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Month: August 2008

The Inquisitor's Library: Portmortem

“And lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him.”

So that worked out pretty well. I wanted to run a grim, darkly complected game with veins of humor in the Warhammer 40K universe. Good match of setting and mood there. I got pretty much what I wanted. It took a bit of adjusting and shuffling and learning and talking to nail the mythos, but by the time we hit our stride it was awesome.

The goal was to do a tight series of self-contained missions. I knew this was going to be a short term game, but I didn’t want to run a whole story arc in three months, so I tried to treat it as a series of modules so that the end wouldn’t feel like we’d stopped in the middle. Also, I wanted to be able to pick it up again and run another one or two session bit sometime.

This sort of failed for two reasons. First, I couldn’t resist picking up some of the pieces of the first mission and turning them into an ongoing story. The spiders wanted to come back, and thus they did. The players should count themselves fortunate that I didn’t dump the Baron’s ghost on them, but frankly, he’s out there.

Layering in ongoing story elements also meant that I didn’t have to scrape to engage six players in the details of each mission. If the acolytes were heading to a feudal planet, say, I could drop in scenes growing out of the previous mission to give our tech priest some spotlight rather than carefully inserting a techie bit directly related to the matter at hand.

And the secret third reason is that I just couldn’t help it; it’s my best technique for giving a game texture. C’est la vie.

Six players is a lot, though. I should have run for five or four. On the other hand, if I ask myself who I’d leave out? Well, none of them. Er, none of you. Whichever. I enjoyed running for everyone and everyone liked playing. No good answers there.

Anyhow, the upshot is that I think I cut it to a fairly abrupt close. I thought about regearing for a story arc; I know where certain things are going. Perseus has a hopefully disturbing bit of news about the extent to which the five that is four has infested the Inquisitor’s Library and the denizens therein, for example. Also, to the best of my knowledge, the acolytes left Acreage without turning over some drugs to a certain person.

But I think it’d take another few months to play to a conclusion point. You don’t want to build the corruption too quickly. So cutting it now is the right move.

Also, I emphasize that the game was in my eyes a success. The system is a cranky old antique from the 80s that nonetheless works. Tweaking everyone’s weapon to be superior quality and reminding people of the aiming rules fixes combat ineptitude; treating failed rolls as successes with consequences takes care of the rest. And the combat is simple enough so that we could memorize how it works. I may have been getting a rule about Toughness wrong for the entire run, but if I did, I just made things more deadly.

The first mission hit an appropriate level of scariness. The second mission wasn’t meant to be scary, it was meant to be grueling. I think we got that nailed as well — the final combat sequence, when I just kept throwing waves of a few thugs at the PCs one at a time, with some PCs falling over into drugged hallucinations — that was meant to be grim and long and painful and I think it worked well without keeping our combat monsters from being scary. Hopefully it worked for the players as well.

All in all? Success. I am nothing but happy with the players, cause they gave me awesome stuff to work with. Discussion, feedback, and comments are welcome.

Filmspotting Marathons

I’ve been enjoying the Filmspotting podcast; decent opinions, good chemistry between the hosts, a wide variety of topics. One of the regular features is a movie marathon. Over the course of a month or two, they watch one movie per week from a given genre and comment on it. The idea is that listeners can follow along.

They just finished a heist marathon, and will be moving onto a 60s British Angry Young Men marathon in September, which sounds cool. So I’m gonna hop on board. I will no doubt post reviews here, and if anyone local’s interested in joining me and my Netflix queue for viewings, feel free to speak up.

For reference, the list:

  1. Look Back In Anger — Richard Burton and class warfare. A review of the original play coined the term “angry young men.” The play was filmed for television in 1979, with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, so I’m gonna watch that version too.
  2. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning — Albert Finney as an alienated factory worker.
  3. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner — a sports movie! Well, no, not really; it’s a movie about the oppressive nature of British society.
  4. The Sporting Life — Richard Harris, William Hartnell. More sports as the vehicle for social criticism.
  5. Billy Liar — early John Schlesinger, which is awesome by me.
  6. If… — classic allegory with Malcolm McDowell; directed by Lindsay Anderson, who also directed The Sporting Life, so it’ll be fun to compare. Really stoked for this.

World's Longest Dungeon

The moral equivalent of running World’s Largest Dungeon for 4e, at present, would be to just run the module series. WotC is gonna put out three modules for each tier; H1 and H2 are the first two for the Heroic tier, and when H3 comes out that’ll get a campaign to level 11. There’ll then be P1, P2, and P3; followed by E1, E2, and E3. These are all announced.

Each module comes with play maps. I mean, come on.

The Wages of Death Are Sin

As an entry in this month’s RPG Carnival, I took a line of attack from Amagi Games; here’s a mini-system/technique for mechanically providing greater weight to the death of NPCs. This is sort of vaguely in the vicinity of being on-topic — the subject is character death, failing to specify player characters, after all. And undeath can be metaphorical. Or so I claim.

Following the cut, a list of steps.

Fall Movies

For reference.

Quantum of Solace
Synecdoche, New York
W. (if I get to it)


Frost/Nixon, depending on reviews

The Wrestler
The Brothers Bloom

Slumdog Millionaire

RPG Carnival

The Core Mechanic wants to get an RPG Carnival started, which is pretty cool. Carnival, in blog terms, is a once a month thing where a lot of different blogs write on a topic and the host does a big wrapup post linking to all of them. Generally the host changes each month. I thought about doing one at 20×20, but by the time I had the idea I’d run out of steam.

The theme of the month is character death and resurrection. I’ll be trying to come up with something smart to say.

THAC0 Updated

The new version is pretty usable. The author fixed the issue of slider feedback, so it’s possible to be precise about how many dice you’re rolling. There’s also a new feature allowing you to auto-tally rolls equal to or higher than a target number. Finally, you can double-tap dice to hold them and reroll the unheld dice, which is cute.

At this point I’d say THAC0 is a good choice for die pool games, and D20 Dice remains optimal for other uses. I’d still like to see THAC0 have some sort of display of die type so you know if you’re rolling d10s or d6s or what, but in practice you’ll usually know.