While editing Aspect of Fantasy, I’ve tried to make it a point to either streamline or eliminate rules that I think are excessive or just don’t come up that often. Some of these are my own rules, some are D20 rules. Take the following rule:
Disabled (0 Hit Points)
When your current hit point total drops to exactly 0, you are disabled.
You gain the disabled condition and can only take a major or minor action each turn, but not both. You can take minor actions without further injuring yourself, but if you perform any major action or similar strenuous activity (like a Free Hack) you take 1 point of damage after completing the act. Unless your activity increased your hit points, you are now at –1 hit points and dying.
Healing that raises your hit points above 0 makes you fully functional again, just as if you’d never been reduced to 0 or fewer hit points.
You can also become disabled when recovering from dying. In this case, it’s a step toward recovery, and you can have fewer than 0 hit points (see Stable Characters and Recovery).
I think the D20 rules designers were trying to take an antiquated system (i.e. hit points) and make it more ‘realistic’ by introducing concepts like ‘disabled’ – being close to unconscious -and using 0 hit points to represent this. The problem – this is a lot of crunch for something that almost never happens. My game group has been playing D20 since 2001, this may have come up once in all that time. I’m changing this so that once you’re out of hit points you’re unconscious, no different effect for 0.
I am thinking about representing injuries and low hit points by a ‘temporary aspects’ that can be compelled like: gimpy, dazed, dizzy, bruised, etc. I have to give this more thought though before I introduce into the game.
Finally got to see the Hobbit Wednesday night. I’ve really been looking forward to the Hobbit movies. I’m a big fan of Tolkien and count the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit as some of my favorite books of all time. I’m also a big fan of Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings movies which I also count as some of my favorite movies of all time.
I’ve avoided most of the reviews for the Hobbit, but have heard some buzz regarding two issues around the movie:
1. The movie drags in several places.
2. The frame rate. Jackson shot the film not only in 3D, but also at twice the normal frame rate, from 24 frames per second to 48 frames per second. According to Jackson, it was supposed to make the film more immersive, but it hasn’t really worked out that way. A lot of people hate the look since it evidently makes the movie look like something shot for TV (which uses the higher frame rate). That said, I’ve also read that some reviewers really like the look of the 48fps version.
Neither of these issues bothered me. I was never bored (far from it!). I honestly think that since Jackson decided to go from two movies to three movies for the Hobbit last summer people assume there’s “padding” and are looking for it.
As for the frame rate, most theaters do not have projectors that can handle 48fps, even in 3D, so most film goers will see the movie in 24fps. That’s the framerate I saw it at and I thought the movie looked great.
So what did I think of the movie? I liked it, I would give it a 4 out of 5. I do have some reservations though. I list below what I really liked about the movie – and also what I didn’t like.
Liked the introduction showing what happens to Erebor (the Lonely Mountain) and the town of Dale. You only see glimpses of Smaug, but those glimpses are pretty cool.
Loved the dwarves. The dwarves in the book tend to be pretty generic with only Thorin and Balin really standing out. In the movie, the dwarves all have different looks and personalities that help differentiate them.
Loved the Trolls. In the movie the dwarves are heavily armed and it’s only the threat of Bilbo’s death that causes them to cast away their weapons and wind up in sacks. Also like that the Trolls talked, basically having the same conversation they had in the book. Finally, I really like how Gandalf was able to resolve the situation.
The scenes with Gollum and the riddle contest were great.
I liked the added story revolving around the White Council and Dol Guldur. According to Tolkien, this was what was going on while the dwarves were on their way to the Lonely Mountain. It was why Gandalf left Thorin’s Company halfway through the quest. Jackson is just sort of filling in the story. I also like that they use some of the myths and legends of Middle-Earth throughout the movie, the giant spiders are called “spawn of Ungoliant” or something similar. The White Coucil talks about the Witch King of Angmar. Good stuff.
Even though the story is only 1/3rd complete, I really liked the ending.
The dwarves escape from the goblin caves was a running battle that I thought was simply too frenetic – though this is more of a quibble than a real complaint.
While I like that Radigast the Brown is in the movie, him finding Gandalf after the Troll encounter was jarring and clumsy. It’s a major departure from the book and I would have much preferred it was handled differently. (Maybe Radigast shows up at a meeting of the White Council?)
I’m not a big fan of the Azog storyline. I guess Jackson wanted a more personal, recurring villain-Azog is mentioned in the appendices in Return of the King-but I struggle to see the need. It didn’t ruin the movie for me, but I would rather the storyline wasn’t there.
While wandering through the Misty Mountains, the Company runs into a bunch of “Stone Giants”. While the scene is in the book, the giants are ‘normal giants’ and their antics (along with a thunderstorm) cause the dwarves to seek shelter. In the movie, the giants are basically huge earth elementals-which I actually kind of liked. What I hated was that the Company finds itself on two of these Gaints as they awaken. As these giants move about trouble ensues as the dwarves and hobbit hang on for dear life. The scene is clearly intended for 3D and is just silly in my opinion. I really disliked it.
****END SPOILER ALERT****
Even though I had some issues, I really liked the movie overall. I think Jackson really brings Middle-Earth to life with his attention to detail. I’m definitely looking forward to the next movie. I’m also planning to see the movie again in 3D in 48fps in order to see what all the fuss is about.
Score: 4 out of 5
Here’s a quick overview of what happened in our last session way back in September…
After a several adventures in Thissel Valley, characters make their way to the town of Westcrown, the so-called ‘City of Twilight’ and the largest town in northern Brennland. Here’s a description:
Perched between the slow moving Valadurn River and the blue waters of Lake Faewasser, Westcrown the City of Twilight comes into view. The largest town in this part of the world, Westcrown harbors around 30,000 souls. Tall spires and gabled roofs crowd together and peek out over the high stone walls that surround the bustling town.
Characters have traveled to the town for a variety of reasons:
- The entire party is looking for information concerning a knight. The party found a knight’s possessions in the lair of a hob with evidence pointing to the knight’s untimely demise. The hope is that there might be a reward for confirmation of the knight’s fate.
- Fearghus wishes to make a claim on a substantial bounty.
- Glyn is mainly in Westcrown to talk with an old associate that is in his debt, a scholar by the name of Melidar Narwik. Glyn is confident that Melidar can shed some light on the strange happenings occurring in the Thissel Valley. He’s also somewhat curious about the whereabouts of a young man by the name of Velder Alikson. Months prior, Velder was traveling to Westcrown from Briar Hill. Upon hearing this, Glyn had given the man gold for the purpose of contacting Melidar. Velder never returned and has not been heard from since.
- Arkath is interested in acquiring some spell components and other wondrous items to enhance his enchantments.
- Grimstad is in Westcrown because his companions wanted to travel to the city and he doesn’t have any better offers.
- Degno is primarily in Westcrown because he wants to have a masterwork heavy crossbow repaired.
Characters do receive a reward concerning the missing knight.
They party visits Melidar. They tell Melidar about rumours concerning the Queen of Thorns, evidence of goblins and hobs being paid to murder and pillage, and they talk about their strange encounters at Trollsfell Hill and the Sealed Citadel. Melidar has heard rumors concerning much of what the characters have told him and seems troubled. He promises to find out information and asks the characters to come back in 3 days.
They then investigate the disappearance of Velder and are surprised to find out that Velder has been spotted in the Lowgate section of town on numerous occasions. Curious, the characters walk to Lowgate the next day inquiring about Velder. Seemingly by happenstance they spot Velder on the street. He seems to spot them as well and runs, attempting to lure the party into a well-planned ambush by members of a street gang known as the Northwall Goons. However, the characters are forewarned by Arkath’s owl familiar. With the help of a Sleep spell by Arkath and a little intimidation by the rest of the party the Goons withdrew. The characters see Velder go into an abandoned tenement, soon after Fearghus encounters a slatternly woman leaving the building. The characters rush the tenement but find no sign of Velder.
Characters do some prying and investigating, even talking with some of the Goons who reveal they were hired by Velder. Fearghus goes off on his own and finds out that Velder is generally seen either coming from or going to an area known as North Bank which is next to the Lowgate district. This is a decrepit neighborhood of old warehouses in the northern section of Westcrown along the bank of the Valadurn River. He walks through the area but finds no sign of Velder.
That night characters are in the Black Boar, a local Inn where they are staying while in Westcrown. Early on, Fearghus heads to his room for a night’s sleep. Five minutes later Fearghus is seen by the rest of the party calmly walking back into the taproom, he then casually steps behind the bar, pulls out a long dagger and proceeds to calmly stab the innkeeper in the back! He then quickly runs back up the stairs as pandemonium breaks out. The rest of the party find themselves immediately under suspicion as the 15 bar patrons grab the nearest weapon and approach the characters. Soon after a richly attired burgher enters the taproom and begins calling for the characters’ arrest and Fearghus’s head. Arkath throws spells and Glynn tries to calm the crowd. Grimstad and Degno used more physical methods to control the crowd. Growing suspicious of the rich burgher and realizing a number of coincidences, the characters attempt to subdue the burgher. This degenerates into a melee and the burgher goes down. As soon the burgher fell he began a horrid change. His face seemed to shift and melt. What was seemingly a simple human man had become a horrid emaciated creature, its skin a mottled blue grey. It had a mouth and elf-like pointed ears; but the rest of its face was horridly made up of wrinkled and folded skin with seemingly no eyes nor nose. The shocked characters and tavern patrons immediately stopped fighting. On the creature they found a pouch containing some gold and silver, and a strange brass key. The key’s head bore a unique design of a ship being pulled underwater by a huge octopus (probably a kraken). Fearghus recognizes the design as one he saw on a warehouse in the North Bank. Arkath believes the creature to be a changeling, also called a doppelganger, a type of svart alfar (dark elf) thought to be a myth.
With Fearghus leading the way, the character’s journey to the warehouse. To be continued…
As most of you know, I published a game back in the early 1990s. Unlike many others who have “taken the plunge” and published a game, my experience was extremely positive. Not only did I learn a lot, the experience opened up a lot of doors that would have remained closed otherwise. However, some things I learned I had forgotten until I started work on my new game project. Namely, I had forgotten the last 10% of a game takes about 50% of the time to develop. I’m definitely running into this with my new game, Aspects of Fantasy. The last 10% has been a slog. A couple of reasons for this, at least from my perspective:
- The last 10% is never just 10%. There’s always something more that can be done or that you had forgotten.
- The last 10% is a slog. Most of the work is editing and adding items that make the game functional and marketable (like an index or an introductory adventure). Designing the game becomes less of a fun pastime and more like real work.
This is related to project planning, something I do in my real job as an IT Developer. But there’s obviously a significant difference. I need to finish my projects for work in a certain amount of time so I can keep my job; I’m really just developing the game for fun. Once designing the game becomes less fun and more like a job, it becomes a work project without a deadline – and I find all sorts of ways to procrastinate instead of working on it. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy working on the game and have a real sense of accomplishment when I complete a task, but I am having motivational issues.
That all said, here’s where I’m at with the game:
- InDesign Integration/Final Edit: I need to export the game from MS Word to Adobe InDesign. For a short period of time I thought I could keep the game in Word and save off as a PDF, but it’s been clear for a while now that I need a true desktop publishing tool. Unfortunately, like most Adobe products, InDesign is not intuitive and I have never actually used it (though I have access to it on my work laptop). Otoh, I am very familiar with Adobe Photoshop, so I’m somewhat familiar with Adobe’s application paradigm. I’ll be taking a couple of on-line tutorials to get me up to speed. As I place in InDesign I will also be doing the final edit. – 2 Months
- Need an Introductory Adventure – I was going to use an adventure I ran at GenCon 2011, but this might be too high level for an introductory adventure. – 14 days
- Kickstarter – I am going to put the game on Kickstarter, but only after the game is in InDesign. I do not want to make promises I can’t keep so the game will basically be done before it’s on Kickstarter. I really want to do Kickstarter because I want the game to have some very nice artwork, an expense that is outside my budget.
- Wildcard – At a Kickstarter seminar I attended at GenCon 2012, it was strongly agreed by all seminar speakers that you must have a video presentation along with your Kickstarter proposal. The only way I can think to do this is using Flash. The last time I worked with Flash was around 12 years ago and I only worked with it on one project so, like InDesign, I may be learning some new software. Not sure how I can get around this – we’ll see.
So my final estimate is 2.5 more months with maybe more time spent around a Kickstarter presentation. We’ll see. Time to start learning InDesign…
The Svart Alfar are elves who have been tainted, or have embraced, the Shadow (which elves call the Song of the Void). Many were sired by the Dark Shee in their war against their Shee kin. Initially, all Svart Alfar are fair like the rest of their elven kin. However, as the years go by, their appearance changes to match both their dark surroundings and evil nature. A Svart Alfar that has embraced the Shadow for less than a century is generally still fair to look upon, though there is usually a subtle taint, their eyes appear catlike or their teeth seem overly long and pointed. Those that have been tainted for hundreds of years can be true horrors, their evil nature causing their physical forms to change and transform until they are hideous and grotesque monsters. The Harpy and Childer of Gorroth Hallow shown below are examples of these older, tainted Svart Alfar.
Svart Alfar tend to dwell in black grottos, shadow filled caves, and haunted ruins. Those sired by the Dark Shee are sometimes interred with their dark masters – locked in eternal sleep until a foolish explorer or greedy tomb robber disturbs their crypt. Others have made their way to the Middle Marches, where they serve the Unseelie Court. Sometimes, on moonless nights or during strong storms, the Svart Alfar leave their dark lairs and prey on mortals. Though the Svart Alfar are rarely seen, the lands around their lairs gain sinister reputations.
Below are examples of Svart Alfar.
- Harpies are believed to be ancient Svart Alfar that were changed and twisted by an evil curse.
- The Childer of Gorroth Hallow are progeny of the Dark Shee that long ago took refuge in a valley dominated by a Nim Spider.
- The Shadowkith is an elf who has recently embraced the Shadow.
- The Wyrmguard is an elf of Nor Valon who recently joined the dragon worshipers of the Theocracy of Myrkhani.
- The Unseelie Warlock is an elven mage who has joined the Unseelie Court.
- The inimical Thorn Dryads that dwell deep in the Whisperwood have been identified as Svart Alfar.