Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weird weapon

I was reading about ancient weapons on Wikipedia and I ran across this odd curved weapon (sword?) called the flax.

You hit him with the falx, I'll untie his sandle!

It was used by the Thracians and Dacians to defend their lands against the Roman conquerers.

I can't think of any rpg that has includes this. I thought T&T had just about every weird weapon imaginable in it, but even it doesn't cover the falx. I'd treat it as an armor piercing sword, myself. And now I have an uncontrollable urge to use it in a game.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tough as nails

Jeff Rients' post the other day about what happens to a character who drops to 0 Hit Points or less got me thinking about hit points in general. So as I was reading through Simon Washbourne's Barbarians of Lemuria this weekend the section on recovering hit points really struck me.

Recovering lost hit points

Provided a character gets a chance to rest and take a
gulp of water and so on, for about 10 or 15 minutes
immediately after a battle, he will recover up to half
his lost hit points straight away. This represents recovery
from fatigue, bashes and minor cuts/bruises.

After that, he recovers one hit point per day provided
the day is taken up with only light activity.

I think that's a great rule for larger-than-life games. Even if it isn't an ability you want every character to have, you could make it an Advantage available to tough guy types. In class-based games like D&D or T&T you could restrict it to martial classes to give then an edge over the thieves and mages. Combine it with Jeff's Death's Door chart, or the ones by Robert Fisher or Trollsmyth and you can make the PC's life pretty interesting.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pole Weapons

One thing that struck me in playing Melee was the advantage it gives to pole weapons. Charging or receiving a charge with a pole weapon lets you inflict double damage, giving them a significant advantage in play. This has led Davis O. Miller to rewrite the pole weapons rules, "simply because players started arming everyone with these high damage weapons and ignoring the other weapons."

 But if you think about it, doesn't that reflect the historical reality? The fact is that spears, pikes (or sarissa) and lances were the most common weapons before the introduction of firearms. Hell, even the Vikings used spears as their main weapons. Yet in thinking back I can't remember a single gamer in all my experience who wrote "spear" in the weapons section of their character sheet. Pole weapons were left for monster or NPCs to wield. So maybe there should be a game mechanic giving an advantage to pole weapons.

And while D&D and T&T don't give any bonus for using pole weapons, some games other than TFT already have a rule like this. In RuneQuest pole arms enhance your Strike Rank, while in Elric!/Stormbringer the player with the longer weapon hits first. Action! Syetem has a similar mechanic based on relative weapon length. How do other games handle this? Am I the only one who thinks pole arms should be more common?

Monday, March 22, 2010


I managed to rope a couple of people into playing some Melee this last weekend. I don't think they were as enthusiastic as I was, but Gabe and Chris seemed to have fun. Thanks for going along with me guys. We didn't have any magic or wizards in the game to keep things simple. It was just straight forward arena combat. I used this chart to determine the foe:

1, Wolf
2, Giant Snake
3, Gargoyle
4, Orc
5, Goblin
6, Bear Ursaurus

There will always be as many foes as there are fighters (e.g., two fighters rolling a 4 would fight two orcs, etc.). If the fighters roll a foe they have already faced they must each fight one more than they did the last time.

(What's an "Ursaurus", you ask? Gabe didn't think bears were a worthy opponent, so I invented the "Ursaurus". It has the same stats as a bear, but it's scaly and reptilian. That went over better.)
The game went good, even though I had a few of the rules wrong. I was counting -1 for each Megahex distant on missile weapons instead of -1 for every two after the second. And once I had a giant snake make an attack even though it had moved its full MA that turn (luckily it missed). But overall things went well and everybody had fun.

Melee is a very well designed game, and every time I thought I'd found a loophole a quick skimming of the rules would show it was covered. That's not to say the rules don't have some idiosyncrasies. The most obvious is the one dealing with thrown weapons which has it that if you miss your intended target and an ally is on the other side and in the line of fire your chance of accidentally hitting them increases the farther away they are. Hence the need for the rule, "You may not "roll to miss" an enemy." There are a few other odd things like that, but all of them work in actual gameplay.

This is a very gritty and realistic game. In that sense it has more in common with RuneQuest than with T&T (although it might possibly have been inspired by the latter given that in 1976 Steve Jackson edited and produced Monsters! Monsters!). You won't have limbs hacked off and be left bleeding to death like you would in RQ2, but it is very lethal. So while in T&T a 7th level fighter could single-handedly hold off a hoard of lowly goblins, the equivalent TFT fighter would quickly be chopped to bits. And like RQ even a novice has a chance of landing a lethal blow on a master swordsman.

All in all it's a very clever and well made game, especially given it's brevity. It would definitely make a solid cornerstone to build an FRPG campaign around as long as the players liked the tactical focus of combat. Which of course is where In the Labyrinth comes in. While Dark City has released their version of TFT they've taken quite a few liberties with the rules. By contrast, Chris Goodwin's Wizard & Warrior (not to be confused with Ray Allen's d20 Wizards & Warriors) is a much more faithful version of TFT released under both a Creative Commons license and the inescapable OGL. The advantage of the latter is you could take all those free OGL adventures out there and port them over to TFT. So maybe it's time for a TFT campaign.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Fantasy Trip

If nothing else The Fantasy Trip has the coolest name of any FRPG ever. It also happened to be a good game which is what you would expect of designer Steve Jackson. It was similar to T&T in certain respects, such as a d6 based mechanic, point-based spell system, using Strength to powers spells, etc., but it was a much more tactical game. This is largely due to the fact that it grew out two of Metagaming's "microgames", Melee (1977) and Wizard (1978). These were small, digest sized wargames of man-to-man (or wizard-to-wizard) arena combat played out on a hexsheet.

Take that, you fiend!

And it's these first versions of the game that has my inner old-schooler totally jazzed. I found them on David O. Miller's Melee & Wizard page, which links to copies of the rules. While the Dark City take on TFT is OK, seeing these games in their original incarnations has me jonesing to play them. Having warriors, wizards and monsters going at it in a coliseum will be a blast. It'll be like a multi-player Arena of Khazan. I know what I'm doing with my weekend.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Krunk is a god"

I think this Fear of Girls video is especially hilarious because it reminds me of the first epic campaign I ever ran. It started out as a routine dungeon crawl but things eventually escalated into a confrontation with Cosmic Evil ©. After the PCs had triumphed the gods granted them one wish each...and one player wanted to be a god himself. I said OK since the game was at an end and those characters wouldn't see play anymore. I imagined he'd be a minor deity worshiped by a few shepherds somewhere. I should have thought twice because the next thing you know that player was running around bragging like he was Almighty Zeus. I'll never make that mistake again.

Friday, March 5, 2010

EABA Fires of Heaven

It's finally here! Fires of Heaven, the EABA space opera supplement that had been delayed by a tardy artist, is finally available. It's written by Patrick Sweeney who also co-wrote Action! System, Monster Island, and the popular Faery's Tale.

A fragile peace. A decade ago, the United Worlds and Vorn were at war. Just as we never knew why they attacked, we never knew why they withdrew from U.W. space, but given the losses suffered, we were glad they did.

The Vorn remain a weight on the minds of U.W. military planners, but life goes on for everyone else. From the domes covering the frozen wastes of Tawhirimatea to the lush jungles of Yewel, humans the other races of the U.W. live, work and squabble on dozens of inhabited worlds, deal with the ever-changing Jodoni demenses, wonder about the aloof, cryptically prescient Ethereans, and worry about what was important enough to the Vorn to have them retreat when their victory was nearly certain.

Fires of Heaven is a massive 426 page gameworld for EABA, with details on every aspect of the United Worlds, alien races, starship design and combat, psionics and more.