Friday, May 29, 2009

Naming a Multigenre Post-Apocalyptic Setting

Sundered Earth was one of the first names that came to mind when I was brainstorming ideas for a name for my multigenre post-apocalyptic campaign setting, but the planet wasn't really broken or split apart so "sundered" was more or less a misnomer. After jotting down a bunch of those ideas and consulting both a thesaurus and a dictionary, I finally settled on Spectrum Shock. Using the most common definitions for these words doesn't seem to make sense, but with an eye for less-often-used meanings, one can see their relevance to a multigenre post-apocalyptic setting.

  • Spectrum: a broad sequence or range of related qualities, ideas, or activities
  • Shock: a violent collision or impact
Thus, Spectrum Shock doesn't have anything to do with electrifying a rainbow in this case. It is the violent collision of a broad range of qualities and ideas, which fits quite well for a setting in which some of the major conflicts will probably center around technology vs magic, mankind vs the supernatural, and Mother Earth vs invading alien ecosystems.

Quite appropriate after all, in my humble opinion.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Own Multigenre Post-Apocalyptic Setting

After much thought and deliberation, I've decided not to do a Rifts D20 conversion at all. Instead, I'm going to create my own multigenre setting for D20 Modern. I may still use Rifts for a bit of inspiration, but that will be the end of it.

Ideas that I would like to incorporate into the setting:
  • Two powerful organizations locked in a cold war, one that stresses the "purity of humanity" and the other that embraces the supernatural (similar to the Coalition vs. Tolkeen conflict of Rifts, but a much more prolonged stalemate).
  • Ghouls and Mutants as demihuman races (similar to Fallout)
  • Walled (maybe domed?) cities surrounded by lots of unclaimed wilderness (like what you see in the aerial shots of Bregna in Æon Flux)
Ideas that I would like to avoid:
  • Cheezy interpretations of literature and/or mythology (such as Merlin/Mrrlyn in Rifts England)
  • Giving a specific reason for the apocalypse... perhaps different groups tell different stories, but the truth is only known to a select few (or nobody at all)
  • Making any organization or race unrealistically good or evil... I want there to be a lot of gray areas and moral decisions in this campaign... questions like "which one really is the good guy?" should be common
I may add more to these as I continue to develop the setting, but I want these to be my guiding principles. Now, I just need a name. I briefly considered Nexus, but it appears that another blogger is already working on a multigenre setting by that name. Frankly, I'm stumped... and open to suggestions. Perhaps something like Sundered Earth?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Free PDF of the Week: Medusa Hideout

0one Games* has an excellent line of black and white map tiles that won't suck your ink cartridge dry, and they have a sample that you can download for free.

In this free sample, you'll find:
  • Map tiles with 1 inch grids
  • A system neutral description for each location
  • Sample plot hooks for the area
This is definitely worth downloading. Check it out by clicking here.

*I really wish I knew how to do the strikethrough like they have in their logo.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rifts D20: Mid to High Level Only?

Comparing how the Rifts game system scales by level to how D&D scales by level is tough. I think the best explanation I ever gave went something like this:

In D&D, your power increases exponentially throughout your career and 1st level characters don't have a shot against even 4th or 5th level characters in a straight fight. In Rifts, most classes start out with about 75% of all the abilities and bonuses they'll ever get. Equipment is often a better indicator of power in Rifts than level.

That said, I've been looking at creating a stable of pregenerated characters for a Rifts D20 campaign and I'm finding that the scaling difference is an even bigger issue than I thought it would be. Although my players are familiar with D&D 3.5, I would still like for them to begin at 1st level (so they can ease into D20 Modern) and achieving the "feel" of various Rifts O.C.C.s is difficult (perhaps impossible) at such low levels. Without making any adjustments or house rules, it is difficult to emulate most Rifts classes in D20 Modern without advanced classes, which can't be entered until around 4th level.

For example, the closest parallel to the Cyber-Knight's psi-sword is the Battle Mind's psi-blade, which can be acquired by D20 Modern characters by 5th level at the very earliest due to the Battle Mind entry requirements. In short, while the advanced classes might do a great job in portraying characters from the Rifts setting, the base classes do not... unless you stick to the scholars and adventurers.

Perhaps I should just suck it up and let them start at 5th level. Perhaps I should run the first few levels as a "before they were heroes" adventure path. Maybe I should drop the Rifts idea altogether and create my own setting.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rifts D20

I first mentioned a D20 conversion of Rifts back in the second post on Outsyder Gaming, but I decided back then to just run the game as printed. Now that the first Rifts campaign I ran with my current group has officially fallen by the wayside, I can't help but consider how I'll run the next one and a D20 conversion sounds better and better the more I think about it.

However, there are always drawbacks to converting Rifts to another system. The most noticeable drawback to a blogger like myself is the fear of Palladium Books breathing down your neck for copyright infringement. However, I'm pretty sure that talking about playing a game in which I converted Rifts material to D20 is okay, but posting conversion rules would probably get me in trouble. I'm not sure if that is exactly where the line is drawn, because sites like this one and this one still exist, but I'm going to err on the side of safety.

In any case, I'm thinking about going with the "everything plus the kitchen sink" D20 conversion. I'll start with a stable of pregenerated characters that emulate classes from Rifts Ultimate Edition and just let my players know that any D20 Modern setting produced by Wizards of the Coast is automatically legal and other publishers can be approved on a case by case basis. This will give me access to:
  • D20 Modern (for the core rules)
  • D20 Future and D20 Future Tech (for high tech stuff, including the power armor)
  • D20 Apocalypse (for that Fallout feel)
  • D20 Urban Arcana (for magic and stuff)
Come to think of it, I might need more options than those to cover everything. I might heavily supplement Urban Arcana with D&D magic and psionic material. I will eventually list what books I'm allowing access to for the game, but that's about all I intend to say on the conversion itself.

Now, I think it's time to see if I can find some cheap Coalition soldiers (I mean, shadow storm troopers) on eBay... and maybe some of those AT-43 miniatures that Quim pointed out in the comments of this post.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Miniatures for Rifts: An Inexpensive Solution

For a long time, I've wished that I could use miniatures for Rifts. Unfortunately, the only official Rifts miniatures are old school style... pewter, unpainted, and expensive (in price and also in shipping because of their weight). Alas, D&D Miniatures have spoiled me... now I want all of my minis to be lightweight and pre-painted.

Looking over the eFuture Tiles the other day got me thinking again about using minis for Rifts. I figured that if I could find replacements for Coalition soldiers, I would at least have the most common opponent taken care of and the rest would fall in line later. I was thinking about how storm troopers would make decent replacements if I painted them black, and then I struck gold. When I looked online for storm trooper miniatures, I found these:
 
While they aren't traditional dead boys, they'll do in a pinch. The fact that I won't have to paint them is just icing on the cake. And while I was at it, I also found a ton of other Star Wars miniatures that could be used as D-Bees, borgs, headhunters, and other random NPCs.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

GWr Astral Slide in Retirement

This deck was one of Jenni's old  Magic: The Gathering favorites, and one of mine as well. It is great at controlling creature-based strategies but not so good against combos (unless the combo relies on a creature). In any case, here's the decklist:

Lands (24):
7 Plains
4 Forest
4 Secluded Steppe
4 Tranquil Thicket
3 Nantuko Monastery
2 Mountain

Creatures (10):
3 Eternal Witness
3 Krosan Tusker
2 Eternal Dragon
1 Indrik Stomphowler
1 Loxodon Heirarch

Other (26):
4 Astral Slide 
4 Renewed Faith
3 Akroma's Vengeance
3 Fluctuator
3 Radiant's Judgment
2 Decree of Justice
2 Gaea's Blessing
2 Lightning Rift
1 Gilded Light
1 Life from the Loam
1 Sterling Grove

This deck has officially been retired from use around here. I usually dismantle old favorites and rebuild them eventually, but this one is getting special treatment. It is just getting put away. Perhaps someday I'll want to dig it up again to reminisce, but I don't think I'll ever want to actually play these cards again... just too emotional.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Free PDF of the Week: eFuture Bonus Tiles

SkeletonKey Games produces a line of map tiles for futuristic settings, and this preview is excellent. The only drawback is that they are in full color. While they look great (if a little cartoonish), I'd be willing to bet that if you print these without clicking on the "draft" setting in your printer preferences, you'll need a new cartridge soon.

In this free sample, you'll find:
  • Nine pages of full color 1" gridded tiles for a space ship that seems to have been overrun by some form of alien plantlike organism.
I only wish I could find some plastic pre-painted minis  for the Rifts RPG. That would really make these tiles useful... Check it out by clicking here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Core Set Overhaul for Magic: The Gathering

I've posted about spoiled cards several times over the last week or so, but I haven't addressed the changes that are coming to the core sets. For the casual "I buy a few packs of every set" kind of player, these changes probably won't make much of a splash. For tournament players and collectors, this is huge.


The changes at a glance:
  • Core sets will no longer be called editions. They will now be referred to as "Magic + (year+1)". This year's set will be Magic 2010. 
  • Core sets will be released every year instead of every other year.
  • Half of each core set will consist of reprints, and the rest will be new cards. This is the biggest change. It has been a long time since a Magic: The Gathering core set featured new cards. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, a core set hasn't included new cards since Beta.*
For more details, check the official announcement.

My predictions? Core sets have been the red headed stepchild of Magic for years. The white borders were undesirable and sales were crappy compared to the expansion sets. Who wants to buy uglier versions of cards you already own? The new policies will certainly help, but I doubt core sets will ever keep up with expansions. I think this is a step in the right direction, but I don't think Wizards of the Coast will see the sales increase they are likely hoping for... but I guess any sales increase at all is a good thing.

My wish? I wish this change would keep vanilla creatures out of "Expert" sets. Pulling a Grizzly Bear out of a booster pack is pretty disappointing even if the new version is an elf. Unfortunately, I doubt it will happen. Here's hoping, though.

*It would be Alpha, but two cards (Circle of Protection: Black and Volcanic Island) were accidentally left out of the set and were therefore technically new in Beta.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Quick Review of MegaMek

Last week, I discovered a game called MegaMek. For what it is, MegaMek is pretty decent. It recreates the old Battletech board game accurately. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I just can't get into it. I was really excited when I first found it, but after some time spent fiddling around with it, I have come to the conclusion that it just isn't for me.

I actually don't think it has anything to do with the game itself or the interface. The problem is that, without any real face to face human interaction, the Battletech game itself is pretty bland. In order to really enjoy this game, it would need eye-popping graphics (which wouldn't be true to the board game genre) or... well... I can't think of anything else that would make a Battletech game fun enough to play on the computer. According to the Wikipedia article, there is a 3d version in development. That might do the trick.

All in all, I have to give the creators of MegaMek credit. I think they have achieved (or are very close to achieving) what they set out to do. It is a solid game. I just can't get into it on a computer screen.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Black Knight in Standard Again

I'm not sure how I missed this when I posted a few days ago that Duress and the planeswalkers will be making a triumphant return in 2010. Black Knight will be coming back too, and that's almost as awesome. There's only one problem with Black Knight... he's tough to splash in green.

Unfortunately, I seem to get in the habit of getting really excited about efficient cards returning in a core set and then never get to use them because they just don't fit in the decks I enjoy or they get trumped by an even more efficient (or versatile) alternative in an advanced set that is released shortly after the newest core set.

Here's hoping I get to actually play this old favorite.

Big, Sprawling, Dwarven City Map

I still have a soft spot for Dylvwyllynn, the ruined dwarven city described in Shards of the Day (Dungeon #60). Although I had been playing D&D for years at this point and had read numerous issues of Dragon Magazine, #60 was the first issue of Dungeon Magazine I had ever purchased... and I loved it. I never actually ran the adventure, but at the time my group was running an Underdark campaign and I used the setting on several occasions. If I remember correctly, one of those times it was to hunt down the renegade drow in Dylvwyllynn (House Ramma) and another time it was to find and destroy a band of derro (which wasn't detailed in the adventure, but there is plenty of space on the map to add your own stuff).

The coolest part about the adventure was the huge sprawling ruined city that you could build with tiles if you photocopied the pages enough times. I never mapped out the whole city with photocopied tiles, but I did do small sections as best as I could. Now, looking back on those days, I wish I had owned a scanner and a computer capable of handling gigantic image files. It would have been really cool to have had this back then:

 
Since I'm a teacher, I wind up with a ton of free time in June and July, and this little project took me the better part of a day two years ago. My intent was to make a real map and then convert everything to 3rd edition to run in a campaign sometime. Scanning the pages took only a few minutes. The hard part was getting the tiles cleaned up, rotated correctly, and positioned together so that the whole map could be viewed as a whole. Most of the hexes now look like circles of connected rooms, but that's okay. I bet you can't guess what I did with the map when I finished?

If your guess had anything to do with using it in a campaign, guess again. I quickly found that updating the adventure to 3rd edition was such a pain in the butt that it just wasn't worth it. But I still loved the location and had spent too much time on the map to abandon the project completely, so I saved it and held on to it. And last weekend, while digging through old files on my computer, I ran across it and got excited all over again.

Converting old stuff to 4E is a lot less time consuming... and it is almost summer time again...

Friday, May 8, 2009

MegaMek: A BattleTech Video Game... for Free?!

A BattleMech depicted on the cover of Maximum ...Image via Wikipedia
Okay, I'm more than a little excited about this post over on starbrightillustrations.com. Why? Because there's a link to MegaMek. What makes MegaMek so cool? Its a BattleTech clone you can download for FREE!

I don't have too much else to say about this one because it just finished downloading and I'm anxious to try it out. I'll post whether this is as cool as I think it will be as soon as I get a chance.
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Freakin' Awesome: Duress Back in Standard

According to the MtGSalvation Spoilers, Duress will be returning to standard in 2010. I've missed the old first turn hand disruption bomb, and I'm not just happy that it is returning to standard. I'm stoked that it will stay in extended for quite a while longer as well.


But Duress isn't the only goodie making a reappearance in 2010. The original planeswalkers look to be returning as well, and that's good news. Garruk Wildspeaker is still a little too expensive for my tastes, but he might be a worthy investment knowing that he'll be back next year. Of the other four, I either already have them or I'm not all that impressed. Woooohoooo!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Problems Canceling a D&D Insider Account? I Canceled Mine Accidentally...

I don't know if it is still an issue for anyone or not, but I remember reading at one point that quite a few D&D Insider subscribers were trying to cancel their membership (or at least stop it from renewing) and were unable to do so. I managed to cancel mine in three easy steps, although step 2 was the only one I had much choice in. (Warning: Following these steps may hurt your credit score!) Here goes:

  • Step One: Get targeted by someone trying to steal your debit card information.
  • Step Two: Get a new debit card with a new card number.
  • Step Three: Forget that you used that debit card for your D&D Insider subscription and wait for it to expire.

Success! D&D Insider account canceled!


Well, I guess you could call it a success if canceling the account was your intent. I didn't intend to. In fact, I'm about to renew by subscription (and switch to the yearly payment cycle).

In any case, this may very well be the worst way to end your D&D Insider subscription... but I know for a fact that it works.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May and Beyond Previews

I know these articles are purely advertisements, but dang it, I like 'em. I like getting excited about the new books coming out soon. In this preview article, Bart Carroll gives us a glimpse of Monster Manual Dangerous Delves, Monster Manual 2, Eberron Player's Guide, Divine Power, Eberron Campaign Guide, and some adventures I'll probably never purchase.

Random thoughts on these products:
  • I like that the new miniature sets are tied in name to books. Knowing that I won't get stuck with a bunch of Tordek duplicates if I buy a few packs is definitely a step in the right direction. I'm also glad to see that I actually like some of the monsters previewed in this article. I was woefully unimpressed with the Players Handbook Heroes sets. That Bonechill Chimera is nice...
  • Monster Manual 2 will probably be a no-purchase for me. I spend a lot more time on pages 184-185 of the Dungeon Masters Guide than I ever spend in the Monster Manual.
  • I've never actually played an Eberron campaign, but I like some of the material and our games potentially draw from every setting imaginable (usually Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, but sometimes oddities like Spelljammer or Dark Sun). I doubt I'll get the Eberron Campaign Guide, but I'll at least make use of the Eberron Players Guide updates in the Character Builder even if I don't purchase the book.
  • Divine Power should be interesting, but my group doesn't play many divine characters. Even when one is present, it is usually an NPC filling in as a healer. I can say that I liked reading the history for the Raven Queen. I hadn't seen her origins fleshed out before now, and while the story neither excites me nor disgusts me (indifference might be the word I'm looking for here), it is good to see more details.
New stuff is always cool... and with retraining, new stuff is even cooler because you might not need to roll up a new character to use it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Success with Pen and Paper Games

I've never been much of a convention kind of guy, and normally when I'm around the local gaming store I'm there for Magic: The Gathering. For these reasons, and maybe some others I failed to mention, I have never played a D&D game with people I didn't already know. When I first cut my teeth as a DM, I was in sixth grade and the guys I gamed with were friends from school, but even then we had usually played sports together before we played D&D together. Since that group dissolved, the majority of the players at my table have been family.

It looks like I might soon break that streak, though. I joined penandpapergames.com several months ago and created a profile, never thinking that anyone would pay much attention to me. However, just recently I received a PM from another member about a 4E game starting up a half-hour or so away from home and I jumped on the opportunity.

I'm still trying to decide what to play. I've recently been on a dwarf kick, but I have very few decent looking dwarf minis to choose from. I might go with one of the character ideas from one of my old posts (Talon Ebonblade, Bofin Battlesinger, Moro Dwor, or Tilloch Blayder), but I might just go with something very simple and straightforward since this group hasn't played 4E before. Maybe a dwarf warlord?

Either way, I'm excited...
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