Fear and Loathing in Middle America

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Yes, I'll pay the Joesky tax.

I rarely post about personal things outside of my son and last year's fundraiser. Today I was really frustrated with a lack of progress on various projects. I thought about why I stopped doing commercial work years ago. At that time, I was all talk. All I could generate at the time were ideas, not finished products. I fell into the same cycle over the past two months and was unfortunately feeling sorry for myself.

After some encouragement from Matt Stater and Chris Stieha its past time to quash that noise. Just to drive the point home, my son tonight told me that he wants to make more games with me.

With that in mind, NagaDemon is coming and it is time to finish some projects. I've tested a couple of them while some other projects are just let's see what sticks. More importantly, I've got a partner in crime to make stuff and a group of folks to playtest anything.

Here are some thoughts leading up to a new race. The uplifted dolphins are a fun race/class for a game. Want to have more fun, ponder my son's question:

What if the dolphins could make their own bubbles and float into the sky? Why not into outer space?

One of these days, I'll finish Spelljammer for White Star and these dolphins will be in it. (No, I haven't read the Uplift War, but my wife has.)

Anyway, after reading a G+ post about Talislanta and thinking about Pars Fortuna, I figured it's time to have my own "No Elves" one-shot game. The group is up for it and it will give me time with the boy. Since we have the uplifted dolphins, here is the symbiotic sword and armor race for Swords & Wizardry.


Paragons live as animated swords and suits of armor. Because they are usually seen together, humanoids considered Paragon Swords and Paragon Armor as members of the same race. This is not true, Paragon Armor live in entirely separate communities than Paragon Swords. Paragon Armor is self-animated by the community the live in. Each community will animate a chosen blacksmith suit of armor to create more suits of Paragon Armor. After the lifeless suit of armor is created, the community will engage in a ceremony to animate the new suit of armor. Suits of armor never change size, but are considered mature at four years of age. Most suits of armor last for twenty to thirty years in normal circumstances. Communities of Paragon Armor conduct trade with the neighboring towns or villages offering services as night guards in trade for metal.

All Paragon Armor that is not paired with a Paragon Sword dream of returning to their homeland to disperse into their family and friends.

Paragon Swords, exist as a race of philosophers incapable of moving on their own more than ten feet a day. Although the community does not require food, it does require a suitable shelter. Each Paragon Sword community has one shelter, or deliberation hall, of about 20 to 30 members. Every community requires a number of their own to leave the deliberation halls and journey in the outside world to avoid madness. Those chosen for this journey are paired with a Paragon Armor.

Once paired, the sword becomes the brains that control the armor. However, the personality of the armor is not destroyed. Instead the two paragons keep each other company. The sword provides teaching in philosophy and the animated armor provides knowledge of humans, manufacturing goods for trade, and general information about the outside world.

The PCs that play a Paragon represent a paired sword and armor.

Limited Object Animation: Paragon swords have the ability to control and move their paired Paragon Armor. Once per day, a Paragon Sword can animate one object up to the weight of a suit of leather armor. This ability cannot be used to animate a normal or non-Paragon sword.

Throw the Sword: Paragon Swords can launch themselves ten feet once per day. They attack with a -2 penalty, but do 1d8 damage.

Poison Immunity: All Paragons (armor and swords) are immune to poison.

Breathless: Paragons do not breathe and do not require air. As such they cannot be suffocated and are unaffected by any gaseous attacks.

Immutable Bond: Paragon Armor will only use its paired Paragon Sword, forsaking all other swords of any type. They can collect any other weapons and use them, but will carry only the Sword that comprises the pairing.

Tests of Purity: Paragons can integrate magic helmets and magic shields into their armor at a risk. When attempting to use a magic helmet or shield, the character must make a successful saving throw or lose all sanity for 1d8 rounds.

Classes: Player-Character Paragons may be Fighters only.

In campaign worlds with psionics, a paired Paragon Sword and Armor may advance to 8th level.

Non-player Paragons are unpaired. Paragon Swords can defend themselves using illusions, but having only one attack per day. (Paragon Swords lose their illusionist abilities once paired). Paragon Armor acts as a 2HD creature that does 1d6 damage with their gauntlets or weapon. Paragon Armor that is not paired with a Paragon Sword will not wield any kind of sword or blade.

Personality: Paragon Swords are impracticable and aloof. They have little understanding of the world of men. They are loyal to ideals and principles and seem to be unemotional creatures.

Paragon Armor come across as mild-mannered, hard-working adults that are not prone to say very much. They are loyal to their friends (humanoid or Paragon) and value industriousness.

A paired Paragon Sword and Armor can appear at rare times almost schizophrenic due to internal squabbles between the two Paragons. Otherwise, they will blend in with the human population almost perfectly. Mankind has grown accustomed to small hamlets where "ghost armors" live.

Committed, Participating, or Watching from the Sidelines

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Regardless of how one defines the OSR (or defines what is not the OSR), there are certain levels of involvement. I don’t say that to judge, it’s what comes to mind when I think about me and the OSR.

I love to fiddle with Swords & Wizardry. It is the closest thing to my preferred way of DMing and playing. It’s fairly easy to bolt-on subsystems from other games and everything a player needs to know can fit on the character sheet.

I’ve stalled on my year of Magic project because my big spell building system had a fundamental flaw that I couldn’t fix without starting over. If it was in any state of publishing, I’d post it and let others see if they can fix it. So much of it is scattered hand-written notes, I wouldn’t know how to best put that stuff out there.

For the curious, the fundamental flaw was that every spell effectively came out as a 4th or 5th level spell, even weak ones. I made a math error when I was making 1st and 2nd level spells. When I re-checked the math, lo and behold, they were really 4th level spells. Bleh.

As much as I love Swords & Wizardry, I play in a Dungeon World group. Most of the players in my group are half my age. I am older than the referee. I see these guys one or two times a week outside of the game and they love their characters. Believe it or not, we’ve even had character deaths and a near TPK.

The group won’t be able to meet this entire month and I suggested that I run a game in the interim. Everyone to whom I mentioned it to seemed enthusiastic. One player in particular has wanted me to run a separate game for a long time. Then that same player said

Let’s do Marvel Super Heroes this time.

They did not mean FASERIP. They weren't born yet when TSR made my favorite supers game.

Could I get them to do Swords & Wizardry? Yes, I could. But my inner bard keeps saying that I need to give them what they want. We would all have a bunch of fun and I’d enjoy the challenge of learning a new system. This isn't coming from a place of weakness: I enjoy playing just about any RPG. (RPGs I do not like include diceless, narrative only based games, and games similar to Vampire the Masquerade.) The point of the group is spending time together and I know that they will eventually come back around to my S&W game.

What’s the point of all this?

I want to do more than participate and chime in from time to time.

I'm determined to get this younger group of men and women to at least try Swords & Wizardry. Heck, if 5e is as OSR Friendly as the math appears to be, I'll be happy with Basic D&D. I'm sure once Basic is posted, I'll create a conversion kit from 5e to pure S&W. (I doubt that I'll be able to post it, but that's another story for a later time.)

I read about all things Swords & Wizardry, make house rules, and generally create stuff. I'm on and off posting. I get into non-OSR games like Dungeon World because I can find those games available at the right times and places. I even make stuff for Dungeon World. I conceive of great projects and get overwhelmed by them in any system, I guess. Bleh.

I would be happy to play a game on online, but the times seem to be just an hour too early or in the middle of the day. What I want to do is run a game on Google Hangouts. I plan on running a Swords & Wizardry game at Nuke Con here in Omaha, if I don't chicken out. The fear comes from committing a bunch of money that my family might otherwise need due to an emergency. That's life when you live hand-to-mouth.

I also want to add some new things to the OSR:

I use Sign Language at home. I think ASL is awesome. I think using ASL in-game is more awesome. The game takes on a different flavor when the characters (and the players) use the language. For spellcasters, it makes gestures for spellcasting more fun, especially in-game. More than that, a deaf Thief will not Hear Noise, but will have a better chance of seeing through a magical illusion.

Quick Aside: People who are deaf do not see better to compensate for a lack of hearing. Some do not see better at all. Some folks I know have developed an enhanced peripheral vision to be more aware of so many things that most folks totally miss. My son, for example, has tremendous peripheral vision. His hearing has changed over time and he prefers to speak (for now), but his early years taught him to be aware of so much visually that it still surprises me sometimes.

The key here is not to set up a "deaf race" and define racial abilities like being deaf was the fifth racial option. The point is not to stress the deafness, but to present variations of traditional classes. Truth is, when I play a bard, I think of Robert DeMayo, Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Terry Foy. I've seen Terry do Shakespeare serious and not-so-serious. I'd really love to see Robert do the same.

I want to add conversions to all sorts of systems. Give me the Alternity races in S&W (there was a Dragon magazine article that did that). Give me the hovertanks from FASA Centurion Legion. Give me a d% character from Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying.

I want to add monsters and creatures that are not related to horror. I am not a fan of horror. After a while, I just run out of synonyms for gruesome or horrifying. I'll admit, it's much harder to come up with creatures that aren't the stuff of nightmares. Despite that, it's still worth it.

I want to figure out how to make RPG material for a Kindle much easier than it is. I figured out how to make alternating shaded rows on tables. I figured out an fairly easy way to go from TiddlyWiki to HTML to MOBI formatted eBooks, but there are still a few quirks. I hope to make more things for a Kindle, even while I'm ironing out the kinks.

Anyway, I've rambled long enough, I think you get the idea. I hope to update more often now that real life has calmed down. I hope to contribute more than just an occasional emo post.

Wish me luck.