Thursday, February 22, 2018

Vornheim: The Complete City Kit Review Part One

     Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
     Art & Writing by Zak S.
     Published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess
     64 page Hardcover, also available as PDF

     For the TLDNR crowd I'll condense my first statement to this:

     I purchased Vornheim in January of 2013 and it changed and improved my games, more than any other gaming book I've read.  My only regret ends up being a personal one, in that I didn't learn about it and buy it sooner!

     How did it change your game Bast?
The timing of when I bought the book is important for context; it landed in my paws about five years into my flailing or failing Changeling: the Lost campaign.  It helped me streamline my NPC creation in the end months of running that campaign.  I'll elaborate on that in Part 2 of this review.

     Bast, you say Vornheim improved your games more than any other game book.  That's a strong claim.  Can you say more about how Vornheim can help someone who might be struggling with city portions of their TTRPG campaigns?
I think this question can be better served by re-appearing in Part 2 where I'll be explaining how I use Vornheim either in prep or at the table.  What I will say here in Part 1 is this book helped me to think more about information design.  Also, if you haven't gotten the memo: DIE DROP TABLES FUCKIN' RULE.

     This is a high quality book in physical form.  I've been bringing it to every game I've run since I started my LotFP campaign a few years ago.  It's one of my must haves for both prep and in-game.

     To purchase a physical (plus PDF) copy from Lamentations of the Flame Prince webstore

     If your are a digital only cat, you can get the PDF by itself from DriveThru RPG

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Upside of Burnout

Where are the extra character sheets at Vega?
 Or, a new DM emerges from the player pool to run their first game(s)!
2017 was a less consistent year of gaming than I would have liked in regards to the campaign(s) I've set out to run.  I was humming along through March, then as I was putting energy into starting a small business, I was unable to run games regularly through the late spring and whole summer. I hit the wall/got burnout/started suffering from "DM's Block" back in August/September of the year to kind of add to the mix.  At the same time it was the beginning of great new things for my gaming group.   One of my players stepped up and started running D&D 5e (the adventure from the starter set, Lost Mines of Phandelver) as their first foray into DMing.  On 12/10/17 we played our tenth session using that adventure material, and probably have about two more sessions of play by my guesstimate (I haven't read the adventure.)  It's been fun stepping out of the DM role for awhile and coming at things from a player's perspective!  And watching someone grow into being a good improvisational DM has me both impressed and inspired to get back to DMing soon.  After this 5e adventure wraps up, the plan is for me to run a one or two session game of Call of Cthulhu (6th edition... I've heard the editions 1-6 are congruent with each other and that 7th has made either a refinement on or departure from that through
line depending on who you listen to/read.)  This will be my first time running/playing CoC.  I've been enjoying Lovecraft's work for more than twenty years, so I'm quite excited to get my paws into this game!  After that wraps up, I want to get back to running my Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign "Year of the Goat."

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review Intent Statement

I wear my granny's sunglasses at night... AKA Bast lurks in former habitat, the Boreal Forest Biome

Two Years Ago I Started Mulling Over My Ideas For Reviews...

And came up with nothing earth shattering.  I did settle on how I want to do reviews on rpg books and accessories.  Two part (as in minimum two blog posts) in format; the first part being a review of the product in general and the second being a review of the product in play/use.  As I find a rhythm for writing these, I'll layer more onto this structure as needed.


 The list of materials up for review.  Order of list will not dictate order of review release.  List will be updated both with links to completed reviews and new materials to be reviewed.

-Back in my posts  I hinted at how I had used Vornheim By Zak S. in my Lamentations of the Flame Princess Campaign "Year of the Goat" and in the tail end of my Changeling the Lost Campaign "Bridge."  A closer look at how I used this book in those two systems... Forthcoming!
-I picked up Lamentations of the Flame Princess Free RPG Day 2013 release Better Than Any Man by James Raggi IV on Free RPG Day 2013 at the FLGS.  That was six months after buying Vornheim...
-N2 The Forest Oracle by Carl Smith claimed the first PC death in the game along with a slew of henchmen.  I felt like I did a lot of work to adapt this to my campaign, but I didn't really fuck with stats for monsters and NPCs...
-Red Tide by Kevin Crawford has seen extensive use, not for it's setting, but the Sandbox Structuring Advice and the site creation tables.
-LotFP Referee Book Grindhouse Edition by James Raggi IV.  The adventure at the back of this book kicked off my "Year of the Goat" Campaign! 
-LotFP Rules & Magic by James Raggi IV.  Short take: I own three physical copies, have both versions of the PDF (paid w/ art; free w/o art,) and it's the rules basis for my "Year of the Goat" Campaign. 
-Changeling the Lost 1st edition by White Wolf/CCP.  They've made another edition since my campaign went on hiatus/died.  I'll give you my thoughts on this edition.  It would have been interesting to have done a review of this before my foray into "Old School" or OSR or whatever the fuck it is I'm doing now.  Oh well.  I'm afraid to dive back into this material for fear of wanting to attempt some system hacking (I don't fear the creative engagement, but don't have the time or player interest for this game at this time.)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Changeling the Lost Campaign Post Mortem

"I Loot the Body!"  "No, I do!" "Fuck, I never get any loot."

My Changeling the Lost campaign started in 2008 and played until 2014, when it went hiatus.  I ran 22 sessions, averaging 3.6666666667 sessions a year.  Zak S's blog Playing D&D with Pornstars recent post, Old-Schooling the World of Darkness, is a response to a fan's query on how to make their NWOD game more Old School.  He does this with eight suggestions that really would have saved my Dungeon Master/Game Master/High Priest/ess of Sunday Morning Mind Cartoon-Puzzles/Storyteller/Keeper/WranglerofCats bacon.  In reading them today, I find that I actually nailed/pulled off/figured out/stole shamelessly a few of them.  In analyzing what I did and didn't have or manage in that campaign, I'm able to do a post mortem on why I thought that I floundered and ultimately put the game aside.

My CtL Campaign Notebook has been sad and lonely since 2014

1. Make sure they're fighting things that can kill them in like 2 hits

     Nope.  I was lousy at this.  One of the SAS (White Wolf term for adventure module) had a nasty Gentry IIRC, but I sucked at throwing enough big bad meanies at 'em when I was making my own material.  I thought of Raymond Chandler's advice all the time, foolishly not ever using it enough, lol.

 2. Make sure they are weak, hunted and isolated, but have a chance to tear it all down

     I had ebbs and flows with this.  The game setting bounced across the USA about 4 times so different places had different Changeling enclaves and other supernatural entities of a variety of densities/concentrations. 

3. Don't use the words

     I used all the words.  ALL THE WORDS.  Oops.

 4. Making preying on humans hard

     I did this ok.  I used the "you have to harvest the glamour you are emotionally attuned to" rule, and that automatically throttled down the human juice box effect.

 5. The story is that it's hard

     I did this well and there was some great play that emerged from characters' hardship.   Somehow I got better at this as I went and the players took their characters to cool levels of guttersnipe I couldn't have foreseen.

 6. Use historical and occult stuff

    This was another thing I pulled off.  Inspiration is everywhere. 

7. Actually be scary

     Sometimes the game was unnerving, unsettling, spooky, or tense.  I don't think I achieved scary with this:-(

 8. PS There is actually a version of Vornheim re-written specifically for Vampire

I picked Vornheim up in early 2013.  It was a revelation.  I used the connections between NPCs diagram, the I Loot the Body Table, and I used the Vornheim/Vampire version to make my own City NPC Table for one of the cities in my game.

Left: NPC Relationship Diagram.  Right: Map from the Salt Lake City portion of the campaign.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lamenting We Will Go

Mobile Campaign "Bag of Holding"
I've recently taken my gaming show one the road.  Here are the gaming materials I've brought along for the last few trips.

DM's Dice, players' dice, and writing instruments
Everything gets stuffed into a zippered pouch that measures 13 1/2" x 9 7/8".

Mobile Campaign Folder and The Doom Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children Module
 I bring a folder containing the relevant campaign notes, modules, and character sheets I anticipate I'll need.  There are also a few random and die drop tables printed out and tucked in the folder.

Boneworm the Mapbook

Campaign Notebook, LotFP Bookmarks
 Along with the campaign notes in the folder, there are the campaign notebook and mapbook (graph paper notebook.)  Yes, lol, I named that particular "mapbook" Boneworm.  I don't know why.

Campaign Notes and Character Sheets

Post-Its and 3x5 cards
DM's Dice
Rules and Magic! Get yours here!

  I bring along 3x5 cards, Post-It Notes, my DM Dice, three other sets of polyhedral dice, pens, and pencils.  Last, but certainly not least, Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Rules and Magic.  I have a hardcover copy, and if I'm dragging my tablet around, a pdf copy as well.  It can be handy to have more than one during character creation, but I don't think it's necessary for er'ybody to have a copy at the table.  My tablet also has Vornheim, an RPG tome I find useful for my city creation "style."  I will elaborate on my use of Vornheim in a FUTUREPOST.   Buy yours here!  So these were the tools of the trade for my last few trips up to Seattle.  One of those trips I got the coveted "table seat" all to myself on my train car and got to spread my campaign stuff out on it to work on the trip up!  So fucking gratifying!  My goal is to run a game on the train.  The adventure The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children was LotFP's 2014 Free RPG Day adventure.  I'm prepped to run it, but the characters aren't quite there on the map yet!  Expect a review of this, once I've run it;-)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The 40th Session of "The Year of the Goat Campaign"

The 40th Session was a Face Melter!

In early 2015, I began my LotFP campaign entitled "Year of the Goat."  This past Saturday evening I ran my 40th session, had a new player join the mix, and used a new (to me) character creation tool.

40th Session- The Away Game

In some team sports there exists the terminology of "Home Games" and "Away Games," I think the meaning might be obvious, but I'll explain in case you are even less of a SPORTSFAN than I consider myself to be.  Home Game = game played in home city, home field, or home court; Away Game = not played in home city, field, or court.  I define these terms in order to explain Session 40's differences to my previous 39 sessions.  Session 40 was an Away Game.  I have started working in a city about 2 1/2 hours from my home.  My work is flexible, but requires me to be physically present, so I travel from my area (rural NW Oregon) to my job's location (Seattle, WA) by train.  My two colleagues are both into various types of gaming.  One of them is actually an old friend and has played in my "Year of the Goat" campaign intermittently, the other had never played a tabletop RPG before Saturday.  From henceforth in this post, they will be referred to as New Player and Old Player.

Character Creation

New Player had gotten back from his shift, so we went out for Pho with Old Player, then came back to the shop and New Player was like "Hey, let's make characters!"  Old Player elected to keep his original character, and used the time I was helping New Player with character creation, to do more sketches of his character.  New Player clipped right along rolling ability scores, choosing a class (Magic-User,) and making the d20 roll for the randomly chosen spell (Faerie Fire.)  He patiently waited for me to figure out how to properly use the equipment die-drop table that I had downloaded awhile back.  I had done a light amount of prep for this game, which DID NOT include me mastering the equipment die-drop table like I had intended to do.  After New Player had filled everything out he needed to on his character sheet, he had a character named Bloodfart, a 100 year old Magic-User (Level 1) with the freebie spell, Read Magic, and the randomly rolled for spell, Faerie Fire.  Old Player's character is Flavius, a 24 year old Specialist (Level 2) who grew up in the sewers and lava tubes of the capitol city of Chizhova.  Flavius had been abandoned in the capitol city of Chizhova by the "Party," to run the brothel that they had acquired while on a side quest of sorts.  The "Party" is comprised of Home Game's PC's/NPC's.  So I had these two players establish how their characters knew each other (they both like to hang out in the sewer and both have Black Market contacts) and we started the session.
Bloodfart loves a good Long Island Iced Tea!

Actual Play Notes from Flavius' previous sessions aka Chizhova's Current State of Affairs

In Flavius' previous session, he and the "Party" had been trying to solve this Mimic Crisis that's occurring in my campaign world.  Some distractions in the form of Lizardmen under the city, led them to a bewildering alliance with a resurrected Lizardman godling, a Lizardman shaman, and a Psychic Iguana.  Psychic Iguana's motivations being as murky and strange as they were, the "Party" dealt peacefully with him and the remaining Lizardmen.  Psychic Igauna rewarded the "Party" by leaving a deed to a building across the street from the inn they had been staying at while in Chizhova.  The building turned out to be a former brothel called "The Starving Darling."  After a quick day of R&R, the "Party" minus Flavius, resume this pursuit of Mimic Eradication or whatever, and leave the capitol city.  None of the "Party" were as excited as Flavius was about the brothel, and he was out scouting for employees to get it up and running again, when they were deciding to go back to report the latest happenings to their bishop (a good chunk of "Party" are clerics of The Church of the Covenant aka The Church of George the Dragonslayer.)  So Flavius comes back from the brothel employee scouting mission to find a note from the "Party" informing him they went back to Tragidore to check in with their bishop.  Flavius doesn't have enough scratch to hire employees, yet, so he plans to do his own performances until he can hire some staff.

In which we meet Bloodfart, see Flavius schemes become a reality and leave town

 Flavius resumes the scouting by popping into the sewers and running into his old acquaintance, Bloodfart, who is enjoying the ambiance of "The Stink Drink," a bar located in the Black Market Cave in the Chizhova sewer system.  "The Stink Drink," run by Woody, is tiny, only seating 3 at the bar itself.  Bloodfart is deep into the Long Island Iced Teas and Dried Baby Dick Snacks when Flavius shows up talking about his brothel running ambitions.  Flavius chats with the bartender, trying to get more information about the Mimic Stuff, but Woody only has the same rumors that Flavius is already familiar with (Mimic activity in a magic school in next large city over.)  Bloodfart is intrigued by Flavius' ideas for sex shows, and agrees to use his spell Faerie Fire to enhance Flavius' performances.  After several more drinks, they leave "The Stink Drink" to go to a bar in the docks area called "The Rotten Stump," which is much larger and busier.  Flavius is able to cut through the crowd up at the bar and get much faster service than anyone, as he is on friendly terms with Yelyzaveta the bartender and owner.  He buys Krym Ale by the bucket (10 servings) so as not to have to deal with the crowd again anytime soon, and his table becomes a magnet for Frito and Anya*, who are thirsty and too impatient to wait in line up at the bar.  Always the entrepreneur, Flavius charges 2cp for what you could buy for 1cp up at the bar.  Flavius and Bloodfart persuade Frito, his friend Dolman, and Anya* to follow them to the brothel for the show.  Along the way they stop at the "Inn of the Stealing Fat Golem" located across the street from "The Starving Darling."  More drinks are had and more audience members for the sex show are rounded up (two elderly ladies named Beatrice and Vix.)  Flavius takes Bloodfart and the audience across the street to the brothel and into the Stable Room (this brothel has theme rooms.)  The only "furniture" in the Stable Room is a stuffed horse.  Flavius gets naked, gets hard, Bloodfart casts Faerie Fire on Flavius' genitals, and Flavius fucks the stuffed horse.  The audience enjoys the spectacle and afterwards, the elderly ladies get a "private show" from Bloodfart in one of the other rooms (Beach Room.)  4 out of 5 of the audience members agree to came back for a show the next evening, promising to bring friends along.  Flavius is intoxicated by his new enterprise and Bloodfart is intoxicated because he never stops drinking alcohol.  Deciding to spice things up a bit, Flavius purchases a dog to use in the show instead of the stuffed horse.  Other changes to the show: it is held in the salon/main room of the brothel, Flavius has it catered by "The Inn of the Stealing Fat Golem," and he increases the ticket price from 5cp to 1sp.  This show brings in enough income for Bloodfart to do a little shopping, then these two hop on a wagon to Gusakov to investigate Mimic happenings at "The Orange Institute of Arcane Pursuits."

Tools and Tool Users 
A few months ago, I ran across this die drop table for equipment generation.  I had meant to do a sample equipment generation on my own, so I wouldn't look like a fool pulling this out the first time at the table, but I didn't.  It wasn't that big a deal to figure out on the fly and Bloodfart's player seemed content with what he generated.  It's usable in more than one way (just like all the best tools in life, really); it can be a die drop table or it can be a classic random table! 

In Conclusion

At one point we were all laughing so much we were crying.  The only game I had ever run outside my home environment prior to this session was a LotFP Free RPG Day Demo, a very compressed one-shot.  I know I can run longer, more involved material with new players, now.  I've never had more than one group mucking about in my campaign world before!  I have wanted to run separate groups in a shared world for a number of years, and now that it's finally happening, I'm over the moon!  If I had this to do over again, I would have done a die drop table run through on my own, so I wouldn't fumble so much using the tool in front of my players.  The players were nice enough to throw their own hook out there, too.  I don't remember the exact quote so I'll paraphrase "Besides lighting up the genitals, will Faerie Fire do any permanent damage to him?"  This was asked after the second performance.  LOL!  The good ones do the work for you;-)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Free RPG Day 2016 Loot

Free RPG Day 2016 Loot

On Free RPG Day 2016, I ran two game demos at my FLGS and that earned me four tokens which I could use to pick what I wanted from certain piles of loot.  I didn't reserve the module (Slugs) I wanted really badly; it had run out before I showed up to run my games.  An employee at FLGS hunted around and found someone who could be talked into giving me Slugs.  I offered that awesome person the Mutant Crawl Classics module The Museum at the End of Time.  So this is the list of what came home with me, and a few comments on each.

1.  Dungeons & Dragons (4th Edition) Adventure "Bloodsand Arena"
My comments:
This is from Free RPG Day 2010.
It might be missing a pack of pre-gens?  Not a big deal for me.  I've never played 4th ed, just mine it for ideas/maps/whatever.
It is for Dark Sun, a setting I really got into back in the 2E days.

2. Free RPG Day 2016 Pencil
My comments:
This little guy was netted with my 3rd or 4th token.  By then the pile was getting thin.

3. Lamentations of the Flame Princess "Slugs!"
My comments:
Thank you, person who traded me for MCC!  You know who you are.
Lets be honest here.  This is why I signed up to run demos.
It's a bestiary.  Yaaaassssss!

4. Munchkin Card "Cash Cow"
My comments:
I own Munchkin.
I have never played Munchkin.
Now I have a bonus card.
See comments item #2.

I wanted to add that I thought the MCC module was compelling enough for the few minutes it was in my hot little hands, that I ended up supporting the MCC Kickstarter that occurred not too long after Free RPG Day 2016.