Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Samhain Everbody.

I said I didn't celebrate Halloween however , since it is a major holiday for a lot Pagan, Wiccans and the like wellll.

Happy Samhain everybody

Saturday, October 29, 2011

3 Simple Reasons Why I Don't Do Edition Wars

#1 Different people like different games and thats OK

#2 Every version of D&D 0-4, Pathfinder, Trailblazer and every retro-clone beyond all bring something fun to the table in some circumstances. They are all great ways to get together with cool people.

#3 People choosing to play a game I may not like or enjoy at a certain time (or at all for that matter) are not stealing my player base.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Question for the Readers

I'll start with a confession, I like night time soap operas in small doses, Dallas and Dynasty when I was a kid, occasionally others. Of late I have been enjoying the sleazy Melrose Place remake on NetFlix.

For those who haven't watched it, those show is way sexed up compared to the dreadful 1991 version and in addition to the usual schemers the leads include an obsessed psycho, a thief, and a med school student turned prostitute (played by the same gorgeous actress who played the Chinese Aussie resistance fighter is Terminator Sarah Conner Chronicles)

Let me ask you this.

Are Conventional RPGS (not Indy games designed for this purpose) good for other kinds of games than action story derived ones?

Can they with the right group be effectively used to game those stories of betrayal, jealousy, decadence and other sorts of immorality without implied violence?

If so, what is needed to make it work?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

18 thoughts on a 5 Stone Retro-Heartbreaker Game

I have no plans to add yet another OSR game to the ring, there are many out there already, with art, layout and design far better than I could do all by my lonesome.

That being said, were I to take the plunge I know what I'd include

#1 7 Stats (Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Constitution, Fellowship, Will or possibly Wisdom and Perception)

#2 Ascending AC and to hit bonuses.

#3 Level based defense bonus

#4 A definitive end game with the ability to play after that. This includes kingdom building, high level adventuring, strongholds, corporations and more,

#5 Class/Level

#6 Unlimited Cantrips

#7 Vancian Magic

#8 A fully coherent system that handles adventuring tasks, not a skill system but a system for stuff that needs to be adjudicated in game . I think it would be maybe 2d6 based influenced by LOTFP with a classes specializing in some and everyone getting some ability to improve them.

#9 Probably no cleric but there will be cleric type spells.

#10 Several Play Styles (Faeries Tale, Vikings, Swords Sorcery, High Fantasy, Weird)

#11 Support for everything to the musket age

#12 Racial Class Options

#13 Backgrounds not elaborate skills list. I don't know who said this but I tend to agree "The more skills in you game, the dumber your character is"

#14 Talents. Not a feat system but a system of cool extras, optional of course, ala Rolemaster and Arduin and such.

#15 Optionally Zero Level play that stacks.

#16 No multi classing but hybrid classes instead.

#17 Lots of standard gamer races with some mods for more powerful races (for example, to play an ogre in a game that allows it you have to start at a certain level and you get certain things)

#18 LOTFP meets Riddle of Steel style encumbrance.

Old School Design Rants #2 Old School Does Not Mean Incoherent Mechanics

One of my biggest gripes about D&D is the lack of coherent basic mechanics to handle adventuring tasks.

Each game has several subsystems for swimming, climbing walls and doing any of the other things an adventurer might do. Its not necessary to have % "skills" d6 systems, d10 systems and all that, just to be Old School.

While I understand why a retro-clone would include them, it being a clone and all, as James Raggi has shown us with Lament of the Flame Princess, its perfectly possible to have a coherent mechanic to handle stuff that comes up in games that is best handled by the dice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Review, The New Death and Others

I'd promised James a review of his book The New Death and others more out of respect for his excellent work at Age of Fable than any love of the type of fiction or of reviewing.

I am glad I did.

Lets start with the layout and structure, its not pretty or heavily illustrated but its small, easy to download on the slowest connection and the use of hypertext is flawless. Its easy to navigate and the font is easy to read and display. This is a fine thing.

I also like the mirthfully creepy cover art which reminds me of Edward Gorey.

The stories and poetry are a wide mix of the strange, homage works to the pulp era and a plethora or weird fiction. Now truthfully this is a genre I tend to avoid as I find it difficult and less than rewarding most of the time.

I'll make an exception here, the quality of writing and elegant brevity of the works makes this a most worthwhile read.

I found myself enjoying them and pretty easily able to get into the flow of the story.

Now like every work it has a few flaws, in particular the E-Book references his no longer extant website near the end and while you can find him elsewhere, this could be annoying, Secondly there is just a hint of a amateur roughness in places. Certainly not enough to discourage me from recommending the work, to the contrary its in general excellent but if you are word nut you'll notice it.

However if this his early work I can't wait to see his later and at 99 cents, you really can't go wrong. Its agreat read

You can get the book a Smashwords here, so go spend the buck, read a few tales, you'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Old School Design Rants #1 Old School is not a layout or editing style

This is a little series of sorts about old school game design. Mostly personal rants and ideas I think will improve future OSR design.

Rant #1

You do not have to duplicate the poor quality editing and layout of the old games to be old school. As long as your game supports the basic GM centric, high trust, use your own brain not the rulebook set up its old school no matter how its laid out.

Why No Halloween Themed Posts

A simple reason really, I don't like or celebrate the Holiday. So don't bother looking for candy either. I payed back the candy I collected as a kid with interest years ago and I don't answer the door.

If I have kids I'll change that though. Kids like Halloween a lot and I wouldn't deprive the larva of the experience.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Schopenhauer on gaming

No not really but it fits

Our civilized world is nothing but a great masquerade. You encounter knights, parsons, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, priests, philosophers and a thousand more: but they are not what they appear - they are merely masks.... Usually, as I say, there is nothing but industrialists, businessmen and speculators concealed behind all these masks. - Schopenhauer

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

5 Reasons why I am not a member of the SCA

Back when I was a young adult Grog the SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism was the thing for gamers. Lots of chances to be kind of medieval, fight with a sword, meet cool women and it was gamer friendly.

I hung around there a little, saw a few fights, really appreciated the caliber of the women fighters and archers (and one amazing slinger) and the fighters and was awed at the scale of the wars. Its just was not my thing and never clicked for me..

First off, with one minor exception, it was not the people. The SCAdians are the nicest most helpful group of people you'll ever meet. They are ready willing and able to get you up to speed and to teach you. All in all, they are great.

Why it didn't click is as follows

#1 I hate feudalism.

The SCA while partially historical also has quasi Feudalism LARP aspects I just did not like. Sir this, Lady that, bah...

#2 The SCA Combat style is stupid.

Oh granted it requires skills and athleticism and is a safe well thought out sport. Its fairly fun in its own way if taking a blow doesn't bother you and you don't mind roasting in plate (mail is a bad idea) Its also silly. Sword and Shield (or Sword and Board as the folks I knew called it) was never useful in real combat with armored foes (not even vs mail) and the chivalry? Give me a break. It makes for great game I guess but even back in the day I knew of George Silver and now , well Poleax and Longsword and Ringen and Misercordes in the cod are right out. Justly mind you, but still want real medieval combat not hitting people with heavy rattan sticks.

#3 Limited support for what I do like.

Its there in theory but Migration Era and Elizabethan stuff are mostly ignored. The stuff I really like (Enlightenment) isn't supported at all.

#4 The Not a Fighter Stigma.

This is the only time the SCA people were less than friendly actually, when they found out my rather limited interest in heavy combat. There is a stigma in males (especially burly guys) with have no interest in the combat sport aspect. Fencing? sure. Archery? Maybe. Heavy. Nope? Too expensive, too violent and not my cuppa tea

I understand the reason (clash of cultures, a chronic lack of new blood) they feel that way but I don't like it. If because I have no interest in heavy combat, I am going to be regarded as second class in the organization, thats OK. You can keep your warrior society and I'll do something else.

#5 Medieval Crafts aren't all that.

Nuff said there. I'd might have liked to learn to throw pots to do needlepoint or cook , the medieval division of labor really left that on the not so socially approved list. Men must Fight and may craft Women may fight and should Craft as it were.

So after a three or four tries I decided it was not gonna happen.

However I urge you to make up your own mind. The links I gave can help you learn more an dwho knows, it may suit you just fine.

My simple GURPS Chase and Sneak Rules

During my 7 Misfits GURPS game I ran across some situations that I felt needed to be handled a bit differently than the rules I had access to supported.

I suppose I could have bought GURPS Action but I felt at the time it was simpler to role my own, plus of course its the old school way ;)

Anyway those rules worked very well for me, mathematically gave essentially the same results as more complex rules and were fast in play. I'd use them again any time.


To sneak past sentries or patrols, roll stealth. In addition to modifiers for light, cover and terrain use the opponents vision roll modifier.
The opponents vision roll modifier is calculated as if the opponent rolled a vision roll of 10 plus modifiers.
For example
Two decent sentries with a +2 on vision rolls have a base roll of 12. This is "making the opposed roll by two" in GURPS terms to therefore the player must make a Stealth roll with a minus two penalty.


Chases rolls are made the same way with the caveat that the core used for chases is average of Health and Dexterity or Running Skill minus encumbrance, and other penalties. If the total "chase" calculation is less than 10, the difference is given as a bonus. How long the chase last is based on how many "bands" that is successes are needed.

For example

A moderately (-2) encumbered guard with a DX and HT of 11 has a chase roll of 9. This becomes a +1 bonus so our nimble (DX+HT average 12) thief needs to roll at 13- to get ahead. If he can do this 4 times , he escapes. Otherwise the guard catches up to him.

In Urban environments, the number of tries can be limited and if desired, new tries can be created with an area knowledge roll (hey another alley!) or acrobatics for more Parkour style action.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

10 Things I learned from my Old School GURPS Game in No Particular Order

Running an old school -dungeon fantasy style GURPS game has been a learning experience for me and much to my surprise has changed some of my long held preconceptions about games in general.

#1 I love dungeons.

In the past I thought they were just dumb but these days, I like them a lot, a heck of a lot more than a I did as a young grog. Not only do they make my job as GM easier by keeping everyone on the plot but they help concentrate the groups fun and keep them focused, something essential with a group as big as mine.

#2 I don't really like GURPS rules system for this kind of game.

Its a good system but it doesn't support my wahoo, old school, rules not rulings gaming style the way I want . It simply isn't as much fun as I expected and given the limitations of my group I have to cut it in ways that take away GURPS strengths . I might be willing to give it a try with a more experienced group or on different subject matter but mainline GURPS is too complex and my version of GURPS Medium-Rare is just not doing it.

#3 I dislike GURPS magic.

This really isn't new . I have had a mild distaste for it since Fantasy 1.0 (about 1988 or so) . The system is fine and there is nothing wrong with Evil Stevie's rules but its bland and balanced in ways I dislike. Too meh in combat, too strong in its world building implications.

#4 Fate Points are fun in any system.

I grafted a fate point system based loosely off various GURPS rules and it worked as follows
Basically 1 point makes any roll a success, 1 point saves you from certain death and 2 points allows certain death to become a flesh wound. Players start with 2 and gain 1 per session and 1 for a really cool moment. This worked great as it encouraged player involvement, allowed anyone a chance to shine and let me save key NPC's for later. Mwah Hah Ha Hah...

#5 My world is too weird.

Its a sandbox designed to allow pretty much anything with an emphasis on creative chaos and a world that responds on a semi realistic fashion to actions. It works fine but the mix of Earth stuff, Cthulhu, Space Aliens, Faeries, and standard D&D tropes was a a bit nauseating, kind of the game world equivalent the suicide special drinks we mixed as a kid (a little of everything in one glass) . Its not as good a combo as I'd hope.

#6 The Earth stuff helps the game as I hoped.

The fact humans are from Earth helped get the players into it as I hoped.

#7 I need to tone down the silly.

My flaw really, I think my game might benefit from a bit less chaos arrows, funny voices, talking animals, pet zombies and a bit more taking seriously. This silly doesn't impair the fun factor but I have the feeling its wearing on the me and players.

#8 Borrowing from other systems is good

I came up with a a couple of quick house rules for chases and stealth based off 3e and 4e D&D take 10 and they worked great in GURPS. They kept the drama up, were faster to play and still were basically the same as GURPS 4e core rules math wise. I'll post these later but suffice it say, don't let purism deter you from fixing the rules as needed.

#9 GURPS is incoherently laid out for Fantasy games

This is a not a system issue exactly but one of layout. GURPS really needs a good critter book not a book of mostly real world animals like its Bestiary (though that would be a useful book) or a book of folkloric critters like the quirky Fantasy Bestiary but a straight forward "Monster Manual" with things to encounter and kill. This should include people (bandits, soldiers, cultists, enemy mages) as well. Open book, grab stat block, play. As it is while the rules are all there (mainly in Dungeon Fantasy) the stuff I need especially the monster stats are too spread out for ease of use. I understand and respect the business case (its a sound publishing decision based on well thought out and researched sales metrics) but that doesn't help my game .

#10 I need to do more world building and mapping

I have a smart group who "gets" whats going on but I think my world building needs a boost, Now Midrea was intentionally designed in a haphazard way, what I need than, make it, use, it . This is fine but it needs to jell together better. I need to make a map somehow, put the nations in place and make a world book for people to see if they wish. This would I think improve the game a bit and help take away the "silliness" more than a little.

Well thats that ..

Later I'll include those house rules I promised and an article on why I am not a member of the SCA.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Big 50

No, not my age. The number of followers.

Thanks everybody.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weird Pets

My current group, the 7 Misfits has a few pets. However unlike the usual cat, bird, shoulder dragon, magic horse that you see they seem to go in for the macabre.

part of this is do the open structure of the system we are using, GURPS and part of this is do the unique nature of my players and another part of it is that Midrea is simply a very weird place.

The current and former list includes such luminaries as

Leroy the marginally sentimental poodle eating zombie, who is not BTW actually under anyones control.

Itsy, a somewhat tamed Drow riding spider, the Samurai's occasional mount and rescuer

Blip, a mouse/bat fae companion of the Serpent Cultist

Eater of Eyes, a fairly normal pet, in this case a smart-ass raven not yet bonded as a familiar

and a Pokethulu whose named I mercifully have forgotten and whose player has left the game as far as I can tell.

So gentle readers, what kind of weird pets have your groups had?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Introducing the 7 Misfits

The most surprising thing about my current Old School styled Dungeon Fantasy game is the shear size of the play group. I have 7 regular, reliable, quality players (with one walk off) who get it and that is big group for D&D much less GURPS.

My suspcion is this a a "benefit" of the recession, people have time and gaming is super cheap.

Whatever the cause I am enjoying the heck out of it. I thought y'all might be interested in meeting the characters, a misfit team of mercs that manages to thrive and survive the craziest things.

Roughly divided we have Team Evil (both played by women, both playing assassins clearly the deadliest members of the gamer species), Team Neutral and Team Good.

Team Evil

Psycho Girl: A sociopathic Knife Dancer/Assassin, probably a changeling easily bored with no regard for human life. In other words a typical Midrean Elf

Snake Lady: Settitte Temple Assassin, Faerie Friend and Stone Cold Killer

Team Neutral:

Zappy the Barbarian: Crazed Barbarian Fighter/Mage/Master Chef on a Doomed Quest. 110% Baravian

Pervo the Crossbowman: A sharpshooting, gun toting, crossbow toting professional mercenary and pervert.

The Samurai: Amnesiac Master Smith turned Samurai Mercenary.

Team Good:

The Ranger: Archer, leader, singer (the player has a rather good singing voice) and all around decent normal fellow.

The Battle Mage without a Past: A powerful wizard with decent soldiering skills played by a GURPS rules expert. All around scary.

There you go, 7 fun characters played by one of the finest groups I've ever played with.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Received a Nice Player Compliment Today

Spoke with one of my players, C who plays the Battle Wizard in my current GURPS game.

I had mentioned to him the spontaneous nature of last weeks UFO literature influenced trip to the alternate universe.

His reply made my day

"Huh, you did that so well I thought you had it planned"

Old School Doesn't Mean Being A System Purist

Let me give you an example.

Much as Peter Dell'Orto over at Dungeon Fantastic is doing I am currently running an old school styled game using GURPS 4th edition.

Its a sandbox with lots of freedom of action, high trust in my players and it covers 3 of the 4 Old School Zen Moments as envisioned by Matthew Finch.

* Rulings, Not Rules
* Player Skill, not Character Abilities
* Heroic, not Superhero
* Forget “Game Balance”

Only the second is deemphasized a little via the mechanics of the game. Its throughly old school run in the style I have run games in since Rune Quest II mumble years ago.

And yet the same games shows rules grafts from Buffy (Drama Points and Static NPC rolls) 3X D&D (take 10) and 4e (my combat cheat sheet) and uses throughly modern GURPS 4e (an excellent system BTW)

Is its still old school?

Heck yeah. And my players, many new to RPG's are loving it too.

Folks, what makes a game old school is less rules and system (most older D&D games after all were a hodgepodge) but you and your players.