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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Pathfinder Houserules

Hello world,

I have recently been putting together a Pathfinder campaign to be played over the internet using services such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Roll20.net. The reason for this was two fold: First, if you want to do something right you have to do it yourself. Second Pathfinder is a whole lot more easy and convenient to play since it works on pc gen and all the rules are available for free online completely legally.

In a pathfinder campaign I was recently dropped from due to basically not working with the party I noticed that both the rogue and the fighter pale in comparison to the wizard, the druid, the alchemist and the inquisitor and this left the players of those classes feeling very useless. A feeling not helped by us two being the most inexperienced members and thus likely to be ignored.

So I have some houserules to take care of rules layers trapping players into little boxes where all they can do is blink away at the enemy in combat.

The first house rule I call Melee Magic:
Any class that is melee focused and cannot perform aoe attacks as standard may pick a spell class to adopt as applicable to them. This lets them get all the spells a member of that class would at their levels with the following consequences:
1. A Melee Magician's weapon is deemed their implement for the purposes of their spells. Weapons have to be "enchanted" to be considered an implement. This avoids players disarming more powerful weapons mid-combat and instantly becoming that much more powerful. Lorewise this explains the properties of the weapons and stops armies and monsters from performing spells en masse.

2. A Melee Magic item may be enchanted to allow for two weapon fighting without feats

3. A Melee Magic item will have 0 chance of spell failure in heavy armour if only heals for player characters or buffs are used.

4. If a Melee Magic item has hit and done damage to an enemy on that player character's turn they may perform a utility spell, ally heal, buff or spell attack as a minor action. The spell failure check is an additional roll to see if offensive or utility spells still hit given the player character is doing a lot on their turn

5. If a Melee Magician performs a spell as a standard action they gain no armor check penalty since they are not distracted and may add their strength or dexterity modifier to hit and attack rolls on top of the modifiers usually needed to perform the spells.

The second house rule I call Multiclassing Fairness:
Any time a player character multiclasses they level up all their classes but only make of use the class level they chose to level up until they get another level in the class they abandoned and once they do so they must spend time and resources to earn the level/s they missed.

For example:
Sue chooses to become a wizard at first level but at second level she decides to multiclass into fighter so she can become proficient in armour and attack while buffing her friends so she picks up first level in fighter, when she picks up a level in wizard at her next level up instead of just picking up a second level of wizard she picks up a third level of wizard and must then spend time and resources to catch up and make use of her second level of wizard, similar to how a student at university may change to a different course in their second or third year but must then spend time catchup to speed on their new course.

What this means in practise is the following:
1. Multiclassing is no longer completely stupid but the levels you have in a class you multiclassed into are necessarily smaller than someone who is not multiclassing.

2. Munchkinning with multiclassing is still unwise. There are 11 base classes and you only gain access to levels you missed by multiclassing if you take another level in them  so if you tried to munchkin your could end up being an eleventh level character with only first levels. Even if multiclassing first levels were treated like actual first levels and all things stacked that would still suck.

3. To level up class levels a player character missed when multiclassing that character must join the local guild for the class they need to catch up on and be absent from as many encounters as they have class levels to catch up on. This does not mean the player has to sit out of a game, instead the party may hire an adventurer that the player, whose character they are missing, takes control of. This mercenary player character stand in must have the same player character level as the player character they are standing in for and have a maximum of three classes. The player who is multiclassing must draw this stand-in character up.

4. Multiclassing characters level up slower since they miss out on encounter xp

The third house rule I call Real Life Skill Expertise:
If your character is in a situation where they must pass a skill challenge but are seemingly doomed to failure because the skill they must pass uses their dump stat then instead of rolling you may opt to display your real life expertise at dealing with the situation. If the skill challenge works off charisma, intelligence or wisdom then roleplaying in character using your real life skills as a person would suffice. If the skill challenge works off strength, dexterity or constitution then a video displaying your real life skills followed by an explanation of how that applies to the skill check is enough.

My final house rule adds a bunch of Dungeons and Dragons fourth edition features to Pathfinder:

  • A player turn consists of  a move, a minor and a standard action.
  • An action point is awarded to each player at the start of an encounter or skill challenge and may be spent to perform a move, minor or standard action or just reroll a roll
  • As a standard action a player may spend a healing surge: Perform a heal check to regain an eighth of their total hit points plus their heal modifier. If the player has a healing spell they may perform a heal check on an ally as a minor action if they are adjacent.
  • Races and classes from fourth edition can be retrofitted into Pathfinder. Full details on those later.
If this all seems a bit too kind to my players there is a reason for this: If my players are tough and healy and deal lots of damage then I can stop worrying so much about not killing them and throw more monsters and traps at them in the knowledge that they can handle it.

More world building and house rules to come

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Culture Comforts

Comfort for me, real run away and hide from the world comfort, used to be Christmass incarnate. warmth and sweetness with family around and the cats curling up beside me. That's why Christmass has always been so important for me, even as a 22 year old, it's that magical place of comfort where everything is alright and the screaming stops.

As I listen through the Culture novels though I find that more comforting than any myth of christmass is a world where the broken and the dying and going slightly mad can just go to be and recover. I've listened to Consider Phlebas so I know the Culture isn't perfect but that only makes me love the idea of it more. Perfect is a lie that will never be. The Culture is a dream of something that so easily could be and indeed it is the culture of The Culture that I find so comforting. There are no judgments, no stereotypes, people can just do what they want and need to get by. A world where age and gender and pleasure are all highly under personal control. If you're a particle physicist and don't find your job fulfilling you can choose to wait tables or build ships or become a nudist artist. Whatever you want, you can do and this doesn't mean that your life has no purpose, it has as much purpose as you want and if you want to give your life under Special Circumstances they'll consider you.

I really want to find a community of Culture fans who love to write fanfic set in the world of The Culture so we can collaborate on novels or play roleplaying games set in the world. This honestly seems like the scifi equivalent of middle earth, it's a world that deserves to be a playground for generations to come. I know that fans and critics sometimes worry about tarnishing the original work with bad sequels or bad franchise tie ins but all that fear does is deny the potential for further greatness. If we have to move into the bold bright future of space travel, robots and immortality in a post capitalist society, let's do it like The Culture. I don't want a terminator, the enterprise fails in comparison and Firefly is set in a deliberately crap sack galaxy. Here's to the culture.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Working From Home As You Travel

An Epiphany

An Epiphany:

Why Running Away Feels Like Progress
by
Alex Jahans

Running away is not something new for me. I tried it twice as a kid, both times to get away from the bullying and stress of school but since then I have climbed the corporate career ladder and chased after lifestyle products that advertising sold me on. I didn't quite finish school but I chose to go to college and university, I even got a job working for one of the big retail scumbags before my body complained loudly enough that I quit. I read books, I listen to books and podcasts, I read comics, I watch TV programs and watch reviews as entertainment. I chase after the dream of owning a gaming pc and becoming an internet entrepreneur. I write short stories and novels, I am now collaborating on a webcomic with an artist friend of mine, I try my hand at tv, radio and film scripts. I record let's plays and reviews and vlogs. I scream to the world "VINDICATE ME WITH YOUR MONEY!!!"

How despicable. How wretched. How thoroughly soul less. Trying to be remembered after my no doubt short and pathetic life by my capacity to earn money through being famous. Greed is the driving force behind this shambolic show, greed and something more intangible.

I never got to run away. I got to be institutionalized and chase after normality. To shake the bullies' hands and become their friends. 4chan and /Pol's pathetic attempts to break me, made me the man who could potentially achieve these materialistic dreams.

I had an epiphany last night as I was eating a mustard, ginger, ketchup and butter sandwich at half past midnight. I have made myself a gilded cage to keep me safe from the world and yet my very success at achieving my materialistic dreams relies on inviting the sadistic arseholes of the world to try their luck against me. I am a coward choosing to live a lonely life in comfort over an interesting social life.

All my life I have dreamed of sharks and the sea and swimming and I learned to conquer these dreams by accepting death, by running into the shark's mouth so I might be decapitated and cease to be afraid of death. The problem with this is that I avoided nightmares by learning to live with sharks and accept death every night over learning to live with life. The sharks never kill me in the dreams, their presence just creates fear, Instead of conquering it, I wrapped myself in it and let it overwhelm me to the point where death, however fantastic, was preferable. No wonder I live such a hollow half life, one that seems so enviable from the outside but depressing from the inside.

I have dreamed of running away for so long. Ford Prefect of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was my hero and I never liked tea. Then I discovered the Doctor and fell in love with his lifestyle. Danger and excitement and really wild things. I fantasized about hitchhiking and the travels I would have. I even did it once. I wanted to go on road trips and travel the world. At university I felt like I was living the great adventure but still I fell in love with adventures of Frodo, Bilbo and Dungeons and Dragons. This is why Minecraft is the game I keep coming back to time after time. There is no plot, just exploration, travel and life. Hell before my parents separated and I finished my university I was dreaming of buying a narrow boat and cruising Britain as a perpetual traveller taking his home with him.

Each time I get somewhat close to achieving my dreams an ugly hurdle rears it's head and I am reminded that I have an obligation to my family not to go off the rails and fuck everything up. My family is now a mess on the verge of falling apart completely and there is more pressure than ever for me to get a job and move out. Never mind that I genuinely have the skills to become a freelance copywriter, my dad is eating sandwiches and my mum is between homes so finding a stable job has to be the number one priority. I know this and understand this, this is why I do this but there is a desire deep in my mind to just up it and leave, to get an online income stream that earns me enough to get by and leave. Let my family crumble into dust while I travel the world seeing all the friends I can't meet up with where I live.

I am fed up with chasing other people's dreams and lifestyles. I want to go my own way, at least for a while.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The End

The End poem

The End
By
Alex Jahans


A climactic battle.
A final surge.
A final bow.
A final curtain call.

One last sweet breath.
One last moment of thought.
Then nothing.

Victory!
The war is won.
The boss is dead.
The adventure is over.
No more.
The End.

Your heart beats again.
Your lungs breath again.
The soul is fled but the body still kicks.
You run.
You start the game over again.
New Game Plus.
Same Shit, Different Day.
The adventure continues and you stagger on.
Sprint on.
Fly at the speed of light.
It's taking all your will to keep the body moving.
To keep the blood pumping and the ticker ticking.

Just get this done.
Just get this done.

The Final Boss again.
Booyah!
He's down.
Last Breath.
Last curtain call.
Credits roll.
It's time to go.
Closing Time.

But there's still a young man waiting atop a hill, staring off into the distance.
Into the future.
You have a destiny to meet.
A time to keep.
No rest for the wicked so arise you sleepy head.

But you can't.
The soul is gone.
The body is a fetid mound of soup.
And the will has been used up.

You've lost your friends.
Lost your home.
Lost everything you called life.

Thump! Thump! … Thump! Thump!
Your heart beats.

Tick! Tock! … Tick! Tock!
Time's a wasting.

So you try one last time.
A ghastly hand reaches out of the pile.
A mound of mould rises to survey the scene.
All hope lost.

Thump! Thump! … Thump! Thump!
Tick! Tock! … Tick! Tock!

Ah fuck it here I lie and here I die.
I'm out of luck and out of faith so here I stay in my own grave.

His name is the Doctor.
That's all that matters.
That's all that's ever mattered.
He's the man who makes people better.
Help him.

The soul returns.
The will grows.
The body crumbles into dust and floats away on the wind.

Here you stand:
Ethereal, Unearthly and unsure.
But this is just the reset.

You're just a soul and a will with a shell of flesh to contain you as you seek enlightenment and redemption. You see that young man standing on the hill and realise what he's holding.
You've never considered such a life before. This is isn't what you're used to.

Thump! Thump! … Thump! Thump!

You can feel your heart beating as you approach it.
You hold it in your hand.
It feels good.
You try it out.
Destiny awaits.

Now your body returns to you and now you are renewed.
Ready, not just for the new adventure, but for the new life.
For the new friends.
For the new home.
For the new past times and lifestyle.
This is not the end.
This is just the beginning.
A new dawn approaches.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Moments of weakness

Big guy. Strong guy. Young Guy. Serious Guy. You're ignorant. You're Arrogant. You dare to work in the media. To turn down benefits on moral principles, Now you bend. Now you break. Now you cave to the wishes of the masses. Now you foul, repugnant, disgusting, offensive and pathetic disgrace shall give the masses what they want and grab that butcher's knife to finish the job and destroy the last of your life.

Moments of Weakness
By
Alex Jahans


  Not everyday can be a good day, not everybody can be fair in their criticisms. Especially not on the internet, the land where sadists hide behind anonymity and hack the private details of those they deem unworthy. It feels like admitting your faults and letting your weaknesses show on the internet is akin to slitting your wrists in a sharkploitation movie, there will be a frenzy as you die a slow and horrifically painful death.

Well I'm having a bad day. I've been having a bad year all told but today especially kicked me low and all I want to do is crawl into a hole and die. Just writing that sends a shiver down my spine as I can feel sadistic trolls lick their lips in excitement. That's the truth though., I feel wretched and horrible and all I can think of is how trolls and the wise would scream in my face about why this is reason 3 million and 23 of why I deserve to die cold and alone. And if I do happen to develop a thick skin to defend myself from these psychological attacks I know there will be the wise with the sound and legitimate reasons necessary to destroy my resistance and let pain overwhelm me.

I guess I'm lucky though, through my fictional heroes I have developed a kind of back up personality to let the real me cease to be while allowing work to still be done. I do the job that's in front of me and fight issues that crop up while dead inside because is the alternative is to just lie gibbering in the corner while all 3 million reasons why I suck are screamed at me by my subconscious. So I can take the trolls and the wise. I can handle any clusterfuck that comes my way. It causes me to make more mistakes than usual so isn't a flawless system let alone a nice way to live but it holds. It stops the internal chaos and lets work continue.

Others are not so lucky, they don't have something to hold them up and keep them going when apathy and self loathing have cut their strings so if you can reserve your sadistic ire wherever possible and listen to your mate's problems no matter how confident and sorted he seems then maybe we can all support each other better in our moments of weakness.

Why you should not worry about Ebola

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Mummy on the Orient Express Review

This is the Doctor. This is my Doctor.
Sod never cruel or Cowardly the Doctor wins and yes it means being a cold manipulative bitch but he does what he must because he is the only person who can.

I am really empathizing with Clara. The need to go for your own sanity, combined with the conflicted desire to stay because he isn't always an arsehole.

I have to say I genuinely liked the story and how morbid it was. I mean it's not spectacularly awesome but it is really good and considering how utterly shit Doctor Who has been lately that is a fucking gold star of outstanding achievement.

Can Gus please be the series main villain now?

Oh and Peter Capaldi talking to Tom Baker is awesome.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Kill The Moon Review

The moon is an egg.

The moon is a bloody egg.

The moon is a bloody egg and its germs are spiders the size of rottweilers.

I'm done.

I give up.

I am done.

Doctor Who has gone to shit and I no longer fucking care.

Ooh but it's funny and better than 99% of the drek on TV.

Well so fucking what! So's a let'splay.

Here's a couple of blatant bloody redshirts eating the dust and a last desperate bid to fix the moon without guns. This is the one bloody occasion where you are a fool if you do not bring guns and there are no gun!? What, did humanity not develop the perfect murder stick for space yet!?

The main cast do their best and are honestly terrific actors but the script is weak and the direction tries to make up for that by turning a jog to the most exciting action scene ever and yet more fuzzy timetravel physics.

The ultimate irony is that the last scene touches on shit I'm experiencing at the moment and so had the perfect capacity to be really affecting but the direction and writing botches it with a poor build up.

Plus, forgive me for bringing up canon here, but in Cold Blood the Eleventh Doctor gave the exact some "Some moments are fluid, this decision is up to you make a better future" plot and made for a far stronger story with real consequence for the characters and a realism bought about by the weight of canon. One of the weaker stories of series 5 to be sure but holy zarquon it is miles better than this story.

Review of Orcs Must Die