Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming Soon

I've been offline for a while, so I haven't been posting nearly as much as I would like. I've got several things in the works, and I'll be trying to get them posted as I can. Hopefully things will settle down a bit soon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bits and Mortar

I bought three products from Rogue Games at Gen Con. After I bought Shadow, Sword & Spell, the folks at the booth had me fill out a form so they could email me a pdf copy of the book after the show. That a pdf was included with the physical book was one of the big motivators for me to go back and get copies of Thousand Suns and The Cursed Chateau. I received the emailed pdf of SS&S a few days after the show, along with coupon codes for the other two at DriveThru RPG. I've now downloaded all three, giving me print and electronic access to these books.

I have since learned that Rogue Games is one of the publishers involved in Bits & Mortar, an initiative to give away free pdf copies of game books when you buy a physical copy of the book. Evil Hat and several other small publishers are also involved in this.

I love this program! I just hope that game stores will see the benefits and jump on board.

I have been a big fan of the pdf revolution since its inception, and I have quite a large collection of pdf-only game books. Using pdfs makes it easier for me to prepare a game, since I can use the search features of the pdf to find information quickly. I can also print portions of the book for reference.

I still prefer a printed book at the table, though. It's much easier to hand a player a book and say "flip to page 53" than to try to do the same with a netbook. Having a bound game book also makes it easier for players to flip through and read rules during lags in the session. A bound book also prevents the inevitable loss and reprint of the equipment list.

In the past, I've either had to make do with one or the other or somehow justify the cost of both. Now, with the publishers involved with Bits & Mortar, I don't have to choose. I encourage you to check out these publishers and point your FLGS toward Bits & Mortar.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Making the best of things

I want to thank everyone that left comments to my last post. I ended up deleting the post because I want to focus on more positive things here. I have to deal with the offline crap, but that doesn't give me an excuse to fling it around at all of you. I definitely appreciate the support, though. It means a lot to me to know there are people that really care out there. If we meet in person, I owe you all one. I was in a pretty dark place yesterday, but your comments really brightened things up for me. Thanks.

I'm running a game later today. I'll try to post a recap tonight or tomorrow. Other than that I've got a couple more reviews coming in the next couple days along with some info about elves.

In the meantime, though, I've been working on some ideas for a random dungeon generator. Here are a few of the ideas I had about magical doorways.

Magical Doorways

The GM should determine the exact nature of magical entrances. In most cases, a magical entrance will only open when specific requirements or conditions are met. Some examples include:

1.The entrance only opens according to a set schedule. Otherwise it is sealed and will not open. The schedule is left to the GM to determine. It could be as often as every ten minutes or as infrequently as once a decade or century. Generally, the more often the door opens, the shorter it stays open.
2.The door requires a magical key to open.
3.The entrance is passable only when someone says a password or magical command.
4.The door opens only if threatened.
5.The door only opens if asked politely.
6.The door speaks a riddle and only opens when the correct answer to the riddle is spoken.
7.The door will only open if a particular puzzle is solved correctly.
8.The entrance will only open for a member of a particular group. This could be a character of a particular race or class, a member of a particular family or organization, a follower of a particular god or religion, or some other group. Others may or may not be able to enter with the person that opened it.
9.The door will only open if it is given gems, coins, or other treasure.
10.A blood sacrifice must be performed to open it. This could be as little as a small quantity of blood or as great as requiring the sacrifice of an intelligent being.
11.The door will only open in the presence of light or darkness. It may require that the light or darkness be magical, such as that caused by a spell or magic item.
12.The door requires that a particular spell or effect be cast before it will open.

In rare cases, the entrance will produce a magical effect on anyone passing through it. These effects could apply only to someone passing the entrance in a particular direction. For example, a door could bless anyone entering a dungeon or cast a healing spell on anyone leaving the dungeon. These effects could also be limited in some other way, similar to the opening requirements suggested above. The exact details of these effects should be worked out by the GM before play. Some example effects include:

1.Anyone passing through the door is blessed or cursed.
2.The door heals or causes damage to anyone passing through it.
3.The entrance grants temporary bonus hit points.
4.People entering gain a temporary bonus or penalty to an ability.
5.Using the entrance grants protection or causes susceptibility of some kind. This could be against evil, an element, magic, poison, or a particular creature.
6.Anyone using the entrance glows with magical energy.
7.Characters gain the ability to magically sense something by entering the doorway. This could include evil intent, secret or concealed doors, treasure, thoughts, or some other effect or item.
8.The doorway increases or decreases a character's movement.
9.Anyone entering the doorway and all of their equipment are magically cleaned.
10.Entering the doorway gives a character magical vision. This could include the ability to see in the dark, telescopic or magnified vision, x-ray vision, or something similar.
11.The doorway grants the ability to speak with or control animals.
12.Characters passing through the doorway are temporarily rendered invisible and/or inaudible.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Adventures in Oz

Nope, not Australia, but the homeland of the Wizard, the Wicked Witches, the Munchkins, and so on. Today Google is celebrating the 71st anniversary of the release of the movie version of The Wizard of Oz. I remember watching the movie every year growing up, and I read a few of the books when I was really young. My tastes in fantasy quickly moved to things like The Hobbit and Conan stories, but Oz, like Narnia, still has a fond place in my heart.

It is still one of the better-realized fantasy worlds and has a lot to recommend it. The movie is a breathtaking fantasy vision on screen, even though it did make some major changes from the books. Most particularly, it toned down a lot of the weirder elements of Oz to make it more appealing to a wider audience. Even toned down, the flying monkeys and wicked witch are pretty scary for a little kid, and I remember the combined thrill and fear of watching them attack Dorothy and company. Great stuff!

To celebrate, why not watch the movie or check out some of the original books. You can also check out an Oz-based rpg or gaming blog.

Review - GameMastery Plot Twist Cards

Paizo's GameMastery Plot Twist Cards are definitely one of the more generally useful items to be produced in the GameMastery line. Unlike the item cards and some of the other products in the line, they are easily convertible between game systems. They are an excellent tool for players and game masters alike. The deck includes 51 plot twist cards plus two cards with instructions printed on both sides. Additional cards include an OGL and an advertisement for the GameMastery Item Cards and GameMastery Pathfinder RPG Condition Cards.

The cards are printed on heavy cardstock and have the same weight and feel as regular playing cards. They are sealed but do not have a heavy coating, so they probably will not stand up to heavy shuffling. Although sleeves would protect them, I prefer to leave mine unsleeved to allow me to use the original box for storing them. I just plan to be gentle when shuffling them.

Each of the plot twist cards has a unique picture, under which is printed the particular plot twist of that card. The cards then have a mechanical game effect the card can cause. All of the game effects are primarily for the D&D 3.x/Pathfinder system, but most can be easily modified for other systems if desired. Finally, each card lists four possible descriptions or events that could coincide with the particular twist.

For example, the “From the Shadows” card shows a menacing shadow above the card title and includes the game effect that “Target receives a +10 insight bonus on opposed Perception checks for 3 rounds.” It also lists the following four possible events:

  • ”A deadly hunter stalks you in the night”
  • Deadly missiles fly from the darkness
  • A ray of light reveals what was hidden
  • Dealings yield questionable boons

The directions for the cards suggest handing them out to players, one at first level and each level thereafter. The players can then play them during the game to influence the events in the game. It is up to the game master to interpret how they impact the game and what effect, if any, they have on a particular situation. I like the idea of doing this, as it gives the players some control over the flow of the story and provides a tool they can use to influence situations that would normally be outside of their characters' control.

In addition to allowing players to use them, though, they also make a handy tool for the GM in designing story and plot elements. I plan to use them to generate possible story twists as I design adventures. I also plan to use them to generate interesting events or characteristics for NPCs. Finally, I plan to use them for generating unusual occurrences if a session is dragging or the party gets stalled somewhere in an adventure. I am sure someone else will come up with other uses for them as well.

Regardless of how you use them, they are a great tool for sparking some creativity or simply throwing a wrench into the clockwork patterns of your campaign. You can get them from Paizo or your FLGS.

I'm not prolific (yet)

I've spent the past two days catching up on all of the blog and forum posts I missed while I was at Gen Con. In the process, I've realized that there are a lot of people that are much more prolific than I am and that I am following a lot of blogs.

As I was reading, I made a list of things to follow up on, and I've probably got several weeks worth of posts to write. I've got a lot of new products to read and review, a game recap to put together, some development on my world I need to publish, and a few other things that have been percolating in the background.

Expect to see me posting fairly often over the next few days as I try to catch up.

Review - Chessex Alignment, Dungeon, Treasure, and Trap Dice

This year I got a lot of dice at Gen Con. I didn't plan on getting so many, but I kept finding more that I really liked. I stopped collecting dice decades ago, and I lost my original dice collection about fifteen years ago. After that, I bought some dice to replace some of my original sets, but I controlled my urges to start collecting again. i figured I had enough dice to game with, and I didn't really need more.

Like most gamers, though, I always keep an eye out for new and original dice that meet particular gaming needs. I also like the idea of getting a few new dice at a convention or when I buy a new game. Somehow, those dice bring back memories of the show or feel particularly tied to that game.

Since I was at Gen Con, I definitely met the second criteria. And I got a few of the Gen Con dice from the swag bag, a Gen Con Forum Stink die, a die from Scotty's, and a die from WanderingGeek.com. I also got a bag of 12-siders to use with Shadow, Sword & Spell and Thousand Suns. I got a new 30-sider to replace my old one, even though it's not marked 0 to 9 thrice, with plusses and minuses to note ones and twenties. I even got a pair of soft plastic 20-siders marked 0 to 9 twice to replace the pair I had in my original dice. The d6, d8, and d12 that Mike gave me with the Basic box for my birthday were an added bonus.

The dice I like best from the show, though, are the unique ones I bought from Chessex. Even though I could easily draw up a table to approximate each of these dice, I think they're great to have for doing some random game elements in a pinch. All of them are high-impact white plastic with carved, black-painted markings.

The first die is a simple six-sided alignment die marked with lawful, neutral, and chaotic twice each. The lawful sides have a traditional serifed font and also show a pair of interlocked gears. The neutral sides use a plain, sans-serif font and have a pair of scales on them. The chaotic sides use a handwritten, free font and have an eight-pointed chaos star. I've seen numerous takes on alignment dice, but for some reason I've never had any of my own. I got this one because I liked the combination of the different fonts and pictures on the faces. They help to capture the feel of the alignments for me.

The random dungeon die is an oversized (28 mm) twelve-sided die marked with corridor and room shapes as well as numbers. Although I have plenty of random dungeon generation tables, I really like the idea of this die. It's a quick solution for when players go off the map and I don't have my tables at hand. The die was a little pricey, but it should get plenty of use.

The random treasure die is similarly sized to most of the twelve-sided dice I have in my dice bag. It is marked on all twelve faces with a variety types of treasure, including mundane items, coins, gems, art, and magic items. Different treasure types occur more frequently. Coins, for instance, are on four faces, while magic items are on one. This makes a nice alternative when I don't feel like using the tables from the random dungeon generators or dungeon stocking rules from Moldvay or LL.

Finally, I got a random trap die. This is another twelve-sider. The traps include acid spray, arrow, blade, boulder, crushing, death ray, fireball, lightning, monster, pit, and quicksand traps. The only one missing is poison gas. This is a good go-to if I can't come up with an innovative trap when I'm working on a dungeon. I don't think it will see as much use as the others, but it's a good idea spring when I need it. The only downsides to this die are the frequency distribution of the traps and the size. I can get over the fact that there are eleven different trap types that thus have a pretty even frequency of occurrence (or totally equal if I use poison gas to replace one of the duplicates). Unfortunately, the print and pictures on the die are very small. That means I have to really look at it to be able to read it clearly. Obviously, being able to read the die quickly isn't as much an issue as it is with other dice, but it would be nice to have an oversized die with larger pictures and print.

I couldn't find any of these dice on the Chessex website. If you're interested in getting any of them, you can definitely get them from the Chessex booth at major conventions. Your FLGS may also be able to order them from the major distributors or Chessex directly.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My BrainHex Class

BrainHex is a personality-type test you can take based on video game behavior. I found this courtesy of Scott at Huge Ruined Pile. I like taking personality tests, and I like seeing what box they put me in. In this case, I came up as a Mastermind with the subtype Achiever. This matches my style in video games very well and is also reflected in how and why I play pen and paper rpgs. I like to solve puzzles and collect everything I possibly can in games. I'm a completionist.

One interesting thing about this quiz, though, is that they associated an animal with each type. For the Mastermind, the associated animal is an octopus. For the Achiever, the associated animal is the beaver. What's interesting is that I was in the beaver patrol when I went through Wood Badge with the Boy Scouts, and the beaver has been one of my minor totems ever since. What's more interesting is the image I get when I combine the two. I imagine an overgrown beaver with tentacles growing from its back and shoulders, like some kind of vicious, displacer beast-like, mutated rodent. I'll have to stat it up for my LL game...

If you want to take the test, you can find it here.

Another LL Character Sheet and Star Frontiers

For the game last Wednesday, I used the LL Character Sheet on the Goblinoid Games LL page. I printed it two sheets to a page, and it worked well for the core game I was running. It was simple and had all the info I needed without getting too complicated. Today I found a link to another very simple sheet that could be used with either core LL or the AEC. You can find it here.

The guys at DwD Studios that put it together also have a lot of information and extra material available for the old Star Frontiers game. Check out the Downloads page for all the SF goodness you could want.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are you committed?

I just saw Rob's post on Bat in the Attic about the proposed Stack Overflow site for rpgs. This looks like a great idea and a nice way to answer questions for people that don't want to wade through pages and pages of forums for an answer. I committed to joining and participating on the site. If you are similarly inclined, you can check it out here.

I survived Gen Con

I've spent the last week living and breathing all things Gen Con. Because I was volunteering for the con, I started last Tuesday when I checked into the hotel and ended on Monday when I checked out. So, for me at least, the best four days in gaming was actually the best week in gaming and a lot more!

I've volunteered for Gen Con for several years, working in different areas of the convention, but this was my first year back after a few years off. I worked as one of the Captains in Badge Registration this year and had a great time. From what I could see, the online registration really helped to cut the lines in badge registration down this year. There was quite a long line for Will Call on Wednesday and Thursday, but everyone seemed to be in fairly good spirits and I didn't hear about too many problems.

Syl, Beth, and Tod, the other Captains and main volunteer at Badge Reg were great to work with. We also had quite a few good temps from Talagy that were handling the cash stations, and the Talagy managers really helped us get the best crews available. Everyone was a joy to work with, and I'm looking forward to coming back next year if I can work it out.

After I got done working on Wednesday, I ran a pickup game of Labyrinth Lord at Scotty's Brewhouse. Even though there was a huge meet-and-greet event going on at the same time, we got seated fairly quickly, had some good food and a good game. Seven people played in the game, and we closed the place down after about four hours of gaming. Even though I was still a little rusty behind the screen, I had a great time. I'll be writing a more complete report on the game in the next couple days.

The group that played in the game on Wednesday included a few of my old friends from Chicago. In addition to the time gaming on Wednesday, we got to spend a little time hanging out together through the rest of the con. Unfortunately, we didn't see each other as much as I would have liked, but we all enjoyed ourselves so it was okay. We did get to go to Steak 'n Shake for a late dinner one night, though. Aside from the group from Chicago, I ran into some old friends from Indy I hadn't seen in a few years. Turns out they have a fairly regular game night happening, so I'll be hanging out and doing some gaming with them in the near future as well.

Aside from old friends, I got to meet quite a few new people as well. Father Brian, Greg, Jared, and Vaas played in my LL game on Wednesday. I finally got a chance to meet the designer of Hexographer, Joe Wetzel, in person at his presentation on Saturday morning. I also met Zack and Jeff from the RPG Circus podcast at the presentation. Zack also writes RPG Blog 2. I met several of the Paizo writers and passed along greetings from Johnn over at Roleplaying Tips. I met some of the people involved with Gamers for Humanity both at Scotty's on Wednesday and at their booth in the Exhibit Hall. I'll probably be getting involved with their group soon, since they're looking for more Indy locals to help out. I spent quite a lot of time talking to one of the gentlemen that was manning the Rogue Games booth. Unfortunately, I didn't get a card and I've forgotten his name, but we had a great conversation about games and game groups, converting stories from film and TV into games, and different sci-fi systems. On his recommendation, I ended up going back to the booth on Sunday to get a copy of Thousand Suns. There were quite a few other people I met long the way, and I apologize to anyone I forgot to mention.

I didn't do too many events during the con. I went to the aforementioned Hexographer seminar with Joe and did a True Dungeon run. The seminar was great, and I learned quite a bit about the program that I didn't know before. I'll be diving back into it now to explore some of the things I learned. It was also nice to be able to pass on some suggestions to improve the program. Finally, I got to learn about a lot of new features that are coming for the program in the next batch of releases. There are quite a few exciting functions coming, but I want to confirm it's okay to talk about them before I give any details.

In True Dungeon, I did the Evading Hilt as the monk. There wasn't a lot of combat in this one, but there were a few good puzzles. Our group managed to get through the whole thing pretty much unscathed and then died at the end because we couldn't finish the final puzzle on time. It turns out I was a few clicks away from solving it. I just couldn't get my fingers to work fast enough. Oh well, there's always next year. I did gain a level and get some more good gear, though.

This year was pretty good as far as swag and loot went. Here's the take:

  • Four buttons:
    • True Dungeon Monk
    • True Dungeon Victim 2010
    • Paizo button with a smiling goblin and a d20
    • Red Dragon Inn button with one of the characters from the game on it
  • Gen Con Captain 2010 pin
  • a pair of steampunk-looking optical loupes I can clip onto my glasses
  • 3 Gen Con 2010 dice
  • Gen Con Forums Stink 7 die
  • Scotty's purple die
  • WanderingGeek.com die
  • set of 10 d12s from Rogue Games (because I couldn't turn down a big bag of d12s!)
  • 2 soft plastic d20s (marked 0-9 twice) from Gamescience
  • big green d30
  • six-sided die marked Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic twice each
  • d12 marked with various rooms and corridors in addition to numbers
  • d12 marked with various treasure items in place of numbers
  • d12 marked with various traps
  • Gen Con glass mug
  • Gen Con travel mug
  • 2 Gen Con t-shirts
  • Gen Con volunteer t-shirt
  • 100 Gen Con 2010 True Dungeon tokens
  • Gen Con badge holder
  • Werewolf: Predator & Prey novel by Gherbod Flemming
  • Almuric by Robert E. Howard from Planet Stories
  • Primers for Shadow, Sword, and Spell and Colonial Gothic from Rogue Games to give to friends unfamiliar with these games.
  • The Cursed Chateau by James Maaliszewski
  • Shadow, Sword & Spell Basic Core Rulebook
  • Thousand Suns rulebook
  • Paizo's GameMastery Plot Twist Cards
  • 4 Gen Con mini notebooks with pens
  • 2 Dragonball CCG sample decks
  • Monsterpocalypse Series 3: All Your Base monster booster
  • Abel Limited Edition figure for Rackham's Confrontation
  • Sacred Vestals Attachment box for Confrontation
  • Confrontation: The Age of Rag'narok rulebook and Temple army book
  • 3 Dungeons & Dragons comic books
  • 2 copies of Legacy of Disaster, an adventure for the Legend of the Five Rings rpg
  • a Hexographer mouse pad (thanks Joe!)
  • Gen Con messenger bag
  • 2 Gen Con reusable shopping bags
  • 2 Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning t-shirts
  • quick start version of bezzerwizzer

The second best thing I got at the con, and better than all of the stuff listed above, though, was a present from my friend Mike — a copy of the Moldvay basic book, complete with the box, a few of the original soft dice, and most of the original ads from the boxed set. Thanks again, Mike!

Finally, the best thing I got from Gen Con this year was the combination of a great experience and the chance to spend time with friends new and old. I had forgotten how much fun I have at Gen Con, since the last time I was at the show was in 2006. That year I didn't have a very good time. This year made up for it many times over. I'm definitely looking forward to going back next year and for many years to come.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Updated LL Ref Sheets and Monster Matrix

I've been working on adding more things to my DM binder in anticipation of my game on Wednesday night. I added a lot more information to the Reference Sheets in the process, including my social class tables, the treasure tables, the dungeon stocking table, wandering monster tables, and the NPC party generation information. I also incorporated a few suggestions from the Goblinoid Games forums.

I was going to add a monster matrix to the sheets similar to the one in the old Dungeon Masters Guide, but it didn't format well in the other document. So I made a separate document with the monster matrix.

I have uploaded both documents to both Google docs and Scribd. You can find the links to them under the DM Binder section in the sidebar or right here:

Labyrinth Lord Reference Sheets (version 1.1): Google docs | Scribd

Labyrinth Lord Monster Matrix (version 1): Google docs | Scribd

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Random Dungeon Generator

As reported on Dragonsfoot and by Lord Kilgore, there's a new random dungeon generator available.

I've punched up a few to see how it looks, and it's pretty good. The geomorphs are a little wild at times, producing some unique (and difficult to map) arrangements. That the generator stocks and dresses the dungeon for you, though, is brilliant. You could definitely use this for a quick, on-the-fly dungeon to drop some characters into. Very nice.

First Principles

Over at Huge Ruined Pile, Scott has a post about some of the practical theological ideas he uses for his world. That got me thinking about theology and philosophy and how we use them in games, which in turn got me thinking about how we could use them in game design. That led to me writing a huge post in which I considered how game design is essentially an exercise in philosophy. This isn't that post. This is a post about the tension between assumptions and stated principles when designing a world for a game.

I've been designing worlds for games for over thirty years. I've talked before about how a lot of those old ideas are being recycled into my current game world. Even the name of the area, Alnair, is lifted from a world I created over twenty years ago. In order to make these ideas fit together, though, I have had to tweak them and rework them to fit with the basic ideas behind my current world. Those basic ideas, in turn, have been twisted and rearranged a bit as I've worked on things. In the process, though, I've been slowly deducing the first principles I am using as the basis for my world.

When I started working on my current game world, I approached it with a few assumptions. I decided I would use the Labyrinth Lord rules, so I started with the assumptions built into that game. Namely:

  1. There are multiple intelligent races, humanoid and otherwise.
  2. The technological base of the area includes remnants of bronze age technology alongside proto-Renaissance designs and items.
  3. Magic works, is derived from a variety of sources, and takes many forms.
  4. Characters advance and become more powerful by challenging and overcoming obstacles in their environment.
  5. There are multiple planes of existence, and some of the other planes have life forms inimical to beings on the material plane.
  6. Etc.

To these I added a few more assumptions of my own:

  1. Humans are the dominant race.
  2. The main area in which the campaign takes place has had multiple human cultures that have interacted there.
  3. Non-human races interact with humans regularly and are integrated into human society to varying degrees; non-human ghettos like the Shire, Moria, and Mirkwood are rare or non-existent.
  4. Non-human races need to be de-Tolkienized.
  5. Not all dwarves are short bearded Scotsmen or Norsemen in chainmail with axes and hammers.
  6. Halflings are not jolly little Englishmen who garden or eat all day and then pop round the pub for a pint.
  7. Elves are closer to Elric than Elrond. They are an alien race that have infiltrated and subjugated a portion of the campaign world. They are long-lived, but not immortal, and they have an affinity for magic, but cannot master the most difficult spells.
  8. Some humans are the remnants of a colonial group that came to the world on a generation ship.
  9. Most of the technology from the generation ship was destroyed or consumed during a great war with the planet's original inhabitants.
  10. At least one ancient civilization was destroyed leaving vast ruins and other mysterious artifacts behind.
  11. One of these civilizations was mostly destroyed by a large-scale, tactical nuclear or magical strike.
  12. Most of the current realms in the campaign area are a mix of indigenous humans and alien colonists that have evolved a late medieval or early renaissance-style culture.
  13. There are many gods, deities, spirits, entities, etc. that are concerned about and involved with human and non-human affairs. Some are worshiped, and some are not. Cults and religions abound and are more or less tolerant of each other.
  14. There is at least one group of beings that comes from another dimension, is bent on destroying or consuming the material plane, and is derived from pure chaotic energy.
  15. Law and Chaos are cosmic forces with which a character can ally. Good and evil behavior are not dependent on particular alliance.
  16. There are some groups that actively work to maintain a balance between Law and Chaos, and there are some cosmic-level entities that champion Neutrality.
  17. A portion of the campaign area is dominated by an oriental-style culture created by colonists from the generation ship. Because of mixed acculturation on the ship in transit, it is not historically accurate to a particular oriental culture but is a mixed and idolized version of many of them. It also has some cultural trappings similar to Western Europe mixed into it.
  18. Young or new dragons conform to the normal game rules. There are older dragons that all have the ability to polymorph into human form. Old dragons often have human class abilities and like to involve themselves in human affairs. Some have bred with humans and other races in the past.
  19. Psionics exist but are very rare. They are primarily an acquired talent, not an innate ability.
  20. There is a system of magical portals and dimensional pathways that intersects with the material in various places. Some parts are commonly accessible, and others require magical keys.
  21. Etc.

If you go back through my posts so far, you can see how I've fleshed out some of these ideas. I'll be posting more about the rest of them as I get them developed. You can also see, though, how some of them have evolved into new ideas as I've developed them. The City of the Ancients came from the colony ship idea and has absorbed and been combined with other elements along the way, for instance. Other ideas, especially those I have incorporated from past worlds, have been altered to fit better within these design ideas. I have changed the Lords of the Ring to better fit these assumptions by making them a remnant of the human colonists that has managed to use their advanced technology to awaken psionic potential.

The advantage of having these kinds of first principles in a design is that it gives a framework to creation. You have a skeleton to hang the flesh on. Without it, you end up with some kind of amorphous thing that's all eyes and teeth like a gibbering mouther. You may have to make tough decisions to leave things out or be forced to develop a lot of extra material to make an idea work, but the world and the game are both stronger for it.

Getting ready for Gen Con

The past few days I've been getting everything squared away for Gen Con. I have been going over all of the last minute plans, getting everything in place as far as the volunteering goes, and trying to figure out all of the things I want to do when I'm not working. I'll be checking into the hotel on Tuesday and staying all the way through until Monday. Even though I'm local, it's nice to have a hotel to stumble to when I'm done for the night.

I have one Labyrinth Lord game planned for Wednesday night at 10pm at Scotty's. It will probably be a little loud there, but it should be a good time. I'm planning on running the group through something of my own I've been working on lately. Nothing too big, but it should be a good time for a few hours.

Other than that, I'm going to try to get into one of the big Dawn Patrol games. I've been a huge DP fan since TSR published it, but I haven't been able to play in years. One of my great grandfathers was a pilot in WWI, and I found a lot of his memorabilia a few years ago. Since then I've been fascinated with that period and trying to get some Great War gaming happening. I picked up a copy of Dawn Patrol a year or so ago, but Gen Con is the first time in recent memory I may actually get to play. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm planning to go to a few seminars, including either the design theory one or the OSR one on Friday (I'll be in the OSR one if it's still happening), the Hexographer seminar on Saturday, and a few writing seminars on Sunday. I'll probably spend some time wandering through the dealers' hall. Since I don't have any extra money to spend, though, that will probably be limited. I'll probably spend a little time in the open gaming area if I can find some people to play LL. Otherwise, the rest of the time I'm just going to hang out, talk to people, and have a good time.

If you're going to the con and want to jump into the game on Wednesday, want to set up a game for some other time or just want to hang out for a while, drop me a line at cats (dot) teacher (at) gmail (dot) com. I'll let you know how to find me. Otherwise, look for the overweight guy with super-short hair. When I'm working I'll be in Registration or Customer Service. Otherwise, I'll probably be carrying a tan leather backpack with patches and other stuff on it. (If you're familiar with Boy Scout patches, I have the World Scout Emblem sewn onto the middle pouch flap.)

I'm going to try to do some writing and blogging from the con, but I'm not sure how much time I'll have. If nothing else, I'll get some more stuff posted before I go and I'll definitely be doing a big post-con wrapup. See you all at the con.

Races of Alnair - Halflings

In between getting ready for Gen Con, doing some contract work, and working on the LL Ref Sheets, I've been fleshing out the Borderlands a little more. I've been developing some of the area around the Keep, including some more of Griffon Castle, and jotting down some ideas for what to do with the kobolds that fled from the caves. I've also been writing more about the various races of Alnair.

This time around, I've got some information about the halflings, or Laltermiin. I wanted to get away from some of the Tolkienesque ideas and give them some unique flavor.

Laltermiin

The Laltermiin are one of the oldest races of Alnair. They appear often in the oldest Alnairiin records, so they have been traveling in the middle kingdoms for at least a few thousand years. Despite their time in the area, though, there are few physical signs of their residence.

The halflings, as the Laltermiin are called by the Neumeniin, are traditionally nomadic. They travel throughout the middle kingdoms in family groups that range in size from a few to as many as several hundred members. They use elaborately decorated and painted barges when traveling by water. Those groups that travel overland normally use ponies or large riding dogs. The latter are favored by most Laltermiin, as they aid the halflings in hunting and provide protection as well as transportation.

Laltermiin dogs are huge, thick-coated brutes. They have broad heads and thick muzzles, similar to a mastiff. Their tails are long and bushy. Usually their coats are fawn or gray. Some rare dogs have brindle coats. The rarest of the breed, the so-called Prince's dogs, have solid black or dark gray, brindle coats and a light gray or white blaze on the chest. These dogs are said to confer luck on their riders and masters and are generally reserved for the best warriors or huntsmen in a particular halfling group. The dogs are generally trained for riding, hunting, and guard work. The halflings do not train their dogs to perform tricks as a rule.

Tradition has it that the Laltermiin are cursed to wander Alnair until some event happens or they achieve some particular goal. The stories vary on what must happen before they can settle. Some stories say that they are waiting for the return of a particular deity who will lead them to a promised land. Some stories say that they must appease the spirits of an ancient family that was wronged by their ancestors. Other, wilder tales have been told as well. Regardless of the veracity of these stories, very few of the Laltermiin have settled in any particular place. Those that have are regarded with a mixture of curiosity and worry by other halflings.

Because of their nomadic lifestyles, they have built very few lasting monuments. Those that they have built tend to be related to travel, such as lighthouses, locks, or waystops. The waystops are semi-fortified camps that dot the countryside in Alnair. They usually consist of a palisade, a few huts or small houses, a stockade or kennel for their animals, and a large central cooking and gathering area. Although the waystops are rarely guarded or inhabited, they are not frequently molested or taken over by other intelligent races. Tradition holds that anyone who enters a waypost uninvited will be cursed by the halflings. These curses take a variety of forms, but normally involve being forced to wander the countryside, becoming more savage and bestial over time, until eventually devolving into a giant, savage, black-coated rat.

Although they trade with almost everyone, Laltermiin do not often associate with other races for extended periods. They are frequently mistrusted by more settled races and, because of their nomadic ways, often taken for bandits or vagabonds. Although this is normally not true, there are some halfling families that revel in this supposed notoriety.

Laltermiin stand about three feet tall and weigh about 60 pounds. Females are slightly smaller than males. They tend to have dark hair and eyes, and their skin is typically tanned and coarse. They have broad feet and hands.

Laltermiin love music and stories, especially the traditional family tales told among their own people. A typical halfling will gladly take any opportunity to gather and tell new stories or compose or perform a new song.