Thursday, September 27, 2012

Musing On Monsters

My favorite D&D monster book.
As you may have noticed, the blog has lain fallow for a couple of weeks while I'm in the midst of dreaming up monsters to write up and post here.  I have quite the list of sordid beasties to detail and "publish," but my list got me thinking.

It turns out I have a real distaste for the late 3.X and 4.0 style of naming monsters.  It's taking a couple of words, mashing them together, and sticking them in front of the monster type.  For instance, and this is a completely fabricated monster name, you might see things in late 3.5 Monster Manuals or 4.0 Monster Manuals that read something like "sorrowsworn drake" or "deathdealer zombie" or some other similar (and bland) name.  I even have an issue with the basic monster names of earlier editions, too.  Orc just doesn't cut it anymore for me, since I have been trying to get away from standard D&D and Tolkien fantasy for more pulp-era Sword & Sorcery fantasy anyhow.  (Let me note right now that I have no real problem with the systems themselves, only some of the naming conventions of monsters - there's a lot to like about 3.0/3.5 and especially 3.PF and even, dare I say, 4.0 - minions and random recharge powers in particular).

Thus, I have chosen suitably pulp-like names for the monsters you shall see.  How about the Watchers of the Pit, the Bird-Men of the Floating Island, and other such names (expect to see those written up, by the way).  I also view it as a way to begin deciding what is where in my game world.  It's a wonderful way to map out where the monsters belong, naming them in this way.  And I prefer not to make up fanciful names for them (even though certain monsters, like the crodlu of Dark Sun, have wonderful names in this vein - but there are so many bad ones out there).

I came to this realization while using some random monster name generators on the internet to spark ideas (an amazing way to find inspiration, if you've never tried it!).  The modern 4E style naming conventions found in some of them were sorely lacking.

And yes, I realize this is purely preference.  Some folks like what I consider bland, and etc.  This is all just what the post title says - Musings on Monsters.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Magic and Power Sources

I used to think the Harry Dresden books were crap "urban" fantasy cranked out for the cash.  I seem to think that of a lot of fantasy novels published these days.  The problem is that I'm making a snap judgment before ever having read the books - I'm judging them by their covers, and equating old as better in all cases, which is patently wrong in a lot of ways.  There - confession out of the way.

I am happy to say I'm almost through the third of the four Dresden books that I have acquired in the last couple of years.  I am absolutely hooked, and I love the series.  Of course, I'm way out of chronological order at the moment, but they're written in such a way where it doesn't matter so much.  Harry reminds me a lot of myself in many cases - some of the same struggles (family, personality, etc., of course - I don't have mold demons in my car, even though it might smell like it).

One thing I came across while reading Blood Rites gave me one heck of an idea for revising the wizard class for old school and related games.  Look at this passage:

"Supply and demand," I said.  "There are limits to what outside forces can deliver to the mortal world.  Think of the incoming power as water flowing through a pipeline.  If a couple of people are using a rite once every couple of weeks, or every few years, there's no problem pumping in enough magic to make it work.  But if fifty thousand people are trying to use the rite all at once, there isn't enough power in any one place to make it happen.  It just comes out as a little dribble that tastes bad and smells funny."

Murphy nodded, following me.  "So people who have rituals don't want to share them."

I can't remember what blog I read it at, but the blog's author was investigating Vancian magic and why wizards drive a hard bargain on spell trading.  It comes directly from Jack Vance's Dying Earth material.  Between that and the above passage from the Dresden book I'm into at the moment, it inspired me to determine that as with any form of power (electricity, fire, cold, etc.) there has to be a method of generation.  My current version of the wizard is much the same as the core S&W rules with a few tricks up its sleeve.  The rewrite is going to infer some of the above assumptions.  The wizard must decide where he gets his power.  Innately, from a pact, from book-learnin', or even from an item.  Then I'll have to decide if the power source can be severed from the power user at any point.  This may help me in trying to fix the "I'm a first level wizard, just cast my first and only spell, and now I suck read bad" problem.  When I figure it out I'll post it.  Until then, mull this over.  It's a wonderful assumption about the actual "system" of magic as it exists in the game world.

Friday, September 7, 2012

More Monstrous Monday

The Monstrous Monday Bloghop seems to be growing by leaps and bounds!  What a great tool the code for the Hop list is - if you look to the right of this post you'll see it below the Monstrous Monday banner.  There seriously oughta be more of these going on.  Maybe I'll organize something in the future right here....  We'll have to see how it goes.  I'm ridiculously busy with trying to create monsters right now, and trying to get this lesson for Sunday school finished.  After MM concludes, we shall see.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monstrous Monday

Tim over at The Other Side has set up a blogfest all about my favorite thing - monsters!  Go here to read about it.  I'll be contributing my share of monsters, all original creations, probably for Swords & Wizardry with some of my weird and wonky house rules included - which I'll reference if the monster makes use of them.  I'd do some Pathfinder entries, but, well, that's mental gymnastics and I'm not up for it for a while.

Campaign Notebook: Vigilantes

I love films and comics about hard-nosed vigilantes - the clear delineation between good and evil and a simple way to solve the issue always appealed to me.  I abhor any type violence in the real world, as it is never constructive and is in opposition to what Christ teaches us about loving our enemies, but in the fantasy world of books, movies, and comics, it is an ingrained part of the heroes' world and a legitimate method of solving problems.  Indeed, it is often the only way in a violent game world to stop something from becoming way, way worse.  The real world doesn't typically let crime slide so out of control that we have the complete insanity that you would see in something like Hobo With A Shotgun or even Death Wish.  And games are an escape from the real world, where we can see things in black and white and the choice to stop a criminal by any means necessary is simple.

That being said, I've come up with the germ of a campaign idea for D20 Modern or maybe Savage Worlds (if I feel like learning a new system this would be my first choice, Alternity coming in close behind it).  It would take place in a semi-post-apocalyptic (how's that for vagueness?) city at first, perhaps like the cities of The Warriors or Escape from New York - in other words, it's the points of light idea from 4E grafted onto a modern/near-future setting.  The PCs are the vigilantes or bad guys gone good, who are sick and tired of the chaos of endless gang warfare and being hassled on the street.  Bodies are piling up, and the only way to solve it is to strike.  Crime lords and a feudal gang system have to be dealt with, as well as the equally sick government that allows things of that nature to thrive and become partners instead of enemies.  Serial killers operate in the open, and other varieties of human monsters are on display as well.

For material, I'm going to mine movies like Death Wish, The Warriors, 1984, A Clockwork Orange, all 3 Punisher films (including the one with Dolph Lundgren), Escape from New York/L.A., Cyborg, Terminator, Mad Max, Day of the Dead, and various less-well-known vigilante and near-future post-apocalypse films.  Judge Dredd comics and the corresponding D20 game by Mongoose are going to get mined for anything useful as well.  I may have to inject a little extra testosterone into my players' bloodstreams.  One or two of them may lack sufficient quantities for this to truly get them excited.

The cool thing about all of this:  when I run out of mundane-world ideas or the PCs solve the world's ills, I simply turn to the back of D20 Modern and choose a campaign outline and gradually introduce out-of-control weirdness onto the streets in the form of D&D monsters.  Ah yes, the chaos never ends.