Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kids' PCs killed by Dad!

I thought it was a strangely endearing post that Lord Kilgore wrote when he posted on the Labyrinth Lord's forums that he'd "just killed his kids' PCs"...

"They thought it was a good idea to camp out in the wilderness while an NPC sickened by giant centipedes recovered rather than hole up somewhere or head back to town. The random encounter rolls caught up with them one night when three Throghrin surprised the elf on watch. Everyone wiped out except for a (different) elf henchman that fled after everyone else was paralyzed.

It was the first PC loss for either of my kids and they were a bit shocked at first. Several sessions back I had moved virtually all of my dice rolls out into the open and told them that there would be no fudging on my part from now on. I didn't roll great for the monsters, but the players rolled worse.

After letting it all sink in for a few minutes, though, they both were already excited about moving on. My son has another character he's been wanting to get a little more action, so now he sees his chance. My daughter had rolled up a new thief on her own one afternoon just for fun, but has decided she likes him and has wanted to play him.

They both made a few notes on their dead PC's character sheets and filed them in their folders. Then they asked when we'd be playing next.

Gotta say they dealt with it a lot better than I did so many years ago..."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Labyrinth Lord - Color Map of included "Known Lands"

I killed some time today, catching up on podcasts and adding color to the "Known Lands" map that's included with Labyrinth Lord (which I've ordered). Feel free to grab it - it's large, so please don't embed it in your own web pages.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Vicious Gaming Cycle (flowchart)

A huge gaming flowchart from The Great Geek Manual.
update: original site now offline (too much traffic?!?) but the linked image still works for now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

1E Alignment Problems

AD&D's use and treatment of alignment has its problems. I can see the justification for it in terms of moving plots forward and creating motivations, but it seems too convoluted for its own good at times. Gygax even saw the need to include a graphical representation of the various character alignments. Alignment languages? No. I mean, a Thieves' Cant, sure, I can get to that, but a secret language of alignment? Are alignments religions, or are they secret orders? So how are alignment languages rationalized at all? Are they some kind of "vibe" that one gets, but that still allow you to communicate complex sentences to someone on the same wavelength as you? If that's the case, why does the Player's Handbook state that "speaking an alignment language openly is a serious breach of etiquette", or something to that effect?

Swords & Wizardy suits me a little more: "These core rules don't try to tell the Referee how to handle alignment; the Referee is free to use any system he chooses. If you're playing the game and you want an unofficial default, then the players may choose one of three alignments: Law, Chaos, or Neutrality. Most characters will be neutral. The good guys are Lawful, the bad guys are Chaotic, and anyone just trying to achieve fame and fortune is Neutral." Makes sense eh?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

1E Fantasy RPG campaign settings

1st edition D&D generally revolves around the world as set forth in Gygax's "World of Greyhawk, as outlined in the World of Greyhawk Gazetteer. It's a place which takes up 1/4 to 1/3 of the known "Oerth", with plenty of politics and TSR/WotC published scenarios taking place within it.

Although I'm keen to incorporate some of the classic 1E modules into a new campaign, I'm not so sure I want to bring Greyhawk itself into it. For one, I like the challenge of designing my own world, not to mention the delusions of godhood it affords me... but this type of thing is a lot of work for it to be done to my satisfaction. Fleshing it out as we play along, as it becomes necessary, seems the most energy conserving route. Most if not all of the old TSR modules should be able to be lifted and divorced from the Greyhawk setting, with place names and directional references simply replaced or omitted for purposes of clarity.

I'm curious as to what others have done in this regard though, esp. those that have only returned to the game after being away for years (or decades such as in my case!). I am aware of other commercially released campaign settings, such as Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, & Ravenloft, but am more intrigued by OGL material like Kingdoms of Kalamar. Ironically, I'm very drawn to the type of portrait described by the Points of Light settings, laid out by WotC in 2005 as 4E was approaching.

In the Points of Light setting (in a nutshell), "Civilized folk live in small, isolated points of light scattered across a big, dark, dangerous world." Where "...Adventurers are aberrant. Commoners view them as brave at best, and insane at worst...but such a world is rife with the possibility for adventure, and no true hero will ever lack for a villain to vanquish or a quest to pursue."

This is the type of general setting which I could immediately begin a game in, and then fill out as need be. Unfortunately, as near as I can gather, this world was never more fully described or published. Still, perhaps that was the whole point!

A fun sounding OGL alternative written by Mike Stewart at Dragonsfoot.org is Aedenne. The author describes it as follows: "In Aedenne, magic is a powerful factor in the world but not usually seen by the general populace. The realms are emerging from a 'Dark Ages' after the fall of the Imperium; much as western europe did the same after the fall of Rome."

"The usual antipathy between Dwarves and Elves is unknown in Aedenne. Granted, there is little affection lost between the two but no real hatred. Humans and Elves are where the true enmity lies. Humans dislike the Elves due to their power, their airs of superiority, and the occasional Elven attempts to subjugate them. Elves disdain Humans as short-lived, brutish folk little higher than the Orcine races. They also secretly envy the Humans as they know that Humanity are the future while they are the past; eminently adaptable while Elvenkind is rigid and unchanging in their semi-immortal state."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

RPG Motivational Posters

Here's over 400 role playing game themed motivational poster designs for your consideration and entertainment. Favorites anyone?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

1st Level Characters: Serious Pyschological Issues?

Nick and I were talking about beginning a campaign the other night when the subject came up of how characters (with seemingly disparate backgrounds, races, incomes and game class and alignments) could have a falling in with one another so that an adventuring group might actually come to exist, let alone be justified in having done so.

In briefly thinking about this in the course of our conversation, and as (tentative) DM, my mind began racing to rationalize this commonly found type of situation. The thought occurred that much as there are, were, and have always been the youth that have run away from their family, from tradition, or from culturally imposed expectations, so too would there be this same demographic in any Fantasy RPG type setting. That is to say, alienation from family, tradition, cultural expectations, or even other personal issues (sexual identity, loss of a loved one, sexual or other forms of abuse) might readily explain why a player character might decide to strike out on his or her own, seeking redemption, fame, closure of some kind, or just personal satisfaction in the adventuring life (actualization). Many an American youth has done just the same, perhaps stereotypically going to California (Hollywood!) to find themselves and to "be discovered". The pioneering/rebirth life is still and has always been a major part of the American dream. Who knows what sorts of conflicted feelings and emotional damage a half-orc or half-elven character might have to deal with, as well? Racism (presumably) is not limited to our own workaday world any more than to your characters' campaign setting. And how do you rationalize the existence of a 150+ year old 1st level elf? What exactly have you been doing with yourself, 'lo this past century, is the question we're tempted to ask! Are elves the classic underachievers? One might reasonably conclude so, given their upper level limits in class progression (versus the human race's unlimited abilities). In any event, it should come as no surprise that the social lubricant of alcohol, commonly found in the form of the Boar's Head Inn of the Welcome Wench's ale, can do wonders (at least initially) to make a dungeon adventuring enterprise with a group of complete strangers seem like a perfectly reasonable idea to those with these types of issues.

Assuming the likelihood of troubled pasts in our potential adventurers' pool, we can see that we're really left with an angst filled, troubled lot of characters indeed. It's no wonder that RPGs can particularly appeal to adolescents, struggling as they are to sort out the neuroses of the larger society from those which have been (potentially) already imprinted upon them from family and upbringing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free RPG roundup : Volume 1

This is a new irregularly appearing, themed post in which I'll be listing some free rpg's for your entertainment and inspiration.

On the heels of my last post about the Open Game Licensed, D&D 1st generation clone OSRIC comes Swords & Wizardy and Labyrinth Lord, which are also both OGL and "rules lite" 1st generation fantasy role playing games. Very similar is Basic Fantasy RPG which describes itself as a mix of 1st gen. rules and 3.5 rules. Yet another old school fantasy game is Dungeon Slayers. Still another is Swords & Magick, a fantasy rpg with "a skill-based character creation that allows for extremely versatile (and sometimes very strange) characters".

Gore is a "Generic Old School Role Playing Game" that (obviously) lends itself to different genres, including for exampe The Night of the Living Dead setting.

Zozer presents "Warlords of Alexandar" (pdf) - a free rpg set in the 4th century BC (uses the BRP game mechanics from Chaosium or Runequest).

Midgard: Viking Legends (pdf) - from the author, "Midgard is a roleplaying game, where you take on the role of a legendary Viking hero and complete your own epic quests. I am specifying this as a mythic-historic setting—that is one in which you try to stick closely to the history or the period, but assume that all the gods, myths and monsters that the Viking people believed are actually true.

Update: Swords & Wizardry is now available in hard cover book format via Lulu.com. I really think that as of this date, it really seems to me to be the best introductory fantasy RPG, definitely being as good for this as the old D&D (red box) Basic boxed set. Very nice art, very straightforward rules, as it says: Take the basic framework and “Imagine the hell out of it!”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Old School Gaming - the OSRIC and 1st Ed. D&D...Free

More than one person has nostalgically yearned for the kinder, simpler days of the 1st generation of fantasy role playing games, and more than once I've found myself trying to remember the letter designation and name of a TSR "module" (now known in WoTC parlance as "Adventures"), or even perused eBay listings for these items, just to look at the artwork and be reminded again of the good times that were had...

The OSRIC (or Old School Reference and Index Compilation) is a very ambitious, and I believe, successful attempt to rebuild D&D 1st edition for its release under the Open Game License. As much as you may regret selling that old AD&D PHB, DMG, or MM, at least now for all intents and purposes you can easily and legally download the rules contained in it. Over 27,000 others already have.

Update: Old Schoolers might also be interested to know that they can download the classics Tomb of Horrors and White Plume Mountain (originally TSR modules) for free from the WoTC website.

Pathfinder Fun

I spent much of this morning playing with some art from Paizo and came up with a very minor product of sorts that I've contacted them about for more information about licensing/permission/distribution etc. Nothing terribly exciting and Mac compatible only! I'll update this post with a link if I ever hear back from them, and maybe again if I don't... Honestly, I'm only hoping they'll distribute it (or let me do so) for free...

Update: I've since updated this for Windows users, so ignore this Mac only above.

Follow up post here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

St. Patty's Sale at Chaosium

Just thought I'd point out Chaosium's St. Patrick's Day sale to my fellow rpg'ers... Received notice of this in an email, and they're entirely right to point out the frugality of role playing gaming. I must confess to having thought their prices a tad high at times, so if you're wavering, maybe this is what you needed to see. Full disclosure, I am in no way affiliated or compensated by Chaosium! Just sharing a good thing folks. Sale prices good until Mar. 17.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pathfinder Beta Playtest

I printed out the (as yet free) Pathfinder beta playtest from Paizo tonight. Used up my magenta toner and a half a ream of paper. I swear my next printer will have duplexing...without having gone through it much, first impressions are very good, and great art too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Overly Honest RPG Book Covers - Ancient Thread

I ran across a very old thread entitled "Overly Honest RPG covers" at rpg.net while doing some unrelated research. At over 235 pages long and dating back to May '05, it's pretty huge as far as forum threads go... Lots of juvenile and inside humor here to keep someone entertained, and some pretty funny photoshops too.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

WotC's D&D Podcast

A new round of podcasts is out from Wizards of the Coast. Check out their entire archive. It's a great way to get a feel for the game - I'm amazed at how much it's changed since I played as a kid. There are five players, one of whom Trekkies will immediately recognize.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Happy Belated GM's day (Mar.4)

I belatedly learned about GM's day from Mr. Topp's blog, wherein he believes he has located the source of this idea. He also notes that Mr. Gygax passed away on this new "holiday" (March 4th), although that was after the original idea.. Sales are still in effect!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Game Mapping Software

I've been asked if there's anything that can help with game mapping that I'm aware of, and so I've had to do a bit of research to answer the question.

The first thing that came to mind was OmniGraffle for some reason, but a little research quickly turned up Gliffy which offered something very similar (free basic account available). Some version of D&D was supposed to include a CD-Rom with map making software, although all of the links to it I can now find are dead.

Profantasy has some powerful looking software, but it's about $50.

Dunjinni looks great too, and is slightly less expensive, if you don't mind paying for this type of thing.

Inkscape has been suggested by some, which I have used for other purposes. There's always the pen and paper method of legend!

Some more ideas might be found here.

What do you use?

Update: Just found AutoREALM, looks pretty interesting (Windows only).

Update: I managed to get a hold of an AD&D Core Rules CD for 2nd Edition, and it has a very nice (basic, but very straightforward to use) map maker included.

Update: Here's a screenshot of the mapmaker in use (from the AD&D CD mentioned just above). The runes used are actually fonts installed via AutoREALM.

Update: A web-based tool is MapMatic which is a bit basic and itself claims to be aimed at old school players (be sure to check out the "edit with MapMaker +1" feature for greater ease of use).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Diceless Role Playing Game system

Erick Wujcik, sadly, has passed away. In addition to his other Palladium Press RPG contributions, he created "Amber" a diceless RPG. I have yet to actually see this, but I'm very intrigued. Wikipedia has an entry about it. A fan has created a number of links of interest.

The idea of a diceless rpg system really makes me think that the game must be much more based on actual roleplay as combat and randomness/luck wouldn't be as important. It must be even more than usually based on real collaborative/improvisational storytelling. I thought I read somewhere that the game may be reprinted in the near future, but right now it's available as a PDF download at DriveThroughRPG.com.

"Sufficiently Advanced" - A RPG about Intellectual Property!

I read a review of "Sufficiently Advanced" and am blown away by the concept here. To quote:

"As the author explains, trade in physical items and forms of currency is long obsolete in the setting, given most civilizations’ ability to create and transmute all forms of matter from elementary particles. Ideas – what we today call “intellectual property” – remain the only universal source of value. For that reason, the one organization acknowledged by nearly all the far-flung descendants of humanity is the universal Patent Office. The default player character group in Sufficiently Advanced is a team of Patent Office Inspectors, special agents empowered to investigate suspected violations of the Office’s IP regulations. Since the Office’s most interesting cases tend to involve illegal reproduction of things like planet-cracking weaponry or mind-influencing subsonics, this is a more exciting job than it might at first appear.

Nor is the Patent Office simply an IP-enforcement organization. The power behind the Patent Office is that of the Transcendentals, short for Transcendental Artificial Intelligences. These vast beings, the very first sapient AIs created by humanity, are the source of much modern technology, including the physics-bending wormhole generators that permit instantaneous travel between distant galaxies. The most important property of the Transcendentals, shared at present with no other intelligent beings, is that their consciousnesses exist spread across time in such a way that they can receive messages from their own future selves."

The game itself is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 license. Its development blog has an amazing graphic showing the relationships among the various SA universe's factions. Wow.

Bunnies & Burrows, 2nd Edition

Here's a charming bit of RPG history for ya... Before you laugh it off completely, check out the wikipedia article about it. Apparently it was pretty innovative at the time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Role Playing Games as a sort of Exquisite Corpse

I was looking over a poem I'd collaborated on with two others some years ago and thinking of more current project ideas when it occurred to me that role playing games are in many ways a type of Exquisite Corpse, or at least similar to it. They're also like a type of improvisational theatre.

David Friedman had something to say the other day about RPGs & Creative Writing that seemed to make a lot of sense and fit into my own history of playing them.

A Chaosium BRP Bestiary?

There's Mongooses's Runequest III Bestiary, which I assume is compatible with BRP, but not much else as far as I can tell. Perhaps a reader can steer me right... as it is, I'm looking at having to convert the stats at d20srd into BRP's system. Someone else has thought of the same thing.

Update: Some very nice folks in the forums at basicroleplaying.com steered me toward: Sword & Spell (upcoming release), the RuneQuest SRD (all the Runequest material published under the OGL), Middle Earth BRP bestiary, and finally Fire & Sword, a complete Fantasy RPG, free & written by a co-creater of the original Runequest (which also contains several dozen creatures compatible with the BRP system).

Monday, March 2, 2009

BRP arrives in the mail

It seems the Chaosium's BRP rulebook is not at all what I'd expected and I've been misled (or misled myself!): Runequest appears to be what I'm after, apparently it still exists but is owned by another company. Also, the other company has licensed it with the OGL (which I'll go into later). Furthermore, it's not very affordable at all, in that there are a ton of supplements available. Well, I'll be returning this BRP most likely. I would still love to have a longer look at Pathfinder, which seems like the real successor to D&D 3.5, and still has OGL. Cripes, it's worse than navigating computer operating systems and languages I tell ya!

Update: I actually quite like BRP now, as I'll go into in a future post.