30 September 2013

The Might of Gods Cannot Be Quantified by Mortals

As much as I prize my mint condition copy of Deities & Demigods (with the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan Mythos intact), and as much as I enjoy the illustrations, I find its gaming content mostly useless. I do not endorse the treatment of gods as mere monsters (unless it is a monster being worshipped as a god), nor do I approve of describing them with statblocks, especially if they purport to quantify their attributes on the same scale as player characters. No god in any world of mine will deign to be compared to mortals. Any mortals in my campaigns will either be unaware that they have encountered a god (for it is said they walk amongst us in disguise when it suits them) or they will be awestruck. Watch Jason and the Argonauts (1963) for a lesson in how to handle such encounters.

Nonetheless, it is interesting and informative to know how the attributes of gods compare with one another on their own scale without tempting players to see them as potential experience point awards. To this end, I recommend describing their attributes in Fudge terms. Fudge uses adjectives instead of hard numbers to compare traits (attributes, skills, and sometimes powers). Traditionally, it uses the following progression:

Superb
Great
Good
Fair
Mediocre
Poor
Terrible

Scale is used with Mass, Strength, and Speed to further differentiate beings. A pixie, for instance, is on an entirely different scale than a human being, but their attributes would still range from Terrible to Superb in comparison to one another. By that same logic, gods within a pantheon may vary in strength, wisdom, charisma, etc., but the weakest of them will still be capable of crushing the strongest mortal like an ant.

To illustrate the possibilities, here are four Greek gods and their basic attributes (all of which are Scale: Divine).

Athena

Strength: Fair
Intelligence: Superb
Wisdom: Superb
Dexterity: Good
Constitution: Good
Charisma: Superb

Aphrodite

Strength: Mediocre
Intelligence: Fair
Wisdom: Mediocre
Dexterity: Good
Constitution: Good
Charisma: Superb

Ares

Strength: Great
Intelligence: Mediocre
Wisdom: Poor
Dexterity: Great
Constitution: Great
Charisma: Great

Hephaestus

Strength: Superb
Intelligence: Superb
Wisdom: Good
Dexterity: Great (manual dexterity); Terrible (agility)
Constitution: Good
Charisma: Poor

Role-playing the interaction of gods with one another can be accomplished by using the basic Fudge rules, which can be obtained for free at Fudgery.net (my own Fudge site) or FudgeRPG.com.

29 September 2013

By the Book or House Rules

I am on the verge of beginning a fresh campaign to introduce some new players to Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons, and I am facing a difficult decision: Should I play strictly by the book or should I use my preferred house rules (both my own and some I've discovered in the OSR Web logs of others)? If the former, then I will be exposing them to a "pure" D&D experience. It may be less forgiving and it may make less internal sense due to inconsistencies, but they will understand the game's inherent strengths and weaknesses better. (The lie to this is that, as far as I know, no DM outside of official tournament play has ever run D&D 100% by the book.) If the latter, then their first experience may be smoother and potentially more interesting. If I choose the latter, should I tell them which rules are house rules, or would that distract and/or confuse them? Comments are welcome (as always, but here they are especially appreciated).

22 September 2013

Monster: Karpitrax

Attention! The following is for GM eyes only. If you wish to encounter this creature as a player, do not read this article.


21 September 2013

Table: Post-Apocalyptic Sorcerer Apparel

In the Post-Apocalyptic Sorcerer Construction Kit, I mentioned that two tables from The Dungeon Dozen reminded me more of sorcerers from Thundarr the Barbarian rather than the creations of bio-sorcerers. Synthetic Humanoids 3: The Outer Crust, however, reminds me more of the servants, slaves, or unfortunate victims it is intended to generate. This requires me to provide my own table for outfitting evil sorcerers in the fashion that truly reflects their inner megalomaniac. Hence...


Post-Apocalyptic Sorcerer Apparel

Roll 1d20

  1. Battle harness and cloak.
  2. Clothing from a costume shop.
  3. Formal attire circa 20th Century.
  4. Form-fitting leather armor.
  5. Furs and recycled armor.
  6. Futuristic clothing constructed of linked plastic squares.
  7. Gauze wrapping. (Additional costume optional.)
  8. Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts (or muumuu).
  9. Hazmat suit.
  10. Jumpsuit and bionic exoskeleton.
  11. Lab coat.
  12. Medieval armor.
  13. Power armor.
  14. Pressure suit.
  15. Robe decorated with arcane symbols.
  16. Silk clothing and high-collared cape.
  17. Stylish silver suit (reflects lasers).
  18. Surgeon's scrubs.
  19. Toga.
  20. Tunic.

Numerical Alignment System

I have never fully approved of alignments in role-playing games except in settings where the struggle of Law versus Chaos is tangible (as in some of the novels of Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock), although I have tried to make them work to some degree in Dungeons & Dragons even when the setting's moral landscape is less black & white (out of respect to the game's tradition, if nothing else). Occasionally, however, a gamer with a Web log has a new perspective on alignment that makes me want to give it a test run. New Alignment System for Labyrinth Lord from Digital Orc is one such article. I might have to give it a go.

19 September 2013

Hoist the Jolly Roger

In observance of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, my crew and I will be taking a nautical sabbatical 'til the morrow. Meanwhile, enjoy this fine sea chanty. (And if ye be looking fer "something a little less piratey," then shove off, landlubber, whilst ye still can. ARRRRRR!)


18 September 2013

Post-Apocalyptic Sorcerer Construction Kit

These random generators from The Dungeon Dozen are for generating "synthetic humanoids" for whatever warped purpose a "bio-sorcerer" might have, but my own favorite warped purpose (and what the potential results most remind me of) is for creating the sort of evil sorcerers themselves that appear in Thundarr the Barbarian. They are perfect for use with Gamma World, Mutant Future, Barbarians of the Aftermath, Cartoon Action Hour, and, of course, Under the Broken Moon. In fact, some of the results are not unlike certain Marvel villains and could be used with any number of superhero role-playing games.

[Edit: Terrible Eyes also seems appropriate for this villainous kit. I wouldn't use it for every post-apocalyptic sorcerer, though. Maybe one in five.]