Saturday, August 22, 2015

Movie: The Admiral: Roaring Currents

Okay, so I had some time to movie watch tonight and spotted this Korean film called "The Admiral: Roaring Currents".  It is based on the actual battle of Myeongnyang in 1597. 

Now, in the past I've found Korean films to be hit or miss.  Either they're kind of awful or really good.  Luckily this one turned out to be one of the really good ones.  As a historical war movie you've got tons of scenes of serious-looking dudes in cool-looking armor all over the place.

  The ships were very cool and actually looked like something you might want to fight in, as opposed to some of the silly designs you see in fantasy films.

And the battle scenes were great, particularly the desperate boarding melees.

[All images from random internet sites]

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Some thought on using Hero Lab at the table...

Okay, so last night we had another of our rare but much anticipated sessions of our buddy Steve's campaign.  As with most of our group's fantasy genre games we're using Pathfinder.  Our group generally likes and is comfortable with very crunchy systems like Pathfinder and Mutants & Masterminds.  Crunchiness means a lot of record-keeping and fact-checking when building and leveling characters and so Lone Wolf Development created Hero Lab is a great tool for PF.  For Steve's game, and mine to a lesser extent, we're almost all using Hero Lab for our characters.

Hero Lab is almost as massive and crunchy as Pathfinder.  It supports other games as well but I've only really used it for Pathfinder (and indirectly for Mutants & Masterminds).  So it is a great tool for managing the crunch overload of Pathfinder.  It can be used not only by players to build and level their characters but for GMs to make NPCs.  GMs can also load in the players' .por character files, sent via email or Dropbox, for reference and thus make notes real time during play, such as during combat.

But this is where Hero Lab fails to keep up.  During combat there are situational modifiers, spell modifiers, spells and arrows expended, hit points lost, hit points healed, etc.  Unfortunately all of that has to be laboriously entered by hand for each and every PC and NPC each round, round after round.  The program hold and tracks all of that very well but it's just too damn slow to operate.

Combat can be a wearying grind in may systems and Pathfinder is on the edge here.  You can fudge stuff and push things along to keep up a pace (like I usually do), or you can go by the book and make sure every T is crossed and every +1 accounted for.  Using Hero Lab naturally moves you in the direction of the T-crossing approach.  That's not a wrong thing, because the rules are actually written that way, but by actually slowing combat down Hero Lab becomes sort of an anti-aid.

I suppose the obvious cure is to go full 21st century and have every player equipped with a computing device connected to the GM's.  That way the data entry work is distributed  and all data shows on everyone's copy with only one person entering any one bit of data.  This character casts a buff, notes it as cast in Hero Lab, checks the boxes for all other characters affected, and clicks "send" or something about like that.  Almost everyone in our group has a device or could borrow one so that will work for us if the folks at Lone Wolf Development decide to add networking in the future.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: Ronden Marr Campaign Setting Player's Guide by Jesse Morgan

(Okay, so I need to start this review off with the disclosure that I was one of the people on Google+ providing feedback and suggestions to Jesse as he crafted this nice bit of work.  He kindly included me in the credits with the other helpers.  Although I got a pdf of the final product free from the author I bought a publication copy anyway to express my support for the project.)

Ronden Marr is a campaign setting for a fantasy RPG.  It is a generic setting not tied to any specific game system.  This first publication is the Player's Guide, a 77-page pdf available at  Even though it is a player's guide it provides a complete enough description of the central setting (the underground city of Ronden Marr) that a GM could base a game on it.  Additional core documents are planned, as well as adventures and some D&D 5th Edition specific rules; there is a Patreon available if you want to help the project along.

The setting is the underground city of Ronden Marr.  Originally it was a dwarf city but a devastating calamity rendered the surface of the world too hot to inhabit.  Refugees of many other races were allowed in.  As far as its current inhabitants know this overcrowded city is the only remaining inhabited place left in the world.  The city has had a bloody history since then, with uprisings, genocide, enslavements, and now a brutally enforced peace.  Below the city is The Undercavern, a deep, dark place filled with dangerous creatures but much potential.  (I think Ronden Marr can be run as-is out of the box just fine or you could plop it into an isolated corner of your existing world with some adaptation.)

The player's guide posits that the characters will either be "consultants" who serve as oath-sworn troubleshooters for the dwarf overlords or be "freelancers" who make a living doing odd jobs which often require not asking too many questions.  There are plenty of adventure hooks to keep the players busy no matter which path they take.

It's an interesting campaign world in one compact, well-written pdf.  At just $1.99 you can't go too wrong getting yourself a copy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

FFTA School Hack - The White Monk Class

Okay, so I just thought I'd throw out an Old School Hack version of one of my favorite jobs (classes) from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance: the White Monk.  In FFTA this class can only be taken by Bangaa race characters but this one is non-specific.

White Monk

- A White Monk is a martial artist specializing in using holy chakra energies to vanquish evil and heal the suffering.  Their style has a focus on hand techniques using different styles of clawed gloves.

Classic Weapon: clawed gloves (many types available).

Whirlwind/focus-encounter: gathering momentum with bold spinning movements you strike all enemies around you; allows the monk to make one attack against up to four adjacent enemies, but with -1 to each attack after the first.

Air Render/focus: you project a bolt of chakra energy at one creature up to 30 feet away; allows you to make a normal attack as a ranged attack instead; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus.

Earth Render/encounter-focus: you channel chakra into the earth to activate elemental Earth energy; blasts Earth and chakra energy up from the ground in a 30 foot long patch out from the monk; each creature on that path must pass an Awareness check or suffer 1 wound; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus.

Far Fist/rested-focus: a variant of the Air Render technique which causes a blast of chakra energy at 20 to 30 feet from the monk, injuring all those within a 10 foot radius; each creature in the blast radius is allowed an Awareness check to avoid injury; clawed gloves must be worn as a focus.

Holy Chakra Sign/rested-focus: by summoning your chakra energies and projecting them into a wounded or suffering creature you heal them of 1 wound and all diseases and temporary ailments (such a blindness, paralysis, etc.) no matter the source.

Exorcise/encounter-focus: striking a special holy stance you project your holy chakra energy outward, driving back undead; undead within 20 feet must pass a Commitment check or flee, not returning for 24  hours.
Clawed Gloves
The clawed gloves used by the White Monks come in a variety of styles and constructions.  They have claws, blades, and plates to protect the monk's hands and inflict greater damage.  Clawed gloves come in lighter leather types (counting as Light Weapons) and heavy metal gauntlet types (counting as Heavy Weapons).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

OMG, More Neo School Hack Stuff! The Knight

Okay, so I promised (well, not actually promised) that I was coming to the end of my Old School Hack/Neo School Hack design binge.  I mean, I can actually stop any time I want to--but just not yet.  So here's another class:

The Knight

- A knight is an aristocrat born and bred to be a warrior.  They are sent from home at an early age to be a squire at an allied household and train and learn the craft of war.  It is their way of life

Classic Weapon: Lance

Surely You Joust/constant: the Knight's favorite activity is jousting; you get +1 to attacks with a lance while riding a mount and +1 AC against jousting attacks while riding a mount.

Sword & Board/constant: the Knight's second favorite activity is melee combat with a shield and a one-handed weapon; in each combat round the Knight may choose to emphasize the weapon (+1 to hit) or the shield (+1 to AC).

Heraldry/constant: growing up in chivalric social circles a Knight learns to recognize heraldric coats of arms and similar devices; +2 to Awareness checks to know who a particular sign belongs to and a little bit about their background; the player also gets to design their own unique coat of arms for their family.

Under Armor/constant: the training of a Knight includes wearing armor and exercising in it constantly; you have the special encumbrance capacity of one extra Heavy Thing for the purpose of wearing armor or carrying a shield.

Courtly Love/focus-rested: a Knight is a lover as well as a fighter; +2 to attributes to romance the apple of your eye.

Falconry/focus: Knights love to go hunting when not jousting or romancing, especially the high class and expensive method using trained falcons; +2 to any attribute roll involving falconry; and you get one trained falcon and a basic set of gear (such as a glove, hood, lure, etc.) [Falcon: AC-10, 1 HP, 1 x 2d10 attack (claws) for 1 wound]

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Reaper Miniatures Bones 3: I'm In!

Okay, so Reaper Miniatures is running their third "Bones" Kickstarter offering a huge set of miniatures.  I was hesitant to join the first one as it seemed over-ambitious despite the massive response.  I joined the second one, adding several extra optional sets to the large core set.  It took quite a while to receive my shipment because the early shipping waves booked up early.  When my package arrived, however, I was quite pleased with the minis in every way.  So I jumped in on this one--but once again I'm in a later shipping wave (circa September 2016) due to massive response.  At the time I pledged there were already over 8,000 backers and over $836,000 on the site.  All the optional rewards are unlocked so the core set will be quite a plump morsel.

As an aside, I'm thinking that these Kickstarters must be huge windfalls for a small company like Reaper.  I certainly hope they spread that around by handing out some bonuses to all the employees.  When I get a bonus at work I like to give everyone in the family a share of it for random spending cash.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Criminey, more art.

Okay, so after months of sketching, looking for inspiration, and some desultory roughing out in pencil I finally put some paint on the dang canvas.  Yes, it's just slapping on some background but it's the principal of the thing.  The long white bits on the left will eventually be bamboo--haven't decided about any leafy bits yet--and the blank bit on the right will have my favorite Chinese chengyu phrase in gold.  The orange origami paper is just there to help with visualization, but I kind of like they way it looks anyway.