Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sub-Optimal To Optimal

Gradnardia was musing on optional character creation methods (or the cheating methods) in AD&D. And their use in avoiding sub-optimal characters. Use of such characters is discouraged because of their low survivability. Without the maximum hit points and full bonuses for combat its felt that they would fair poorly. This probably stems from the fact that combat is almost always lethal. Lose all your HP and you're dead. But it doesn't have to be. The losing side can flee, surrender or negotiate. This can occur before all hit points are lost or the point when they run out (zero or below). Sub-optimal characters might have this happen more often but it is survivable. But in world where combat isn't always the end in death it does make them more optimal.
And something about a flawed character just appeals to me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crunchy But Not Too Filling

I was reading Schlock Mercenary and thinking what a awesome universe the author has created. And what a cool game that could be run in that setting. But which system would I use? Its a high-tech world with lots of techy gadgets. So a more detailed system might be in order. But I will now let you in o a big secret. I'm a lazy GM. I don't like to work hard to prep a game. I just want to have fun. And I have a bad case of ADD. So I don't focus on details to well. Hence my perchance for simple systems. So I'm looking for a contradiction, a catch 22 of RPGs. I'm looking for some crunch without much fat. Any ideas?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Story Games, Not Problematic

Theo Dudek the Ultimate Gamemaster states that story games are problematic because real life isn't made up of stories. Well I don't think games are real life. The fantasy books that were the inspiration for role playing games are not real life. And many modern games that draw directly from TV and movies and are not real life. Personally I'd much rather adventure in a fantasy world than a real life one. He goes on to say that real life is essentially random. And the best games should attempt to capture the randomness of reality. He claims that DMs create adventures by merely stringing together a series of random events. And it is the players who create a story by looking for a pattern afterwards. From the sound of it I don't think I'd want to play in his campaign. A good game should combine both elements. Story creates a backdrop to which the players can feel they belong. And randomness in the outcome insures that players feel a sense of satisfaction in it. And we all know how unsatisfying real life can be. Role playing games souldn't be. And the story is not a problem.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Xeroxing Spells, Copy Paste and Hand Wave

Some old school luminaries have been blogging about spell copying. They wrangle over cost and time vs level schemes. But since my games are about adventure and not bookkeeping or resource management I'm thinking of doing something different. I'm going to hand wave it. No cost, no time. It happens "off screen" from the main action. There are however a few provisos. Spell books still cost money. The magic-user needs a place of study to do it. And the materials like pen and ink plus paper. Minimal cost but they must be available. Also in my world spells are secret and rare. So before any spell caster thinks about tossing off a wad of scrolls they should think about one thing. Every scroll is another chance that someone , perhaps and enemy could acquire one of your spells. And if they find a extra spell book they can know all of your spells. I like to run a Vancian style world when it comes to magic. Jealous mages guarding secret tomes of lost knowledge fragments. No magic-user knows more than a few of all the spells known. Anyone who can recover all the know spells in the world would be very powerful indeed. Motivation for adventuring. Now potions, thats a different ball of wax or kettle of fish.

Rule for Learning A Spell ; The DM rolls a D 20 vs the magic-user's Intellegence score if the roll is equal to or lower the magic user can learn the spell

Sunday, March 13, 2011


A recent rash of serious computer troubles has me thinking. How much I depend on the computer to support my hobbies. Specifically roll playing and war gaming. On my computer there is over 7 GB of stuff in over 100 folders containing over 15 00 files. Barely a fraction of that has been converted to hard copy. I admit I'm a collector of stuff. Most of which I will never use. I had been filling up my available physical space rapidly in the years before owning a computer. Fortunately electronic files will never clutter your place or choke off your living space. And I have certainly cut down on the physical collecting in the 12 years I have had personal computers. So every year more and of my gaming materials require a computer to use. But what if suddenly all that stuff was gone? What if you couldn't even use a computer any more? a rouge wave of cosmic rays or something wipes out ever computer and electronic device on the planet. Could you go back to pen and paper, counter and map? Just dice, pencil and paper plus your imagination?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kicking The Tires and Checking Under The Hood

When I look at a RPG for the first time I usually look at the character sheet first. Why? Because the character sheet can tell me a lot about the game. The level of detail present can indicate the complexity of the rules. Or how involved creating a character can be. Its a microcosm of the rules. What factors are the most important: in combat, skills checks or even character interaction? The quality of design can be seen in the layout of the sheet. Was it cobbled together at the last minute? Or carefully planned from the start? The lack of one doesn't have to mean something bad. Perhaps there are plenty available elsewhere? Maybe the game is such that they not required. Checking the character sheet is like kicking the tires and looking under the hood of a car. A quick check of the basics to see if everything is all right. I used to work in an electronics store. I would tell people looking for a new stereo that you should get the most expensive one you afford with the fewest controls on the front. The least number of knobs and switches, lights and other bits. You are usually getting the best quality that way. My own preference for rules-light systems works like that. As I can plainly see how rules light or heavy the game is by the character sheet. I don't think that rules-light systems are better than rules-heavy. I just prefer them. The character sheet can be a guide and intro to the rules. More visual than skimming over the rulebook.
For your Swords & Wizardry needs I have created a simple sheet for the White Box rules, enjoy

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'm Not New To Old School

I have a file folder of quite a few of my old RPG characters. I was going through it when I came across two classic Traveller characters sheets. I don't always fill out the date of preparation slot on these things but I was glad I did this time.

July 25th 1995. I immediately remembered helping two friends fill out these photocopied sheets for a campaign I was starting up. I had just picked up a used copy of the black traveller hardback book. I didn't have a computer back then. And although I had heard of the Internet it wouldn't have occurred to me that you could get stuff for games from there. So I was planning on running a game with just one book. This was the era of AD&D 2nd Ed skills and powers splash books. Most games at the time seemed to moving towards multi-book systems. So why would I run a game with just one book? And an old game at that. Was I crazy?

No, I was Old School before it was cool. I had realized back then that there was nothing wrong with the original Traveller rules. And there were other advantages. It was cheap, the book cost me 5 bucks I think. It was easier to learn. And it was easier to run. I could run the whole thing with just the book some dice and paper and pencil.

So 16 years ago I was gaming old school style.

I guess you can call me an early adopter.

And now to pay the Joesky tax here is a character sheet, I can't remember where I got it from.