Saturday, February 25, 2012

Musing: I've never used a Dragon

I was thinking back on the various games I've run and I realized that I've never used a Dragon in a game.

There are a lot of reasons behind it, length of my early games, preference for low level play, fear of party TPK and the fact I don't care for Color Coded Dragons but I think maybe its time to change that.

Next D&D games, there is gonna be a dragon.

Oh yeah and in case anyone asks, yes I do use dungeons. I love em.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lets Play 20 Questions

Like a fair number of other OSR bloggers I tend to eschew the latest memes.

However Brendan's 20 Questions are quite good so here are my answers and good show Brendan.

Ability scores generation method?

Two Methods

#1 4d6 drop low with option for rerolling lousy characters

#2 Set stats to class minimums than roll 4d6 drop lowest in order, use roll only if higher.

How are death and dying handled?

KO's at 0, dead at -con

What about raising the dead?

Banned usually.

How are replacement PCs handled?

Worked in as appropriate

Initiative: individual, group, or something else?

Players Choice

Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?

Nope. However a 1 always misses and a 20 always hits.

Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?

Under construction.

Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?

Only if you miss in which case compare your to hit roll -4 vs friends AC to see if you hit.

Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?

Run. Run. Run Away or sneak when you can.

Level-draining monsters: yes or no?

Nope. I prefer 3e methods

Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

Not sure.

How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

Somewhat Strictly in D&D . Its part of the fun. In other games, not much at all.

What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?

Happens automatically during downtime. This includes automatic spells as well.

What do I get experience for?

Facing Challenges and Spending Loot.

How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?


Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?

Up to the players. Usually BtB.

How do I identify magic items?

Wizards get this as a class ability as do Clerical types for "holy" items

Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?

This depends on the game. Usually in Auld Skool I make them work for it . Potions and one use items can be bought however.

Can I create magic items? When and how?

Spellcasters can create items in downtime. What they can create will depend on their level.

What about splitting the party?

Sure. I am pretty good at managing this if I do say so myself.

Its all been done before

I was thinking about some of the changes that have come about in 3x and 4e D&D and while they may seem monumental, in retrospect many of them are not that different than the house rules we used to play with back in the 2e days.

The examples that most stuck out for me were

#1 Weapon Finesse.

We allowed dexterity modifiers to be used in melee to hit (but not damage) way back in the early part if 2e. This house rule was developed buy a gaming group I was briefly in(apologies to them if they are reading this as I cannot remember which one) to give rogues a little combat boost as the DM and players thought they were a bit underpowered. Everyone seemed to like the rule and given the big TAHC0 differences between rogues and warriors, even the warrior players were fine with it since it didn't hurt their niche any.

#2 3e Critical Hits

A version of this rule was in use apparently back in 1e by a So-Cal DM. we all called D. Balrog. Basically crits (counting as double damage) happened if a natural 20 was rolled and followed with a successful to hit roll "backed" in their parlance. It was not quite as sophisticated as the D20 version but it very similar and when I started on 3e I had zero learning curve

This group was rather interesting in many ways as they had gamed since the 70's and had a heavily hacked D&D variant that included this rule along with a ton of other materials that were shared only DM to DM. Given I played and DM for some of these guys I got a peak. And yes that restriction was kind of Hackmasterish . The group did have a cloistered, gamist and adversarial play style and if you had met them they were very much like the Knight of the Dinner Table.

#3 At Wills

This late 3e and 4e development showed up in 2e as well, in Dragon 221 as The Little Wish. Amusingly we played briefly with a variant that allowed Read Magic and Detect Magic to be used as At Will. It didn't prove to show any balance issues but I'd probably nix the Detect at will for the annoyance factor.

I am sure that if I looked hard enough I'd find others but as the old saying goes, nothing new under the sun.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Some Random GURPS house rules

I've been running GURPS for some time now and have not been focused much on old school, fantasy or to tell you the truth this blog.

However in honor of all the GURPS I have been messing about with here are my general house rules.

These rules will be used in most every game regardless of setting however they do not include whats in a setting or anything genre specific.

#1 Disadvantages and Quirks are worth no points. You don't need to worry about the points, their figured in to the starting point numbers instead you take whats appropriate and play what you like.

#2 Since I am not using a map or minis I am winging things like distance for ranged weapons for simplicity. I tend to fudge in players favor though.

#3 If your opponent makes his attack by the exact number needed you take only half damage, If you fail your defense by one, you also take half damage. If both these are true take quarter damage.

#4 If any given skill roll including bonuses is 16+, you do not need to roll unless its a combat roll or other opposed roll.

#5 In most games I am not tracking money. You have your wealth level and may spend that as appropriate.

#6 Techniques are not in use for simplicity though I may use a few minor bits from martial arts or other expansion books.

#7 The skill “Erotic Art” may appear on a character sheet as a placeholder for “boinking” skill but it is never rolled in game as my games are PG or PG13.

#8 The Contacts Advantage now represents local contacts with a field of expertise like a Contact Group in core. Costs remain the same. The Contact Group Advantage is now global. Cost also remain the same.

#9 Edge protection and Low Tech armor weights are in use,

#10 Fate Points may be used on a campaign by campaign basis. How many are granted will vary . One point can be spent to gain one success on any roll, 2 points for a critical success. The effects of fate points cannot be used adversely on anyone else who has them and such points and those blocked by GM Fiat will be refunded.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My take on the fading of the D&D hobby

Back before the Internet or even before SF was mainstream D&D was a huge fad. It was sold everywhere, toy stores, Sears, hobby shops and tons of people played. Heck what else was there to do in 1981 when you were a geek

TV sucked, and while art and whatnot was there and some of us had video games (go Atari 2600) and computers unlike D&D these things weren't social. D&D was awesome for bored suburban kids.

However like all fads, it eventually started to fade.

My best guess as for the fading time line are these three intervals,

#1 1989 ish with 2e splat books, at this point the model of the game had changed and it was moving from focusing on the DM as primary customer to the player. This made sense from a business POV but part of the "heart" of D&D was wounded as the game moved away from Old School.

#2 1993 ish with Magic and White Wolf. People played a lot of other games by preference and the CCG, Magic well it ate D&D for lunch.

#3 1997 with the Bankruptcy. The company was toast.

Now the release of 3e and the OGL in 2000 would give the game a lift That was about an 8 year boost that would help revitalize the brand till 2008 or so. Now it wasn't quite as big as the 80's but it was healthy and fantasy being in the mainstream and D&D players now having some editorial clout really kicked the game off.

That would last till 2008 or so when a combination of the world wide economic issues and some frankly strange design choices in 4e would start to shrink the market. I'd guess overall money spent was down on account of the economy and as a double whammy what money was spent was divided with Pathfinder. Ouch.

Now WOTC is making 5.0. How this will play out is anyones guess. I'll certainly look at it though but than I've read every edition. I am not sanguine as I smell design to meet impossible specs by a committee but the people working on it are very good and I may well be wrong.

No matter what I'll still dabble in Old School and if things don't pan out with 5e hey more time for 3x/Pathfinder.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Because this is a cool song and its been a while since I've done a music post

So what Happened to Old School?

Well gaming happened. My group loves GURPS, I like GURPS so we play GURPS. Besides GURPS is Old School its from 1985 after all

I am just kidding a bit with you, besides old school is as much an attitude as a rules base.

To tell you the truth I use a lot of what I have learned playing old school anyway, you wouldn't notice that big a difference in Labyrinth Lord or Farther Stars or Angel or anything else. Some capaigns focus a bit differently but the basic old school idea, the rules are not there to get in the way of fun is in every game.

What matters to me is that GURPS brings home the fun for my players, 6 cool people (including a new guy!) willing to sit down and play together almost every week and have fun doing it.

In that case, well to paraphrase Chumbawumba

The truth is, I thought rules mattered
I thought that system mattered.
But does it? Bollocks! Not compared to how people matter

Presenting the Crew of the ViVi

I thought y'all might enjoy a brief intro the the PC in my new GURPS Firefly-Eque game

The remaining three players made it this week completing the crew. I have a habit of "casting" the various PC's actors ala the Buffy and Angel RPGs. This works to increase immersion a bit and helps people visualize

The first three casting are player approved though the last three are subject to change as I picked them.

we have

1-Face-Merchant-Captain and ersatz leader famous for his good looks and antique wearable computer. Played Dirk Benedict

2-Doctor-Ex Soldier-Falsely Accused Ex Con Played by a young Jeff Bridges

3-Russian Sharshooter and Cargo Hand played by Timothy Olyphant

4-Sicilian Engineer and Laser Nut played by John Leguizamo

5- Pilot and Sophisticate played by Micheal Weatherly

6- Registered Companion with a Jewish Tom Boy side played by Bar Raefelii