Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dice - The Odessey

As I've stated before, I've been role playing since I was 10 years old. Through all those years, I have accumulated a large collection of dice. I think all of us who have spent a number of years as a gamer have. Some of you may have even used a Crown Royal bag to carry your dice... I know I have at least once.

The other day, during the Pathfinder game that I'm currently playing, one of the players started sorting through her dice. She was sorting through them to make sure she wasn't missing any as her cat had knocked them over at home earlier. I watched as this process made its way through 2 additional players, and I got the itch to organize my collection at home. 

This is how my dice collection was originally organized: 2 dice bags, a Blue Man Group coin bucket from Las Vegas, a brandy snifter and a Halloween candy skull. I currently have them in 5 separate 32oz World of Warcraft AM/PM plastic cups (previously unused) that I received when I attended Wizard World Portland in 2013.

Here are the components of the collection:





The Oddball's
When I was working as a buyer for a used book store, one of my specialties was RPG's (go figure). Occasionally, a collection would come in where the seller wanted to get rid of everything, including the dice. I was more than happy to assimilate them into my own collection.

Several years ago, when I actively held games at my home, I had a friend who would go through my entire collection and organize them by the few actual sets I had. After that was done, he would occasionally suggest that a few dice were his or that perhaps some of his dice were actually mine. I never minded this ritual as the few actual sets of dice that I have I try to keep out of the main collection.

When I was in middle school, I had a friend who wanted to develop an Asian themed game with the system being totally devoted to the d100. I don't mean d%, I mean the actual d100 die (as pictured in "The Oddball's", there are 2 still in my collection) and nothing else. I didn't know what he was actually intending when he asked me to develop stats for weapons. I used my common sense and gave damage rating consistent with the weapons. (i.e. d6 for a dagger, d10 or 12 for a katana.) When I showed them to him, he informed me that he wanted EVERYTHING based on the d100. That's when I stopped working with him.

Also in middle school, I started learning to play Champions. That is when I cannibalized every board game I could find for 6-sided dice. Yahtzee, Monopoly, Clue, Risk. I don't think I ever gave those games back their dice. Years later, I would find my first "DM Slayer" in a National Geographic board game. As you can tell in the d12 photo, I still have that die.

I also remember when I purchased my first d100. It was $5 and I bought it at the only game store we had in town. I don't know that I ever really used it all that much and it's no longer in my collection. I think I was the only one in my gaming group that ever owned a d100 for many years.

I know that Gygax Magazine has been posting images of dice collections people have sent to them via Facebook or Twitter. I hope that they'll post my pics and I look forward to seeing yours as well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Games We Play: Pantheons

I think it's safe to say that there are not many games that are run where the prime focus is on religion or religions. In a way, this idea saddens me because I personally feel that if more people had a better understanding of other religions that they would be more tolerant of other people's beliefs. Please don't think that I'm going to go on a rant about religious freedom or how a single religion is the way to go. On the contrary, my mind is open to most religions and I openly welcome their use inside my games.

When I play a fantasy RPG like D&D or Pathfinder, 9 times out of 10 I am relegated to the role of Cleric so the party is covered for healing and "buffs". I don't ever mind this, until my character is hassled about his religious choice for no reason. I try to play by character's faith to the best of my ability, but I never go so far as pushing my religion onto any other characters. Instead, when my character is able to perform feats that may seem miraculous, I make sure the character gives open thanks to their chosen deity. For instance, in the Pathfinder game I'm currently playing...

Our characters were put through several tests to see if we were worthy of a minor artifact. One of the tests seem to be a test of penitence and humility. My character took it upon himself to weather the test, only to find out that it was actually a test to see if any of us would succumb to an evil deity. Long story short... 2 fire elementals unleashed 3 rounds worth of lava on my poor Cleric character. He survived and gave praise to his deity. Not bad for only being 4th level.

In the a Hunter: The Reckoning game I ran, I decided that each of the characters were going to be tied to a specific Greek god. Unfortunately, this aspect was never explored because a) the game didn't last very long -and- b) the players never really caught on to the few hints I was able to drop about this. The biggest hint was a painting of the characters, created by one of them, which had each character with a glowing symbol of a different Greek god. I was going to run it as each character was guided by a specific deity that they were linked to. I'm not sure how that would have played out, but I think it would have been interesting.

I would invite storytellers and players alike to bring an aspect of religion to your games to see how your fellow players respond. With the right group dynamic, I belief that it will create an interesting aspect to your games.
Help to eliminate this common issue with Clerics in your games. :-)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Game Store vs. Comic Book Shop

Due to some events that have happened in my local area recently, I was inspired to write this and the corresponding post on my Zanziber's Point of View blog.

My local game store, Borderlands Games, knows its stuff when it comes to RPG's, CCG's, miniatures and board games. Just because they carry the latest comic books does not make them a comic book shop, though... at least by my definition. IMHO, in order to be considered a "comic book shop", you should not only offer current issues, but also have a healthy supply of back issues including issues that could possibly draw in collectors (i.e. key issues, graded comics, variants, etc.). This is by no means my entire definition, but I think you get the idea.

You would no more expect every games store to carry comic books than you should expect a comic book shop to deal in the secondary market or CCG cards (buying/trading).

Now, stemmed from recent local events, I feel the need to speak on customer service.

To any managers of game stores, I would hope that you read this and take it into consideration within your own domain. Your employee's are a reflection of your store to the public. If they bad-mouth the competition to customers who may be dropping-in for the first time, you will not receive repeat customers and this will create negative word-of-mouth. If your employee engages in a one-sided debate towards said customer about all the seemingly negative aspects of the competition, this will leave a lasting impression and a bad taste in the mouths of those that experienced the event in question.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Games We Play: Chess Magic

Way back in Duelist #4, Chess Magic made its debut. The idea behind Chess Magic was simple - try
to create a format specifically designed to recreate the feel of Chess. The goal of the format is not to exactly duplicate the Chess game, but simply to give a Magic game the feel of a good Chess game.

Unfortunately, the format from Duelist #4 is quite out of date, and in serious need of upgrading. That's why I have decided to open up my compendium and place another entry herein. It's high time that we had an updated version of this really nifty variant, so I am updating the older rules and streamlining the process a bit.

This variant comes with a lot of strict deckbuilding rules, so let's go over the easy ones briefly. The deck's creatures are divided into a King's side and a Queen's side. The deck can be one or two colors. All creatures on the King's side are one color, and all creatures on the Queen's side are another color. Each side has four pawns, a bishop, knight, and rook. The two sides can be the same color.

In addition, the King has a Wizard and the Queen has an Artifact. The rules for these cards are listed in detail below.

Every creature in the deck must conform to a chess piece. Each deck has the exact same chess pieces represented. The rules for what may, or may not count as a chess piece are listed below. I added a few examples in parentheses to start the ball rolling for ideas.

The King must have a casting cost of four or more and be legendary. The King must be male. After all, this is the King of a whole kingdom we are talking about - he's legendary. (Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Arcanis the Omnipotent, or Tahngarth, Talruum Hero.)

King's Bishop:
The King's Bishop must be the same color as the King. It must have power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it must have a power higher than that of the King's Knight. The King's Bishop cannot have a power more than three greater than the King. (Quicksilver Dragon, Serra Angel, or Cateran Slaver.)

King's Knight:
The King's Knight must be the same color as the King. It must have a power greater than the King's Pawns. Its combined power and toughness cannot be more than six. The King's Knight must have a combat-related ability that does not allow it to evade combat, such as first strike, vigilance, banding, double strike, flanking, haste, provoke, rampage, bushido, or trample. As other combat oriented keywords are added, they count as a Knight as well.

Note that there are no evasive-oriented combat abilities listed (ninjitsu, flying, shadow, landwalk, protection, etc.). The King's Knight enjoys combat and relishes in it. Note that it can still have an evasive ability, as long as it has one of the combat-oriented abilities.
(Examples include Nekrataal, Narwhal, Jolrael's Centaur, and Suq'Ata Lancer.)

King's Pawns:
The four Pawns must be the same color as the King. All four pawns must be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or less. It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than three. It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger or require the use of tapping or mana. These are the little guys that make the army go. (Defender of Chaos, Cloud of Faeries, or Soul Warden.)

King's Rook:
The only restriction on the King's Rook, other than being the color of the King, is that it must either be a wall or a creature with defender. (Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch, Wall of Blossoms, or Wall of Diffusion.)

King's Wizard:
The King's Wizard is the only creature in the deck that may be of two colors, if you wish. It may be the King's color, the Queen's color, or both. The King's Wizard is also the only creature other than the King and Queen who can be legendary. The King's Wizard must have an ability that requires tapping. It cannot have a higher power and toughness than 4/4. (Goblin Wizard, Royal Assassin, Prodigal Sorcerer, or Ertai, Wizard Adept.)

The Queen may be of a separate color than the King. The Queen must be a female legendary creature with a casting cost four or greater. (Radiant, Archangel, Autumn Willow, or Grandmother Sengir.)

Queen's Bishop:
The Queen's Bishop must be the same color as the Queen. It must have power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it must have a power higher than that of the Queen's Knight. The Queen's Bishop cannot have a power more than one greater than the Queen. (Ball Lightning, Exalted Angel, or Sengir Vampire.)

Queen's Knight:
The Queen's Knight must be the same color as the Queen. It must have a power greater than the Queen's Pawns but a combined power and toughness no higher than six. Like the King's Knight, the Queen's Knight must have a combat related ability - but it may count any combat ability, including evasive ones. The Queen's Knight can be a bit sneakier than its companion Knight. (Thalakos Scout, Phantom Monster, or Yavimaya Ants.)

Queen's Pawns:
The four Pawns must be the same color as the Queen. All four pawns must be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or less. It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than three. It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger, destroy other permanents, or require the use of tapping or mana. These are more little guys that make the army go. (Disciple of the Vault, Atog, or Merchant of Secrets.)

Queen's Rook:
The Queen's Rook must be the same color as the Queen. The Rook has to be either a wall or have defender. (Wall of Hope, Wall of Putrid Flesh, Wall of Wonder.)

Queen's Artifact:
The Queen's Artifact represents a little toy of hers that she uses to great effect. This cannot be a creature. It cannot produce mana of a color other than the Queen or King's color(s). There are no additional restrictions. (Cursed Scroll, Wand of Ith, Jayemdae Tome, or Ivory Tower.)

18 Non-Creature Cards: 
There must be an additional eight cards in the deck. There cannot be any creatures with these cards. They must be in your two colors, though they can include gold spells. See the banned list for special rules.

24 Lands: 
All lands must be basic except for four non-basics. A legendary land can count for one basic, but only one may be played. All lands must tap for mana from either the King or Queen's color.

The Banned List
The following effects are banned from the environment. Even creatures cannot have these abilities:

  • The ability to make token creatures (The Hive, Grizzly Fate, Dual Nature, Stangg.)
  • The ability to destroy or damage most or all creatures in play (Wrath of God, Massacre, Decree of Pain, Earthquake.)
  • The ability to take control of any card an opponent owns (Control Magic, Animate Dead.)
  • Wishes, Ring of Ma'Ruf
  • Any card which destroys or goes after a creature type (Extinction, Engineered Plague.)

  • Humility
  • Any effect that removes a creature for the game (Swords to Plowshares, Final Judgment.)
  • Any card or ability that has or makes permanents indestructible (That Which Was Taken, Darksteel Gargoyle.)

  • That covers the basic deck construction rules. You will find advanced deck construction rules later in the article. On to the play rules!

    Creature Abilities:
    In order to roughly simulate the Chess experience, there are a few special abilities for creatures, as follows:

    All Pawns have haste. Additionally, all Pawns have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may remove this card from the game to put a creature card of the same color from the graveyard into play tapped. You may not put the King into play this way." This ability can only be used by one Pawn per turn.

    Rooks, King/Queen
    Rooks have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return this card to your hand and put a King or Queen of the same color into play." The King and Queen have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return this card to your hand and put a Rook of the same color into play." You may only use this ability once per game.

    Note that you cannot use the King's Rook for the Queen (or vice versa) unless they are of the same color.

    King's Death
    When the King goes to the graveyard from play, the controlling player loses half of his or her life rounded up.

    King's Ploy
    Every servant of the King (Bishop, Rook, Knight, Pawns and Wizard) has the following ability: "Tap, Sacrifice the Queen: The King is indestructible until the end of turn"

    After looking over the deck construction and playing rules, you'll notice that the deck is divided virtually evenly into creatures and non-creatures. That means you can rely on your opponent playing with enough creatures to make cards like Exclude perfectly acceptable. With only one artifact in the required cards, and no enchantments required, you'll have to decide yourself if Disenchant-type removal is relevant.

    Spells cannot utilize colors that are not part of the Queen/King color spectrum. You can't play Illuminate, for example, unless your lieges are red and blue. You also cannot add additional creatures through any means, including token creature generation.

    With around 50% of the deck being creatures, you obviously cannot stock up on creature removal. A few creature removal cards are good ideas, but if you spend too much time worrying about creatures, you'll have difficulty winning.

    In deck construction, make sure you make full use of your creatures. Note that your Bishops are usually your heavy hitters and beaters. You've probably noticed that the King's Bishop can be much more powerful than the King, where the Queen's Bishop can be, at most, just a little more powerful. This reflects the power of the Queen in chess.

    The only other major difference between the King and Queen pieces lies in what abilities a creature must have in order to count as a Knight. The King's Knight looks for "hard" combat abilities, whereas the Queen's Knight can use those, as well as using evasive and sneaky combat abilities.

    Advanced Rules:
    If you are looking for an additional bit of flavor, take a look at our advanced rules. You might want to try these out after you've played around with the first version, or you may just want to dig on in and try these rules as well. You can pick and choose from these rules or use them all.

    Deck Construction:

    King's Beast
    The King's Beast must be of the same color as the King. The King's Beast represents a typical court pet. It must be a monstrous or cute creature and not an intelligent race (no Merfolk, Goblins, Humans, or whatnot). (Ertai's Familiar, Kavu Chameleon or Jamuraan Lion.)

    Queen's Jester
    The Queen's Jester must be the same color as the Queen. The Queen's Jester cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than five, and it must have a very powerful ability. (For example, Ali from Cairo has a powerful ability; Ali Baba does not. Archivist has a powerful ability; Chaos Harlequin does not.)

    Court Enchantment
    The court has an enchantment over it, represented by this card. It must be in one or both of the legal colors. The Court Enchantment must be a global enchantment, not a local one. (Future Sight, Grand Melee, or Bad Moon.)

    Coat of Arms
    The court must have some banner, coat, or whatnot to count as the court's Coat of Arms. This can be either an artifact or an enchantment if the enchantment fits. Obviously, it must be of a color that benefits the King or Queen's color. (Konda's Banner, Jabari's Banner, Coat of Arms, Coalition Flag, or Leonin Sun Standard.)

    The land ruled by the King or Queen must be represented as well. If this has a color, it must be in the King or Queen's color(s). This can be an enchantment (Castle, Great Wall, or Teferi's Realm), a legendary land (Urborg, Tolaria, or Eiganjo - remember that lands can only be included if they tap for a legal color) or the rare artifact, if you can find one that fits. If you use a legendary land, then you can count it as one of your required lands, if you wish to do so (thereby giving you an extra business card).

    Play Rules:
    For an attack, you may give one of your creatures Provoke. However, if you do, your opponent will get a free Provoke on the following turn for any creature of his or her choice. (This represents sacrificing a piece to take a critical piece from your opponent.)

    Feel free to try out the advanced rules and see how they do. They'll be taken out of the eighteen extra cards - so if you play with all five extra cards, a deck will only have thirteen extra cards (fourteen if you use a land to fulfill the Demesne obligation.).

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    System's We Play: d20


    I think that the "birth" of the d20 system stemmed from the original Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast took the idea, added some fun extras like Feats and a large selection of Skills and made the basic system available for other publishers to utilize while keeping certain creative rights.

    The d20 System is a derivative of the third edition D&D game system. The three primary designers behind the d20 System were Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook and Skip Williams; many others contributed, most notably Richard Baker and Wizards of the Coast then-president Peter Adkison. Many give Tweet the bulk of the credit for the basic resolution mechanic, citing similarities to the system behind his game Ars Magica. Tweet, however, stated "The other designers already had a core mechanic similar to the current one when I joined the design team".

    To resolve an action in the d20 System, a player rolls a 20-sided die and adds modifiers based on the natural aptitude of the character (defined by six abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and how skilled the character is in various fields (such as in combat), as well as other, situational modifiers. If the result is greater than or equal to a target number (called a Difficulty Class or DC) then the action succeeds. This is called the Core Mechanic. This system is consistently used for all action resolution in the d20 System: in prior games in the D&D family, the rules for different actions, such as the first-edition hit tables or the second-edition AD&D "THAC0" and saving throw mechanics, varied considerably in which dice were used and even whether high numbers or low numbers were preferable.

    The d20 System is not presented as a universal system in any of its publications or free distributions, unlike games like GURPS. Rather, the core system has been presented in a variety of formats that have been adapted by various publishers (both Wizards of the Coast and third-party) to specific settings and genres, much like the Basic Role-Playing system common to early games by veteran RPG publisher Chaosium.

    The rules for the d20 System are defined in the System Reference Document or SRD (two separate SRDs were released, one for D&D edition 3.0 and one for edition 3.5), which may be copied freely or even sold. Designed for fantasy-genre games in (usually) a pseudo-medieval setting, the SRD is drawn from the Dungeons & Dragons books Player's Handbook v3.5, Expanded Psionics Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide v3.5, Monster Manual v3.5, Deities and Demigods v3.0, Unearthed Arcana, and Epic Level Handbook. Information from these books not in the SRD include detailed descriptions, flavor-text, and material Wizards of the Coast considers Product Identity (such as references to the Greyhawk campaign setting and information on mind flayers).

    d20 Modern has its own SRD, called the Modern System Reference Document (MSRD). The MSRD includes material from the d20 Modern roleplaying game, Urban Arcana Campaign Setting, the d20 Menace Manual, and d20 Future; this can cover a wide variety of genres, but is intended for a modern-day, or in the case of the last of these, a futuristic setting.

    The wonderful thing about the d20 system is that it allowed so many smaller publishers to write material for it and it would fall under the Open Game License (OGL). This was a great idea and allowed small publishers to get some notice and recognition for their work.