Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Character Transfer

These days we have organized tournament play or "living" campaigns where a player can bring the same character they used in an earlier adventure to the current tournament.

Although no longer a thing, this used to happen all the time back in the early days of D&D.

The "founding fathers" of gaming often played in a fairly *pick-up game* style -- between sessions you may have very different player composition. Thus characters came and went, based on player availability.

This was aided by the monetary focus of AD&D exp -- sessions often ended up back in a town or safe haven, where treasure could be sold, and consumables purchased, training could be paid for, and so on.

It was less common to have a "cliff-hanger" or other mid-adventure session-end, so the issue of where Alpha the fighter or Bravo the thief went between sessions wasn't as big an issue.

Likewise, level disparity in the party wasn't as big an issue -- you normally had a handful of henchmen with you, and often a small army of hirelings too. The size of Wilderness encounters often made *not* travelling with a small army of mercenaries hazardous.

> Ex. In AD&D an encounter with Orcs was with 30-300 Orcs. 300 Orcs was going to be a bad time unless you could run, but even 30 was a perilous number for a party of four low level adventurers.

A party with a 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th lvl characters might not have been common, but it wasn't impossible. Keep in mind that Level Drain was **permanent** in AD&D1, and there was no (non-wish) way to restore it short of going out there and earning that Exp all over again.

It became common, when someone announced that they would run a game, that players would bring their best character. You *could* insist in starting everyone at first level, but one often received the kind of incredulous reactions a major-league sports franchise would get if they announced that they were starting with an all-rookie team.

*Story*-driven gaming wasn't that big a thing in the era before Dragonlance, stories emerged through play. So why would you not want "Lord Thrakkerzog the God Annihilator" in your game?

And there were some doozies. You met the guy who had "wished all his stats to max" in a previous campaign, hanging out with the guy whose character killed Thor and now uses his hammer.  There were plenty of horror stories.

But on the other side of the coin, there was some great gaming. Players knew their *characters* (and there weren't many mechanics, so I'm not talking about skill-feat-combos) and cared about them. They were invested.

And those stories that emerged through play? They sure did. It was awesome.

By the mid-late 80's that era had faded. A new generation of gamer had been spawned, after Dragonlance *story* began to drive the game, instead of the other way around. There were some down-sides: railroading GMs began to haunt the landscape like killer-GMs once had. But there were some upsides too. You no longer had to explain in detail why Lord Thrakkerzog couldn't be a character in your game, his player understood that "I'm starting a new game" also meant that you were starting a new story -- Lord T had already had his moment in the sun.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Victory March of the Fantasy Heartbreakers.

"Fantasy Heartbreakers" can be defined as a second generation of published games that (mostly) examined D&D and were written with a "we can do it better" methodology. Critical hits, new spell systems, a different set of characteristics, or races, or classes, yet the same weapons, armour, and presumed activities as D&D.

Most of the 90's and 00's efforts were small press games -- they may have had small but loyal followings, yet while being labours of love on a commercial level they were failures.

The OSR movement brings a renewed interest in old D&D -- there are a number of games that hew very close to one or two of the original rules sets. Yet now we see a number of games that are branching off from the core rules. Adventurer, Conqueror, King System has a number of small changes, new classes, a skill/feat blending proficiency system, the magic system looks similar but isn't actually "fire-and-forget" like standard "Vancian" magic rules. Dungeon Crawl Classics adds criticals and fumbles, every spell casting is a skill roll with varied results, every character has a Luck score, acting as a pool of "die roll improvement" points.

We live in a world where self-publishing is easy to do, where electronic formats are easily accessible and print-on-demand services are available. Combined with the renewed interest in "old school" gaming, are we seeing the Victory March of the Fantasy Heartbreakers, finally given a chance to shine?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

"Advanced" Dungeon Crawl Classics.

This inspiration for this post comes from the blog Age of Ruins, and their blog post on Warrior subclasses. All credit for the idea goes to them.

First, some background on Mighty Deeds.

In DCC the Warrior and Dwarf classes have a "Mighty Deeds" die at their disposal. It has two functions -- it acts as a bonus to attack and damage, immediately allowing Warriors and Dwarves to distinguish themselves in contests-of-arms, which should be their forte anyway.

The second thing the Mighty Deeds die can do is trigger any Mighty Deed the player of the character desires. These range from bullying opponents around the battle-filed, disarming, precision strikes and other physical acts, to organizing a groups defenses or rallying their morale.

1st lvl Warriors and Dwarves get 1D3 to perform deeds, this die will escalate in size (including several odd DCC die sizes like the D5 and the D7) as the character levels up. Any result of 3 has some success, while any result of 7 or more is a "incredible" success at the Mighty Deed.

Dwarf Sub-classes for DCC

(These are very much a "work in progress" and are untested in play).

Each Sub-class has two special Mighty Deeds restricted to their sub-class. Where possible I tried to steer away from "magical" effects. A couple have a "simple mechanical bonus" -- I'm not happy with those.

Dwarven Artificer 

Iron Thumb: Given the proper tools and several minutes to work, an Artificer can roll their Action Die + Mighty Deeds die to Pick Locks or Disable Traps. (Not trying to steal glory from the Thief, I imagine this would take an entire turn -- nor is the Dwarf skilled at *finding* traps).

Cunning Craftsman: Given the proper tools and several minutes to work, an Artificer can create a Trap, or repair and re-arm an existing Trap that has been disarmed. Damage is left to the GM, but most traps will function as a "stored attack" using an Action Die and a Mighty Deed die. A Mighty Deeds roll of 1 or 2 indicates that the trap did not work as planned. The Artificer cannon "conjure" parts, if their trap requires a crossbow, they will need to supply one. 

Dwarven Slayer

Courage is my Armour: As long as he is wearing no armour (not even a shield) every time the Slayer rolls his primary Action Die and Mighty Deeds die, he adds half of the result of the Mighty Deeds die to his armour class, rounding down.

Fight On!: When a Slayer is reduced to 0 hit points they may attempt to Fight On! Roll a Might Deeds die.
1-2: Death waits for no dwarf. The Slayer falls.
3: The Slayer can struggle against death. They roll one more Action Die and Mighty Deed die only, immediately. The Action die is -1d. After the die result is complete, the Slayer falls.
4: The Slayer can hold on to life for a moment or two. They can roll one Action Die and Mighty Deed die immediately. They can remain standing on the spot for one more round, and may attack normally (with all Action Dice) on their next initiative. At the end of that action, or if they take any additional damage, they fall.
 5: The Slayer can hold Death at bay. They can roll one Action Die and Mighty Deed die immediately, and continue to fight on standing on the spot until the combat ends or for a number of rounds equal to their Level -- whichever is shorter. Every time they take damage the Slayer loses -1d from their next Action Die, and loses one more round. When the foe is killed or the combat ends, they fall.
6: The Slayer is old friends with Death.They can roll all of their Action Dice immediately, and continue to act throughout the current combat (including moving) or for a number of rounds equal to their Level. Every time they take damage the Slayer loses -1d from their next Action Die. When the combat is over they fall.
7+: The Slayer knows Death's true name. They can continue as 6. At the end of combat the Slayer can spend 1 Luck to choose to automatically count as passing the Luck check in Recovering the Body.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Rolls and Resources

Played our second session of Dungeon Crawl Classics last night. Early reports are positive.

I'm not, as a rule, a GM's Screen user. We play in a living room, I use my computer desk as my "GM's Throne" -- anything I usually need in normally at my fingertips.

DCC is a "charts" game. Critical charts (not as many as Rolemaster, to be sure) and Fumble charts, and every spell has it's own chart.

The *free* Crawler's Companion app is fantastic, but it rolls the dice for you, and my players and I all like the physical experience of dice. So for the next session it looks like I'm printing out a screen. I could cobble one together, but I'm pretty sure I have one in pdf format from the Fallen Empires Kickstarter I backed.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Musings and Meanderings

Preface:  I may need to ban myself from DrivethruRPG and RPGNow for the near future. Far too many "small" purchases that when laid out in a single group display that I may have a real problem with impulse OSR purchases.

The Current Game, Keep on the Barrowlands

Although we weren't hard-core flat 3d6ers, we rolled 4d6 for stats in order for DCC, allowing a player to swap any stat with a stat they chose before rolling (so you can chose "Warrior" as a class before rolling, knowing that you can swap your highest roll with your Str stat, if it wasn't). We ended up with a couple negative bonuses. That's good. We didn't get anyone who was "all 18's" -- that's good too!

In the old days you rolled first and chose your class second. However we're all new to this game, and I really wanted to see multiple classes in play -- specifically Elf or Wizard (the Arcane casters) and Clerics. Choosing class first made for a better distribution of classes across the group.

In DCC you have 1d4 hits at zero level, and add your class hit points at first level. With our Dwarf having a -1 Stamina penalty, and one of our Clerics having a +1 bonus, you get odd results -- the Dwarf rolled (1d4-1)+(1d10-1) for hits, and ended up with 4 hit points. Our Cleric rolled (1d4+1)+(1d8+1) and ended up with 12!

In our first encounter the Dwarf was hit twice (d6 damage both times) and was felled. After "healing" and the ACKS Mortal Wounds table, the Dwarf recovered. But 2nd level is still about 18-19 combat encounters away. I am curious, and a little doubtful, that the Dwarf will survive.

Still, with axe and shield both attacking each round, she's proven to be a whirlwind of destruction while she lasts!

A Planned Game, Beyond the Wall and Dungeon World

Beyond the Wall is an OSR game that tries to replicate "youth fiction" like the Earthsea books of Ursula K LeGuin. The characters are from the same village, each "class" playbook takes them through their early years, and fleshes out the village with contacts and locations. The village locations, starting with a single Inn in the centre, are created by player rolls and player decisions. The NPCs are parents, mentors, and childhood friends. As a background creation device I think it's fantastic.

I'd love to use it with Dungeon World -- not because I dislike the d20 mechanic, but I think there are a number of points of congruence in design and play philosophy.

Alas, re-writing at least a half-dozen playbooks to blend the two is probably a bit beyond my abilities right now. I really need some time behind the GM's screen with DW, so I'm more comfortable with it. Still, I'd like to give it a whirl.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Reboots & Raiders

Well, after leaving this fallow for a year, let's pick things up again.

Currently running Dungeon Crawl Classics six players. It has been a long time since I've had six gamers in a campaign at once -- but through strange machinations we have three couples playing. These days groups of three to five have been far more common, with four players being the mystical 'sweet spot' for a game.

But if there has ever been a sort of game that would handle six players, an old school game would be it.

I'm really in a Dungeon World head-space right now, though. Lots of "discover through play" and "share the narrative with the players" ideas floating through my head. But I don't see that as a bad thing at all.

The current game is modelled roughly on the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System game I ran on a year ago or so. Roughly, because I've chosen "Late Antiquity" for a time frame and "Fort Salvum" as our point of civilization on the haunted and perilous frontiers of the sudden and catastrophically collapsed empire.

However I'm placing Greg Gillespie's Barrowmaze close by, and a couple other odds and sods, so we'll see where this actually goes.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Dungeon Design vs Aliens

Much has been made, elsewhere, of the difference between the "OSR" style dungeon and "New" style dungeons. In the older style a dungeon was often a sprawling complex where the objective is not the room at the end of a series of rooms, but just one room among many. In the newer style there may be some wiggle left or right, but dungeons exist as a series of planned encounters that lead to the final chamber.

These philosophies are very evident in the new version of the computer game XCom versus the older X-Com, and are especially present in the "boss fight" base assaults, where you take the fight to the alien facilities.

In the old game the "HQ" was somewhere in the complex. Probably nowhere close to the door, but you could could trace several routes to the HQ and the alien commander's location. In XCom the alien bases are a series of rooms, a chain of encounters designed to test your resources and skills before presenting you with the final encounter.

The connection between table-top adventure design and computer game design has never appeared so clearly to me.