Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fighting Fantazine!

While the new Advanced Fighting Fantasy could have used a bit more polish and time, I have become more intrigued with the system itself.  So if you are curious about, or just a long time fan of the system, I highly recommend you check out The Fighting Fantazine! Six issues have been published and it is a beautiful labor of love.  Each delves into a bit of the history of FF like authors, artists and cartographers.  Further it covers the current game book market across all platforms (books, aps, etc.) and each includes a unique adventure for you to try.

The obvious love, care, and effort that goes into each issue is amazing and inspiring.  Consider it the Fighting Fantasy equivalent of Kncokspell or Fight On-but maybe better!  I certainly wish Alex and staff at Fighting Fantazie had worked or directed the folks at Arion Games in the remaking of AFF.  It would have made a world of difference as you will see.

Check out and please follow the Fantazine blog (c'mon let's give them some support!) or go right to the Fighting Fantazine site and download PDF's of all six current issues.

Great work all involved with the magazine, my hats off to you folks-outstanding!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saddle up and ride! BUCKSHOT Wild West RPG now available


Well my latest 8 page RPG is now available for down load on my BUCKSHOT Wild West rpg site.  I was inspired by RPG's like Boot Hill, Aces & Eights, and the new Weird West RPG.

Thanks again to Stuart Robertson and his Weird West RPG for the inspiration!

Mosey on over and give it a ride.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

AFF: Out of The Pit impression

Out of the Pit, and Titan really, appear to be simple reprints. the text in both is black, the art is a grey seemingly somewhat faded or at least different colored images.  Of note the title page fonts inside are the original fonts and presentation in contrast to the covers fonts.  Which again goes to my point about what's the goal of changing covers and sizes?  Who are you attempting to reach with the product?

While AFF (rightly in my opinion) adds armor and armor rolls to the system, Out of the Pit monster book does not carry this over.  No creature has any armor listed nor does it provide suggested armor, nor armor classes or charts of any kind.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

It is very clear me that the AFF rules book was sorted through, revised, re-written, and added to, but apparently (for whatever reason) that is where all effort ended.  When you revise a book and system, that revision must carry through for continuity.  For example in AFF in your adventures monsters have armor--in Out of the Pit there is no mention of armor, no charts, no suggestion.  It adheres to the original printing and system which simply assumed armor and did not deal with it as a separate consideration.

In the end the AFF re-release as a whole is a mixed bag.  There are some highlights: magic, armor, dungeon creation, and writing style in the revision.  There are some underwhelming issues though as well: book/cover design and revisions versus reprint incongruity.

I like the AFF system, I like a number of the revisions and additions...but the overall re-design and re-release feels rushed and unprofessional.  If you did not get the original AFF books or are tired of using your own for fear of destruction, then I can recommend these as workable replacements.  If you are new to the system I think you will like what you find.  Either way you are going to have to do some work to get it all to synch up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Advanced Fighting Fantasy New Rulebook impressions #1

While I am not yet finished here is a to date impression of the new AFF rulebook  It will be a mix of impressions, probably not a true “review” but honestly as I am not playing it, it seems dishonest to call this a review as it's based on read through only.  Keep that in mind as we go through.

AFF RPG book is an 8.5x11 170+ pages perfect bound soft cover. It features part of the original cover on front, but half of the cover is what I’ll call text blocked.  The look does not fit with the previous editions, nor with the FF book line in general whether classic or current.  The FF series of books themselves feature full cover art, and it’s a shame these do not.  From a branding perspective it breaks the tie between the two.  That may have been the goal to establish this as wholly separate, but that makes as much sense as a bikini coffee stand.

I’d have rather seen full color homage art done that pays respect to the past but keeps in the theme of the established FF brand.  Second the originals were roughly 4x6 book sized.  While not practical from a merchandising standpoint, I think digest sized would have created the FF feel and spoke to the brand as well as creating that sense of a new beginning.  The out sized 8.5 x 11 does not fit the FF established brand in my own opinion-so who does it appeal to? It isn’t crunchy enough for a grognards and I think the opportunity was missed to appeal to the nostalgia of old gamers, as well as appeal broadly to new ones in an unimposing format.  Instead it’s sort of muddled not really reaching either.

The book starts off with the original intro from 1985 edition along with a new one for the new edition.  The basics of what is an RPG, and then into game play specifics like, dice rolling, attribute definitions, combat, magic, armor, and damage are described.  This takes about 6 pages-then you get an adventure.  Yup before you learn how to make a character, or even see a pre-gen character you get an adventure.  I found this awkward and if I were not an experienced player I think I would be left more confused.  In the original you had a GM’d walk through helper dungeon, and this new adventure mimics the presentation sort of. It is not a direct port over from Dungeoneer.  

What is awful is the map itself, it is hand drawn and not by any of the geomorphing talent on the blog circuit-more like me circa age 12.  Perhaps that is to make it feel more easy or simple, but it comes off amateurish and unimpressive in a new edition.  Especially since the original in Dungeoneer had terrific art.  It’s like your kid drew a map on a piece of blank paper in appearance, underwhelming would be the best way to describe it.  

Both adventure and map-are not as good as the original Dungeoneer..  Again the outer redesign of the new editions seem to be trying to appeal to a non-FF crowd or possibly a minimally nostalgia based crowd so direct lift and use of assets and layout may have felt out of place to the designers.

Character gen has changed, and I can’t say for the better.  It’s now point based with everyone getting the base value for skill stamina and luck, and a zero for Magic. Then you get 8 points to spread amongst them, with a max addition to each stat like you can only add a max of 2 to your skill or 7 to your Magic.  

Frankly the hallmark of the FF books in my opinion is the random characters generated.  The natural bell curve of 2d6 took care of much of the vagaries of randomness-but did not kill it.  This kills it.  In the back of the book you still have the option to randomly generate attributes, but I wish the author had swapped these and made “build a hero” an option in the back instead.

There are the same options for adding classic races with their bonus skills.  The skills them self have not changed really and armor skill determines the level of armor one can wear. If you are wearing armor above your skill-then your Skill attribute is penalized.   Included are some pre-gen archetypes: Thief, Wizard, Dwarf Warrior, Elf Archer, barbarian, Warrior-Wizard, etc. Oddly these are laid out horizontally and not vertical? Again I am unsure why that decision was made but I think it was a poor one making you turn the book to study them.  It breaks up your reading pattern. Worse is yet to come,then you get a blank page.  

Oh that blank page, representing opportunity lost in so many ways!  Thus far I have counted 2 blank page sides and some only partially (25% maybe) filled with text…then the rest left blank.
My mind reels at this decision.  No classic full page art from the original to use? No classic cover retrospective? No dungeon maps or one page adventures? No what we have learned so far capsule summary? No pre-gen characters or enemies or featured creature?   Nope, it remains just a blank page and a glaring reminder of missed opportunities.  Does it symbolize something deeper in the production of this edition of AFF? I think it does frankly, but that’s gamesmanship from the dugout.

More to come…if you are interested

(Side note on the business model of bikini coffee: I am no prude, but this is about money not morality.  These stands take out roughly 70% of your potential and established coffee hut market (women, families, and most married guys) so you are left with only some guys: the skeezy, lonely, and creepy who want coffee and a bit of something else…which seems like a very small demographic, and maybe not one you want around your employees or business. Besides how many successful global coffee chains can you name like this? NONE! So that’s your business model?  Think again…)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Advanced Fighting Fantasy New Editions: first glance

Just a quick note to say I have the new edition rule book and the new copy of Titan.  Out of the Pit new edition is also on its way.  I have all the old stuff but am not a grognard of it by any means.  I will post more later but at a glance:

1) Titan appears to be simply a full reprint.
2) The art work is recycled...but is all grey toned in comparison to the B&W text-bad call it looks faded or poorly copied.
3) Sorcery and Wizardry magic rules in AFF
4) Armor is handled like weapons-roll a die, consult a chart, and higher the roll more damage you do or defend from
5) LOTS of charts with modifiers for all sorts of things scattered about (climbing, darkness, etc.)
6) With so many charts-it feels like a SCREEN is mandatory or at least necessary.
7) cool dungeon creation rules
8) No FF choose your adventure(s) included
9) got rid of clumsy "star in your movie" text of original
10) Included Dungeon map is poorly (hand) drawn in contrast to rest of design it looks/feels sloppy.

More to come as I get a chance to read more.  The new AFF book is 170 pgs and 8.5x11 (wish it was also offered as digest sized)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wizard's Crown--even more!

Here is a blast from the past-A Computer Gaming World 1986 review of Wizard's Crown!  Of note, look at how long the review is-i love it and wish this were still the standard! Anyway, read it and see if it fires your interest! Of note this is the combat system that later powered the gold box series...

by Scorpia
A circlet of gold, studded with jewels, and surmounted by a brilliant crystal. A source of immense power. The cause of a catastrophic civil war between wizards that laid waste to a city and brought evil to the land. For five hundred years, the crown has remained hidden in the stronghold of the malevolent wizard Tarmon, whose lust for power brought about the downfall of the Fellowship of Wizards. Now, the time has come for the crown to be returned to its rightful owner. The challenge has been given; only the bravest and most resourceful
of adventurers will succeed in the quest. As dawn comes to the town of Arghan, eight hardy souls step forth from the Crossed Swords Inn to meet that challenge. The quest begins....

A difficult quest, as they usually are. Starting with the minor "monsters" of town thieves, muggers and assassins, you progress to the great outdoors, the ruins of the elder city, destroyed in the wizard's war, inhabited now only by creatures of evil and darkness. Fighting your way through the endless hordes of monsters, you will explore the old Thieve's Guild, the mansion of a long-dead (but not departed) wizard, and, finally, somewhere in the wilderness, the castle of Tarmon himself. It will take awhile before the crown is safely returned to
the city.

You'll need both muscle and magic to see you through, and fortunately they are available. Up to eight characters can be in the party, and the full complement is definitely recommended; a lot of MEAN critters are roaming around out there. You can form the group from the characters already included on the disk, or make your own, or any combination. I found that the pre-formed party was very well-balanced, and in fact I finished the game with them instead of creating my own. Don't let that stop you from experimenting with your own characters, however; you could come up with come very potent combinations.Characters can be single or dual-classed, and it's wise to have dual-class members in the party. They won't advance quite so quickly, but they become more and more valuable as time goes on. Classes available are fighter, ranger, thief, priest, and sorcerer, and you can have a character with any combination of those, subject to minimum attribute requirements. You should have at least two priests and one thief in the party; priests can heal wounds and raise the dead (very important); thieves are good at searching, disarming traps, and haggling for good prices when you sell unwanted equipment.

The manual that comes with the game is brief (only 27 pages), but is chockful of good information, and explains in detail how to create a character, giving a step-by-step description of how to do it. Careful attention to this portion will insure that you create good characters for your party. In addition to the basic attributes of Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity, each character comes with a set of skills for his or her profession(s). Not every class has every skill. For instance, only Fighters have skill in using a sword, while only Priests and Rangers can administer first aid to the injured. A Fighter-Priest, of course, would have both. These skills (as well as the physical attributes) can be increased during game play, either through training or by the expenditure of experience points. The maximum value for any skill is 250; for a physical attribute, it is 30. Another important part of the character is Life Points. When these are reduced to zero, the character is dead. Life can be reduced in two ways: from certain magical attacks, from poison, and from bleeding. Yes, I said bleeding. Wizard's Crown has a more realistic way of handling wounds than most other games of this type. There are two categories of wounds: injuries, which reduce the character's skill efficiencies (temporarily), and bleeding, which reduces the character's life points. Both injuries and bleeding are further divided into normal and serious. As you might expect, serious causes more trouble. Characters can often get
by with some minor injury, but serious injuries and bleeding of any kind should be healed at once. This is particularly important early in the game, when your priests do not yet have the power to raise the dead. Dead characters are not taken with you when you leave camp, so if anyone dies, and can't be restored, that character is lost.

All this talk of injuries and bleeding brings combat to mind, and here we have a unique dual system of handling battles between your party and monsters. At each encounter, you can choose to have quick combat or detailed combat. In quick combat, the computer does all the work, and resolves the actions in a remarkably short period of time, in many cases fifteen seconds or less (although it could be somewhat longer, depending on what you're up against). For this combat mode, a text screen comes up, showing your party at the top, and the types and number of monsters you're fighting. As battle proceeds, the numbers change, showing damage incurred by your party and (we hope) fewer and fewer monsters, until they have all been killed. During this phase, you can pause combat for a better look at the figures, and if things look bad, you may try to flee (doesn't always work). You can also choose to use magic or not (you don't always need it). The drawback here, of course, is that you have little control over the actions of the individual party members. You cannot, for instance, direct attacks at specific monsters, nor can you choose what spells your sorcerer will cast. If a character has a special magic item, it won't be used. But it's certainly a fast method of combat, and against weak monsters (weak is relative term; as your party becomes more powerful, more monsters fall into the weak category) it's a good way of fighting.

The second method is detailed combat. Here the screen switches to up-close graphic representations of your party, the monsters, and the surrounding terrain (for instance, if you're fighting in the woods, you'll see trees here and there). Each party member is represented by a character icon (you choose these when the character is created, and can change them later if you like), and can be directed to perform a variety of actions individually. Unless the party has been ambushed, you are allowed to set up the party members almost any way you like, within a certain area, and if you happen to ambush the monsters, you can put your characters anywhere at all in the vicinity. In most cases, I found that the following arrangement worked pretty well: Lord Miles, Sir Col, Sir Frederick and Harold in the first rank; Lightfoot, Father John, and Folnar in the second rank (using bows and spears); and Soul Wind (the sorcerer) as far back as possible (he being the one with the worst armor).During combat, characters can advance, retreat, attack, cast spells, scan for hidden enemies, switch weapons, dodge, use a magic item, fall prone (to avoid arrows), turn undead (priests only), and attempt to hide, among other things. How actions a character can perform depends on what he's doing, and what his dexterity rating is. For instance, a character switching weapons couldn't attack, but he could scan for enemies. All options available to the individual are printed at the bottom of the screen, so no guesswork is involved; you always know what the characters can do. Usually, they will be swinging away at a monster. The target is selectable, depending on how close it is, which way the character is facing, and what weapon the character is using. A sword or
mace is useful only against a target in an adjacent square, but spears can hit at something up to two squares away, and bows (longbow or crossbow) can shoot at any visible target.

In some ways, this form of combat resembles that found in "Galactic Gladiators" and "Galactic Adventures",  but is actually much simpler, much faster (because all commands are acted upon immediately), and not difficult to learn. It will take time to become familiar with it, but you must do so, as there are some monsters out there that you simply do not want to fight in quick combat mode, at least
until your party becomes fairly powerful. death. They never surrender, and they never retreat, no matter how badly things are going for
them. However, you can retreat your party out of combat (one person at a time) if they get into serious trouble. You can only do this with living members, not dead ones; all dead characters will be left behind.

Immediately after combat concludes, the party is  placed in camp mode. This is where you heal your injured members, and look over whatever goodies you took from the defeated monsters (if you ran away from combat, there won't be any treasure). Most items will be ordinary, but some will be special. The group's sorcerer is the one who evaluates the objects, and special ones will have a star next to them. These specials can be anything from rubies and diamonds to magical weapons and armor, potions, rings of protection, or items with spell-casting abilities.How much the party can take depends on how many open slots they have (a maximum of 10 items per person can be carried), and how large it is. A character can carry more small objects than medium or large ones. Of course, you can always drop an item to make room for something better (ditching an ordinary shield in favor of a shield+2, for instance). Also in camp you can save the game (but only outdoors, not in a dungeon). This has a great advantage: the program does not wipe out your save if you leave camp. Therefore, if some of your party get killed, you can simply reboot and start over again from your last saved position (this is automatic). Naturally, any experience or treasure found since the save will be lost, but on the other hand, you will have your party intact again

In the dungeon, things are a little bit different.It's all done close-up, like detailed combat, with the individual party members represented by their icons. And this is where a problem crops up. The problem is movement. When you first enter a dungeon (or a new dungeon level), you choose the party member who will be "active". This active character is the one who will respond to the movement commands; all other party members will follow that one automatically. It sounds good, but often you will find party members getting stuck behind walls. When this happens, the only thing you can do is set everyone to "independent" status (meaning they don't move at all), and set the stuck ones (one at a time) to active status, and move them away fromthe obstruction. You can end up doing a lot of these maneuvers unless you're really careful. Fortunately, when you go up or down a level in a dungeon, everyone in the group goes along, regardless of what movement status they have. This is helpful when travelling through known areas; you make one member active, all the rest independent, and then move the active one as quickly as possible to the stairs. It's a great time-saver. Another drawback to dungeons is the inability to set up for combat. When an encounter occurs, it happens right then, right there, and you must fight
as-is; you have no opportunity to change positions until after the combat has started. This could be a problem if your weaker members happen to be bunched up near the front, and your fighters are in the back.
Experience, is difficult to come by, and this makes advancement slow, especially for dual classed characters. There are no levels in the game, just gradual improvement of skills and attributes (a much more sensible way of doing things). Killing monsters is the only way of gaining experience, and you do need to waste a good many of them to get a decent amount of points. Each time you return to the Crossed Swords Inn, you can exchange experience points for skill improvement. Each skill requires a certain number of points, and the increase is randomly determined, depending on how far you've advanced. For example, it costs four experience points to increase sword skill. If the skill is currently under 100, the increase will be somewhere between 1-8 points. When the skill reaches 100, the increase will be only 1-4 points. At ability 150, increase is only 1- 2, and at 200, only 1 point. Now let's take a look at the world. You begin at the Crossed Swords, with either the original party or one of your own design. Leaving the inn, you find yourself in town, near the front gate, with a
small double-icon representing the party as a whole. The icon can be moved in any of eight directions by pressing the appropriate number (a small rosette is displayed at the lower right showing which number corresponds to which direction). The town has a number of establishments: temples, where priests can restore their karma (needed for spells); shops that sell various items of equipment; taverns, where you can pick up valuable info and reduce morale loss; a market, where you sell treasure; an armory, with weapons and armor (only
ordinary) for sale; a park; a cemetery; a wizard's mansion (they will improve any magic item for a fee); and a training ground for skill improvement.

Outside Arghan to the south are the ruins. Here monsters abound, and encounters are frequent. The further away from the gate you go, the nastier the things you will come up against. Fortunately, there are a few temples out there, where you can safely stay for awhile and rest up, provided you know the word that opens the door. At the beginning, stay in town. You are no match for the creatures roaming in the ruins. Most especially, read the manual thoroughly. It contains excellent advice, and you should pay attention to it; you'll live longer that way. In fact, read the manual a couple of times before you boot the game, so you know what you're doing. Combat is generally straightforward. Always eliminate the more powerful monsters first. Usually these will be enemy spell-casters, who can make real trouble for you if you don't get to them fast. When fighting at night, cast a Foxfire spell as soon as possible; visibility is greatly reduced in the dark. When you're up against the likes of Undead Warriors, always get off a Reveal Enemy spell; Warriors are usually accompanied by ghosts and such who will often be invisible at the start. Vampires are especially nasty, since they reduce life points directly upon touch, and most of the time you'll have to rely on your priests to get rid of them, although they are killable (it takes awhile, tho). The dungeon levels have set encounters. Monsters will be found in specific places, and once killed, they will not reappear. This is handy, as the dungeons are certainly the most difficult areas of the game, and cleaning then out is a long and hard task. Do one level at a time, and go back to town in between. Remember that you still have to fight your way back to Arghan, so don't use up all your resources in the dungeon (no saving there!); you may be too weak to survive in the wilderness. Also, make sure you go over every spot on every level; you will find some interesting items, and also pick up some very valuable information.

Tarmon is exceptionally hard to kill. He is also surrounded by a small army of demons, just to make things more difficult for you. It is quite likely that one or more of your party will die before you finish off Tarmon, so do your best to keep at least one priest alive through the combat. You should not attempt the final level of Tarmon's stronghold until your party has the best possible armor and weapons (but do NOT, under any circumstances, hit Tarmon with a magic weapon; it will shatter), your sorcerer is at maximum power, your priests at maximum karma, and your party generally at maximum skill abilities.

My one quarrel with this game is that the emphasis is very heavy on hack and slash. The puzzles, such as they are, are pretty trivial. There is no interaction to speak of between the party and anyone else. In town, you either buy or sell, both of which are mechanical actions; outdoors, everything you come across is hostile and must be killed. It does tend to get a little dull after awhile. Still, the
game has many interesting features of its own, and should not be overlooked on that account. Bottom line: Recommended, although a little less hack and a little more puzzle would have been better.
Copyright 1986 by Scorpia, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wizard's Crown

This is probably one of my very few regrets in life, or maybe not regret so much as unfulfilled wish.  I ALWAYS wanted to play this CRPG.  It was released by SSI right in the middle of the AD&D 2e hullabaloo in 1986.  I had stopped playing D&D by then, but was still interested in fantasy RPG's.  I played rogue and Bard's Tale and Ultima, but they seemed more like games I played because everyone else did, and frankly they did not deliver an RPG experience the same way I played them with pen and paper.

Then came Wizard's Crown...the box art alone and me geeked! Wallow in its greatness! Here is a fantasy cover with NO ONE in plate mail, a guy is injured, the shield has no heraldry and its scarred and to any TFT/Melee/wizard fan the phrase TACTICAL COMBAT was like manna from heaven.  It was like someone got into my head and lifted a scene right out of my pen and paper game!  I read ads, saw it in stores, and even read a LOOONG review in Dragon #114 about it.  It was the perfect game I had waited for!

Then, I never played it...

I can;t come up with a because "x" then "y" rationale but I think I can tell why.  I know the $40 price tag was beyond my means to some extent, and we did not have a computer to play it, as I played over at a friends on his C64.   My guess is I never bought it because my friend WAS a Bard's Tale fanatic, and I know my type of game would have been not often played by him.  So I would have a $40 rarely played game, or worse, I'd leave it at my friends dirty house and his dog or something worse would happen to the game.  In the end whatever the reason I never got to play it.

I know there are a TON of emulators and I "could" play it today, heck I even have a word doc of the rule book for pity's sake, just for nerd coolness.  One of the problem's with some games is they don;
't age well visually-and honestly WC did not age well.  Now for a guy who loves roguelikes you would think this would not matter...but for some reason it does.  Still, If I could find a poster sized version of that cover I would snap it up in a heart beat!  A sequel to WC came out...dagger something...but it just never fired my imagination like WC did...and still does.

Anyway, I guess that is one more strength for pen & paper rpg's really, the visuals you have while playing them never go out of date.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Where to next?

I just put up a poll on my Rogue Space RPG site.  YOU can determine where the game goes next?  If you have not downloaded it yet, give it spin and let me know what you think.  Your feed back, good or bad is appreciated.

I just got a couple new Dragon Magazines in the mail that I can't wait to read.  A nice reward for a weekend of toil!

Rogue Space Retrofit

Quick update, I found a hole in the hull and did a quick patch job this morning.  It was an obvious weakness which I patched up, but probably a true revision is necessary.

If you downloaded Rogue Space already its fine, but if you want the clearer update v2 its out.  Frankly a v3 is probably the best thing so I can fully clean it up.  In the meantime she flies just fine.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ROGUE SPACE RPG-Supplement one

Yes Rogue Space is not even a day old and already there is a supplement available!  Those Keebler Space Gnomes work fast!  Based on the bookmark character sheets I use to play test my Roguish RPG, I whipped a few for your use to try with my new Rogue Space RPG. 

Rogue Space RPG...We have lift off!!

Mission Control we have lift off...the Rogue Space RPG is GO!
 Blast on over to download the free basic rules as a pocket mod on my site!

You know the more I think about it, the more this site reminds me of a Mission Control for my crazy mental trips.  Well I hope you are on board for another one!  This RPG has a bit more current Roguish RPG design elements in it, yet is still its own thing just like my COLLAPSE RPG is the same but different.  Who knows maybe one of the test flights will scrub the main mission?  Maybe not, but it could stat a whole new "program" or maybe it will be a case of "Houston...we have a problem."

Download it and let me know!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rogue Space...T-Minus 9.5 hours to launch

I will be releasing the Rogue Space basic rule book for free download tomorrow on my Rogue Space RPG site.  If you enjoyed the Weird West Pocket Mod rule set, this is similar in concept and presentation (not rules)with a sci-fi bent.  I'll wait and see how it  is received before worrying about additions, but rest assured there is more...

Rogue Space...launching soon?

I have had Rogue Space RPG in the back of my mind all year, even had a secret blog site that 1 person found.  Anyway  I think everything is sort of coming together now. Rogue Space is an amalgam inspired by thoughts and plans for my own Roguish RPG and mashed up with the new cool quickness of Stuart Robertson's Weird West RPG. I am hopeful between chores this weekend to have the alpha flight rules of it out by Sunday maybe.  Keeping it 8  pages for pocket mod coolness is a must for me so we will see how things progress.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Iliad, The Odyssey, Beowulf...and Melee/Wizard?!

That's three of my all time favorite books!  Look at that art from the new signet classics releases, I had to buy all 3 (again to my wife's dismay) JUST because the art is THAT COOL.  Especially the cover of BEOWULF-if that does not say SWORD & SHIELD brother you aren't looking (or reading) closely enough!

...and back in '78 Glenn L. Williams converted some of their biggest scenes into Melee/Wizard scenarios!  Below is the article from Space Gamer #16 so break out your hex maps and counters and let me tell you of the days of HIGH ADVENTURE!


by Glenn L. Williams
Fantasy has always been an important part of man's culture and literature - from Homer's epics, through the British scops, to our contemporary sword and sorcery authors. These great fantasies almost always have as a central theme some form of personal combat, whether physical, magical or both. With the microgames MELEE and WIZARD, these battles of literary fantasy can be recreated. I have chosen three epics: BEOWULF, with its three battles; the ILIAD's final duel between Achilles and Hector; and the ODYSSEY, in a solotaire version of the cave fight between Odysseus and the cyclops, Polyphemos.


BEOWULF, the earliest English epic, concerns the career of a singular, boastful Geat warrior who becomes a king. His career was marked by three great personal battles, recreated below. There was little magic or divine intervention in these battles , which, although they have an aura of the supernatural, were solely on a physical level. 

The first battle (with the giant monster Grendel) took place at night in a mead hall in Denmark. Grendel's nightly raids had devastated the kingdom for twelve years, and Beowulf, an outsider from southern Sweden, vowed to destroy the monster. The action took place between Grendel and Beowulf at night amid the corpses of the hero's slaughtered friends. The Melee board serves well as the mead hall, Herot. The entrance hexes are the doorways. Select twelve warrior counters, one will be Beowulf, the rest his friends. Randomly place them face down around the edge of the Melee board Al l figures are lying down, all are unarmed and unarmored, and all but Beowulf are asleep. The ST and DX of the warriors are 12, IQ 8. Beowulf is ST 14, DX 14, and IQ 12. For Grendel use the WIZARD giant counter (not the cyclops, we'll use him later). For our purposes Grendel is simply an unarmed giant with the characteristics from WIZARD: ST 30, DX 9, IQ 8, and MA 10. 

Grendel enters through any doorway hex. He may attack one sleeping Geat per turn, doing triple damage (remember, all hexes are rear hexes, so his adjDX is 13). On each turn beginning with the first, roll a six-sided die. On a one, the Geats awaken. On the second turn, roll again, the Geats awaken on a one or two, and so on until the fifth turn when they will automatically awaken. When the Geats are awakened, roll against IQ for each. Failure to make the roll means the individual warrior panics and flees through the nearest door. Since Beowulf is not asleep, he does not panic. A warrior who has fled will not return. 

When Grendel attacks Beowulf, he automatically misses and the hero automatically strikes at triple damage. Essentially this scenario is an ambush, and the monster was not expecting the sudden twist his wrist took when the hero grabbed him. From that point, combat is hand to hand, and on all ensuing turns the monster fights at DX 7 as he is literally scared of dying. For each time Beowulf inflicts four or more points damage, roll a six-sided die: on a one or two the hero has ripped the monster's good right arm from its socket and the poor beastie is a permanent southpaw. Once Grendel has lost his arm, he must attempt to disengage and flee every turn. The monster is extraordinarily strong against an unarmed, unarmored opponent, therefore, Beowulf needs the advantages given. After playing this scenario a few times see how calmly you go to sleep. Think back to your childhood, maybe there was a good reason to be afraid of the dark! 

Beowulf's other two battles are treated similarly. The second battle took place in a hall sunken below the surface of a lake. Use the Melee board. The fight was the day after the first battle against Grendel's vengeful mother, the hag (ST 13, DX 13, MA 10). She has a stone flesh spell for the duration of the game. Her hands are claws and are the equivalent of daggers. Beowulf has the same characteristics as before, but is armed with a broadsword and equipped with chainmail. The first hit on the hag with an ordinary weapon shatters it, and reduces the damage inflicted by half. On one side of the hall, near the center, are three swords hanging on the wall. Two are ordinary, one is magical and completely nullifies the stone flesh and shatter-weapon protection spells of the hag. Beowulf may not attempt to get a new weapon until his old weapon breaks. The two combatants begin in an entrance hex in hand to hand combat I If you have an unnatural desire to kill heroes, the hag had some attendant monsters who help drag Beowulf into the hall. Add two small monsters (from the MELEE countermix): ST 6, DX 12, MA 6, hands do ½ die damage in hand-to-hand combat only. In this case begin as before, except that Beowulf is engaged by the two monsters. Place the hag in the center of the board. Since these are monsters with sharp claws, treat Beowulf's chainmail as if it were a creature with its own ST of 15. Each hit the armor absorbs reduces its ST by 1, thus the little fellows can't get at Beowulf, but they can rip his bright mail to shreds. The hag cannot engage Beowulf until the monsters have disengaged him or have died (their battle rage is such that they cannot distinguish friend from foe). 

The final battle was between Beowulf as an aged king and a small dragon which had infested his kingdom. Beowulf's ST and DX are reduced to 13, and he is equipped with chainmail, a large shield, a broadsword and dagger. He sought the dragon in the company of twelve of his warriors, all of whom save one, deserted immediately. The one warrior who stood by his ring-giving lord was a kinsman, Wiglaf, whose characteristics and equipment are the same as Beowulf's. In the epic, he vacillated before joining the battle, so he may only enter on a roll of one or two. If Beowulf is killed, Wiglaf will attempt to avenge his death and attack that turn. Use the WIZARD board. The dragon and the warriors enter from opposing sides (the battle was fought at the base of the dragon 's tower, so his entrance hexes represent the doorway). The object is to slay the dragon, even if all the warriors die or flee. In the epic, the dragon was defending his treasure hoard and will not attempt to fly. If you still have some maudlin regard for the old hero, allow him to enter in the company of Wiglaf and his other warriors. The eleven are ordinary warriors, ST 12, DX 12, IQ 8, and equipped exactly as the king. Each turn they must roll against IQ to see if they panic and flee. The dragon will probably kill Beowulf and all who oppose him, so play this scenario from both sides and compare results.


The concept of gaining personal glory through personal combat (aristeia) was certainly present in BEOWULF, but it is more explicit in Homer's epic, the ILIAD. If you have not read this fantasy classic, it opens in the last years of the seige of Troy with a quarrel between the Greek's leader, Agamemnon, and their superlative warrior, Achilles. The hero withdrew to his tent to sulk, knowing that without his strength and the terror he inspired, the Greeks would panic and be slaughtered when they faced the Trojan's greatest warrior, Hector. Only when Hector killed Achilles ' best friend , Patroklos (who was impersonating the sulking Achilles), did the great warrior re-enter the battle. Unfortunately, Hector had stripped Achilles' armor from Patroklos' corpse as battle spoils, leaving Achilles without armor. His divine mother convinced Hephastos, the gods' smithy, to forge brilliant and glorious new armor in which Achilles strode forth to meet the towering Trojan hero. The duel ended surprisingly quickly once the two came face to face, and the Greek killed the Trojan. Hector's death left the Trojans without a mighty warrior to lead and inspired them, and the disspirited city eventually fell. The end of the city and the wooden horse are not part of this epic. This is the framework within which the duel can be staged, with some modifications for balance. 

Obviously, these god·favored warriors were not ordinary men, but had special characteristics which elevated them above the mass of opposing spearmen. Hector, although stronger and braver than almost all the Greeks, was not so brave nor so strong as Achilles. Their personal characteristics are given below:

The armor of Achilles was special due to its divine origin, while that of Hector, although well made, was ordinary. The skill and experience of Hector compensated for the encumbrance of the breastplate and greaves. Therefore, Hector's armor is the equivalent of chainmail, with no penalties. Achilles' armor is the equivalent of plate, with no penalties. Each of the heroes carries a normal large, round shield, each may carry two spears and wear a dagger. The extra is carried in the shield hand and must be readied before used. A spear cast is ½ normal DX adjustment, that is -1 DX for every 2 hexes the target is distant (round fractions down).
If you desire to add other warriors to either side, their ST and DX would be 12. their IQ 8. Armor is chainmail equivalent, their equipment: a large shield, spear and dagger. They may serve as either the hero's immediate companions, or as the mass of battling warriors through whom the heroes must wade to get at each other. Both functions are illustrated in the epic. These other warriors may also have a spoiling function, getting in the way of cast spears or trying to get the enemy hero with a lucky thrust of their own. Back-stabbing is a legitimate tactic.

The battles of the ILIAD, whether the mass actions or the individual duels, were played against the larger scheme of Zeus' divine plan. The various gods and goddesses backed first one faction then another, much as gamblers back different horses. Some stayed relatively loyal to their chosen favorites, Athena to Achilles, Apollo to Hector. Divine assistance provided to these men resembled the spells in WIZARD. To receive divine aid, the heroes must generally roll against IQ.
Achilles has three of these divine "spells" plus one of his own:
  1. A normal aid spell as Athena guides his hand . Roll after movement and apply the effects immediately. It may be attempted only once.
  2. Athena's breath may blow aside the first cast weapon which actually strikes Achilles. This is rolled for after the weapon strikes but before damage is rolled. It takes effect retroactively, that is, the weapon is considered to have been a miss and the hit is completely negated. This aid is also available only once, and failure to make the roll means the spell is lost.
  3. Athena retrieves the first spear cast by Achilles which misses its target. Once again, roll on the miss. The weapon is immediately available on the next turn and does not require a ready weapon action. If Athena does not retrieve the spear, she will not do so again.
  4. Achilles has his own "spell" : his mighty war cry which chilled the Trojan's blood. He may shout it once, and its effects are:
  1. each opponent has his DX reduced by 3 for that turn
  2. each opponent must make a saving throw against IQ or he may neither move, nor attack that turn, only defend
  3. for the duration of the turn, each opponent is treated as if he has received 3 hits that turn which count toward the 5 needed for a DX adjustment on the next turn. At the beginning of the next turn, these points are restored. Saving throw is against IQ. For all of these effects, roll once per opponent, and a failure to make the roll imposes all three effects.
The "spells" available to Hector are three:
  1. Apollo's shadow, a normal seven mega hex shadow. It may be invoked twice per game at any time during the turn sequence, rolling against IQ. It is automatically invoked whenever Hector takes 5 or more hits in one turn. No matter how it takes effect, the spell is never available more than twice. Failure to make the necessary roll does not affect its later availability. The spell has a two turn duration.
  2. Apollo may grant one aid spell, exactly as that available to Achilles by his protectress.
  3. Hector also had a terrible war cry which was not so horrible as Achilles'. The reductions are 2 rather than 3. It may be shouted once, otherwise it is the same.
Use the WIZARD board. The heroes begin on opposing sides in the entrance hexes. Neither may leave the field until his opponent is killed. It does not matter who kills the hero so long as he expires. Ordinary warriors may be forced to retreat off the board if they are against the edge when they take five or more hits: if they do so, they are gone for good. They may also panic (instead of being frozen by the war cry). Panic is random movement off the board To better simulate the fearsomeness of the heroes in battle, you might also require an ordinary warrior to roll against IQ when attacked by either Achilles or Hector, failure meaning the poor fellow turns tail and runs off the board.

With these modifications to MELEE and WIZARD, you are ready to take up spear and shield and stand before the towering walls of Ilion. As Achilles, you have an opportunity to wipe the stain from the honor of Helen's husband Menelaos, as Hector to save you r city from pillage. Helen's face may have launched a thousand ships, but Hector's valor may sink them! May Apollo or Athena be at your side.


Homer's second epic, the ODYSSEY is the story of one of the Greek heroes' return home. The hero, Odysseus, had angered Poseidon, and the god placed many obstacles in the sailor's way, delaying his homecoming for ten years. One of these obstacles was the cyclops Polyphemos. Odysseus and some of his crew were trapped in the cyclops cave when the giant one-eyed monster rolled a massive stone across the entrance. In the epic, the Greeks fashioned a spear and blinded the brute, then escaped from the cave by clinging to the bottom of his sheep. Odysseus, before blinding the cyclops, had told him his name was Nobody. Thus, when the giant roared in pain and his fellows came to aid him, in answer to their question who had injured him, the unfortunate replied, "Nobody." The other cyclops had better things to do than listen to such drivel and left.

This scenario is solitaire and played on the MELEE board which represents the cave. One set of entrance hexes is the blocked cave mouth. Odysseus has four crewmen with him. Their ST and DX are 12, the hero's ST 12, DX 14, and an IQ of 14. The Greeks have neither arms nor armor, only one spear which they must share. Odysseus has two "spells" which simulate his reputation for clever, quick words: a confusion spell with a presumed ST of one, and a limited control person. The latter has only one purpose: if the cyclops has been blinded, and stumbles against the entrance, Odysseus may try this spell. If he succeeds, the cyclops will roll away the stone and flee into the outer world. If he fails, either the cyclops will eat the Greeks, or they will have to get used to the smell of rotting cyclops while they starve in the dark cave. The scenario assumes that unlike the epic, the Greeks botched their first strike, and the cyclops is armed with his club and very angry. Any time the Greeks get a hit with the spear, roll against the spear carrier's adjDX -2 to see if the cyclops is blinded. The Greeks are huddling together, and therefore must occupy adjacent hexes.

The cyclops' move is always a charge attack if not engaged, a shift attack if engaged, and an attack in hand-to-hand combat. The characteristics of the cyclops are those of the WIZARD giant. When he moves to attack, he will always attack the center of the group. Once he is blinded, his options are the same, but his movement changes. Roll one six-sided die for direction. Roll a second for dis lance in hexes. Even if he rolls a six for distance, he still charge attacks. If he runs into a wall. he takes one ST point in damage. The WIZARD countermix includes a beautiful cyclops.

In this scenario, if you can lie, cheat and steal, you might make it home. One hint, though: don't kill the poor guy before he opens the door, even Odysseus couldn't lie to a rock and get it to roll away.

In each of these scenarios, surviving is not easy. The heroes won their battles not merely by skill but by luck, the roll of the die. I have meant it to be hard to recreate the hero's feats in personal battle. The same techniques may be applied to other fantasy battles. For example, David (a small hobbit-like figure with a sling) can meet Goliath of Gath (a Hector-like hero), or Horatio can defend a narrow bridge. May your fantasies be pleasant!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Strange Fascination 2: Wizard (TFT/Melee) Designer notes

Straight from the 1978 pen of Steve Jackson are the following designer notes he wrote in Space Gamer #15 regarding Wizard.  I could pontificate on why I think it is important, but like any good historical document, YOU should read and interpret it for yourself.  So fellow TFT/ Melee/ Wizard fans..enjoy the gnosis:

A designer’s introduction

WIZARD is the biggest, the most complex, and the generally hairiest game I’ve designed to date. When the big sections of THE FANTASY TRIP come out, of course, they'll dwarf WIZARD (since at least one of them will incorporate some of WIZARD) and probably be ready for a rest home. I’d rather not think about it now.
Part of the difficulty (and size) stemmed from the fact that this is part of an evolving game system. All kinds of things that don’t happen in WIZARD had to be taken into account, keeping later games from becoming illogical. For instance: If you can create an illusion and see through its eyes, what keeps you (when exploring a labyrinth) from simply creating an illusion on the other side of a door and having it report back? Nothing. So ... we had to say (and it seems logical, anyway), a wizard cannot create an image or illusion except in his line of sight. And so on, and on.
The difficulty of abstracting a MicroGame from a large system, when the large system exists only in the form of a steadily growing pile of notes and one ongoing campaign, should not be underestimated. It’s kind of like trying to do macrame with worms.
There were three basic steps in WIZARD’s design. The first, during the construction of MELEE, was when it seemed so simple that we thought MELEE might include magic. The second. after that idiotic euphoria wore off, was when we kept coming up with more and more ideas - and more possible interactions. (Well, suppose you cast a fire into the shadow so it can’t be seen, and an invisible figure walks into it, what happens?) I didn't think it would ever get straight unless we threw out a lot. The third phase was when it all suddenly shook down, until it was just a matter of playtesting and very careful proofreading to make sure that everything was written down the way it was supposed to be. That was when I was very glad that l do all my own typing - it may be time-consuming, but it means I have more opportunities to find a glitch.
But it’s out. Finally.


The general idea behind WIZARD, of course, was to design a fantasy-roll-playing magic system superior to D&D, T&T, et cetera.  The first requirement was a method by which the effects of each spell could be clearly and succinctly stated. This notably lacking in a number of D&D spells, but since the gamemaster can make his own interpretation and enforce it on the players, the lack of clarity in the books can be tolerated  However, WIZARD is meant to be a non-refereed game. Therefore, to avoid arguments, each of the spells has got to be absolutely clear. Otherwise, (as often happens in other fantasy games) the players will spend more time arguing than playing.
Clarity was achieved by making all spells tie in with the established attributes of the game figures. MELEE introduced two basic attributes: ST and DX. Figures in MELEE also have an MA (movement allowance)and can withstand a given  number of hits per turn, depending on their armor. WIZARD uses these, plus a third basic attribute (IQ) as factors on which spells act. All spells affect one or more of these attributes, or directly affect a figure's status in terms of the options it can choose. The spell may affect the target's DX (Aid, Clumsiness) the DX of anyone striking at its target (Blur, Invisibility, Flight), the DX of anyone in the room (Dazzle) ... ad infinitum, almost. ST may be affected by a spell which directly puts hits on its victim. Even IQ can be cut, by a Confusion spell. The more complicated the spell, the more things it is likely to simultaneously do to its subject or his foes in order to achieve its effect.
Spells putting such effects on their target are either Missile Spells (direct wizardly attacks. putting hits on their foes) or Thrown Spells (more subtle, shorter-range spells, some friendly and some unfriendly). There are also Special Spells (weird ones which could not be conveniently classified, such as Teleport, Dazzle, and a few others).
 The other classification of spells, and (I feel) the job WIZARD does best compared to other systems, is Creation. Using a Creation spell. a wizard can put a new counter on the board - fire, wall, shadow, human (including his own duplicate), animal, giant, gargoyle, dragon ... anything. Furthermore, the new counter can be one of three types: real (limited as to type of “summoned” being, but totally solid and real), illusory (acting as a real counter until something successfully “'disbelieves”' it), and image (totally unreal and harmless).
 The illusions work especially well, 1 think. In contrast to D&D, WIZARD strictly defines how an ''illusion'' is disbelieved. A character must pick the specific option of disbelieving (which means doing nothing else that turn), and attempts his IQ roll on 3 dice. The Player has to really think a figure isn't real -- or at least risk the chance -- and the FIGURE has to be intelligent enough to make the roll. Once this happens, the illusion goes away but until then,  it does real damage.  No more of this -- “We said we disbelieved it!” “'Hah. If you disbelieved it, why did you shoot at it?'' -- sort of thing


Another thing I’m rather proud of is the saving roll system. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want saving rolls in THE FANTASY TRIP at all. My thought was, “If it happens, it happens; you don’t get another roll to try to get out of it.” However, I soon realized there were situations where you needed to roll for a bad event -- but the roll should be modified to take into account the person that the bad event was about to happen to. Therefore, saving roll was needed. But I detest the D&D system, with complex matrices and tables of saving rolls for all kinds of characters in all kinds of situations, and multiple adds and subtracts scattered through the books. T&T is a little clearer, but not much.
Therefore, the TFT system for saving rolls works like this:
  1. The basic statement when something bad happens/is happening is “It happens.” You don’t start with a 50% chance of the trap springing, the illusion appearing, etc. -- you assume it always happens UNLESS
  2. the figure in question makes his appropriate saving roll. Therefore, you have the determination down to one die roll -- nice and simple. But you have to take into account the figure making the roll AND the type of danger, so
  3. each saving roll is defined by two things: NUMBER OF DICE and ATTRIBUTE rolled against. For instance, to make in illusion vanish, you need a 3-die saving roll against IQ -- that is, if you roll your IQ or LESS on 3 dice (ALWAYS six-sided dice in this system and NEVER poly hedra) you disbelieved the illusion. To avoid falling down when crowded by a giant or dragon, you make a 3-die saving roll against DX. IN THE LABYRINTH will require much harder saving rolls -- for instance, a 4-die roll against DX to duck a cloud of sleeping potion or arrow, a 5-die (!) roll against ST to knock a door open, or an 8-die roll against COMBINED ST and DX to keep from being squashed by the old moving-wall room trick. And so on.
That way, you don’t need a table. All you need is your own character sheet. And, of course luck with the dice.


The first thing you have to do, when sitting down to play WIZARD, is create your figure(s). To do so, you have not only the ST and DX from MELEE, but also a third attribute -- IQ. The higher IQ you have, the more spells you can learn and the bigger a list you have to choose from. The higher-IQ a spell, the more spectacular it is.
However, IQ is (in my opinion) the least important of the attributes. If you are setting up a “beginning”' figure (8 in each attribute plus 8 more, or a total of 32 for the 3 attributes), you  shouldn't give more than 9 or 10 to IQ unless you are building a team of wizards -- in which case it's okay to have one smart, but weak one.
The reason is simple, You HAVE to have dexterity. A wizard with DX of less than 10 or 11 has no business being where people will try to kill him  He'll act slowly, miss a lot of spells, and waste his strength when he misses. And you HAVE to have strength to power your own spells and to take the hits enemy spells will put on you. A strong, dextrous wizard with a few spells can totally destroy a smart one who is too slow off the mark and too weak to cast all the spells he knows, The trick is to find the right balance. And the right balance for a 32-point (beginning) wizard is nothing like the right balance for a fairly  advanced  (40-point)  one.  Experiment... create wizards with different point totals and see how they work out, And remember, teams are much more interesting than single combats.


There are so many spells in WIZARD that I doubt anyone will ever come up with a list of “best” ones. On the other hand, some are more useful than others. You get more mileage out of a cheap spell like TRIP than an expensive one like SUMMON GARGOYLE.  But sometimes you need that gargoyle. You never can tell what will come in handy.
For those of you who are already playing WIZARD, or think you might like to, a few suggestions on tactics with the various spells:


By all means, take at least one missile spell the strongest one your IQ will allow. Lightning is deadly,  and Fireball is pretty good - but even Magic Fist can get you out of a tight spot, if you roll well.
The missile spells are very useful for putting hits on an enemy a long ways away. However, they put a terrific drain on your strength (especially with the Magic Fist), and it is possible to hurt yourself worse than your foe. Therefore, you shouldn't use a missile spell unless you think it'll end the fight (giving you a chance to rest) or unless you have to knock out one specific enemy to save your own skin.
Taking a very-high-DX wizard and immediately throwing a missile spell is a cute way to end a battle in one round. However, if you do this too many times, your opponent will either insist on the Courtesy Rule (giving ham a chance to put Reverse Missiles on himself and hoist you with your own petard), or take a wizard with (for instance)IQ/8, ST/14, and DX/10. If (for instance) an IQ/8, ST/8, DX/16 wizard throws a 6-die Magic Fist (the best he can do without falling over), he can expect to do an average of 9 hits damage -- leaving you with plenty of strength to get him, with your staff (if you have enough ST left to withstand HIS blow) or with a Magic Fist of your own.


One of the most unnerving things a wizard can do is start throwing creatures of various kinds at his opponent. Images, illusions and summoned (real) creatures are all useful, in different ways.
IMAGES are cheap (1 ST). However, they do no harm and disappear when anything (even another image) touches them or vice versa. Use Images to distract your opponent and to draw his fire (especially when  you're getting weak). An image has to act aggressively (or it won't be convincing), but should try to unobtrusively avoid combat -- for when it hits or is hit, it disappears.
ILLUSIONS are the best all-purpose creation. They cost only 2 ST and can do real damage until one of your enemy's figures disbelieves. If your foes are stupid for don't think you would cast an illusion, this will take a long time  However, if your foes are smart (one of the few great benefits of high IQ), your illusions will be disbelieved easily, and your effort will be wasted.
SUMMONED creatures cost a lot of  strength -- and keep costing it every turn. However, they cannot be eliminated except by their death or yours. Against a high-IQ foe, they're very useful -- especially if he thinks they're illusions and wastes a turn or two trying to disbelieve. Since YOU make the roll for his attempt to disbelieve, he may not catch on right away. (Similarly, you may trick him into trying to disbelieve an Image which won't go away until HIT.) If your foe uses a lot of creations against you, be flexible. Use images of your own (especially wolves, which move quickly) to engage them and hold them away. If the enemy figures are images, a hit will dispel them; if they're real, every turn you keep them busy costs your foe vital strength. Use images or illusions of YOURSELF to confuse him as to which target to attack. Cast fire around you that will stop real animals and images, and put hits on illusions, Or sometimes best of all ignore the creations, and use a missile spell to clobber their creator.


The other creation-type spells are the obstacles -- fire, wall and shadow. Walls are purely defensive. Shadow, however, is useful as an offensive weapon -- cast on a foe, it blinds him and messes up his DX, though it also protects him from your attacks. Cast in front of yourself, shadow is a nice defense -- and can conceal fire, wall, or even an illusionary or summoned creature. Fire is best as an offensive weapon, though it provides a last-ditch defense when cast in a ring around you.


In a one-on-one fight, a fighter can usually kill a wizard if the two have equal point totals ... and if the fighters have missile weapons, the wizards generally die very quickly (unless they have a high enough IQ to use Reverse Missiles at the right time)  However, in a 4-on-4 fight, three fighters and a wizard can generally demolish four fighters.
The wizard's tactic is to stay right behind his lighter friends - as close to the action as he can get without being engaged by a foe. He should have a staff ready, so he can defend if something gets to him. His function is not to attack directly, but to foul up the enemy fighters so his own friends can hit them. The Clumsiness, Drop Weapon and Trip spells are especially useful here; Stop, Slow Movement, and Break   Weapon can also come in handy. He may want to Blur himself, especially If the enemy has bows -- better to lose 1 ST on a blur than 3 or 4 to an arrow.
When this tactic works, the foe will spend so much time picking up dropped weapons, standing up after being tripped, and trying to hit with DX lowered by several points that they will be butchered by the fighters. As a last resort, of course, the martial wizard can throw missile spells or strike with his staff. However, he's usually better off acting as a nuisance and saboteur, letting his fighters do the actual hitting.


Several spells are more useful on an actual adventure, than in single (or team) combat -- they let you get out of a bad situation. All of them can be useful, even in a duel. These include Dazzle (which messes up the DX of everyone in the room but yourself), Speed Movement, Flight, and Teleport (which can put you behind a foe, get you out of the  locked  room, or bury you in a wall, forever).


In general, don't let yourself get in a rut with play style. If you do, you'll have less fun, and be easier to beat. Remember: Although WIZARD looks like a board game, it's really as much role-playing as anything on the market. If you treat it like a role-playing game, and put yourself in the place of your figure instead of just pushing him around on the board, you'll enjoy it more -- and you'll be a better player
PS:  As I write this, the publication schedule for DEATH TEST has been changed. Originally, DEATH TEST was to come out at the same time as the second programmed adventure (which is still being prepared). However, DEATH TEST is now scheduled for publication about the same time as OLYMPICA -- which means It may be on sale even as you read this. DEATH TEST cannot be played without the MELEE rules. If you have MELEE, you can send fighters through - and if you have both MELEE and WIZARD, you can send fighters and/or wizards through. Warning: The Death Test labyrinth eats beginning characters. Give your figures a little experience before they go in -- or they’ll never come out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Magic: Dragon Magazine #62

I wrote a bit about the importance of Dragon #62 to me.  I need to make a correction though, while #62 was the first one I personally bought and owned, Dragon #59 is the first one I remember reading.  Well really my younger brother Jon bought and owned it, but he did let me read it, and it stands out for being Traveler specific to me with giant glowing bees on the cover.

Okay in a fit of nostalgia I managed to score a number of old Dragon Magazines ranging from 57 through to 83 with a lot of gaps.  Fortunately the important ones to me were all in their such as 59, 62 and others I remember reading in the golden age.

So now there is a large stack of OLD Dragon magazines I am pouring through with all sort of flashbacks hidden on every page.  Maybe I am a secret Luddite, but there is something in paper physical form that electronic PDF's will never capture.  I am sure part of that reason is mental memory, but even more, modern PDF files mean little to me in comparison to owning a physical book. There is a difference in perceived value and frankly respect for material that the physical delivers that 11010101010101010111100011010101 fails to.  Okay I am climbing off my soap box.

So Issue 62 is important to me for a number of reasons:
1) I learned about Gang Busters, an RPG I would wish for and get Christmas 1982 because of the article in this magazine
2) I first learned about FGU's Aftermath! and Bushido (not V&V as I thought), two games I would covet because of ads in this magazine
3) WORST AD EVER: Task Force Games "Please sir may I have some more?" Oliver ad.  No games SHOWN, no fun, full page with nothing but a child holding an empty bowl asking for more.  Apparently he wants more fun, yet as is apparent by the ad, this child...and you...will starve!
4) I bought it (at Hood River Florist) along with TOP SECRET the RPG on our Spring Break trip to the beach.  Yes a Pacific NW beach. Which means, wind, rain, and grey skies, perfect RPG weather.  P.S. don;t let your youngest brother eat Better Cheddar's on any trip...heinous breath, orange fingers, nightmares still...

Side note, I think I made it to the H.R. florist maybe twice in my D&D glory days and I remember walking right past tons of flowers and glass refrigerated cases to find an old book/magazine rack filled with TSR goodness.  yes a florist shop...

So as I go through Dragon #62 I am discovering a number of things that from a historical perspective are very interesting, telling, and remain true to some extent I think.

First in DRAGON RUMBLES-Jake Jaquet goes over the 7,000 (so far!) returned paper questionnaire responses from a December 1981 Dragon Magazine.  '81-'82 is really the period when the D&D rocket took off into a full blown fad.  Ads in Dragon #62 highlight the Moldvay/Cook basic and expert boxed sets.  Not a single ad for anything Advanced D&D which is odd as most articles are centered on the AD&D game.  I think it reinforces the internal bi-polar problem of the Basic/Advanced trends in D&D that plague the game and its direction even now IMHO. 

Back to the questionnaire, we find the following information:

1. 95% of Dragon respondent readers are male
2. average age 16 1/2.
3. 4 out 5 are students
4. Heroic Fantasy is most popular...but
5. 2/3 of respondents marked Sci-Fi as one of their favorite topics of which the editor made special note,

Question-did that data foreshadow or fire-up the creation of Star Frontiers?  Did it come out fast (no star ship rules) to take advantage of this interest?

6. The nature of rules: Boardgames 61% said they should be adhered to closely, 17% not so much
7. The nature of rules RPG: 42% adhere to rules closely--37% not so much
8. Nature of rules player: 35% said their DM followed the rules closely, 34% said the DM did not.

Question-clearly the role of rules is debated, but interestingly back in'82, there was still a frontier experience simply not as prevalent in today's codexed and cross referenced rule tomes.   I wouldn't say the war was lost as the OSR rebellion continues...

9.The most requested items is MORE INFO on D&D and AD&D by questionnaire returners.
10. 29.82% of people wanted more NPC's as well.  To me that's just odd...

Okay now we flip over to the first question in Out on a Limb, the question and answer section.  In a nutshell, Hugh Weiler, of Worthington Ohio, loves the NPC classes in Best of Dragon II.  Hugh has tried in the past to play an Archer/Ranger or a bounty hunter character that have turned out to be just like a fighter or cleric in execution.  Hugh would like to know is there any chance of turning NPC classes into PC classes and publishing an additional Players Handbook, and DMG, to handle these options.

The response from Kim Mohan is, a simple "no. "

Okay Kim writes more than that...but really its justification:  NPC's are NPC's for a reason (Anti-Paladin, Berserker) they are their for character's to interact with.  In addition they (those of The Dragon) do not presume to alter the fabric of D&D.  To quote Kim specifically, "Classes for player characters are specifically defined and "limited" (though there is still an abundance of choices) in order to make the game system as a whole work properly."

I understand that The Dragon is not official canon, but they produce, discuss, and answer so much that in a sense a gamer reading it would take it as canon.  Sort of like the Pope talking about the Bible, he didn't write it, but he is the official interpreter of it for some. 

In addition I am mystified that Mr. Weiler's ideas of a ranger/archer class or a bounty hunter class may (would?) somehow break the game system in Mr. Mohan's estimation.  I know Kim was speaking in generalities, and it may be simply a defensive corporate posture, even so it makes AD&D sound as brittle as glass.

And that's really (Dragon Rumbles and one Out on a limb question) less than one page of issue #62!  What other treasures, if any, remain hidden?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

FGU Dragon Magazine Ad Inspiration: Villains & Vigilantes...and Aftermath!

It's odd the things that stick with you.  The smell of burning leaves in 5th grade, the biggest line I ever saw waiting to see Star Wars, the first Star Wars figure I ever bought (Ben Kenobi), and your first Dragon Magazine.  Mine was issue #62, June 1982.  Yup an Elmore cover that I loved then and still love now-it was D&D for me.   I wonder where I can get this painting...

Anyway, there are not very many Dragon magazines, nor articles that I can recall very well.  They just never stuck with me with through the years.  What did stick with me were the wonderful ads in Dragon magazine.  The old Dragon Bone electronic dice roller, Ral Partha Miniatures, and my own favorite-the game ads from Fantasy Games Unlimited.  Growing up my RPG collection had a vast (in my mind) collection of FGU games.  Bushido, Villains & Vigilantes, and Aftermath! 

Each one of these games, I became excited enough by the small ads in Dragon magazine to go find them in Endgames at Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon.  The first one that really intrigued me was the ad for V&V.  I thought it was so cool to not only see art and pricing, but to see an actual character laid out!  Going over the stats and description were fun and left me a feeling with what else might be in this game?  Below is the first ad I remember seeing and the one that stands out the most.
I am going to guess it was about a year of looking at the ads before I finally got the V&V boxed set, it was my first super hero RPG and the standard by which I judged Champions, Marvel, and DC Heroes.  All fell flat in comparison.

Next was the holy grail of games...Aftermath!  I watched Road Warrior a lot as a kid, combine that future vision with Red Dawn, Planet of the Apes and GAMMA WORLD, and I was already deeply smitten with P.A. stuff.  I know GAMMA WORLD has its adherents and there is stuff I like as well-but it always seemed like D&D with mutant plants and laser guns.  The Metamorphosis Alpha strain is deep within that game, and just does not appeal to me.  I think because I never saw a show or movie, nor read a book that backed the GAMMA WORLD assumptions...and still haven't.  Aftermath! on the other-hand I have a laundry list of movies, shows, and books that sounded like that!
I saved forever to get that $20 boxed set and it was fantastically filled with everything I hoped and more!  One problem, for me it was far too complex and unplayable.  Worse for me it was filled with gun-porn. Detailing out all the possible modifiers and possible ramification of firing a gun, any gun, using all sorts of ammo types...and then determining where on 30 different body locations it may have hit.  Sigh...I know there are gamers who want all of this detail AND MORE, but sadly that isn't me at all.  A game should be fun, not a PhD course on ballistics.  Anyway we played in our own fashion and I managed to get nearly all the modules and supplements to use as resource material..because it is great for that.  It inspired me to create my own COLLAPSE RPG, so I certainly owe FGU and Aftermath a tip of the cap for that.

Clearly the ad genius(es) at FGU knew how to reach me, and maybe some other gamers as well.  They left a heck of mark on me (in a good way) and inspired me to try something similar for my Roguish Fantasy RPG.  Below are the results of that inspiration for you to enjoy.  I may even use them as adds in Fight On! or Knockspell. Back to the salt mines tomorrow so my blogging creativity will return to its normal random state, in the meantime enjoy your trip down Amnesia Lane...