Saturday, May 25, 2013

Darkshade Publishing

The name is officially registered with the state of Ohio. The URLs are purchased. The logo artwork is being tackled by one of my favorite co-workers/artists. I am lining up another great artist for some work for my upcoming projects.

I have some exciting things planned for 2013. When I have some artwork and logos to share, I will be doing that here first.

For now, as of May 2, 2013 - Darkshade Publishing is officially on the record.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tunnels and Trolls at Gen Con 2013

Ken St Andre has added 4 events (10am each day of the con) and most are already sold out. These will be the first official events running the new Deluxe T&T rules. Get the remaining tickets while you can...and check out the other T&T games by Peryton Gamers as well.

You will need to have a Gen Con account to view the above link.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Will McLean Artwork from the TSR 1E Rulebooks

Tom over at the 'Alchemy Gaming Blog' got me searching for the artwork that is well loved from the 1E rulebooks...

This one was always my favorite....

...and another one that Tom had mentioned :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gen Con Update - Events in the ICC this year

All the Peryton Gamer events this year will be in the ICC (Indiana Convention Center), Room 107. If you are familiar with the convention center, these are rooms right across from the registration area, maybe a 2-3 minute walk from the Exhibit Hall.

The good news - we are right in the middle of everything being a Premier Gaming Group this year.

The bad news - Kopfy will not have the quick access to the Marriott bar like he did last year when all our events were over there.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How "Big" is Big Revisited (Ode to the Giant Ant)

The below transcript is from a topic I started on the Peryton Publishing forum just over 2 years ago. At the time, I was an inexperienced and naive T&T player and potential GM. I had many questions that needed answers and Tom and Robin graciously accepted the challenge.

For whatever reason, I thought of this as I was driving back to work after my lunch break. I have not really posted much of anything lately, and I have always thought this was an entertaining conversation.

I am not changing the names of those involved because we are hardly worth protecting and far from innocent. I have corrected a few misspellings here and there, but this is otherwise left intact from the original posts that can be found here.

OK - the solo mission that came with the boxed set - 'Strange Destinies' - is it a typo, or does the wandering monster table actually have the Giant Ant correct with a MR of 100 each???

So - when I rolled the number appearing as 3 - my lone dwarf Jerry the Great (nay Good) had a snowballs chance in hell to even damage something that is rolling 11d6 + 50 combat adds for a single ant. So technically - Jerry the Great (nay Dead) - has been killed, while he was able to dodge two of the ants while fighting the third - he was quickly ant food - in the FIRST DAMN ROOM!!! (my weapon and adds are 4d6 + 49)

A Giant Ant is almost as powerful as a MR110 Troll; or more threatening than a MR78 Basilisk with the ability to turn you to stone?

And forget about that 9 foot tall Bigfoot with a measly MR of 42 - the Giant Ant and his MR100 rule the ant hill. That is one GIANT ANT!"

Well I won't speak for the solo dungeon, I haven't read it. But I will speak to the quirkiness of designing encounters and the initial difficulty of thinking in unfettered T&T-ish versus translating it into another game.

First off, I could see where an ant that comes up to my waist would be as powerful as an adolescent troll as well as a worse encounter than a sasquatch. Given ants' abilities and characteristics, this thing could crew through cars and have armor as touch as a thick wooden door. And chopping off its bowels wouldn't slow it down, as well as its lifting ability (a leaf weighs 100 times more than most ants).

Now as a scenario designer, I generally stick to GM dungeons... err scenarios. I have a matrix for my MRs that runs a little too easy for my PC level, so that I can add points, or, my favorite, special quirky attacks or traits to create a challenge or nifty special visceral effect for the group to hear described.

Understand that the Monstrum Codex and in the box set that you have is best read once and forgotten by the working GM. The ranges and whatnot provided by the editors' format is like taking a picture of baby of a person and using that in a 90's year-old's obituary. T&T with its lack of structure is designed for the enterprising GM to tell his tale, as well as incorporate increasing levels of challenge for the players as he sees fit.

Aside from all that, solos are notorious for being highly unbalanced, but there are a few out there that make solo sales what they are for T&T. City of Terrors is one that I do not remember being too unbalanced.

OK - so here is my frame of reference...

AD&D - Giant Ant (Worker and Warrior) - is a 2 or 3 Hit Dice Creature (fairly week in AD&D terms - about 2nd or 3rd level creatures with 16-24 Hit Points) - does 1-6 (warrior does 2-8) on a bite for damage.

The Warrior Ant (3HD) has the ability to sting on a successful bite attack (additional 3d4 damage)

So my conversion of a Giant Ant from AD&D to T&T would be:
  • Giant Warrior Ant
    • 60 MR (7d6 + 30 Combat Adds)
    • Spite Damage: 1/2 (Stinger - spite damage - each '6' results in 2 Spite damage)
  • Giant Worker Ant
    • 40 MR (5d6 + 20 Combat Adds)
D&D in my book has always gotten it wrong. Bigger bugs need bigger boots in the Gygaxian mind frame. In T&T we want to either express their toughness or explore of the insect versus the mammalian or what has one.

I had a whole scenario leading to the major battle with a gargantuan cock roach. I patterned the creature after an M-1 tank.

Sure - but what you are describing is Gargantuan or Humongous - not just Giant.

A giant ant for me is knee ant the size of a dog would be something I would not want to tangle with.

An ant the size of a freaking car - that is more than giant - that is Gargantuan. And something that would be tank like and very much representative of such treatment.

What you call T&T's greatness (its ambiquity) is what I see as a weakness.

Giant Ant was simply described as MR100 that is it.

You see it as the size of a Volkswagon; I see it as the size of a large dog.

As someone totally new to the system - is it up to my interpretation? What is my frame of reference? It is an MR100 Giant Ant - so it must be 20 feet long???? Where would I get that information?

Sorry but I have to get into this. This is some good dope. I suppose in my scale of things a knee-high ant is a "monster" size and a waist high ant is a "giant." A car-sized ant would be "gargantuan." In terms of fierceness, I'd say the giant ant would be about as bad as a smallish troll. The gargantuan ant would be a little tougher than a young dragon. Now besides using an over-generalized MR, I as a GM could use specifics to demonstrate the "little" horror that the giant ant is, luckily only my mind.

  • Giant Ant.
    • MR 100 (11d plus 50)
    • Specifics:
      • St 45
      • Cn 200
      • Dx 10
      • Sp 20
      • In 5
      • Lk 5
      • Wz 12
      • Ch 5
      • ADDs: +39
      • Armor: 15
    • Special: Bite (5d plus 23 weapon) against a single delver, can use 2 of its 6 legs as Blunt weapons (2d plus 100 weapons) against two PCs. The rest of its body is a group combat weapon, essentially ramming into them as an MR 100 opponent, though only with its "39" ADDs. 
    • No "head shots" possible against it. Even its "soft" bits, two antennae and its eyes are armored. The creature can be blinded only if its eyes and antennae are removed, but this only reduces Sp by 6 points, because its armor can "smell" and "hear."
    • Description: They don't usually travel alone.
"What you call T&T's greatness (its ambiquity) is what I see as a weakness."

And many gamers, I think I've heard the term "simulationists" used, would agree with you. Of course many of these same guys have spent two weeks painting a miniature and collecting cards before braving a chance to get to the table. A few other sorts, possibly called "narrativists, find that T&T's few core rules are a bit too structured for them. And even a few LARPers would argue that anything outside of playing a variation of 'Cowboys and Indians' with hand signals is simple-minded.

I am enough of a simulationist, hopefully I am not just now making up that word, to where I can see where the structure that the additional books, like the Monstrum Codex, in the box set are trying for has a bit of mass appeal. I often lament that T&T at higher levels gets a little tough on me as a GM. Except for a couple kablooey-scaled solos, which most ppl's first-level PCs died in back when they first began, there is not the definition and well-known allusions that D&D has. No Bahomets or Demogrogons for me to describe to the casual listener, for everyone within ear shot to recognize as very high level encounters.

What I do get at the higher levels is some great notes that I can publish as my own, if in a very idiosyncratic (maybe idiopathic) setting with established campaign-conventions, I don't overdo "house rules," but derived from a coherent rules set. And the players seem happy too, I often get the experienced player saying something like, "You're not throwing a pack of Piltdowners at us again, are you?" And I have to smile involuntarily as I made those little buggers up.

A few random tangential thoughts from Robin:

I think there's good and bad to the one-number MR concept.

  • Good: It encourages GM's to fill every adventure with interesting new creatures because it's really just a matter of deciding how tough you want it to be, then coming up with the flavor and maybe a few special abilities (like the "spite effects" in the stapled monster book). Among other things, this helps keep jaded players from going, "oh yeah, that's a galumphamorph, page 87. Use wooden weapons and cut off the tail or it'll regenerate."
  • Bad: As you've seen, lazy adventure writers can leave you going "what the hell is this supposed to be?" by saying things like, "Five gurkgaks (MR 73) attack at this point. See how clever I am? I said, 'gurkgak'." One could, I suppose, look at it as a prod for spontaneous GM creativity, but I think it's reasonable to expect more information in a scenario, especially when the writer clearly had something specific in mind and just didn't bother to tell you. 

The giant ant thing specifically: One thing to consider is that MR could account for more than size. Think of all the things that go into your combat adds as a player character. Or there's always the classic dodge - it's a maaaagic ant! :-)

So let's take this one step further...

What else would actually separate two different monsters that have an MR100?

They both would roll 11d6 with 50 combat adds

They both would do Spite damage on a natural '6'

I understand that the 'Spite' bonus damage can be catered a bit to add some personalization, but what is truly the difference between an Ogre with an MR100 and a Giant Ant with an MR100?

If I created an adventure and decided that 'I need a MR 100 monster here', I just decide what the monster is called (an ogre, and ant, a gurkak), but no matter the flavor text I create, it rolls 11d6 and I add 50 for combat adds.

"I understand that the 'Spite' bonus damage can be catered a bit to add some personalization, but what is truly the difference between an Ogre with an MR100 and a Giant Ant with an MR100?"

Well, you've got that and maybe some other special abilities, and the GM might make different decisions about what kind of player actions would work based on what the monster is supposed to be, but yeah, you're right. The combat in T&T is very very abstract (when I first started playing, it felt more like Risk than an RPG fight to me) and the monster stats are often more abstract than they should be. It certainly wouldn't have killed the writer in that solo, for example, to explain why that giant ant was such a badass all by itself. I think that's more a problem of execution than principle, but I guess the guy who wrote the game should really set a better example.

By the way, from listening to people who play a lot of solos, it seems to be common practice to sort of GM yourself, but the books never tell you that. And they really should, because how else would anybody know that they can run away when confronted with an absurdly overpowered ant? I would have been frustrated with that encounter too. Heck, it wouldn't be all that hard to provide some impartial mechanism for doing things like this, right at the front of the book. All they'd have to do is list the difficulty levels and general purpose consequences ("you get away" vs. "you take x damage and have to fight another turn") for some common saving rolls that might come up.

"...If I created an adventure and decided that 'I need a MR 100 monster here', I just decide what the monster is called (an ogre, and ant, a gurkak), but no matter the flavor text I create, it rolls 11d6 and I add 50 for combat adds."

If you go straight Monster Rating, yes that is it. But it is kind of unfair. In the rules there is a format of individualizing "monsters." And within the text itself there is the mention that a GM can indeed do so. It's not like there are absolutely no instructions on how to vary creatures from one another. But it's written in a single sentence; without ten pages of charts to point out specifically how to do it, complete with a approved format. That isn't a weakness, it's a choice made by the author.

I am glad that Peryton jumped in to explain things, it took her a couple years before she got T&T. I've either corrupted her with my T&Tness or she has developed the mental flexibility that T&T requires, while amazingly enough remembering specifics about the various editions, and widely-changing, of the game system that T&T is not designed to be like.