psyker-rabbit Season.”
7. World of Spycraft (a AAA MMORPG) “Your quest, Paladin Bond, is to stop the mad orc Platinumfinger before he starts a war that could absorb all of Azeroth.”
6. ForceGhostBusters (d6 System) “What you have here is a type 6 free roaming Jedi Spirit. A real nasty one, too…”
5. Gamma World of Darkness (Storyteller) “In the Old Cities, the irradiated servants of the Wyrm seek new, untainted blood.”
4. Werewolves in the Vineyards by Gaslight (True 20) “You are a Baskerville, a holy warrior lycanthrope detective, secretly fighting to bring about the Second Reformation of England…”
3. Shadowrun 1889 (Shadowrun 4th edition with lots of house rules) “Yes, gang-colonel, the Martian Guard took your hand clean off. But no worries. We have a gearhack here who can fit you for a new phlogstronetic in no time…”
2. Car Fleet Battles (GURPS… I guess) “But we don’t… have to turn… into a vicious motorcycle gang…. TODAY!”
1. Prisiones y Dragones (Pathfinder with lots of 3pp and other d20 System bolt-ons) “¡Santos el Luchador, un lagarto del fuego ha robado el dinero del orphanage y lo ha llevado los picos de la barrera!!”
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(And for the record, I LOVE this movie!)
10. Despite what it says in the encyclopedia, a glaive is not a single-edged, bladed polearm but instead a 5-sided throwing boomerang that not only returns when you throw it, but also makes multiple passes as a gesture-guided weapon.
9. Death and power are close cousins. And they’re from Arkansas, so sometimes they make out.
8. Moving a giant rock castle across the galaxy with no obvious propulsion? Easy. Designing reloads for three-shot blaster lances? Beyond the means of most evil tyrants.
7. Johnny Cash makes a kick-ass, if odd-looking, cyclopes.
6. There are kingly virtues other than bravery. Courtesy is one of them.
5. If you’re running across a bridge with no railing while invading an enemy castle, and foes from above start shooting at you, and you have no cover, and one of your friends is shot and falls off, the polite thing to do is come to a full stop, watch him fall and die, and then keep running. (See point 6.)
4. Some marriage rites culminate in smearing cake on your spouse, and some turn him into a flamethrower. Don’t get the two confused.
3. An ex-con killer who can only keep a single member of his small-unit army alive is a prime choice as Lord Marshal, even if he’s decided to wear manacles for the rest of his life.
2. Although the hill people “lack the power to do harm,” apparently becoming a frakking tiger and ripping things apart gets in through some sort of loop-hole.
1. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get out the word “Slayers!” when being ambushed. If you notice them first, just keep sputtering and pointing until you choke out their name. No one is going to pay any attention until you actually say something, and the slayers will wait for you to be done before they attack. (See point 5.)
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