Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Tag

The Fate Roll: Handling Initiative In A Split Party   1 comment

I had a curious situation this last Tuesday: I had a 3.5 gaming group where nearly every player had a character who would be in an entirely different place, doing different (though related) things at the same time.  I wasn’t sure how best to handle this… my instinct said that they should just roll initiative, but initiative wasn’t really a good story-excuse for ordering; initiative is about who can get the upper hand, about who’s faster, and about who’s wily enough to get the drop on other people.  And I didn’t want to just make it a “roll off” where everyone rolled a d20 and the number on the die was your order; one of the subtle brilliances of initiative is that it has an automatic tie-breaker, wherein those who get the same “score” can still check sheets and determine that even in a tie, one player would logically be faster than the other (though this can still lead to more ties, causing a roll-off, but that only has about a 1 in 400 chance of occurring, and then only between characters with identical Dexterity scores.)  So I wanted a Dexterity tie breaker, even though Dexterity was pointless.  Clearly I needed another stat… but all the stats were seemingly useless.

Enter the Fate Roll.  Borrowing some ideas from a few different games, I had the players add their Wisdom and Charisma scores together and divide by 2.  Wisdom tends to model your awareness of the world around you, and Charisma tends to model your self-assertion within that world, so it seemed logical that those two things might be related to a character’s ability to manipulate their own fate or destiny or what have you.  (This was probably way too much math to demand of my players; going with a Wisdom or Charisma score was probably enough, but dangit once I was committed to the idea I was gonna do it, no matter how many players had to double check what I was asking.)  This number would then be rounded down to derive a “Fate Score”, a sort of seventh ability score that could represent Luck or Fate or whatever.  Then a simple roll off to determine order of group.

As it turned out, the order was a decent one.  Everyone only had two “turns” for the entire session, but each turn represented an hour of in-game work.  In the current game, I’ve set things in Eberron and I’m using the Alabaster Cup tournament as presented in the book Complete Warrior.  It’s set in Karrnath, and many of the players joined the tournament while a few others chose not to.  The previous events have included Archery, an Obstacle Course, Wrestling, and Jousting, and the players have been trying to keep the campaign’s villain from winning the tournament since (in my version of the tournament) the winner has historically been able to ask for a “reasonable favor” from the monarch of whatever nation the tournament is held within.

All of those previous events, as you can probably imagine, didn’t really require much of a change to the order; people either did things at the same time (like in the archery tournament), in a turn-based fashion (such as the obstacle course), or they were randomly assigned placement in a bracket (like in wrestling or jousting.)  Hunting is the next stage, though.

One of the real benefits of doing it this way is that I was able to involve the players who weren’t in the tournament, who have been good sports the last few session while the action hasn’t really focused on their characters.  I grouped them together as a sort of security detail to watch the forest, and I’ve had them work as a group to discover an ominous figure who they know to be working with the campaign’s villain, apparently working with rival packs of Winter Wolves and Worgs.  They don’t know the reasons why,  yet, and they opted not to attack the figure in the forest or his wolves, but they were able to advance the story itself rather than wait for the other players to “be done” with their hunting.

Anyway… this in’t a hug revelation, and it could have been handled in a fashion as easy as me saying “Okay guys, we’re gonna go around the table from me, clockwise, to figure out what order you go in” but I liked having an actual reason. for it.  Take care, all!

Dandar Dexdrer, I Dresume?   1 comment

Can’t remember as much of it as I’d like, but I wanted to share this dream o’ mine.

I was looking for someone.  Dexdrer was his last name, eventually, but I can’t remember anything about the first name except it starter with D (Dander, as mentioned in the title, is as close to it as I remember.  I went to brush my teeth saying the name to myself so I wouldn’t forget it, but stopped saying it to myself somewhere along the way, so now I can’t recall.)  This person used to be in a military unit, and I was scouring over an old military base that, in dream fashion, had an interior comprised of some places I know (or reminiscent of them enough for a dream’s production values) in real life.  I had some people helping me to look for them, but rarely saw anyone else.

Everything around the base was grey and washed out, taking on the appearance of winter even though it wasn’t covered with snow.  Like, snow-covered greyness, but without the snow to justify it.  The clouds were grey enough, though, so maybe it was just overcast.  It was flat enough that I think it was in some sort of desert.

Here’s the odd part: I started playing two roles in the dream, one as an actor and one as an observer.  I knew in my head that members of this military unit secretly developed the ability to fly.  The “title” of the dream suggested that to me, though I couldn’t tell ya what the title was right now.  And then i found a long, black-feather in the dream that really puzzled actor me but seemed a little too obvious of a clue to observer me.  There was a room dedicated to a member of the military unit, with a little plaque set up saying that the room was dedicated to them.  It was suggested to observer me that this person was very overweight and that somehow this might have prevented him from flying with the rest of the group, or at least not as well.

I should’ve mentioned by now that this military base wasn’t in the United States, it was in another country.  I keep wanting to say Tunisia in my head, but that doesn’t work.  If Canada had a Tunisian/New Mexican desert, I think it would almost fit everything I saw and/or felt about this place.  Chilly salt flats surrounded the base.  Maybe Utah would be a better comparison than New Mexico.

Anyway, I received word from another person looking for this Dexdrer fellow saying that he thought he’d almost found him, and then I knew I had to hurry.  I made it to where he was and saw the person we were looking for cornering the person who’d radioed me, and holding his fingers to his mouth like it was supposed to be a secret.  Then he looked really annoyed that I’d found them and dropped the whole “cornering the person looking for him” thing.  I then said the line I put as the title, “Dandar(?) Dexdrer, I dresume?”  Then I apologized for messing up what I was saying, and said “presume” and things moved on.

(It’s worth noting that the two people here were people I know in real life.  Both people I mostly know from gaming, actually.  They definitely weren’t “themselves”, though, they were actors in the same sense that I wasn’t playing myself unless I was being the observer me.)

Then I followed the person I was looking for while he gruffly tried to ignore me or brush me off.  I kept accusing him of crimes that he could demonstrate weren’t actually crimes, like stealing his company’s… industrial vehicle? (sort of like a salt truck or something)… to get to the base, only to learn that he owned the vehicle anyway because the company was entirely paid for by him.  “Personal seed money” was close to a phrase he used.

Anyway… I woke up shortly after that.  In the dream, he hadn’t revealed that he could fly, that was still a revelation forthcoming from the narrative of the dream itself, even though I knew it was a thing.  I expected (I the observer, that is) for him to be calling all of his old army buddies out to take over/move into this abandoned military base so that they could… relive flying? I don’t know why they couldn’t just fly anywhere, but they were definitely going to try to recapture some element of the past, and the fact that they could secretly fly was probably involved.

I’m not entirely sure where this dream comes from.  The grey, washed-out aspect of the world outside might have come from my hatred of the ridiculous use of light in Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie, and a conversation I had with a friend after the fact about lighting in movies.  The fact that the other two seen characters in the dream were “played” by friends in real life sorta reminded me of the games of Cosmic Patrol I’ve been playing lately, though only one of the two dream people is a real Cosmic Patrol player.

All in all, an interesting dream and I’d have liked to see how it turned out (isn’t that always the way?  Well, except for nightmares…), but all in all it wasn’t an “interesting” dream so much as it was a “weird” dream.

Windows Ten’s Most Important Feature   Leave a comment

So, Windows 8 had one little feature that was better than Windows 10 that I’d like to mention: Windows 8 sort of let you know over time that it had downloaded updates, and gave you chances to install those updates on your own schedule, while Windows 10 (according to some friends) just springs updates on you, ready or not.  I’ve not experienced this yet on the Windows 10 side of things, but I liked that Windows 8 kept reminding me about my free Windows 10 upgrade.  I agreed to the upgrade, let it quietly download Windows 10 in the background, and last night I set it up to make the upgrade complete.  Today I had a fresh new system to try out.  My unreliable Internet connection was sketchy at best so some parts of the upgrade were held off until I could definitively be online, but all the important pieces got put in place.

Windows 10 Desktop

I never updated my background from the default on Windows 8 (just never got around to installing my image of the Ouroboros Citadel that I used on Windows 7) so it was refreshing to see a scenic island.  I may well keep it.  I, of course, did a quick check of the Start Menu and was pleased to see that it was still there.  I don’t care for a lot of the tiles and things, but that can be changed in time (especially if I dabble in third party customization options.)  While the Start menu was, for right or wrong, the most requested change to Windows 8, scrolling through it reminded me of what’s truly important about Windows:the ability to play a card game that I could just as easily play in real life.  I’m talking, of course, about Solitaire.  So when I saw Solitaire in the Start menu, I knew it had to be my first stop on the review of everything that Windows 10 does.  I mean, if Windows can’t get Solitaire right, then we know the system is doomed.

Windows Solitaire 404

So, naturally, seeing an Internet connection error right off the bat was a bit disheartening.  However, once my knee-jerk reaction was done, I determined that this was a good thing.  This wasn’t saying “Error 404, no Internet, no cards for you, does not compute Earthling, feiopfewnifpe.”  Instead it was saying “Hey, I’d like to check the news updates for this program, but they’re not really available because the Internet’s not on, sorry!”

Further examination provided a menu.  Classic Solitaire is now called Klondike apparently (I don’t know why, but I can accept it as a name for its “variant” of the game.  I’m assuming there’s some earlier version of Solitaire, so the name “Classic” would probably upset some people who play it IRL.  Or maybe they just liked the sound of Klondike.)  This game also tracks a few things like Statistics, offers daily challenges (though they require Internet access), and even rankings.  There are ways to set this up with X-Box Live and other various things (again, they require Internet) but unlike Windows 8 these things appear optional.  Sure, it was *technically* optional in Windows 8, but in Windows 8 you had to actively search to avoid messing with those things.  Here it’s just a friendly way to play, if it’s something you care to worry about.  I’ve never been a Spider Solitaire fan and didn’t want to give the other two variations a try, so naturally my first game on Windows 10 was the Classic game.  By which I mean Klondike.

Windows Solitaire First Game

Here’s my first hand!  As you can see, it was a good arrangement.  A lot of options right off the bat.  Lots of card “syngery” in play.  (Ha!)  I messed around with this for a bit, and discovered that one of my favorite features of the classic game was still intact.  Namely, the game doesn’t auto-solve.  Instead it allows me to move cards as I see fit.  So if I turn over an Ace in the draw deck, I have the option of bringing it down to put onto a Two to net myself a few extra points.  I kept playing until, alas, I was out of moves.

Windows Solitaire First Game Failure

A tragedy of the highest magnitude, to be sure.  So I took the screenshot, saved the image, and prepared to end the game… but when I came back, I noticed a gentle highlight on the three of hearts, reminding me that my game wasn’t, in fact, over.

Windows Solitaire First Game UnFailure

I was able to maneuver this into an easy victory!  The cynic in me wondered if the first game would be rigged for people for a victory, but there’s no way to test that with just my one game.  Still, it was nice to kick off Windows 10 with a win in Solitaire.  Windows has a tradition of bringing celebratory animations to successful Solitaire games, and Klondike was no exception.

Windows Solitaire Victory Butterflies

Victory butterflies sparkled around!  It was nice.  Not great, but nice.  My favorite will always be the “jumping” playing cards that create after images of other playing cards behind them.  This had a bit of an element of that, and combined it with the fireworks that would come whenever you won a game of Mahjong in Windows 7 (another game that I’d like to see in Windows Ten.  It’s probably not here, but I’ve honestly not looked.)  So, the victory celebration in Windows Ten is nothing to write home about, but it’s certainly a nice, pleasant visual.  (To whoever worked on programming this ending: I understand the pressures of making something cool and nifty that celebrates victory without overdoing it, and I think you succeeded here.  The jumping after-images tradition is just a really tough act to follow.)

After victory, I was presented with some statistics.

Windows Solitaire First Game Victory Stats

As you can see, that’s 100% victory right there.  I HAVE NEVER FAILED AT THIS GAME on Windows 10, according to this.  I’ve always had mixed feelings about statistic keeping like this.  You can only really have a three-digit success rate until you lose, and then it’s lost forever.  I thought about preserving this 100% victory forever, never again playing Solitaire… but in my heart I knew it would be meaningless, so I instantly played another game, lost it, and dropped down to 50%.  I took no screenshot, though, so you have only my say-so.  PERHAPS I STILL HAVE 100% VICTORY AND AM NEEDLESSLY LYING?!  Nope.  But it’s a fun thought.

Anyway, Solitaire on Windows Ten is a solid addition to the Windows Solitaire tradition.  I don’t play Solitaire often on Windows, but it’s always nice knowing that it’s there as an option should I ever be bored and in the mood to kill some time.  Between this and the Start Menu, I’m optimistic about how Windows Ten will unfold.

My Cabin-Con 2015 Schedule   Leave a comment

Hey, all!  It’s the beginning of con season, and that means, as I’m sure you’re aware, CABIN-CON!  I just made it into Michigan City, my old stomping grounds (and current stomping grounds) from Valparaiso, and I’m ready for Cabin-Con tomorrow.  Here, I even took my first selfie ever at a Taco Bell in Michigan City to prove that I’m ready for the weekend.

Empanada'd.

John ponders Empanadas

Now, if  you’ve never been to Cabin-Con, that’s cool.  It’s smaller than most conventions (in fact, it’s about the smallest I’ve ever been to), but that’s part of what makes it so cool.  After a few years of going, it’s rare to find a crowd of people without at least a few familiar faces (some might say impossible).  Most of the weekend consists of pick-up gaming, so if you’re a fan of Zombie Dice or Munchkin or Mag Blast or a lot of other quirky games like that it’s a good place to find people eager to give it a try.  There’s also a lot of roleplaying games that happen (they make up most of the time spent gaming, I’m sure, even if they don’t quite make up the biggest number of games played… honestly, I’d call it about even in that latter category.)  If you don’t already have your ticket for Cabin-Con, I’m sorry to say that it’s probably too late, but never give up hope.

Now, if you want to catch me at Cabin-Con, I’ll be there for a good portion of the weekend.  Most of my games will be in the room with the Moose.

Room With A Moose

And believe it or not, it’s even better than THAT room with THAT Moose.  Of course it is.  THAT room contains a horrible moosey fate, but the room with the moose at Cabin-Con’s a lot nicer.  It’s also the easiest room to find.  Tragically, I have some other business to attend to in Michigan City so I won’t be at Cabin-Con for the entire weekend (and I won’t have a room at the convention itself as many choose to do) so I won’t be there the whole time.  If you want to find me, though, here’s where to look.

Friday until 5 – Room with Moose
Friday between 11 and 1 AM(?) – Room with Moose
Saturday before 11:30 AM – POSSIBLY the Room with Moose (but also possibly not)
Saturday between 4:30 PM and ? – Room with Moose

Now, I *might* be able to get in on some of the fun on Sunday, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it before they start closing up shop for the season.

Anyway, that’s where and when to find me.  There are only three other things you need to know for Cabin-Con.

  1. Moose controls the weather.
  2. Moose wants a banana.
  3. Moose speaks Sanskrit.

Once you get all of that, you’ve pretty much got Cabin-Con covered.

All righty, that’s about all I can say from Taco Bell.  Follow me on Twitter (@CraterLabs if you weren’t already) for more updates from Cabin-Con 2015.  Woo!  #CabinCon #CabinCon2015 #Moose

Posted June 12, 2015 by John Little in blogging, Cabin-Con, Gaming

Tagged with , , , , ,

Happy Birthday, CLI   Leave a comment

Portal Cake

Well, it took me seven years, but I finally centered a photo instead of just leaving it on the left side of the page.

Apparently, this little blog has been online for seven years.  Seven!  A lot’s changed in that time.  Smallville was still on the air.  Smallville!  Don’t believe me? Check my earliest posts and find references to Smallville, along with Mountain Dew’s Dew-Cision 2007 campaign.  Marvel with me at the fact that there’s a Category (not a tag, a Category) for Chloe Sullivan.  I treated Categories like Tags at the time.  Did we have Tags at the time? Probably.

Lately, my blog has started to look rather unfortunately like a gaming blog, a tabletop gaming blog at that.  There’s nothing wrong with gaming blogs, of course, be they tabletop or virtual, but I’d never seen that as the purpose for Crater Labs, Inc.  I always just saw it as a general blog about anything that took my fancy.  Whether that be Mountain Dew and Chloe Sullivan’s antics on Smallville (I still sorta wish that the “Chlois” fan theory had turned out to be canonical, all due apologies to Erica Durance), or the games I play in my spare time.  (Seriously, what’s up with the me from seven years ago? I don’t even like Mountain Dew.  It has the flavor of biting.  Biting’s not really a bad flavor, I just don’t like liquids that taste like they’re biting me when I try to drink them.)

As a result of the fact that I wanted to write regularly and not just pop in every four or five months, I started Magical Mondays as something that I could do to give me the incentive to write an entry at least once a week.  I still think I should stop doing Magical Mondays and switch to Monstrous Mondays, though… I keep repeating myself in Magical Mondays, and I have sooo many more ideas about monsters and creatures.  …and I probably shouldn’t do it on Mondays, since I also have Three Virellium Coins going now.

Incidentally, if you’re not reading Three Virellium Coins yet, now’s a great time to catch up.  We just ended the second major story arc in book 1 over there, and so there’s a lot of fun stuff to read while I let the action build in this third part.  (At 71,062 words, part 1: The Helix Double-Cross is a short novel.)  Go read that now, and learn more about this guy.

Zack Gamma

As if me reminding you about Magical Mondays and Three Virellium Coins wasn’t enough (by the by, I also update 3VC at its own Tumblr page if that’s more your speed or if you want to read from China like someone I know), don’t forget that I have a Youtube channel that has a ridiculously slow update schedule.  Watch the gradual unfolding of my Let’s Play of FTL (spoiler: I *do* make it to the final system.  WILL I SUCCEED?!), and the occasional videos I make in the So I Finally… series, where I tell you about all the books, movies, video games, and other things that I Finally get to see.

For the record: while the blog may be seven years old, CLI’s actually older still, going back to my first forays on the Internet.  Shout out to my friends from h2g2 and Lil’s Atelier!

Thanks for reading everything over these seven years, guys.  Whether you’re someone who swings by for D&D posts, updates on my side projects, my thoughts about writing, or the mindless banter, I hope you’ve had fun and I look forward to keeping it going.

Up Next: Three years of silence as John forgets that the blog exists again meaning this image of Chloe Sullivan will be the final thing posted here for ages

Chloe Sullivan.

Magical Mondays: Stop Using Wondrous Items!   Leave a comment

Friends, I’m going to say something unpopular in this week’s (month’s?  I took a little vacation) installment of Magical Mondays, something so shocking I had to say it in the title of the article just to warm myself up for this paragraph.  Here it is: we should stop using the Craft Wondrous Item feat in d20 games like D&D and Pathfinder.

Now, hold on there, put down the torches and pitchforks.  Hear me out, and I think you’ll find that I’ve not gone mad.  There’s a time and a place for this feat, but I believe that if you’re of the sort who reads articles like these then you are beyond the need for this feat or, at least, the need for the feat in the way it’s so often used.  Let’s begin by looking at the benefits of the feat.

Incredible Invention of Alexander Woodmouse

Wondrous Items: The Purpose and The Problems

(By the by, if you ever have a chance to read the book I’m using as the image header for this part, you should.  It’s awesome.  Anyway…)

Craft Wondrous Item is, in some ways, the biggest asset to anyone wanting to get into the Magic Item Creation game.  If your idea for an item isn’t covered by a pre-existing item feat, then Craft Wondrous Item lets you make something else.  Seriously, your only limits are the mechanics of the game world and your imagination.  And this is great… for new players.

See, once you’ve been a player or a GM for a while, you start to poke at the edges of craft wondrous item.  Why can’t you just recreate the power of a Ring with a Wondrous Item? Or recreate the power of a Rod?  If I want to make a skull that shoots spells, can I make it with Craft Wondrous Item instead of Craft Wand, and make it only have twenty charges?  You can make things for a lot less money this way, after all.

This feat also provides a benefit… and problem… of theme.  If a player wants to make a magic hat? Craft Wondrous Item is the way to go.  If they also want to make magic cookies in addition to their hat? Sure, Craft Wondrous Item.  What about a player who wants to make stunning magical hats, magical food, magic books, magic inkwells, magic boats, magic tobacco, magic shoes and magic money? …well… okay?  The thing is, though, you’ve now created a character who can create just about any kind of mundane item that they want as long as they make sure it’s a “magic” item.  Usually this isn’t an issue, especially for newer players.  But over time… well… power creep starts to edge in on the corners of your game world’s mind.

The plug-and-play nature of magic item creation is a double-edged sword.  You’re taking the actual magic away from magic items if you do it this way.  What starts as a bright-eyed player asking if they can make a set of shoes that will let them walk up walls turns into a jaded player deciding that it’s no trouble to spend X money on an item that provides a permanent spell effect, just as long as they restrict it to elvish wizards for the cost reduction (and, hey, I happen to be an elvish wizard, look at that…)

Making magic easy is tempting, and sometimes it’s the right choice.  I also don’t think you can create a magic system in a d20 game where someone doesn’t eventually figure out that they “just” need X, Y, and Z to achieve some mechanical benefit.  However, I think that Craft Wondrous Item is at the root of a lot of this, and with just a few tweaks to it and the way you let magic work in your game you should be able to have your cake and eat it to.  Consider these three changes: Boost the other feats, fill the niches, and add long-term prep to wondrous items.  Let’s go over these in more detail.

Black Playing Cards

Boosting the Feats

Your answer to the next question can’t be Craft Wondrous Items.  It’s not allowed.  Ready?  Here we go.

What item creation feat do you use to make a magical deck of cards?

The default answer would be Craft Wondrous, yes, but we’re not allowing that answer.  Cards are obviously not potions, and unless you’re in a really weird game they wouldn’t be armor or weaponry, and there’s really no way to imagine a standard deck of cards as a rod or scepter.

Thematically, Scribe Scroll might work because it’s basically tiny pieces of paper with writing on them, but then we get to a problem with mechanics: Scribe Scroll, according to the feat, lets you create a magic item that is activated through the act of casting a spell, and the spell effect comes as if it’s being cast.  Mechanically, then, Scribe Scroll  is only the way to go if these playing cards are mechanically no different than standard scrolls, but the feat’s all wrong if the cards have any other effect.

My answer (no surprise) is to use Scribe Scroll, but an expanded version of it.  Mechanically, Scribe Scroll isn’t the way to go, no… but thematically?  Thematically it’s perfect.  My recommendation is to do this for all the specific items: give the mechanically focused ones thematic application, and give the thematically focused ones mechanical application.

The first of these two is easy.  Take a feat like Scribe Scroll or Brew Potion, and make THEM the feats you need for magical writing and magical liquid making IN ADDITION to being the feats for making one-use spell completion items and one-use use activated items.  Scribe Scroll can create crumbling parchments that contain mostly-cast Fireball spells, AND it can create Blessed Books, Manuals of Gainful Exercise, and enchanted playing cards.  Brew Potion can create pre-cast spells in liquid form AND it can create Elixirs of Love, Keoghotam’s Ointments, and magical tiles that release spells when you break them (shout out to you, readers of Unearthed Arcana.)

The second of these two is harder.  How do you take thematically focused feats and give them mechanical application?  This one’s more of an art than a science, but you can do it.  Take feats like Forge Ring or Craft Rod.  A Rod and a Ring are both very powerful items, but they don’t actually have any mechanics listed in their feat descriptions, apart from a vague suggestion that they can be used to make items “like” the ones in the DMG and CRB.  Generally, though, I see rings as providing permanent effects while worn and rods (or scepters as I call them) either as items that create permanent effects while held aloft or repeatable effects that could play a part in some magical ritual or bit of arcane craftsmanship.  This isn’t quite a mechanical rule, but it’s given us something to use as a guideline.  So, if a player asks me if they want an amulet that can give them a permanent Vigor effect, I require it to be a ring instead.  If a player asks me for a wondrous item that they can hold up to give everyone in a certain radius a Hide From Undead effect, I require it to be a rod instead.

Incidentally, a player did ask for the Vigor effect, as an in-game justification for the character’s story-based immortality (I didn’t know about the Wedded To History feat at the time, but I did offer a homebrew feat for it, something he didn’t care for.)  The player wasn’t sure why I was trying to make the magical amulet be a ring, and it took some persuading on my part.  Know that when you make this kind of change to mechanics to boost the other feats, you can also weaken Craft Wondrous Item.  I’m personally fine doing that, but know that your players should have some warning before they make that kind of character creation investment.

Winnie The Pooh In The Door

Fill The Niches

This one is easy, but can have long-reaching consequences.  Basically, you take a cue from Forge Ring and Craft Rod to find some other feat.  I recommend making these custom things based on the needs of the player, though.  For instance, a player who wants their character to be a magical chef could have a feat called Prepare Magical Food, and a bardic player who wants to get some extra mileage out of the effects that their music produces could have a feat called Enchanted Luthier (or “Craft Magical Instrument” if you want to be boring (and, technically, a luthier only makes or repairs stringed instruments…))

A danger with this approach, though, is that you can wind up making too many options.  Try to tie it to a particular flavor or family of magic before making a feat like this so that you’re not overdoing it.  Weave Wondrous Apparel would be a good name for a feat related to making magical clothing, but I’d want to tie it to some culture known for making amazing clothing.

Also, try to make categories that will have broad approaches.  Don’t limit a feat by saying it only makes magical shoes or magical hats when magical clothing will do.  Similarly, making boats and making wagons are very different practices, but a single “Craft Magical Vehicles” feat is probably sufficient.  Don’t make your players jump through too many hoops.  If your craft-loving player is taking more than two crafting feats of your own invention and they’re *not* an artificer or alchemist, you should probably revisit how their feats work and give them a shot to remake their character with altered feats.

Gnome Engineer

Adding Long-Term Prep

This is the option that will let you do the most toward keeping the rules that you already have, but I recommend using it as a supplement to the first two options instead of as opposed to the first two.  Otherwise, there’s almost no point (and it comes very close to what Pathfinder’s item creation rules already suggest.)  Basically, this option says that you still use Craft Wondrous Item… but you need to perform mundane skills to make it work.

Think of the typical fantasy-world engineer or clockmaker.  Imagine those steampunk goggles, the gaslight-era vest that’s designed to hold dozens of tools, the custom-designed obligatory wrench… those things all have purpose.  If they don’t, it means that your character is just cosplaying as him, her, or itself.  If your character isn’t using tools or specialized knowledge in conjunction with Craft Wondrous Item, then the feat really isn’t any more than the plug-and-play magic that we’re trying to pare away.

If your player wants to use Craft Wondrous Item to make a magical pocket watch, make sure they have ranks in Knowledge (Architecture & Engineering).  If your player wants to create a magical wine?  Ranks in Profession (Vintner) are called for.  Demand more than just ranks in the skill, though: make them roll the checks.

Don’t be a jerk about it, of course.  It may be an act of mundane crafting, but if it’s reasonable to make something in a day (A pocket watch for a highly skilled character, a bucket for a relatively unskilled character) then allow it to happen in a day.  Set it up like a standard week of mundane crafting, but with a mundane cost reachable in  day by a decent check (100 sp isn’t too bad for simple things, but up the cost if it’s something like gem cutting.)  Even if the skill required is a Profession or Knowledge check, treat it as if it’s a Crafting skill for the purposes of this exercise.  If it’s something that realistically needs to take some time (Magical Wine, for instance) give it the time.  If your player wants to know why you’re requiring a full month of time before the magical wine is ready, remind them that mundane wines can take literal *years* to get just right (again, though, most of that time is hands-off.  They won’t have to be busy for eight hours a day every day that month.  Maybe two or three full day’s labor in the month, periodically taking a few five-minute checks on it.)

And please, whatever you do, unless the item in question is an item of pure magical energy, don’t just use “Spellcraft” for the skill.  That’s a cop-out and you know it.  I’m lookin’ at you, Pathfinder.

That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays.  It might not be easy to alter your rules for this kind of thing quickly.  Take your time, and as always do what’s best for your personal campaign world.  See you next time!

Presenting: Zack Gamma   1 comment

So, while going through another computer I fired up Icon (a program that should be familiar to all the NeverDie City of Heroes players out there), and found this…

Zack Gamma

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Zack Gamma, the paranoid-because-he-knows-they’re-after-him spacefaring private investigator from my sci-fi mystery Three Virellium Coins.  As you can see, he even had the horrible hat in his first appearance, and he’s always been proficient with his Purcellian Striker Pistols.

I’ve said this to a number of people, but I don’t think I’ve ever said it in a public place like this, so it’s worth mentioning: there are a lot of elements of Three Virellium Coins that were inspired by City of Heroes.  I was working on the series well before the announcement of CoH’s closure came up, but after the announcement came that City of Heroes was closing the nods to the game became less incidental and more intentional.  (Oddly, the character of Igneous may be the most overt City of Heroes reference, but she existed well before I knew it’d be happening in that way.  Seriously, though, look at the pictures on that page.)

Now, I never actually played any of the characters in Three Virellium Coins, though I certainly would’ve enjoyed it.  The game encouraged me to think about the abilities of characters outside of the standard sets of super powers.  Carmen Shift is what a character might wind up looking like if someone made a Mutant hero with rock powers and gravity control (possibly even the Kinetic Melee power set), while Captain Calen would probably be a Tech hero (well… Tech Vigilante? Tech Rogue?  She’s hard to pin down) with the Beam Weapon powerset (and almost certainly wearing some, but not all, of the costume pieces from the Cosmic Corsair costume set.)

I have better ideas for how each of the characters would be played than others.  Zack, as seen above, is a Natural Hero (or Natural Rogue, maybe) with the Dual Pistols and Martial Combat power sets (though in truth I don’t think Zack would have much skill in the Martial Combat side of things except through instances of dumb luck.  But hey, dumb luck is valid on the rare chance that it works.)  Naturally, I don’t limit the characters in Three Virellium Coins to how they might be playable in City of Heroes… that starts creating all sorts of shackles in the story that I don’t want to worry about… but it was nice to find this picture and think about where a lot of the little story seeds started.

I had a lot of others.  Igneous, The Soul Survivor, Captain Ortega, Captain Calen, Carmen Shift, and Azar (though I didn’t have a name for him at the time, so that costume is called Hazard Pay) among others.  I quickly decided to make a costume for one of the newer characters, Nectra.  I may share more of these in time, but for now… enjoy Zack striking a pose far cooler than any I’ll ever let him strike in the story.