Putting Your Best Foot Forward

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Joss Whedon, a writer for who I have the highest respect, once stated that in a way having a show that could be canceled at any time actually helps a writer. "It doesn't help your marriage.  It doesn't help your digestion, but one thing it does help is your story telling."  The reason being that it forces you to consider the most important story you have to tell and focus on that because there may not be a tomorrow.  That was the case for Whedon's short lived SciFi series Firefly, one of the best written shows I have ever seen.

I bring this up because games can be a similar writing environment.  People move, players lose interest, and gamers want to try new games.  All of these things can cut your campaign short.  So if you have a great idea one that you are sure your players will absolutely love then don't wait.  Think of your game as a show that could be canceled at any time, and act accordingly.  What is the most important story aspect of your game?  Focus on that because you never know if you'll have time to do so later.

Ironically it was a lack of following this advice that doomed Whedon's current series, Dollhouse.  A very cool concept that got bogged down with trifles and filler episodes in the first season.  The second season on the other hand (and really this starts with the 13 unaired episode which featured Felicia Day from the Guild) has no real throw away episodes but instead focuses hard on the most important story.  I am convinced that had Dollhouse started off as strong as it is now it never would have been canceled, but hey it's FOX so it probably would have gotten the boot anyway.

Dollhouse had a long set up, and I'm not saying that a steady build up can't be a good thing.  But getting off topic with a series of unrelated, and unimportant, meaningless tasks and distractions doesn't add to the overall story of the game.  When designing an adventure think about how you can tie it in with the overall story arc.  Stay focused and I promise you your players will thanks you. 

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Labyrinthian

I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday!  

Rangers, Rogues, and Fumbles... Oh my

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Kenzerco recently released HackJournal #31.   HackJournals are usually very good products that you can get at a very low price.  They only come in PDF so you can download them instantly and get your hands on all the cool info they contain. I am particularly excited about #31 because basically everything inside is something I have been eagerly anticipating. 

First up is the Ranger.  I haven't played a lot of Rangers, but they have always been one of my favorite classes, in theory and flavor if not in reality and execution.  In most campaigns that I have played or run the Ranger fits perfectly.  They are the men of the woods, survivors, guerrilla warriors, hunters, trackers, and guides.  Like I said, flavor-wise they are cool, but in execution I never feel like they are done quite right.    Take for example the duel wielding death machine that is the 3.5 ranger.  Why would Rangers be experts at dual wielding long swords while living in the wild?  I don't know... I guess we can thank Drizzt Do'Urden.  Though dual wielding scimitars made snese given that characters upbringing I hardly find it to be typical for most rangers.  Archery makes sense for rangers, and that is more the direction that the new Hackmaster Ranger goes. 

Weapon specialization for typicaly hunting weapons (bows, javalins, thowing axe, etc) are even cheaper for the ranger than even the fighter.  In other ways, attack bonus, speed bonus, iniative bonus, the Ranger progresses much like the fighter though their progression rate is slightly different.  Rangers are heartier than their fighter bretheren so they get additional hit points in the form of better hit die progression.  Instead of a new hit die every other level as is the case for the other classes Rangers get a new hit die in each of their first three levels before moving onto the normal hit die progression.  Rangers also get a bonus to their fatigue that exceeds all other classes.  Finally Rangers get some spells at high levels.  Assuming they have a sufficient wisdom, high level rangers gain access to Druid spells at 15th level and beyond.  Further, if they have a sufficient Intelligence score (13) Rangers gain access to limited arcane abilities.  They get access arcane spells at high levels (16+) and also get free mastery in the Arcane Lore skill. 

All of this makes the Ranger a very cool well excecuted class, except the Arcane abilities.  There is actually a discussion over on the Kenzerco Boards about whether it makes sense to give arcane abilities to Rangers.  Personally I just don't see it.  Kenzerco has done a great job of building a Ranger class that makes sense but these arcane abilities make no sense and detract somewhat from what is otherwise an amazing class and perhaps will prove to be the great incarnation of the the Ranger. 

The Rogue also was given some arcane magic, but before you jump to conclusions I should tell you that this isn't you WotC's Rogue!  Hackmaster's Rogue, as one poster on the boards put it, is much more like the bard than what most gamers think of when they think Rogue.  Unlike the Thief, the Rogue focuses on social encounters and the manipulation of others.  They are also dabblers in magic and if they possess an intelligence of 13 or more  they can cast some spells (up to 4th level spells at level nine).  I don't nessesarily like giving them magic either, but really this seems to be a bard substitute so I can't say I am surprised.  Rogues do not have a pool of spell points but memorize individual spells and cast them similar to the way a Cleric does.

The Critical Fumbles and Mishaps table presented in HackJoural 31 is very well done.  The previous rules in Hackmaster Basic state that when you roll a natural 1 you suffer an immediate counter attack from the creature you were attacking.  While this leads to some great back and forth moments one craves for more variety.  Variety is exactly what these tables deliver.  A d1,000 is rolled upon fumbling and added to a number based on how badly you missed your intended target.  The result could lead to anything from a hyperextended right knee to blood or sweat getting in your eyes.  The table has great variety and I can't wait to test it out in action. 

There are some other goodies in HJ 31.  The Lesser Ettin can be found inside, as can a preview for the upcoming Frandor's Keep.  I highly recomend you check it out!

Season 1 of Gold to DVD

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You can now Pre-Order your Season 1 DVD of GOLD, the popular internet show about Olympic level Gamers!  Head over to their website and Pre-Order your copy today!

The Monster Manual 2 and Beyond!

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One of my brothers called me the other day.  It seems that he had some of my gaming stuff in his closet at my parents house and wanted me to come pick it up.  The whole way over I was trying to figure out what this cache could be.  It must have gotten thrown in there as an emergency measure to ensure that they weren't found by my girlfriend and completely forgotten about.  Well it worked, and obviously too well for I also didn't find it... for about 4 years.

Cartographer's Corner

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Ah, another epic failure.  Ironically this failed attempt was to emulate the Tear style, which I am very fond of.  Obviously there is nothing wrong with the style, just my implementation.  Oh well, I did take some good techniques away from the experience.  As you can see this map came out so poorly I didn't even bother to do any labeling. 

Random Encounter: Post Apocalypse

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I had a random thought today while reminiscing on my good times playing one of Bethesda's masterpieces, Fallout 3...

If the apocalypse does come Gamers are going to rule the post-apocalyptic wastelands of the world. 

Why?  Simple.  Survival in a post-apocalyptic world will demand largely on salvaging as much as possible from the remnants of society.  Do you know anyone else who spends as much time as we do looting things?  I sure don't.  It isn't a skill that the average person hones, but gamers usually practice it once a week.  So there is the bright side folks!  If the end comes and you survive, prepare to be post-apocalyptic royalty! 

Cartographer's Corner: Final Edit

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I did one final edit to my peninsula map by changing out the generic circles I had representing cities for different icons.  I think it looks better this way.  Now I promise I am done with this map and will be moving on to different things tomorrow.

Cartographer's Corner: Quick Color Shift

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The blue was bothering me all day so I did a quick color shift on the map and added some texture to the land as well.

Not bad. 

Cartographer's Corner: Tytherian Peninsula

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I haven't worked on a map in a while so last night I decided to sit down and do a map of the Tytherian Peninsula.  The map is a fusion of a few different styles and is pretty basic.  I put a second version of the map with a weather and deteriorated effect on it.  Doesn't look too bad. 

Let me know what you guys think.

Let the Dice Fall Where They May?

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"Let the Dice Fall Where They May" is a popular saying among some gamers.  It is often said by characters in Knight's of the Dinner Table and can also be found numerous times in the 4th edition Hackmaster books.

But I ask you, should we let the dice fall where they may?

What if it means the life of a beloved character?  Two characters?  The whole party?  The Whole campaign?  Is there a line, and if so where is it?  I don't consider any of these easy questions to answer and I don't know that there is any one answer.

Making Weapons Stand Out

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Of the reward that characters receive during the course of their adventuring days few save a level can compare with getting their hands on a great new weapon.   Yet the weapon is only as great as it is special.  A fighter wielding a battle axe won't be impressed by simply giving him another.  Unless his first one breaks what would be the point?  But if the second axe were special in some way then that would be a different story.

There are many ways for a weapon to be special.  Let's examine some of the more common ones...

A Game of Thrones is a Wrap!

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The Game of Thrones pilot has concluded their principal filming!  Obviously there will be plenty of post production work to do, but according to imdb you can expect to see the finished product sometime in 2010. 

Can't wait for the first trailer!  


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Dead Gentlemen, along with a new production company formed by some of its members, Zombie Orpheua Entertainment (ZOE), have announced a new web based series, JouneyQuest

I am very excited about this new series and expect it to follow in the tradition of some other high quality web based shows such as GOLD and Doctor Horrible.  I'll be updating as more information comes available!

Gamer Lit: The Hobbit

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I love Tolkien's work.  The older I get the more I appreciate the amazing things he did while designing his world all those years ago.   What I'm about to say may shock you but... I always like the Hobbit more than the Lord of the Rings.

It's difficult to articulate why.  I love epic stories so one would think I would favor the epic trilogy over the smaller more silly hearted adventure story, but that just isn't the case.  One possibility was my age when I read the books.  I was in Junior High when I first read them, and the last time I read the Hobbit was as an assignment for English class my sophomore year of high school. That is, until recently.

For whatever reason my desire to join the Hobbit Bilbo took over and I busted out my copy of the The Hobbit.  I should admit to you that I was more than a little concerned.  Over the last year I have re-read many books I loved when I was younger only to find them lacking in one way or another.  Principal among these were the Dragonlance Chronicles which at one time were my very favorite books.  When I re-read them I barely finished, and did so only grudgingly.  Thus was I more than a little trepid as I cracked the cover and began reading.

Gamemaster's Corner: When to Flash Forward

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As a GM one often encounters situations where a decision must be made whether to play out an event or to simply skip it and describe what transpires.  One of the most common situations that necessitates such a decision is when the PCs no longer have direct influence over the events.  This can be for a number of reasons but perhaps the most common is that all the PCs have been killed or incapacitated.  That very situation came up recently in my group's Pathfinder game, and though I am not running the game, it struck me as an interesting decision and one that is certainly worth some thought and discussion.

The decision essentially comes down to three basic options which I will discuss below.