Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swashbuckling, whitebox style

Reading up on the rules for 7th Sea for our game tomorrow I found myself with the idea of a swashbuckler for S&W. My White Box showed up a while ago, and this is a new class for S&W-WB, my first attempt to do anything with WB.

The following content is hereby designated as Open Game Content via the Open Game Licence.

The Swashbuckler Class

Character Advancement: The Swashbuckler uses the Magic-User advancement for Hit dice and Saves, and the Cleric advancement for Experience.

Weapons and Armour Restrictions: Having trained to strike quick and be light on the feet, Swashbucklers are limited to Leather armour, no shield. Also, no other weapons than swords (long, short) and a dagger may be used.

Saving Throw: Since the Swashbuckler is swift moving, and as such get +2 to attacks (like oil splashes) and spells with an area effect.

Swiftness: The Swashbuckler may roll a Saving Throw to once a round push one item or character in between himself and a foe, or to swiftly transport himself behind an enemy by swinging in low hanging chandeliers . This ability may be used as many times per day as the level of the Swashbuckler.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blogging is good marketing!

Some of you surely read Grognardia some time back when James wrote about Daredevils. That post reminded me of why I dislike the gaming genre "pulp". It makes no sense at all, but I have given up hope of that fallacy ever being corrected. What I can understand and appreciate is the search for adventure, plain and simple. Letting go and just do daring deeds and confront villains of dubious character and rescue individuals (of your choice) in distress. That brings me to my latest brainbug, swashbuckling.

I started to plan for a game of 7th Sea a while back, and have now brought the rules on the commuting train in the mornings. Hopefully I will be able to serve up an adventure of panache and style. Right now I think a lot about how to start every fight with a boom, every social encounter with lot of drama and in between I envision chases.

While in that mindset I read James post and felt the urge. As you can see I got a package in the mail with some action adventure. It even included some of the tiniest d20 I've ever seen! Maybe there's even a buck I can swash in the box.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

To play a game in somebody elses setting

Today I read an interesting post about published settings and canon. For those of us who have played in a game, like MERP, set in a "canned" world it talks about things we have all encountered. Also, some settings have heavy duty meta plot campaigns which have to be handled. That post got me thinking of my experiences.

Personally I hate meta plots. They are a bad idea on many levels. They are more work for the GM, since you have to make sure you keep up with it, buy stuff, adapt players actions to it and so on and so forth.

There are ways a pre-fabricated setting can help, though. I started playing in Tolkien's Middle Earth. It was a great help to know that I had all the players on the same page as regards setting knowledge, and expectations of what worked and not. Basically, using literary background can be a great way to manage expectations.

That being said, there are some things you will have to handle. Will you "replay" what happens in the books, and are you going to interact with the great figures in the setting.

I know that the latter can be a problem. Who have not heard of the "Elminster problem"? One high level NPC who pops up and saves your bacon, or steals the show. Not fun. For me that wasn't that much of a problem in Middle Earth, since I set all our adventures before the War of the Ring, or the Fourth Age. Maybe it's cheating, moving the Big Issues out of the way, but it was practical. In Stormbringer on the other hand, I felt it totally ok to have to players hear of Elric. If they were stupid enough to meddle in his affairs they were just so much dead meat, and he cared nothing for their bacon or their petty affairs.

There is one way to approach this which I feel is cool. The Great Names of a setting are tied by fate. But, as a player character you have freedom of action. In Stormbringer that works just fine, since everyone is a plaything of the gods, so the hand of fate is everywhere and it wont feel odd to have fate intervene or twist things.

Frankly, Stormbringer is ideal! The Eternal Recurrence is not just some Nietzschean dream, it's real! There are endless realms and planes. There are so much room to have they players wreck the setting if they like! You can have them scuttle around the Multiverse and repeat themes and iconic characters and it will feel a lot like bing in an Elric story, and you don't even have to worry about canon or if they interfere with the big man or not.

This is probably why Stormbringer have long been my favourite "canned" setting. In fact having a determined end to the world help to bring the doom laden feeling on, and everyone knows it will end badly.

Heavy Metal. Game on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

There's a new T&T website up!

I've found out that there's a new and very good looking T&T site up, at www.tunnelsandtrolls.com of all places! Some articles and links to all there is to know about T&T.

Check it out!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The minutiae of gaming - training costs

In my latest post I talked about keeping track of the small stuff. Thinking on how I could have used taxes, fees and encumbrance made me remember my 3rd ed. D&D campaign.

That campaign was strongly influenced by the "Third editions rules, first edition feel" that was the motto of Necromancer Games. Some of that broke down when treasure entered the equation. I did use encumbrance rules and while they didn't stop any of my players, it at least slowed them down.

One oddity which was rampant when the campaign finally ended, was that gold no longer was worth it's weight in gold! Yeah, I know how absurd that sounds.

My players had realized that money was worthless unless you could use it to buy magic items, so unless it was gold in the thousands it was not worth picking up. You could probably make a case against selling and buying magic items from that, but I thought about something else in relation to my last blog post.

If encumbrance means so little when you have Handy Haversack and Bags of Holding, would exchange fees and taxes do much either? Basically, why bother?

To bring this together with my experiences of another game with checks and balances regarding money, I will relate this to my Megadungeon campaign in Tunnels & Trolls. In that campaign you didn't get xp for gold. That used to be in an older edition, but it was taken out due to the Monte Haul effect (so Ken St Andre told me). You did have to pay for magical training, though.

After having played a bit, there were not much incentive any longer to go adventuring in order to buy stuff. When you have the best armour there is, and the best weapon you can use you have to look further.This campaign did not break down due to two things. I was blessed with very good players who took upon themselves to create bigger and greater goals, like starting a tavern and a university. Almost like the old D&D rules for starting to build a stronghold. The second thing was that higher level spells still cost and arm and a leg to pay for training.

The lesson of this is that even if you don't use a rule like xp for gold, it's still a good idea to use training costs.

(edit: fixed a broken link)

Monday, June 7, 2010

The minutiae of gaming - money changing

I listen to a few gaming podcasts, and I will write about those another time. Now I wanted to talk about something that they spoke about on RFI issue 15, namely  money changing fees.

Why haven't I used money changing fees? Imagine delvers coming back from the dungeon, and their packs are filled with gold minted during bygone eras. If you want to compare the classic fantasy gaming era with the middle ages of earth history, money was often used by weight. Not always were the minted coin worth anything because of the emperor whose face was stamped into the metal, but the metal itself. If you care about "realism" then somebody with scales who will give you some usable change or be able to buy some old coins for their true value would be a natural part of the campaign. Also, the existence of money changing fees are in the AD&D DMG, which is reason enough for some people.

So. Why haven't I bothered with things like that?

Twenty years ago, I would have said that interacting with merchants, money changers and such people was roleplaying. Back in those days we had endless swaths of free time and equipping for adventure could easily take a session. We engaged in interaction with every facet of the imaginary world. Now when I think of money changing fees and encumbrance I just sigh.

The thing is I could easily see the value of these kinds of things in the game world. Encumbrance is another resource management, and paying fees and taxes are reasons for players to get inventive. But, is it still worth it when sessions are shorter and far and few between?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Another use of a skill system

Among some people, the idea of a skill system is a controversial one. If you are a hard core OD&D player I guess that attitude makes sense. I grew up on MERP and BRP derivatives, so for me the existence of skills are natural. I see how the idea of skills can be limiting for the players, giving the intention you have to have a skill to try something out. Maybe they can be used in another way.

The thing is, if you always rely on the game mechanics to role play, you can use skills in another way. Having skills be fairly broad, they can be an indication of how to act or behave. Say that you have the skill "Play the Lute". Can you play the flute? On the other hand, if you have a skill like "Perform" or maybe even "Bard", you can take that as an indication you posses a cluster of knowledge you can use to build a personality around. Maybe skills, broadly sketched, are best used as a basis for roleplaying, not for rollplaying. I hope you catch my drift here?

In Tunnels & Trolls 7th ed. there are Talents. They are like skills, but you only have one as a starting character and I've seen them more like a kind of mechanical support for roleplaying, not mainly as a way to gain a bonus for when you roll dice. Maybe that attitude could be used in other old school games?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A white box in the mail!

Today when I got home, my wife showed me a box that had came in the mail today. Not without some anticipation did I open it, and found a small white box, with multiple booklets inside!

Earlier I posted with some sinking feeling that my box never seemed to arrive. It turned out that when John Adams of Brave Halfling Press printed the address slips, PayPal silently in the background e-mail me saying the package had shipped! When it had, it didn't take that long for it to arrive. Sometimes you need a little faith and patience. 

Opening the box, the first impression is that the lower portion of the box is a bit flimsy. I think it's the same quality as the top, but on that have been glued the cover and edge illustration sheet, which keeps it together better than the thin strips on the edges on the bottom which which lacks illustration.

Some of the booklets had the signature extend a short bit from the cover, which was just slightly smaller. It should be easy enough to trim, if you have a cutter or an xacto knife or similar. I'd have to go to a print shop, though. On most of the booklets these small blemishes could be found.

That being said, I'm not dissatisfied or anything. This small box breathe enthusiasm, crammed as it is with booklets! You want to take them out, thumb through them and at once start world building, rolling up a characters and go out to explore the world.

Since I was one of those who got the second bunch of boxes, I got the extra module and it looks very creepy (in a good way!) and atmospheric.

Where I prone to reflection upon the hobby at large, I guess I could now talk about whether this is actually going to "expand the hobby" and all that. Me, I have more games than I need, and I suspect this have sold to more people like me. I don't care. This is a game that makes me want to play, which is all that matters.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dungeon Density, again

I recently got hold of two volumes of the Central Casting series of sourcebooks. Some of you might know about these books. Once again it's Paul Jaquays name on the cover. That happens fairly often when I buy game books, for some reasons.

Apart from the ones about fleshing our your character by rolling on a boat load of tables, there's one volume about designing dungeons. Quite interesting considering the qualities Paul have as a dungeon designer, I think.

In the beginning of the Central Casting: Dungeons book, there's a table about dungeon density. I have written about this before, and I think it's worth visiting that subject again in light of what CC:D have to say on the matter.

Looking at the Dungeon Density Table, you will find a lot of different ratings for density. Comparing most of the dungeons published by TSR and other companies, I think they could be classified as "loose-very loose". This is not a scientific verification of everything published, but a general feeling I have. Considering that the densities on the table have a very wide range I wonder why I have gotten that general feeling.

In the megadungeon thread on Dragonsfoot.org forums, many pictures where posted of dungeon maps people had drawn. My impressions of those where that they where pretty dense affairs.

Personally I've found that if I try to fill up every blank area of graph paper, I usually create things which look exciting, but when scrutinized closely they only have one entry point and one exit. Apparently my maps often become linear, and without some empty spaces it's harder for me to detect and remedy that problem. It would be very interesting to hear some input on how different designers handle that.

While I realize this is very much based on my personal impressions of a limited set of data, I still wonder if I'm not onto something.

Why is it that so many published dungeons are fairly "airy", while so many designers at home seem to prefer the dense, involved and convoluted maps? Is this a sign of the tournament dungeon proliferation among published TSR products?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A report from outside the dungeon. There's a dungeon here!

I'm in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on a business trip right now. As can be expected, nothing much related to gaming happens on a business trip. But, traveling to my hotel last night I saw something odd. There's a dungeon here, and it's even advertised for on the streets!

I have always held the opinion that one of the masterstrokes of Tunnels & Trolls is Ken St Andre's marvelous idea of dungeons as playgrounds created by insane wizards and "gods". You get a reason for dungeons to exist, and you have a place for them in the greater economy and you can get a laugh out of that funny character downtown handing out flyers trying to attract delvers to a newly digged dungeon.

In Amsterdam (and apparently London, Edinburgh, York and Hamburg) it's even for real! In this case it's lacking the insane wizard. I hope.
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