Wednesday, June 24, 2009

using the numbers

Beyond qualifying for bonuses or allowing you to play certain classes, stats in D&D just sit there on the character sheet. They don't do anything besides helping to visualize your character. But I have an idea to get more use out of them and to make players think twice about dump stats. Say your character is in a bar fight and some burly oaf wants to knock you over. Your strength score is his target number to succeed. He rolls a D20 adding any bonus from his Strength. Just like rolling to hit an Armour Class. Another example; a tricky merchant tries to sell your character some shoddy goods. He rolls versus your Wisdom. If he fails you don't buy it. Or he wins and you come back to the party bragging about your shiny new useless piece of crap. Any situation can be covered. A slippery passage in a dungeon; the DM rolls against each characters Dexterity with any modifiers the DM thinks are applicable. Every stat point comes into play, not just low medium or high. Characters can interact with the environment in new unique ways. And players have new things to think about during play. Like steering the naive Elf away from the shops or watching out for the clumsy Magic-User in the dungeon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

more on-setting stuff

One of the reasons why I like simpler rules in RPGs is how a players choices are dictated by setting rather than by mechanics. I once watched a player scan the weapon list and compared price, weight and the weapon type vs armour chart to pick out a weapon for his character. It was min/maxing. No thought was given as to why his character was using this weapon. This wasn't character creation, it was character engineering. This is not to say that its wrong to do that. Its just I don't like it. It can spoil the setting if it doesn't fit the background. Like a taking a M16 to WWII battle.
Weapons, armour and equipment limits can help establish setting. But so can amenities or lack there of. When the party reaches the Inn and goes to their room they will notice there are no beds in them. Beds were rare in the medieval period. Or perhaps there is only a common room to sleep in. Taverns don't have menus, there isn't any cutlery or napkins. People don't have last names, there are no police and street signs don't exist. A fantasy world can be a very different place rather than just like modern day but with magic.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Its all about the setting, son

For me the draw of roleplaying was the settings. Fantastic worlds to be in and explore. When I was younger my friends and I would recreate things seen on TV or in the movies. Or make up our own stuff. Being the 70's, WWII was still recent enough to be one of our favourite settings. I would become a grizzled pot bellied American Sargent chomping on a stale cigar and toting a Thomson sub-machine gun. This was roleplaying at its original best. We didn't quibble over details. As long as it fit the background it was in. My Sargent carried the Thomson because thats what they used. It wasn't about bonuses or penalties. Or range modifiers. It was about fitting in not standing out.
Nowadays the tabletop substitutes for the playground for me. But the same rule applies. If it fits the background then its worthy. The setting is important for me when I play an RPG. I would never allow a character named Bob. I've met a few players whose response was "Whats it matter" or "Who cares" about the name thing. They are usually only interested in what their characters have not who they are. I proposed once for a game that I the DM would name their characters. After all did you chose your own name? That didn't go over to well. I realized that the players are part of the creation process for the world you are developing. The players are creators also and that should be respected. I will try to compromise with allowing players to choose from a list of names appropriate to the background. For a game I'm planning a somewhat medieval background and I will use the Treasury of Archaic Names from RPG Realms. Names are just one aspect of the environment that can be used to create a rich fantasy. And Bodil the Barbarian sounds better than Bob.