A recent personal experience has soured my enthusiasm for gaming.
I am no longer posting to this blog anymore.
I thank you for your attention, good bye.
In an effort to be a better dungeon master I have invested in some tools to help me run games. One of which is what I might refer to as the GM's book of doom. It is an A5 format, hard bound note book. The pages are printed with a 5mm dot grid originally for bullet journal-ling, but can handle writing and sketching. I never had a strict GM note book before, my notes (if i even bothered to make them) were a haphazard collection jotted down on whatever was handy. I have always had a aversion to permanence, I don't like not being able to change something or remove pages. But I started to combat that. I have a composition book that I write gaming ideas down in, but the college ruled pages are not good for drawing. The dot grid is subtle and unobtrusive for greater creativity. I haven't decided if it will be just for a single game or more, and if it will be just encounters or world building as well. If I need more they are about $15 from Amazon, so they won't break the bank. I figure better tools will help motivate me.
I recently figured out that talking about gaming can make me happy, not as happy as actually playing. But in the absence of a game it is better than nothing. I also decided that reading and watching videos about gaming can improve not only my mood but can add to my level of skill running and playing games. I have been watching a series of videos on running D&D. The channel is Dungeon Craft , and the host refers to himself as professor Dungeon-master. As I was watching an older video of his;
I realized something about the way I treat combat in Dungeons and Dragons. I think of combat as threat management. An attack roll represents a threat of harm to you. Armour class reduces the possible threat from weapons allowing you to rely on your hit points to save you less often. Hit points can represent dodging and parrying. Armour being passive doesn't require effort and never expires. AC is coverage and quality of protection and works the same for everyone who wears it. HPs are active defense and are exhausted as the character tires out. This could also explain the low bonus of shields in D&D. They require some effort and skill to employ so the benefit is the passive protection one gives you. I could give a HP bonus to characters employing a shield or give shields themselves some form of HP, I will figure that out later. Just that I now have a better understanding of how my personal view of combat can work in the D&D world.
And I used to think that studying how other people did things would just lead to me copying them. This understanding of one aspect of the game will make me better at running a game in the future. Give the prof some of your time and maybe it will help you too.
Two things have motivated me to make some more hard-copy purchases of RPG rule books. First, the loss of my hard drive and nearly 20 years of collecting interesting things off the internet. Second, a quest to find a balance between simplicity and detail. Enough detail to promote player engagement. And simplicity for ease of running the game. I have a few very simple rule sets that I like but I think many players experience difficulty grasping the idea of them. FATE by Evil Hat is a great narrative game but few people play it. Risus is my favorite for its easy rules and incredible flexibility but it is perhaps even more obscure. Here are two games I collected to try and find that middle ground between what I like and what the players like.
BARBARIC! from Stellagama publishing. Barbaric is a mere 58 pages in A5 format. Based on its larger brother Sword Of Cepheus which in turn is based on an updated Traveller rule-set, for fantasy games. Characters in Barbaric have just two stats Endurance and Lifeblood. There are seven generalized skills to assign points to, and and traits to customize your character. The elimination of stats might put off some players, however I find most players don't role play them. I also find stat checks to be more random than they should. Action resolution is 2D6 vs a target number with skills providing a modifier. Spells, monsters and treasure all read like lists from a D&D book so players will be familiar. Definitely recommended. Available at DrivethruRPG.com
ZENOBIA by Zozer Games Sometime ago I was looking for RPGs with interesting settings that I felt would inspire better role playing in players. Getting away from class and level systems and providing a detailed and realistic world might, I reasoned, discourage murder hoboism so often seen in other games. A historically realistic setting in the eastern Roman Empire region circa 260 AD. Magic is low level and monsters are rare, but there are plenty of adventure hooks. Even shipping trade tables for merchant campaigns. Just five stats define your character MIGHT FATE CRAFT LEARNING and HITS. A past profession can be chosen and provides a selection of starting money and equipment plus a skill or stat bonus. Task resolution is a standard 2D6 vs a target number with stats providing a bonus. Combat however is different, and deadly. Player and opponent roll their Combat score (MIGHT plus weapon) and compare, winner is the higher roll and the difference is the damage done to the loser. Armour grants a dice roll with any 6's negating the attack. If the damage inflicted is 4 or greater a roll on a critical table is made, and the results are nasty. Appendages may be lost and crippling injuries can be suffered. Players must choose their fights wisely. I first ran across this game as a free download of four books, each with a staggering amount of information. A combined total of 649 pages. I didn't think I would ever print out all that. There is an updated version available now. The author Paul Elliot has a deal at Lulu , whereby if you buy a POD copy and email your receipt he will send a link to download a free colour copy of the PDF. I opted for the softcover, still cheaper than I could print. I recommend this one for the role-playing opportunities it can inspire.
So two more books on to the pile. I don't know how I will ever downsize.
In a medieval world 30-180 gold pieces is a lot of money for an individual to have. Given the poorer classes in even a very inflated economy rarely would see more than a few coins, how does that explain starting money in D&D? In my hypothetical and still not actual Swords and Wizardry campaign I like to have an in world reason for the rules as written. So why would a starting character have such wealth? Simple given the setting of the game, make the characters nobles. Not grand imperial or kingly. Petty nobles with a small inheritance or stipend and no prospects for a future. Make them the 5th son or 3rd daughter of a title holder and adventuring is their only chance for a better life. Give them a retainer or even a small retinue to make things interesting. Money power and fame are the means to get back at their family for casting them out, or rightfully claiming the title from a usurper. The character's endgame is already written thus allowing for retirement when the player chooses.
I have talked often about my love for simple game design, there is something to be said for more detailed systems. My original plan for running fantasy RPGs was to try to play D&D as close to as written. I wanted to prove to myself that the rules were viable in their simplicity. Two retro clone systems seemed like the best fit for this goal. White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game and Untold Adventures. Both are based on Swords and Wizardry which in turn originates from a rewrite/update of the Dungeons and Dragons white box rules set. Being derived from a such a simple rules set I reasoned that my anxiety over remembering rules would be reduced. Yes it can be easier to run a bit but the lack of depth actually can work against my over all satisfaction. Its a little dull, uninspiring even. And I worried players would be put off. As running a RPG is as much for the players as the game master, this is a problem. I did look forward to creating a setting to explain things like race as class. Opening my players eyes to the elegance of D6 hit points and damage. Rationalizing Vancian magic. There are downsides although. The characters however are a little cookie-cutter assembly line type without any detail. The experience points earned to level up dynamic tends to direct players toward monster bashing to the exclusion of all else. True this can be moderated by XP awards for other things like role playing or exploration. All is not lost, I will simply tuck away those books for another time. Maybe I will do up a few dungeon levels for a random group that comes my way. I still plan to run a D&D based game some time. I have Mazes and Minotaurs, a D20 style game set in a mythical Greek world. I encourage everyone to check it out. Its free to download. Available on Drive ThruRPG.com.
Because of my recent tragedy of the lost hard drive, I am trying to collect hard copy of games. Taking advantage of the current GM's Day sales I purchased two game books.
Sword Of Cepheus - a fantasy version of the sci-fi Cepheus Engine rules.
If you had ever thought " I wish there was a fantasy version of Traveller", this is it. I still have to create or adapt a setting but I look forward to trying it out.
Barbarians Of Lemuria - this is a 2D6 system with a rich character creation system. I have kept an eye on this system through several editions but this is the first printed copy I have bought. A full colour book details a robust background setting based loosely on pulp fantasy novels. Included are several adventures which will help start off the players.
Given he current troubles in the world I don't know if I will get to run or play anything soon. but i can hope. And the new books generate some enthusiasm.
I am fan of what's known in RPG circles as RAW or Rules As Written. In that I try to play as close to the written rules as possible. My interest in the OSR was partially fueled by a realization that the fewer rules there are the easier it is to play RAW. However most likely D&D page counts increased over later editions to try and iron out problems with the rules text. Often a strict interpretation of the rules doesn't fit with the expectations of the players. My solution is to change the players minds with a little creative background to the world in which the play. One such aspect for example is magic. Its not a secret that I prefer Vancian magic to anything else. Vancian is the fire and forget style for the earliest days of D&D. But reading the text of magic use I never liked the following description. "Reading from this book, the Magic-user presses a select spell formula into her mind, effectively preparing it to be cast.Once a prepared spell is cast, the spell formulae disappears from the Magic-user's mind, and must be prepared again before another attempt can be made to cast it. However, it is possible to prepare a spell multiple times using the available slots in the Magic-user's memory." What troubles me is if the caster forgets the spell formulae then how come the other spells in the memory slots are not affected? Are they different formulae? I never liked what's known as double dipping or multi-use magic. It just seems so mundane. It turns the Magic-user into a gun and the spells are the ammunition. But with one small change to the text without changing the rules you can alter players expectations. What if the formulae for a spell was a summoning for some living magic entity that is the spell itself. The "slots" in memory are holding cells for them. When cast they are released producing the magical effect. Being a Magic-user requires the discipline to build and maintain the cells to contain spells. Multiple copies of spells are each held separately. Casting one does not effect the others. A spell caster can skip the prep time and summon a spell directly from its source (book or scroll), but such haste burns (destroys) the source as a backlash.