Thursday, November 26, 2009

Roguish RPG sample PDF released!!

Well I am pleased to say I made my goal of creating a sample PDF  of my Roguish RPG available before the end of November!  You are now able to down load the 8 pg pdf from Geekdo!   
In 6 pages of rules you will get a feel for the basics of the system, and a short intro adventure is included and will let you try the game play out.  I look forward to your feedback.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Exeprience System In Roguish RPG

When you reward an action, it will cause people to do that action more.  Traditionally in the early years of "roll" playing, looting and slaying were the primary methods of leveling up your character.  I like looting and slaying, in games mind you, quite a bit, the difficulty arises when these are the core ways one levels up their character, this becomes the paradigm for all adventure creation.  So developing a story line and rewarding people for advancing plot elements with something other than a blade's edge are not tangible rewarding to players. I kill creature X, to get experience reward Y.  I loot treasure A I get experience B.  Basic, but honestly kind of boring and it can get quite convoluted in trying to compute it.  Worse crunching numbers after a battle to reward XP can take players right of the game and slows adventure momentum as well as game play.

As gaming advanced the emphasis in many games shifted to "role" playing.  Epic plots, intrigues, and multiple sessions where combat might never occur.  Rewarding a player for good "role" playing though is somewhat subjective and in my own experience, can lead to internal party or group friction.  This is also a difficult method of play for those who dislike theatrical pontification in strange not quite right accents.  Does the showiest most theatrical person deserve a bigger award than the quiet guy who just wants some thing to slay and loot? If you reward "role" playing than those who dislike showmanship will be turned off from playing.

Lastly, I never like the XP division by class to artificially limit and make advancement more difficult for some and quicker for others.  It is an artificial social leveling to insure some character classes who are seen as too powerful within the game are held back.

Okay, in that brief overview you know what I don't like and why.  So how do I have it set up in Roguish?

At the end of an adventure you are awarded a combination of 1,2, or 3 XP.  Any class needs 10 XP to raise to the next level. Maximum reward is 5XP at the end of any adventure.

You get 1 XP for surviving the adventure
You get 2 XP if you survived, and did something clever, tricky, or brave in the adventure.
You get 3 XP if you survived and were an instrumental participant in completing the adventure.

Yes it is a little vague on purpose.  Generally most folks will get 3-5 pts.  Some who helped, but were also a bit of a drag on the adventure will get a 2, and the participant award player who generally was a pain in the ass probably gets 1.

So it will take 2-3 adventures in general to raise a level for most players.  I don't know about you, but finding time to complete 1 adventure a month is difficult.  and this XP system I think will help foster return play because you can level up quickly.  Second, the level grind issue goes away and the game becomes more concerned with participating in the adventure.  Treasure is its own reward so is not counted in as an XP reward. This system should take advantage of any players particular ability without giving a specific reward for slaying the dragon, or out smarting the troll at the bridge.  Both, in this system, are equally valuable.

The Referee and the players are ( I hope) freed by this reward system to focus on playing the game, not on tracking who killed what or who role played the best.  It also mean stopping to figure out XP after a battle goes away, increasing immersion in the game and speeding play.  It is simple and easy to pick up for new referees and expert referees can change and use what ever system they like.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Sure I just passed my 40th spin around the block in our solar system, but just as awesome (maybe more so)-my favorite vehicle of all time the Jeep hit 69 today.  God bless you Jeep, 69 years later and you are just as bad ass as ever.  The Jeep is just a classic vehicle and no matter what they do, they just can't  frak  the original up.  Whether its the original, or one off the line in 2009, its just as kick ass as ever.  Somethings are done right the first time and overtime only modernizing tweaks add to what's great but can't really improve it.   

Sure, but what does that have to do with gaming?  A lot I say.  I want my Roguish RPG to be Jeep like.  Simple, solid, relaible, and flexible to get you wherever it is your imagination wants to go.  The jeep isn't flashy, it won;t stop traffic, and it won't win any beauty contests.  It does have thousnads of optional parts you can buy to customize it and make it your own.    You get the base Jeep, and then you can jack it up, lower it, add fog lights, a hard top, safari top, roof rack,  or do whatever you want to it.  No matter how many options your throw into personalizing your Jeep, everyone still recognizes it instantly as a Jeep.

So with Roguish the RPG that's what I want to deliver, a Jeep of a fantasy game.  Simple to start, easy to play, take you anywhere and room to make it the game you want it to be. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Clerics

So in expectation of an upcoming play test of Roguish, I have decided to make clerics in the game NPC's and not a playable class. Here are a few reasons for this:

1) I really dislike the over abundance and focus in RPG's on deities & demigods. I realize I may be alone in this but as a function of the game world it simply never interested nor entered into our game play. Creating weird pantheons or cults as a foil to the characters was fun but worrying about when the cleric is going to find time to sacrifice goats to Thor? Not so much...

2) Clerics as NPC's serve as excellent foils or hirelings for the referee to use to progress, start, or create plot twists in a story.

3) I never liked the cleric as spell caster. Any boon or miracle granted by a god I believe would have more to do with the faithfulness of the clerics service then simply, you are level 2 now you cure wounds twice daily sort of thing.

4) Clerics are traditionally more often stationary than wandering. Not strictly true in all cases of course, but more often than not, it is true. Why does a the priestess of Isis want to battle the Hill Giant in the caves of doom? Yeah I am not sure either. But the players hiring a priestess of Isis to transalte for them in a foreign land provides all sorts of interesting plot twists for a clever referee to use.

5) Lastly, I think breaking up traditional cleric type spells and abilities into different classes makes for more interesting options for players long term. So a healer as a separate class makes sense, as does a witch hunter with the secrets of vanquishing evil and turning the undead.

The good news as with any game, if you want to create a cleric class when playing Roguish, feel free!

New Art and a major hurdle ahead

A big test of my Roguish RPG is upcoming as two of the most brutally honest critics I have try out the latest version of the game this weekend. Those critics are my younger brothers. Although with my 40th approaching next week and my brothers and I within a few years of each other, I am unsure young fits anymore. It's fun to think we have been gaming together for 30 years now. Damn, that does not make me feel old, just blessed!

Anyway we grew up playing RPG's together and they both have enough experience and interest to let me know the truth, and if it stinks on ice, they will happily let me know. Barring disaster, my goal is to have a micro 8 page sample version of the rules available as a free download in November. My expectation is of the full game releasing in January of next year.

Also some fantastic new illustrations were completed this week for Roguish. I am very happy and honored to have a terrific number of illustrations from Mr. Richard Luschek. I specifically requested the illustrations be of scenes in silhouette. His illustrations bring a scene to life, and leave a lot of the details to your imagination to fill in which is the aspect of gaming I enjoy the most. Richard's illustrations are a perfect mirror of that sense of wonder.

You can catch a sneak peek of some of the recently finished illustrations on Mr. Luschek's blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Freedom of choice, is what you got

The notion of freedom of choice is a dear one to me. Beyond simply being core to my belief system as an American and responsible for our success as a nation, it is core to my beliefs as a Christian. Anything that seeks to stifle that innate spark I consider anathema to anyone's potential happiness and success in life.

I was inspired by a post over at

The (as usual) thoughtful post was primarily about how he uses monster stat blocks.

This particular part though sparked my response:

Challenge Level — Frankly, I've never used this. The players know quite well that I don't dumb down or weaken the monsters in places they have no business being. Characters have been killed for not running away when they should have. The game is about choices. When I present to them a monster, it is what it is. The characters are then free to try their luck and skill or to run away and then face the consequences of their choice.

The notion of choice and how one exercises it is core not only to the success of the game, but to every life, and most importantly was given to us as a gift from God. When a game (or more recently our own government) endeavors to make everything equal and fair, the first thing removed is freedom of choice. In the case of Challenge Level, I too have loathed this mollycoddling stat.

There are some beasts the characters should run away from and if they choose not to then they suffer the consequences...and they LEARN! Part of the the freedom to choose is the notion and experience of exploration. In the game exploration is not limited to simply roaming of ancient halls and dusty crypts, it is the exploration of the boundaries of heroism, cowardice, friendship, and exploring the limits of a persons abilities through a paper avatar and some dice. The game in essence is a vehicle to explore your own personality in fantastic situations exploring all sorts of choices that you may never make in real life with the only victim being a sheet of paper if the choices are bad.

The challenge level stat is a reflection of socialized system game play: Provide a system of regulated choice to try and insure the characters always have a better than average chance to succeed at the expense of choice.

This system regulates and controls the level of danger, challenge, and uncertainty to maximize character success if you used "properly."

By adhering to challenge level you remove the most critical element of exploration: freedom of choice. The Referee is then limited artificially as to what they should use in created challenges, and the players choice to fight or not is also removed. When you know you have a better than average chance to beat any encounter, then you always fight.

Choice is about risk, and with risk comes the chance to succeed spectacularly or to fail miserably. Both ends lead to some of the greatest experiences in both gaming and life. Rags to Riches...and Riches to rags. Any system that seeks to Remove or unnaturally limit that essential part of the human experience given to us by God seems as if it must be a sin of some kind.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Does size matter?

Way back in the 80's a friend of mine had these tiny little RPG books. I mean so small they were dinky! A small booklet roughly the size of a playing card and sold in a resealable bag. It was Dinky Dungeons! There were a couple adventures and a Dinky Kingdoms supplement as well. With 2 stats and 3 classes (one class was my most hated the bard) it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun! Don't remember it? Check out a good review here.

In fact part of the inspiration for making the modules and supplements for my own game in a small pocketmod format comes from my fondness of the Dinky Dungeons unique packaging and presentation.

So after the flash back, let's flash forward A gentleman named Chris Nail is revising and reinventing Dinky Dungeons...I believe he is going to call it Dinky Dragons! The site is up and you can check out all sorts of cool stuff including a random character generator!

He has the beta version of his rules available if you contact him. Due to travel and work on my own game, I have not had the pleasure of playing his updated version yet, but the rules are as simple and far more interesting than the original! Definitely a great set of rules to get new people or young people playing, or just a fun night storming the castle.

Check out Chris' site, if for no other reason than to support another DIY gamer making his RPG a wonder of simplicity and creativity.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Best of the Best: 80's scifi-& fantasy movies

With the wife out of town visiting her dad, I have time to write and revel in my own top 10 list of 80's scifi/ fantasy films. You may disagree, and that's fine, you are wrong. Note, I am not including any films from the major series of the era Star Wars or Star Trek. My plan is to watch every single one over the extended holiday, and wallow in some classic films. Without further yammering, here it is:

#10 BEAST MASTER -The two ferrets were really cool
#9 TRON- Killer light cycle races and the tanks are still kick ass
#8 EXCALIBUR-Unforgetable armor and the music Carmina Burana is EPIC
#7 DRAGONSLAYER-Still one of the best and I'd like to see it remade
#6 FLASH GORDON-Absolutely love it and I know you just heard in your mind "FLASH...AAAAAHHHAAAAAAAH....king of the IMPOSSIBLE!" I had high hopes for the TV series, man that was a pile of crap
#5 THE LAST STAR FIGHTER- completely over looked classic that really deserves a lot more love than it gets. Grig is one of the best sidekick characters ever!
#4 RED DAWN - I am still awaiting my chance to hold aloft an AK-47 and shout WOLVERINES! over the burn out hulk of a Russian APC.
#3 BLADE RUNNER- Rutger Hauer wrote the last lines of the film his character Roy Batty says when he dies. How fraking cool is that?!
#2 ALIENS- Hands down the best scifi military adventures EVER, I can't think of a film that beats it.
#1 CONAN THE BARBARIAN - Let me tell you of the days of High Adventure...

Honorable mention that just missed the cut:
Clash of the Titans, Enemy Mine, Terminator, Legend, Ghost Busters

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fork in the road

My recent post regarding my view about OSR gaming caused varied responses. I blame myself for laying my thoughts out in too strident a fashion for good general discussion to take place.

So to remedy and clarify:

Revisiting the past to park in it, rather to learn and then move on does not further, nor build upon the great works of the past. I am not saying there is not fun to be had nor, much to learn. Clearly given the breadth of blogs, and products, surrounding OSR materials there is much to be loved. I too share the love, and support it by purchasing many of the great OSR products out there. They are a great resource and nice mirror to the past, but they are not the end of the road.

Change is the essential part of long term survival for anything. Those people, systems, and cultures that fail to adapt and changes are relegated to the dustbin of history. Our own lives are one series of changes leading to (ideally) our own betterment. Sure its nice to have a mom around doing housework, fixing dinner, and making the bed, but it sure puts a crimp on the old love life. It's great to go back and visit the folks for a few days, but once you have made your own way in the world, and live your life your way, being home really isn't being "home." Home is a nice place to visit, but I don't think you'd want to live there anymore. Even if the basement is spacious. So however naive that may sound or seem, I think it is also true for gaming.

One can still play an enjoy the old Atari 2600 today and many of the games are still fun. In fact compared to the hottest Xbox 360 games, some 2600 games are even better! The old school Nintendo games from the 8 bit era are still fun, and clearly have play value as even Nintendo lets you buy and download a lot of those classics again! The old game are fun and have value, but they are not the end of further development. Wolfenstein 3D is a great first person shooter, and from it came Doom, which led to Hal-Life, and then to Halo. Each is still a first person shooter and you can have fun with any one of them, but I would not stop at any one of them, and I look forward to playing what comes next! New does not always mean better. That is true for anything from a new system grown out of the OSR the OSR material currently being produced. I beleive new does mean a stretching of boundaries and a reshaping of what we know or expect, and that to me is a good thing.

From wargames and miniature war games came role playing games. The various systems of RPG gaming has changed from the three little brown books into a thousand or more variations and off-spring. I like the OSR movement and its revival of the core elements that got people playing originally: the sense of wonder, freedom, exploration and fun! All this from a few tiny books and a handful of dice.

The OSR movement is a grass roots counter, or reaction to the current vogue of multiple 200 plus page tomes of rules from major publishers. I think this is good for the hobby and good for gamers. I voice my concern in saying, I hope it simply does not stop there. I hope the core elements of game play rediscovered from a less rules bloated system can lead to new games and systems expressing it without being tied down to, constrained by, or pigeonholed mechanics from using the OGL/D20 centric system.

If one is happy on the path of OGL/D20 OSR game play, terrific for you! You found your chest of gold at the end of the quest and need never look further. You chose that path that suited you well, but I my friend, am not so lucky. My feet are still restless and I think there is a lot of trail left to cover. I like where your path has lead you to rest, but I should like to walk further on, and I do not believe I will travel alone.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20
--Robert Frost

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I call shenanigans

The current Olde School Renaissance movement reminds me of the emperors new clothes, so I'll go ahead and be the mouthy little brat who says as much. There is some strutting about of I created this or that, but is it original and new? Nope, decidedly not. It is new material for an abandonware system. In some cases its a simple new coat of paint on the old jalopy. For sure there is a lot of good material and excellent resources being developed for a much beloved system...but where is the original? Where is the new creation from the old framework? OSR is simply a back tracking down a well worn path. Reprinting older material as new in an effort to rediscover the RPG has as much depth as a Texas puddle.

Using what's come before as a foundation to build something new makes sense. I do not see the new creation though, at least yet, from the seeds of the OSR movement. I see a lot of folks rediscovering the simpler game play of yore, and in some cases new eyes seeing role playing in this new light. That's all though, and honestly that's not enough.

It is not enough to sustain or to even grow interest in RPG gaming as a hobby. Revisiting the past to move forward makes sense, but revisiting, then settling in for a nice winter's nap is foolish. It's like peeing yourself in a navy blue suit, sure it makes you feel warm, but nobody really notices. Right now I see a lot of pleased fellows in blue suits, and it makes me nervous.

So will the OSR movement give birth to a new lite RPG rule set for the masses to enjoy? A "from the people, by the people, for the people" system that is rules lite, accessible and expandable? I like to think so, and I am working on my own stab at it. Otherwise there are going to be a lot folks standing around in wet navy blue suits stinking up the joint. Pardon me while I go change...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are you not entertained? Are you willing to pay $99.99 to find out?!

I was surprised that after getting the Warhammer RPG Fantasy flight games did not reprint the main book and many sought after source books. Turns out we now know why. Just when I thought Hasborg had done what it could to make RPG's less inviting to new players with 4th edition, turns out they were only the canary...enter FFG with the whole damn coal mine.

Your next RPG will be a 4 player boxed set...a $99.99 boxed set. Yup if you want to add players you get to buy a character's toolkit to play for each additional player. I do not doubt the value or fun that one could have with FFG's Warhammermer. There is a big question that remains unanswered: What new player will risk $100 to try an RPG?

Especially when they could get 2 (or more) video game RPG's for the same price? How do you expect to get new people into the hobby with a $100 barrier to entry? WotC failed to lower the barrier to entry in the RPG market by maintaining expensive rules intensive hard backed text books. FFG one upped them by making what appears to be a card based $100 rpg boxed set.

In the golden age I could risk $5-$15 and try a plethora of games like Ogre/GEV, Car Wars, Melee/Wizard, D&D, Tunnels & Trolls, Flashing Blades, Champions, Villains & Vigilantes, Boot Hill, Gang Busters, Top Secret, Gamma World, etc.

It was a small sum and a slim investment. The rules were easy to digest and I think for a lot of kids at the time, that was true. The closest parallel today may be TCG games. About $12 for a deck, and $4 a booster pack, so for under $20 you can check out a new game with little risk. Anyone have a RPG equal? Nope me either. Instead the rules have grown into fat text books by rules lawyers for rules lawyers.

Does this $100 represent the dawn of a new era of RPG's? The death of the genre? A bold new step in a bold new direction? None of the above really. Instead this "new boxed set for a new century" represents old school thought trying to become relevant and hip to a new generation. So they stream line game play and focus it all on quick reference cards and specialized dice, but pack it into a box with 4 rule books, 300 cards and 30 dice which is the kind of old school over kill OMG it's bigger than your cranium kind of game nerd over kill.

How about breaking it down into $15 character or class or race specific "deck" boxes and a separate $20 GM tool box? Pack them out like TCG decks in a display so you can get placed into Target, WalMart as well as hobby.

How many retailers will be able to buy multiple $100 boxed sets? Certainly no Mass retailers or even book stores would do this, so you cut out 99% of the retail market. So you are marketing a $100 boxed set to a slim section of the gaming public who probably already has a metric ton of RPG materials. Will folks buy it? Sure! But will it still be played and supported in 2 years? probably not.

Without further peanut gallery rambling...

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a new, exciting way to experience the popular Warhammer Fantasy setting. It is a grim world, constantly at war. As a hero, you will take up weapon, spell, or prayer and do your best to combat the might of enemies terrifying to behold. As the Game Master, you will make the lands of the Old World real as you craft the story, the people, creatures, and the mysteries the other players will encounter during their adventures.

Everything your group needs to begin its adventures in the Old World is included in the Core set. This Core set is an excellent way to bring new players into the fold, as well as to reward experienced roleplaying with new and exciting innovations.

  • 4 comprehensive rule books provide all the knowledge you will need on the Old World
  • Over 30 Custom Dice give you unprecedented options for story-telling
  • Party sheets provide new skills and abilities to keep everyone engaged
  • 40 different careers and 4 different races offer a multitude of character options
  • More than 300 cards keep you in the game, no need to look up skills or abilities
  • Three character keepers designed to hold everything your hero will need each session

Rolling up a story
Using a new task resolution system featuring custom dice, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay gives you unparalleled story-telling options. Every roll of the dice has a story to tell, providing far more information and flavour than just “you hit” or “you miss.” These dice represent the abilities and skills your characters will gain, as well as include the whims of fate. With each roll, players will be able to see how the check succeeded or failed. Did they make it through based on their natural skills or did they just get lucky as fortune intervened? There are more than 30 custom dice included to help you craft your story.

How much will you risk?
With every decision comes a risk to assess. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, heroes will decide how they wish to approach any situation. Do they rush in, swords drawn, in an attempt to quickly overwhelm their foes? Do they advance cautiously and appraise the situation before entering to gain advantage? Your stance, reckless or conservative, will guide your actions and the bonuses they provide. As stances can be changed on the fly, players will have new levels of control over situations.

Action at hand
Mighty warriors perform mighty deeds. You can quickly reference the full-colour action cards to see what your abilities and innate skills can accomplish, allowing players to spend more time focusing on the task at hand. From spells, blessings, and attacks to social gambits, and reactions, and acrobatics you will have the actions you need to tell your character’s tale.

More fun in a group
Every hero is powerful on their own, but when combined, heroes interact in interesting, new ways. Each party will be able to select a party sheet, which helps track and manage the group as a whole. Will the dwarf and high elf be able to put aside their differences in order to work as a cohesive unit, or will the ancient grudges be too much for them? Can the human overcome the arrogance of the high elf, and can the high elf overcome the brashness of the short-lived human? Each party sheet also provides special abilities for the party members. In this way, every group becomes far more than the sum of its parts.

More than a job
Straight from the world of Warhammer, there are dozens of careers for heroes to choose from. Every career provides valuable skills and abilities that will give adventurers a definitive advantage in their exploits. From the resolve of the Witch Hunter and the deadliness of the Dwarf Troll Slayer to the keen eyes of the Wood Elf Waywatcher, or the fiery magic of a Bright Wizard, there are many exciting paths to follow.

Quick and easy clean up
Inside the Core set are three character keepers designed to hold everything your hero will need each session. From your dice, actions cards, and character sheets to any wounds, items, or skills your hero acquires, you will have a convenient place to store everything after a session.

How do I start?
These innovations are brought to life in the Core set of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Inside you will find four full-colour books. The main rulebook introduces all the mechanics and key information you need to get started. Also included are three tomes to provide you with more information on the world, and give you new opportunities for character creation. The Tome of Mysteries is your guide to wizards and the winds of magic. Follow along with grey wizard Gavius Klugge as he gives you insight into this powerful career path. The Tome of Blessings provides information on priests and the gods they follow. Information on the Cults of Sigmar, Shallya, Ulric, Taal, and others are contained within this volume. The Tome of Adventure is a book for the Game Master, and provides valuable information on running sessions, background and statistics on a variety of enemies, information on how to get the most out of your roleplaying experience, and a complete introductory adventure.

This Core set is best suited for a group of four players – one Game Master and three Player Characters. Adding more players is easy! You can find more careers, party sheets, action cards, and components in the the Adventurer’s Toolkit.

One player gets to be the Game Master. The Game Master is responsible for crafting the story, and giving life to the adventure the heroes are about to undertake. Setting up the encounters, adopting the role of the non-player characters (often referred to as NPCs), and acting as the ruling authority for how the rules apply to the game at hand all fall under the Game Master’s sway.

Three players form the hero party, seeking out adventure and glory. They will be the protagonists, and act together towards a goal. As they perform mighty deeds, combat foul enemies, and exercise their diplomatic skills they will gain experience. This experience allows players to upgrade their skills and abilities, as well as gain new options and help define their characters’ roles within the world. As the PCs gain experience and become even more powerful, the Game Master will craft more challenging stories.

Over the course of the story, the Game Master and the hero party will perform a variety of actions, make skill checks by rolling the custom dice, and keep track of any information related to their characters.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is an experience like no other. Custom dice help you to tell the story with every roll, the stance system provides greater depth to the decisions the GM and the PCs must make, action cards keep all your options close at hand, group party sheets give each party a reason for existing and unique abilities to draw from, and the wide variety of careers give each player a variety of options when creating their character and even more options when they advance their hero.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monkey Auto Races, a classic considerd

Growing up we were not a wealthy family. Our fun as children came from the odd mud puddle and various sticks, rocks, broken glass, and wild animals (living or dead) we might come across. Games like "Grab the rattle snake" and "How long has this been dead?" were the common games of my youth.

That is until a social worker brought us MONKEY AUTO RACING!

Originally the thought of monkey navigated automobiles stirred something, dare I say, primal in us? The size of the box, and the lack of movement from inside, left us wondering if "how long has this been dead?" might actually be our game for the day.

Removing the outer plastic wrap (and carefully saving it for use as a diaper for the baby) my father of the week handed us the game and gave us all a loving backhanding to send us outside.

With great glee we opened the box to monkeys? Not a single simian dead, alive, or navigating any automobile in the box? Instead four brightly colored vehicles were enclosed along with 4 small hammer like "mini head sticks." Not a monkey to be found anywhere? My brother seeing the weird hammer like mini-sticks swiftly took a blue colored one and rapped me soundly about the head with it!

If you have not seen 2001 a Space Odyssey, there is an opening scene wherein monkey like creatures discover that a bone may be used as a weapon. Then they beat to death, out of new found glory, a fellow monkey. That shining moment (with more natural lighting, no slow motion, and a soundtrack provided by the rumble of 18 wheelers on the interstate) replayed itself thanks to discovery of the mini head stick.

A stunned moment of silence followed as we realized what great fortune we were given. Swiftly removing all the head sticks from the box we proceeded to run around and beat each other senseless. At this point, a mental image of Mint Valley Primary Schools 2003 production of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is an appropriate visual.

The neighbor seeing the boyish romp beginning to turn serious called us over during his mid-afternoon respite from auto repair in his front yard. We brought over our new treasure and with oil encrusted hands he made sense of the wiggly lines, angles, and circles we now know as letters and words! By strapping the small hammers to our heads, rather than the original vogue of the right hand, we could push the small cars through a flag lined obstacle course.

At this point, he unstrapped the hammer (mini stick) from my right hand (Mjolnir my friend we savaged many, wait for me in Valhalla!)and wrapped it about my head. Placing a plastic car from the box onto the ground he bade me push it with the mini stick on my head. Dropping to my knees I placed the hammer behind the car ready to see what sort of game this might be. A sharp kick to my hind quarters sent the car and myself flying. The rough guffaws of the neighbor and my brethren from that moment echo through time and haunt me to this day.

Standing, covered in axle grease and grass stains, I slowly removed the mini stick from my head. I then wrapped it around my right hand as nature intended. The Mighty Mjolnir had returned! With a Thor like barbaric YAWP from my eight year old lungs I proceeded to savage the laughing throng.

Whether it was the noble power of Mini-Mjolnir in my tiny right fist, the weight of my foot and the physical might of it striking my neighbor in the nether regions, or the power granted by the burning rage of discovering not one simian navigating the tiny vehicles withing the game, I will leave for my biographer to sort out. Regardless, the neighbor crawled like a dog back into his house writhing with pain. The field of battle emptied quickly I was left alone victorious with only one causality that day...Mjolnir, though mighty in the victory had given its all and broken in the day's combat.

Wistfully those days comeback to me now and though a lingering ache remains at finding no monkeys in the game, I can think of no finer game for instilling in youth today the lessons I learned playing it in my wilder days of yesteryear!


Ancient Treasures soon discovered...

I am a big fan of board games as well as RPG's. In fact I think a great way to get people into RPG's is to start them gaming with rpg-esque board games. So is the center of my board gaming universe. Reviews, images, variants, discussions and all sorts of goodness can be found on golden moldies as well as hot stuff coming soon. I have posted a couple of my own games up there, my module I did for dark City Games, as well as variant stuff such as unique counters for Ogre/GEV.

Well after years of discussion and promises...the beta RPG geek is rolling. Yup the chocolate to the peanut butter of the gaming universe is about to be added...and man is it sweet. So jump on the bandwagon before it departs the farm my friend and enjoy the ride. Geekdo is here!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Why Jonny can't role play

I've read the multitude of threads on the RPG issues. A lot of great points on multiple threads, and there are a few questions and issues that seem to have been over looked.

1) What does a pen & paper RPG offer someone surrounded by a multitude of easier, more immediately rewarding, and less socially strenuous endeavors? Especially when the same diversion (fantasy rpg gaming)can be had with the push of a few buttons or the typing of a few keys. How do you lob a 5 lb book at someone and compete with instant gratification?

2) Much like the legal system, most current games are written by lifelong gamers to impress or meet the expectations of cynical and jaded other lifelong gamers. They are often too "inside baseball" for someone to simply pick up and start playing.

3) The gaming clubhouse does not exactly have a friendly, "come on inside and play" welcome mat at the door. The elitism and arrogance one often encounters, or the odd quirks and inside jokes of a veteran group can often be isolating, off putting, or intimidating for a novice.

4) Take a look at the continued success of TCG's. One of the brilliant methods to promote their continued existence is organized play. They reward the players with content for participating. WotC I believe tried some sort of organized outreach combined with Living Greyhawk, RPGA and other elements. Trouble is it applied to the old gray gamers and I'm not sure it really rewarded new players at all. What is the draw for a new player? What is the reward for becoming a weekly gamer?

5) Barrier to entry: paperback adventure books like Fighting Fantasy, or micro games like Melee and Wizard, provided low priced, low page count, accessible entries into the hobby. Why in heaven's name would you expect a kid to purchase a video game expensive text book and spend hours reading and trying to decipher a text book sized game manual? That is 3 strikes against gaining new converts.

6) Boxed sets have a charm to those of us who started with them. We grew up playing board games which all came in boxes. Risk, Monopoly, Scrabble, Boggle, etc. All games (even Atari 2600 games) came in a cardboard box.

Times change but the RPG industry has not followed suit. Boxed games are no longer the entertainment entry point. So why not make a new boxed set to fit a new generation? Taking a page from Melee/ Wizard, why not pack a small manual rpg book with adventure into a DVD case? Include some counters and a map and sell it for $15? Make a series of them and have a full rpg. Many RPG games could easily be translated to a grid battle game: Final Fantasy tactics, Ogre Tactics, Fire Emblem. Small, portable, DVD boxed games that teach RPG playing through micro sized pieces. IP is incredibly important to gaining traction so why not use one of the tactical rpg licenses and create mini rpg board games?

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees, and being fans of, and blinded by, the good old days limits can limit ones vision.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Teaching an old dog new tricks...

Back in the TCG avalanche of the mid 90's, Mayfair games released one called FANTASY ADVENTURES. This was a TCG based on a stand alone fantasy card game released 10 years earlier called ENCOUNTERS. The art work was lifted from fantasy book covers and is hit or miss.

The game in a nutshell:

Each player has a party of 8 heroes in in 2 ranks of 4. Your hand contains monsters and treasures. You play your monsters against your opponent. If the player defeats the monsters, he may lay treasures from his hand on to heroes in his party. For 4 turns you go back and forth either battling monsters, or playing monsters on your opponent. After 4 rounds, the player with the most survivors and loot wins.

The way they made this into a TCG was by 1) random boosters 2) deck building. While the first is no big deal, the second killed it.

Your deck was built using the gold value of each card. So with calculator in hand you had to total up the gold value of cards in your deck and stay within boundaries for maximum card mix and gold value. What a pain in the asterisk.

Then your heroes deck was only a random 8 card draw...which you only used once at the start of the game! LAME

Recently my wife discovered (somewhere buried in the depths of the game shelves filling the garage) my box filled with these cards. She asked me to "fix" the game so we could play it. I enjoy a challenge so here's how I did it:

1) Take all of the cards and create 3 decks:
A) HERO DECK-contains all yellow backed hero cards
B) MONSTER DECK-contains all monsters & traps
C) TREASURE DECK-contains all spells, items & treasures

2) Deal 8 hero cards to each player, then set aside the heroes deck.

3) Each player selects one hero than passes the cards to the next player

4) Each player continues to select one hero card and pass the cards to the next player until each player has 8 heroes total

5) Next deal each player 3 cards from the treasure deck.

6) If possible you can attach all 3 to your heroes.

7) Deal each player 10 cards from the Monster deck

8) play begins as normal

9) After finishing a turn playing as the monsters, always draw your hand back up to 10 monster cards from the Monster deck.

10) Anytime a hero in the front rank is killed, a hero form the back rank must move up to the front rank and fill the gap.

11) for each monster you defeat on your turn draw one treasure card.

12) play treasure cards on your party per original rules at the end of an encounter

13) Keep any monsters your party of heroes kills or traps you avoid in a separate pile beside your heroes. You can discard your heroes into this pile as well.

14) at the end of the game,total the gold for each treasure attached to a hero then add 100 gold for each monster defeated or trap avoided. Player with the highest total wins.

This lump TCG is now a fun little fantasy adventure card game that plays in about 45 minutes. You can play it with 2-6 players and while it won't win any awards, it is fun and an easy casual game to teach. You can score a starter deck +540 random cards from Mayfair for $25! It's good little card game that with a wee bit of wrenching displaced the dreaded Munchkin as our card game of choice.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Finally someone did it...

I used to be a big comic book fanatic as a kid. I used to pick up Conan, SGT. Rock, Weird War Tales, Haunted Tank and occasionally a super hero book-either Captain America, Thor, or Batman. Somewhere about 7th or 8th grade my brother and I were staying with some friends, and we ended up reading The Defenders, X-Men, and Marvel Universe encyclopedias. That's when it went from occasional grocery store pick up to full blown collecting. G.I. Joe, X-Men, New Mutants, Marvel universe and tons and tons of other books. Through my sophomore year of college I was a regular user and then, well I lost interest. Fast forward 15 years and I still enjoy them but I am pretty picky about buying anything. Mostly its just trades at this point. A lot of the b/w marvel collections, the new Savage Sword of Conan collections (waaaay to racy when I was a tween for mom to okay that purchase) but not a lot of new stuff.

So as a picky reader let me make a couple recommendations:

There is really only a few series I actively collect and two of them are written by one guy.

First, think about Night of the Living Dead, or Dawn of the imagine instead of the movie ending..the story just kept going, that's sort what The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman is like. It's a zombie series, but the horror (as in any good zombie story) is not about the living's about how we as humans interact and treat one another when the thin veneer of society is stripped away. Great story, great writing, great art, and it is a must read. Plus its in black & white, which I think is perfect for this particular story. There 10 Trades out and you can get them for under $10 each.

If you are a super hero fan I also HIGHLY recommend Invincible by Robert Kirkman. I don't want to spoil it for you but it takes what was great about spider-man (average kid gets powers) and goes through all the standard tropes of superheroes and teams, turns them on their head and manages to be thoughtful, playful, exciting, and heroic without being snide or mocking. It is a truly heroic and fun title. These are collected in trades again a little looking and you can get them for under $10.

There is talk of an Invincible movie...and HBO may turn Walking Dead into a get on them now before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon.

Okay here's my "it's new and cool, so you should read it now" pick. Think about alien invasion Independence Day or War of the Worlds..the aliens are beaten and the credits roll. My question was always, "So how are we going to rebuild society and government and everything else after aliens destroyed everything? I mean, yeah the aliens are toast but now what?" Well somebody has put pen to paper and answered that question that has burned in my brain for years. You too? Good. Pick up Resurrection by Marc Guggenheim. You can get the collection of the first 6 issues+the 2008 annual in one trade for $6!!! That's 184 pages of goodness my it a sci-fi fans stimulus package.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Take time to remember...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, having its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient suffrance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their acts of pretended legislation.

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally, the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizen taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connection and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dicey business

Recently I have followed a debate on using 3d6 for gaming (as in Fantasy Trip, Melee, Wizards, & Dark City games) versus Ye Olde D20. Originally I loved the d20, but as I work on my own game, I find the ability to use multiple d6's to reflect an increase in challenge is much cleaner and easier to teach folks than add a ton of modifiers to a die roll. Anyway, I present some of the 3d6 vs. D20 debate I have seen recently for your own perusal below. Credit is given to the original writers and their points are worthy of broader exposure I think.

In General
Both 3D6 and D20 can be used for attack rolls, and we could convert the
math such that any 3D6 roll could be roughly converted to a D20 roll
and vice versa. So, if one can be completely converted to the other,
why is one better than the other?

The answer lies partially in the mechanic of TFT character development.
The typical human character begins with attributes of 8 (with the
points to spread around, but bear with me). A 3D6 vs 8 will succeed
only 56/216 of the time. That's about 26% of the time, or about a 5 on
a D20. But the 'average' attribute for a human is 10, which succedds on
a 3D6 exactly half the time, or a 10 on a D20.

Now look at those attribute numbers, and their 3D6 and D20
counterparts. Using 3D6, a gain of 2 points gets you a 24% gain. But if
I use an attribute of 5 (for D20), it takes a gain of 5 points to get
the same benefit! (This assumes that each attribute point in D20 raises
success by 5%).

Because human (and human-like) characters have their average attributes
at 10, using 3D6 works 'better' because as one's attribute approaches
the average, one's chances for success not only improve, but improve in
proportion (roughly) to how close to the average the character is. One
improves more as a percentage the closer one is to the average. In
fact, the gain from 10 to 11 is about 12.5%, or 2.5 pips on a D20.

And because the game is mostly about human (and human-like) characters,
this works better. (I have another argument that it doesn't scale well,
that points to this average attribute thing, but stay with me for now).
Not only do those near the average get more out of their gained
attribute, those near the ends get less. So you're the greatest
swordsman -- what's another DX point really going to get you? And you,
you're incompetent, so your next point doesn't get you much, either.

Now let's look at the ends of the scale, the hoped-for triple and
double damage, and the dreaded drop and break weapon. It is not
possible with a single roll of a D20 to get a chance of something
hapening down below 5%. Yet that's an awful lot of dropped and broken
weapons (assuming that we use rolls of 19 and 20 for those). Using 3D6,
we get a dropped weapon 3/216 of the time, and a broken weapon 1/216 of
the time. We can use the characteristics of the roll to put
low-percentage outcomes at the ends of the scale -- something we can't
do (without extra rolls) with a D20.

Now let's look at difficulty.

Sure, it's easy to apply a bias to a roll to make something easier or
more difficult. But again, look at that average. If you have an
attribute of 16 (which is really high for a human), your actual penalty
with a -2 on your roll is about 8%. But the same conditions for someone
with an 11 is a hit of 25%. For a D20, a penalty of -2 is always 10%.
With 3D6, if you're really good, you can take a chance, and similarly,
if you're really bad, a penalty doesn't hurt you much.

But look again at a 3D6 mechanic for difficulty -- the extra die. With
3D6, the usual range is 3-18, with 4D6, it's 4-24. But the percentages
shift so that being average is no longer a 50% chance. Now look at the
D20. It's normal range is 1-20. But the range for 2D20 is now 2-40.
That moves the eprcentages around by a very large amount compared to a
D6. Yes, you can figure out how much to bias everything, but that's
dancing around the issue, ebcause every bias in a D20 system results in
the same percentage. The 3D6 system wins for this mechanic because it's
very easy for the GM to fine-tune rolls.

One of the things I've always liked about the TFT 3D6 system is that
it's like meta-rules. The PC figures out what the character wants to
do. The GM declares which Talents are applicable, which attribute to
roll against, and how many dice for difficulty. Then fine tune with
biases for the current situation, and roll. And if the situation comes
up again, you already know how to handle it....Neil Gilmore

Regarding how combat & armor are handled

Other people have said it but 3d6 to hit is one of my favorite things aobut TFT, and it relates to how armor is treated.

In D&D, as soon as a character can afford the best plate mail (second level, usually), that character immediately buys and wears it. Pretty much every second level fighter out there is wearing plate. In D&D, if you can afford it (and by the time they have a retinue everyone can), you load up your men-at-arms and even your peasant militia in plate armor.

In TFT, you'd be a fool to dress your peasant militia in even chain armor. The drop from an 11 or less to hit to an 8 or less to his is extreme. Add to that the fact that your peasants act last in the action round, and they're much more efficient and battle-worthy wearing no armor at all. Basically, everyone in TFT equips themselves to hover around that 10-12 DX range (with some special exceptions, like guys who want to make sure they go first in the round, or guys whose only real purpose is to stand in the front row and block opponents).

The (perhaps unintended) result is that characters and npc's in TFT are much more appropriately armed and armored than in any other dark ages/medieval game I've played. Peasants wear nothing. Mercenaries wear quilted or leather. Veterans wear chain. Elite knights wear plate. And player characters are built in a variety of ways...a Conan-type might concentrate on Strength and not wear armor despite having a lot of experience. A knightly type might pump up his dex and start with chain armor, starting with a mace and slowly working his way up to plate and bastard sword.

Bottom line: you see someone ride up to you in plate armor and in TFT you know you're facing a badass. In any other game it could just be some rich punk.

Is that realistic? Some would argue no...of course peasants would wear plate armor if they could afford it. But I'd argue yes. Peasants could NEVER afford plate armor. Historically, in an age when warriors were responsible for their own arms and armor (post Imperial rome, pre nation state), only the hardened veterans or elite members of a warrior culture (knights) were armored. In TFT, only the hardened veterans or the elite members of a warrior culture are armored. In every other game, everyone's armored. In role-playing games this is because you can't keep money out of the players' hands. In miniatures games, that's because the cost-to-benefit ratio of armor is too low. In TFT it's just right....SGT HULKA

The look, the feel, of multi-dice...

I agree with everything written about the differences in chance and
percentages between the d20 and 3d6 systems. I'd like to focus on the
tactile "feel" of the dice. I've played a lot of games that are
percentile dice based. When you shake the dice in your hand they click
and clack together and when you drop them onto a table they produce a
certain sound as they bounce around that I immediately connect with
gaming. The exact same thing is even more true when rolling 3d6. There
is simply a connection to the feel of the dice in your hands. The
poor, lonely d20 just does not give me the same feel. Multiple dice
are just more exciting to throw down than a single die. It's just like
rolling craps in Vegas. You can't wait to see and quickly add up the
numbers. While I know this is very subjective I have a feeling many of
you will identify with it. Or at least the gamblers in the group.

As strange as this may sound it's a main reason I never even bothered
to look at a d20 system....David O. Miller

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Getting Rowdy

Besides gaming I have a lot of other interests in history, literature, movies, cocktails, camping, and blah blah blah...

So I am firing up another blog about all the good stuff that makes me glad I am above ground as a man every day. You have a hint of what's to come from the Quiet Man post and the Hemingway post. If you liked that-there will be more, and if you didn't-well there is one less site you need to waste time with.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Diversion: The Quiet Man

Who? John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara
What? Fall in love
Where? Ireland
When? Could be set in the 30's or 40's its never really clear (film is color 1955)

Why you have to see this movie: In my book it's the best damn date movie EVER...and that's not up for debate. A Strong silent type man falls for a fiery headstrong independent woman. Instant friction and that's before her older bully brother steps in to make life more miserable. There's drinking, fighting, a horse race, a wedding, a dark secret, and hell John Ford directed it so you know its damn good.

This isn't a sappy, nebbish, for fuck's sake spit it out you lousy emasculated dishrag muppet "Notting Hill" date movie nor a more white wine spritzer HOLY CRAP where is the humor or at least some Nytol so I can sleep through this "27 Dresses."

Maureen O'Hara is not a push over woman or Dr.Phil/Oprah weak knee dithering ninny. She is confident, stands up for her self, knows what she wants and is all woman. John Wayne is..well it's the Duke, I mean outside of Clint Eastwood does it get more Archetypal American male? (hint-the answer is no amigo.)

Look at that picture my friend, that is a true man and a true woman and its a hell of a good story. So fix a nice meal for your significant other (microwave is off limits as is anything you "just add meat" to) and put some effort into it tiger!
Mix a couple of nice cocktails, dim the lights, and let John Ford and Ireland work their magic, you can thank me in the morning.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sword & Shield: Magic

One of my least favorite portions of RPG's is spells, and magic. Part of it stemmed from the way it was handled in D&D. I did not like the fire and forget method of spell casting. I also did not like the rags to riches method of wizards starting out weak and then becoming overly powerful. As stated in an earlier post, Gandalf would be about a 5th or 6th level wizard in a D&D system that goes to level 36.

Contrast that with magic in Metagaming's Wizard. Energy used to cast spells was derived from your Strength stat so you could cast fireball as often long as you had Strength to do so. Problem was, ST was also your Hit Points so if you cast spells you weakened yourself making your character easier to kill.

Magic in D&D is then codified by classes, subdivided by level. This always seemed an awkward and artificial construct to me. Only wizards know this, only clerics know that, only druids learn this...regardless of race. The whole class codification of roles I suppose is part my problem compounded by why are certain spells only available at certain levels? I suppose this makes some sense in limiting characters from having all powerful magic at low levels...but I think it is an artificial constraint...much like the class system is in general.

So as I write my own RPG I have decided to make magic work based on energy from a stat, but you won;t be killed for casting spells. Second, magic spells will be based upon racial divisions of knowledge. Within those racial divisions will be additional divisions perhaps Black magic and white magic for humanity. Green Magic for elves, Red magic for dwarves, etc. It could even be subdivided by "culture" as well but at this point I do not know if that is a necessary contrivance in the rules-or let referees do this as they wish.

Each race then has its own "spell book" of knowledge it has built up in its culture over the ages. Yes there will be some overlap,but there will be many exclusive spells as well. This will foster (I hope) an idea that learning a new spell is something exciting, and players may even seek to teach or steal) spells from each other. My hope is rather than classes defining what spells you learn the referee in each game can make the learning of spells special, unique and exciting in their adventures. Beyond the starting spells a player chooses, there are no more automatic spells gained by players. They will be found as the players adventure in the the world, or if they are able to pay to learn them...but no magic user would ever sell a 4d6 or higher spell...

Since my whole system is d6 based, spells are classifies as being 3d6, 4d6, 5d6 and 6d6. This represents the difficulty in casting a spell. The difficulty is the number of dice rolled to determine if the casting is successful or not. The more powerful the spell, the more difficult it is to cast. While a starting character may only learn 3d6 spells at creation, a character could learn a 6d6 spell at anytime they could find one.

So my system will limit spell casting by three methods: racial knowledge, energy available for the player to cast it, and the difficulty in casting a specific spell.
I believe players will have more flexibility and unique opportunity in casting and discovering spells in this game, and I hope for the referee that provides more opportunities to create a rich world to game in.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Short Story, Tall Tales

Blame it on Hemingway. As much as I love fantasy stories and tales, often times they become so self engorged with describing details and setting scenes that it becomes distracting. The overload of detals diminishes my imagination as the reader. The end result is it pushes me out of the scene or story rather than drawing me in and making forget about the world outside.

Ernest Hemingway is, in my opinion the finest American writer. While I do not like everything he has written, the vast majority is, to my mind perfect. I think the sledge hammer for the power of fine writing, and especially Hemingway’s writing, kicked me in the head like a mule when our Sophomore lit class had the following exercise: Read the short story "The Hills are like White Elephants" and when you finish, describe what the two main characters look like.

So we all did it. We turned in our brief paragraphs and the teacher wrote on the board outlines of we said the characters looked like. No one really had the same description even though we all read the same story. So here comes the mule kick: It turns out, nowhere in the story does Hemingway actually describe the characters appearance, yet through their conversations we all got an impression (albeit different) of how the characters looked. Fucking genius.

Now flip to the opposite writing style provided by Mr. George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice & Fire series.” Friends swore I would love it’s politics, gritty combat, and low magic setting. I picked up the first book and tried to read it 4 times before I finally got into it. It is a great story and I very much enjoy it despite the overly verbose descriptions of every meal and of every outfit worn. It literally takes a monstrous force of will to drive me through these endless and needless (in my opinion) details that actually detract from the story. In fact, I might even say one could shave hundreds of pages from each novel and improve them by cleaning up the overly descriptive manner in which Mr. Martin lavishly details each meal or outfit.

So what does this have to do with gaming? I believe Hemingway’s writing style illustrates that brevity and clarity should be the goal of any good writer. In good rules and good adventures that sort of brevity and clarity translate into more opportunity for the individual or group to make the game their own. The Moldvay B/X rules accomplish this brilliantly for D&D. They provided the skeleton upon which we as players added the heart, mind, and soul of adventuring to give it life.

One of the many failings that I believe sprung from (and grew) as a result of the 1st DMG is the idea that the more rulings one creates for any event in an RPG, the better and perhaps less confusing the game becomes. Much like a novelist who insists on detailing every spice in a meal, every type of bead on a gown, or every coat of arms at a tourney, nothing is left to your imagination. Does this excessive detail make the novel better? Does having a rule for what happens if my character in chainmail falls out of a boat, and a rule for the wizard in robes, and a rule for the Paladin in plate make a game of imagination more fun to play?

By increasing the rules to cover more and more situations, one takes out of the referee’s hands the chance to be creative and to make the game their own. The more details and rules put into the books to cover any possible situation helped to create the rules lawyer. This breed of individual would be much better shown the door when the words ”game” and “fun” are in the same room with this individual. The rule for everything idea stifled creativity and imagination, and also created multiple text book sized necessary reference tomes to “play a game.”

As I write my own RPG rules set, and concept how I plan to lay out the entire line, much like Hemingway I sit back and then cut back. I am trying to parse it down to what matters in order to play the game, without answering every question nor providing every potential detail on how you should do it. I want to provide the Hemingway short story form of an RPG giving the players the ability to dream up their own worlds and flexibility to create their own tall tales using it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mountains & Mole Hills

WotC pulled their PDF's from the web...SO WHAT? The grumblings and consternation flooding the web are childish, selfish and ridiculous.

This stuff was available on the web for purchase for a long time. If you waited and by your laziness did not get whatever you suddenly HAD TO HAVE, blame yourself-not WotC! No company owes you to publish, or even let you have access to their stuff via PDF. You can now buy them second hand at a crazy price now or download bootleg copies which will now flood the web.

When did you suddenly become entitled to a companies back catalog? Having had access for quite some time now, why did you wait so long to get what you suddenly could not live or game without? I understand the "hey I bought it and had 4 downloads left now they took them all away I've been robbed!" line of thought. In a manner of speaking yes that is a pisser, yet I believe certain sites are giving you one last access to previously purchased titles. So problem solved, do your downloads and move on.

WotC does not owe anyone the ability to purchase their products via PDF. If you failed to get what you wanted while it was available, that is YOUR fault and YOUR mistake. No one else is to blame. Take responsibility for it, suck it up, learn the lesson and don;t make it again!

Now get out there and game man! Your own stuff you make is far better than the off the shelf stuff anyway brother!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Afluenza in Fantasy: The Trump Theory of Gaming

I don't think I will spoil the secret to say I am a fan of what would be thought of as low level in gaming in D&D. Much of this stems from my love of literature like Conan, The Black Company, Song of Ice & Fire series, The First Law series by Abercrombie, and really from being a historian.

SO the prism I view my gaming through is gritty and deadly. Magic plays a part as do magical items, but they are necessarily rare and more likely to have some sort of ability than simply be a +5 Ogre slayer. After all sting simply glowed blue when goblins were about, and it was a very treasured item.

When I think of the some of the greatest warriors of all time in our own history: Henry V, Henry III, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Caesar, Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Leonidas, Alexander, Genghis Khan, Nobunaga, and countless others...a single sword thrust would kill them just as quickly as it would me. Caesar was not a level 20 Cavalier with 250 HP able to laugh at dagger thrust after dagger thrust on the floor of the Roman senate after all.

Recently I can across an article in Dragon Magazine VOL I, Iss 5 which showed that one of the greatest wizards of all literature...would be 5th level Magic User at best under D&D rules. Yes, Gandalf is a 5th level Magic User. The author went through Gandalf's every use of magic in The Hobbit, and the Ring Trilogy, to discover that at best Gandalf is level 5.

So what does that say about D&D? I would argue that it shows the gross excess of power creep and over abundance of magic in the game. That sort of excess leads to a a never ending cycle of acquiring more, and it never satisfying.

Let me illustrate my point in a couple ways. First from Film:

The movie ALIEN is a masterpiece in my opinion. One deadly creature wreaks havoc on a group trapped in a ship. They had to create weapons and find a way to kill it. The terror in that one creature is exciting and visceral.

The sequel ALIENS ups the ante even more! If one is scary, an army must be exponentially more scary right? So how do we kill an horde of ALIENS? We send in the MARINES! Give'em machine guns, grenade launchers, shotguns, flame throwers and APC and rain carnage on those bugs. So the one ALIEN that wiped out a whole crew now became a creepy, but manageable target to be killed. By removing the threat level of the ALIEN by increasing the power of the characters, they needed to come up with a bigger bad guy! It required the creation of the QUEEN to really bring the terror again. So we went back to one creature being the ultimate terror.

After that, I'd argue it was game over man, game over! The franchise went from 0-100 in the span of 2 films. After that, they tried going backwards and taking away the fire power to make the individual ALIENS scary again, but that sucked. After that no one cared really. All the magic in the series was spent.

So now let's look at an example form real life. Most of us have had more than a few nights out with the boys. Beer after beer, shot after shot, until you find your self home with no real idea how you got there and about $100 bucks the poorer. You probably can;t recall one great drink from that whole night, and in fact may vow never to drink again.

Compare that experience to having a beer after doing yard work, or a beer and a hot dog at the ball park. That one beer tastes better and is perfect. Another 6 or 7 on top makes it meaningless.

So the same moderation with regards to magic and the magical in game worlds should be applied. The less magic in the world or available to players, the more magical it really becomes.

AS I work on my own RPG, I hope to impart that idea to players and referees. By creating creative and hard won magic items, they truly become treasured items. When any fool can stumble into a dark hole and come up with a magic sword, scroll, shield, ring, potion, or wand, one has to wonder why everyone isn't doing it and why would anyone bother to guard such common place items?

To keep the threat of violence a dangerous prospect for characters is an important part of the referees job. A goblin with a spear should be a threat. It may become a minor one, but the threat should never simply disappear. Controlling the amount of magic in your campaign will go a long ways towards keeping the danger real, and the magic alive when you play.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming Attractions

As I continue to slave away in the spare 15 minutes a day I have to create the next great set of RPG rules to change the world, I have wrestled with how to provide a simple play test rules sample with out giving away the whole thing.

I may have figured it out. Pocket Mod allows you to turn up to 8 written pages into a one page pocket sized fold up booklet! Kind of like origami for nerds.

But what to include? I think the basic resolution engine, some sample spells/ skills/ basic equipment and character creation can all be condensed into a free, simple 8 page booklet.

One problem solved, only 99 to go!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm not classy...

D&D created the standard of hit points, levels, and classes. One of the kludges that AD&D introduced was multi-classing. My own opinion is this grew out of folks uncomfortable with the limiting nature of playing fighters, or thieves, or clerics. People wanted to play an archer, or a magic wielding thief, or a specialized killer assassin or a myriad of other dwarven barbarians, or elf monk ideas they had. In fact one of the remaining issues with D&D is all the variant specialized classes that must be duct taped together in order to play to folks specific character concepts. So classes are in a way limiting to the potential enjoyment of the game and by multi-classing or creating new ones, it may even “break” the game.

On the other hand, a strength of the idea of a character classes is it gives a player a pigeon hole from which to begin the game. If I’ve never played an RPG before a class list lets me pick a clever thief, a ancient wizard, or a battle scarred fighter to start. In addition as a veteran player, if I am exploring ideas for what kind of new character to play, a listing of classes and their description gives me a chance to explore other variations in a simplified format.

Contrast this to the open ended creation of something like GURPS. You need to have some sort of concept of character type before you step into the wilds. Once you figure your stats, then advantages, then disadvantages, then skills you do have a unique character! The issue is the daunting amount of information one must research and know prior to beginning play. For a new player I think it is too overwhelming and it relies on an expert to help guide you in your concept and building of a character to fit that concept.

In the end that’s what character creation boils down to, creating a concept. D&D is limiting in what you can be while GURPS may be too wide open and in trying to provide everything, it becomes overwhelming.

As I work on my own RPG I have taken what I hope to be a middle road of sorts. I do not claim this is unique in anyway, just that it seems to fit into my concept of what makes good gaming. Instead of classes, characters will have a background, maybe call it a career, prior to their current adventuring. This could be anything from wandering wizard, cutpurse, miner, sailor, fisherman, farmer, soldier, town guard, priest, woodsman, or other ideas. I believe this will be similar to the WFRPG idea but it won’t have the idea of migrating into 4 different higher level jobs. The characters had a previous career, then became a full time adventurer. What they end up becoming is whatever they and their GM come up with.

I believe this fills the need to provide a pigeon hole for basic character generation and concept, while allowing a player to become whatever they want through skill purchasing and experience as they play the game.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are you not entertained?

Over at Ode to Black Dougal, Patrick made an interesting post about a campaign with a cap level 3 for the players. You can read it here. This is exactly the kind of gaming I enjoy.

In the comments I found an interesting one of note:
from Badmike...
good luck finding a handful of players willing to game for 30 or so sessions to get their characters to 3rd level! I think the IDEA is intriguing and would make a great pick-up or convention type setting (no one higher than 3rd level in the campaign world); however, the actual application would be very hard to implement. I'm still waiting for the brave soul(s) who are willing to devote a year or so to this endeavor just to prove they could. Just imagine the look on the poor Joe's face as the 2nd level ftr he has been playing for 2 years gets killed by the thrown axe of a kobold warrior, or a fall into a pit trap, or the bite of a good sized war dog.... I won't even mention the absurdity of a "god" that a decent sized troll could work over like a pint of beer at a biker rally....

I guess, because of my own bias on what makes gaming fun, I just don't get it. Is losing a 2nd level character harder to a kobold's axe than losing a 10th to a giant's sword? A loss is a loss. Is it the issue that in gaming for a year you raised one level and that's the problem? Or is it that you only made it to 2nd in that year so you feel cheated? But going from 8th to 9th and then dying is just fine? I don't see it.

I think the difference boils down to what makes gaming fun. In the early levels, kobolds, rats, bugs, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, skeletons and other creature serve as opponents. The characters progress in levels, gain abilities making them more powerful and they gain new magical items to play with, again making them more powerful. This raises the stakes so the challenges become tougher, and the rewards greater..and this forces the cycle on...and on...until the characters fight gods or become immortals.

Sure that is a rarity and probably a lot of folks top out at say 15th-20th level or so. That's my point. If the game is only about leveling up and rewarding players with more gold and more magic it comes to some point where the characters have a veritable swiss armory of magical items, they've slain multiple dragons, demons, liches, vampires, etc. and there are no new worlds to conquer. There is nothing left to fear or fight except gods or and army of dragons or some such silly idea.

When I think of games like this it reminds me of the ending scene of the D&D movie. The sky is FILLED with dragons, ridonculously filled with dragons. Its not scary, its not exciting, its just laughable and goofy! Unfortunately, that's what I think high level gaming devolves into.

The ONE dragon in The Hobbit or Dragonslayer is far more exciting and filled with adventure and wonder then a sky filled with dragons flying in echelon formations. In an odd way Stalin summed the idea up quite well, " One death is a tragedy, a thousand deaths are a statistic." In a gaming sense, fighting one dragon at low levels is a harrowing and rewarding experience. Fighting 5 or 10 or 100 at a high level is just, well, let's say not as rewarding.

At some point no amount of gold is enough to be exciting, the powerful quest weapons and high level spells lose their magic, and no amount of dragons flying is challenging nor army of demons frightening enough.

This gets to the core idea of why do you play? Is it for power? glory? gold? super weapons? higher levels? or is it for fun?

Was exploring the Caves of Chaos or the Village of Hommlet a tiresome bore because you were low level? Did the game only become fun when you ventured into the Tomb of Horrors?

Don't get me wrong I think there is a lot to be said for the challenges of higher level adventures, but there is no reason that these are somehow intrinsically better than those found at lower levels. Regardless of level the challenge is one of risking life and death in fantastic situations against villainous foes for cash and prizes and fame and fortune. Whether they are kobolds or gods the challenge is essentially the same, and no number arbitrarily representing my level nor pocket full of kryptonite+5 really changes that for me.

The higher the character level, the more super powered the treasure, and the outlandish and numerous the foes become the less magical the game is.