Friday, April 17, 2015

Proposed Combat System for New RPG System

As I stated in a previous post, my friend Brent K. Davis and I are attempting to create a new roleplaying rules set incorporating some non-D&D game theories.

I wrote an earlier article detailing the mechanics of spellcasting in this yet unnamed system.

While I've been working on the magic system, Brent was tasked with formulating a narrative combat system.

I was very impressed at this one!

There are several factors I like about it. 

First, although it incorporates realism it doesn't sacrifice streamlined mechanics.

It also permits a player to narrate combat objectives as simply or as creatively as the individual player wants...for each specific blow...and resolves it quite fairly by being based upon the number difference between your needed hit roll and what you actually cast on the die...Combat Effects are in steps according to this difference.

I also love the initiative system-- if you lose initiative, you state to the DM your actions and those who win get to tailor their response to your action and resolve theirs first! This works both ways and the players must take the black eye in this fashion if they lose to NPC combatants or monsters!

There are several other unique and creative aspects involved and I look forward to playtesting it, which we have yet to do.

We welcome your comments and input!

1. Determine encounter distance

2. Determine Surprise a. Stealth vs Perception b. Perception vs Whatever the Other party is doing and how immersed they are in it

3. Determine Initiative a. Dexterity/Perception/Intuition (?) Bonus +d10, higher is better. b. A Character that is Engaged by a Character with a higher Initiative total may only defend, not attack. C. Characters with LOWEST Initiative Scores state actions FIRST. Characters with HIGHER Initiative Scores may then react to the Characters with low Initiative.

4. Statement of intent. What do you intend to do? Move in, charge? Circle warily? Describe your intended action with as much detail as possible. All attacks are called shots. State your intended target.

 5. Determine Reach

a. Close Range weapons- Dagger, Hand-Axe, Fist, Cestus, Shield, broken bottle, etc. (A shield isn't a weapon? Get hit with the rim one time...)

b. Me-lee Range weapons- Swords, Axes, Cudgel, Mace, War Hammer, Flail, Staff, Spear in close mode, Short Pole-arm in close mode. (Lets face it folks, the spear is one of the most efficient hand weapons we as a race have ever devised.)

c. Far Range weapons- Spear, Pole-arm, Staff, Two Handed Sword

d. Far+ Range weapons- Pike, Lance if mounted

 e. If a Character with a shorter Reach weapon engages a Character with a longer Reach weapon, the shorter Reach cannot attack the longer Reach possessing Character. Regardless of Initiative. The shorter Reach may attack the weapon, or attempt to get inside the Reach of the opponent. The Character with the longer Reach may hold the shorter Reach opponent At Bay. Once inside the Reach of your opponent, they may only dodge, ignore or shield block. A parry with a longer weapon is no longer possible. Natural weapons MAY be used. They may attempt to increase the distance with a Combat Effect.

f. Larger or smaller opponents treat Reach as one or more steps higher for Larger opponents and one or more steps shorter for smaller.

 For example a Dwarf with a spear is at Me-Lee Reach versus a Human with a sword, and at Close Reach versus an Ogre with a club. In either case the Dwarf is at a serious disadvantage.

However, the disadvantage shifts if the smaller opponent gets inside the Reach of the larger. Once this occurs, any +1 or more complication on the Larger size
character may result in a hit on themselves. g. Mounted Characters use the size class of the mount to determine reach. 4. Roll Attacks and Defense a. The attacking character attempts to follow through with his stated action.

The defending Character may 1. Dodge the attack, or duck, or in some way not be in the place the attacker is trying to hit. 2. Parry the attack with a weapon. Unarmed and unarmored Defenders must pass a Will check in order to Parry an armed attack.

3. Block the Attack with a shield. b. Roll d20 +Weapon or Technique Skill Level +/-any Modifiers due to magick or circumstances (darkness, unstable footing, etc) for the Attack c. Roll d20 +Weapon or Technique Skill Level +/-any Modifiers due to magick or circumstances for the Defense d The Defense total rolled is the Target number the attacker must roll higher than for the attack to succeed. e. How MUCH the attacker rolls above or below the defender determines the effects of the attack. Each 4 above gains a Combat Effect for the higher rolling Character.

+12 +8 +4 +3 to -3 -4 -8 -12
+12 +8 +4 +3 to -3 -4 -8 -12

Monday, April 13, 2015

More Original Spooky Images

Here are a few more of the Green Man mask pics--forgive me for posting some of the same images but you will note I experimented with different colors in some of them.

I did not actually wear the mask...just set it up in various locations and draped an old black tee shirt over it like a cowl.

It is somewhat creepy to me how you can take the same mask and photograph it from different angles and it will seem in each case to wear a different expression...angles change so much.

At times the pics look sinister, at times comical, and a few are even noble looking in their own way.

One or two of them remind me very much of the mask sequences of one of my favorite movies...The Wicker Man...original version of course!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Halfling Thieves of the Pacific Northwest, or, the Summer of D&D

Author's Note: This is LONG---apology in advance, as brevity is the thing for this blog! If you are bored, please skip down and check out my creepy pics instead....!

It was the cusp of summer, circa 1984.

I was thirteen years old and a bit unruly, to put it mildly. 

 Behavior trouble was beginning to become more frequent for me at school and around our neighborhood in Oklahoma City, and this state of affairs, coupled with the volatile chemistry between my step father and I, led my mother to decide that a sojourn with my grandparents in Klammath Falls, Oregon might be a positive change that would help me make a fresh start of a new school year.

 Old time discipline, Grandma's very special love and rural living , it was hoped, would sow seeds for a new pattern.

And, in fact, this year would prove to be one of the most memorable and exciting of my life.

My grandparents have passed on many years ago, but scarcely a day passes but that I think of them and recall the lessons and life experiences that I learned from them  that year.  Often I let my mind wander the trails and streams of those beautiful woods and meadows.

 And among the many memories I made there, one I remember with particular fondness is being introduced to Dungeons and Dragons.

Grandma and Grandpa lived on a two acre spread with a gravel driveway, a garage and preserves pantry my grandfather had built, a double wide mobile home with a wood stove, and a half acre garden that supplied these hardy folks with perhaps a quarter or more of their vegetables, herbs, berries, and fruit.

During our infrequent trips into the city, groceries were sparingly selected from the most no-nonsense budget one has ever seen and supplemented with extensive fishing, crawdad trawling and  Grandpa's hunting. They  also cut their own wood as well- this when they were in their early seventies. In fact, timber was the one concrete skill I actually learned there in Oregon.

If I had a chainsaw and truck today and I needed firewood, thanks to my grandparents I could select and safely fall the trees to feed a wood stove.

 I wish I had learned everything they wanted to teach me but being a boy I wanted to roam the woods and live in the realms of imagination that had always given me refuge from the sometimes painful environs of real life.

  My abiding love for the fantastic only elicited from my Grandfather a bemusement that bordered on scorn--no mind could have been as far removed from fantasy or science fiction concepts as that of this gruff, grizzled WW2 and law enforcement veteran who had been reared in the most hardscrabble of conditions and who had raised a family of six children in rural Arkansas. The myriad comic book realms which constituted the borders of my mythical kingdom were complete foolishness to him.

 My unabashed re-enactments of all that I read in those comics as as I played in the front yard or at the edge of the woods would have him shaking his head with sardonic smile.

 But that was simply who he was. The decade of the seventies into which I had been born was, for kids like me, a totally different world than that of his boyhood. And I, of course, was a weird kid even without a generation gap, and my grandfather had never had much patience with children.

Grandma seemed to understand, though, and always encouraged my cartooning, my reading of strange books, and my somewhat fervid flights of imagination. She felt it her mission to provide me with her own individualistic and unconventional spiritual insights and a great deal of time was spent being made to listen to short readings from the Bible, making prayers, and going on walks in the woods, wherein she would talk of God and the importance of right living at length...she was her own sort of Christian, one who had no time for church but who seemed to live daily in an unseen Presence whose communion filled her with an organic joy that fairly lit her face.

 I frankly confess that the religious duties which she tried to enjoin upon me seemd tedious and a great imposition upon time better spent at play or reading comics, but this was more than made up for by the fact that she sewed me a ninja costume, bought me a wooden katana, and packed me lunches of homemeade bread and the best cheeses and jugs of sweet tea or lemonade to carry into the woods, where I pretended to be  questing upon epic journeys.

 She was also forever showering hugs and kisses on me and treating to me to the best cooking one has ever tasted or can hope to taste in the afterlife. Not even a week ago, I realized with a pang of sadness that I would never taste biscuits and gravy like hers again, and that in all of the years since that I have ordered that dish in various cafes or diners in the hopes I might find the sort she made I have been on a futile quest.

But getting to D& wasn't long after I had arrived and explored the edges of the rural and widely separated mobile home community they lived in that I was walking down a road and met the first friend I was to have in Oregon, and who also was the person who would introduce me to an influence which remains a part of my head and heart even to this day.

Richard was short, frail, and somewhat unkempt with shaggy, thin dark hair that fell over heavy rimmed black glasses held together with a band of tape on the nose bridge and fraying collared and buttoned shirt, ragged jeans, and old sneakers. His Klammath Indian heritage was very evident (he was in fact half blooded from that tribe) and his eyes shone with the proverbial glint of obvious intelligence. He held up a hand in greeting as we drew near eachother and grinned at me good naturedly. Having seldom met a stranger, even to this day, I returned his salute, intrigued and thrilled that another boy my age lived in the area.

"Haven't seen you before," Richard said.

"I'm not from here," I replied. "I'm from Oklahoma."

"Oklahoma? What are you doing so far away from home?"

"Just staying with my grandparents, you know," I said, pointing back up the road from whence I came.

"Oh, you mean Mr. and Mrs. Jones," he said. "I know them. My folks know them. Mrs. Jones is the nicest woman I know."

"Yeah. I'll be going to school here this year."

"Good," he said. "I can show you around. I grew up here."

"Yeah? Not much to do, is there."

"There's a ton of stuff to do," Richard said. " We have horses. And atv's. We go fishing and camping in the woods and build forts. Me and my two brother is away at college. There's one other boy who lives in the area, that's Carl. With you here, that'd give us one more person to play Dungeons and Dragons with."

"You play Dungeons and Dragons?" I asked.

The name was familiar to me only because I had come across a strange book at a mall once which was entitled Monster Manual. I had convinced my mother to buy it for me because I had been spellbound by the engaging illustrations and descriptions of multitudes of mythical beasts. I had realized it was a component to a very elaborate game called D&D but had not the slightest conception as to what that meant. The one time I met some D&D players a year before at my school, I had asked them to let me play when I saw their obvious delight at recess as they shared the books, but they had turned me down, though one of them did pay me five dollars for a pencil reproduction of a ki-rin I had drawn at home from the MM.

"Oh yeah," he said. "Sometimes everyday after school. Long time on Saturdays and Sundays too. My brother taught me to play. He left all his books here when he went to school and as long as I take care of them, I can use them whenever I want."

"How do you play?' I asked. "I never understood it."

"It's a game of imagination," he explained. "You make up fantasy characters, like wizards or warriors, and send them on fantastic quests in a make believe world. You play the part of your character. When you fight things, like monsters, you roll dice to see who wins."

"Really?" I said, fascinated. " like, talk like you're the character? How do you make up the world?"

"Like from books and stuff," he said. "Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time and stuff like that. And yeah, you talk like your character. You have to stay alive. The Dungeon Master controls the game and tells you what you see and what all you can do, but you can make things up."

"Wow," I said. "That sounds cool."

My only other notion of D&D was that many grownups, especially religious ones, did not like it and that it was supposed to be of Satan. That Satan would choose the route of a game to damn the souls of hapless kids had seemed a somewhat dubious concept to me, but D&D did carried a whiff of the occult ...there were, after all, scads of demons and devils in the MM. I mentioned this to Richard and he waved it aside.

"Those people have never even played the game," he said. "Actually, you usually end up fighting evil in the game, killing evil monsters and such."

"Sounds fun," I ventured.

"Yeah. C'mon, we'll go get Carl. He and I are supposed to play today. We'll create a character for you and you can join us."

In short order, we had gone by Carl's, made our introductions, walked to Richard's house and after filling glasses of Kool-Aid and grabbing some snacks, we were cloistered in Richard's bedroom with the door closed, and paper and pencil and funny looking dice set out on the table. A stack of books were brought out...mysterious, glossy covered tomes with forbidding looking monsters and mighty heroes adorning their faces. 1st Edition Advanced D&D hardcover rule books, a complete set for that era, all in immaculate condition. Richard handled them as if they were archeological relics.

"These are my brother's books," Richard said. "He said  if anything happens to them I am to be skinned alive. The only book you're allowed to look in is the Player's Handbook anyway, but don't get anything on it."

"Geez," I said, opening the book and seeing neatly piled columns of tiny black font filling every page from top to bottom except where separated by striking black and white fantastic illustrations. "These are the rules? Looks complicated..."

"Nah, it's easy," Richard said.

And we then proceeded to roll up my character...a halfling thief with the highly original name Shadow. When he was done, he, Ricahrd's fighter/magic user Mension Leif, and Carl's Dwarf fighter, Snipper, set out upon a forest road in search of adventure. Richard sat and described the spooky forest, the feeling of foreboding we felt as we wandered the path, and then the surprise of seeing cloaked and hooded travelers upon the road coming toward us.

"What do you do...?" he asked, smiling.

"We approach them in greeting," said Carl. "But Snipper has his hand ready upon his magic axe."

"What about you?" Richard said to me.

"I will talk to one of them," I said, curious and excited.

Richard smiled.

"As you begin to speak to the mysterious travelers," he said, "they pull back their hoods to reveal their faces--they are skeletons! And with clicking noises they draw ancient long knives and attack you!"

Living skeletons!! A world of danger and magic!  I was hooked. We battled the skeletons and after being wounded vanquished them. Among their treasures was a ring which when Shadow placed it upon his finger he became invisible! Thrilled, I listened eagerly as the story continued, embellished with a witch, bandits, a thriving village where we got in a tavern brawl, Shadow tried to pick a pocket and failed, and heard tales of a mountain nearby wherein lay a fierce dragon upon a hoard of gold! I felt as though I could see clearly every fantastic image that Richard described.

By the time the game ended, the shadows were long and dark as I hurried up the road to my grandparents home. I could easily imagine the skeleton troop in the moonlight ahead...upon getting home I excitedly related the entire tale to my grandmother who had not the slightest idea what to make of it.

For the next year we played D&D every chance we got, raising our characters in level and encountering every creature in the Monster Manual just about--from Bahamut to Trolls and Ettins, Sea Hags and Elementals to Leprecauns and Owlbears....monsters to delight a boy's heart. Richard even taught me to DM and was glad to play Mension Lief in the many scenarios I devised to try and test his mettle and that of Snipper.

When I left Oregon and returned to my home, I took many great memories of my Grandma and Grandpa with me.

I also embarked on years of D&D playing that led to many good friendships, lots of awesome campaigns, and a love of the mythical and fantastic which is still with me to this day. I contacted Richard once about five years ago through Facebook. We didn't talk much, it was friendly, but he informed me that he had quit playing D&D years ago and was into World of Warcraft instead. That made me a bit wistful, but I will never forget the amazing world of imagination that D&D opened for me when I was needing exactly that....

Thank you Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and crew!

Photo Experimentation

Proposed Zine Cover

"Wizard of the Wood"

These are a few images I captured in the woods near my home using a mask I constructed for a Christmas costume party the year before last.

I went to the party as the Green Man.

It struck me as a good prop for photographs as studies for paintings or other art.

"Goblin" is my favorite, being simple and having some good colors. I like "Druid" as well, but the final photo strikes me as being a bit sickly in hue.

This was an experimental foray--I have a much larger project in mind which I am gathering materials for right now.

I will admit to liking scary and creepy things, but I would also love to try and produce some images of beautiful fantasy subjects as well.

Hope you like them. These images are copyrighted and  may not be used without permission of Justin Becker, thank you!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Amazing, Stupendous and Utterly Diabolical "Dagger of Intrigue"....

At a game recently, resuming the campaign from a nearly two month break, a player trotted out a list of treasures and magic items from the last time we had played and started asking questions about a "Dagger of Intrigue".

Him: So what does this Dagger of Intrigue do?

Me: Dagger of Intrigue?

Him: Yes, you told us we found a Dagger of Intrigue.

Me: Really? Hmm. I seem to have misplaced my list. I specifically stated to you that it was a Dagger of Intrigue?

Him: Yes, you did. You said it was called a Dagger of Intrigue.

Me: Oh. Perhaps I said you found a dagger which intrigues you...

Him, smiling and shaking his head: Ah no--you specifically stated that Vattic (his thief) found among the treasures a Dagger of Intrigue.

So, after admitting that I had forgotten but seeing how the player had been fascinated by the Dagger of Intrigue and he, as yet being only second level, almost third, but without any magical items, I invented the Dagger of Intrigue upon the spot.

Me: Yes, Vattic has indeed found a most wondrous relic, for the Dagger is not only a +2 to hit and damage magic weapon, it is also imbued with an a power most useful to one of your profession. For the enchantment of the blade is such that when at your will you consciously conceal it upon your person, it cannot be found by the most diligent searcher out of weapons. Be it a bandit robbing you, a castle guard patting you down, or a captor relieving you of your arms, a Dagger of Intrigue can never be found by normal means. In fact, you could be bare-a** naked to the mortal eye, shivering in a snowbank, but no one will see the dagger or find it. And don't ask me where it goes either....

Anyway, I thought it a decent magic item! He was very thrilled with it and his companions gleefully recommended it for assassination and other bits of skullduggery.

As I write this, my thoughts run to the question of how many daggers of this nature had been invented, who fashioned them and for what specific purpose...interested to hear ideas on this in the comments section!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Playing System in the Works

Having always favored ultra simple rules systems for table top role play gaming, it comes as a bit of a surprise to myself that a good friend and I have begun collaborating on a decidedly more simulation-oriented rules system for a new game we are forging.

We are  borrowing extensively from the underlying strata of some rules systems of days gone by. Brent is working on the combat system at the moment while I undertake the magic section, and the way its shaping up, it will be a different kind of game experience for me.

I have always favored low-level adventures for D&D games, meaning that I enjoy playing games with characters from 1st level on up to about 5th or perhaps 6th.

I've realized that one major reason for this is simply because as DM, its easier to keep track of things in the game at lower levels. Its also much easier to run combats. I really do not like the way that combat gets longer and longer the higher the levels of the characters and hit die of monsters involved.

With that in mind, we are trying to get the best of both worlds with regards to realism and ease of play. It is skill based and uses a twenty sided die for most resolutions.  It is not, however, the open d20 system prevalent today and probably favors some of the old aspects of some of the Fantasy Games Unlimited systems of old.

The spell system is nearly done--it does not consist of prepared lists of spell by level but rather the mage begins with a certain chosen skills relating to the particular type of magic he or she most wants to practice, be it Necromancy, Divination, Conjuration, Sorcery or what have you.

Instead of choosing from a spell list the player informs the DM of the desired magic effect.

Player and DM select the skills which are needed to perform the magic and a skill check is made for each one--usually there will never be more than about four.

Only a critical failure in using any of these skills negates the spell at this point.

After determining the skills to be used, the spell is set against a codified but brief list of spell criteria/effects including but not limited to, say number of wills involved, area of effect, spell distance, amount of elemental matter to be manipulated, damage effects, whether or not the spell is creative in nature, time in preparation, and so on.

Modifiers are assigned based on these factors, the more difficult spells having tougher mods.

Once all of this is done, a final roll is made using the Mage's Intuition attribute score as a modifier as well. It should be noted that at this stage, only a critical failure negates the spell...however, less spectacular rolls could diminish the spell result, like, for example, cutting down duration, etc.

There will be a mana or magic power reservoir stat from which spell casting is drawn, no more magicks being available when it is depleted.

There are no backlash effects  for critically failed spells other than the fact that you lose the mana in a crit fail but get no magic effects. However, if one has conjured or summoned an other planar being or is maintaining control over a mind or will and critically fails, the backlash is quite evident.....

One unique feature of this system and somewhat of a departure from D&D is that most spells are not cast on the fly because the skill of Ritual is a requirement in casting most powerful magicks, certainly those which require summoning, necromancy, displays of elemental power, etc.

Incantation is also a Mage skill and magicks which require only Incantation can be cast on the go.  Magicks of this nature would be spells of illusion, suggestion and command, and very minor elemental manipulation of materials close at hand.

The key to making use of more powerful spells during an adventure is casting them before hand in a a place of magick making and binding or storing the spell in talismans, amulets, or the most likely, wands. The spell can then be cast from the item using a word of command.

Any level mage can craft enchanted items to store such spell effects--however, the item is limited by what magic it can hold by the amount of magic that went into crafting the item.

Spells of ritual can be cast during an adventure but only if time, atmosphere, peace and space permit.

Physical components are required for all spells.

An obvious side effect to this sort of system is that Mages of even the lowest order MUST have a place to perform magick, a base of operations. And their physical talismans and wand are vital. However, by means of binding magicks to such items, although they expend mana in the making of the spell, they do not expend mana during the adventure, allowing them to use their mana for Incantation spells or in resisting other magicks cast against themselves.

Another thing gone bye bye...and I apologize in advance for saying this, I know it is a time honored the silly business of "We drive a spike under the door and spend the night in the dungeon room so the mage can regain spells....".

Uh, no...not gonna happen.

The aspects of that entire situation completely preclude any effective magic building in such a dire locale. The state of mind of the Mage, the opposing influences in the ethereal realm, the history of that place, everything.  Because although in our system mages will certainly want to own grimoires and magic books, the magic comes from ritual and not memorizing spells which you forget once cast.

What I like about our system is that it means a player should really only construct from the skill tables a character they are personally really suited to play.

If you have a mage, for instance, you will be creating your own spells and customizing your own talismans and items. Sky is the limit on the subtle variations a player can introduce to the game.

The combat system that Brent is working on is the same in this respect in that it is suited for those who favor warrior characters.

It's not a matter of "Here, roll this number on this dice, if you hit, roll again to see damage."

You actually tell the DM what you want to do in the way of moves, desired strike effect, etc. You have a number of defensive moves available to you in a round as well. Use them or hold them, up to you. So in playing a warrior, you will use your imagination.  Warriors use their Prowess attribute in battle in a manner similar to how mages use Intuition in spell casting.

We are discussing religion and healing magic at the moment and how the Priest type character fits into this scheme.

But that is a foretaste of the coming system, which is yet unnamed.

We will be self publishing it, probably in large part for free! So stay tuned to the Mazes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Greetings OSR gamers!

In spite of best intentions the blog remains static.

I would like to revive it and pay a lot more attention to it.

I have not been remiss in my pursuits of game design, but due to very large and positive life changes, I have been somewhat busy.

Getting married tends to take some focus....!

Anyway, I will be updating and trying to provide content that will encourage commenting by those who visit the Mazes, since a weblog is much more fun to work on when people are involved.

So that means I've got to get some content up worth commenting about!

I predict 2015 will be a great year for games!

If anyone is out there paying attention, please send me your e-mails or comments as to what you would like to see!! More dungeons? New game systems? Obscure relics of the Deep Age?

Reviews? Stories?

Let's build cool stuff!!!

Good gaming to you all.