The Best Product to Rule them All

As I wrote in my last post, there were a multitude of rpg products published at Ropecon. Only one provoked me to play immediately, however. I haven’t more than skimmed most of these products, but I can already tell you which makes the greatest impression to me (aside from my own book, presumably). Read the rest of this entry »


A Peculiar Combat System

I’m supposed to concentrate on writing TSoY, but a short note about something else should break the pace nicely. The following came to me yesterday when I pondered the system aesthetics of fantasy adventure games: if I were to design a beginner-friendly fantasy adventure game, I would consider the d20-based D&D mechanics and pool-based Tunnels & Trolls mechanics both too dependent on special tools – strange dice shapes or too many dice, to wit. So I started thinking of how I’d create a traditional fantasy rules set using only a deck of playing cards. Read the rest of this entry »

About the D&D Combat System

This is a sort of sister thread for my look at Vancian magic from last week. Looking at what you actually do in D&D (generally, not specifically the modern take), this is what I get:

  • Plenty of freeform negotiation of situations (which I’ve sort of already dealt with last year in my discussion of challenge-based adventuring); despite some weak efforts to the contrary, the core D&D experience really runs on the basis of you-imagine, I-imagine, the result of which is a set of mutually accepted (credible, in theory-speak) challenge constraints that are then set in stone until the challenge is completed.
  • The magic system, which is the most important resource subsystem in the game. Increasingly so at higher levels, increasingly so in later editions.
  • The combat system, which is what you do with that positioning and those resources.

So it stands to reason that I’m interested in tackling the combat system now. Read the rest of this entry »

Vancian magic

I’ve been reading Dungeons & Dragons books from the end of the ’80s – meaning the Mentzer edition, to be exact. They’re full of freaky shit that makes little sense, but is certainly thought provoking. My favourite is the Crucible of the Blackflame, the halfling racial artifact that has the minor power to repeal entropy alongsides its actual function of producing cloth that flies. Apparently the racial purpose of the demi-humans in D&D is to create kites that fly without a wind and take decades or even centuries of slave labour to create. Quite random stuff, that.

Anyway, reading all this old D&D material has turned my mind upon the Vancian magic system of D&D. I like the Dying Earth stories of Jack Vance a lot, but I never really appreciated the magic system of D&D – what works in a book won’t necessarily work in a game that has quite difference concerns, anyway. When I was younger I was actually quite adamantly opposed to D&D style magic because of its utilitarian nature – in my fantasy adventure roleplaying and reading magic was a mysterious, powerful force that would basically be a big deal whenever it made an appearance. Many people also dislike the somewhat counterintuitive memorization system with spell levels and such, preferring different sorts of mana systems – this is not the case with me, though; a homogenous pool of magical energy has never provided interesting detail to my play, so while it certainly has made appearances in my games, the solution was always a cludge.

After playing the Mentzer edition of D&D and reading the related books I’m starting to think that I could perhaps make a Vancian magic system palatable for my own D&D gaming. Let’s see what such a system would look like: Read the rest of this entry »

Bull Dungeoneering

Mazes & Minotaurs, as the name implies, is a D&D -derivative roleplaying game published a while back. I remember reading it several months ago when I was bored – it has the feel of a ’70s rpg polished to fit modern standards in terms of terminological clarity, rules logic and such. The most amusing part of the game is that it is a Gygaxic take on Greek myth, as opposed to the medievalism of D&D. The game has the same goofy setting bits that make it a bit difficult to relate to at times (like making centaurs a PC race, not my cup of tea), but it also has lots of Greek flavour; I especially liked the Noble as a character class, that should make for some interesting roleplaying.

It’s not the game I want to discuss here, though, but the recently released adventure/campaign (I guess it’s not a campaign in traditional terms, but I know I rarely play this long games nowadays myself) Tomb of the Bull King. It’s an amazing, over 200 page long dungeon adventure, and seems to be the among best adventures in its genre that I’ve ever read. I simply can’t figure out what drives these guys – all the hundreds of pages of material for M&M are free, and apparently just created for the larks, or perhaps out of passion for the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Pick-up Party Play

My snazzy topic here comes directly from a reader comment here. Captain Poco wants to know how I’m doing with a constantly shifting player base in my Alder Gate campaign, especially as I haz girz in the group, too. So let’s look into those issues, then – there’s a lot of other things I could write about here (including a Story Games discussion I need to write backgrounds for, related to my experiences here). Read the rest of this entry »

New primitive D&D campaign

Right now it seems that my primary source of rpg amusement this winter is a new campaign of primitive D&D with challenge-based adventuring techniques. As many of the youngsters I’ve been playing rpgs lately moved towards university studies I had to think up something new to attract new gamers to my group. We have plenty of boardgamers, computer games and Magic: the Gathering players here in Sonkaj√§rvi, but the teens do not usually play roleplaying games independently of my influence, it seems. Read the rest of this entry »

Fantasy Adventure #5: Character Creation & Advancement

I might as well write about the char-gen principles of my D&D-rewrite, considering that those hew so closely to the Ability and Class definitions I discussed earlier. All this is to some degree useless without solid rules for adventure management and conflict resolution, but I’ll get to those at some point, too. For now, some specific ideas for how to create and advance characters: Read the rest of this entry »

Fantasy Adventure: Runeslayers

Last week I had little time for gaming, but I did manage to pull off a rather interesting session of trad-style adventure gaming with Runeslayers. We played for five hours, during which time we managed to create characters for two players and play through a large enough arc of adventure. There were two players and me doing GMing, being that I was the only one who’d read the rules beforehand. The interesting points from the fantasy adventuring perspective mostly pertain to character generation, here. Read the rest of this entry »

Fantasy Adventure #4: Downtime and Adventure

After a brief bout of illness, back on track with my routines, including laying down track on my version of challengeful fantasy adventure. The topic this time is bootstrapping for adventure; this is not exactly at the center of my vision as far as my personal interests go, but it’ll probably be useful to understand the context in which the rest of the rules are supposed to operate. This is also an often neglected part of rules in this kind of game design, so it’s good to say a word or two about it now and then. Read the rest of this entry »