Friday, October 14, 2016

Gods of the Fall - Gods of the [blank] part 2 - Legends of the Wild West

Since October is Halloween month I'm going to dress up Gods of the Fall for the holiday every week. Last week I tossed out some ideas for a pre-Fall game in the world before Elanehtar fell. This week I look to my own version of the "weird west" genre...

Legendary Deeds and Tall Tales

You've heard of Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, Casey Jones, etc. etc... American folklore is full of tall tales. Whether its a giant sized lumberjack (and his giant blue ox), or a man who lassoed a tornado and rode it, these tales are the stuff of modern legend and myth. Somewhere in the western frontier where civilization is invading the unknown new heroes are forging these tales and in doing so cementing themselves as greater than their fellow men.

Character types are stock from the CSR rather than the types presented in Gods of the Fall. Gone are divine auras and symbols, replaced instead by deeds and legend. This is a game of doing the impossible, of living tall tales and then spreading the word of your deeds. Allowable foci will change depending on how heavily the GM wants to lean into supernatural aspects, add steampunk themes, and similar.

The world is our own, mostly. We've all seen westerns, and movies like the Magnificent Seven, For a Fistful of Dollars, The Good The Bad & the Ugly, 3:10 to Yuma, and more serve perfectly as inspiration both story and visual. Take the action to the next level though and make it as big as possible. This can be played with as much or as little supernatural or extraordinary aspects as you like. You could have spell slinging hucksters beside clockwork augmented gunslingers a la a Deadlands inspired campaign, or you could play it very close to real world accurate.

Adventure Ideas
For a "real world" game the players may take on a huge gang of outlaws that outnumber them ten to one, stalk and kill a grizzly of enormous size, or maybe save a town from a flood. Alternately you can lean into the weird. Take a look at Native American lore and have a skinchanger, perhaps there are trolls or ogres out in the west, a dark mystic (of nearly any nationality & ethnicity) threatens a town (or a whole territory), or even desires to set up their own kingdom, and then there is the great rail wars as the transcontinental railway rushes to completion. Toss in natural events like earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires, and there'll always be something to do when you aren't at a saloon or in a shootout with your dark counterparts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #94 - Review: Mind Games

Buy it now.

Dungeon Crawl Classics goes mental!


Published By: Shield of Faith Studios • 67 pages • $4.99 (PDF) • B&W PDF with Full Color Cover

What's In It

I've always liked psionics. At times, and for some game systems, even more so than I like magic. There's something about the way a psion's power comes entirely from within. They are not beholden to a god, a patron, or finding spell tomes and other books to learn from. With nothing more than time and dedication a psion can develop their own powers.

So when I found out about this 3rd party supplement for Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) from +James Walls and that he was not only willing to allow us to play with it but willing to allow me to change classes after a couple of sessions I jumped at the chance & grabbed the PDF.

Mind Games is everything you need to add a Psion character class to the core DCC rules. It has the class, the powers, rules for psychic duels, a handful of psionic monsters, and rules for psychic weapons and baubles. Basically it's one stop shopping for all things of the mind.

The Psion is the kind of class that I think DCC really needed. It's a class that lends itself to almost any character regardless of stats, and can offer a legitimate alternative for players who don't feel like using one of the core options, but may feel pigeonholed to do so based on their stats. This works out because psionic powers are broken into four broad categories and each uses a different statistic to gain modifiers. Furthermore because of the way that psions invest in a focus dice (which act very much like a warrior's deed die) even psionic disciplines corresponding to a low statistic do not suffer overmuch.

The psionic power disciplines are psychokinesis (mind over matter), telepathy, psychometabolism (mind over body), and clairsentience (ESP). For each of these disciplines there are powers to attack, defend, assist, and utility powers; one of each in three levels, and finally a fourth level transcendent power that is very powerful but requires a great deal of dedication to gain.

The player can invest focus points into each discipline they want to use and gain a focus die that starts as d3 and steps upward from there to a maximum of d10. As mentioned before this functions like a warrior's deed die by adding to the psionic power check and also adding to the base psionic effect based on how well the deed die rolls. A dedicated student of one or two disciplines will be more powerful and more reliable with their abilities than a psion who dabbles in all the disciplines.
Example: At level 2 I had 4 Focus points to invest and could gain a maximum of 6 powers. I could have invested a Focus in each discipline for d3 Focus across each, but instead I invested 2 each in Telepathy and Psychokinesis, gaining a d4 Focus die in each. With 8 total powers available and a limit of six powers I chose the ones that would best compliment all aspects of play, exploration, roleplay, combat offense and combat defense. 
The choices involved with investing your Focus points and power slots helps to make for both meaningful choices but also to ensure that even 2 psions in a group will not play the same. Again these abilities also key off of different statistics and a player may choose to invest according to their strengths, or despite their weaknesses. All in all it's a strong system that ensures that psions do not feel too similar in play and can be accommodating of different characters and play styles.

While reading, I had concern that some of the psionic power may feel weak compared to wizard and cleric spells, but in play I found that, at least at second level, the abilities were pleasantly potent when used at opportune moments. Utilities like Psychic Hands provided a safe way for the party to cross rapids, while combat spells like Distraction and Kinetic Burst proved very useful in keeping our party safe. While higher level play will need still more time to evaluate I think that the psionic powers presented allow a breadth of options that may be less expansive than those of a wizard but are no less utile.

I cannot speak yet to the psychic monsters, though perhaps in time I will face them in a game. They are an interesting and varied lot ranging from cybernetic overminds to psychically powered lobster monstrosities, and a truly vicious psionic bear creature. Likewise the rules for psychic baubles and weapons read well but I have not yet played with them, though with luck perhaps a bauble will pop up in a soon to be raided swampy keep.

Closing Thoughts

I'm going to limit my thoughts here to the Psion class and the psychic powers because that's all I've really had any time with (and rather limited at that), but I rather like what I've read and in play the character was able to shine. The powers seem well balanced thus far, and offer a great deal of utility. My only real complaints stem from some typoes and a couple of rules that I thought could have been slightly more explicitly rendered, but I was able to suss out the correct answers, and gain confirmation from the author (+Reid San Filippo). If you are a fan of psychic powers and are looking to add an optional class that will feel truly different from the core DCC offerings the Psion is certainly set to fill your need.

  • Psionic Class & Powers - 95% really enjoying this so far!
  • Psychic Items - TBD, hopefully I'll be able to try these out soon
  • Psychic Creatures - TBD, these are interesting but I haven't seen them in play as of yet

Monday, October 10, 2016

Story Seed - Journey to the Skies

Image Source:

"You'd think there'd be handrails or something," Ichem said sarcastically.

"Blind does not mean infirm. Or had you not noticed that?" Lorell rumbled. The taran woman gave Ichem what could be generously described as a scathing look, but without eyes the effect just wasn't the same.

"I wasn't implying your people were infirm, but this just seems dangerous."

Lorell laughed, a deep hearty laugh, "These are the Cerulean Peaks, Ichem, the most holy of places to the taran. Raised to the sky by Zenia herself, and set aside for my people. Safety is not guaranteed."

Ichem sighed, the rhetoric of the old gods still held sway with some people and while there was no disputing that the gods had been powerful there were issues with their stories in the aftermath of the Fall. "Fine, fine," he said placatingly, "but a rope or a rail would have been nice, for the non-taran visitors. I'm one misstep from a ten thousand pace drop."

"Here, tie this to yourself and to my belt if you are so afraid." Lorell handed him a length of rope.

"How gracious ..." Ichem tied the rope around his waist and the other end to the thick belt Lorell wore. He felt silly, but silly was better than a very long drop. "So, what makes you think the tribes up here have one of the old gates to Elanehtar?"

"Because these mountains are a holy place given to us by Zenia, we were he chose people."

"That seems speculative at best, but since I don't have a better idea ... lead on."

Lorell grunted and stepped out onto the ribbon-like bridge to the next floating section of mountain.

Sunday, October 9, 2016