Thursday, March 31, 2011

This is something extremely well-planned and thought out

So, I'm going to be doing the April A to Z blogging challenge. Now that my hell week of hunkering down and churning out 6 heavy school projects is over and done with, I'm going to try and make more time to crank out blog posts like I promised. Having just gamed for seemingly the first time in years (more on that in a future post), the fires of creativity have definitely been rekindled. Hopefully having a schedule of what kind of stuff I'm going to post about will help out in the long term. I've got the first chunk of my entries worked out, so hopefully once I pick up steam, I'll get a better idea of what kinds of stuff I'm interested in writing about. In the meantime, here's a list of the posts I'm planning:
  1. A is for Assholes in Space
  2. B is for Buddies
  3. C is for Convict Planet
  4. D is for Duos
  5. E is for Equipment
  6. F is for Fun
  7. G is for Gunslinger
  8. H is for Hardboiled Hollywood
  9. I is for Inspiration
  10. J is for Jamie Time
  11. K is for Karnival of Killers
  12. L is for
  13. M is for
  14. N is for
  15. O is for
  16. P is for
  17. Q is for
  18. R is for
  19. S is for
  20. T is for
  21. U is for
  22. V is for
  23. W is for
  24. X is for
  25. Y is for
  26. Z is for
I'm really looking forward to the other posts that people are working on. Hopefully, some stuff from this blog will get people charged up.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dungeon String: The Thief

As anyone who's seen heist films knows, the gathering together of a crew (or "string" as Donald E Westlake's Dortmunder novels call it) really sets the tone for the rest of the caper itself. Each member of a string has a specialty that makes them essential to the task at hand, from safecracking to infiltration to crowd control. The television show (and subsequent roleplaying game) Leverage divided these specialties into the broad categories of Hitter, Hacker, Grifter and Thief. For my Heist D&D game, these roles are going to be covered by the four standard classes from Basic D&D.

These Dungeon String posts are my ideas on how each D&D class can fit into the heist milieu. Though the Thief class seems like it would cover the traditional pickpocketing, lockpicking and stealthy elements of a caper, this is a fantasy heist. There are going to be vault doors closed by magic, exploding rune traps, gelatinous cubes making security sweeps in the sewers below, plenty of room for a wide variety of unscrupulous characters. But since they are the backbone of any good heist, let's start with the Thief.

In a game where disarming traps and dodging security are commonplace occurrences, the Thief is the obvious utility player, acting as dedicated burglars, ranged combat specialists or expert lookouts. On top of their obvious Thief skills and alertness bonuses, Thieves also have the Backstab ability, which not only covers striking from the shadows with a knife to the back, but also ranged attacks from long distances. A Thief armed with a repeating crossbow in a high vantage point could hold off advancing enemies until the job is done or the plan has to be abandoned.

As many people have already noted, the standard B/X Thief is kind of a chump, with low hit points, okay saves and an alright attack progression. But on top of that, the Thief isn't any good at his job. I know that the Player Skill vs. Character Skill debate has been hemmed and hawed over by the OSR blogging community as a whole, specifically having to do with Thief skills, but it still stands that a standard Thief is much, MUCH worse at being a Thief at 1st level than a Fighter is at being a Fighter and so on. A starting Fighter with decent stats has about a 25-40% chance of being able to hit most monsters. A Cleric has a 33-50% chance of turning undead of around his level. But a starting Thief is more likely to succeed at his saving throw against a poison trap than his actual Trap Removal roll.

No more. In the Heist D&D campaign, I'm planning on using a modification of Beyond the Black Gate's Swords and Wizardry Thief class with the unified Thievery skill starting out at a 35% success rate. I figure that a modification like this puts the Thief on more even ground with the rest of the Basic classes and as a result, it will hopefully encourage more stealthy maneuvering and thiefly behavior.

Picture from Claudio Pozas' art gallery on ENWorld

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some great reading

If you haven't been reading austrodavicus's phenomenal Old School Renaissance is Dead posts, check them out post-haste. I'd like to thank Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor for bringing them to my attention with his Newbie Blogger Award, as they are probably the best codification of why I'm involved in the whole old school blogging community. The idea that a group of people can be united by a common interest rather than a common distaste, enthusiasm rather than nostalgia. After all, I wasn't even BORN when all of these games were in their prime and I'm still writing about all of this stuff, right? So thank you, austrodavicus, for putting a lot of thought and effort into pinpointing what keeps a lot of us going.

In more clerical news, Fistful of Coppers is going to be a little more sporadically updated in the next few weeks. I've got about a half dozen big projects due at graduate school and as much as I enjoy writing stuff up for this blog, time is unfortunately not a luxury that I have at the moment. Hopefully I can start putting some of these ideas that I've had bouncing around in my head onto paper in the future, but right now I need to focus on putting poster projects and book talks onto paper. I love writing this thing, but unfortunately I'm not getting graded on it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Return from sabbatical

Unfortunately, looks like I'm not exactly going to meet my goal of posting once every day this month, seeing as I spent the last week looking for apartments with my girlfriend in the sunny state of New Jersey. However, I did spend that trip listening to three different caper/heist novels, which have really stoked my creative fires on this D&D Heist thing. So within the next few days, I'll hopefully be bringing you some of my new ideas, including the beginnings of my Whimsy deck, an analysis of how each D&D class fits into a 'string,' as Donald E Westlake calls it and some floorplans of potential heists in the inimitable graph paper dungeon style.

But to get us started, here's a completely legit YouTube link to the entirety of the Castle of Cagliostro, one of the greatest anime films of all time and a fantastic heist film in its own right.

See you soon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I've crossed the rubicon!

Thank you to everyone who has been following For A Fistful of Coppers recently. As of now, I have over 50 people following my intermittently updated ramblings and I'd like to thank each and every one of you. I appreciate every comment that I get on my posts and ideas. It's one of the reasons that I love the game blog world so much and I think I'm more confident in my posting than ever before.

As of recently, I've been binging on Dortmunder and Discworld novels and watching classic heist movies, including the Sting and the Castle of Cagliostro. I think that something really clicked for me with the Bugbears and Bankvaults post and hopefully, I can synthesize it into something fun for everyone. All I know is that I'd better start working on that Whimsy/Plot Complications deck, because what's a heist if it doesn't have unforeseen consequences?

Until next time...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ogrim's Eleven: Or Bugbears and Bankvaults

I've been thinking about this post since Society of Torch, Pole and Rope talked about something similar with the Tomb of Horrors, so here goes...

In recent weeks, I've been trying to understand why the idea of the old-school dungeon crawl or megadungeon hasn't really inspired me that much. I seem to be able to comprehend the idea of the picaresque hero and the simple interpretable rules that seem so important to old-school games, but I really want to understand more of what's appealing about these places. I'm not really a big fantasy literature buff and the novels I do read tend to have very modern genre attitudes, like the Dresden Files and the Discworld series. The Tomb of Horrors post over at Society of Torch, Pole and Rope got me thinking hard on the subject. I love movies like The Sting, Ocean's Eleven and Snatch and television like Leverage and White Collar, which share a whole lot of elements with the dungeon crawl: assembling a crew, loading up on the requisite equipment, edging down corridors and disabling traps. So why couldn't I apply this love of a plan coming together to dungeons?

I think it's because they're not active enough for me.

Now before the entire D&D blogosphere jumps down my throat about their dungeons and experiences and whatever, note that I'm not saying that the megadungeon mode is a bad thing: it just may not be for me. Something about looting long abandoned temples just doesn't excite me that much. Sure, you may have just found the Eye of Hrumesh and taken it from its rightful temple, but where's the fallout from that? Who have you pissed off? Where are you going to lay low?

I think that I need to run old-school D&D like a Dortmunder novel: putting together a crew of quirky characters to do a job, whether it's trying to steal a magical artifact from a prominent guild leader or being hired by a scholar looking to retrieve significant findings in the field. A Magic-user casting Charm Person on the janitor to smuggle a pair of Thieves into the building while the Fighter looks on with a crossbow, ready to intervene if things get nasty (which they most likely will). Magical university buildings set up with Explosive Runes traps for nosy lockpicks or wizards trying to Knock their way into a fortune.

Stuff like that gets me fired up.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New layout

Trying something a little new with my layout here, as I was kind of getting sick of the limited space of my old white-on-white formatting.

Yeah, I know it's not a long post, but it's a post for today and I'm sticking to my schedule! There'll be a longer one tomorrow that I've already started working on, I promise.

In closing, have an average weekend!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A New Direction

I realized today that I was spending more time on writing up space opera races and weaponry than I did on assignments and group work for library school. Unfortunately, that's one thing that I can't afford to do right now, so Assholes in Space will probably be riding the backburner for the time being.

However, that's not to say that I'm going to put this month of blog updating on hiatus. I'm just going to take a different approach. A little bit slower with development and brainstorming, since I'm probably not going to get the chance to run this thing until the end of the month anyhow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Assholes in Space: The Mixtape

Along with my initial concept of the Assholes in Space campaign, I made a mixtape of setting-appropriate soundtrack music that helped me visualize the setting. I tried to find as many of them as I could on YouTube, but there are definitely some important ones missing. It's a pretty potent blend of trad ska and reggae, hip hop, electronics and hardcore/noise.

Minutemen - This Ain't No Picnic (embedding disabled by request)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Assholes in Space: A Brief Introduction

Along with continuing my ideas for the Motherlode D&D campaign and adaptations of S John Ross's Uresia for use with Basic-style D&D, I want to use the month of March to talk about an old campaign idea that has been sitting on my mental backburner for a while now, known colloquially as Assholes in Space. The original idea for the game came from a very interesting combination of influences that created a very specific image of a campaign setting in my mind.

Most science fiction fans have read Neuromancer. It's the book that launched a thousand dark futures and is directly responsible for Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, GURPS Cyberpunk and dozens of other less well known roleplaying games. In my senior year of college, I was listening to a BBC Radio 'play of the week' adaptation of Neuromancer before going to sleep and what really stuck out to me about the story in audio form was the Rastafarian Space Navy. I'd always liked Maelcum in the novel, but hearing the reggae thumping in the background of a slow motion deep space cruise just made me think, "There must be characters like this in every science-fiction setting." Somewhere in the Star Wars universe, there must be a guy who thinks that living in space is just the coolest and spends his days floating around smoking space-weed and listening to space-reggae (there are probably names for these in the Star Wars universe, but my EU knowledge is a bit rusty.) The combination of music with the silent background of space reminded me of Cowboy Bebop's fantastic eclectic soundtrack and the western twang of zero gravity in the Firefly universe.

The other major influence was actually a Wushu play-by-post game on RPGnet that I was involved in called A Million Billion Bastards (right here if you've got an account.) The setting was described as "Take Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, Getbackers, Xenosaga, Ghost in the Shell, and a dozen other influences, toss 'em in a blender, and hit puree." It was a real melange of influences, all decidedly cinematic, and while it lasted, it was really fun. But what I really took away from it was the 'anything goes' idea of worldbuilding. Don't worry about whether or not something in an over-the-top cinematic galaxy is realistic or even plausible. Don't be afraid to just wing it. Cybernetics, psionics, rifles as long as some people are tall, four-armed aliens and genetically altered killing machines are all welcome in this universe. Fun is fun and if the campaign can accommodate everyone's idea of fun, so much the better.

T-Minus One Month

From now on, I'll be taking an hour or so every day just to write stuff for this blog and post it. It may not be perfect, but at least it will be consistent.

Hope to see you there. :)