Friday, December 31, 2010

Still fighting after all thease years

D&D and roleplaying has been in the public eye for over three decades. Yet somehow the public still hasn't inderstood or even been made more aware of it. My case in point from my personal experience. I have been for sometime trying to get custody of my children. A few months ago the local branch of the Children's Aid Society sent a woman out to do a Parental Assesment of me. We met twice and she asked questions and filled out a questionaire. Later she wrote in her report that I was an "avid collector of children's games and action figures" She has decided that my apartment is "cluttered with his collection of games and figures" And somehow also has stated that I alluded to the fact that I am a vampire. I am stunned, such a biased and incorrect view of my hobby I have never encountered. None of the games in my collection are "children's games" and I don't own any action figures. As for the vampire thing I can only think it be from a reference to roleplaying I made. Clearly this woman had no idea what she was talking about but presents her opinion as if she did. I am being painted in a negative light because of a hobby that most people don't know much if anything about. She could only do this due to the detrimental way in which this activity is viewed by a largely uninformed public. The media coverage has done nothing to change this. We are being marginalized in the pubic eye as a lunatic fringe. Back in highschool I had expected this kind of thing but that was 25 years ago. To face it again was surprising. Its a sad commentary on our society. I thought the anti-roleplaying hysteria had died down.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Narrative , Pacing and Leveling Up

There are things about D&D that bug me. Certain artificialities that break the spell of fantasy and remind me that I'm playing a game. One of those is leveling up. I'm sure that it was the first thing to be copyed in the online versions of roleplaying. It always seemed so odd that as soon as you hit a magic number of experience points then "bing" you are instantly better at everything and can sustain more damage in combat. There have been a few Dragon magazine articles and such about how to make leveling up more realistic but that's not really what I'm looking for. Not realism, but a sense of fitting in to the story of the characters. I like to look at the adventures the party has as a story. And the instant nature of leveling up doesn't match with that ideal. Most of the options for leveling up call for some type of training to be paid for and undertaken. Usually in a town where the party finds itself. That gave me an idea. What if it wasn't training per se but a side quest or ordeal instead. And it takes time, and at a place far away from the party. The party splits up for a time and goes their separate ways. Later, (weeks or months or perhaps even years) have gone by and the party gets back together. They have spent all the loot , (maybe on a drunken orgy or two) and are now broke and need to go adventuring again. They meet up and swap stories about their time away. Players should feel free to create whatever backstory they like to fill in this gap. By creating a time gap in the narrative it creats a more epic story. Instead of going on one adventure after another like an assembly line they have periodic adventures. It always bothered me how PC seem to reach high levels in only a few months whereas NPC take years to build up that kind of experience.
Maybe something like this has been suggested before. But for me the crucial elements are time away from the party, a measure of time passing and the backstory the player creates. A crafty DM can even award extra magic items and spells or other things based on the PC's tale. Maybe there can be more to a charcter's life than bashing monsters and taking their stuff.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Electrum standard

Both Bat in the Attic and The Society Of Torch, Pole and Rope have posted about it reciently. The silver standard. Replacing the gold prices in the equipment lists with silver. I don't want to do that. I admit that the prices are steep and tend to devalue gold quite a bit. My goal from the onset has been to change as little as possible and to make it work for me by changing the way I look at it.

Traditionally gold has traded with silver at a ratio ranging from 20:1 to 50:1. The Roman Aureus was valued at 25 silver Denarii. So one gold piece is equal to ten silver isn't right. But it would be if the gold piece wasn't pure gold. Enter Electrum, a gold and silver alloy used in coins from ancient Egypt and Greece. So make the gold pieces electrum and presto , simple easy coinage that reflects the real world. Of course I have posted on this before;

Historical proof of Gold to Silver exchange standard

Monday, October 18, 2010

Different Roles Different Goals part two

Anonymous has posted a commnet on my last post. You can it read below. He does make a valid argument for the gold for xp scheme. But gold for xp just feels to gamey for me. To much like online computer games with their kill-the-monster-and-take-its-stuff style of play. I'm actually trying to reduce the emphasis of leveling up as a major factor in playing the game. It is perhaps a bold step and might not be popular with some players. I want to treat the party as a group of individuals not some fantasy based commando strike force engineered for success. I have seen too many partys who strip mine dungeons of every last copper coin. They then hunch over calculators like some dimented accountants, to divide every last coin to perfectly balance the party's levels. A sense of adventure should be the prime requisite for characters not greed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Different Roles Different Goals

For a while now I have been taking a look at OD&D with a mind to "Make sense of it." rather than just catalog its faults. Rather than change the rules I want to change the way I look at them. So far I have looked at hit points and armour class as well as the character classes. Now experience gets a look. The original system presented was the now classic but not often used gold for xp.This rewards the players for exploration and survial (perhaps avoiding combat) and can be easily divided between party members. This does fit in with the general simplistic nature of the game but doesn't make sense to me. Why do you get better at fighting or casitng spells (or both) just because you're rich? Is because you can afford reaserch/training? Is it because you are more confident? Seems odd to me. Players want to level up their characters because they get better at what they are used for. The fighter gets better at fighting, the magic-user can cast more spells and the cleric can better turn undead. Each character class has its own role in the game so why not make each class have its own goal for expereince? Fighters get XP for mosters killed or subdued in combat. Magic-users get XP for casting spells. Clerics for turning undead and casting spells. All of this has to be approved by the DM. Spell casters can't level up just by tossing spells around for no reason. And maybe Clerics must have some other goal like getting more followers to their diety.

Yeah this could work.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Medieval Maps and Old School Cartography

One thing can't be said of Medieval maps, realism. They look kind of like a flat pop-up book. Objects stand out in profile, in a larger scale than the surrounding terrain. Medieval maps, like the art of the period were about conveying the importance of an object rather than its precise location. But they had style. Dragons and sea monsters roaming the edges and lots of other little touches.

When designing a game world one of the first steps is mapping it. There are a few choices; freehand, square grid and of course hex grid. True to my seat-of-the-pants-don't-sweat-the-small-stuff style of play I decided to ditch the traditional approach to mapping. If the game is set in a world without accurate maps then why should the players' be. Tony Dowler's blog year of the dungeon has some great maps already done. Here is a sample;

Compare that to a medieval town map;

Similar yes? And finally another from Tony's blog showing the city of Salutet and its surrounding area.

Simple easy maps that have all the info you need. A very minimalist approach. Very old school. And because they are not a lot of details on the map, there can be a lot more in your imagination. Very old school indeed.

P.S. Check out year of the dungeon for Tony's one page dungeons.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Star Wars Swashbuckling

A thanks to James over at Grognardia for reminding me of the different paths that Star Wars could have travelled. The image above comes from the Art of Star Wars. Some of the pre-concept art shows a slightly different visual path that the movie could have taken. I don't doubt the final version of the film is better for having a more realistic look to it. The dirty used look of the spacships and the blaster props built on real guns made it look more realistic and appeal to a larger audience.

But what if it hadn't gone that way. What if the look was more say Swashbuklely*? Harness and spandex clad heroes wielding lightsabers in swordfights with shield carrying stormtroopers. How cool would that be? Then an evil thought entered my brain. What about roleplaying it? Use a fantasy roleplaying game for a no-blasters-everyone-gets-lightsabers style of action.
-insert evil laugh-
* the author makes no claims as to the validity of the word or its spelling

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ignorance Of History

I was looking at some pictures of the recient Fan Expo posted on a facebook page. And I came across this picture. The caption read "French artillery officer. (Battlefield: 1412 I think?) ". WHAT? Battlefield:1412? Does she seriously think its from a game? Really? And 1412? 1412 would be knights in plate armour. Try 1812. What are they teaching kids now? You know the War of 1812? Google it. Or Wikipedia or read a book, geez. And to be specific he is a British artillery private. Its a historical military uniform not a costume. Did it not occur to this girl to ask the guy wearing it? That level of ignorance of history just really bothers me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Picture

At the recient Fan Expo in Toronto I got a sketch of me done by Lar Desouza, artist of the webcomic Least I could Do. I thought I would post it as my new personal picture in my bio. I originally wanted a sketch by Lar of me as if I was a character from the comic. But when asked what I wanted I blanked out and and couldn't remember so I settled for me as a cleric. Although looking at it now I notice that the figure isn't wearing arour and looks more like a mage. I am still happy with it and it depicts me with my longer hair (not many pics of me are new enough).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

last chance post for August

This is a place holder post. This is just so that there is a post for the month of August. Wow no posts for a month. I should really post more.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Creativity Bait

I'm inspired. Inspired by Jeff's soon to be infamous Giant Gold Piece of Death incident. It reminds me that one of the greatest aspects of this game is the chance to be really creative and get an "Ah, cool!" reaction out of your players. Even if their characters die. The good old standard mark I dungeon setting provides the perfect format for unleashing your creative energies. Don't worry about balance. Don't worry about why or how. Just create it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Coments On Coments

I like getting coments on my posts to this blog. Feedback is welcome, both positive and negative. As long as its not abusive I will post any comment I recieve. However if I can't read it, its not going up on the blog. I have seen a number of coments that my computer couldn't translate. Several were traced back to Chinese porn sites. If you want to advertise your Chinese porn site here we will have to make a deal. I expect some sort of compensation. Anyways I do hope that any coments keep coming. It cheers me up to have concrete proof that this blog is read by someone other than me. Its nice to think of being part of a community of like minded people who can share opinions on a subject they are passionate about.

P.S. I'm sure that the Chinese porn producers are a bunch of nice guys but I'm really not keen on being in their circle. Its not you its me.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

One of the unavoidable facts of role playing games is that the players know they are playing a game. Many players look for fairness and balance or try to win and beat the game. To some their charcters are just playing pieces to be moved across the board. I have played with players like that. 4th editon D&D is geared toward that style. I don't think its wrong but its not how I like to play. I said unavoidable because I would prefer it if the players didn't know if they were playing a game. Impossible yes but at least to minimize the intrusion of game mechnics into the fantasy would be best. Thats one reason why I prefer rules-light systems (its also less rules to remember). Players know too much I think. They know how many hit points their characters have left. Or what chance they have of picking a pocket. There is no such knowledge in the real world. Player knowledge of the rules I think can limit my choices as a DM. If players pay less attention to the rules and more to the game that would be ideal to me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

'Cause I'm A Cheap Bastard

I have found that when I look at a RPG, I look at the number of books it takes to run it. Its a cost thing although I also think about how much material I will have to learn and remember to run a game. Why? Because I'm a cheap and lazy DM. I don't want to spend a lot of time or money to prep for a game session. Is that wrong? Its just that we do this stuff for fun and I don't think it should become like a second job.
I might have a chance to run a game for my local RPG group. And I'm thinking of running Swords & Wizardry. Its free to download (good), there isn't alot of pages (less ink and paper). I am also looking at Mazes and Minotaurs. Its also free but has a much higher page count with lots of supplementary material. And the rules are in colour. So its mor of a back burner project.
There can be may things to consider when picking a RPG to run. Economics (money and time) was not one I used to think of. I guess I'm getting old.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Changed My Mind

Although I like the Shield Class (SC) system I came up with. My original goal was to rationalize the rules not change them. I was trying to make the OD&D rules work as written. Or at least the Swords & Wizardry version. I may still use the idea in a home brew rules system and I welcome anyone else to do so as well.
Taking another look Armour Class (AC) and what it could actually be, I realized that I need to look at hit points as well. If hit points lost in fight are not actual wounds and instead are bruising and fatigue. Then AC is not preventing you from being hit, it is protecting you from deadly wounds. In other words being armoured give a character acess to their hit points. It converts deadly wounds into fatigue and bruising. The shield is rated so low because it doesnt prevent fatigue loss. The impact from a hit carries through and causes minor damage like bruises and tires you. Its a big target and easy to hit. And hit points are not real damage. Of course there are some holes in this idea that need to be dealt with. Missile weapons and AC for unarmoured characters. Normal clothing could offer some protection and you are assumed to be fighting back and not unarmed. Non pentrating arrows can cause bruising. Also does Cure Light Wounds work on characters with positive hit points? If you think of the CLW as a general cure all spell then it does. This idea does allow for armour piercing weapons like firearms. For example, say any character dies at neagtive 6 points plus or minus constitution bonus. Firearm damage takes characters from zero down into negatives becuse its actual damage. Circumventing the function of armour. Another way to look at it is that every attack "hits" and you roll to wear down your target. Of course that also alters what a to hit bonus is (its not accuracy anymore).
It not perfect and logic. And like most rules it might not bear up to close examination. But it is workable I think.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shield vs Armour switcheroo post 2

I think armour is over rated. If you get hit while wearing armour you almost always feel the blow. Sometimes there partial penetration of the armour. Armour doesn't prevent you from being hit, it prevents you from being killed. Or of dying from from your wounds. Take chainmail for example. It didn't stop any of the energy of a sword blow. It stopped the blade from cutting you. In the middle ages infection was the deadliest killer. You came away form a fight with brusing and maybe broken bones (which they did know how to heal). Not dying from bleeding out or getting some nasty rot in your wound. Armour was continually improved over time. But improvements in armour were matched with improved weapons. In fact the origin and popularity of some weapons can be traced to a specific armour type worn. Armour was an insurance policy against being dead. It was your last line of defence.
Now that I have hopefully shaken your faith in armour let me build your confidence in shields. Look at the shield. Its made of thicker stronger materials. It stands out away from you body with only your arm conecting it to you. By the way your arm is a good shock absorber. It covers your body and hides you form you enemies, they can see the shield but not you. Its portable cover. In melee comabat to avoid being hit you have to dodge. That requires room to manuver. With a shield you block. Without moving, stationary in place.
And now to put into game terms (for D&D at least). The no amour AC rating I think assumes room to move and dodge(remember the -4 AC penalty for being prone). The sheild only AC while being only 1 better than no armour doesn't require you to dodge. So if you are not wearing armour and not dodging your AC should be 13 (original scale) without a sheild and 8 with. Thats + 5 bonus. However the orignal AC chart shows leather alone to be one better than just a shield. So again the shield gets the shaft (pun alert). Why? Maybe because the shield is not something you wear. Its not custom made for you or fitted to your body. And it can be tossed away when damaged. So its temporary not like the more constant armour. Not very heroic. So whats wrong? Fighting with a shield is not the same as without so the AC chart has an apples and oranges problem. Another problem is that while the chart has a number of armour types there is only a single bonus for a shield. So all types of shields are lumped into one.
So now we have a bunch of armour types and only one shield. What if I reversed that. How about a number of shield types and one armour type. Oh no, cry the armour people. Plate armour protects better than chainmail, which is better than leather. I disagree. I would argue that better armour is more durable. Wthout going into details of weapon type vs armour type ala AD&D suffice to say armour and weapons keep pace with one another. So improved materials make the armour last longer. Taking a page from Mazes and Minotaurs where each piece of armour is separate I have an idea on how I want to do my Shield Class (SC) chart.
I picked three generic types of shields plus a bonus for helmet and armour. Using the original decending AC style. Here is my idea.

large shield ; hoplon or aspis or scutium -SC 4
medium shield; viking round or knight's heater -SC 6
small shield; strap on or bluckler -SC 8
bonus to SC for wearing armour -1
bonus to SC for wearing helmet -1

So a fighter in helmet and armour with a large shield would be SC 2 or AC 2 if you prefer.
Fighting without a shield means you will get hit alot more. But thats what hit points are for.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Historical proof of Gold to Silver exchange standard

While poking around on the internets I came across something interesting. I was looking up the history of coinage. I found an article on Electrum and its use in coins. Near the end of the article I found this;

Because of variation in the composition of electrum, it was difficult to determine the exact worth of each coin. Widespread trading was hampered by this problem, as cautious foreign merchants offered poor rates on local electrum coin.

These difficulties were eliminated in 570 BC when pure silver coins were introduced. However, electrum currency remained common until approximately 350 BC. The simplest reason for this was that, because of the gold content, one 14.1 gram stater was worth as much as ten 14.1 gram silver pieces.

Wow, historical basis for the 10 to 1 ratio of Silver to Gold coins in D&D. In my campaign world gold coins will really be made of electrum. Gold in its pure form is too valuable. Now players can't just melt down raw gold to make money (it happend once in a long ago game). Prices are more rational. Finally a coinage system that makes sense.
(ok bad pun)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Shield vs Armour switcheroo

Many have commented on how in RPG's like D&D the shield seems to not account for much on the defence. Yet in the real world the shield was the earliest and most effective form of protection. It was part of the fighting man's arsenal from prehistoric times until when improvements in armour and firearms led to their decline. The sheild carries on even today in the hands of riot police. Anyone who has done SCA heavy fighting can tell you, its hard to get past a sheild. In D&D all sheild types and sizes are lumped into a single small bonus of 1 to your armour class. In an earlier post suggested alternative bonuses for size. But in the shower today (imagine that, a gamer who showers every day) I had a better idea. What if your AC was based on your shield type and armour worn was a bonus. The size and construction of your shield is taken into account ie a large wicker shield would not be as good as a small metal one. Armour would account for a smaller bouns to your AC based on type scalling up from simple cloth or padded all the way up to full plate. Full knightly plate could provide a large enough bonus that carring a sheild is now redundant (something that happened historically)
I will post some examples later.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Like the game, read the book

I have been slowly working through the insperational reading list from the 1st ed AD&D DM's guide. You know the one. Appendix N, pg 224 insperational and educational reading. Many times during play I visulized the action as something similar to movie or TV show. But the games' creators were more influenced by books than anthing else. After rediscovering the list in the DM's guide. I decided to try a few of the books from that list. It might help me better understand the game I thought. It did, really did. The original alignment system made so much more sense. I could understand just how Vancian magic came to be. They (the game designers) were trying to play in the world of the stories they read. As a story gamer that appealed to me.
During a lull in my reading a friend suggested I try some game based fiction. I had avoided it in the past based on the beleif that all game fiction sucks. I was wrong. I thought only grade B hacks with a MarySue complex wrote game fiction. And only Munckin cheese-doodle powergamers read and like it. I have this really bad habit of thinking that the more popular something is the more it sucks. And not only did my friend give a series from one of the most popular fantasy writers (R. A. Salvatore) but it was starring his most popular character (Drizzt). I grit my teeth and said ok. After only a few paraghaphs in the first book I knew I had been wrong all along. The insight I had gained from the books that inspired the game was about the rules. The books that the game inpired gave me insight on the characters. How they feel about the world they live in. How they react to magic. Or how they think about the gods of the realm.
All of this has help me in understanding in playing the game. And constructing the worlds in which to play. So if you like the game, read the book.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reward The Clever Player

I have often heard that one of the mantras of old school play is player skill as opposed to character skills. Rather than have the player simply make a skill roll to do somthing, the player should describe how he is doing it. Success or failure is not random. However it does occur to me (for example) that a player having spent a few minutes cleverly describing how they intend to find and deactivate a trap could still fail based on what the trap actually is. And a moment of player brilliance is wasted. That effort not having been rewarded might not be so forthcoming in the future. To avoid this I intend to do more with less. What I mean is to not detail things as much and let the players fill in the blanks. Instead if stocking a dungeon room with a spicific trap, just note that there is a trap there. If the player has a good idea about if there is and what the trap is then presto , thats what it is. And of course its disarmed. The player having been rewarded for his effort will put more into playing in the future and the quality of your game will increase.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Rewarding Experience

With my shift of emphasis to storytelling in my games I am re-looking at how I handle various elements of the rules. In the earliest days of my games I tried to make the rules more realistic. But after endless research I discovered that the more you tried to "fix" the rules the more they didn't work. Reciently I began taking the rules as they are and no longer think of them as broken or unrealistic, they are just the rules. That approach has been quantified as the D&D Is Always Right school of thought in various other blogs. Now comfortable with my style I am looking at a few things that are not so defined and can easily be changed to suit.
Like experience. XP for gold is easy and the first system in place but it feels like you're buying levels. That can be too much like online games for me. On the other hand XP for killing monsters can turn most parties into roving bands of murderus hunters. The rules mainly are for fighting and your level is mostly measuring combat ability. So the second option fits best. However there will be rewards in game that have nothing to do with levels or XP. Story rewards can take many forms and as long as there are means to advance the players might go for them. Hopefully the players can be fullfilled by more than just upping their levels.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Its Never About Itself

In a flash of brilliance it came to me. Old school is never about itself. Its not about what it can do for you its about what you can do with it. Fair, balanced or even logical are not things to worry about in the OSR. If its fun then DO IT. That revleation was provided to me from on high by St James of the Grognardia order. And I take as my gospel. I was reading his post about watching Star Wars with his seven year old son. In it he makes the observation that "Star Wars is the only one of the series that simply tells a story rather than telling a story about Star Wars." Somehow through cosmic quirk of fate I thought "Its not about itself." I actually stood up and shouted "Its not about itself!". Ok maybe I didn't shout but I was standing when the idea hit me. D&D much like Star Wars started with one thing but grew in size and detail with each new addition to the original. Some like the new stuff some don't. But like the Star Wars universe, current D&D seems more about itself than haveing fun with the concept. Early D&D was about simply playing and not about what was or wasn't D&D. The current edition goes to great lengths to define itself. Three Players Handbooks? Two Dungeonmaster Guides? All of this stuff goes to further defineing the rules not the game.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shield's +1 AC bonus a relic of Chainmail

Its no secret that before Dungeons&Dragons there was Chainmail. D&D took shape from the fantasy rules in the back of that booklet. The combat rules in Chainmail are based on 2D6 and the alternative combat rules in D&D are based on D20. Chainmail fantasy combat was weapon vs armour combination rolling on 2D6. In many examples the addition of a shield increased the number to roll for a hit by one. In Men and Magic the alternative combat rules use a straight D20 vs armour to hit without including the weapon type. This time the shield grants a flat bonus of 1 across the board. But the two systems are not really similar. The bell curve of the 2D6 makes a +1 bonus worth a different amount in percent depending on where on the curve it lay. The odds of rolling a 7 or better on 2D6 are 58%. The odds of rolling 8 or better are 42%. A 16% difference for a plus one bonus. But the odds of rolling 10 or better are 17%, adding that +1 bonus for a roll of 11 or better changes the odds to 8% for a difference only 9%. Clearly its better to have a bonus in the middle of the curve than the ends. If you average it out to say a 15% bonus it still is better than the lowly 5% you get with the D20 roll. The shield has been short changed in the conversion from Chainmail to D&D. I might adopt the idea of three types of shields; small bucklers +1AC, the classic knight's heater +2AC, the large body shield +3AC. The standard +1 is simpler but has always seemed lacking. My alternative goes well I think to correct something that wasn't exactly wrong rather a relic of an earlier rule system.

Friday, March 5, 2010

To Hit Rolls Really Arn't, the legacy of roleplaying's wargaming roots

I was reading Knights & Knaves Alehouse forum posts about how Arrows Contradict Abstract Combat . Why do bow shots seem to be at odds with D&D combat? Hand to hand combat in the game is often described as a series of fients, manuevers and counter attacks. So many blows would be struck but maybe only one would be a "telling blow" with a chance of wounding an oppoent. But with missile combat you only get one arrow. But what if missile combat was the same as hand to hand? So now you are letting lose a torrent of arrows in the hopes that one will strike true? That still doesn't seem right. I think the problem is the idea of hitting or missing in combat. In Melee your chance of wounding a target is based on its Armour Class. So you have already hit the target, you just have to penetrate the armour. Missile combat should be the same. You have hit the target with an arrow and maybe it gets through their armour. I am willing to go with that. Ok so know where did the idea that you don't roll to hit or miss come from? That an attack is not hit or miss? Chainmail, thats right Chainmail. The Chainmail rules are for bodies or groups of combatants fighting one another. The melee rules for D&D were created from the Chainmail mass combat rules. Some things make more sense when keeping in mind a large group combat. Like your defence against damage is based solely on your AC. Your skill at fighting never comes into it at all. That makes sense for a large group (were know each members skill level would be to combersome). And of course hit points work better for large group than just one person. The rules were scaled down for single combat. There are a lot of assumtions made for combat in D&D. Arrow shots are a trade off; limited ammo for safety from counterattack. So I don't think they contradict abstract combat. Hit points don't work well either but they are part of the rules. I think by changing the way we look at combat in D&D things can be made sense of. The ideal model of melee combat in D&D is two opponents bashing away on each other slowly wearing each other down. And thats how I will describe it to my players.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Alignment as New vs Old Religion

After reading the "Obligatory Alignment Post" at The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope I thought I would try my own. I just finished watching the first two seasons of Merlin the tv series. In the show, set in a mythical version of Britan there have been many references to "the old religion". This set of beliefs is tied to the Druids and to nature its self more commonly known as the old ways. One can surmise that in the series (although its never specified) the new religion is a form of Christianity. The struggle between these two systems sets the backdrop of the series. By simply renaming the new religion as Law and the old one as Chaos you have a viable alignment system that players can relate to. The knights of Camelot are the paragons of Law. The Druids are the diciples of Chaos. And the villagers are Nuetral. Based on how well this seems to work I'm considering switching my game to a medieval setting to incorporate this alignment system.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Think Small

Despite an earlier post about how I love big thick (insert rude joke here) rulebooks I have begun to appreciate digest sized rulebooks. What with all the maps, notes, dice and charts the GM needs, space behind the screen is at a premium. To pack the rules into just 5 1/2 by 8 inches is a great advantage. I wish more companies would produce those half size bundles of RPG goodness. Brave Halfling Publishing has a good lead with the Swords & Wizardry boxed set which features digest booklets. Adobe Acrobat has a feature to allow you to print any PDF as a booklet. So many of the free rules can be done but printing a full sized document as a booklet does have some sizing issues. And there is a limit to how many pages you can bend and staple. I would like to see some hard cover books in digest size. The mini reprints of the AD&D books were fun but I would like to see some current tiles in hard bound 5 1/2 by 8.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hit Dice or Miss

There have been some lively debates on the web over the exact way to roll for character hit points per level.The original D&D rules were vague about it. Many have tried to figure it out. This hyper analysis of a simple text seems to have spawned some bizzare interpretations. I see only two variations on this each supported by a passage from a different rulebook.

Type 1- pg 11 D&D blue book;
As a character goes up a level he increases his hit dice. The new die is rolled and the score is added to his current number of hits.

If the new level has the same number of hit dice but adds points (ie +1) do not roll but add the number to the characters current hit point total. This is the method I used when I started playing AD&D back in the early 80's.The advantge of this method is that characters can always increase their total number of hit points when going up a level.

Type 2- pg 5 Swords&Wizardry Whitebox 1st print;
Characters re-roll their HD each time they advance a level to obtain a number of hit points. (If you roll poorly, those hit points don't go down, however)

With this method you roll the hit dice total for the new level and compare the result to your current hit point score and use whatever is greater as your hit point total.
The difference with this method is that characters are not guaranteed an increase in hit points with each new level. I now prefer this way as it can limit the characters to lower hit point totals.

Interestingly I could not find any referance to the type 2 method in the older rulebooks I have.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Of Fish and Fishing Poles

The recient ruminations on the nature of old school roleplaying made me think of somthing I read in a novel. World War Z byMax Brooks. Good book I recommend it. A pilot was talking about resupplying stranded enclaves of people trapped behind enemy lines. "They don't need fish.", someone said "They need fishing poles." That line stuck in my mind and resurfaced when I was reading posts about old school RPGs. That let to this idea. The current version of D&D gives you a fish. Original D&D gives you a fishing pole. Both games have you ending up with a fish dinner but how you get there is different. Old School seems more self-sufficient. Once you have it you don't need anything else. You make it up yourself. New school needs constant resupply. New books constantly shipped out so you don't go hungry. I don't think either way is right or wrong. Some people like to catch their dinner some don't.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Human Character Class as a Culture

Despite embracing OD&D (warts and all). I still want to make sense of some things inheirent in the game. Its a hold over from my earlier days when I quested for some type of realism. I was also one of those types who tried to rationalize the continuity errors in Star Trek. I don't mind race-as-class in the game but I did want to try to reason out the weapon/armour restrictions for Clerics and Magic-Users. Despite the nonsetting background of the early game they seem very set in a specific models of their character types. I was looking for a good reason to tell players as to why it there were no Gandalf types in my game (never has more aurguments been spawned by that sword swinging wizard). Way back at the start of this blog I postulated that Thulsa Doom was a cleric despite his sword wielding. In that case I figured it was because of his alignment. However the beginnings of an idea were formed then. If you can break them you can make them, (rules that is). So what would be plausible for players to accept if they asked? Well I started to think; how did charcters aquire their skills? And how would this fit into a background I was constructing? My initial idea was that there were schools for training. This is a common theme in fantasy stories. A school for magic or for a fighting style. This satisfied me at first. But when I looked at non-humans I realized that they were described as cultures. They were not only race-as-class but culture-as-class. This could work for humans too. Having the weight of an entire cultural background to backup the weapon/armour restictions makes alot of sense to me. History is full of cultures know for a predominant trait. As I am building a culture based in antiquity these cultures could be based around city-states. Human lands could be dominated by three city-states. Lets call them alpha, beta and gamma for now. Alpha is a warrior culture and is where Fighters are from. Beta is a theocracy and trains Clerics. And Gamma familiar with the ways of scorcery teaches Magic-Users. Gammans use Alphan mercenaries to protect themselves so they never bother to teach any fighting skills of their students. In fact they look down upon the soldiery profession. Beta despite teaching fighting arts never developed the fine metalworking skills to make large blades. So they distain the use of them. Three cultures for the human character classes. All of that sounds better than becuse the rulebook says so.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The End Game

Reciently I got to do something in a game that I have never done before. Finish playing a character. Horstmar, my Dwarven character was retired. Unlike so many other campaigns (with other groups) that were abandoned after a few sessions, this one lasted. After more than a year of playing weekly this one ended. The Gamemaster decided to wrap up the story to start another. And in true classic old school style they went out with style. It was an epic end. All the charcters had their stories wrap up with an end game similar to OD&D. Their choices put them in places were continuing to adventure didn't make sense. They became part of the world and its background story. In Horstmar's case he started as lowly warrior, rose to become an ambassador. And became the king of a lost dwarven colony rebuilding to its past glory. Interseting story right? And isn't creating interesting stories the best thing about roleplaying? Isn't the point, actually?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another Anniversary

Today , the 15 th of January marks another anniversary. Twenty years ago today I moved to London (Ontario). It was an unusual thing for me to do. I was born in Toronto and was raised in Mississauga (nearby suburban city). Unlike where I came from I knew only a few people in town. Gaming became my method for making friends. I hung out at a gaming store (yeah I know). I met and got know my fellow gamers. Many of them became friends. Some 20yrs later I'm still friends with them. My hobby helped the transition to a new city. Almost ten years ago I might have moved back to Toronto. But I didn't, the friends I made helped anchor me here. Gaming has had quite the impact on my life. I don't know what I'd do with it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One Year Ago

One year ago I started this blog. My first gaming blog. My very first blog was years ago and I let it lapse. I don't intend to do the same with this one. I don't know how many people view this blog. But for anyone who takes time out to read me, my thanks. I hope I can add some small insight into the larger gaming hobby. Writting is hard, and despite having a knack for expressing myself it doesn't come easy. Thoughts don't always translate onto the page so smoothly. I am in awe of anyone who can write daily. In particular I would worship (but i'm not religious) James Maliszewski of Grognardia. Not only does he post almost every day, but sometimes several posts a day. And long posts with many words. Not like the stunted blurbs I produce. I prefer to write poetry ranther than novels. Motivation to write about gaming sometimes is as scarce as motivation to actually play. I will keep posting and you (whomever you might be) keep reading.