Thursday, April 18, 2019

Revisiting the GLOG

It has come to my attention that I am still considered a fixture in the GLOGosphere; which I find somewhat strange since my criticism of GLOG and GLOGers was harsh in the public light, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway I would like to take this opportunity review and revisit the GLOG, and maybe lay some groundwork with what I plan to do with it going forward.

If you don't know GLOG is Arnold K's fantasy heartbreaker homebrew. He designed it on six principles: compatibility with osr modules, a low power level, accessibility for new players, simplicity, quickness of play, and hackablity. It is these principles that have contributed to GLOG becoming so popular in OSR spheres.

Before I continue, let me say that I probably have less than average play time with GLOG. I have yet to run it for a home campaign and the online campaigns where I did were short-lived due to an ever changing work schedule or other interests taking precedent. But I can say with confidence I have at least a weekend's worth of experience running GLOG. Also my version of GLOG was heavily modified from the base, but I don't think that's a surprise to any GLOGers out there.

Roll Under
Let's kick things off with my biggest pet peeve with GLOG. Almost ever roll in GLOG is roll under. You roll under your Strength stat to bust open that door, you roll under your Save to avoid falling rocks, you roll under your Attack (with your opponent's Defense as penalty) to swordify that orc. In general there's nothing wrong with a roll under system, other than all of my players hated it.

I'm not particularly sure why but most of my players could never come to like the roll under system of GLOG. I believe the culprit is human nature. While the OSR prides itself on a return to form, since that form came into being gamers have experienced decades of an ever changing and revised gaming scene. By now "high number good. Low number bad" is ingrained in our gaming brains, and roll under goes against that.

Now I could just tell my players to get over it, but I have found we all had more fun when I switched to a roll over system. In this regard there are several options. Delta's Target 20 is a favorite of mine, but I got more mileage out of adopting the system from Ben Milton's Knave. However the latter felt less OSR than the former.

Class Templates
I both love and hate Templates. While I think it is a neat idea, I have noticed that the abilities they give rarely come up; and they ultimately feel like wasted effort and distraction. 

Towards the end I gave up on them entirety and adopted Lungfungus's system in which a class had a passive bonus on up to two stats and two abilities in their kit that they could use from the start. Most of my players like this but sometimes it felt like a class could use one or two more abilities in its kit to properly define its capabilities.

It also goes without saying that the nature of class templates motivates everyone to make their own GLOG classes, which is fine, but I would rather put my focus elsewhere.

Secondary Stats
Stealth and Move are what I call secondary stats. They're secondary to the six ability scores. I believe their purpose is to accommodate common activities. PCs sneak and run a lot and therefore would be better at it (hence the higher base chance) and having a stat as resolution makes things simpler. However a part of me wondered if these could be ditched entirely for simple ability score rolls.

Skills seem to be the first things to go when someone makes their own GLOG hack and I don't blame them. The system in Arnold's base is kind of clunky. In my GLOG-like I threw out a skill system entirely in exchange for skill tags like Skerples' base. If you're skilled in tailoring you can probably do things a tailor can do.

It goes without saying that Arnold's magic system is the greatest contribution from GLOG and, like classes, everyone seems to like to make different wizard schools. Skerples' wizards are a little to mechanically bloated for my tastes and I feel like mishaps and dooms being on a school to school bases is also a little too involved. I'd much prefer a giant mishap/doom table or to get rid of them entirely; I'm fine with wizard's being a walking spell list with 1—3 perks and restrictions.


As you can see my negative critique's of GLOG center around its core mechanics, which begs the question, "Why use GLOG at all?" I've heard people ask similar questions of old school hacks of 5th edition: why call it 5th edition when you have had to homebrew it to something else entirely? I'm afraid the only answer I have to that is "I don't know."

At this point GLOG is more than just a system. It's a design philosophy identical to Arnold's original six philosophies when he set out making his fantasy heart breaker. Also it's grown into a community of gamers, aka the GLOGosphere. I think reifying GLOG helps no one and DMs should pursue their and their player's ideal GLOG because at the end of the day all that matters is peeps are having fun rolling weird dice. 


Moving forward I believe I want to focus my efforts towards putting out my own GLOG-hack. The name for it came to me awhile ago and it's stuck: my GLOG-hack will be called Variant. I would like to put out a full pdf sometime in the future, but at this point "future" is pretty vague because as of right now I'm pursuing other, more personally worthwhile, interests outside of elf games.

I find it helps to lay out some limiting ground rules when first starting a project because it will help direct efforts. When it comes to variant there's only one rule that comes to mind: simple sinister strategy. Now what the heck does that mean? I'll break it down for you.

Simple is simple enough. Everything aspect should be simple: character creation, combat, resolution, etc. If I can't explain it to my players in five minutes or less, if I can't explain it without making them read, then it fails simplicity.

Sinister is more conceptual. The word itself is defined as "giving the impression that something harmful will happen" and I believe that defines a majority of OSR play. Your character is alive, but they will eventually die horribly. The dragon roosts on the mountain, but adventurers will eventually murder it for its hoard. In other words Sinister is a roller coaster ride spiraling towards entropy.  

Strategy is the thinking man's sport. I've heard of these DMs that work without rules and just improv every resolution, and that's fine I guess, but I believe it does a huge disservice to players. For players, knowing how a particular event or situation will be handled by a rule is ammunition. If a player doesn't know what ammunition is at his disposal, he won't know what plan best suits his situation; and in my experience I have never met a player who hates it when a plan comes to fruition. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Hunt for Moorcock

I've begun my foray into the works of Michael Moorcock with Elric Melnibon√© and Other Stories. It's the first of a series of collections that tell Elric's story in chronological order. I'm glad I found it because otherwise I would have had to scrounge up the old books, and a wizard seemingly cast an enlarge spell on their price tags, and my local library keep pulp fantasy at bay with a 10' pole.

Anyway the reason for this post is the dapper gentleman:

Nothing screams epic fantasy to me more than feather plumes and porn staches. Does anyone know who this artist happens to be? I could find no signature or credit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

SFW Gun Porn

It's no surprise that nerds fetishize guns. Batman says it best:

Problems crop up when elf games take it too far. Take for example this list from d20 modern:

Keep in mind that's just the handguns. 

Now I'm the kind of guy that can never tell the difference between your Beretta 92F and your Beretta 93R, but I do know they both do 2d6 damage. Quick story: I was playing Call of Cthulhu and a friend of a friend asked me why I chose a lower caliber rifle or a higher caliber one. My answer: "They do the same damage."

So if my experience is any indication of the collective elf gamer experience, I should avoid large lists of letter-followed guns with overlapping damage arrays.

The only gun list that's come close to fulfilling my goal is Classic Traveller's:

That's all the guns by the way. Such a succinct list; it almost makes me swoon.

This list establishes a few things. It completely ignores model, manufacturer, and caliber, and throws out any notions of "simulation." (Albeit this just makes sense for a sci-fi game set thousands of years in the future. It's still a good rule of thumb.) It has a movie-goers idea of the way damage die progress. As I said I'm no gun expert but I know a laser hurts more than a shotgun hurts more than a rifle hurts more than a pistol.

The only problems with this list is its elaborate matrices that modify attack rolls based off effective range and distance. This is ineffective for a game like Variant that prioritizes simple strategy above anything else. Also damage takes the form of multiple d6s, which in the late 70s was an effective method of generating random numbers but our polygonal overlords have since taken over.

Anyway on to solutions.

Pistols, d6
Your standard pistol. Pistols are the only firearms you can effectively conceal and dual-wield. In the case of dual-wielding, you roll two damage die, taking the better result or adding them together if they are doubles.

Rifles, d8
Rifles are the standard affair when it comes to equipping armies. They are more effective at long range than pistols.

Shotguns, d10
Shotguns are more effective at clearing out groups of opponents but only within close quarters. If you're in a blocks-spanning shootout you're better off using a pistol or rifle. But the tight-corners of a building or dungeon is where shotguns shine.

Lazers, d12
Lazers are the ultimate hurt when it comes to firearms. They are capable of turning adults into minuscule piles of ash.

Explosives, d20
Explosives are a catch-all term for dynamite, grenades, mines, etc. Explosives are deadly against groups of opponents. When an explosive goes off you roll a d20 for everyone caught in the blast radius and deal the better damage to all of them. Most explosives have a blast radius of 20'.

Special Considerations

Group Fire
Firearms that are full-automatic or shotguns can hit additional opponents adjacent to the target. Adjacent opponents save vs Dex or suffer the weapon's damage.

Firing in Melee
Attacking an opponent with a firearm that is adjacent to you imposes disadvantage on your attack roll.

You can equip a rifle with a sight, which grants advantage on attack rolls from long range.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

And Thus Spoke Zak

OK. It's time to address this. I quickly cut ties with all OSR media following Mandy's post because I felt a hate mob forming. Some people are targeting Zak, but obviously not everybody, and no one that I'm glad to know, and that makes me glad. I don't know if/when I'll reach out again because a break from online osr world is what I need right now.

I wanted to hear Zak's reply to these accusations first before making a judgement and he finally replied. In short I believe Mandy.

I must be the black sheep because Zak never pulled me into the OSR. Jeff Rients did with his book Broodmother Skyfortress. Zak was only a guy I learned about later that would occasionally dip into my G+ threads to drop words of encouragement. I knew about his past behavior like a students knows about the War of 1812, but I never experienced it until after the death of G+ and Zak made his own Discord server.

I learned two things about Zak then: 1) He really hated story gamers, and 2) he really liked rules. I'm not one for long-winded debate so I figured whatever. As long as I never participate I don't have to worry about it. But the few times I did participate left me stressed and doubting myself.

For those that don't know I was a moderator on Chris McDowall's discord server and in one instance Zak essentially bullied someone by calling them "psychotic". Now in his defense Zak cited his refusal to acknowledge tone online. Even so the humane thing to do would be to apologize and move forward. I get it. Everyone makes mistakes and online chat is not the clearest form of communication. But no. Zak had to go into this long-winded rant about tone and how he should not be persecuted for not realizing "psychotic" was a hurtful word and about how the other person should apologize for taking him out of context. In hindsight it was very Zak but it was also very fucking dumb.

Now that I write this I've never heard Zak apologize once. So it goes.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Sex, Drugs, and Gathox Session 1

William the Fighter, Zeff the Scoundrel, and Rogal the Wizard awoke to another sunny day in no-name Brinsby. After a light breakfast they shuffled their feet to the carnival grounds, along with all the other adventurers bumming around Brinsby, bought their tickets, and made a beeline to the main attraction: The Maze of the Blue Medusa. They handed the Ticketmaster his due and hopped in the painting, expecting to see the red room of the Chanterelle on the other side. 

Instead of finding the familiarity of the red room and the insults of the Chanterelle on the other side, the party found themselves floating near the ceiling of a bar looking like the cantina from A New Hope. They fell, crashing into a table and interrupting the card game of some weird looking aliens.

The aliens looked humanoid except for their one bulbous eye, yellow skin, and oversized heads. They were all wearing wife-beaters, torn jeans, and leather jackets.

"Hey what's the big idea ruining our game!" one alien asked.

The party apologized.

"Oh, you hear that felas?" the talkative alien turned to his friends. "They're sorry. Well, let's show them what sorries are worth in Gathox!" With that the four aliens pulled out a baseball bat, a gold club, a nail-ridden two-by-four, and a pistol-shaped object the party never saw before.

A fight broke out, the bar-goers gathering around in hoops and haws, and William decapitated the talkative alien with his great sword while Rogal attempted and failed to petrify the other one. Zeff ended the fight with a well thrown flask of burning oil, igniting two of the aliens and sending the last running.

"You'll pay for this!" yelled the fleeing alien. "No one crosses the Kermens and gets away with it!"

The party decided to let him go and Zeff swiped the pistol-shaped object while no one was looking.

The bar-goers patted down the remaining flames, leaving the Kermens' corpses where they lay and went back to their business. William approached the bar and grilled the bartender for information. The bartender was a human with two-heads that took turns chewing on a bright red root. 

The party learned they were in a city called Gathox and that the bartender really hated dealing with newcomers and that they should head across the alley to the Dohjak Friendship Hall if they wanted more info.

The party left the bar and climbed the stairs leading outside and saw buildings stretching higher than they had ever seen, looking like blocks of concrete and metal stacked on top of each other accentuated with hanging gardens and piles upon piles of trash.

After their awestruck, the party headed across the alley and found the friendship hall. It was a squat four story building constructed from flagstones and presented a facade that looked like a striated cliff face. They knocked on the double doors and a short fat bald human answered. His skin was tinged with a slight purple and he wore a pink toga and silver leaves in his big beard.

"Can I help ya?" asked the man.

The party introduced themselves and the man introduced himself as Mehlud and the particular owner of this friendship hall. He invited them inside. The interior looked like an abandoned disco roller rink.

Mehlud gave the party the run down on their situation, that Gathox ripped through space and time to snatch them up and trap them here, that they would have to fight to survive on its streets, and that they would probably never see home again.

The party took it in stride.

Mehlud gave the party some gold and suggested they visit Larry, another Dohjak, to arm themselves with a proper piece and come back because he might have some work for them.

The party went to Larry and purchased a rifle and two SWAT helmets. Larry also taught them about guns. Zeff learned the pistol-shaped object he stole off the body of that Kermen was a lazer pistol. William wanted to sell Larry his old crossbow but he was only interested in modern tech and gave him directions to a guy named Berling who would buy anything.

Armed and ready, the party returned to the hall and discovered Mehlud doing a line of some red powder, which he violently sucked through a straw into his nose. 

The party learned about the drug Sho-Maht and all except William joined Mehlud in another line. They also learned the Dohjaks buy the drug from the Elven Kings in Berchan Favela and distribute it throughout the Kettle.

Afterwards Mehlud told the party about how periodically Gathox will swallow buildings only for a new one to rise up in this place. When this happens friends from across the city wheel and deal for control of the new territory. Negotiations are peaceful until someone gets impatient like Mehlud. He tasked the party with clearing out a new property by the name of the Muddling Mansion and offered them 2,500 silver pieces as payment.

The party accepted.

After a night's rest the party crossed town. 

They crossed a corner and bumped into a weird creature that looked like the love child of a preying mantis and a centaur. It held two leather tongs in its clawed hand that connected to collars worn by two humans that wore nothing but loincloths and belts.

William heard the creature speak to him through the voice inside his head.

"You're a fine specimen," the creature said. "I must have you in my collection!"

A fight broke out. The creature cast an array of magic at the party and its two slaves fought loyally. Its chitinous armor was tough but some well placed strikes slayed it. They picked its pockets and Rogal decapitated it to learn its magic later.

The party arrived at the Muddling Mansion: a three story building comprised of adobe clay and solid blocks of trash. They prepared to enter.

Don't let those eyes fool you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Goodbye OSR

I no longer hold good faith towards the online OSR community. I've pulled my presence out of all remaining OSR-related social medias and will not interact with the community any further. I'll still update this blog when I feel like it.

If you wish to contact me, leave a comment or friend me on Discord (Mcgee#3580); my email is CWilson1891atgmaildotcom.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Chaces High

Any adventurer worth their weight in salt will flee from a fair fight. 

Running away comes up a lot in my game, and sharing square footage and tracking movement rates over virtual reality is a headache. So I devised a mini-game. It's called Chaces High.

All you'll need is a deck of card, some dice, and an optional mini.

Take the deck of cards and get rid of the jokers and face cards. This will leave you with a 40 card deck made of every card 2 through 10 plus the aces. Aces are high (11). This is your chace deck.

Take your Chace Deck and deal out cards in a row from left to right until the total rank of the row equals 21. This row is the chace and each card is a phase of the chace, or a phase-card.

You can place your optional mini on the left most card to represent your PCs.

Now the chace begins. Each PC makes checks. (In Variant this is where I call for Movement checks.)

Then PCs with a success roll 2d6. Take the highest result and compare it to the rank of the current phase-card. If the result meets or beats the rank the PCs move on to the next phase-card. If someone rolls boxcars (12) they move on to the next phase and a Complication surfaces, such as a fruit cart blocking the path. 

Now the PCs are racing against the clock. At the start of the chace the DM rolls his own 2d6 and records the result. At the end of each chace round, the DM rolls his 2d6 again. If the DM rolls the recorded result again, the chace ends, either with the PCs caught or their quarry escaping. Also if the DM rolls sevens or doubles, a round of actions occurs. NPCS and PCs can attack or take other actions.

The chace is a success when the PCs exit the final phase-card.

Example in play

The adventurers William, Zeph, and Rogal, like many adventurers infesting Brinsby, are braving the Maze of the Blue Medusa.

They've just crossed a rope bridge over a seemingly infinite deep chasm when some plant creature protrudes from the wall and attacks them.

A fierce exchange takes place but the adventurers decide to retreat when the fighter William's nose is caved in by a deft blow from one of the creature's pseudopods.

I grabbed my Chace Deck and deal 8, 10, and 5, and place the party mini on the eight-card. I roll 2d6. The result is 8. Then I call for movement checks.

On the first round all PCs fail their checks so they and the mini are stuck for the time being.

I roll my 2d6 and get a result of 9. Close! But the PCs elude capture.

On the second round two PCs succeed and roll 2d6 each. The first rolls an 8 and the other a 7. Hey! That 8 will get them closer to safety. I take the eight-card and discard it and move the party mini forward.

I roll my 2d6 for the second round and get a result of 7! Time for some action.

Action is simultaneous. The Monster decides to swing both its pseudopods at William and the entire party, in an act of desperation, swing wildly at the monster. The monster misses fortunate William and not only do all party members hit, one rolls a natural 20.

The Monster is slain! I end the chace there since it's pointless to continue with the procedure and the adventurers hop out of the Maze thankful to be alive.

If I rolled something else the procedure would have continued until all cards were discarded or I rolled another 8, but who knows how long it would have taken for them to beat the ten-card.