Jeff's blog

It's a Weight Thing

In a recent blog post at Tenkar’s Tavern, I was reminded of an old Dragon article about How many coins in a coffer. When I first read the article back in the 80’s, it sort of blew my young little mind. Funny thing is that re-reading it today, it still sort of blows my mind. It was however Tenkar’s calculation of 20x20 room filled one foot deep with copper pieces that really got me to think about this article. By his calculations the weight would have been something like 138 tons.

That of course got me thinking,on the podcast we have talked about encumberance. If memory serves most of us didn’t really use any of the encumberance rules in question. Of course one side effect of this is that we don’t keep track of how much money we are carrying. It could be 1 gold piece to 30,000 gold pieces and we sort of forget about it. One has to wonder, if even if we generally ignore encumberence, should we ignore the issues of coins as well?

I think most people sort of just view the coins that they have on their character sheet sort of like a bank account balance. It’s the mathematical amount but not how it’s physically allocated. So if a character had say 5000 gold pieces, that could be gold pieces, gems, platinum pieces, or anything else. Even if they do consider it, they typically will convert the monetary amounts as needed without thinking about how difficult it might be to actually do. It’s like we expect people to always be able to make change or something. The item costs a silver piece, you give the poor broke farmer one platinum piece and he gives you change back, now back to the adventure.

Do we lose out by not considering the weight of coins? At the very least, should we consider the amount? Is that the answer, just allow the characters to carry only so many coins? Funny thing is that early encumbrance systems would have things listed in coins as weight. Of course back then 10 coins equaled a pound. Which is why Tenkar’s room weights 138 tons. In most modern versions of D&D, it is now 50 coins to a pound, which would still put Tenkar’s room a little over 27 tons. So, should we either force ourselves to use the encumbrance system or just have a simple coin amount that people can carry? If we used used an amount and allowed 500 coins, that would be 10 pounds. If we allowed 2000 coins that would be 40 pounds.

Honestly, I don’t know which would be best. I know people are just trying to avoid the logistical stuff while playing a game for fun. I guess in the end, I wonder if we are robbing ourselves of story if we don’t deal with the weight of coins in some fashion (I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to the coin issue). What are your thoughts?

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You Got Your Rapier Stuck in My Fantasy

Stop me if you heard this before, a heavily armored warrior faces the foul creature with a two-handed sword. All the while the lightly armored rogue sneaks up behind the creature with his trusty rapier. This could easily be a scene in any fantasy game. So much so in fact that I’m sure most of you didn’t see what wrong with the picture. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the fact that one is armored the other isn’t. To put it simply, it’s the weapons.

Now, I’m sure at this point you are asking, what the hell is wrong with the weapons. Well by themselves nothing. Taken together, then one of them is sort of anachronistic. I can hear some of you yelling, “But it’s a fantasy world” or some other such thing. While true, that should excuse the fact that these two weapons would have not be employed during the same time even in a fantasy world.

All too often when we look at things from our modern perspective, we forget that all weapons are function of the time that they were built. Let’s take the rapier from the above example. In our time it was use during the 16th and 17th Centuries. It’s primary use was that of thrusting attacks. Even so, it was not designed to piece armor of any type. Why? because armor had fallen out of use due to the rise of early firearms which could easily pierce the thickest armor of the day. Meanwhile the two-handed sword appeared during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. There is some theories that such sword were used to cut down horses rather than mean. Still such a weapon is pretty heavy compared to the rapier.

So let’s face off our warrior and our rogue. In the situation where the warrior is in armor and the where the rouge simply does not run away but stays and fights, the rogue would find his rapier useless against the armored warrior. Although he hit often, those attacks would just penetrate the armor. While the warrior would likely find it hard to hit the rogue, but if it did there would be one less rogue to worry about.

Now let’s say that neither was armored. In this case the warrior would still have a hard time hitting the rogue not to mention he would be getting tired really fast. The rogue on the other hand would be able to quickly use his rapier and remove one stupid warrior from the planet.

These of course are just the quickest examples that I could whip up. There are plenty of more examples out there. I wonder why we always choose to mix time periods like this in fantasy games? The only thing that comes to mind is “Because it looks Cool”. The other is that we always want the kitchen sink setting. We want everything to be possible in a fantasy setting. After all, it is fantasy right? Even in a fantasy setting, I think we forget that there has to be some sort of logic.

If you want everything, you need to explain why there would be such mix-match of weapons and armor. Although I’m not sure what that might be. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to hearing them. I dare say, it might be easier to pick a period stick with it. Disallowing weapons and armor that don’t fit that period.

One closing thought, people from different areas have different needs. The weapons they use should reflect that (not to mention armor). If you a GM, one should have noted what weapons and armor typical warriors of an area would use. That way you players might be able to guess just based on equipment where someone is from.

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The Art of the Lie in RPGs

Over six months ago, I was playing in a spy game. That in itself is not a big deal, what was a big deal was the art of the simple lie. A strange phone call comes in, my character answers. The NPC A (on the phone) asks to speak to NPC B. My character tells NPC A that NPC B is not at home. At this point, the GM tells me to make a Bluff roll. Which my character fails because he has no bluff skill. NPC A demands that he speak with NPC B that he knows is home. Needless to say the adventure was sort of all downhill for me after that.

Something about the exchanged really bothered me. So much so, I still think about it even today. While the GM was mechanically correct on requiring a bluff roll, I was wondering if it was logically was correct. Now before you go off full kilt and call "shenanigans", allow me to explain myself.

First off, we all lie. That's right, we all lie. When a women asks a man if something makes her look fat, what man is going to say "Yes"? Now if you are thinking well, it's a just a white lie, then yes you are right it is. Funny thing though is that in the study of lies, there are lies and then there are LIES! A simple way to look at it is that there are lies that we say not hurt someone and there are lies we say that could hurt someone. Basically, you have to look at the intent of the lie.

Secondly, we tend to believe what we are told provided we no reason to suspect that people lie to us. Ask someone the time for example, do you expect the person you ask to lie to you? They may have the wrong time but chances are they didn't know it. On the other hand, you think someone has done something wrong and you ask them about it. In many cases you actually expect them to lie about. You many even think they are being untruthful even when they are because it's not what you think happened.

So by now, you asking yourself, can you get to the point already? What has this to do with RPGs? Well, RPGs are funny thing. Characters interact with NPCs all the time. They have pseudo-conversations. They players may lie to the NPCs and the NPCs lie to the players. The real question is when do you need to have skill interactions, deception checks, or whatever else you need done? Some will argue all the time. Generally a GM will allow players to make checks to see if the NPC is lying anytime they question the truth of what an NPC is saying. After all most GM will just sit there and have a little chuckle while the PC waste die rolls. But when should a GM require it? That I suppose is the big question here. After all the GM already knows if the players are lying or not. I'm sure I have a 100% good answer for myself.

Let's take a look at a few questions about the lie.

• Is the lie appropriate to the situation?
• Is the lie believable? If you are telling someone you are a sword master, you shouldn't be the one that can't hold a sword.
• Does the lie contain something that NPC knows is false? No telling someone the sky is green when it's blue.

I guess what I'm saying is that a little common sense should apply. So going back to my original situation, should a die roll been called for? I still not sure. Why would NPC A think that NPC B would be home? After all, if someone calls your house and asks to speak to someone there and you say they are not home even though they are don't most people believe that?

I guess in the end, I'm wondering what you our gentle readers would do in this situation? Please let me know.

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Why Tweak an Established Setting?


Let's face it as a game master in a busy world, we don't have a lot of time to always come up with our own setting. To our rescue many times is the established setting. Sometimes even, the game has such a setting implied. Take the game I've been playing a lot of, The Savage World of Solomon Kane. The whole point of the game is to play in the setting of Solomon Kane. Of course other times, it's also the de facto standard setting for a system. In Traveller, the Imperium is such a setting. While you can play games outside that setting, all the rules and supplements are going to be based on it.

So with all the pressures of time and the wealth of information out there for established settings, why on earth would you want to even bother to tweak the setting?

First off, let's face it. If it's a good setting, then your players may have read all the material. Let me give an example. As a person who has played Traveller and run Traveller quite a bit, I have read most of the Classic Traveller material out there. Which means that if I was a player, I would likely have too much meta-game knowledge. As a good player, I would not try to have that influencing how I play my character. Still, I'm sure in small ways it might. As a GM, having a player like that could ruin what I'm trying to run. This can be especially true if the player has read things that you the GM hasn't read.

Second as GM, we do like to invent things. Which means we want to make our own mark on the world in question.

Third without knowing it, you are already tweaking an established setting. Yes that's right you are. Just by using the material, the GM and players are making their own interpretations of the material presented. Let's use a simple example, maybe the description for an NPC king says that he's sad about the death of his daughter. Now the material may give examples of how that's effected his kingdom. Still as GM, you will have to decide how that NPC may act in the front of the players if it's not already stated. All of which means your sad king may act differently than another GM's version of that same sad king. Congratulations, you have already tweaked your game and didn't know it.

So what sort of tweaks can you as the GM make easily?

• Change the Names of certain places.- Change the name of Inn or tavern or move where it is.
• Add/Change/Delete NPCs in the setting. - Maybe flesh our that sad king's adviser
• Add/Change/Delete monsters and their treasure.
• Flesh out locations

No matter what, you need to let the players know that just because they have read the material doesn't mean you haven't changed it in some way. This will prevent arguments in the future. One should always be on guard against fan boys and girls.

One word of warning. If you use an established setting, please don't expect your players to have read 60 pages of setting background. If you do, you will be disappointed. Create a one to two page summary if you can.

Just remember, it's your game and you get to do things you want to do. Using an established setting is just a jumping off point that prevents the GM from having to creating everything.

Update: I forgot to include a link back to original Blog Carnival Post. So, here it is.

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Weekly Blog Posts

Greetings. I want to let everyone know that after a long hard internal debate, I've decided that we will start posting some blog posts. Right now, we are looking at trying to get one in a week. This will be in addition to our Podcast episodes.

So why you ask are we going to be to doing this? To be truthful, I wanted to do some blogging again. I love doing the podcast but I thought writing a blog post now and again would be fun. I contemplated writing on other people's blogs, but I knew that I would only be able to write maybe one blog entry every week or so. I guess you could say I was worried about screwing someone else over. Then there was the fact that posting on another blog wasn't really helping out the Podcast. So, it seem logical to just do it right here.

Now long time listeners/readers of RPG Circus may note that I've said similar things before. And that is very true. Of course, in the past I was really concerned about if I was going to Post again to the Bone Scroll blog. Which I should admit was an option I considered again this time. It really all came down to what was good for the Podcast. Writing a blog article on RPG Circus every once in while can do nothing but help promote the podcast. Besides there are times that we do topics on the podcast and I'd like to expand something we have said there. Not to mention that sometimes this would be a good places to answer the some email comments we get.

At any rate, you can look forward to at least one blog post per week. Currently, I have at least 8 or 9 topics I want to write about. So that will take us a couple of months at least. As a matter of fact, you can expect the first such blog post sometime later today.

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Up in the Morning with the Rising GenCon 2012

One of the things I like about waking up early is seeing the city start to creep out of it's slumber. On the first day of GenCon 2012, one also gets to see the Convention Hall slowly come to life. Although I was up at 6am, there were already people there. There were the people that make the convention possible,such as convention hall janitorial staff and some of the GenCon convention staff. While the convention doesn't offically start for a few hours, there were even those that couldn't wait and were already hanging out. To be truthful, some have been there since at least yesterday.

As time passes, more and more people begin to wander the convention center. For me, I get a chance to see what has changed and what has remained the same. The last time I was here was in 2010. Which means at least for me, I haven't been in the areas that they were working on last time.

So what has changed since 2010? Well for one, the vendor hall is on the south side of the convention center. Not that this is news, after all it was there last year. Still it's wierd that the area near the Sky Walks is not crowded anymore, not something that will last long I'm sure. Where the vendor area use to be is where True Dungeon is. I've never done True Dungeon, It's just never been a major priority for me and to be truthful holds little intrest. But like all things, I say if it's your thing go for it. Another change is that almost everything is inside the convention hall this go around. In 2009 and 2010, some of the events were spread over several of the hotels. That's not to say some events are not there, but they are no longer in hotels not connected by skywalks. Which will be a good thing, if the rain they predict comes down. Finally, Will Call was much different this year. There seem to be many Will Call windows. I'm sure this was in response to the issues with Will Call they have had.

Still with all the things that change, much still remains the same. Many of my fellow geeks, gamers, and smart asses have come together to both enjoy and annoy each other. There will be LARPer, Cosplayers, Role-Players, Board Gamers, and other creative people crammed into the convention hall. While we may not understand each others collective hobby sometimes, we are all here under one roof. While we still find the stereo-typical gamer that public tend to think of when you mention gamer, many more are not so typical like there always has been.

Well, the Con awaits me. I will just leave you with this thought for now. As someone who survived the great witch hunt of the 80's, It's nice to be able to go into a restaurant and hear people talking about RPGs in public.

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Can 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Be Everything to Everyone?

One of this promises of 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons is that it will bring everyone back into the fold. Personally, I'm highly skeptical of this. Some of you are likely asking why? To put it simply, it's just too big of an elephant to swallow.

First off, not everyone plays the game the same way. I don't think this is a bad thing. I don't think the game was meant to be. In my early youth for example, we would play up to 12 hours on a Saturday (with breaks of course). I know many of you call that youthfulness, but honestly that's the way we thought it was suppose to be played. Fast forward to today, My current group is good at about 4 to 5 hours and that's the way we think it should be played. Even how much actual Role-play there is different from group to group. For some people it's the primary focus and for others simple role assumption is the rule. Now both these example have nothing to do with the rules. But they are generally influenced from the rules presented. How is one game going to handle these differing types?

Second, everyone has a sacred cow they don't want to see go and everyone wants to someone else sacred cow go. As a computer programmer and project manager, I find that you can never make everyone happy. Someone is always going to want certain things and be unhappy if you don't have those things. So how can you have a goal that says everyone will be happy? I'm really not sure you can. Even the fact that they are asking the fans what they want in a more open fashion while good, can be like drinking from waterfall instead of a steam.

I guess in the end, we will have to see what actually gets released. For myself, I'm just going to remain skeptical. So I ask you, do you think 5ed D&D be the thing that brings everyone back under one roof?

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Review : Lamenations of the Flame Princess Grindhouse Edition

Last week, in Season 3 Episode 8 of the RPG Circus Podcast, we talked to James Raggi about Grindhouse Edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Before that show, he was nice enough to send us a copy to prepare us for the show as well as to review. Since we done the show, it was time for a review.

One of first things you will notice about the product is the fact it's small. I think that's a selling point, This is something you could easily throw into backpack, luggage, or messenger bag (which is why I use for my gaming stuff). The books are about 7 inches by 9 inches. It bit of odd size, but since the printing is done in Europe and I'm an American, I'm not really familiar with the International Paper size standards.

There are three books in box with around 350 or so pages.

  • Tutorial
  • Rules and Magic
  • Refree

One of the more interesting pieces in this box set is the Tutorial book. I assume that the person reading it doesn't know what Role-Playing Games really are. For experienced people this seems like a waste of pages, but the truth is that things like this are needed. Hell, there is a D&D 4ed for Dummies book. I think this tells us something. It tells us there are people that want to Role-play but don't know how because the rule books themselves don't really tell you anymore. Why do you think the old Red Box was so important to so many gamers. It was where they learned to Role-play. I think my absolute favorite thing about this book is the essays on recommend reading authors. All too often we see a recommend reading list and we don't know anything about a certain author. Here James Raggi has put together some of recommend authors and written a short essay about each. This gives those reading them an idea about the author and the type of stories that they have written. I think this wonderful. All to often, I meet people who don't quite know who Jules Verne and H.G. Wells was.

In the Rules and Magic Book, you will find the rules. They are based in many ways on the older versions of D&D. Here will find where race does equal to class. Still James has his own spin on all these things. I think one of the ones I liked after giving it some thought was the rouge/thief class to specialist. I think this more accurately describes the class. After all most of the players are not common thieves. Hell anyone of any class/race could be a thief. All you have to do is still. Here the specialist takes on a more natural role of an adventurer with a wide range of skills to do just that. You will also not find hundreds of spells in this book. Not to sound lame, but most players can't remember all those spells and what they do. Here the choices are limited by varied. Something I think a new player could easily grasp while old players could instantly absorb and then move on to actually Role-Playing instead of looking up Spells and what they do. This is the only book that players will need to reference. Hell, just the summary charts on the back of the book enough for most people. One last note, I like how most weapons grouped into the Great, Medium, minor, and small categories, with those categories saying how much damage is done. I think this just makes for faster reference. Players can then also choose weapons based on what they think their characters would carry rather than based on the damage differences between a two-handed sword and a great axe, Here both weapons would do a d10 as they are both Great Weapons.

Finally, there is the Referee book, It's much smaller than the Rules and Magic Book. There really are not that many rules in this book. It mostly tells you how to be a Game Master and things you have do. It gives advices on NPCs, Adventures, Maps, Cultures, and even has an adventure. What you will not find in here is a list of monsters, instead they offer up rules on how to make the stat's you need for Monsters. I think Tim Kask would be proud, having once played Tim Kask at GenCon. I can say he was very much into creating Stuff on the spot without the need of rule books. Even if you don't like the idea of no monster stats, I think the monster section is a good read just for a different point of view.

So, your wondering, should I spend my hard earned money of this thing? Even if you never play LotFP, I think there is much to get out of simply reading the rules. However if you do that, I think you would be missing out on a lot. One last thing, while one could say that LotPF is "old school", I don't think so. While it has many elements of so called "old school" , It is a modern game with influences from games that James Raggi liked. Those games just happen to be what people call "old school"

If you want to pick up a copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, you can order it from the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Online Store.

Unboxing Pictures



The box before opening.



Everything is packed really tight



These are the second smallest dice I've seen.



The three rulebook of LotFP:Grindhouse Edition

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Announcement: RPG Blog Alliance Open For Business

Greetings Fellow Bloggers and Podcasters,

I'm happy to announce the official opening of the RPG Blog Alliance. The RPGBA is the start of new Blog Community for RPG related Blogs and Podcasts. Like many such communities, at it's core it provides an RSS Aggregation Feed. So what set's the RPGBA apart from other such services you may ask? I think the following are some things that set us apart from other services.

  • User Profile, which can be updated by user
  • Ability for Users to Hide Posts From being shown in Feed
  • Email Verification of New Users
  • New Blogger and Podcaster Help via Wiki

Even with these features, some will ask why this even required, as there are similar sites out there. To which we say, Yes there are. The issue for me has always been that they just didn't seem like a community. We wanted to start a community. I wanted something that users could edit their own profile information without an administrator. I wanted simple to use administrator functions. We think we done that. We should note that we do not believe that the RPGBA is a replacement for any such site. For us, it is just simply a new community that we would like you to join.

We want you to help the community grow. We want the RPG Blog Alliance to be thriving thing. We want to hear your comments, we want to try to create new features based on user feedback. Basically, we want you involved. We look forward to seeing you join our community.

To join simply to go to RPG Blog Alliance, and click join us.

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Faking Class, Or Can You Impersonate a Class and Win Friends?

Being an old gamer does have it's advantages. For one thing, I have a library of old gaming stuff that I can look through from time to time. Last night I was doing just that. I started reading an old Dragon magazine article about using Magic-user (This was for AD&D) spells to simulate another class. It even had lists of spells that could be used to simulate spells from other classes. There were even spells that could be simulated by faking it. After all a spell like Detect Evil, What's to prevent someone from saying they cast it and there was not results? This got me to thinking, could a player actually get away with saying that their character was another class?

One thing to start with is the fact that there are two points of view for the players. There is the in-character and out-of-character (meta-gaming) knowledge and perceptions. For example, if a player was wizard and trying to say he was rouge a few things would come up. First most players share too much meta-game information to make this work on a player to player basis. Second, even without share, meta-information players have might ruin the ruse. After all, players are going to demand that other players use certain class features and feats that other classes don't have. Take the rouge's sneak attack ability. People are going to suggest/demand that a rouge to use that ability. It sort of ruins the ability of players to "fool" other players . So on the surface player to player is sort of out.

What about player to non-player character (NPC), or NPC to player? Here is an area that has possibilities. As the Game Master, your not going to forcing your players to use certain class feats or features. This means that the players can make an NPC think the player's character is of a certain class, race, or even alignment. As a Game Master, you base an NPC's reactions based off of what the players present. The same is true of NPC's. Heck, it even works better that way. Many NPC's can just be a name and basic description. There is no need for classes, skills, or feats for NPCs that players are just going to interact with and not fight. As Game Master you may need to fake a stat, skill, or other characteristic, but you don't normally need to do so. In these cases, you can actually write that the NPC claims to be one class and the players normally take that at face value. Now, some of you might think you need to have disguise or bluff checks. I would say that things like that are only required if the NPC is doing something that might make someone guess that they are not who they say they are. Let's face it, you see a guy in a pointy hat. He has a wand and claims he's Mandrake the Wizard. Initially, do you think most people might guess he's not? Now, if a someone was dressed like a beggar and claimed he was a wizard, then you might be a little skeptical. Still for the most part we tend to accept people initially for who they claim to be. So at least from the in-game point of view, it's very easy to handle player's characters pretending to be other classes and the like. All they need is the right attitude, a few basic skills, and maybe a few spells or magic items to simulate another class. Although, the right attitude will get them pretty far.

So what about the first case, player to player. Could you fool other players? Normally, I'd say no. However, if you have a Game Master that willing to do the work with player then it's possible to do it short term. The reason I say it's short term, is that it's going to be a lot of work to keep things from the other players. First off, the player should know the game system pretty well. They are not going to be able to normally ask other players with help with certain rules or spell descriptions. They are going to have to work with Game Master how to do certain things. For example, let's say someone is pretending to be a rouge. The player could roll for the sneak attack damage, but give the Game Master the normal damage and the sneak attack damage. The Game Master would then just apply the normal damage. Since this sort of thing can not be kept up for long, I think both the player and the Game Master should find ways to work in clues that things are not what they seem. After all, this is going to be hard to do , even if I actually think this is interesting Role-Playing challenge for a player. I don't think the Player or the Game Master is going to be able to hide it from the other players for ever.

So what about you? Have you ever had your character to pretend to be another class? Was it just for NPCs or did you try to fool the party? If so, how hard was it? I look forward to seeing your answers.

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