Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting the Band Back Together?!

If everything goes right - planets aligning, etc. - and we can clear a night on everyone's schedule there's a good chance that two of my buddies from my high school days (1987-1991) will be doing some role-playing with some other guys rounded up by my cousin.  Technically, it's not the whole "band" - it will only be Jamie and Travis - but it should be cool anyway.  We used to play all sorts of rpg's and video games together back in the day.  It would be cool to game again with these guys.

I met Jamie in the second grade - that's a looooonnnnnngggggg time ago - and we discovered D&D together with the Basic Set.  We played as much as possible and missed a lot of sleep growing We moved on to other games including Car Wars, Gamma World, GURPS, Palladium Fantasy, & Talislanta. 

I met Travis through Jamie.  Travis introduced us to RIFTS.  I still remember looking through the rulebook that first time.  I couldn't help but think of Gamma World and all the fun Jamie and I used to have with that game. 

I'm not sure what we are going to play once we do get a game night organized.  Jamie and I have talked of trying out Castles & Crusades because it would be both familiar to AD&D but the rules are streamlined; I'm not saying the rules are better but they are easier to understand. Of course, we might just dust off an old favorite like RIFTS. I have the RIFTS Ultimate Edition that I have yet to run.  I'm also considering really rules-light such as Microlite74 or something similar.  To tell the truth, the game system really isn't that important but getting the chance to game with some old buddies is what's really important.  Regardless of the system used I'm sure we'll have fun.  First, we all just have to get a free night.

Fingers crossed...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of House Rules Pt. 1

Some Basic Ideas...
While I am going through the AiF rule books, I have been taking notes on what I would do differently or what I think needs to be clarified.  I plan on assembling these ideas into a fourth rule book for AiF, the Book of House Rules. Yeah, I know it's not the most intriguing of titles but it does fit the naming scheme of the other books and it does get the idea across.  Here are some of the ideas I have so far:

I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.  I do, however, know several guys with extraordinary art skills.  I would like to get a cover image and a few illustrations in a similar manner as the existing AiF artwork.

Player Races
Upon reading the rules, it is apparent that AiF is a humanocentric game.  There's nothing wrong with that but I thought it would be nice to open up some more options.  I am not going to include stats for non-human races but include different varieties of humans.  For instance, maybe one type of human is stronger while another is more agile and so on.  Just providing mor eoptions based on the existing framework.

Basic Characteristics
The goal in this area is simple - clear up any confusion over the number of characteristics and the characteristics themselves.  The existing rules are not clear and need some work.  I would also drop the idea of optional characteristics; use them all because an optional characteristic is used in figuring Hit Points already. 

The Rest
At the end, I will have house rules covering sections of all 3 rule books.  I am attempting to stick to the following guidelines when developing these house rules:
  •  No changes just for change's sake - In other words, only change what needs changing.
  • Clean up and clarify - most of the house rules will just clarify and reinforce the existing rules.
That should do it for now.  As I stated previously, I believe AiF is a decent enough game but I think it was released before a proper edit was completed.  A cleaned up, consistent, and clarified version of Arneson and Snider's rules should offer plenty of role-playing goodness.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

[Rant] My Experience Using D&D Meetup

*Note: this is just my experience with using the local D&D Meetup service one time. I'm sure some others have had similar experiences but I'm also sure that many others have had a good experience using this same service. Put simply, the experience was pretty lame but it was the person encountered that was the source of my disappointment and not the service itself. ****

I used to play a ton of RPG's.  I started with D&D/AD&D back in 1980.  Over the years, I tried many other games from DC Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes, Champions, Fantasy Hero, Villains & Vigilantes, Super World, Car Wars, GURPS, RIFTS, Talislanta, Palladium Fantasy, and many other numerous titles.  The old faithful lineup of RPG's that I continuously played through the 1980's until I graduated high school in 1991 consisted of AD&D, RIFTS, Talislanta, Villains & Vigilantes, and Palladium Fantasy.

A month after I graduated from high school I left for the Army.  I didn't play a lot while I was in the military but I did keep up with gaming in general, discovered Magic: The Gathering, and did actually play a few sessions of AD&D.  I left the Army in 2000 and returned home.  Most of my old gaming buddies had either left the hobby or moved out of town.  I had virtually no face to face gaming available.  One bright spot is that I did introduce my cousin, Alex, to 3E and we still hook up to play occasionally. We have also been developing a shared campaign world, Toldara, for several years.

I tried to overcome this absence of face to face role-playing by finding other outlets.  After some internet searches, I ran across some PBP games, message board games, PBEM games, and also heard of MEETUP. I don't know the exact time frame but I registered for the local D&D meetup around the time of 4E's release.  IIRC, the Pathfinder Alpha was out but the completely playtested Pathfinder Core Rulebook was not released yet.

I was on the D&D Meetup site for only a short time before I got contacted.  It sounded pretty good to me because the people were in Tulsa; about 25 miles from my location. We agreed to meeet halfway between our locations at Panera Bread.  We ordered some drinks and discussed our RPG experience and what kind of gaming we enjoyed.  It seemed like a really good match so we decided to meet again and try to gather some more people.

The next meeting took place at their house.  I brought my cousin, Alex, with me as a recruit.  At this point, there were 4 of us - Alex, me, and the two players we met.  The guy - I'll call him "Dick" - was interested in being the DM. He had all sorts of ideas for a campaign world, some adventures, and even some house rules.  Dick mentioned that his girlfriend - I'll call her "Jane" - would be playing her first game with us so it might be slow going at first.  No problem there. Dick also mentioned that he was talking to 2 other players about joining the game.  At the end of that meeting, we had decided on the rules system (3.5E with some early Pathfinder stuff), made characters (Alex, Jane, & me), and decided to meet again in 2 weeks for our first game session.

Two weeks pass and we (Alex & I) show up at Dick & Jane's to play.  The other two players - I'll call them "Will" and "Wendy" - had showed up earlier so they could create characters with the house rules available to them during the process.  I remember that Will and Wendy had printed out some really cool character sheets from some website.  It was nice to see everyone was ready to start playing before the start of the game.  We introduced ourselves, had some idle chit chat, and then got ready to play.

The game session lasted for approximately 4 hours.  The length was just about right. It wasn't too short for the drive involved. It also wasn't too long and drawn out either.  The session was fun with no rules lawyering or any of that silliness.  Everyone appeared to have a great time.  We ended the session and then agreed to have another meeting in two weeks again. 

One week passed and I was looking forward to another game session.  I checked my email and received a message from Dick.  He explained that the group "just wasn't working out for him" and decided to tell Will and Wendy they would not be invited back.  I tried exchanging messages with him and getting a good reason but he wouldn't give one.  Eventually, I got pretty irritated because he didn't give a group of strangers a chance to gel and didn't even give the other 4 of us a chance to continue playing with a new DM or one of us taking over as DM.  I promptly unregistered from the D&D MEETUP group and have yet to take another chance on gaming outside my circle of friends.

edit - some text got erased when posting - d'oh!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Testing, testing....1, 2, 3...
Testing, testing....1, 2, 3...

I am posting this from my phone via text to see how it comes out on the other end.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of Adventure Pt. 3

After a short detour, I am returning to posts covering AiF. Let's take a look at the remaining chapters of the Book of Adventure.

The first chapter is titled Setting up the Campaign and actually covers quite a bit of information for being only 6 pages long; 2 of those pages are a sample underground map of a dragon's lair and a list of the contents in each room. Obviously, the information contained in this chapter is not as comprehensive as the original AD&D DMG but it will help give structure and reason to the campaign.

The chapter begins with some introductory remarks about a few of the referee's responsibilities before the start of play.  It is pointed out that "there must be a reason for the players to be undertaking the adventure upon which these same players are about to begin". Right off the bat, AiF is concerned with background, motivation, and reasons for adventuring.  I've always heard that the games of this era were pretty weak in this aspect but I am satisfied with what I have read.  The advice is practical and still applies today.

The next part of the chapter deals with the sample fantasy campaign of Bleakwood.  It serves as an example of how to generate some details of the adventuring world.  The example includes a calendar with months named, season, corresponding dates to Julian calendar, weeks, day, and also the names of the years.  With names such as "Valkyrie", "Week of Fire", and "Year of the Dragon" it helps to set the mood and tone. 

The next section of the chapter is Setting up an Adventure.  I am happy to say that the information continues to be very clear and practical.  Instead of just giving instructions on how to draw a map this section details the Dragon's Lair by covering such topics as the eating habits of creatures (how and when), number of creatures, how these creatures avoid disturbing the Dragon, the lairs of the creatures, and the dangers facing the player characters. The referee is then shown how to lay out the underground and how to list the details of the matching descriptions with contents, function, treasure, and guards or creatures. The example is wrapped up by covering tricks and traps such as trap doors, sliding walls, sloping passages, stairways, and chances of getting lost or disoriented.  The next two pages show the map of the Dragon's Lair and the Location list.

That's the details of the Setting up the Campaign chapter and I already have a much better impression of this section of the rulebook in contrast to the player's portion.  I have always heard that Arneson "wasn't a rules guy but was one hell of a referee".  If this chapter is any indication then I would say that's a very fair statement.  The rules are serviceable but lack clarity while the GM advice is clear, practical, and makes me want to grab my graph paper and get to mapping!

Next: I continue to look at the Book of Adventure.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

[House Rules] Alternate AD&D Ability Score Generation Methods

I promise I am returning to AiF posts soon...

I am somewhat fortunate to have a co-worker that is also a role-player.  We often discuss games at break or lunch.  During one of the recent coversations we discussed different methods for rolling ability scores during character creation in (A)D&D.  I thought the two methods we discussed could prove to be fun so I thought I would share.

18D6 & Split
Each player rolls 18D6 for the ability scores.  The player then splits them into 6 groups of 3D6 and chooses which score gets assigned to each ability. 

9D6 Physical, 9D6 Mental
Each player rolls 9D6 for the physical ability scores.  The player then splits the 9D6 into 3 groups of 3D6 and assigns each score to one of the physical abilities of strength, constitution, or dexterity.  Each player rolls 9D6 for the mental ability scores.  The player then splits the 9D6 into 3 groups of 3D6 and assigns each score to one of the mental abilities of intelligence, wisdom, or charisma.

Both of these methods give the player a little more control of the character creation process.  It should make it a little bit easier to qualify for some of the more difficult classes to qualify for in AD&D.  It just seemed like a fun change.  I'm going to give it a try sometime.

edit 1 - fat fingers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

On the Origins of Half-Orcs

I am taking one more break from continued posting about the Book of Adventure from the AiF rules to post this quick thought.

Half-Orcs have always been among the outcasts of society.  This only makes sense considering their typical origin.  Usually, the Half-Orc is the result of Orc conquerors and the obvious spoils of war.  More rarely, the Half-Orc is the result of of an "unfortunate" pairing with an unattractive human.  Neither one of these are satisfying answers to the origins of the Half-Orc.

I believe that there is a better explanation - or even multiple explanations - for the existance of Half-Orcs for three simple reasons.  First, the name of the game is fantasy role-playing so step out of the box and come up with some reasons out of the ordinary; skip the science and start thinking of magical, divine, or other reasons.  Second, I keep hearing how creative role-players tend to be. How about showing some creativity and come up with a different reason?  Third, most role-players I know of really enjoy tinkering with the rules.  Why let the changes be restricted to just the rules?  I can not count the number of times I have read that it is "your game" so why should I not tailor it to my liking?

In my campaign world Half-Orcs are pretty close to their official writeup in many ways except for their origins.  Here is what I did to change the Half-Orcs of my world.  Half-Orcs are not the product of crossbreeding - willful or otherwise - between a Human and Orc.  In fact, that union will never produce any offspring.  Half-Orcs are actually the product of divine intervention.  At the end of the First Age of my world, there was a great war. All nations were eventually pulled into this conflict and even the Gods took sides.  There was one spot where war was expected but both sides refused to give in to the conflict and the will of the Gods.  The capital city of one human nation and the nearby Orcs had a truce that had been in place for several years by the time of this war.  They both saw the needless bloodshed of the past and did not want it to continue.  The Humans and Orcs from these two areas made a stand against their respective allies and against the Gods even.  As punishment, the Gods cursed these two societies by forever joining them in mind, body, and spirit. The other cultures started calling these people and named them as "Half-Orcs" and the label stuck.

There it is - the quick version of the origin of the Half-Orcs in my campaign.  I just did not like the "official" explanation in the rulebook.  It did not seem that enough of these beings would be created from the implied explanation to justify an entry in the races section.  I just sat down with my notes and tried to draw some logical conclusions.  That is the one I came up with and used.  Do you have anything like this in your game?

edit 1 - removed unnecessary "an".

Sunday, August 7, 2011

[House Rules] AD&D Ability Scores

I am taking a break from my Adventures in Fantasy posts to do this real quick.

Note: The following better suits the detailed approach of AD&D instead of the looser approach of D&D.

I like to tinker with the rules of the various games I play.  The game I have probably house ruled more than any other is AD&D.  I have always wanted to look into expanding the list of abilities but I have never given it a serious effort.  I think it could work.  I honestly do not know if it would be worth the effort but I think it might be worth a look.  Since there are 3 physical and 3 mental abilities with a total of 6 abilities I would want to maintain the same sort of balance when adding the new abilities. I would suggest adding 2 abilities to the core six of Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

Agility (AGL): Agility would represent something like total body control and also set the modifier for AC.  This would mean Dexterity now represents hand to eye coordination and actions requiring fine manipulation.  Some of the thief skills would now be affected by Agility and some by Dexterity.

Composure (COM): Composure would represent something like mental endurance, coping with stress, and the ability to persevere in the face of terror; similar to Sanity from Call of Cthulhu.

I'm sure that both of these abilities could be added and put to good use.  Composure could be fun to mess with but it could also be done with a saving throw.  I have always thought there should be a split between Dexterity and Agility. I'm not quite so sure it would be worth the effort.  Honestly, I would not want to worry about figuring one or more additional ability scores when using an "official" module or resource.  This is just one of those ideas that cross my mind from time to time but I have never acted upon it.  Maybe one of these days I will.  On the other hand, in my older age with limited free time I would rather play than try to decipher a bunch of unnecessary house rules.  Not that I am opposed to house rules - I plan on sharing some of mine in this blog - but let's use them where they are needed.

edit 1 - fat fingers.
edit 2 - fixed some awkward wording.

Friday, August 5, 2011

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of Adventure Pt. 2

Quick Recap
I began exploring the Book of Adventure in my last post.  I didn't make it past the generation of the basic characteristic scores and was already confused. Here's what I know for sure:
  1. AiF characters have 7 basic characteristics; 5 standard and 2 optional.
  2. The standard characteristics are Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma, and Health.
  3. Characteristic scores are generated on a 01-100 scale.
No problem with that at all. The confusion over the characteristics come from one simple fact.  The rules only list Stamina as an optional characteristic but states there are 2 optional characteristics.  Even after some more reading and digging around I can not find anything about another optional characteristic.  Hopefully, it will become apparent after reading the rest of the manuals. Now I will continue on with the rest of character creation.

Hit Points
Hit Points are determined by a simple math formula involving all 3 physical characteristics.  Oddly, Stamina is included in this formula even though it is an optional characteristic.  That seems counter intuitive and just bad rules design since an optional characteristic is used in a standard formula.  Adding to the confusion is the fact that Hit Points are not defined.  Sure, anybody with a little role-playing experience will know their purpose but this is supposed to be a beginners set of rules.

Social Status
Social Status is generated by two simple D100 rolls cross-referenced on a result table that determines the yearly income, rank, and position; characters can range from serf and on up to King! There are a few basic guidelines concerning social structure but not much detail.  It is interesting that these rules enable play from the lowest to highest social positions in society.

Starting Age
A chart is rolled against to determine a character's starting age and the effect on the basic characteristics.  The effects of aging, sicknes, and the chances of natural death are also covered in this section. 

Funds & Equipment
At this point, the starting funds are generated for the character.  Each character basically given one year's income according to their social rank plus a little extra.  The rules also state on page 7 that the price list of items is "below" but does not actually start until page 16.

There are 26 skills available for player characters.  The list seems pretty standard and includes language, horsemanship, weapons, crafts, and some trades.  If I recall correctly, most games of this time did not include a skill section so this part of the rules would prove valuable for players that like to "borrow" from other rules for their D&D games. Something that really sticks out to me in this section is learning the skills.  A character can learn them earlier than the required time needed, right at the time needed, or take longer than the time needed.  A nice little touch of realism and variety that does not use a cumbersome set of additional mechanics to simulate.

Impression So Far...
My only previous experience with AiF was just flipping through the rules occasionally.  It seemed like simply "D&D with a D100".  I thought it would be pretty close to D&D.  It is in some respects but it also follows the (O)D&D example of being unclear and disorganized.  AiF could use a good edit and reorganization of some of the sections to help clear up confusion.  I still think there is a "good game" lurking in these rules.

Next: The GM section of the Book of Adventure....

edit 1 - spelling nazi.

Monday, August 1, 2011

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of Adventure Pt. 1

Before doing any serious reading on a gaming product I usually flip through the pages to see what stands out and catches my eye.  Three things stood out in the Book of Adventure. First, there is no character sheet included in the book. Second, the ink on the pages is BLUE and can get somewhat irritating to your eyes. Third, this book has the player and game master rules together.

The Cover & Introduction
Both are fairly typical of similar products.  The cover art depicts a dragon resting on a treasure hoard with a spellbook under paw. The creature's attention is focused on four adventurers standing in the cave entrance in the background. It's not quite up to the Holmes Basic D&D cover in quality but it conveys the same type of  imagery.  The introduction has no groundbreaking thoughts included within.

Table of Contents
A glance at the table of contents makes it clear that this book contains information for the player as well as the game master.  It appears that the essential player information is contained on pages 1 to 19 while the remaining 38 pages are probably best suited for the game master.

The forward contains 3 interesting bits of information. First, the date is listed as "April, 1978"; neat information because it establishes historical context. Second, Arneson (I assume) shows his displeasure with further complexity in D&D by stating that after the release of the original system there was "added dozens of additional rules in a chaoticc jumble that buried the original structure under a garbage heap of contradictions and confusion".  Third, it is made clear that AiF was intended as a introductory set because there is mention of additional rules volumes such as Dragon Lore & Legend, Ritual Magic, The Races of the Faerry, World of Fantasy, and "more". As far as I know, none of these titles ever saw print.  It would be interesting to find out any concrete information about these titles.

The Player Character
The first chapter of the book stands at a sparse 7 pages and covers character generation.  The definition and generation of the basic characteristics are the first two subjects covered. Generation of the characteristic scores is pretty straightforward.  The rules state to roll 2 twenty-sided dice and generate a number from 01-100.  If I remember correctly, the twenty-sided dice available at the time were numbered 0-9 twice instead of 1 - 20. Of course, one could just roll two d10's and do the same thing today. My point is generation of the characteristics is pretty simple and easy to follow.  What isn't so clear to me is the list of characteristics.

Basic Game Player Characteristics
It would seem like a simple thing to list the characteristics that represent the physical and mental attributes of the player character.  It should be and a character sheet would actually solve this issue. I can say after several readings that I am still not sure of the characteristics.  The introductory paragraph in this section mentions "Strength, Intelligence, Charisma, Knowledge, Dexterity, Stamina..." while the list and explanations of the characteristics include Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Charisma, Stamina, and Health. Both lists are very similar but the second list omits Knowledge and adds Health.  No problem, knowledge might just be a reference to the skills a character knows, right? Maybe, but then there is little bit that adds to the confusion. After the generation method of the characteristics is described the next sentence reads "Do this for each of the five basic player characteristics and for the two optional characteristics if they are used".  That makes the total number of characteristics seven.  Neither list has seven characteristics. Plus, the only characteristic I can see that is listed as "optional" is Stamina so what is the other optional one?

Is Knowledge a characteristic?

Was it an editing mistake?

Does Knowledge just refer to a characters skills?

Anybody with any experience with AiF that can answer these questions?

It seems like an odd spot to get confused. I hope the rest of the rules are clearer than this. I'm stopping for the night so I can try to make some sense of this.

Next: character creation continued.