Tuesday, April 26, 2011

the State of Zanazaz Address

It's time for a State of Zanazaz Address...

Well, last Friday was my birthday, or more accurately the anniversary of my birth.  Why did people start calling it "birthday"?  Technically you only have the one birthday.  I guess it's easier just to say birthday, than Happy Birthday Anniversary!  A year later and it's the anniversary of that date, and depending on your culture and/or religion, you and hopefully your friends and loved ones will celebrate.  I guess I'm rambling, but to get to the point; I decided to take Friday off from blogging, which turned into the weekend off, and then Monday.  ( I started writing this yesterday, but didn't finish. )  Which is fine, because I had nothing much to say gaming wise.

There are some gaming blogs I really enjoy, and destination unknown is one of them.  Christian's recent post is a great one where he talks about an old friend, and makes a point about how the bonds between friends who game is strong.  In my twenties and thirties, most of my friends were the ones I gamed with.  With a couple of exceptions I've either lost contact with most of those friends, or they don't game anymore because life has just moved on for them.  Since my sister passed away, I've been a bit reclusive, and that needs to change.

I think in the coming weeks my blogging may or may not be as frequent as it was before my sister went into the hospital.  It's not that I don't want to blog, I just realise that I need to get busy with producing some material; so that when I do get to run a game, I'll be ready.

When I announced my hiatus, I mentioned that I had some decisions to make.  Well, I'm still contemplating those decisions.  For the last couple of years I spent a lot of time helping my mom take care of my sister.  It really was a two person job, and my mom didn't have the strength to lift her in and out of her chair all the time.  I didn't work much and I lived fairly frugally.  The way the economy was and still is, I was between jobs anyway, so I made sacrifices and helped her out.  Plus, I got to spend a lot more time with my sister for which I am now thankful.

Now, I know I need to move on, decide what I want to do with the rest of my life.  The thing is I'm having trouble deciding, and that's never happened before.  I know I need to get back to work, or generate some income in some fashion to finance my decision.  ( I also need my own place again. )  I also sold my truck, but that's no big deal to me, because the mass transit system here is fairly good, but being without my own transportation still causes some problems for me.

I also need to raise some cash, because mom told me that my sister's grave doesn't have a headstone.  Now, I thought that was covered, but apparently I wasn't paying attention, and I feel bad about that.  Here's a lesson for everyone that's reading this, no matter what your age is, PREPARE.  It's better to prepare a little over a long period of time, than all at once.  What little life insurance my mom had on my sister didn't cover everything, and it certainly wasn't inexpensive.  I know it's not a great topic, but I feel it's something people should think about.  So I need to get some money together for a headstone, and that means getting back to work ASAP.  I occasionally do day labor because it's fairly flexible, but my back isn't what it used to be, and the last time I went I was flat on my back for about a week, which didn't help things much.  Sorry, I'm rambling again...

Decisions, decisions, decisions, sometimes I feel like I'm a bug trapped in amber, still alive, just unable to move, and I want to move!  I've got a lot of life left, and need to shake this off.  Life is the biggest game of all, and I want to be a player again.

My next post will definitely be about gaming.  Thanks for your patience if you've read this far...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some Of My Thoughts On Skills In RPGs...

Over at Grognardia, James discusses skills in RPGs.  I thought I would discuss what I think about skill systems,  and how skills are handled in the Rolemaster Standard System.

First of all, in most old school RPGs, skill use resolution seems fairly simple.  In Traveller ( at least what I can remember ), success or failure is determined by one die roll.  If you fail, I always ruled that you can try again, unless I determined it was beyond your skill level, i.e. if you only have one skill bonus in electronics, and you're trying to repair a major malfunction of the starships computer.

Of course the same idea could be used in rule sets without skills.  If a character is trying to "bend bars or lift a gate" and they fail, shouldn't they be able to try again?  Of course if you've determined that to bend the bars requires a certain strength then of course no amount of rolls will succeed.  Then again I suppose you could say that the one roll could represent multiple attempts, but in some situations this wouldn't work, especially if there was a time constraint involved, for example fleeing a horde of zombies.

One thing I always enjoyed about GURPS is the fact that that when making a skill roll, you don't just have success or failure, but you can also have a critical success ( something good happens ), or a critical failure ( something bad happens ).

In the Rolemaster Standard System, skills are grouped in categories.  For example there is the Subterfuge - Stealth Category, and covers hiding, picking pockets, stalking, and trickery.  Every skill category comes with a static maneuver table which is specific to the skills in that category.

Let's say that you are a thief, and you're fairly sneaky.  It's night, you've just robbed a shop, and couple of the city's watchmen are coming down the road.  You decide to duck into the shadows.  It's time to make a skill roll...

In the RMSS, skills are rolled on a d100, and are open ended, if you roll a 96 or higher you roll again, and add the result.  You also add or subtract any modifiers that would apply to the skill in this situation.  So the thief moves up against a building, it's night and very dark, but the watchmen have lanterns, but the thief is far enough away that these don't come into play.  So lets see  what the result of the roll might be!

So depending on the roll, a player can have a Spectacular Failure, Absolute Failure, Failure, Unusual Event, an Unusual Success, Near Success, Success, or Absolute Success.  If you get a Near Success you can roll again, hopefully with a better result.  All in all, I find the RMSS method of dealing with skills  a lot more fun than just the succeed or fail mechanic, and really creates some interesting game play situations.

I know some people will say that Rolemaster requires way too much book keeping and chart flipping, but I find that if I stay organised this was never much of a problem.

Editorial Note:  Either blogger or my computer is having fits, and I need to stop for now.

George of the Dungeon

Sometimes when things take a while to load on my computer I sketch, or more accurately, I doodle on scrap paper.  The above doodle, I named George, and was done on a chewing gum wrapper.  It's barely an inch and a half wide and not quite three inches long.  I used an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie and did it freehand, no pencil sketching before inking.  It's not supposed to be a masterpiece, just me killing time.

I decided to scan it, and play around with some graphics programs since it's been a while, and I'm a little out of practice.  I like Paint.NET, and it's what I use most of the time.  The first one is the original scan.  The second one is with added color.  The third version is the second with an effect called "Oil Painting" applied, but at this size you can't really tell much of a difference. The fourth one doesn't look that great on the blog, but using layers I changed the color of the shirt, and used a gradient effect.

On the fifth one I loaded the original into GIMP, and added a texture to George's face.  Maybe he's a gargoyle?  I then opened the file back into Paint.NET, and changed the shirt to green with a grayish gradient effect.  It doesn't look that great on the blog.  I'm thinking the graphic is just too small for the level of detail I was hoping for.  It looks fine everywhere else but blogger!  The sixth attempt is just an "Ink Sketch" effect, and isn't that great.

The seventh one is a "Halftone" effect which again would look better if the graphic was bigger.  The last one is a "Matrice" effect, and is similar to an embossed effect.

I really do like the user-friendliness of Paint.NET, but GIMP has it's good points also, but the learning curve seems a bit steeper.  I discovered some cool things on GIMP, which I'm sure others have discovered.  Both are fairly forgiving of mistakes, which is very good.  I also have Inkscape, but I've rarely used it, and need to experiment with it some more.

When I had finished a couple of the examples, I realised the sketch reminded me of a yearbook photo.  George, senior at Dungeon High School,  member of the Spikeball team, and voted most likely to get killed by an elf.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again...

Okay, my blog-writing hiatus is over, and I'm back in the saddle again.  I had intended to start writing again a couple of weeks ago, but the longer I waited the more difficult it seemed to start writing again.  Actually, I don't think I was quite ready yet.  I had wanted to start again on the one year anniversary of this blog, but I just wasn't ready.

On the gaming front, I've actually acquired more gaming books this year than the previous ten years!  I've re-acquired most of my Rolemaster books that I had sold a few years back.  Recently I found a copy of the D&D Hollow World  DM's Sourcebook at a local thrift store.  It was only 49 cents, so even if I only use a map or two for my "patchwork quilt" fantasy sandbox campaign, it was a worthwhile purchase.  I haven't researched it yet, but I'm sure it was part of a boxed set.  I also recently purchased Dungeonland ( EX1 ) AD&D Fantasy Adventure Module, by E. Gary Gygax, and wasn't that impressed by it.  Thankfully it was only $2.75.  The cover is well worn, but the inside is in good shape.  Maybe I'll put it up for trade on the Scavenger's Depot.

I recently met Badmike, one of the organizers of the North Texas RPG, Convention at Half Price Books, and OSR blogger, ( "A Troll Ate My Homework" ).  It was  kind of a fluke.  I was wandering around browsing for books, and he was talking to the clerk.  He had a NTRPG con flyer in his hand, and I overheard him introduce himself to the clerk.  I have corresponded a bit with Mike via email, and I waited for a pause and introduced myself.  We chatted for a bit, and he asked if I was going to attend NTRPG Con.  I told him I was going to try.  If you live in the North Texas area, or even if you don't, check out their website.  There's a banner on my sidebar that links to NTRPG Con website.  Plenty of great OSR personalities are going to be there running games, and giving workshops, panels, etc.

It's funny how I gained a few followers during my hiatus.  I've noticed other bloggers mention the same thing.  Kind of strange, or maybe not.  I often start following blogs that have been inactive for a while on the off chance the blogger starts writing again.  I don't think I lost any followers, but I wasn't really keeping track.  I'm over 50 followers so I'm happy with that. 
During the last two and a half months I haven't followed the gaming blogosphere as closely as I normally do, and I wonder what I've missed.  I know there was some kind of A to Z blogging challenge for the month of April.  I also know that I missed submitting something for the one-page dungeon contest.  I guess there's always next year...

I wanted to thank everyone who commented and sent me emails for their kind words, and support.  The loss of my sister hit me hard, and I'm still dealing with it.  I know she would want me to be happy, and so I must get on with my life.  Of course I'll never forget her, and she's always in my heart.