Thursday, July 24, 2008

L5R Schools and Avatar Paragon Paths

I will update this post with future ideas instead of creating new posts each time inspiration strikes. If I ever flesh them out properly, then they will receive a new post.

I am not sure whether there should be paragon paths proper for Avatar. These fit really well as prestige classes, may they RIP, but what is there to distinguish between several paths for any given bender? By way of explanation, whether a waterbender focuses on healing, freezing, or cutting should be accomplished through power choice, not a paragon path. Maybe I should render paragon paths down the same as I am rendering classes down for L5R and just have a suite of powers from which a bender chooses at the paragon-appropriate levels. Obviously an assortment of element-specific abilities but also some "bender"-specific ones (that is, abilities that aid a bender of any element in a generic way; if I do so, then the element-specific abilities should really emphasize the element and not be a collection of effects that could be done with any element as I had planned for a generic "bender" class).

Bloodbender (Waterbender):
-always-on ability to increase melee AC as the Bb reflexively interferes with the attacker's swing by bending the blood in his arm
-obviously a domination effect daily from full-on bloodbending

Agent of the Dai Li (Earthbender):
-grasping hands of stone attack power
-bonuses to climb and hide as the Dai Li always seemed to attack unseen from above

Lightning Bender (Firebender):
-able to create lightning
-probably the firejet-based flight powers from Princess Azula and Firelord Ozai
(There was a short thread at ENWorld about Avatar. Lightning Bender was the idea offered for a firebender paragon path. I think either this or a Dragon like Iroh would be the best choice. Of course, Iroh made up his unique attacks ...)

Crab Clan:
Hida Berserker
- Hida "Dead-eye" Berserker
Kuni Witch Hunter
Kaiu Engineer
Falcon's Strike Archer
Yasuki Taskmaster

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lileks on Writing

An interesting quote from Lileks today (actually his tomorrow, my today) in the Bleat:

Had fun on today posting old pictures of the Aquatennial parade in the 40s – same pictures I used last year, but who remembers? Well, I do; I have a record of everything I wrote, but I dasn’t look it at lest A) my previous comments are really sharp compared to my current comments, which suggests a fatal diminution of ability, or B) my current comments are better, which suggests I embarrassed myself last year. You can’t win. Rather I can’t. Living as a writer sometimes meaning you walk into a great howling wind that says YOU JUST SUCK and it’s all you can do to keep from letting the wind pick you up and put you where it wishes. Which is usually in the not-too-distant county of SO YOU ADMIT YOU DO SUCK. It’s a corruption of an Indian name.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Orc Funeral Ceremony

When a prominent orc warchief falls in battle, his warriors sacrifice themselves to recover the body (assuming they are forced to retreat or otherwise routed in battle; most orc warriors, upon seeing their warchief fall, redouble their ferocity and eventually take the field, though still at a considerable cost of life).

The body is arrayed on a funeral pyre and his surviving warriors recount his deeds and their own (for their deeds are are extension of his leadership) before the assembled tribe. Warriors of the Blood Hand tribe will cut themselves and place bloody handprints on the body before placing it on the pyre. The One Eye tribe will remove one of the warchief's eyes (if he has not done so already). And so on.

The body is then burned and the ashes and bones gathered together. The bones are crushed to powder and, with the ashes, are mixed into the food for the surviving warriors as well as the promising warriors-to-be in the tribe. This is to pass on the strength and cunning of the warchief. In the next battle, one of the warriors will show himself to be the new warchief through some act of daring, violence, and ferocity.

Punjar, the Tarnished Jewel

This is a free booklet given out by Goodman Games (makers of Dungeon Crawl Classics) for Free RPG Day. It details the city in which the three first 4e DCC adventures will take place. I got mine in pdf format on FRD and a hardcopy a week or two after at the gamestore. It is good. It is only 15 or so pages long but it really evokes the feel of the city. With a few changes, I think it would work for Wyndhaven (Ptolus also works well for Wyndhaven but Ptolus is a bit more fantastic than Punjar and my world has never gone too far into the fantastic).

The Boiling Rock prison has a counterpart in Punjar: Blackwell Citadel. Blackwell Citadel is built on an island off the city's coast and it hosts the worst criminals in a city filled with criminals. The "Blackwell" proper is the series of ever-deeper tunnels that the inmates excavate during their incarceration. These tunnels then serve as the cells for the newest prisoners, who will join in excavating the next deeper set of tunnels for the next set of prisoners, and so on and so on.

If the Boiling Rock keeps as its justification an active volcano, it makes no sense to tunnel into it. However, if the magma is sufficiently recessed beneath the boiling lake, and the "rock" sufficiently raised above the surface of the water, then such an excavation as the blackwell is feasible.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cassandra Prison

Stolen from Hokuto no Ken:

Cassandra (a stupid name for English but the working title) is a prison for martial artists. It is also known as the City of the Crying Ghosts. It is lead by three giants, Riaga, Fuuga, and Wighul.

Non-Face of Fear Cultists

I had some other cultists that are not part of the Faces of Fear but I still like:

Wyvern - a deranged, homeless man with delusions of grandeur, a tendency to stalk beautiful women, and a poison dagger. He is called Wyvern because he wishes he was a "dragon" but falls short in almost every way.

Kraken - a mostly unremarkable fellow who operates his own one-boat dock adjacent to the actual docks; officials do not bother him because he services small, personal craft that would not bring them enough by way of taxes to cover the cost of processing them; he is a devoted if low-ranking member of the chaos cults who finds his pride in smuggling contraband into and out of the city (illegal goods, drugs, and even people) via his rickety little dock (the mouse ran up the clock). Just invented now, the man sometimes mumbles to himself in rhyme and meter for no reason but will vehemently deny it if questioned.

"Noname" - a character stolen from Hokuto No Ken, this cultist has self-preservation as his number one priority. He will not stand and fight, no matter what. If the party ever manages to back him into a corner, he will beg for his life rather than fight. This is not to say that he does not fight. He would constantly ambush the party, lead gang attacks, and pepper them with ranged weapons. But as soon as he comes into personal danger, he turns tail and flees.

Fourth Edition Blues

I went to the game store today to see if any groups were playing 4e on Sunday evenings. None were.

I am contemplating running a game. If I do, I might run my L5R 4e game as a one-shot (though from the time I have seen combat take, it might take a few weeks).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tactics War Academy

I had an idea for a video game or miniatures battle game while watching Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star). When Kenshiro is approaching Southern Cross, Shin sends his armies out to find and kill him. Each of Shin's armies are devoted to the style of combat preferred by its commander. One uses only helicopters, one uses motor bikes, one launches his fighters from cannons as human cannonballs, etc.

My idea for the game was to scale it back from armies to a smaller grouping (units, companies, platoons, whatever). When you begin the game, you get to buy your army using a fixed set of points. You can focus your army as you like (for example, buying lots of ranged units for an excellent archer corps) and any build should conceivably have a chance at winning the game, though not every build should make it easy nor should every build be able to win every fight.

Which brings us to another aspect of the idea. I am playing Rondo of Swords on my new Nintendo DS. Rondo of Swords works similarly to a Tactics game in that you field units on a grid-based battle map and work against your opponents (you can also have your units run errands, go on quests, complete missions, etc instead of taking part in the next battle). The game also has a unique combat mechanic in that you do not move next to your opponent and then attack him but move through him to attack him. Since you can move through enemies and allies alike, there is no blocking aspect as with Tactics (i.e. you cannot set up a few guys across a choke-point to block enemy attacks while bombarding them with archers and mages tucked safely away). This requires a change in tactics while playing the game (and the early level against Pirates in the city streets was my first battle where I really felt I used movement and the terrain to my advantage).

Well, that was a long bit. What I meant to get to was that in Rondo of Swords, you cannot lose any battles because losing one battle means Game Over. I think Tactics was Game Over when you lost a story battle as well (and likely the random encounters too.) In Tactics War Academy, losing a battle is not Game Over. You can lose a battle and still win the war. Failing to achieve objectives and failing to win battles will have penalties but they will not be the end of the game. Tenacity is to be encouraged.

I view each battle in the game as a fork in the story progression. Sometimes the forks both lead to the same "city gate" (i.e. there is no great difference in story, resources, or location between winning and losing the previous battle), sometimes they lead to different gates in the same city (you have a substantial difference in the current battle based on winning or losing the previous one), and sometimes they lead to entirely different cities (winning the last fight presses the attack onto City A while losing the last fight forces you to retreat to City B).

The first forks are not really forks at all. The second forks are the meat and potatoes of the win-loss system. And the third forks expand the game and storyline by leading you down actually different paths based on outcome.

Another way to expand the game as with the third fork is to offer a choice between objectives. My eyes were first opened to this in the Brood War expansion for StarCraft. In one of the Terran missions, you had the choice of destroying your opponent's nuclear facilities or starship facilities. You then faced the other type of weapon in the next mission (i.e. destroy the nuclear facilities and your opponent would have Battleships instead of nuclear missiles and vice versa). This would also come up in-game. The more often, the greater replay value the game would have, especially if all choices did not swing back onto the "all win" path but had its own endgame.

Losing every single battle would not lead to a final win. Losing every battle leads to Game Over.

More later with this parting thought:

Some, perhaps early, enemy generals fall into the Shin's Army trap of overspecialization. It would showcase that unit's strengths and weaknesses. This may even be the War Academy portion of the game (the in-game Tutorial that comprises the first few levels as the main character overcomes his classmates to earn the top spot upon graduation).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Legend of the Five Rings - 4th Edition

This should have gone up weeks ago but I have been lazy. Still am, so all I will give is a quick summary, maybe a link.

I am not a big fan of 4e. In order to get myself interested in just reading the books (to date, I have barely read anything beyond the class descriptions and the 1st and 2nd level powers), I decided to make up L5R characters using the 4e rules. I stripped away all the 4e flavor and inserted the L5R flavor. I got this and more (have not updated the pdf recently either):

I am now working on Avatar the Last Airbender, except that will require a mechanical change rather than just flavor. I want the benders to have unhindered flexibility so they will have X number of encounter power slots and can choose from their list of encounter powers as they go, thus always having the most advantageous bending at any given time. This may be true of utility and daily powers as well. I thought about getting rid of daily powers but then I remembered that they seem to get pretty winded after doing a spectacular bend so there you go.