Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You like dice?

I just found this out. That dude is serious about dice! Impressive stuff, to say the least.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raven c.s. McCracken would be proud

Tonight when I got home from work, my wife told me what the kids had been playing when taking their bath. Apparently our son had said "I'm breathing fire!" and had been playing a dragon. Determined to top this, our daughter (creator of the Chaos Turkey) decided that "...and I'm shooting laser beams from my eyes!"

Her explanation for what lasers are became very labyrinthine and involved. Lasers are for shooting out of your head... 

Ain't that grand?

Monday, May 9, 2011

My thoughts on sandboxing

A few days ago I read some reviews of old Swedish modules, the shared heritage kind of thing, if you like. I noticed that one module was described as a "fishtank", and the way it was described it was clear that some kind of sandbox was what the author was describing. That made me look at what was provided, and how that stack up.

I guess anyone interested in the subject have seen Rob Conley's major series of posts on how to create a sandbox? I have a suggestion. Don't read it. Yet.

That series, while informative and exhaustive, is way too much. To start a sandbox you need far less. This module that ignited the fire fuelling the this train of thought provided far less.

  • A sketchy map, with some atmospheric names, is great for inspiring wonder and creating ideas for adventure.
  • Some NPCs who move about this area, with clear motives and plans for players getting involved in, helping or thwarting.
  • Pro active players who can look at that map and run with the ideas generated from it.
  • Player characters with ambitions and short and long term goals.
  • A few McGuffins.
I'm pretty sure that is all there is to it.

Note that I have never successfully ran a sandbox campaign, so what do I know?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The question about RuneQuest magic

I came late to the show. RQ had already passed on, and while there was this new game being worked on it took ages and everyone still spoke in RQ terms. Finally I got the new game, HeroWars, and while it was an eye opener it was also one of the worst produced games I've ever seen. But, it did give me some vocabulary to speak about Gloranthan things. Then there was these RQ terms.

One bone of contention is the vocabulary of magic. In HW the different magic paradigms are very different. In RQ3, there are spirit magic, divine magic and then there's sorcery. Even though the latter is supposed to be more powerful and take more study, it's quite similar in game effect to divine magic, which comes from the gods. Then there's the spirit magic, which even though coming from spirits look just like the spells of divine magic. I always wondered why there wasn't just one game mechanic and the metaphysics just background facts.

Now, in RQ2 things were named differently. There was something called battle magic, which I think was not at all that related to battle. I seem to remember something called Rune magic as well. Whatever that was.

When HeroWars spawned its successor, HeroQuest, we suddenly had something called "common magic", which once again mixed up the cosmologies, or at least made me mix it all up. Unless I misremember (I've never owned HQ), it also did change the name of one of the other schools of magic.

So, how on earth do all these related? Why are they all looking so similar when they depict three very different views on the world? With the great Yellow Tome, the new BRP rules, I've been thinking of a Gloranthan game but have hit upon the problem of relating to all those old RQ based books that I have.

Now we go into the territory of Gloranthan high weirdness.

The heroforming of HeroWars seemed a perfect fit for superpowers. The use of theistic feats for skill augmentation would be a simple +20% to a skill if your Devotion skill was higher than the skill rolling for. Animism then would just use the summoning skill, and the sorcery system using the regular spell system.

Do this in any shape or form look or feel like either RQ2/3 or HeroWars/Quest? I have no idea.

Frankly, when I a few weeks ago got hold of the British edition of RQ3 all these questions came back to me again. Anyone know enough of all these schools of magic to tell me how battle, spirit, common and sorcery magic all related? Oh, there were divine and rune magic, and a few others as well. Arrgh!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More musings on AD&D saving categories

Since Daniel Boggs mentioned that the Saving Throw categories are actually in one of the manuscripts Dave sent to Gary, and the fact that it actually contains a category for lasers (I hadn't realized what I saw, when reading "death ray"), I guess it's not unlikely that Dave Arneson invented the concept. Still, why did he do it like he did?

In OD&D, there is a "Death Ray", or possibly "Death, Ray" category, and a "Stone". Those are gone in AD&D, and also "Rod, Staff or Wand" have been harmonized into one, in contrast to OD&D where "Staves & Spells" and "All Wands" are different. Some of these I find puzzling.

In AD&D it feels like the categories could be described as "Physical Transformation", "Transformation again", "Magic Items", "Area Effects" and "The rest". While The first two are slightly overlapping, it at least makes more sense than OD&D.

I have a heard time figuring out how anyone could have been thinking when staves are one category and wands another. Even if these once were stat checks, it's now impossible to see which stat covered which one. In the comments I got the suggestion that when a PC encounter he should probably save vs "Rock Slide" or something to that effect, and it will be up to the DM to base it off a sensible number. I wonder if the categories are different things Dave had encountered in his Blackmoor campaign, and had noted down numbers for?

Considering Arneson and his friends had been playing wargames, I think about how saves are used in the rules I know. Often you roll morale for your troops in the same way as you roll a save in D&D or T&T, to avoid something bad happening. Also, cohesion and acceptance of orders is some mechanics I've seen. I see here at least a small suggestion the idea could have come from that background. Still no hint on if there are any system to the categories.

There are two things that bug me about all this. I would like to know what kind of thinking lies behind the original edition of D&D, and how the idea of rpg evolved. Lost knowledge is so sad. The other thing is my thirst for symmetry, rationalizing and shaving off rough edges on rules to make them run smoothly not only from familiarity. Both these annoy me in this case.

Having been reminded that T&T actually reinvented the idea of basing "saves" of the stats I'm inclined to put it back into D&D like I think of it. It can't really stop me from turn and poke those saves a bit more, though.

Monday, May 2, 2011

AD&D saves and ability checks

One of my commentators on yesterday's post mentioned something I find interesting, and suggests something about the relationship between abilities and saves that I had also been thinking on.

The first time I was DM for B/X, I instinctively asked for a d20 against a stat when a situation came up which I had no other mechanic for. The game I had been running before that had been D&D 3rd ed. and as far as I know, that mechanic is not specified there. Rolling against a stat seem to be a long standing way to resolve things like that, though.

In 3rd ed. the relationship between saves and stats are quite clear. You get a bonus on all saves from higher than usual stats and they have tidied up the zoo of saves into three general cases. If you compare this to how Call of Cthulhu, or other BRP games, handle it you can see that the Idea and Luck rolls etc. are all mapped to one stat each. In the new big Yellow Tome of BRP, I think they have expanded it to one such roll for each stat. Is this a way worth taking with D&D?

I like the idea of saves, but if you should have more than one, or not just a LUCK score, maybe it could be interesting to tie them to the stats. Inspired by the neat Target20 system, maybe you could roll a d20 trying to beat 20, and getting a bonus from the stat the DM decide or you talk him to accepting, getting a bonus according to whatever bonus scheme you like. Say, +1 per 2 above 13 or just +2 if above 15. You choose.

Looking at the different saves in AD&D I do find it slightly odd to Save versus Petrification when avoiding a rockslide, and I'd argue a bonus for high DEX any time. The system above sounds flexible enough to me.

Then I guess you could just say the DM asks for a Save vs. Rocks and invent some shit on the spot...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

AD&D, using just the PHB

I have been thinking about games I want to run for a while now. Since I listen to Roll For Initiative podcast, which is all about AD&D, one candidate have been AD&D. For many, probably for many of my dear readers, it is a familiar game. Not so for me.

Way back when I started playing, one of my school mates talked about the games his older brother played. I had the opportunity to visit them, and got to browse the AD&D PHB, that game for "older guys". What I remember most clearly where the illustrations. I thought they looked like doodles made by ball point on a pad of paper while sitting chatting on the phone. Ugly game, not for me.

Later I started to buy some 2nd ed game books, since there were dozens of game worlds and some was actually pretty cool. I still abhorred the game, now for the rules.

So, since I now own two [sic!] copies of the PHB, I feel like I should give this game a chance. Having played B/X and S&W it feels a lot more familiar than it did way back then.

Everyone who have read the AD&D rules knows how much quirks they hide within those pages, and I intended to limit some of them. My first move was to decide that I'd play with the PHB, only!

All those old hands now shake their heads, since they know that there are no combat tables in the PHB. That I knew, but had forgotten. What I didn't knew, was that there are no saving throws in the PHB! All the rules on how to make a character, but not a word about saves!?

Since these rules are organized in a quite eccentric way, I might have missed the saves. Please tell me where they are in that case! But, how would the game work without saves?

When I had realized that they were missing, I suddenly thought that maybe it would be an interesting experiment to just disallow saves, since they are not in the PHB. Disallowing combat it more problematic, but AD&D without saves sounds like it could work.

What do you think?
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