The Voyager Hunts For The Thessalhydra

Happy April, everyone. Today, I’m going to be doing something special. The D&D Adventure I’ll be playing, Hunt for the Thessalhydra, seemed to have been written in a notebook and then published by Hasbro Gaming, presumably cleaning up and digitizing the text that was written into the notebook, though keeping some pretty nice drawings done by someone named “Will the Wise”. The aesthetic is interesting enough for me to play it, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

There’s five premade characters I’ll be using. Let’s get an introduction to them, shall we?

  • Adam, a Half-Elf Wizard who is devoted to a god despite not being a cleric. I would assume that, with Elama, a Wood Elf Cleric, took him in as her own (right down to getting a trait from her known as Mask of the Wild) where they worship the deity known as Naralis Analor.
  • Baggi, a Half-Orc Ranger who has explored the far reaches of the realm with her companion Cadman, a Human Paladin who doubles as a mercenary.
  • And lastly, Dain, who is a Dwarf Bard who just wants to entertain.

This will be an interesting game and the notes from the adventure creator, Mike Wheeler, gives some nice advice about DMing a game. While it’s indicating that these are notes for himself, the way it’s all described, it feels more like the standard advice you’d get from a starter’s box… Strange.

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Biopunk 2040

The normal approach I take when playing my own custom rules is that I translate another game’s rules for the express purpose of either simplifying it or because there was something I could use from the game.

So far, I’ve done this with three games: Scalemail, which was a simplification of Chainmail, Yurei World, which was my attempt at extending After School Curse Club, and lastly Winter’s Duty, which was an expansion of the original game Winter.

However, the game I’m playing today, 2040, was a game I made as part of a game jam and not out of a desire to clone and change up a previous game. It was a sort of challenge that I ended up achieving at and I feel like a good test of the game will work.

One of the charms for the 24XX system is that you can easily generate a character and story at random. In this case, it’ll take a lot of die rolls. But first, allow me to sell you the setting:

The year is 2040. Mankind discovered a means to artificially extend their lives with man-made organs known as Augments. However, with this came the need to monetise and soon, companies made it so that the Augments are on a “pay-per-month” basis and that missing out on a payment will get the organs repossessed, regardless of if they were keeping the person alive.

If you find this familiar, that’s because I based the premise off of Repo Men and Repo! The Genetic Opera, which both involved artificial organs that would get repossessed. The difference is that with this setting, players take the role of people who either went without Augments or actively refused to pay for them. In other words, they’re out of the system and are free agents, which ties into 24XX’s “job of the week” style gameplay, though there is the backdoor for a campaign about taking down the system should the GM decide to expand upon that.

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Star Crossed Lovers

It is Valentine’s Day once more and, as per tradition, I will be playing a romantic RPG. This time, it will be Star Crossed (it’s also on itch.io), a game that… uses… Jenga…

Oh boy.

For those who don’t know, I had experimented with a Jenga-based RPG before, and for reasons stated in that post, I elected to make a system that uses no Jenga tower… to great failure. In hindsight, what I realized was that you need to weight the answers as you would the tower. It’s not likely to fall down if the structure was sturdy.

One idea to handle this problem was to use Tabletop Simulator and use a workshop file that plays Jenga. Problem is that the version I got just had a bunch of towers and if you wanted to make one yourself, you’d have to import the small block one by one.

An easier solution comes from Speak the Sky, which doesn’t sound as easy, as you would need one hundred d6s and remove the ones that rolled ones. However, with the advent of online dice rollers like Roll20 and Foundry (okay, technically they’re more than just that, but still), it’s more or less achievable. There is a snag though. How would one be able to count the 1s?

Thankfully, there’s a solution I have. /roll 100d6>1f1. This will count remove all 1s from the check and tell you how many d6s to roll for the next pull. This is going to be as experimental as the Mythic Dread idea, but I’m willing to put faith in something that has been discussed with tons of line graphs and has its own dice roller programmed in, with thanks going to Max Kämmerer for the latter.

However, for the sake of note taking, I’ll be using Roll20 (since it will keep the information of how many dice that I have left should I put the game on pause for whatever reason) for the time being… Now for everything else.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what scenario I want to play out with this. Other Valentine’s Day games I had either had pre-set scenarios or, in the rare case, I already had a scenario thought out. This, however, I have nothing. However, I have a few ideas meted out thanks in part to the images and examples.

One of the examples has a relationship between an Imperial Vizier and a Galactic Empress while one of the art pieces has an astronaut hook up with a centaur. This caused an idea to be born in my head: Basically, what if Avatar (the movie, not the cartoon) was more of a space opera mashed up with Lord of the Rings?

The Vizier idea had me think back to the Reylo ship, a pairing between the protagonist of the Star Wars sequel Trilogy, Rey, and her main rival in those movies, Kylo Ren. The idea is that the Lead will be someone akin to a Kylo Ren, assigned to a distant planet to keep an eye on and see if it’s deemed worthy for its induction into the Empire. Said planet is stuck in ye old fantasy times and the representative who would be guiding this guy through the planet is an elf lady.

The problem is that, throughout his stay at the planet, he’s grown attached to his tour guide. The guide, similarly, seems to like his presence a little more than one would have for their tourist. One of the major rules when it comes to judging planets is to avoid any bias. As such, should word go out that the two had a fling, accusations that she slept with him to get a favorable result will flood forth and put both their lives at risk.

So, we now have the reason they’re together, what is pushing them towards each other and why they can’t just make out.

Another two things to finalize is who the “partner” will be as well as implementing the X-Card mechanic. I established this before, so I’ll put my mechanic forward while I’ll use the UNE/BOLD/CRGE system for any interactions with the Lead. The reason I pick this is because the Lead decides how a scene begins and what better scene setter than an Emulator?

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A Quiet Year To Close Out SGAM 2020

For this year’s Solo Gaming Appreciation Month, I decided to do what I usually do and roll three of the challenges into one: try out a new game that involves map-making (possibly analog) and then review it. Well, turns out there’s a game I heard that is basically that: The Quiet Year. I heard quite a bit about this game and I feel like this would be a good time to finally play it.

It’s one of those games that have physical properties to them. In this case, a deck of cards and tokens are needed alongside the rules and dice. There’s also, as the above paragraph implies, paper and an index card required. I’ll be drawing the map on GIMP and will have a separate document for the index card.

So, the plot for this game is that, after warring with a group called the Jackals, a village is given one quiet year (hehe) to themselves before winter comes. When it comes, it will bring with it things called the Frost Shepherds. I imagine these would be akin to the White Walkers from a Song of Ice and Fire or, if we want to be obscure with the references, the Ice Jester’s forces from Feast of Legends.

Right out of the gate, the small rulebook I can keep in my pocket is a really nice, step-by-step guide for learning how to play the game. Easily a good way to help get the ball rolling for solo play. One section was very thought provoking, as it tells people to “dispassionately introduce dilemma”. This basically tells me that there’s more to this game than “hehe, draw stuff” like I had originally thought.

Speaking of, my instruction is to now draw the map based off details and already, we’re gonna need to do a variant because there’s no group, just the solo. Rather than “each player adds a detail”, I’ll instead apply it as “four details about your map”.

So, here are my four: The village is inside a naturally made crater. Man-made stairs were placed to get to the surface, alongside aural shields to protect them. The last detail is that, each house contains ten people. So, already we have protection from predators as an Abundance, perhaps what powers it is a Scarcity. Food and water, I think it might be normal levels.

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Tales of the Winter Pyro

Reflecting on the past journal games made me realize that Winter, while a fun game, needed some improving, especially having played Thousand-Year-Old Vampire. So, I decided to hack the game to make it a little more automated. You can read the rules here. It’s slightly more expanded than the previous hack I did of Winter and I’ll get into those details when possible and if not, I’ll explain more in the end.

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Storyline: The Witch’s Downfall

For Halloween, I’m going to play the Scary Tales variant of Storyline. Spooky, I know. Before we begin this session, however, we have some new tokens that are different from the old tokens, so, I’ll break down the rules for those:

  • The Grave: This character is already dead. Introduce them as a posthumous character like a ghost.
  • The Magic Hat: This character knows magic.
  • The Rose: This NPC also has a [Place], [Action], or [Object]. Counts as a 2.
  • The Bones: This character is doomed to die. Their death is mandatory for the story to conclude. Counts as a 3.

With that out of the way, let us begin the Scary Storyline.

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Thousand-Year-Old Businessman

I realized that, as Halloween approaches, I should do a little more than a simple spooky variant of a story-telling game I already played. And so, I figured it was time to break out the solo gaming darling: Thousand-Year-Old Vampire.

Released earlier this year, Thousand-Year-Old Vampire is about, well, a thousand-year-old vampire. Its premise is similar to Plot Armor in that it’s a journaling game that will end with your character’s death, but now, you’re a vampire instead of a pilot and you’re in a millennium-spanning historic instead of a short-lived mecha anime. 

However, there’s a lot more bells and whistles to Thousand-Year-Old Vampire in contrast to Plot Armor, such as setting up the character. So, for instance:

My name is Elijah Brown. I am a businessman working at one of Amazon’s offices. I was recently laid off due to circumstances beyond my control.

I figured to do a modern to sci-fi story here. Next will be his three Mortals.

Isabella is my wife. She’s a devout Christian and managed to convert me. Mr. Stanley was my former boss who fired me, cheap son of a bitch. Then, there’s Mr. Giovanni, my… ahem, loaner. Someone who expects me to pay him back in full by the end of next year.

And his three Skills and Resources.

As a result of my conversion, I had been skilled in bible studies and have a cross on me. While I had been laid off of my job at accounting, I was given a “severance package” for a large sum of moneyfrom Mr. Giovanni. In the off time, I practiced my right to bear arms by going to the firing range and testing out a pistol I had recently bought with my boss.

And lastly, an immortal.

One day, I found myself feeling sick from a disease that had been undiscovered. There were rumors that this disease was prominently during the days of the Spanish Influenza, but to my end, all I could find was the remnants of a doctor who tried to cure the disease: Dr. Cullen. Overnight, it seemed he had disappeared… And I was stuck with what seems to be the sequel to the Spanish Influenza, to which I nickname Cullen’s Disease.

Now to make five memories:

  1. My name is Elijah Brown. I am a businessman working at one of Amazon’s offices. I was recently laid off due to circumstances beyond my control.
  2. Isabella is my wife. She’s a devout Christian and managed to convert me. As a result of my conversion, I had been skilled in bible studies and have a cross on me.
  3. While I had been laid off of my job at accounting, I was given a “severance package” for a large sum of money from Mr. Giovanni. He expects me to pay at the end of the fiscal year or else.
  4. My boss and I went to the firing range one day, though I had attempted to do so to get into his good graces.
  5. I have been infected with Cullen’s Disease, which makes my skin pale, almost translucent in the daylight to the point where it can easily burn my skin. The most I know is that it was made by Dr. Cullen a hundred years ago.

Right out of the gate, we have ourselves a protagonist, some NPCs, and even an overall goal of finding and ridding myself of Cullen’s Disease. Now, we may properly begin our game by rolling for a prompt.

What sets this apart from Plot Armor is that not only are there a ton of prompts, but also that each prompt has its own back up prompt in case you ever come across it again. It looks at the problem that Plot Armor presented and found a means to improve upon it. Now, I shouldn’t really compare Thousand-Year-Old Vampire to Plot Armor, as Plot Armor was a one page made for a game jam while Thousand-Year-Old Vampire is close to two hundred pages and was not made for any event in mind.

However, the two are similar in the premise I had brought up earlier: they chronicle the events of a doomed protagonist and the dangerous world they have been placed in. A comparison is sort of inevitable, especially if more games like these two (or the Beast and Holidays, which also does a similar “roll for a prompt” gameplay mechanic) come out. But that’s enough banter from me, let’s get to the prompting.

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Storyline: The Cat and the Hen

We’re finally gonna play Storyline after about eight months… Life can be difficult sometimes.

Using the rules I discussed earlier, I will test out how the rules apply. Any tweaks will go into a later game I will play for Halloween.

The first thing I notice is that there’s two Stories to play out, as indicated by the unique backs and the numbers that dictate a set progress. I also have limited table space, so this will be a bit awkward. I will be using CRGE-Kai for these games.

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Ravenloft, Chapter 1: The Executioner

So, a long while ago, I statted up a D&D character and had a decent campaign ahead of him. Now, allow me to return and give him the full treatment he deserves. His very own Ravenloft campaign. Not only that, but Philip is also getting played on Foundry, a program I had taken a look at, so that’ll be an interesting way to see how the game unfolds. This will be a review for how Foundry plays compared to Astral.

To briefly recap on his backstory: Philip is a druid who took on a job that ended in a werewolf being lynched by a xenophobic Burgomaster and Philip plots to kill him in revenge. He also recently pissed off some cultists after mucking about in one of their HQs, a house they turned into a death trap.

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Testing Out Astral With Micro Sci-Fi

So, during my fiddling around with both Astral and Foundry, I ended up having the urge to play games on them. As I mentioned in my previous post, Astral and Foundry have features that Roll20 cannot simply compete with. Astral is able to take any character sheet and turn it into a fully functional sheet you’d have on Roll20, while Foundry has community driven databases that power up some household games. In other words, use Astral for the lower-scale RPGs that Roll20 overlooks and use Foundry for the big-name RPGs that Roll20 doesn’t cater to enough.

 As such, I’m going to be playing a game on both these platforms, starting with Astral. You may recall from my previous post that I was experimenting with the character sheets feature using the Micro Chapbook Sci-Fi RPG. That’s the system we’re going to be playing around with.

The game takes its roots in OSR with a roll under system. Four stats for this game, Strength, Dexterity, Wits, and Charisma. You only have 7 points to spend, so I’m going with a rather beefy outset, 4 Strength and 1s in everything else. It’s one of only three point arrays that there are. The other ones would be 3, 2, and two 1s, or three 2s and a 1.

Next are the classes, of which there are four to compliment the four stats, as in making them proficient, which allows for rolling at disadvantage (or, I guess, advantage?). I’m taking the Strength-based one, the Soldier. The Soldier’s story is pretty simple. He’s called in when combat arrives on the doorstep. There’s also ranks, which add a +1 to your stat, so, in actuality, you have 8 points to spend. This varies up the point buy system by a bit, so what I’m going to do is have it be two 3s and two 1s. He’s in security and his name is Baul Plart.

Lastly, items. I got myself two pieces of armor that increase my health and willpower by two, and some rations to recover my health. With that, Baul Plart is going to embark on his first mission. The ship he was on has been hijacked by pirates and he has to save the hostages.

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