Sunday, December 20, 2015

Muppets -- New Race for 5e


Some strange worlds are blessed (or cursed) with a magical mutation that causes random creatures – bears, chickens, dogs, pigs, and even humanoids – to be born fashioned of cloth and felt rather than flesh. A pair of normal, fleshy humans might give birth to a puppet-like child or a single tadpole out of a clutch of hundreds of eggs might grow up to be a sentient and floppy. These beings are known as Muppets.

(Some worlds – like the planet Thra – seem to be entirely populated by Muppets. Such worlds and the unique Muppet species that dwell there are beyond the scope of this article.)

Muppet Traits

Ability Score Increase: Your Charisma score increases by 2.

Alignment: While Muppets can be found of any alignment, their magically-infuse nature inclines most to Chaos.

Languages: You speak Common and any one language of your choice. Muppets do not have a tongue of their own, but instead use the language of whatever culture they are born into or adopts them.

Size: see below

Speed: Your walking speed is 30 feet.

Floppy: The cloth flesh of Muppets grants them resistance to bludgeoning and thunder damage.

Muppet Moppets

The vast majority of Muppets are small, essentially humanoid creatures. Many of these are anthropomorphic beasts (such as frogs, lizards, otters, and dozens of other species) while others are furry and vaguely monstrous. The majority, however, are of human extraction – though their skin tones range all across the spectrum. The physical characteristics of Muppet moppets remain the same despite their appearance.

Ability Score Increase: Your Agility and Intelligence scores increase by 1.

Size: Small

Lucky: When you roll a 1 or an ability check or saving throw, you can reroll the die but must use the new result.

Talented: You are proficient in the Performance skill and one instrument of your choice.

Muppet Monsters

Some Muppets, however, are large, bulky, frightening creatures. The heads of these Muppet monsters tend to be oversized, meaning that while their bodies are only as large as a large human, their height can be several feet taller. 

Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 2.

Size: Medium 

Siege Monster: You deal double damage to objects and structures.

Powerful Build: You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Reflections on the Changeling 20th Anniversary Kickstarter

Onyx Path started the Kickstarter for the Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary edition yesterday. I pledged $1 because I wanted to make at least a symbolic gesture of support for the project. I’m not sure if I’m going to pledge more. I’d like to get my hands on the 20th anniversary edition, but I’m not sure I want to pay $110 for it.

Changeling: The Dreaming occupies a weird place in my gaming history. It is at once the most important game I’ve ever played and also one I’ve never really played. I admire it in concept and loathe it in practice. It’s complicated.

Thinking back on my roleplaying career both before and after my marriage to Robin, I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually played a game of Changeling. I think – maybe – that I bought the original softcover release for myself, read it, and decided I didn’t like it.

For those who don’t know, Changeling is one of the five core lines in White Wolf’s original World of Darkness setting. The last one released, C:TD countered the Gothic Punk aesthetic of the previous lines (Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, and Wraith: The Oblivion) with a much more whimsical, much more colorful trade dress and art style. The actual content of the game, on the other hand…

Well, I guess it depends on who you ask.

Player characters in Changeling are half-human, half-fairy changelings. They can see and interact with a world of beauty and magic that the rest of the World of Darkness can’t even perceive. Unfortunately, the wearying banality of the regular world slowly but surely robs changelings of their connection to the fae.

When I was 22, I couldn’t help but see this inevitable loss as the most tragic, horrifying concept in any World of Darkness game. The existential dread of the workaday world grinding all of the light and joy out of life terrified me far more than a vampire’s endless life of murder or a werewolf’s doomed battle against tentacle monsters.

Changeling’s romanticizing of mental illness didn’t help; like a lot of art, it positioned mental illness as a sort of gift, a mark of genius and inner beauty. Changelings in the game, after all, saw things that weren’t “really” there and were punished by compassionless normal people with incarceration in mental asylums and invasive psychological therapy. It’s the same tired, dumbass attitude that let Byron and Lovecraft off the hook for being assholes, and made Hemingway and Howard kill themselves. Even then – in the midst of my own overweening pride in my own weirdness – I wasn’t at all interested in running players through psychotic breaks and trauma. It just didn’t seem fun.

I put the book away, wishing I knew a way to make the game work for me.

Robin played C:TD with her pre-me gaming group and apparently had some fun times as a hard-drinking satyress. A few years after we married, we were living in a new city with no friends and no way to make them. Robin pleaded with me to run an RPG with just the two of us, and I finally agreed. We chose to play Changeling.

Except we didn’t.

We didn’t play Changeling: The Dreaming. We played the game’s Asian-themed spinoff, Land of Eight Million Dreams.

Land of Eight Million Dreams is almost a completely different game. Not only are the rules dramatically different, the basic ethos of the game is practically the opposite of its parent. The player characters are the hsien, immortal nature spirits or minor gods that gently take over the bodies of the recently deceased. They subsist off of prayers and dreams, but they’re not trapped in the inevitable cycle of despair that characterizes changelings. Instead, the hsien simply worry about the malaise of constant reincarnation (#spiritworldproblems) and the fact that other monsters find them delicious.

Robin played a cat-girl and an integral part of our continued happiness was born.

Twenty years after Changeling: The Dreaming debuted – and over a decade since the duet games began – I feel like I can laugh in Changeling’s ageist, anti-psychology face. I’m 42 and I’m the most creative I’ve ever been. I’m published, damn it! And I’m in demand! I’ve learned that mental illness isn’t the price to pay for being a genius, but that it is instead a sickness just like the flu or cancer that must be treated with medication and therapy. It’s a hindrance to creativity not its price – and certainly not an aid. Twenty years later, it turns out that Changeling: The Dreaming had it all wrong.

And yet, I still feel like there’s a game I might really love hiding in there somewhere. Tony DiTerlizzi’s art remains as evocative and inviting as ever, promising a game of romance and imagination that the text betrays. I’m still grateful to Changeling: The Dreaming for producing Land of Eight Million Dreams , and the fact that the twentieth anniversary edition includes the hsien makes that book so very, very tempting. Maybe – if I actually give enough money to get a copy of the book – I can make this revised version work for me.

Or maybe I should just give a buck and wait for Blue Rose AGE and Fae Nightmares to arrive. Or put Altellus into playtesting shape. Or just use my old copy of Land of Eight Million Dreams if I really want to run it again…

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Strider is part of the RCRF Holiday Bundle!

 RCRF Help for the Holidays

The Roleplaying Game Creators Relief Fund (RCRF) is a charitable organization founded to provide financial assistance to tabletop roleplaying game creators suffering hardship due to medical emergencies, natural disasters, and other catastrophic situations

We all love tabletop RPGs, and we respect the people who create them. But most people who create tabletop RPGs are freelancers and other folks who often work for much lower income than they could earn in other industries — they create games because they love them, not because they expect to get rich. That means if tragedy strikes, a tabletop RPG creator may not have insurance or enough savings to cope properly.

That’s where the Roleplaying Game Creators Relief Fund comes in. We love tabletop RPGs and would like the hobby to remain vibrant. We believe that helping talented creators continue to work in the RPG field does just that. So we’d like to offer some assistance to tabletop RPG creators who experience medical emergencies, injuries, and other catastrophic circumstances they’re not able to handle financially.

We need your help with this! Donations from tabletop RPG fans like you are what provide the RCRF with the funds to help tabletop RPG creators in need. Even if you can’t donate money, telling other people about the RCRF through word of mouth and social media is a big help. The higher our profile is, the more creators we can help.

Not everyone is high enough level to cast a Cure spell, but maybe we can all chip in to buy a Healing Potion or two.

So, it's pretty much like comics' Hero Initiative, except for RPG creators. I hope to All-Powerful Atheismo that I never need this kind of assistance, but I know from all of the "help Jim Ward" fund-raisers on Google+ that this is all too necessary in the underpaid RPG field.

The bundle is a pretty good deal. For $25 you get the usual assortment of third-party D&D and Pathfinder supplements and adventures, the Accursed Player's Guide, the BareBones Fantasy core rules, Camp Myth: The RPG, Cartoon Action Hour Season 3, Covert Ops RPG, D20PRO for Windows, the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook (as in DC Comics), Red Tide (!), Slasher Flick: Director's Cut, the Savage World of Solomon Kane core book (one of Pinnacle's best products), and The Thin Blue Line Player's Guide. I'm buying the bundle myself just for Cartoon Action Hour and Red Tide

(And anyone who enjoys my work and hasn't bought Accursed should really, really pick it up. FOR REASONS.)

Out of the $2.99 that Strider usually costs, I make an entire dollar. That doesn't sound like much, but it adds up quick. Giving it away to help those in need represents an appreciable loss in income for me and I'm sure it's the same for the rest of the sponsors. Working in RPGs is as unpredictable and risky as any other entertainment field -- one moment you're the hot new thing, the next you're old hat -- so we need to do what we can to help each other out.


Fast and “Fury”-ous

Evil Beagle recently provided me promotional copies of Leonard Pimentel’s Magnum Fury and Six-Gun Fury . No expectation of a review wa...