Posts Tagged With: RPG

Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About

Ganked from Monsters and Manuals and a handful of other places.

Book binding. I’ve had pretty good luck, while my original DMG and UA have duct-tape on the binding, those are the only two books that I’ve had that have ever even really come close to falling apart. I did have a copy of Wraith: The Oblivion that I had my father fix the binding on one year, but I bought it used like that knowing he could.

“Doing a voice”. How many people “do voices”? Should they? How do you get better at “doing a voice” if that’s your thing? I do voices, but mostly I do mannerisms combined with voices, plus specific styles of talking and word choice. I think that’s how I got better, but I’m not sure that would be the same for everyone.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions? I don’t. If someone needs to get up use the toilet or get a snack, they do so.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions? Eh, I’m a minimalist unless I’m in a bit of mood. The players will imagine things better than I can describe them, so I tend to give the important details, set a bit of tone or mood at the beginning of an encounter and run from there.

Where do you strike the balance between “doing what your character would do” and “acting like a dickhead”? I don’t. Or rather, I am very up-front with players that they can play any sort of character that they want, but that the world will react accordingly. People with high Charisma’s can be more of a dick and get away with it, good looking people can be more of a dick and get away with it. But sooner or later if you are enough of a dick something is likely to happen (duels, fights, overcharging, etc). It’s essentially the same thing with playing evil characters.

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go? I am totally ok with it happening, it has happened, and it will likely happen again. This is one of those things that prevents players acting like dicks… It goes without saying that it also qualifies one as a dick unless everyone else kind of agrees that it was justified based on context.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? Ugh, I don’t think I’ve done that in years.

Alchohol at the table? I’ve had it at the table in the past, not really at the moment. As long as people are coherent and don’t get pissy if they do something stupid while tipsy I really don’t care.

What’s acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits? In general my standing rule (as the DM) is that your character will not die if you are not there (it’s happened probably less than five times in 32 years of gaming). Somebody will play your character, it will likely be rather robot-like and risk-averse and the group tends to kinda decides by consensus what you character would do (with me as the biggest vote) if something comes up that requires that kind of decision.



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Lantern Shield!

Awhile back, posting about shields, I mentioned lantern shields. Swords and Dorkery has an excellent post on the subject complete with cool pictures!



Categories: FYI, Game Play | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Gaming Library…

So, I was wondering what exactly I do have in my gaming library at the moment – namely what games have survived the handful of purges over the years?

  • AD&D –Yeah, I’ll include all of it here (like my old, original D&D Blue Book through the couple of DnD 4Ebooks I have), but it is mainly the AD&D hardcovers with a mixture of modules from all of the editions and a handful of other things. It could never be considered a “complete” collection in any way shape or form, but it’s a pretty decent pile of books.
  • Traveller –This one is a bit closer to “complete” – or at least it used to be before Mongoose and some other folks started publishing the hell out of the game again. I have very close to a complete run of Classic and MegaTraveller (including all sorts of one-off obscure things), a somewhat complete “Milieu O” collection, and hardly anything from the New Era. I love this game, and the setting.
  • Call of Cthulhu / Delta Green –This has been purged pretty badly at times. I used to own all of the old boxed sets, but sold them off for a mint a couple of years ago on EBay (mostly sold to folks in Australia and SouthEast Asia/Micronesia – who would have thought?). But I own a nice pile of stuff for the game, and basically everything that Pagan Publishing put out short of all the back issues of TUO. I love this game too, and have played the heck out of it in the past.

  • Those three could be considered my “Three Musketeers” – I started with them and have stayed with them pretty much as the driving icons of the three genres and styles of play. But I have a d’Artagnan as well…

  • Cyberpunk 2020 –Yeah, I have, I think, a complete run of everything published for both 2020 and 2013, by anyone. Ianus Games, Atlas Games, RTG, Interface Magazine, etc. I have the rulebook for 203X, but I don’t want to talk about what Mike Pondsmith did to his baby. It was criminal… Combined with Traveller, this game is now my choice of SciFi engines and has been for about twenty years now.

  • But the question remains of what the heck else is sitting on my shelves? In no particular order:

  • Victoriana –Second Edition, this is what we just finished playing. It’s a fun game with an interesting engine that works better at mid-levels than beginning levels, and while I tweaked the setting pretty massively, everyone enjoyed it. I just found myself about a half-a-step out of time with the music running it.
  • White Wolf – Ok, it’s really in a set of boxes in the basement, but we still own this stuff. Classic example of a fantastic game setting, the great bloody mother of narrativist storytelling (Ars Magic would be the grandfather – and the 1st Printing, 1st Edition rulebook with the reciept where I bought it at Gencon still in it is around somewhere). The engine is a mess, the setting is a mess, but damn it was fun to read at times – and we even squeezed out a handful of really chronicles. An almost total line of Mage, plus a large helping of Vampire, and even some Werewolf, Wraith, Changeling, Demon, etc. Pretty much all Revised, but at one time I owned most of it as 1E books as well – sold it all to a gaming club at one point when I was sick of it the first time. While we might return to the game world we created, we will never run this uber-kludged system ever again.
  • In Nomine –Fun, Fun, FUN! A complete collection, but man is this a funky engine and an even funkier setting. My spouse ran a great game of this, but eventually it broke itself setting and engine-wise. I guess we just couldn’t suspend our disbelief that much…
  • Pendragon –The coolest game I’ve never played. I can never get anyone interested in playing this game and I own a pretty decent collection of the supplements for it. I stripped the hell out of the Lordly Domains book to build rules for characters in my fantasy setting to run thier own manors and domains.
  • Thieves Guild –This one is somewhat obscure, but not badly I hope. I think I own everything for this, it would be interesting to see if there is anything I’ve missed over the years. It was a great game with a great premise – play thieves and essentially only thieves. Played it, loved it, and stole a bunch of stuff to use in my fantasy setting at various times.
  • Psi World –This is an old FGU game, with Matt Wagner art of all things, and based on a near-future world with psionics. It was a fun game, very “FGU” in nature with charts and whatnot, but I own pretyy much everything published for it (all two modules?).
  • Elric –Yeah, I don’t have Stormbringer any more, but I have a nice selection of the Elric stuff. I swear, Chaosium really had some of the best games out there. I loved this game, played the heck out of it at times, but haven’t played it in years.
  • Justifiers –Ok, this one is obscure. It’s sort of cyberpunk before there was cyberpunk, but done with bioengineered animals as expendable explorers in space. I own the whole darn line, and I can’t believe they published as much as they did. Fun, but brainless for the most part.
  • Exalted –Purchased mainly to have something to play with my son, it is a fun but somewhat broken system. e both enjoyed it (him more than me because he didn’t have to run it…) but it is a great line full of some great ideas. certainly something to read to get you head out of the “European Middle Ages” box.
  • Palladium –I have the Fantasy RPG, plus some supplements, plus a copy of Mechanoids (the big softcover, I lost my little booklets years and years ago). I could never get into Rifts, it was fun to read, but had too much of a hodgepodge for me to really want to play.
  • Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes –Memories of youth, what more can I say? It is a decent game as games of it’s era goes – just bring lots and lots of d6.
  • Theatrix –Another very, very obscure game – I bought it merely so I could make sense of the Ironwood supplement for it – a take on the Bill Wallingham adult comic. It’s stuck around mostly because it is a huge novelty.
  • Witchcraft / Armageddeon –I’ve had both of these since they came out and loved them, they make a nice bookend for a setting. This may end up being the replacement engine for the Mage/White Wolf game we used to run.
  • Supernatural –Never played it, bought as a possible replacement for Mage/White Wolf.
  • Dresdan Files –Ditto, though it looks like an interesting system and I hear good things about it.
  • Savage Worlds –Ditto.
  • Blue Rose –My son bought this for my spouse, thinking it was a good game for her to run. She hasn’t yet, but it might happen.
  • Artesia –I might play this someday if there was any more support for it. It looks like just the sort of game that I would love.
  • Talislanta –Played this, loved it, but dropped it during it’s long fallow period. I’ve looked at some of the newer stuff for it and can’t bring myself to shell out more money on the game again when I pretty much have everything I need to cover the whole darn world.
  • GURPS –Ok, mostly for the supplements, But I did try to play this a few times…
  • Celtic Legends –This is kind of an art-house game, a translation of French RPG. Kind of cool, but I never played it.
  • Fading Suns –I loved this game, I even stole portions of it for my “CyberTraveller” campaign. It has a wonderful, evocative and creepy feel to it that captured “old school scifi” way better than some other efforts.

  • I think that’s “it” – not counting wargames and what else might be buried in an odd corner of the basement. I’ll see if anything else turns up as I search for more AD&D stuff…

    Categories: FYI, Game Play | Tags: | 4 Comments

    The Unspeakable Oath #18

    My copy of TUO #18 just arrived today, money had been kinda tight and I hadn’t gotten around to ordering it initially and then I sort of blanked on it until the recent (successful!) Kickstarter campaign for Through A Glass Darkly came about. I’m happy I ordered it, it’s just what I’m looking for in a gaming magazine/supplement these days. A mix of articles, scenario seeds, and reviews with some advertising to round it all out.

    Now, Call of Cthulhu is easily one of my trinity of games, the other two being AD&D (1E) and the other being a combination of Traveller and Cyberpunk 2020. I used to own all of the boxed sets (and made a mint a few years ago selling them on EBay), and while I’ve waxed and waned in my love of how Chaosium has handled the content (I hated the Blood Brother’s stuff) I been a fan of essentially every single thing that Pagan Publishing has put out – I’m a proud and happy owner of both Golden Dawn and Coming Full Circle for example.

    I also own Interface #2/2…

    So TUO has been a nice thing to see again – I have issues 14/15 and 16/17, the others have disappeared into the depths of time, and I am really happy with what has been coming out of Pagan Publishing lately. Mysteries of Mesoamerica was a joy to see after of years as vaporware (the Blair Reynolds art was a joy – I own a copy of Black Sands #1 as well…) as was “Cult of Transcendence” content in Targets of Opportunity, I was “a Fundable guy” for that as well and still a bit surprised (pleasantly) that it ever saw the light of day.

    So here’s to looking forward to more of The Unspeakable Oath!


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    Just a note of a couple of good and related posts elsewhere-

    So on Saturday, Hill Cantons wote a post entitled War Stories, where he talked about the role that stories, narration, and description play in all games – not just the “Storytelling” kind. He did a very nice little job of capturing the flaws inherent in the often knee-jerk rejection by the “Sand-Box” folks of the “Narrative” constructs. This morning, The Tao of D&D wrote an equally good post entitled Please Don’t Say Storytelling in response to it where he expands upon the ideas within it and hits on the notion that exposition is the point of a DM’s narration of the player’s story.

    This is a mistake I have fallen prey to, and one of the things that is brought me to the OSR.


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    My Most Radical Change to AD&D (1e)

    If I remove all of the extra magic systems from my old game – because I would like to avoid the mishmash of things that existed when I used AD&D, Rolemaster, Call of Cthulhu, and Stormbringer magical systems all side-by-side – I really remove the most radical changes I made to the AD&D system. But there are two things that I’d keep anyways, and two things that certainly improve my game that I’ll throw out here for general consumption – and that certainly count as radical change:

  • Talent: This statistic is a measure of psychic strength and ability. It has the following effects for psychic characters: instead of rolling a d100 for Psychic Ability, it is calculated as 5x Talent plus the normal bonuses for Intelligence, Talent, and Wisdom. For Psionicists it is used instead of IWC. Higher Talent also grants a bonus to Save vs. Mind Control and Mind-Influencing Effects. (15 = +1, 16 = +2, 17 = +3, 18 = +4)

    I’ve always run a game with a fair amount of psionics in it – call it my love of Bradley’s Darkover series and Kurtz’s Deryni series – and this way always seems to work a bit better for me regarding figuring out what somebody psionic ability/strength is. In my own personal OSR my only struggle with keeping this was the addition of a statistic – but that seemed even more elegant and of more utility than the “IWC” calculation of the Psionicist (a class that I used extensively) and having a way to measure psychic strength will likely continue to have some sort of utility as I play. Taking the mental bonus from Wisdom make sense and gives this stat a use for non-psychic characters so it’s not a dump stat, and it general it can pretty much sit in the background and be quietly ignored unless it needs to be dragged out for some reason (unlike, say, Charisma or Intelligence which tend to be very front and center when role-playing).

  • Power: This statistic is a measure of the life energy of the character. It measures their resistance to Energy Drain, and for Mages, it grants them an extra spell level that may be memorized for every point of Power over 12. For example, a Power of 15 grants three extra spells, which could be memorized as either three 1st level spells, one 3rd level spell, or one 1st level spell and one 2nd level spell. Higher Power also grants a bonus to Save vs. Death Magic. (15 = +1, 16 = +2, 17 = +3, 18 = +4)

    Power as a statistic was more problematic to retain. It’s former use was pretty much solely because I used a fair amount of Chasoium-engine magic systems for things and keeping it will leave me with a temptation to bring those back. But I used them for a solid decade or so playing AD&D, and I’ve certainly used them in the past sixteen years with my homebrew system. There are also some tweaks that I do want to put into place regarding mages and cantrips, and there has ever been a debate in D&D about the low-powered nature of low-level mages and the above seems to be a very nice compromise that also retain the essential Vancian nature of D&D arcane spells (rather than divine prayer). It has one other benefit that lets me address one of the potentially most broken pieces of the standard rules. The bonus to save vs. Death Magic is sort of a throw-away that I just thought of, but I really don’t mind giving characters another potential bonus against things that kill them instantly – and I don’t think any of my players will complain either. All-in-all, not just not another dump stat, but a statistic where players will be torn as to what to do about – and I am a total fan of that as a DM.

    But both these also means that actually means that I changed some of the bonuses you get by virtue of having a high Wisdom.

  • Wisdom: Wisdom operates exactly as noted in the Player’s Handbook with the single exception being that the bonus to save is against Illusions and Phantasms rather than Mind-Control or Mind-Influencing Effects – though note that it is possible to get the bonus from both Talent and Wisdom in some cases. (15 = +1, 16 = +2, 17 = +3, 18 = +4)

    I have sort of a comment here that I’ll probably flesh out later – but I find the complaints around the thief-class made in some quarters of the OSR to be absolutely ludicrous in light of a game that not only gives characters a statistic for Intelligence but for Wisdom was well. Characters and playing has always been abstracted and the idea that you couldn’t do the same thing for a set of skills that many or most players and DM’s could easily be expected to be clueless about (Find/Remove Traps is the one that always gets talked about) has never seemed that out of place to me.


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

    Alignment, Good, and Evil

    So, when I switched to my home-brew rules I left the old and problematic AD&D alignment system behind as being “not realistic enough” and switched over to the Paladium RPG’s system of alignments that I found much more useful because of the guidelines given as to what people with certain ethos would actually act like and would do under various circumstances. And then, over time, I ended up expanding out the PRPG style of Ethos into a nine-fold list that replicated (in some ways) the old AD&D system.

    But as I start looking at my campaign world I realized that I sort of wanted to either return to the AD&D system or somehow merge the revised Ethos system with the AD&D alignment system.

    I think the merge is the best answer, because the original AD&D system was so black-and-white in some ways that it really made running alignments or figuring out how it would approach some regularly encountered dilemmas (poison, torture, lying, etc) difficult at best – and the PRPG system explicitly told you how the various Ethos would handle these situations.

    What I’m finding amusing is just how much words matter (HAH! Relational Frame Theory and Narrative Construction proves itself again…) and when you think about Ash the NPC as “Lawful Evil” instead of “Abberent” it really puts a whole new spin on that character and his attitudes towards everything. In “the good old days” I usually had an NPC or two that ran around with the party, and they were invariably Neutral Good and provided a bit a moral compass (or goad) for the players – the one notable exception was a True Neutral mage who ended up becoming the arguably the most powerful mage in history and his power-focused drive was a real shock to a group that was pretty “good” for the most part.

    It is also an interesting comment on how much my campaign changed after I changed the game I was using to run it – it became a much more morally grey. It didn’t immediately do this. In retrospect I can see how my divorce had a huge impact on that – I was not exactly a happy camper there for a couple of years. But I had always looked at my fantasy game as a bit of morality play for the players t o explore, and I really explored what evil is comprised of and what makes acts or people evil – plus additional layers of Lovecraftian existential amorality – in the context of the game world.

    One of the major plot-points of the metaplot revolved around the idea there are things out there (ala GOO’s – “Great Old Ones” like Cthulhu) that are so evil or so bad that pretty much everyone, Good, Evil, and Neutral will band together to fight it.


    Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

    What. The. Hell. ?!?!?!?!?!

    “Being a DM was something that was always done via an apprenticeship. You played under a DM for a period of time until you or he decided it was time for you to learn the craft. Then you ran games with your DM as one of your players and he critiqued you and imparted his wisdom (wisdom not Intelligence)on to you as you garnered more experience until that day you started your own group.”

    -jrmapes in the comments at D&D’s Biggest Problem

    Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Over.


    Ieusu on a STICK it’s the Old Guard Mythology of the OSR!

    Ok, I have to say that that this is not how I learned AD&D, I was freaking 10-year, playing with other 10-year olds, then older friends (it really took off in Junior High) and we were all gaming like fiends right from the get-go.

    Now, that said, I can see an element of truth here. I and a couple of friends played at the park-district D&D game which was running for awhile there. I did end up hooking up with a vastly older group of college students right around the age of 16 or so and that group became my primary group for playing, but I was still running my own stuff and continued to do so – and I learned a whole lot from that DM about running games. I can also remember a friend of mine who after playing with me for awhile started up his own game as well, and looked to me for advice and guidance during that process. Hell, we’d consult with each other in person or over the phone if we needed to make a ruling and couldn’t quite figure it out ourselves for some reason.

    But really, “apprenticeships” where your DM final gave some Mafia-esque blessing to finally go out and start your own gaming group?

    *older DM embraces the prospect* “Yo, now dat youd lerned the roolz good enuff, youd can go out and start yur own group – but watch out and don’t start nuttin dat might steal any playerz frum yur betterz, kapish? Dat happenz and me and da boyz might have to take some action – if you know what I mean.” *slaps young wanna-be DM’s face gently*

    Give me a break…


    (And yes, I do realize that the commenter later in the comments backs off from this stance but it still just struck me as ridiculous…)

    Categories: OSR | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

    Old School Characters…

    This is a really fascinating link and story that really captures the flavor of “Old School AD&D” for me.

    The Case of Morgan Just

    James Maliszewski is a cool old guy, he started playing the same way I did, and only about a year after I did as well (intended as a present for Dad, and I started in January/February of ’79 rather than February of ’80) – and then he moved into professional game design and writing, whereas I went off in a host of other directions.

    I started playing a few months before him and then played the hell out of AD&D 1E right into the front end of 2E, when I stopped some time in 1995.

    Yeah, that timeline feels right – 16 years of play, then another 16 years fallow…


    That’s an strange bit of coincidence.

    In any case, he has some nice insights into the OSR and this post really makes sense to me.


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    The Journey Back (…to OD&D)

    It really is quite amazing, trying to look back and recreate a set of house rules that you played with for many, many years but literally put down and never looked back at (until now) ~15 years ago.

    But in any case, part of the issue is looking at a campaign world that has continued to evolve and grow over the last 15 years through a series of other rules sets: Thieves Guild, Basic Role Playing engine channeled through a mess of Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster, Palladium RPG, and at least three or four distinct versions of a home-brew engine.

    Another piece is moving away from skill-based systems (more objective) and towards class-based systems (social class, character class) as the method for determining success in a whole host of conflicts. It’s a move back to what a number of the OSR folks describe as the unmitigated power and authority of the Dungeon Master.

    Yeah, I’m ok with that, I suppose – but my house rules were often the result of trying to be consistent in some of those rulings over time.

    It’s also interesting because I’m realizing just how much more confident I am as a game designer – back in those days, I would never dare to just create a new character class from scratch, I’d tinker with an existing one to such a crazy degree that it would end up far more unbalanced than I realized. Now I’m pretty much willing to just create a new class if I can’t find something that matches closely to what I’m looking for – or at least radically revise it from late AD&D 1E (I’m looking at you, Demonist from White Dwarf #47) into something a bit more congruent with my campaign world.

    The other interesting thing is something I will rant briefly about here in an upcoming post – namely, how portions of the “D&D canon” have paralled things in my own world so closely. If you look at things like the Shadowfell, Shadar-Kai, Eladrin, Feywild, and “Noble Eladrin” from the more recent versions of the game, it’s an amusing set of coincidences.


    What to do… What to do…


    Categories: OSR | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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