Thursday, April 26, 2012

From the depths of my hdd: D&D3/d20 Monk Weapons

Foreword: I have recovered some old files while tidying up my hard drives, stuff from the old days when I was into Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. What follows is an article I originally meant to submit to Dragon magazine (when it was still a print magazine!) detailing new weapons for D&D3/d20 System. Ehi, somebody still plays that stuff! I guess this works alright with Pathfinder or with any D&D variant which has “monks” as a class. The statistics given are for “3.5” rules – for “3.0” rules just ignore the “Dmg (S)” column and instead assign each weapon a size. I’m sure you can easily adapt the table to whatever version of D&D you’re using. These weapons were never playtested (but, if you want my opinion, most such material released in magazines wasn’t, either).

New Weapons for Monks

All of the weapons described in this article are exotic weapons, requiring a character to acquire the appropriate Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat or suffer a -4 penalty on attack rolls. Besides, all of these weapons are considered “special monk weapons”, but only in the hands of a proficient character: thus, a monk character wielding any of these weapons and being proficient with it can use it as part of a flurry of blows.

Hollow staff: A 5’ long staff fashioned from bamboo wood, very stout despite being hollow inside and thus lighter in weight compared than a common quarterstaff. Like the quarterstaff, you can wield it as a double weapon. Alternatively, and unlike the quarterstaff, being so light you can grip it very close to its end and brandish it like a long club: in this case it counts as a reach weapon and you can strike at opponents 10 feet away with it, but you can’t use it against adjacent foes. Switching from wielding the hollow staff as a double weapon to wielding it as a reach weapon, or vice-versa, takes a “draw weapon” action for any character but a proficient monk; a monk proficient in the hollow staff can instead make the switch as a free action.
[Note: if you’re using my variant weapons rules from this other article, you could treat the hollow staff as a variant quarterstaff, instead of a separate exotic weapon (the only effective difference being that a nonproficient user could still pick up a hollow staff and use it as it was a standard quarterstaff).]

Hornet knife: A small, triangle-shaped throwing dagger, resembling an oversized shuriken. Since it is not designed for melee, you are always treated as nonproficient with it if you use a hornet knife as a melee weapon. Although they are thrown weapons, hornet knives are treated as ammunition for the purposes of drawing them, crafting masterwork or otherwise special versions of them and what happens to them after they are thrown.

Serpentspire sword: This sword resembles a straight-edged rapier with the long handle and cross-shaped hilt of a bastard sword. Its very flexible blade twists and waves almost like a snake, hence its name. It is a favoured weapon of certain master swordsmen from distant lands who employ an exotic, flamboyant style of swordplay: they juggle the sword from their left to their right as they duel and occasionally they grip it with both hands. You can use the Weapon Finesse feat to apply your Dexterity modifier instead of your Strength modifier to attack rolls with a serpentspire sword sized for you, even though it isn’t a light weapon. In order to attack with a serpentspire sword as part of a flurry of blows, a monk must be wielding only one such weapon and have her other hand free.

Tonfa: These L-shaped, stout wooden sticks are often used in pairs and make for an effective parrying weapon. One wields them by gripping the shorter, thinner bar in the palm and keeping the longer, thicker bar parallel to the forearm: thus one performs parries with the protected forearm in the style of an unarmed fighter, but rotates the weapon forward to strike with it as a club. A proficient character wielding paired tonfas gains a +1 shield bonus to AC when fighting defensively, taking a total defense action or employing the Combat Expertise feat.

Unbalanced axe: There once was a martial artist of unsurpassed mastery, but possessing little muscle strength in his arms, who sought out a weapon which would substitute the former for the latter. He designed an oddly bent axe, no larger than a typical handaxe but considerably heavier, meant to be swinged around in circular motions at high speed, then driving its mass with a skilled flick of the wrist as it drops. So unwieldy is the unbalanced axe that it always imposes a -1 penalty on attack rolls. Besides, a monk can only use unbalanced axe attacks in a flurry of blows if he wields two such weapons and makes all of his attacks with those (mixing no unarmed strikes in the routine). Despite being considered a “light weapon” for most purposes, the unbalanced axe can’t be used in a grapple.

New exotic weapons


Dmg (S)
Dmg (M)
Range Increment
Light Melee Weapons

2 gp
2 lb.
Unbalanced axe
25 gp
5 lb.

One-Handed Melee Weapons

Serpentspire sword
40 gp
2 lb.
Piercing or slashing
Two-Handed Melee Weapons

Hollow staff (as a double weapon)
15 gp
2 lb.
or hollow staff (as a reach weapon)


Ranged Weapons

Hornet knives (5)
2 gp
10 ft.
2 lb.

From the depths of my hdd: D&D3/d20 Variant Weapons

Foreword: I have recovered some old files while tidying up my hard drives, stuff from the old days when I was into Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. What follows is an unfinished article I originally meant to submit to Dragon magazine (when it was still a print magazine!) detailing a new rules option for D&D3/d20 System. Ehi, somebody still plays that stuff! I guess this works alright with Pathfinder etc., thus use it if you like it, and maybe build on it. It was never playtested (but, if you want my opinion, most such material released in magazines wasn’t, either).

Variant weapons

Common rules: “variant” weapons, such as those described here, aren’t new exotic weapons – they’re special variations of existing simple or martial weapons. Any character proficient with the “base” weapon can use a variant weapon as it was a normal weapon of that kind, with no penalties to their attack roll (i.e. any character proficient with simple weapons can use a boarhunt spear as it was a normal longspear and a mail-piercing dagger as a common dagger). However, you also have the option to expend an Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat to perfect your use of the weapon, gaining access to a “special ability” unique to each variant weapon.

Boarhunt spear (variant longspear): a spear with a crossbar stoutly affixed one-third down its length, it is designed to stop a rampaging beast’s charge. When a trained user (Exotic Weapon Proficiency: boarhunt spear) makes a successful attack roll against a charging opponent (either as a readied attack or due to an attack of opportunity granted because of reach), she and the opponent also make an opposed strength check: a losing opponent is forced to halt the charge and stop in place.

Mail-piercing dagger (variant dagger): a strong, stoutly built thrusting dagger which only inflicts piercing damage, this weapon is designed with the purpose of punching through armor, chainmail especially. A trained user (Exotic Weapon Proficiency: mail-piercing dagger) gains a +2 circumstance bonus to hit with the mail-piercing dagger against opponents wearing metal armor (including: all heavy armor, all medium armor except hide, and chain shirt).

Afterword: my original file also has headers for two more weapons: the “swordbreaker” (variant greatclub) and the “long-reaching sword” (variant greatsword) – the headers only, but no actual descriptions. The hollow staff from this other article could also be one. If you like the concept, please, make up your own!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Game Chef: Pummarola Ediscion

Well, well, this is flattering! You people are making me blush. I'll just do my best.

Paul Czege:
This year, Game Chef participants may design and submit games written in Italian. Here’s how it will work:

  • Design and write a game in Italian, following the announced guidelines and ingredient requirements. Submit it before the deadline along with everyone else, via the Game Chef blog.
  • At the peer-review stage, games submitted in Italian will be assigned for peer-review only to others who’ve also submitted games written in Italian. These participants will then post their reviews (in Italian) and recommend one of the games they’ve reviewed to go on to the finals.
  • Because the Italian-language community will almost certainly have fewer than twenty submissions, there probably won’t be a clear verdict for which games should go to the finals, just from peer recommendations. So the Italian-language games that receive the most recommendations will be read by Giulia Barbano and Mario Bolzoni, who will select 1-3 games for translation to English, based on what % of total submissions the Italian-language games represent.
  • These finalists will then be translated to English by Raffaele Manzo and will go up against the English-language finalists in the final judging.
As always, non-native speakers of English are certainly welcome to submit games written in English. This special opportunity for Italian speakers is really only possible because of the heroic volunteering of Raffaele Manzo, whose translation skills are quite formidable.
 Traduzione di Giulia Barbano:
Grazie a Paul Czege, Raffaele Manzo e Mario Bolzoni, vi annunciamo una novità assoluta nella storia del Game Chef: la Pummarola Ediscion.
È possibile partecipare all'edizione di quest'anno anche con giochi scritti in italiano, seguendo questa procedura:
  • Crea un gioco, seguendo le linee guida e usando gli ingredienti che verranno pubblicati su questo sito, scrivilo in italiano e invialo entro la scadenza tramite il blog del Game Chef.
  • Nella fase di peer-review, i giochi in italiano verranno assegnati per la revisione ad altri partecipanti italiani. Come partecipante dovrai quindi valutare i giochi in italiano che ti verranno assegnati e pubblicare un commento su ognuno; infine dovrai scegliere un gioco e votarlo per farlo passare in finale.
  • Dato che, molto probabilmente, la comunità italiana produrrà al massimo una ventina di giochi, potrebbe non esserci un esito evidente della fase di peer review. Per questo motivo, i giochi più votati in questa fase saranno esaminati da Mario Bolzoni e la sottoscritta, che sceglieranno da 1 a 3 giochi per la finale (il numero di giochi scelti dipenderà dalla percentuale dei concorrenti italiani sul totale).
    Questi finalisti saranno poi tradotti in inglese da Raffaele Manzo, e competeranno con gli altri finalisti provenienti dalla fase di peer review in inglese nella fase di valutazione finale.
Come sempre sono ben accetti tutti i giochi scritti in inglese da autori provenienti da ogni parte del mondo. Questa occasione particolare è possibile solo grazie alla generosa collaborazione di Raffaele Manzo, i cui straordinari talenti linguistici sono ben noti.
Speriamo che questa esperienza possa venire ampliata in futuro, per offrire nuove opportunità alle vivaci comunità di game design che esistono in altre parti del mondo.

(Un grazie anche a Paola Guarneri per la pummarola)

Monday, April 2, 2012

My last month in role-playing

In January and February I had way too little time for games, between traveling to Istanbul and the carnevale in Viareggio: my only opportunity to play was at EtrusCon (where I got my first taste of Mist-Robed Gate, besides playing Durance and The Dreaming Crucible all games I heartily recommend). To even things out, March had to be an all-out role-playing month, and all of my spare time was duly given to games. My current strategy for handling logistics is both simple and convenient, and it’s working like a charm: the “group” has me and Barbara as the only fixed members, and we play at Barbara’s during the weekends together with any number of “guest” players drawn from those friends of ours who just happen to be available on short notice. Thanks to this arrangement, in one month we were able to play:
  • Kagematsu (with Alessio): not our first game of it; probably the best so far. We were able to took our time, but didn’t waste any (I think I finally got the hang of how, as a village woman player, I can pace the game through my choice of whether to let a scene end or ask for more). We also hit, I think, the right balance between just enough historical accuracy to appease me and enough fantastic elements as needed to satisfy Barbara. We encountered a problem, though – possibly a “bug” in the rules: as we, the women, finally went after the Promise, Barbara as Kagematsu started rolling an endless string of triple-sixes (which is not at all unlikely, come think of it, when you’re rolling 9d6), producing a long sequence of inconclusive scenes (maybe six or eight of those in a row?) and the menace escalating to all-out war, as after a while we were exhausted of ideas for making it even more ominous. Those six-or-eight scenes added very little to the game – a couple could have been fine, but as inconclusive attempts accumulated they distracted us from the real point or even detracted from our enjoyment. Therefore, I’m considering house-ruling such a possibility away through some minor ad-hoc patch next time I play.
  • Psi*Run (with Alessio and Matteo): our first attempt with this game, and we loved it. Scheduling it as a two-days marathon afforded us all of the time we could wish for – a welcome change from the usually very constrained timeframe of one-shots. Having that extra bit of comfort, we felt enabled to really make the game sing for us on the emotional level. After an explosive beginning, we acted out many low-key scenes, with sparse, drawn out conversations between the runners, reminiscent of Ribbon Drive. More the European arthouse film than the Hollywood action movie, could we say. This, coupled with the use of familiar locations in the first half of the game, vastly increased our involvement. By the second half of it, then, play had gotten so emotionally charged that every single step the runners took felt deeply moving. It was great.
  • Play with Intent (with Alberto and Matthijs): not really part of the logistical arrangement I described, as we played this at a games tradeshow (“Play”, in Modena), but to be fair Alberto is one of the friends who live nearby and are always welcome at Barbara’s – well, Matthijs Holter would be welcome as well, but let’s be realistic. Anyway, since Matthijs (whom I had last met in Oslo last summer) was visiting Italy, how could I not show up and try his (and Emily Care Boss’s) “new thing”? This run of Play with Intent reminded me of jeepform, except it only had the good parts of jeepform IMO (i.e. no deliberate abuse of the players); but I get that individual runs can be very different from each other. What else to say? As a concept, it sure bears some thinking about the “identity of a game” besides the singular instance (top question: does such a thing even exist?), as well as pushing our current notion of what can be “packaged” as a “game” to its furthest limit. As an experience, it highlights once more how the core activity of game-design lies with providing built-in restrictions: as we were provided next to no restrictions at all, first thing we had to do was to add some – that is, to my understanding, we had to co-design our game on the spot.
  • Remember Tomorrow (with Monica and Lorenzo): for a while, I had been unfairly dismissive of this game. That's because the first time I gave it a try, in a demo run by a friend, having no previous knowledge of it… it fell flat. I think none of us players really “got” it at the time, that we all brought mistaken expectations to the table maybe, but still we decided to blame the design for blandness. I was lucky, one year later, to be given another demo – no matter how short – by Gregor Hutton himself: and it was wholly another game to me. Later still I read the book, finding out Greg’s vision for the game was well implied within the text and his style of play extensively explained. Remember Tomorrow is all about the “punk” in “cyberpunk”, with the “cyber” just painting it in shiny colors. And it’s an agile, fast moving game with room in it for some richness of detail, for the luxury of some speculation, but never taxing or exhausting. Thus I got to facilitate it myself, at last, and – apart from a few minor issues – it was a success. Truly my first impression had been wrong. I'm going to play this again.
So, what now? First there’s a sweet, sweet game of Bliss Stage, begun last December, which we need to bring to a closure – and, with both pilots as close as they are to blissing out, one more session will be enough. Then I absolutely want to playtest Ben Robbins’s Kingdom, the rules of which had me at first read: it looks delicious. Then what? Matteo asked me whether I’d run (as the GM) a game of Sorcerer, which sounds intriguing enough a perspective… Also, the new and revamped I reietti di Eden (tentative English title: Cast Down from Eden) is almost ripe for some serious playtest.