"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #14

I am going to skip a couple of the numbered reasons why I love B/X because I have covered them on more than a few occasions in other posts:
12. It is unapologetically gameist in nature - doors in dungeons are stuck closed. You need to roll to force them open. Why? Because the rulebook says so and it is fun.
13. The importance of retainers.

So I am going to jump to:

14. The combat sequence

From page B24:

A. Each side rolls initiative (1d6).

B. The side that wins initiative acts first (if simultaneous all actions are performed by each side at the same time):
1. Morale checks, if needed.
2. Movement per round, meleed opponents may only move defensively (spell casters may not move and cast spells).
3. Missile fire combat:
a. choose targets
b. roll 1d20 to hit; adjust result by Dexterity adjustment, range, cover, and magic
c. DM rolls damage
4. Magic spells (roll saving throws as needed: 1d20).
5. Melee or hand-to-hand combat:
a. choose (or be attacked by) opponents
b. roll 1d20 to hit, adjust result by Strength adjustment and magic weapons
c. DM rolls damage; adjust result by Strength adjustment and magic weapons

C. The side with the next highest initiative acts second, and so on using the order given above, until all sides have completed melee.

D. The DM handles any surrenders, retreats, etc. as the occur.

Now a couple of interesting things about this:

1. It is very "wargamey" as one would expect given its pedigree.

2. It reflects a simple system that fits extremely well with the abstract nature of B/X combat. As JB over on his bog (B/X Blackrazor) succinctly says: "The initiative roll simply determines whose damage gets applied first...not necessarily who swings first."

3. With the movement phase coming at the beginning of the sequence it allows the combat participants to try to get the right resources into the right position.

4. It says in both the missile combat and melee combat phases, "DM rolls damage". This one is kinda neat but I would presume that 99.9% of DMs (including myself) let the players roll damage. Why would the rules say that the DM should roll the damage? I would assume that using today's vocabulary it is to keep metagame thinking out of the action. DMs should instead keep the numbers hidden and describe and roleplay the damage instead.

5. When engaged in melee it only allows for Defensive Movement (Fighting Withdrawals and Retreats). This has two effects: first it is a very simple way of keeping track of "attacks of opportunity" and it makes for an interesting decision process for managing resources (in this case hit points). When is it the right time to start withdrawing? When are the bonuses for your opponent to hit you outweighed by your need to escape?

Why do I like the B/X combat sequence? Because it is simple and fast but allows options for the aspects that are most important to B/X - the marshaling of resources.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dark Sun / Castles & Crusades Part 2

The background for a second session of the now poorly named Dark Sun one shot:
With the Veiled Alliance still in hiding and part of Nicodemus' troops now under their orders, our unlikely heroes spent the last year wandering the desert, hunting and raiding villages like any other slave tribe. The tribe's scouts have brought word of an unlikely caravan traveling through the desert nearby - a supply caravan belonging to Sorcerer-King Kalak whose destination is unknown. The tribe has set up an ambush to take the caravan. Why is it out in the desert? What does it carry?

These are my goals/wish list for a second session of Castles & Crusades / Dark Sun:
1. Make use of the Slave army that now follows the party.
2. Have a mix of scene framing and dungeon exploration. But a bigger focus on dungeon exploration than in the last session.
3. More goofy minis!

Northern Marches Session

I sat down with three players last night for a session of Northern Marches. It was the first time I had pulled out my Northern Marches binder in about 6 weeks. Of three players, one (K-Slacker) is an old-school gamer in very much the same mold as myself. Players two and three were the previously mentioned Former Northern Marches Players. That is right - they actually came back!

The session itself was fairly basic but it was in its basic-ness that showed me that my previous conversations with them had an impact. The first couple of hours were spent talking to a local sage, tracking down the "Old-Timer" that loved to spin stories of his exploits when deep in his cups, talking to off-duty guardsmen about the goblin menace, and seeking out tougher retainers than the drunk misfits they had hired up to this point.

After that, they stole a small rowboat to head across the river as the ferry service has stopped due to lack of demand and the threat of goblins on the other side of the river. They then proceeded to explore the wooded mountains of the far side trying to scout for these goblins. They smartly avoided a couple of encounters with giant animals and quickly dispatched a lone Ogre. The session ended after they overcame an encamped hobgoblin patrol. My favorite part was when one of the players said, "wouldn't it be cool if they had a damsel to rescue?"

Well guess what - I made sure there was a damsel. She turned out to be a cleric. One of the most basic DMing skills there is.

It was actually a fairly mundane session. It had been a few weeks since we played last and I wasn't sure what they wanted to do so I treated it as if it were the first session. It worked well as it gave them a chance to try out their new "old school" skills. I had alot of fun!

As an aside, Konrad the Fighter is the only PC to remain from the first Northern Marches session. He is K-Slacker's character and is a foppish, vain fighter who the other players love to see get wet, dirty and otherwise covered in filth.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Recipe for Gold

Jeff posted an interesting idea about a formula to put together a new campaign.

Here is my concoction:

1) Start with any ol' D&D-esque ruleset
Since B/X is my favorite let's start with it.

2) Add some supplementary rules material. You're primarily looking for new Gygaxian building blocks (classes, races, spells, monsters, magic items, etc) to drop into the game. In this recipe you want exactly two different sources for this stuff, one of which is easy to put into your game...
I have been reading Mutant Future again while thinking about a potential Thundarr-esque one shot so even though Jeff mentions it in his post I will stick with it as well.

...For the other one choose something that might be a little harder to fit into your system of choice without some work.
The other game I have been reading lately has been Barbarians of Lemuria so let's choose that.

3) Now you need some fluff to hang all this stuff on. Pick exactly three sources of campaign inspiration. Two of these sources should be recognizable as fantasy material...

First, The Secret of Sinharat by Leigh Brackett.
From Paizo's website:
Enter Eric John Stark, adventurer, rebel, wildman. Raised on the sun-soaked, savage world of Mercury, Stark lives among the people of the civilized solar system, but his veneer of calm masks a warrior’s spirit. In the murderous Martian Drylands the greatest criminals in the galaxy hatch a conspiracy of red revolution. Stark’s involvement leads to the forgotten ruins of the Martian Low Canals, an unlikely romance, and a secret so potent it could shake the Red Planet to its core.

Second, The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans.
From Amazon:
Ethshar and the Northern Empire have been at war for hundreds of years. Hardly anyone alive remembers why, or over what. The tempest, turmoil, and war are endless, and the killing more endless still. The war has become not just a way of life, but an institution; no one dares to dream that it could end.
Not even Valder of Kardoret, Ethshartic Scout, trapped behind enemy lines.
But now everything has changed: at a moment of great need, a hermit wizard crafted Valder a magic sword called Wirikidor — a blade at once cursed and enchanted, a misenchanted blade that makes him unbeatable.

Your third fluff is meant to be the wild card. Pick something way out in la-la land for this one.
Way out in la-la land, eh? How about... the 1978 pilot episode of Battlestar Galactica.

So for rules we have:
Mutant Future
Barbarians of Lemuria

And for fluff we have:
The Secret of Sinharat
The Misenchanted Sword
and Battlestar Galactica.

Take rules light D&D with wizard/warrior elves, dinosaurs and dragons, add a dash of physical and mental mutations and missile silos. Mix with traits and flaws and evil druids that worship the 20 dark gods of the void.

Put it all on top of a dying mars with a war going on for so long that no one remembers why they are fighting and add in cylons... its gotta have cylons.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just in case...

I am sure that nearly everyone that comes to my tiny corner of the blogoverse already reads Grognardia but just in case, James recently made a post about resource management and the importance - that's right importance - of the 15 minute adventure day. This one gets a hearty cheer from me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why B/X Is My Favorite #11

11. It takes about 5 minutes to make a character.

This is more than B/X being a rules-lite system. It also goes hand-in-hand with how fragile characters are. Mortality rates of B/X characters are high so it is important to have a system that quickly generates new characters.

Even with a very quick character generation process I still remember a handful of my early characters and their stories and exploits. Gundar the dwarf who vowed vengeance on the goblins who resided in the Caves of Chaos, Fingolfin the elf who met with a certain hermit and many others.

It isn't a long complicated character generation process or long elaborate character backstories that make these characters stand out but instead what they did after I quickly rolled them up.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Colour of Money

Looking back at B/X and OD&D and reading 3.5 and 4E the role of treasure has changed over the years. I believe that the change really came about in 2E when the Experience Point system was changed away from the simple and straight forward GP=XP system.

Arranging the uses for treasure in a spectrum from "old-school" to "new-school" I get something that looks like:

Experience Points
Better Equipment
Spell Research
Magic Item Creation
Purchasing Magic Items

Not to say that magic item creation is not present in B/X (see page X51) or OD&D (see page 6&7 or Men & Magic) but (at least in my games) the focus has been skewed more towards the uses higher on the spectrum.

One interesting thing that Barbarians of Lemuria has done is make the spending of treasure mandatory. All treasure must be spent before Advancement Points (XP) are awarded. The player gets to describe how the money is spent and the GM is encouraged to use this to develop hooks for future adventures.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Next One Shot

With the success of the Dark Sun one shot, I have sent an email out the the stable of players I know about another one shot. The email listed the following ideas:
Idea #1 - Under a Broken Moon
Lords of Light!
The year 1994: From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction. Man's civilization is cast in ruin. Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn... A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. (Source: Thundarr the Barbarian)

Ruleset: Mutant Future or Savage Worlds

Idea #2 - The Gift
The Elven Prince of the Silverwood has taken a retinue to meet the Dwarven Prince at the ancient dwarfhome Barak Varr.
This one would be different as half of the players would be elves and half would be dwarves.
Based on a scenario originally for Burning Wheel.
Ruleset: RISUS

Idea #3 - Zombie Run
The world didn’t go to hell overnight. It took a whole two months.
Saturday, April 4, 2009. Sometime around midnight, Eastern time, the recently-dead started coming back to life. We woke up Sunday morning, turned on our radios and TVs, went outside and picked up our newspapers, and learned that rotting corpses were wandering the streets, forcing their way into homes, attacking and eating people. In Ottawa, the prime minister declared a national emergency. Local police and the RCMP joined forces with the Army, and for about a week, we held our own against the rising tide of the dead. But how do you defeat an enemy when your own casualties become his foot soldiers?

The players have fortified themselves in Bankers Hall in Downtown Calgary and must make a journey to find safety.
Based on a scenario for Savage Worlds
Ruleset: Savage Worlds

Idea #4 - The Isle of Doom
A classic comic book sword & sorcery game. Think "Savage Sword of Conan".
One of the scenarios at the back of the Barbarians of Lemuria rulebook.
Ruleset - Barbarians of Lemuria (this game has quickly won me over. I just have to play it at some point!) or Savage Worlds
Also, I am going to work on a sequel to the Dark Sun Game.

Other Cool RPG Things

You may have noticed that the section to the right of my blog called "Other Cool RPG Things" has been getting longer and longer. I have been adding a number of free, rules-light games as I encounter them. I have also added The Free RPG Blog to my list of blogs. I mentioned awhile ago that even though B/X is my favorite game, I am more of a fan of rules-light games than old school games. It just turns out that B/X and some of the other "old-school" games are some of the best rules-light games out there IMO. Most of the games in my "Other Cool RPG Things" list are available for free in one form or another (either a quickstart version or an older version). I encourage everyone to check out these and other free rules-light games. And if there are other great free rules-light games let me know. If I like them I will add them to the list.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

C&C / Dark Sun One Shot Report

I ran the Dark Sun one shot last night. It was great fun! First some pictures and then a look at whether the game met my goals.

The opening scene was in the arena of course...

Later a fight in the desert...

The final battle...

My goals for this game were:
1. To use C&C to run a Dark Sun game that is not a 100% conversion of Dark Sun but instead a "thematic" conversion.
How did C&C do? Really well. I find C&C plays a lot like 2nd edition but faster and easier.

Some of the conversion mechanics included;
A. No psionics - this did not appear to be missed and it still felt like dark sun to everyone.
B. Using a variant of the Microlite20 magic system for wizards - this worked extremely well.
C. Custom Gladiator class based of C&C's Knight class worked well. The player really took to it during the arena combat. Also, the Fighter, Ranger and Gladiator all felt very different from each other.

The use of lots of props, art work and music really helped with the Dark Sun feel.

2. Run a high action, heroic game that still feels like Dark Sun
I am pretty lenient with the use of C&C's siege mechanic to do all sorts of crazy maneuvers and stunts so this lends itself to the characters feeling heroic. The grittiness of Dark Sun was communicated by stressing slavery, the tyrannical power of the sorcerer-kings and the harshness of the natural environment. Only one PC death as the wizard was blasted with a lightening bolt in the final encounter.

3. Develop a fast and furious non-railroaded one-shot
I had 5 encounters roughly sketched out. A lot of pre-planning went into making sure there would be at least one opportunity for each character to come to the forefront but, as they typically do, the players surprised me at every turn. The only encounter that went as I expected it to was the initial battle in the arena - tough for that one to get off the rails. From the second encounter on the players tried things that I did not expect.

What worked really well?
A. All the time and effort I put into making props, visuals and the soundtrack really enhanced the game.

B. The encounter design. Each of the 5 encounters was designed with a specific goal, a list of obstacles that needed to be overcome to reach the goal, and the "push" - the element that kept the players moving. Each of the 5 goals formed the backbone of the "story". However, the method to accomplish the goal was left entirely up the the players and there was enough wiggle room for how players accomplished prior goals to affect how later goals may be reached. The push for the overall story was a time limit on finding Mr. McGuffin. Each encounter also had a specific push. For example, an encounter in the desert was pushed by the need to find water.

What's next?
Maybe a Thundarr-type one shot using Mutant Future, one of the scenarios out of Barbarians of Lemuria, the Burning Wheel scenario "The Gift" using Risus, or maybe a sequel Dark Sun game.

What didn't work?
- Mainly that in a format such as a one-shot, I need to do a better job moving the action along and framing the next scene. In my Northern Marches game this isn't a requirement as it is an exploration based sandbox game. the methodical exploration of every hex, passageway, nook and cranny is part of that game but in a more "story"-based one-shot it is more important to cut to the next scene to keep the tension and action ramped up. There was a brief part in the middle of the game where I started so see things flag a bit and had to really make a conscious effort to bring the intensity back up.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Getting Ready

My Castles & Crusades / Dark Sun one shot is in a couple of days so I am going to spend some of my free time putting the finishing touches on my prep.

The encounters are pretty much sketched out - the players are agents for the Veiled Alliance and they have to find Mr. McGuffin. The opening scene is in the arena of course.

I am using pregen characters and they are pretty much done.

I am using a bunch of props and I am going to make this a minis-heavy (actually figure flats) game so I have built props for the arena and possible subsequent encounters but there are still a couple of things I have to finish.

The soundtrack is also ready - a heavy dose of Gladiator and 300.

I will post some comments here after it is done.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Old School Today or Today Old School

There are a number of blog posts going around about catalysts for the Old School Renaissance and Neoclassical Gaming. I mentioned here long ago that I started with B/X in 1982 as a 10 year old. My favorite rpg is still B/X. Is the B/X I play today the same as the B/X I played when I was 10? No - not even close. The mechanics are the same but the game is very different. The first module I ran was Keep on the Borderlands. if I were to run it today (and I would love, love, love to run it) it would be a very different adventure than all those years ago.

Why is B/X different for me today than in yesteryears?

1. I have a far better understanding of the underpinning principles of B/X. Robert Fisher on his old website said, "When you read a rule & it seems weird, unfair, or broken; ask yourself: “How can I interpret this rule in way that it doesn’t seem weird, unfair, or broken” Remember: The people who wrote, developed, & playtested this rule didn’t find it weird, unfair, or broken."

2. I have a better understanding of wargames.

3. I can think faster on my feet. This had dramatically changed how I play B/X. I focus much more on coming up with 3 or 4 aspects and or components of a scenario and figuring out on the fly how to combine them.

4. Exposure to modern games and design theory. Honestly being exposed to narrative style games has improved my DMing and I think it has helped with #3 as well.

I am an unabashed supporter of B/X specifically and old-school rpgs in general but I think that one thing the Old School Renaissance is risking is myopically looking only at the past and not trying to incorporate modern lessons.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tactics & Strategy in Game Design

I couldn't have said it better myself so I won't even bother.

Here is an essay on Tactics & Strategy in Game Design that does an excellent job of explaining some of the things I love about the way B/X is designed.

I have said a bunch of times on this blog that as one goes farther back towards the origins of the game the closer it resembles and plays like a wargame. It is many of these tactical and strategic elements that make me love B/X. And it is these elements that I discussed in my post Feedback From Some Former Northern Marches Players

Tactical Elements of B/X:
1. Resource Management - "One of the bedrock concepts of tactical play is to make the most gain with the least expenditure." This is key with the low power level of B/X characters.

2. Dissimilar Assets - "Combining Dissimilar Assets into a functional and dangerous whole takes skill and knowledge." Fighters are different from Magic-users and different from Clerics.

3. Maneuver - "Maneuver is getting the right resources into the right position at the right time in order to maximize your chance of success." Amen! Ask questions and investigate!

I found this essay through the interesting Whitehall ParaIndustries blog.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Level Sword & Sorcery Heroes

A passing thought...

So most old-school D&D players recognize that the roots of the game are in pulp-style sword & sorcery literature,


Heroes in pulp-style sword & sorcery literature are usually (always?) quite capable,

then why

Are first level characters, whether it be OD&D, B/X, AD&D, so fragile?

The real roots of D&D are in wargames and players start as regular wargame Joes.

True? False? Thoughts?

TSR's Top Five Basic D&D Modules

There is another top five list over at the Dwarf and the Basilisk about his top five "basic" (but actually classic) D&D modules.

Here are my top 5 TSR Basic Modules:

5. Horror on the Hill - A great meat and potatoes adventure and it has a dragon - that is awesome!

4. Veiled Society - My first urban adventure. This and X3 became by baseline for developing urban adventures.

3. Keep on the Borderlands - My first module. A great illustration of a micro-sandbox.

2. Night's Dark Terror - A great sword & sorcery feel with lost races and unknown horrors.

1. Lost City - Also has a great S&S feel. Lost City is a great example of showing a young DM how to do things. It gives some great ideas and fleshes out some of the levels but leaves a lot of stuff up to the DM and gives lots of areas to develop.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Defense of Dogma

The word dogma (Gr. dogma from dokein) signifies, in the writings of the ancient classical authors, sometimes, an opinion or that which seems true to a person; sometimes, the philosophical doctrines or tenets, and especially the distinctive philosophical doctrines, of a particular school of philosophers, and sometimes, a public decree or ordinance.

Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia

The Northern Marches have been specifically designed to do 3 things:

1. Allow for easy scheduling and flexibility in attendance. - It uses Jeff Rients' Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom to encourage everyone to get back to safety at the end of the session. This is important so that the entire roster of characters is available for the next session. Also, it has been an open game where anyone who is interested is welcome to play. There have been sessions at a local game store to put it in a neutral location.

2. Get back to a "beer 'n pretzel" game where fun is the key. Everyone is aware that it is a game and can enjoy as such. This is not high drama. It is busting down doors and taking monsters' stuff. It is puzzles and traps. The only person that should take it seriously in the least is me and that is because of reason #3.

3. Just as Dwimmermount is James' experiment Northern Marches is my experiment to look at my interpretations of the tenents of Moldvay and Cook's Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons. By reading my previous posts about why B/X is my favorite and the comments from the last couple of days I think one can get a pretty good idea of what I believe those tenets to be.

Possible DM Lessons from the Northern Marches

After considering the feedback from players and the comments in the previous post here are a few lessons that I will try to implement:

1) More treasure. I made a post HERE that I knew I was being too stingy with the loot. This may have fed unwittingly into the issue where the party was unwilling to hire retainers or spend money to gather information.

2) Have explicit out of game discussions about philosophy and design instead of have these things discovered in game. I'm still not too sure about this one. I learned how to play B/X D&D without such hand holding. In fact, some of the most memorable sessions were the ones where lessons were learned. But if it is what it takes to get players to learn and appreciate B/X then okay. [EDIT: Not that this is tough to get anyway with this blog which is linked on the campaign website which also contains a bunch of stuff]

3) One thing I have been considering is inserting an NPC party that can play the role of competition and foil. The characters can then see the NPCs hire retainers, buy drinks for sailors, etc. I am still not 100% sure on this one. Does it take away from the party's sense of accomplishment?

Things I am not going to do:
1) Reduce the danger level. The encounters in the Northern Marches have been by-the-book in terms of difficulty and I even took it easy on the party tactically a couple of times.

2) Change my underlying philosophy about B/X and my "gameist" preferences.

Are there any other suggestions? Any comments?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Feedback From Some Former Northern Marches Players

I have been having a discussion over the last couple of days with two players that had participated in some of the sessions for the Northern Marches. They had stopped participating and I wanted to get some feedback from them as to why. Both of these players are experienced with d20 and were not familiar with B/X and especially my style of B/X. I am really interested in what they have to say as I feel that it is important that everyone have a good time - it's a game after all.

The feedback that I received basically broke down into 3 categories:

1. They didn't like the power level of the characters and the corollary dependance on retainers.

This is strictly a preference issue to me. They prefer the d20 power level and being the heroes. I have told them on various occasions the quote I posted the other day:
Basic & Expert D&D requires a different play-style than later editions. It is not a game of heroes doing superhero things. The power level doesn't ramp up like that. It is a game of exploration and discovery. Imagine if you, yourself, were thrust into a D&D adventure - you would take all steps necessary to ensure that you survived. You would investigate for knowledge of what you were up against, you would make sure that you had all the resources necessary and available to overcome obstacles and you would make sure you had enough muscle to survive. Instead of Superman think Dr. Livingstone.
If they don't care for this style of game then they should not play in the Northern Marches.

As I have mentioned previously, as one goes farther back towards the origins of the game the closer it resembles and plays like a wargame. By this I mean that combat is about resource management. The more hit points, attacks, protection, information and spells you have while minimizing those of your opponent the better off you are. B/X characters are fragile so you need to have as many advantages as possible. Some people don't like that style - that's cool.

2. They didn't feel like they were getting anywhere in terms of the story.

My thoughts on this are threefold:
A. Story? What story?
B. One thing that is perplexing and frustrating to me right now is that the party has not asked any questions and has not done any investigating. They don't ask questions about the who, what, whys of what was going on. The party does nearly everything blind which is very dangerous. I have given out about 4 of my 30 rumours about the ruined castle, 1 or 2 about the abandoned mine, only 1 regarding one of the local rulers and nobody asked what might be in the forest or mountains near the witches hut where they were searching. No one has asked about the paintings or statues in the castle. No one asked where they could get a scroll of protection against undead to get past the wraith.

Not investigating has done a few things: a) it has made things more dangerous and it has been reflected in the mortality rate, b) it has kept a number of nuggets about treasures, mysteries, and history hidden. By asking questions the party could have gotten a sense of being part of a bigger world and a sense that things were going on around them, c) it has also made it more difficult for me. I feel that I am a better DM when I get to react to proactive players. There were glimpses of it when they were getting ready to ambush a bandit to claim the bounty but the party never followed up. I felt I had to keep handing out hooks because there was no direction from the players.

C. Connected with the lack of investigating - in a game where most characters who can use platemail can buy it at the start and where you cannot buy magic items to me there are 3 main uses for treasure (after the XP of course): a) buy information, b) hire retainers, and c) eventually build a stronghold.

As for buying information, I have talked a couple of times about my use of the Retainer Reaction or Monster Reaction tables to handle most social interaction. This does not mean that everything is at the whim of the dice though. There are a number of ways to improve the odds. Spending 25 gp buying drinks for the off-duty captain of the guard will get you a +3 bonus on the roll. When using a 2d6, a +3 bonus makes it hard to really screw up, especially if you have any kind of charisma modifier.

RE the hiring of retainers - it is important in B/X. It just is - see above.

3. "I am more of a roleplayer..."

Honestly, this one burns me a little. Even with my "Gameist" preference I still believe that my style - especially with the low power style of B/X - is very encouraging of roleplaying. Now I don't do a lot of talking in 1st person or, to quote the Pundit, "sitting around talking melodramatically in your character's voice."

As the Pundit also says, "Roleplaying is ANYTHING that you do from the point of view of your character, any in-character action."
From this perspective, I feel that the Northern Marches has the potential for GREAT roleplaying. If you want to roleplay a character instead of roll dice for a piece of paper, put yourself in your characters shoes and figure out a way to overcome the obstacles and figure out a way to survive! In character decisions do not have to be stupid decisions. Again, imagine if you, yourself, were a character in a D&D adventure - you would take all steps necessary to ensure that you survived. You would investigate for knowledge of what you were up against, you would make sure that you had all the resources necessary and available to overcome obstacles and you would make sure you had enough muscle to survive. If you are roleplaying does you character deserve any less? The odds are against you so step into your character's shoes and figure out a way to improve them.

B/X is more dangerous for characters than 3.5. By ignoring this fact and marching into near certain doom is actually poor roleplaying unless your character is a suicidal adventurer with a death wish. Why is it not roleplaying if you have 3 retainers to help protect you? Or if you have to figure out a way to get past the monster that is way too powerful to fight head on?

To me that is smart roleplaying...if I have a character who is doing anything as dangerous as exploring vile dungeons for a living and I put myself in their shoes I would be sure to have lots of help!

Do you feel that the fact that I use the Monster Reaction Table for social interactions makes it not roleplaying? I feel the opposite as I then have to step into the NPC's shoes and come up with a reason for the result. Just because I don't use funny voices doesn't mean I don't have to make in-character decisions for them. In fact it might even be tougher as I am constrained as to the decision I make.

There was also a comment related to the roleplaying one about how the mortality rate was de-motivating. By understanding the points I made above I believe that this issue goes away or they go play a game they prefer.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To the Core Addendum

I now understand that that the D&D Insider will contain exclusive material and that the subscription price is about to go up.

From the WotC website:
This month, we kick off a new rollout of exclusive material for the Dungeons & Dragons game that you can only get as a D&D Insider subscriber. This exclusive material won't appear in any core rulebooks or supplements, but it will be totally official...
How can they have official, which I take to understand as core, material that does not appear in your core rule books?

So B/X is my favorite... What about 1E vs 2E?

I surprised Timeshadows in the comments section for my post Why B/X is My Favorite #9 with a comment I made about 2E AD&D. While I am constantly surprised anyone reads my mental vomit here and since things seem quiet in the blog-o-verse, I feel like taking a quick break from why B/X is my favorite to look at why I prefer 2E to 1E AD&D.

While B/X is likely 98% to 99% the same as OD&D, I very much prefer B/X in part because it is much better organized and far more clearly written.

Welcome to reason #1 why I prefer 2E to 1E AD&D.

1. 2E, especially if you are not using many of the optional rules, is very clearly written and simple to understand.
2. It is compatible with all of the previous editions.
3. I am cool with THACO.
4. While I am very anti-splat book, there are numerous options available for those whose preference lean in that direction.
5. Specialist magic-users.
6. Nostalgia - I ran a very successful run with the Temple of Elemental Evil using 2E.

While B/X and 2E are very, very similar, to me they are very different games. I don't know if it is the way they are written or maybe the different play experiences I had with each version but, while B/X is a "game" to me (and one I love), 2E is a "roleplaying game" or nearly a "story game". And I believe there is nothing wrong with a story game so long as the players can have an impact on the story. I have even looked at Burning Wheel and while I found it very interesting and some of the mechanics quite provocative it is too rules heavy for me. Given my love of the reaction roll mechanic in B/X, it shouldn't surprise anyone to know that I don't mind social conflict resolution mechanics - so long as they are simple.

Today my true preference is rules-light games. The extent of the B/X or Savage Worlds rules are about my limit. Even the "basic" rules of 2E stretch my limit a bit. If I were to play a 2E-style game now I would use Castles & Crusades.

Why B/X Is My Favorite #10

10. The Reaction Roll subsytem

I previously did a long post on this one at Reaction Rolls - My Favorite Sub-System

To quote the first paragraph:
One of my favorite B/X sub-systems, and likely the one that I use the most, is the reaction roll as detailed on page B21 for retainers and B24 for monsters. A quick 2d6 and you can determine all sorts of wonderful things. Just about any type of interaction can be determined with this mechanic.

I know many people don't like using randomness to determine the outcomes of roleplaying situations. I have no problem with it.