Friday, March 25, 2011

Converting to Tunnels & Trolls - Part 2 - Monster Rating

As I continue to tackle the issue of MR and monster toughness, the one thing that continues to trip me up is the lack of consistency within the published T&T rules system, at least in my mind. I may be alone in this. Some conversation about this can be found here.

A few things that are crossing me up are:

1. The Adjustable MR theory

I understand that basic premise of MR within the T&T rules; for any monster that you want to use, add up the number of dice your party of delvers is rolling and base the monster rating off of this. If you have a party that is rolling 20 Dice with their weapons, make your Troll a 192 MR Troll that would be rolling 20 Dice +96 adds because this would represent a fair fight or challenge. But - should a troll ever be a 200 MR monster? Is a troll a base 100 MR monster, but a well trained Troll could be a bit higher MR, or 200MR?. The 'adjustable' MR system makes some sense, but it is overly simplistic, especially when considering that based on these rules, the number of combat adds is equal to half the MR for the monster.

To me, an orc is an orc, an ogre should be an ogre, and a giant ant should be a giant ant. A minimum for a monster should or needs to be consistent, or at least it will be in my game. Which brings me to my second point...

2. Lack of consistent description of size

How big is a troll? How big is a giant? How big is a Giant Ant? It is a common, oh so common, trait in T&T rules to leave things very vague, I am assuming by design.

Amphisbaena, MR 98
A 'large, two-headed serpent...': that is it. 30 feet long, 40 feet long? How large is large? It has a monster rating of 98, so it must be pretty freaking large, right? But wait - it gets better. "If captured, tamed, and subsequently worn by a pregnant woman, a live amphibaena guarantees healthy children, most likely twins".


A 98 MR monster can be worn around the neck of a (what I am assuming) a normal sized woman for a healthy child? So that brings this wonderous snake back down to a size between what, 5 and 10 feet?

There is no consistent description of size whatsover in this book (Monsters and Magic Book, Special Edition) that came with the 7.5 boxed set. Below is a list of the first 10 or so monsters (non-human) in the book along with the closest thing to describing size in the text:

Amphisbaena (MR 98) - "large"
Barghest (MR 196) - "monstrous"
Cerberus (MR 145) - "three-headed watchdog"
Chimera (MR 147) - "fearsome mixture of lion, goat, and serpent"
Cyclops (MR 245) - "giants"
Dire Bat (MR 95) - "these giant bats often have wingspan of 5 feet or more"
Dire Lion (MR 148) - "massive creatures nearly 9 feet tall at the shoulder"
Dire Wolf (MR 95) - "massive"
Dragonling (MR 25) - "humanoid...diminutive"
Goblinkin (MR 294) - no description
Harpy (MR 245) - "lower body of predatory bird with head and chest of a terrible woman"

From this short list - I have 2 monsters I definitely know how big they are. From the rest I know that I don't want to mess with a Goblinkin because "they are evolved and warlike unlike their hunchbacked cousins" (and then some obviously with a MR 294) - I just don't know how big they are?

My point - is there a point? I know that 'Massive' means 9 feet tall at the shoulder, and giant means a 5 foot wingspan - but that is about it...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Evil Dead: The Musical

The Valentine Theatre in Toledo is one of those truly historic places - rescued from years of neglect and restored to its former glory. Evil Dead: The Musical had been playing at the Valentine in February and March - albeit in a small black box theater converted from an old storage room - in all its over the top blood spurting glory.

I saw the show on its opening weekend, and was also in attendance for the last show of the run. The cast seemed even more enthusiastic as they took the audience through the journey of 5 college kids staying at a cabin in the woods with side splitting songs like "What The F*** Was That", "Stupid Bitch", and "All the Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons".

If you are a fan of Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, dark comedy in general, and if you like show tunes - the cast will be returning in October for 16 more shows in Downtown Toledo. I will be there in the front row, happily parked in the blood spray zone. All 15 shows in the first run sold out - this is a definite must see.

Sample some of the songs here - Evil Dead: The Musical (2006 Original Off-Broadway Cast)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Converting to Tunnels & Trolls - Part 1 - Lots of 6-sided dice

Whether it be work or play, I have a tendency to try to understand something from top to bottom before I can really move forward. I have played T&T a total of 3 sessions with Tom 'Kopfy' Loney as my GM. As a T&T player, I am still a novice. As a GM, I am a mere babe. I have been running AD&D campaigns for over 20 years.

My first hurdle as a GM (in my mind) is the whole d6 thing. If I am running a party of 4 delvers and they are facing a group of monsters that total 30MR - I as the GM would be rolling 15-18 d6 for every combat round. As a player - it is OK to individually roll your attacks, add up your hits, add to that your combat adds, and then discuss with your party what your total is. As the GM - rolling 16 dice, adding them all up, counting all the spite - seems to me that it would get quite tedious as the rounds click by.

So - my first official work for my T&T game (I am sure this has been done by someone else with much more experience) was to create a table to simplify the dice rolls for the GM in combat.

I need to test it a bit - roll some big groups of dice and see if what I have represents a realistic range of rolls. My thought is that if I can roll 2 dice instead of 15 dice - it will make things move a bit smoother.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Fictional Character Role Model

Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation) is my fictional character role model.

Ron Swanson Quotes

"I think the entire government should be privatized. Chuck E. Cheese could run the parks. Everything operated by tokens. Drop in a token, go on the swing set. Drop in another token, take a walk. Drop in a token, look at a duck."

"Strippers do nothing for me. I like a strong, salt of the Earth, self-possessed woman at the top of her field. Your Steffi Grafs, your Sheryl Swoopeses, but I will take a free breakfast buffet anytime, anyplace."

"The whole point of this country is if you want to eat garbage, balloon up to 600 pounds and die of a heart attack at 43, you can! You are free to do so. To me, that's beautiful."

"What exactly will you be cutting? And how much of it, and can I watch you do it while eating pork cracklings?"

"I'm an official member of a task force dedicated to slashing the city budget. Just saying that gave me a semi."

"Right off the bat, we sell city hall. Let somebody turn it into a large gas station or a TJ Maxx"

"Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into Swansons."

"Well, I am not usually one for speeches. So, goodbye"

"The less I know about other people's affairs, the happier I am. I'm not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

While visiting my parents over the weekend, I was able to catch most of the Bogart classic movie 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'. I was amazed at how good a 63 year old black and white movie looked in HD - I don't know if there is some sort of conversion that is done - but it looked great.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

The story revolves around 3 guys that pool some money together to buy some prospecting gear, they go into the mountains, and they start panning for gold. As they start getting more and more gold, Bogart's character starts to fail his sanity saves and convinces himself that his partners want to steal away his share.

I could not help but think as I watched how this could really be a good RPG scenario - minus the drudgery of weeks spent panning for gold. One member of the group goes to town to get more supplies, prompting the attention of another prospector who follows him back to his camp. They are attacked by bandits, run across some locals in need of help with a drowning boy, and then turn on each other altogether as Bogart's character completes his spiral into insanity by shooting one of his partners.

A few times in the movie I turned to my mom to say 'he failed his save', but I knew I would have only confused her. This is also the movie with the famous line from the Mexican Bandit: "I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Devil in the White City

I was doing some research for my Savage Worlds Rippers Horror RPG and through a friend from the KFG (Kentucky Fried Gamers), I was refered to this book by Erik Larson. The unique feature of this one is that it tells two stories taking place in Chicago in the late 19th century - one regarding the Architects of the 1893 Chicago World Colombian Exposition; the other regarding one of the country's first serial killers - Dr. H. H. Holmes, aka Herman Webster Mudgett.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

The book is organized where every chapter switches between the events of the the chief architect of the Exposition, Daniel Burnham, and the exploits of the grifter and serial killer Mudgett. At first, I was anticipating that I would have to labor through the boring architectural anecdotes of the Exposition, but I was wrong. While I definitely looked forward to the next Mudgett entry, the organization and work behind the 1893 Exposition was equally interesting.

How do these two individuals connect? While the city of Chicago, still recovering from the recent fire of 1871, was planning the Exposition that needed to exceed the expectations of the 1889 Paris World's Fair, a mad man named Mudgett began a killing spree that still cannot be totally accounted for in body count. Mudgett built a "Murder Castle" that he used as a store front for his pharmacy business, and during the Exposition, as a hotel. This hotel was complete with air tight rooms used for gassing victims, a vault that was used for incinerating victims, and body chutes leading to the basement. Being a former medical student, Mudgett made alot of money in the underground business of selling dead bodies (skeletons for anatomy study) to medical universities.

You will also learn about many interesting facts from the 1893 Exposition including the story behind the Ferris Wheel, Dr Pepper, Shredded Wheat, and how the current Museum of Science and Industry resides in one of the only buildings from the Fair that is still standing today.