Yup! Psionics were dangerous!

Rick over at Don’t Split the Party has a great post breaking down the dangers of psionics in 1E.

This essentially sums up why I didn’t think that psionics were overpowered – or really that common beyond some very basic abilities.


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(Cyber)Traveller 2200

Not sure if it is going to be Mongoose Traveller or if I’m going to run using CP2020 as the engine -both have arguments in their favor. At the moment I’m having an interesting set of thoughts – if I do run my first conception, the “2200” will be 2200 Imperial (yeah, roughly 1200 years after the 3rd Imperium) and what T5 calls the “Far, Far Future” and roughly Tech Level 19, or maybe 20.

And that brings up a whole other set of discussions about Traveller that I’ve been having in various versions with KT and others – but which also brings ups a whole new term I just came across and that spawned this post.


Traveller is a one of the oldest TT RPG’s, it’s been around since 1977 it has had multiple licensed incarnations since then.

There is CT, or Classic Traveller (with a sub-designation for the real grognards between pre- and post-1981 rules sets. Nominally set in 1105 Imperial, it was defined by “The Little Black Books” (LBB) of which there were many, there were also many licensed products by Judges Guild, Paranoia Press, and others – I was always a fan of the those two sets of supplements actually.

There is MT, or MegaTraveller, which is Digest Group Publication’s (DGP) “2nd Edition” of the game, even if it was done by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW). It is set in the late 1120’s to the backdrop of the Rebellion that occurs in the aftermath of the Emperor’s assassination.

Then there is TNE, or Traveller, the New Era, which is set in the 1200’s, after the cataclysmic “Final War” that trashed Known Space. It was also a major departure in the rule engine and was pretty much despised by the majority of Traveller players – I for one have pretty much always seen it as the reason by GDW went out business. That probably isn’t fair, but that’s the timing. I can’t even call it a 3rd Edition because it is basically a new rules engine.

After the dust cleared from GDW’s demise there were a selection of other versions of Traveller –

Imperium Games made “Mark Miller’s Traveller” (T4), which was set at the dawn of the 3rd Imperium and was a return to the recognizable game engine. Well-supported with rules and supplements, I think it mostly appealed to the Collectors.

The game was also licensed for the Hero system (Traveller Hero or “TH”) d20 system (T20) as well as GURPS (GT) – the GURPS version was noticeable in that it ignored the Rebellion timeline and picked up “as if” the Emperor had never been assassinated. It provides an alternate canon timeline for those players that disliked the Rebellion (and the Virus) which were both pretty well disliked by many grognards (the Virus especially). There is also a GURPS supplement for the Interstellar Wars period (GT:ISW), or the downfall of the 1st Imperium and the rise of the 2nd Imperium.

Continuing the try and meet the desire for Traveller materials, there was also the TNE:1248 set of supplements that discussed the founding of the 4th Imperium and resolved many of the “mysteries” of the setting that had been left in the aftermath of GDW and DGP going out of business.

Finally, there has been Mongoose Traveller (MgT) and Traveller^5 (T5) – Mongoose Traveller returning to the “idea of Traveller essentially being a generic scifi system (though with a coherent sense of tech advancement) and T5 being the “Ultimate Traveller” with a very generic set, badly organized and unindexed, of Traveller rules produced via a rather amazing Kickstarter.

Mongoose has actually produced supplements for not just the 3rd Imperium, but also other settings like Hammer’s Slammers and Judge Dredd (and the 2300 AD setting from GDW that was it’s own rule engine). T5, at this point, has produced little other than the initial Kickstarted offering.

One of the great things about Traveller is that there is a well-developed setting and an amazing amount of canon that spawns multiple engines, and many years of game history. This is one of it’s great strengths and, if I’m honest, one it’s great weaknesses. It is, by any honest admission, really hard for a new player to pick of the game with a grognard and not feel hopelessly out of their depth.

That’s where the idea of “Proto-Traveller” was so fascinating when I came across it. It’s essentially a set of rules for Traveller that is based on a very limited selection of the Classic Traveller line (LBB1-3, Adventures 1-4, and Supplements 1-4, LBB4 is optional but LBB5 is not allowed – at least the ship design would be). One of the effects is that the entire setting for Traveller is a much darker, and much different in flavor from what the 3rd Imperium setting developed into. In many ways it is basically the pre-1981 Classic Traveller rules.

In My Traveller Universe (aka “MTU” as opposed to “OTO” for the Official Traveller Universe) I’ve always stolen liberally from pretty much any source that seemed to work. Warhammer 40K, Babylon 5, Star Wars, the Continuing Time, etc. The Mongoose Traveller engine actually has rules that make this easier, while the very spotty T5 flavortext for the Imperium at least finally gives me a timeframe in which I could set it (and it works for me on a purely “gloss” level it fits my affected “2200” date for the setting”).

But part of what I’m really struggling with is if I want to nuke MTU and essentially reboot it into the 2200 setting or if I want to think about the “Proto-Traveller” setting and see about setting things there…



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Most Excellent!

My hardcover copy of Adventurer, Conqueror, King from the Kickstarter arrived today. I have to say that it looks better in person than it did as a PDF…

I was never a fan of the D&D “race as class” idea, I do have to say that I really like the way that ACKS has refined that idea a bit. I also like the “cradle to grave” nature of the game as well, Domain-level play is something I’ve always enjoyed and ACKS really manages to capture that for the different classes – or at least it certainly seems to!

I’m looking forward to the Players Guide!


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New (Old) Modules…

I recently used a gift card from Yule to purchase a bunch older modules off the Internet, some of which I’d owned before and some of which I haven’t. I’m still in the process of rebuilding some of my old library, though there are certainly things that I owned that I have no need or desire to own again, and this has been a pretty enjoyable process as they have come in the mail and I’ve had the chance to open them up and look at them again…

But this is what I’ve picked up in this last order, plus some other things I’ve picked up in the last couple of months:

Amusingly, given the recent postings about it, I picked up G1-2-3 Against The Giants because all I still had was an old copy of G2 and the party will be reaching the point where I can start thinking about using these soon.

I also picked up copies of S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojanth and WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, both of which I had somehow gotten rid of. Great modules, but I was actually surprised to see the “Character Levels 5/6-10” on the cover! My memory of these were of modules for more like the GDQ series, but re-reading them I’m not certain why that is my memory. Possibly because when I ran them they were crazy-nasty, but possibly because the rewards within them have the same sort of power-creep that most people OSR decry in “Silver Age” AD&D and ignore everywhere else…

The “Illithid Trilogy” of A Darkness Gathering, Masters of Eternal Night, and Dawn of the Overmind. I remember loving these when they came, really just as I was leaving AD&D behind (or just after I did, now that I think about it). The Illithids were pretty much always the “Big Baddies from the Core” (points for the extremely obscure gaming reference…) in my game, and while they’ve changed a great deal as the Ichneumon Vorre, these modules could actually provide a decent platform to play with them a bit.

City System! I am a sucker for supplements on cities that come with decent maps, let alone sets of multiple poster maps. This is a boxed set with maps for Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms. I actually already owned a copy of this but was able to score another copy really cheap, so I did so. I’ll pretty much buy something like this no matter what the game system is because so little of what goes into running a city adventure is the game stats – it’s the flavor text.

I also recently picked up the OSRIC hardcover, plus a copy of ITA The Andewan Legacy. I’m not so sure about the module, in some ways it’s decent, but I’m never a fan of the sort of “gotcha” ending that there is in the end. Plus, it almost turns into more of a pain in the ass for me as the DM to figure out what to do next. If I’m inspired great, if I’m not I’m setting myself and the players up for a crummy game.

I also broke down and bought some of the Pathfinder modules and products. I was a bit unsure about this, given how strong opinions run about the products and how “railroady” they are…

I found a great price on the Council of Thieves Map Folio and picked that up. I have nothing else for this set of modules and I don’t care. A couple of city maps, and a set of location maps (including many large buildings) and I’m happy – though I have to say that just based on the maps it looks like a kind of cool set of modules.

The Adventurers Armory – because I have no problem with another gear book. It was cheap, and it has a couple a neat ideas in there.

I also picked up three of the stand-alone Pathfinder modules, Realm of the Fellnight Queen, The Ruby Phoenix Tournament, and Carrion Hill. I have to say that nothing in these has me interested in picking Pathfinder the game, but I’d be happy to buy more modules. The weakest module (or perhaps the one that I’ll have to do the most conversion on) is the Tournament, but it actually looks like it could be a fun adventure to drop in with a minimum of fuss when it comes to campaign continuity. Fellnight Queen is also one that might need some work, but I do have an actual realm of Faerie in my setting so this isn’t as hard as it might be. It also looks like it could be fun and could make a nice drop-in with a minimum of fuss. Of the three Carrion Hill is the best, it has a marvelous and explicit Lovecraftian vibe to the whole thing and could be quite creepy to run. I’m really looking forward to running this one as it fits into certain elements of my game world pretty well.

On another front, I managed to score copies of DGP’s Megatraveller Journal issues #1 and #4, both of which I’ve been looking for at a reasonable price pretty much since they came out and I missed them. Issue #1 was sans that poster map, but I’m ok with that – mostly I wanted the content (like the Battledress article!). DGP really put out the best of the Traveller material there for a few years, and I know that I was not the only person who was sorry to see them go.


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Adventure Ideas

My son is playing trumpet in the band for his school play, Beauty and the Beast, which is based on the Disney movie. I went to go watch it Wednesday night and was struck that it wouldn’t make for that bad of a backdrop for an adventure. It would be in the same tradition as some of the old fun house modules like Dungeonland or Beyond the Crystal Cave – but even like modules like Castle Amber and Ravenloft.

That is one of the things that I don’t get – there are folks in the OSR that will decry Ravenloft in one breath as the beginning of the end of TSR module design because there is a plot that isn’t player-centric and “railroady” and then hold upCastle Amber up as this paragon of classic fun house module design.

It sort of has me wondering if they’ve read either of them recently.

In Ravenloft there is the quaint conceit of the “Gypsy Fortune Reading” that determines a selection of things within the module, it is based on the story Dracula, an incredibly basic victory condition (kill the Strahd), a series of serious and humorous encounters in the town and castle, a clear back story to the events of the module, and the inability to leave the environs because of magical choking fog.

While in Castle Amber the module is based on the works of Clark Ashton Smith, the party has a very specific and convoluted victory condition, the same sort of mixture when it comes to serious and comical encounters, a very clear back story to the module, …and the inability to leave the environs at all because of magical choking fog.

In Ravenloft there are a mixture of deadly and not-so-deadly encounters, and the main villain is anything but a pushover. There are very few, if any, “snap, you’re dead” traps or encounters and the rewards in treasure and magic are basically reasonable when it comes to the risks involved. There are, however, no freebies – characters that are dead, are dead and they are pretty much stuck in Barovia until they succeed or die.

In Castle Amber there are plenty of deadly encounters, especially of the simple “you are just screwed variety”. The rewards in magic and treasure are relatively high as compared to Ravenloft, and the characters get magical healing, spell recovery, and level advancement in between sessions – plus there are opportunities for significant permanent character bonuses/gains and up to four characters will be resurrected at the end of the module if the characters succeed.

This is what I find so annoying by some of the talk that comes out of the OSR – many of the complaints don’t really seem to be reasonable when examined with even a bit of critical analysis. It’s more like they are simply looking for easy reasons to justify a dislike of TSR at a certain point in its history. Now, the OSR complaints about things like Dragonlance and how it sidelines the players is pretty reasonable (though you might be able to make similar, though not nearly so strong, arguments about the Desert of Desolation trilogy)  – but again, this seems like a generalized hate “Hickman-hate” rather than a reasonable critique of his pre-Dragonlance modules while the status given to Castle Amber seems comparatively like a Moldvay-bromance based on his role with the revision of D&D.

To be clear, I really like both modules and plan on running them both if I can manage it.
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Al on Moldvay

So Al over at Beyond the Black Gate has been doing a series on Moldvay’s instructions on how to play D&D. It’s interesting because I never played the Moldvay rules, I was a “Holmes gamer” who pretty much immediately moved to AD&D. So while I had friends who had the Moldvay D&D rules and who really got into the whole alphabet soup of BXLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ (I never have understood these same people’s complaint about level inflation in AD&D).

But in any case, many of the OSR have a deep love for the Moldvay rules and Al has been taking some sections of the instructional part of how to be a GM. My son is getting ready to run Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, or Deathwatch, and I’ve been enjoying the series and figured he would as well. So here is the collection of links to the series:

Moldvay – Dungeon Mastering as a Fine Art

Moldvay – “That’s not in the rules!”

Moldvay – There’s always a chance.

Moldvay – The DM is the Boss

Moldvay – Everyone is here to have fun.

Moldvay – Everything is balanced.

Moldvay – Your character doesn’t know that

Some interesting reading in there, and the blog is just pretty darn good in general.


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Twenty Questions

Per Brendan:

  • Ability scores generation method?  4d6-L, arrange as you like.
  • How are death and dying handled?  Unconscious and dying at 0, dead at -10.
  • What about raising the dead?  All it takes is the spell or payments to the right person (with the spell).
  • How are replacement PCs handled? They are generally introduced whenever makes sense, next town, rescued victims, random travellers. Whatever.
  • Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Individual, 1d10 modified by Dexterity to determine segment of action.
  • Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Yup. Nat20 is Double Damage (double everything) and Two Nat20’s is an instant kill. Fumbles are on a Nat1, use the old Runequest/Stormbringer Fumble Charts.
  • Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?  Normal helmets no, they are assumed to be part of the armour. Great Helms will give you a +1 to AC but tank your Surprise roll.
  • Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?  Yup.
  • Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? Running is probably going to happen sooner or later, if nothing else Wilderness encounter tables are not “leveled”.
  • Level-draining monsters: yes or no? No, but the traditional “level drainers” do cause a cumulative -1 penalty (To Hit Hit, Damage, Initiative, & Saves) that can only be removed by Restoration and the special abilities of Warrior-Monks, Healers, and Tantrics.
  • Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Yup.
  • How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? Resources, certainly. Encumbrance less so. I have a system adapted from LOFP but I haven’t really put it into play yet – the whole idea is to be reasonable.
  • 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? Fighter and Thieves don’t generally have to train (but Thieves and other specialists often have dues for organizations and guilds), Spellcasters have to train when a new spell level is gained. Mage’s get a spell every level, plus there are a selelction of very common basic spells of each level. Clerics know all their spells. Experience is rarely awarded in media res.
  • What do I get experience for? A combination of standard AD&D (Treasure and Killing Things) plus additional XP awarded ala the Palladium XP table. This makes for relatively quick low level advancement, and somewhat more reasonable mid-level advancement – and rewards roleplaying and think in addition to killing things and taking their stuff.
  • How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? Dice are rolled as the final “check” – representing the sixth sense and “on the ground” knowledge of the thief that the player (and GM) do not have. Describe well enough at you might find it, no matter if you are a thief or not!
  • Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Not encouraged exactly, and morale is generally ignored as long as you are treating them well and there is no major test (ala a dragon or a demon or something like that).
  • How do I identify magic items? Take it to the mage’s guild, or try to do it yourself via magic. Trial and error works as well. Potions often have some sort of label.
  • Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?  Sure, in the right place. There is rarely anything “big” for sale, but low-scale weapons and armour and most disposables are available in “the big city”
  • Can I create magic items? When and how? Yup, when mages and clerics can make scrolls (thogh I don’t use “scrolls”) and potions hit 7th level and want to take the time out to do so. Permanent items are potentially possible starting at 12th level for mages.
  • What about splitting the party? Knock yourself out, but don’t complain when you are not playing.
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High Men, Psionics, and Psionicists (1e)

So, James has posted today about the Psionicist over at Grognardia. I’ll add on to say that it is one of the ways that I’ve handled psionics in my game world – and certainly the major way that players have had psionic characters in my game for a while now. Coincidently I’ve been thinking about psionics the last couple of days and came up with a new tweak that I like and that makes more sense to me from both a character development and a game balance perspective.

Personally, I never had a problem with psionics in AD&D, first I was reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series at a young age because my mother loved them and they were sitting in the huge pile of speculative fiction that inhabited our house (along with the rest of the books the bibliophiles that my parents were had collected). The simple fact is that psionics hardly ever came up, what was noticeable was that they were often something that either immediately doomed a character because psionic encounters really, really suck or foretold a long and successful career because certain abilities just made the characters quite powerful. This was a s true of the psionicist as it was of the psychic but actually emphasized the “psionic encounters suck” end of things because the progression was slowed down so much.

You’ll notice that Brother Illya is a “High Man” (aka Deryni aka Dúnadan aka Comyn aka whatever) and is a multi-classed Psionicist/Warrior-Monk (currently 3rd/3rd) while a couple of other characters are listed as “Minor Psychics” and “Psychics”. The “Minor Psychic” is a new category that I essentially invented when I came back to AD&D after running my own rules system to cover those races that I wanted to always have some innate psychic Talent to model certain abilities but without giving them the full range of psionic abilities automatically. High Men only count as roughly about 5-10% of the population and are considered to be the true scions of nobility – paradoxically because having the traces of blood of angels, elves, dragons, whatever running through their veins that grants them the mixed blessing and curse of psychic ability violates the taboo against inter-racial sexuality that the “civilized” races have in my game world.

Psionicists work pretty much as they do in the article, save that they use my attribute of “Talent” instead of the IWC (Intelligent-Wisdom-Charisma Average) to determine Psionic Ability – everything else is the same. High Men are able to multi-class as Psionicists with any other single class, and suffer the same 10% XP penalty per class as non-humans. Also, Psionicists automatically have the Minor Devotions of Rapport and Lights in addition to the other Disciplines gained as a result of advancement. At one point in the very distant past I allowed Psionicists to choose thier Devotions, Sciences, and Arts – but at this point I insist that they roll them like everyone else.

Psychics are pretty much the way psychics are written up into the Players Handbook, with the addition of automatically having the Minor Devotions of Rapport and Lights. I interpret the advancement for multi-class characters to occur as one ability (Minor Devotion or Major Science, all Minor Devotions first) to be added each odd level, the same as for single-class characters, but the multiple classes are added together to determine “level” rather than using the highest level class or some other arcane formula to determine how many abilities had been learned. This would also represent the abilities of “untrained” High Men if someone wanted to play one without multi-classing as a Psionicist. The chance for any non-human to be Psychic is the same as the basic roll from the Players Handbook – with the stipulation that Talent must be 16 or higher. This is limited to those races who even have the potential – Dwarves, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Sh’dai – Elves and Ithians are either Minor Psychics or Psionicists, never half-way. As an odd note, two “human” races are automatically considered Psychic if they do not specialize as Psionicists, the “Old Race” and the “Feyhd”.

One other note, only characters who choose to be multi-class as Healer/Psionicists can start with Cell Adjustment at 1st level, and other Psionicists or Psychics may only take it if they roll high enough to “Select One” on the table – and may only do it with my permission.

(As I write this, I think I’m just also instituting a rule that Psychic characters suffer a 10% XP penalty “as if” they had another character class as a multi-class. That’s another nice bit of balance for the benefits that you get for the abilities. If you are Psionicist, you already get it, and if you are a Minor Psychic the “benefit” is really not much compared to the potential downside for most adventurers.)

Minor Psychics have only the abilities of Rapport and Lights – as given in the Psionicist article. They can use all forms of psychic item, device, or consumable just like a Psychic or Psionicist. They only have one Defense Mode (G- Though Shield) and they only gain one Attack Mode (A – Psionic Blast) at 2nd level. None of this is rolled, either your race is considered “Minorly Psychic” or it isn’t. This is mainly Elves, Half-Elves, Sh’dai, and Ithians. Perhaps strangely, bit Gnomes and Dwarves are not Minor Psychics, their gifts manifest as thier other abilities to detect stonework, etc.

Psychics and Minor Psychics roll for Psionic Ability using the following formula: 1d100, plus one for point of Talent, plus one for each point of Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and Power over twelve. If two of the five attributes are above 15 then the “bonus” points are doubled, if three then they are tripled, if four, quadrupled; and if all five then the bonus points to the d100 roll are quintupled.

Here is the tweak for Psychics and Minor Psychics that I just realized this past weekend made much more sense. Instead of rolling to determine what the Attack and Defense Modes are known, just ruling that Defense Modes are gained at the rate of one for every odd level (and Defense Mode G being the first automatically gained at 1st level) and attack modes are gained at the rate of one for every even level. Psioncists advance as the table in the article.

It’s worth noting that I also consider Illusionists to use “Mentalism” rather than Arcane Magic or Divine Power, along with Oracles (Dragon #53) and Timelords (Dragon #65). This means that “Magic Resistance” doesn’t work against these “spells” (though for certain extra-planar creatures I have ruled that they have equivalent “Mentalism Resistance”). In some ways this might makes things more powerful for Illusionists, but at other times it means that a simple Thought Shield prevents them from doing much of anything worthwhile…




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And in other Gaming News…

I managed to pick up a copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Grindhouse Edition and I arrived a couple of weeks ago. This has given me enough time to review it, and just generally poke at the guts a bit to see how it seems to work.

I like it.

I bought it originally because I really want to support not just the OSR, but folks who are putting out a quality product with decent design values. LOFTP meets this criteria. I also like supporting people who aren’t afraid to do things that might offend other people. LOFTP:GH certainly fits the bill in this department as well.

After now looking at all of the art and reading the game I am rolling my eyes and thinking to myself, “This is it? This is what people have been having apoplexy about?” Really!?!?” I know I am somewhat jaded, this is somewhat normal given my profession, my research interests in my profession, and the general types of literature that I like to read. But seriously, people need to relax or somehow otherwise buy a clue if they think that this game is the end of Western Civilization. Sure there are some breasts, and some graphic violence (in a very cartoonish style I have to add), but I hate to break it to all of the OSR folks out there – as I mentioned before I worked in a comic book shop in the 80’s and this is very, very tame compared to some of the independents that were published back then (let alone now). Have any of you read the original Crow for Pete’s sake? Or ever looked at any copy of Heavy Metal magazine?

Anyways, enough of that! Let’s get to the actual game.

This is a simplified and streamlined OD&D, not anything remotely resembling either B/X or AD&D. This is a fine thing in that Raggi has also made the decision to create a very specific flavor of game setting rather than try to make it generic. You could certainly use it in a world of your own unique and different design, but I think that might be missing the point somewhat. Now, it’s a combination of the artwork and the writing, but I think “Solomon Kane” when I read this, or “Bran Mak Morn” or “Conan” – I could just as easily move towards “Averoigne” (ala Clark Ashton Smith) if I wanted to, and even as exotic as Glenn Cook’s “Dread Empire” or “Black Company” novels. But in any case, we’re talking a much more low-magic setting than standard OD&D, or even Leiber’s “Fafherd and the Grey Mouser” tales. Though if you wanted to go high-magic in this setting, Moorcock’s “Elric” novels would work really nicely I think.

Ok, maybe not, but it would be an interesting experiment.

I like the encumbrance system. A lot. I’d already started to adapt it for my Home Brew system from the Free PDF available and I’ve pretty much decided to adapt it for my AD&D game. I’ll see about posting my version in a bit. Combat is nice and simple, a bit too simple for my tastes, but that’s part of why I play an AD&D mod. Magic has a great flavor, and I really love monsters as unique beings. It’s a bit further than I go in my games, but in general the major opponents in my games are humans, humanoids, and demi-humans (along with undead and lycanthropes) – you don’t run into a bunch of chimera or manticores or whatever in my campaign world unless you are going out of your way to find them. As many people have said, the spin on the thief as the “specialist” also makes a great deal of sense. Finally, while I’m not generally a fan of the “race as class” idea, it seems to work here for whatever reason.

I look forward to buying Carcosa when and if I get the chance, and I talked my spouse into contributing to the post-Kickstarter for the Adventurer Conquerer King System to get me a holiday gift when it came out – another pair of OSR offerings that I think deserve extra looks.


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“Yes, and…” instead of “No, but…”

So, when I did my House Rules when starting up with the Barrow Downs game I decided that I needed to do something with Non-Weapon Proficiences (aka Skills) – I think I made a mistake. Now I essentially liked how Oriental Adventures introduced NWP’s into the game. It really made sense given the setting, and I even looked at the additions from the Survival Guides with a certain level of good humor.

These days, and even then, it was increasingly hard to think of a game without skills of some sort – I was used to games that were heavily skill-focused (Traveller, Cyberpunk 2020 for example) and that has certainly been the increasing trend of the industry. It is certainly the direction that 3E went in…

So I went in and tweaked the heck out of the NWP lists from the existing 1E books and a couple of Dragon articles and came up with a decent list that pretty much covered all the bases. Even decided to use the multiple d6 method for doing Skill and Stat checks that someone on the Internet suggested – I honestly can’t remember who it was.

But in any case I’ve now been kind of playing with that for a couple of months now and I’m not liking it. How many years did I play AD&D with no such system in place? There really isn’t any need, I’m certainly not really using it now save in vague and awkward ways when there is some sort of weird question as to what a character should be able to do but doesn’t have the NWP for it. And there are never enough NWP’s to start off with and you never get enough fast enough.

I used to base what a character would do on a four things – First, whatever their class is. Second, whatever Secondary Skill they rolled up. Then, what social class they were, and finally whatever culture/race they were. If we look at those four (or five if you count race separately) things then you will likely have a pretty unique set of things a character can do – plus adding in whatever sort of idiosyncratic thing a player might want their character to be interested in.

And just giving characters new skills or abilities was always a nice way to reward them with something other than a +X Doo-Hickie.

Other folks have talked about how the progression of D&D has been to protect players from bad DM’s by the institution and codification of rules to cover all of the things that used to be under the aegis of the DM. The more I’ve looked at various rule sets (including things like LOTFP: WFRP – of which I now own the Grindhouse Edition and am very happy with) with both a more critical and a more reflective eye, the more I think that is correct.

Here’s the deal, I am pretty confident in saying that I am not a bad GM. At my best, I had a regular gaming group of about ten people, at my worst I have always been able to muster two or three up, and even now I have seven people showing up to my house to play and two people Skyping in – and I’m pretty confident that if I wanted a couple more players I could get them with a minimum of effort.

So why am I trying to protect my players? What am I trying to protect them from? Me?

That’s nonsense. Why run a game that cramps my style and cramps the style of my players?

There are so many things that are actually broken about the OD&D and AD&D systems (Encumbrance anyone? or Initiative? Hell, even Surprise?) that I am kind of embarrassed that I even spent the energy on this. It is certainly a viable way to work a game system – it’s not a very D&D way to run a game system. Old School was “Yes, and” – the presumption was that unless it was something that was specific to another class you had a chance to do it, “Yes, and let’s see how well you do” instead of the “No, but” version of later editions. In these rules the assumption was that if it wasn’t written on your character sheet the answer was “No, but you can learn how at a later level”.

I don’t like playing “No, but” – I like my AD&D games to be heroic and four-colour (heck, I like most of my games to be like that) and “No, but” doesn’t really allow that until high levels (if ever). I suppose that this is what 4E was designed to address from what I can glean looking it over – but it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with D&D other than the name.

So, I guess I’m dropping the idea of anything more than Secondary Skills – and that’s pretty much a Middle and Lower Class thing. Nobles get all sorts of education, they don’t a Secondary Skill as well…


Categories: Game Design, Game Play, House Rules, OSR | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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