Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"George Malley is an ordinary man, who is about to become ... extraordinary."
This horse is probably long-buried, but I keep coming back to the idea that Psionicists are just ordinary people, who somehow find themselves with a special gift (or curse). In the case of the character, George Malley, played by John Travolta in the movie Phenomenon, that special power is telekenesis, along with some other interesting powers.
Telekenesis, Firestarter, Precognition and Invisibility are four of the 10-12 "wild talents" that i'm thinking Psionicists might start with. I'm picking away at other ideas for talents, and am always open to suggestions.
I'm still trying to work out the way that Psionicists improve their wild talent, and gain new talents. It seems obvious (at least to me!) that gaining those talents should follow level-progression, but how to keep a Psionicist balanced against the Magic-User and Cleric (the other two "casters") but still give the Psionicist class its own "flavour", is the challenge I am currently wrestling with.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I would suggest heading over to the WOTC website to compare them yourself, but they have done some sort of retooling to their website and the old miniatures galleries have been moved or lost.
For now, you'll just have to enjoy the Reaper version!
Here's another film, Firestarter, from 1984, based on the Steven King novel of the same title, about a girl who develops Psionic powers. In this case, she has the ability to start fires. The approach I am thinking of using, for the development of a Psionicist, is to come up with 10-12 "wild talents", one of which a Psionicist will start with, at first level. Precognition, Firestarter, and Invisibility are three of the wild talents that I intend to allow for first-level Psionicists.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Additionally, there probably need to be more swords. I only have one bastard sword and one great sword on this sheet, while there are three maces. Since I intend to do at least one more weapon sheet, I will need to balance out the weapon selections between that and this sheet.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Each Magic Realm game consists of 28 turns, which corresponds to an adventuring month. Each turn (day) a Character can do a certain number of activities.
Typically, each Character can do four activities per day. You may be capable of doing more activites each day, if you obtain certain treasures. You may also have fewer activities (for example, while cave and dungeon-delving, you only get two basic activities instead of four).
There are several types of activities you can perform each day.
Move: you can move from one board clearing to another. Each move, from one clearing to another, counts as one activity. So, you could normally only move a maximum of four times in a day.
Hide: you can attempt to hide. Hiding is important, as you need to be hidden in order to move through a clearing that is occupied by a monster, without having that monster "block" you.
Alert: You can ready your weapon or spell, in anticipation of a battle. Alerting your weapon or spell is important, as it makes it more likely you will strike with your weapon or cast your spell before your opponent.
Rest: Magic Realm Characters get fatigued and wounded. Each turn of rest allows you to recover a certain amount of your strength and wounds.
Search: Searching allows for the possibility that you will find such things as treasure hoards, secret paths, and hidden Characters.
Trade: this allows you to attempt to buy from and sell items to the Magic Realm natives. You can buy and sell or trade with other Characters without having to use a Trade activity, as long as they are in the same clearing as you.
Hire: the hire activity allows you to attempt to hire natives, to give you a better chance of fighting the monsters or other denizens, or to give you some additional treasure-seekers.
A Magic Realm game actually moves fairly quickly. This is because all Players simultaneously write down what activities they intend to participate in, prior to the beginning of that turn (day). When your turn comes up, you simply do the activities you recorded. This makes the game move along, as you do not need to consider each possible activity during the four activity phases of your turn.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This movie came out in 1983. Starring the incomparable Christopher Walken, and directed by (surprise, surprise!) David Cronenberg, this movie tells the story of Johnny Smith (how much more everyman of a name can that be!), who develops precognition, as a result of a terrible car accident.
I wanted to share this, as it is yet another influence on my views of the development of the Psionicist class.
Again, this supports the idea that "anyone" can be cursed with the development of a psionic ability, thus allowing for psionics to be added to a D&D campaign, without having some insurmountable dice-roll for the character to obtain psionics.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The new Dragon Warriors RPG eFanzine, Ordo Draconis, is available, as a free download, over at RPGnow.com.
I just recently downloaded it, so I have not had a chance to review it in detail, but you can read the write-up here.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
To me, it was just too complicated and too inaccessible. In OD&D, the psionics rules appeared in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, published in 1976. Those rules were badly edited, with psionics rules appearing helter-skelter between descriptions of monks and druids, demons and optional combat rules. They were too complicated, with all sorts of saving throws, table lookups, psionic power recovery algorithms, and new and vague spell-like powers, attacks and defences. Psionics was also too inaccessible, with there being only a rare chance of aquiring psionics (since in OD&D you need a 15 in any one of intelligence, wisdom or charisma, and the chances of rolling a 15 or more is slim to begin with, using the traditional 3d6 method).
Several years pass, and Psionics ends up being relegated to an Appendix in the original AD&D Players Handbook, and receives scant treatment in the AD&D Dungeons Masters Guide. Little surprise then, if it ends up receiving little play at the gaming table.
That was a shame, and a missed opportunity. If Psionicist had been developed as a class, rather than a add-on to the existing classes, it might have gotten more play, and would have helped promote the earlier development of other specialist casters.
But there is a challenge in developing Psionicist as a class. What prime attribute to use? OD&D and AD&D give us at least three potential attributes: Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. In OD&D, a 15 (or 16, in the case of AD&D) in any of those three attributes allows for the possibility of psionic aptitude.
You could allow a high score of 16 in any of those stats to permit the Player to select Psionicist as the character's class. I am philosophically opposed to this approach, because selection of any of the "standard" classes does not require a high prime attribute. I have posted earlier regarding my opposition to the specialist class, Paladin, that requires high attributes to select. I do not like the specialist class restrictions, and think all classes should be accessible to any player with at least a 9 in that classes' prime attribute: the fact that they have low stats in the prime attribute simply means they are not well-suited to that class.
In addition, Intelligence and Wisdom are not appealing to me, as a prime attribute for Psionicists in an old-school D&D system. Not because it doesn't make a certain amount of sense to attach psionic aptitude to those attributes. Rather, it is simply because they are already the prime stats for Magic Users and Clerics.
The only other stat left, of the initial three attributes, is Charisma.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
This pleasant fellow appears in the old-school adventure B2, Keep On The Borderlands, and is a particularly ferocious opponent.
This WOTC sculpt is particularly nice. I have seen other non-WOTC versions which also do this beast justice.
Take the ubiquitous Sword +1. Certain monsters can only be wounded by magic swords, so having a magic sword, even of the +1 variety, is important once you get past first level.
But the extra damage that accompanies the Sword +1 is relatively insignificant. Particularly if you are using the variable weapon damage rules.
For example, your typical d6 shortsword will have a boost of 16% if it is of the magical +1 variety. But you can get the same average damage from a d8 longsword.
Even with a +2 or +3 weapon, the additional damage only makes a minor difference, once you start facing monsters with 6, 8, 10 or more hit dice. At that level, the magic user is taking out those monsters long before the fighter even begins making a dent in its armor.
Of course, that is part of the implicit design of 0e: magic users start out as "glass cannons" but ultimately surpass the fighters (if they can survive long enough to obtain those high-level spells).
One of the criticisms, though, of 0e is that the combats become slogfests, and that the game becomes unbalanced between the fighting and magic-using classes, at higher levels.
I played 3e, a couple of times before I lost interest in that version of D&D. I understood that late in 3.5's life, attempts were made to balance out the fighting and magic-using classes, by "powering up" the magic swords available to the fighters.
I wonder whether it would be valuable to mine that particular vein? Thoughts?
(1) It will provoke a lengthy reminiscence of "where were you when you first discovered Truesteel?"
(2) Tears will well up in the eyes of those players who actually found this magic sword.
(3) Players will tell a wistful tale of discovering the Enchanted Meadow (within which Truesteel rests) and spending the rest of the game in a fruitless attempt to locate this sword.
By now, you have got to be thinking that Magic Realm players are nuts. Think of it this way. The D&D equivalent of Truesteel is the best sword in the game. It's the equivalent of the holy avenger, vorpal blade, red dragon slayer, and every other ultimate D&D sword you can think of, all wrapped into a small cardboard chit with orange ink and strange black symbols. This is Magic Realm's excalibur.
It's more than that, though. Any D&D magic sword (even the most powerful variety) is doled out by DM fiat. If you have a generous DM, you may come into possession of one of those D&D magic swords. In addition, there could be any number of other powerful magic swords in your DM's D&D campaign, so finding the holy avenger does not preclude your discovering a vorpal blade, or a sword +10, god-killer, for that matter.
In Magic Realm, Truesteel is it. There's no better sword out there. And there's no DM fiat to obtain it. In Magic Realm, since there is no DM, you have to obtain this sword on your own, no hints, no help, no fudged dice rolls. As they say, by the sweat of your brow and the strength of your heart.
Sure, there are several other powerful swords in Magic Realm.
Bane, the greatsword.
Devil sword, which only the purest and heartiest of characters dare wield.
Living sword, which dances in the hands of the nimbler characters.
Awesome swords, all.
But for pure killing power, in the hands of a broad spectrum of Magic Realm characters, nothing compares to Truesteel.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I will make no bones about this: I am a huge critic of the 0e and AD&D approach to psionics. I think the approach to creating psionic characters, as presented by Tim Kask and Gary Gygax in 0e and AD&D, was flawed and unsound. On the other hand, I think psionics should play a more important role in D&D.
James Mal at Grognardia has posted several times regarding a reworked psionics system. He has given that a great deal of thought, and has tried to streamline and clarify the original rules. But the problem with simply re-working the psionics system is that you never deal with the fundamental flaw of psionics in D&D. Psionics in 0e and AD&D is employed as a subsystem, rather than using the tools that are already available in the core character creation rules. As such, it merely boiler-plates something that employs none of the mechanics that players are familiar with, and as a consequence, makes psionics rare and difficult to implement in the game.
The possession of psionics skills occurs rarely, and then by happenstance. Regardless of whether you use the 0e or AD&D rules for psionics, you have a (generally) very low chance of possessing psionic abilities. For example, in AD&D, in order to have the potential for psionics, you must have an Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma of at least 16. And if only one of those attributes is a 16, your chance is one in a hundred of having psionics.
Compare this to, say, a magic user. All you need to be a magic user, and use spells (many of which are similar to the psionic powers) is to have an Intelligence of 9.
In a way, 0e and AD&D try to use the existing ability stats to determine psionic potential. In 0e, if you have an Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma of at least 15, you have a 10% chance of having psionics. Period. Thus, your original ability scores do affect whether you will have psionics, but to a limited extent. The problem is, if you have psionics, your psionic ability score is completely unrelated to your standard 6 ability scores. Instead of using one of your ability scores, you roll a d100 to determine your base psionic ability. Whatever you roll on the d100 is your base psychic potential. That's right, this ability does not follow the standard 3d6 ability score determination.
I feel that psionicists should have been more accessible as a class, rather than being superimposed and boiler-plated upon the existing classes. However, doing so would necessitate a different treatment of psionic abilities, to align their use more closely with the vancian spell system that is employed for the cleric and magic-user classes.
The top two rows on this sheet are the character markers. As you move around on the Magic Realm map, you move your character markers from one "clearing" to the next, and these character markers indicate where you are on the map. This side of the character markers is the color "tan", and indicate that you are unhidden: the reverse side is green, and indicates that you are hidden. The other three markers on the second row are two sets of regular armor, and one set of magical armor.
The next two rows are horses that you can purchase from the inhabitants (alternatively, you can simply kill the inhabitants and take the horses -- that's what the Black Knight would do). There are three kinds of horses in Magic Realm. Ponies (which double your movement), Workhorses (which allow you an extra move each turn), and Warhorses (which make you well-nigh invulnerable to the smaller monsters, but give you no extra move bonuses).
The next two rows of red chits are the "mundane" weapons. Every character starts the Magic Realm game with certain equipment and weapons, and the remaining equipment and weapons are controlled by the inhabitants. Again, you can buy additional, or better, weapons and equipment from the inhabitants, or, in the case of the Black Knight, simply kill them and take their stuff.
The last row of chits is the armor: helmets, shields and breastplates.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Why? Because it has become misunderstood and fetishized among rank-and-file gamers to the point where it has lost its value in gamer discourse.
I say this because, while it is a perfectly useful term for game-designers to use and apply, its adoption and abuse by those people, like myself, who intend to play games, not design them, has reached noxious levels.
The standard definition of versimilitude is that which exhibits the appearance of truth or reality. Versimilitude, if properly understood, should be considered more the former (truth) than the latter (reality). That is, something can exhibit the appearance of truth, but may not reflect reality, and still have versimilitude.
The problem is that many gamers tend to focus on the "reality" portion of versimilitude, not understanding that games, by their very nature, are fractured images of reality. The point of games is to abstract reality. If I want to experience reality, I don't need a game for that, I simply walk out the front door. But games that are well constructed can both exhibit abstractness and versimilitude. A game does not have to mirror reality in order to exhibit versimilitude.
For example, Live Action Role Playing games ("LARPS") are among the most realistic role-playing games. What could be more realistic that actually "being" the character, rather than abstracting it to a set of attributes? I don't roll dice to see if I hit, I take a swing at you. I don't tell the DM what I say, I say it to the other LARPer.
That does not mean that a LARP has more versimilitude than, say, Tigris & Euphrates, which is a very abstract game.
A game can exhibit versimilitude, and be completely abstract. That abstract game can be said to have versimilitude if its game mechanics are internally coherent, and is tells "truth" about a particular facet of reality.
I also see versimilitude being fetishized by some gamers, using the term as a sort of "litmus test" for whether a game is worth playing. Risk is a game that, in my estimation, has a very low level of versimilitude. What truth is Risk trying to model? However, this would not prevent me from playing, and enjoying, that game.
Similarly, I see a few in the pro and anti 4e communities still arguing for and against 4e on the basis that it demonstrates, or fails to demonstrate, versimilitude. I'm not interested in injecting myself into that debate. Frankly, i'm not terribly interested if it does or doesn't. Role-playing games are very complicated models of reality, and I do not believe there will ever be an RPG rule-set that meets every gamers version of reality.
Are you enjoying the game you're playing? Then just play it. If there is a rule that fails to exhibit versimilitude, then change it. It's your table!
Over at Bookshelfgames.com, they have tutorial videos of actual Magic Realm gameplay, using various characters .
Sunday, September 13, 2009
There, you can find a "quick-start" copy of the rules, entitled "The Least You Need to Know to Play Magic Realm" which is available as a pdf download. Those quick-start rules are a scant 8-pages, a far cry from the 100-plus pages of the full Magic Realm rules.
Also, over at BGG, I believe you can find links to a build-it-yourself copy of the Magic Realm board and playing pieces. You can also buy the game, second hand.
Here is my first stab at a set of armor cards. Sorry about the quality of the this scan, i'm still working out using the scanning technology, and the best way of re-producing these cards (i'm thinking pdf, but I just havn't got to that point yet).
As you can see, there are different versions of the same type of armor, several different sets of plate armor, different shields and helmets, and so on.
This is the first of two sheets of armor cards. The second sheet is near completion.
I'm curious to know if this seems like a useful resource.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Those are awesome miniatures, and they boast a very nice paint job.
I have just put my order in with The Sentry Box, and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my set of figs!
If we knew the full story about the departure of Steve Jackson, we might forgive the production of this microgame. Was this game produced out of malice, or was it simply good-natured ribbing?
A Fistful of Turkeys is, I presume, both homage to the movie "A Fistful of Dollars" starring Clint Eastwood, and a send-up of Steve Jackson's "trade-dress" and game design style.
I've never played, nor seen a paper copy of, A Fistful of Turkeys, although I have quite a collection of microgames. If it is actually worth owning (for it's gameplay) please let me know.
As for the Steve Jackson microgames, I had Steve Jackson's "Car Wars" game back in the day, but that perished in a garage fire, and was one of the games that, while I enjoyed it as a teenager, I never felt the need to re-establish it in my collection.
I presumed that one of my armor card sheets would the first out of the gate, but I got a second wind on my gem card sheets (thanks to the marvelous gems tables in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide.
This is my first sheet of gems cards. The second gems card sheet will include the precious gems (diamonds, rubies, emeralds) along with more treasure chests, sacks and purses of coins and treasure.
Once this gets pdf'd, one simply has to print the sheet, and cut out the cards. Each card is roughly 1"x1.25". For my test file, I printed the cards on 110 lb. card stock.
Let me know what you think. Unfortunately, this will be a very much fits-and-starts project, as I now have a list of approximately 30 more sheets of resource cards I want to create.
I have fond memories of The Fantasy Trip, and the Metagaming products. If you are feeling nostalgic, take a quick tour of the Microgames Museum. They have a comprehensive image library of all of the microgames ever produced, whether it be by Metagaming, TSR, or any of the other publishers that jumped into this market in the early 80's.
If you are feeling really nostalgic, and want to get that old TFT vibe, visit Dark City Games. Not only do they have some interesting new adventures, but they also have a free retro-clone called Legends of the Ancient World, available as a pdf document.
Friday, September 11, 2009
To quote Wikipedia,
"[The House on the Borderland] was first released in Britain by Chapman and Hall, Ltd. London in 1908. Its most popular version was by Arkham House Press, Sauk City, Wisconsin, in 1946 as part of The House on the Borderland and Other Novels, the same publishers that brought out many books by other authors of weird fiction, such as H. P. Lovecraft."
There are several interesting things about this book.
(1) It was reprinted in 1946, in Wisconsin, by the same publisher that printed weird fiction, in the Lovecraftian vein.
(2) The House on the Borderland left an impression on, and likely influenced, H. P. Lovecraft's writing, and Lovecraftian writing influenced the development of D&D.
(3) It features a protagonist who explores a cave, after having visions of devils and "swine-men" (pig-faced orcs?). He battles several of those swine-men in the cave.
I don't recall seeing either this author, or this book, listed in the infamous AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide "Appendix N". Perhaps it is mere coincidence that there is an early D&D module with a similar name, and that the early D&D orcs are pig-faced.
But I have a hard time believing that there is no link between this book and the early development of D&D.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
This time, his post is about how a character's culture impacts their abilities.
This is an interesting game mechanic to add depth and variety to the characters. And I like the fact that the character's culture can be assigned randomly (perhaps this means their will be a set of culture cards?)
This is good counsel, as, in the case of my earlier post, on the Paladin, my thinking was wrong. While I presumed the Paladin first appeared in AD&D, she actually appears in Supplement I: Greyhawk, in 1976, two years prior to the AD&D Players Handbook.
In Greyhawk, the Paladin is not really a class of its own. It has no separate experience table, nor does it have any of the intermediate named levels that mark the other classes. Instead, a figher can, if she has a Charisma of 17 or higher, and is lawful from the commencement of play, opt to pursue Paladinhood. The Greyhawk Supplement is vague on the method of attaining this station.
The actual text from the Supplement.
"In addition, certain lawful fighters may opt to become paladins."
"Charisma scores of 17 or greater by fighters indicate the possibility of paladin status IF THEY ARE LAWFUL from the commencement of play for that character. If such fighters elect to they can then become paladins..."
The text goes on to chronicle the restrictions and advantages of this station, much of which appears in the AD&D Players Handbook.
It's interesting to again discover that much of what appeared in AD&D was already in OD&D, in primitive form.
I'm still not a fan of the class as written, though. Not even in OD&D.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Unfortunately, this project just keeps growing. I'm now up to some 1200 potential resource cards and counting.
I have roughly 100 armor cards near completion, and about the same number of gem and coin cards.
I am trying to put the finishing touches on at least a couple of cards each day. Once I get my first card sheet completed (probably one of the armor sheets) I intend to jpeg and post it.
I should preface this post by saying that I like Dragon Warriors RPG. I remember seeing it back in the mid-to-late 80's, as a friend's aunt would send him this kind of stuff all the time from the UK. Back then, I thought Dragon Warriors was fresh and innovative. While I don't have quite the same feeling about it today, I still like the atmosphere, and the different take on combat and magic items.
The approach to defining magic user classes leaves me cold, however.
For one thing, the name-classes of magic user seemed neither accurate nor terribly familiar. Perhaps they were going for unfamiliar. I don't see that as a particularly effective way to draw new players: at least at the beginning, I presume you want the game to be immediately appealing, familiar and intuitive, to encourage buy-in by the players and referee. After achieving that, it makes sense to mix things up a little. Of course, i'm no game designer so what do I know?
Dragon Warriors RPG has four classes of magic users. Elementalist, Sorcerer, Mystic and Warlock.
In DWRPG, Warlocks are defined as magic users who use their magic to enhance their combat prowess. I presume this is akin to the more aptly-named Swordmages of D&D 3.5. But common usage and fantasy tropes surrounding the term Warlock define it as a male witch, imagined to have special powers derived from the devil.
In DWRPG, Mystics are defined as magic users who are attuned to nature, or to the power of the mind. Again, in D&D, these characters might by Druids or Psionicists. Common usage of the term Mystic however, has overtly religious connotations, often meaning someone who practices occult rights or has knowledge of religious mysteries, which seems more suited to a Priestly or Clerical class.
DWRPG defines Sorcerers as those who draw energy from other dimensions to fuel their spells. This might seem like a run-of-the-mill magic user, but the term Sorcerer again has a definite "black magic" connotation that do not mesh with the definition for the class used in DWRPG.
Finally, the Elementalist class is a very specialized magic user class, that harnesses the raw elements (fire, water, air, earth, darkness) to cast spells. I suppose this could be the pyromancers and other elemental based magic users of the more modern fantasy gaming. This is a fantasy trope that I have little familiarity with, and it therefore failes to evoke any imagery for me, which is important for me as a fantasy tropes enthusiast.
I like Dragon Warriors RPG. It has an interesting, if perhaps too derivative, gameworld, and great atmosphere, to name just a few of the features that I find appealing.
I'm no fan of its magic user classes, however.
So what can you do, while visiting the Magic Realm? One of the interesting things about this game is that all of the players can win. That is because, at the beginning of the game, you secretly determine what your objectives are. If, at the end of the game, you meet your objectives, you win.
The objectives are broken down into five categories.
(1) Find ancient Treasure. There are many treasure troves hidden throughout the mountains, forests and caves of the Realm. You can choose the discovering and looting of those treasure troves as your objective. The Dwarf might choose this objective.
(2) Discover new spells. This objective is often taken by the more powerful magic users. There are spell books and other items that supply spells scattered throughout the land. You can spend your time in the Realm trying to locate and learn new spells. The Magician, Sorcerer or Wizard might pursue this option.
(3) Become famous. Killing monsters and undertaking quests can score you fame points. Some players will go monster hunting. or assist the inhabitants of the Realm, to establish their characters' reputations. The White Knight, Pilgrim or Captain might choose this route.
(4) Become notorious. A player can, alternatively, have their character roam the land, wantonly killing monsters, inhabitants AND OTHER CHARACTERS alike, in which case, they would score notoriety points. Characters like the Black Knight, the Witch or the Witch King (Warlock) might choose this objective.
(5) Become rich. There are lots of lost treasures in the Realm. Players can locate those treasures, sell them to the inhabitants, and retire in style. This is an option for any of the characters.
Magic Realm is a game where cooperation and competition are both viable strategies. There are certain characters, such as the Black Knight, Swordsman or the Elf, who cannot be trusted to cooperate (their game-designed "personalities" make it disadvantageous for them to form any long-term alliances, it is easier for them to win by competing). On the other hand, there are certain characters who, when working in concert, can achieve far more than they could individually (for example, the Amazon and the Dwarf).
With so many characters, board combinations, and game objectives, it would take a long time to exhaust all of the possibilities of this role-playing adventure game.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
"The Trollsome game of Bodybuilding. Trolls are stupid! I mean , really, really thick. Quite often, they leave bits of themselves lying around in troll holes. A troll almost never notices he has lost a leg or even his head! He soon grows a new one anyway, so he doesn't care two hoots! Players move their Gobbos around the board, trying to collect enough "Troll Bitz" to make 2 complete trolls.
From a line of 4 kids games Games Workshop Ltd. released so that the kids would have something to play while you and your mates played Warhammer. Each included a Trollish Tunes tape which included silly songs sung by Trolls."
I started playing D&D back in the late 70's, and followed the game as it progressed through its various incarnations.
When the original AD&D manuals came out, I quickly abandoned the old D&D to play the new and improved version. In fact, I scorned the later B, X, DA, and other "basic" Dungeons and Dragons material, thinking them suited only for those whose tastes were not yet refined enough to graduate to the better (advanced) rules. I followed D&D through 2nd Edition, where I began to lose interest, D&D 3.0 and 3.5, where it just became too complicated, and into 4E, for which I had high hopes ...
Having now returned to the old-school style of gaming, making use of the retro-clones appeals to me, for several reasons. First, I sold my original D&D boxed set, so the actual rules from the original set is largely unavailable to me (I do still have a copy of Greyhawk, though it's usefulness is limited due to the absence of the original three little brown books). Second, the editors of the retro-clones have done an admirable job of clarifying the original rules. Third, the retro-clone rules are available in pdf form, so it is fairly easy to obtain copies.
Of the retro-clones, my preference leans towards Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry. White box and OSRIC are appealing, although I prefer to use OSRIC as a resource rather than a rule-set, and White Box, while tempting, just feels a little too light (I quite enjoy the optional rules sidebars in that retro-clone however). I have heard some love for Spellcraft & Swordplay, but have not yet investigated that rule-set.
The one thing that the original White Box has over the retro-clones is the separation of materials into players' and gamemasters' books. From a publishing point of view, I suppose it makes sense to include the entire rule-set into one book. However, from a gaming point of view, particularly when trying to introduce new players to the original D&D, I would much prefer to have separate players' manuals and gamemasters' manuals.
It may just be me, but I still think part of the enjoyment of role-playing games is that the players do not to have perfect knowledge of the rules of the universe, nor about the monsters and treasures that are to found as they explore their game environment. I know one can split the Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry pdfs fairly easily, to create a players document, but if the editors intend to publish paper versions, I would love to see those published as separate players' and gamemasters' booklets.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Fantasy tropes can be tricky though, as sometimes what you think is a clear fantasy trope is not necessarily shared by all RPG players.
The Magic Realm game has several magic-using characters to choose from. Those include the Sorcerer, the Wizard, the Witch King, the Magician, the Witch, the Woodsgirl, the White Knight, the Elf, the Pilgrim and the Druid.
To me, there is a clear shorthand (fantasy trope) attached to each of those magic using characters. I'm not so sure that shorthand is shared by others, however. Here are the Magic Realm fantasy tropes, as I see them.
The "Wizard" is your typical Gandalf Character.
The "Elf" is a woodland sprite, playing sometimes deadly tricks on passers-by.
The "Sorcerer" is akin to the Sorceress in Sleeping Beauty.
The "Witch King" (Warlock) is attuned to the demonic, infernal powers.
The "Witch" is the same, but is the female equivalent, and has a black cat and flying broom.
The "Magician" is a dabbler in magic, doing simple tricks and occasionally stumbling onto powerful magic.
The "Woodgirl" is a friend to the woodland sprites, and is given access to their magic.
The "White Knight" is a Paladin, deriving holy power from on high, when he earns it.
The "Pilgrim" is a Cleric, who takes up a weapon to defend the faith when the need arises.
The "Druid" carries a sickle or dagger to harvest herbs, and derives his power from the natural world.
I find each of those characters to be clear fantasy tropes.
On the other hand, the Dragon Warriors RPG has four magic using characters. I find the magic using characters in that game to lack clarity as fantasy tropes, compared to the Magic Realm magic characters. Those Dragon Warriors RPG magic-using characters are Elementalist, Sorcerer, Mystic, and Warlock.
What do those four words mean to you, in terms of fantasy tropes? Interestingly, Dragon Warriors RPG has no Cleric-equivalent character (just in case you were thinking the Mystic was some kind of holy person!)
Sunday, September 6, 2009
1. Roll 4d6
2. Discard the lowest number
3. Add the remaining three together
4. Wait until the DM isn’t looking
5. Write down whatever numbers you want.
6. Make sure one of them is a 9, just to keep yourself honest."