Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Old School Renaissance Will Eat Itself

I love all the old school renaissance / retro-clone games out there. They are great fun to play AND are very clever adaptations of the very flexible OGL. There are some neat game-design choices too, such as Spellcraft & Swordplay's alternate evolution of OD&D or Basic Fantasy's middle ground between Basic D&D and Advanced D&D. I love these games.

It's the people I am not overly fond of.

Now to be fair, it isn't everyone, or even a majority, but rather a very, very small but very, very vocal minority that seems to have this "it's my way or the highway" mentality. Or that somehow the design changes of *D&D were done not to improve gameplay but rather some nefarious plot to screw Gygax, Arneson, or whomever or screw the players out of more money, or insert crazy conspiracy here. But there have been a few dust-ups of late on what the OSR "Really" is or what "playing D&D is really about". As a gamer and a designer I pay attention to these things, they are the pulse of what the customer likes. It is the closest thing I have to market research, but as a fan they really irritate me.

I LIKE the old school games. I liked them then and I like them now, both the originals and the clones. I like the divergent evolutions, the what-ifs and the thought experiments that we get in game design from the OSR.

I DO play them out of nostalgia. Don't know why "nostalgia" became such a bad word in the OSR, but I play these games because I enjoyed them when I was 10.

I DO play new games. I love D&D 4e. And to me it plays great, I have a wonderful "D&D experience" (what ever the fuck that is supposed to be) with it. I like minis, they make my game fun. And I used them back in the 80's too. So to me, they ARE old school.

I like to write for both. Every game I work on serves a different need, different function for me. If I am not going to quantify which one is "better" to me as the creator, then why should I expect the player to do so?

Lots of people would love to play these old games too. Why? Because they were fun, and still are. But trying to get a gamer to play by telling him or her that they should play this way or that way and the game they are playing now is for idiots isn't going to win you any fans. And if you are publishing then fans > customers, so the less you have one, the less you have of the others and customers mean sales.

I am not naming names at all, cause that is tacky (but man are there plenty of good examples), but we have some people in this movement that will be the death of this movement due to their own inflexible thinking. Which is odd, cause one of the reasons they claim to like the OSR was because the rules are more flexible. Actually it's not that odd at all come to think of it.

I just don't follow the logic of "the old-school/70's games were fun, therefore the newer games are crap".

It doesn't help that many of the OSR member are all up in arms about something that doesn't even exist: people playing new games calling their style crap. News Flash: The vast majority of gamers out there are not even aware of the OSR, and those that do I'd say the vast majority of them do not have an opinion.

Plus Edition Wars are the lowest form of Nerdrage. Better off arguing who would win in a fight, ninjas or Jedi.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hybrid Class Playtest and Character Concept IV

Player's Handbook 2 gave us all a bunch of new classes, some cool (like the Bard), some interesting (like the Shaman and Avenger) and the Druid.

I didn't like the Druid really. It focused on one subset of powers (the wild shape ability) and none of the things I associate with Druids. I am not even talking Celtic Druids, but even just AD&D 1st Ed ones. I wanted someone that was more of an elemental manipulating nature dude. Sure turning into a rampaging animal is fun, but not in my Druids.

I liked about half of what the Druid had to offer and about half of the Shaman. In a perfect world I'd cut these classes up and rebuild them for to my suit. Shamans have all the animal spirits and wild shape and druids get all the elemental fun. But I know that is just me.

But that doesn't solve my issues with the Druid and more to the point not my issues with my Druid Character Bodhmall. What I wanted was more of an Earthy Druid like priestess with some power over fire, a gift she believes is from Brigit. So I attempted to try her as a hybrid Druid/Shaman. The results are…interesting. Since it was just a test, I can't judge yet whether or not this will be Bodhmall or not. I want to see if I can do this with just a Druid first. But the character is playable and she has access to the Keeper of the Hidden Flame paragon path, which is what I wanted. I have also always seen Bodhmall as having an animal companion or spirit animal companion of a small wolf. This would work in either regular druid or even hybrid versions.

For her companion Liath, I might multi-class her into Druid, but keep her core Barbarian or Ranger.
One thing I did like was Expeditious Retreat Press' Nature Priest Druid variant. That is more of what I was looking for than WotC's Druid.

All in all, Hybrid Druid/Shaman is a working class and not a bad one. It improves my thoughts on the druid certainly, but I feel I am still not quite there yet.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hybrid Class Playtest and Character Concept III

My DM hates gnomes.

This is not a big deal normally, I have never played a gnome in my 30 years of playing xD&D in all it's forms. But during the 3.0 days I made a gnome character to take advantage of the new multi-classing rules. This was a gnome that started out in life as a bard, but eventually became a witch using my d20 book of Witches and Warlocks. He was a hopeless romantic and dashing rake that had a story for every adventure, usually featuring himself as the star, and a lover in town. His name was Jassic Winterhaven. Part Don Juan, part Cyrano de Bergerac, a little bit of Captain Jack Harkness and some of that rabbit in School House Rock "Lucky Seven". But Jassic had another side to him. He was a "Benandanti" or a Gnome Witch (yes I know it means "Good Walker"), he traveled the lands, walking stick in hand, and believed this was his way of serving his Goddess, Cardea (opener or ways, Goddess of the Portals). Jassic was very much a snapshot of what I was doing at the time in my writing.

I never got to play Jassic though.

Now enter the 4th Edition rules and Jassic has returned, and this is even better fit for him. In 4E Jassic is a hybrid Bard/Warlock. Unlike my experiment with Heather, Jassic's concept in my mind fit SO well with the hybrid rules that I have to consider his 3.0 counterpart as nothing more than a rough draft. In this case my character concept and the rules merged so well together that I would be hard pressed to think of him any other way. My multi classed Bard/Witch became a Hybrid Bard/Warlock. Which does bring up a point I want to deal with latter; are 4th Ed Warlocks supposed to be Witches? I suppose I should try him out in say AD&D 2nd Ed as well, but that would be some work and won't really tell me much. What is cool here is that Bards in later versions of D&D became less and less like Bards, and more like some sort of fantasy pastiche of rogues, scoundrels with magic added in. Terrible, if I want to make a classic Bard (like Amergin), but perfect for a "D&D Bard" like Jassic and Heather.

Here are my 4th Ed version using the Hybrid rules and using the DDI character builder. I am sure there are some good Paragon paths for him to take, either Gnome, Bard or Warlock. Fey Beguiler, Entrancing Mystic or Cunning Prevaricator would all be good choices (based on concept alone), but like Jassic himself, I am not going to make up my mind till I am there to see the forks in the road.
BTW I want to add. The DDI character builder is awesome.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
"Come now, we have miles to go and the sun is only our friend for a few more hours. Have I ever told you about the time I charmed a dragon into giving me a magical wand? It is a wonderful tale for the road mostly because it features me…" - Jassic Winterhaven
Jassic Winterhaven, level 4
Gnome, Bard|Warlock
Hybrid Bard: Hybrid Bard Reflex
Eldritch Pact (Hybrid): Fey Pact (Hybrid)
Eldritch Blast: Eldritch Blast Charisma
Hybrid Warlock: Hybrid Warlock Will
Hybrid Talent: Words of Friendship
Background: Occupation - Entertainer (+2 to Bluff)
Str 12, Con 12, Dex 12, Int 15, Wis 13, Cha 19.
Str 12, Con 12, Dex 12, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 16.
AC: 16 Fort: 13 Reflex: 15 Will: 17
HP: 39 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 9
Arcana +11, Bluff +13, Diplomacy +11, Nature +8
Acrobatics +4, Dungeoneering +4, Endurance +4, Heal +4, History +5, Insight +4, Intimidate +7, Perception +4, Religion +5, Stealth +6, Streetwise +7, Thievery +4, Athletics +4
Level 1: Fey Trickster
Level 2: Magic of the Mists
Level 4: Hybrid Talent
Hybrid Bard at-will 1: Vicious Mockery
Hybrid Warlock at-will 1: Eldritch Blast
Hybrid encounter 1: Witchfire
Hybrid daily 1: Slayer's Song
Hybrid utility 2: Beguiling Tongue
Hybrid encounter 3: Recitation of Foreknowledge

Adventurer's Kit, Leather Armor, Short sword (2), Implement, Rod, Meal, Common, Rope, hempen (50 ft.) (2), Torch (2), Traveling papers, Woodwind, Bedroll
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

I am not going to get to play him, cause, you know, my DM and gnomes, plus he is also not allowing Hybrids in his game. I still have Family D&D Night however, so there is a chance.
In the end, Jassic here looks fun. Chalk up a win for 4e.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Witch Girls Adventures: Willow and Tara

It really was only a matter of time before I did this.

Witch Girls Adventures is my new favorite system, and of course Willow & Tara are long time favorites of mine. Instead of presenting them like I normally do, I am going with the girls at about the time they met.

I used the rules right out of the book, with the updates for 18 year-olds. I like how they turned out, not a direct translation from their Unisystem stats (Willow and Tara), but really nice.

So here they are. Willow and Tara for Witch Girls Adventures.

Willow Rosenberg

Witch Outsider

Body: d6
Mind: d8 +1
Senses: d8
Will: d12
Social: d6
Magic: d10

Life Points: 10
Reflex: 9
Resist Magic: 14
Zap Points: 21

Skills (Rank)
Computers d8 +7 (+1 from Brainiac)
Fix-Electronics d8 +5 (+1 from Brainiac)
Fix-Mechanical d8 +4 (+1 from Brainiac)
Mythology d8 + 3 (+1 from Brainiac)
Plucky d8 +2
Science d8 + 7 (+1 from Brainiac)

Casting d10 + 6
Focus d12 + 4
Herbalism d8 +2 (+1 from Brainiac)
Mysticism d8 +5

Zap Happy

Attuned (MTR +1)

Alteration 2, Conjuration 1, Cybermancy 3, Divination 1, Illusion 2, Mentalism 2, Offense 2, Protection 2
Signature Spell: Move

Dolls Eye Crystal (-1 Zap)

Tara Maclay

Witch Insider

Body: d6
Mind: d6
Senses: d8
Will: d10
Social: d6 +1 (Empath)
Magic: d10

Life Points: 12
Reflex: 11
Resist Magic: 15
Zap Points: 20

Skills (Rank)
Acting d6 +2 (+1 from Empath)
Art d6 +3
Basics d6 +2
Computers d6 +1
Hear d8 +2
Mythology d6 + 6
Singing d6 +5 (+1 from Empath)

Casting d10 +5
Cryptozoology d6 +2
Focus d10 +3
Magical Etiquette d6 +4
Mysticism d6 +3
Potions d10 +2

Goody-Goody (+1 to casting rolls to beneficial spells)
Meek (+1 to mundane skill rolls when unobserved)


Alteration 3, Divination 4, Elementalism 2, Healing 1, Mentalism 4, Protection 2
Signature Spell: Levitate

Cat – Miss Kitty Fantastico

New Heritage: Empath
Empaths are very much in tune with the ebb and flow of emotions. She is the first to know when a friend is experiencing joy, but also when she is feeling mental anguish. People are naturally drawn to the Empath knowing that she does understand.
Advantages: The Empath gains 1 rank of Divination and her Social is +1.
Disadvantages: So tied in the emotions around her the Empath is at -2 to casting Curses and Offensive spells.

I added Empath since it seemed like a no-brainer to me. Tara's an empath.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Adventures in Gaming: The Doom of RPGs: The Rambling

A very good, but somewhat depressing post.

Adventures in Gaming: The Doom of RPGs: The Rambling

I will take his word on these things, he has been in the biz a long time. But I am still hoping for another RPG surge in the future.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spellcraft & Swordplay goodness

Yesterday was a good day for me and Spellcraft & Swordplay.

I got my Deluxe Edition in the mail from Lulu yesterday and I am really digging it. If you are interested in S&S at all, then this is the way to go; all of the rules and some of Monstrous Mayhem thrown in for good measure. The hardcover is very nice and compliments all my other Old-School Renaissance books well.

Of course if you are still not convinced then there is the Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Set, which you can download for free or get a physical copy cheap. In all cases all you need is two 6-sided dice.

Of course the real issue now is getting a chance to play. My sons are still in the middle of a campaign in 3.x; my other regular group is still playing 4e (though we might be going for our 3rd reboot) and Family D&D night is 4e. So it most likely I might be able to get my regular group to try S&S, they also want to try LL and BFRPG too. Given the power curves, I might make some S&S characters and then some 4e versions of the same one. Spend some time in S&S and then <insert magical macguffin here> have them play 4e for a while. Maybe spend between 5-8 levels in S&S and then start them out as 3rd level in 4e? Weird mix I know. But there is appeal of this to me. Even if they are not very compatible with each other, part of me just wants to try it.

So many games; so little time really.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Dude

In honor of the start of Lebowski Fest on 7/10/2009 I am posting stats for The Dude, aka Jeffery Lebowski.

Here is The Dude for Cine Unisystem, obviously he doesn’t even make it to white hat standards. But he gets by; The Dude abides.

Jeffery “The Dude” Lebowski
Character Type: Inexperienced White Hat
Quote: “The Dude abides”
Life Points: 29
Drama Points: 15

Strength 2
Dexterity 2
Constitution 4
Intelligence 3
Perception 3
Willpower 3

Hard to Kill
Has (had) a great carpet

Addiction (White Russians) 2
Addiction (marijuana) 1
Adversary 1 (Jesus Quintana, The Big Lebowski) (neither are a full point by themselves)
Mental Problem, Lazy 1

Acrobatics 1
Art 1
Computers 0
Crime 3
Doctor 0
Driving 1
Getting Medieval 0
Gun Fu 1
Influence 2
Knowledge 2
Kung Fu 1
Languages 1
Mr. Fix-It 1
Notice 2
Occultism 0
Science 1
Sports 3 (Bowling)
Wild Card 0

Maneuver Bonus Base Damage Notes
The dude is not a fighter.

Time to go make a White Russian.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

FREE Spellcraft & Swordplay Deluxe E-book

Spellcraft & Swordplay Deluxe E-book

For the next few days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) Elf Lair Games will be offering their (our really) flagship game, Spellcraft & Swordplay completely free.

Everything you need to get started, minus dice, is right here.

Inspired by the earliest days of the Fantasy Role-playign Game, Spellcraft & Swordplay is a great mix of old-school roleplaying and cinematic action. Designed by Jason Vey whose previous credits have been with Paladium, Eden Studios (AFMBE, Buffy) and others.

Or just read his post about it here:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ghosts of Ablion at Gen Con

I am running three Gen Con events this year for Ghosts of Albion.

These are the official times and places from Gen Con. Registration is closed now, so you can register for these at the con or use the generic tickets.

I will repost this when I have more information

Here are the details.

Ghosts of Albion: Blight

RPG0906270 - 08/13/2009 07:00:00 PM (Thursday) Crowne Plaza, Grand Central Ballroom B, Table 3

RPG0906268 - 08/14/2009 07:00:00 PM (Friday) Crowne Plaza, Grand Central Ballroom B, Table 3

Ireland is dying. Her Protector has been murdered and you are the primary suspects. Can you clear your name, regain your magic and stop whatever necromancies befoul the land? Time is short, yours and one million lives hang in the balance. Set in 1847 this is an adventure for the Ghosts of Albion RPG.

Ghosts of Albion: Obsession

RPG0906269 - 08/15/2009 07:00:00 PM (Saturday) Crowne Plaza, Grand Central Ballroom B, Table 3

There is trouble at the Plough Street Theatre. The Times reports that authorities have found the strangled body of prominent actress and performer, Miriam White. However Miss White has herself commented to The Times that she is in fact alive and well and has been seen not only on stage, but having lunch with her manager just outside the theatre. You are requested by James V. Harold, esq., owner of the Plough Street Theatre to discreetly investigate this matter.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ærypt and Zakhara

Following up on my previous post on Desert Elves & Orcs, I thought I might detail the region they live in some more.

Ærypt is a pastiche of Arypt, Erypt, and Egypt with Gygax's Necropolis and Ravenloft's Har'Akir thrown in.
So Zakhara was detailed in the Al-Qadim boxed set and I am going to use that as much as possible. Ærypt is different. I mentioned that I want to use Gygax's Necropolis product as a basis. "Necropolis" is actually two products. The first was Gary's "The Necropolis - And the Land of Egypt" for the Mythus RPG. The second was "Gary Gygax's Necropolis" for d20. Both offer me something that my Ærypt needs; a springboard.

What if we took 3rd or 4th Dynasty Egypt, and then made it very evil and full of undead? We get Ærypt. I will also borrow from my other favorite setting, Ravenloft, and use the background for Har'Akir and its Darklord Anhktepot combined with the Masque of the Red Death background on Egypt and Imhotep. I never liked MotRD's treatment of Imhotep, but Anhktepot is fair game! I have some ideas here, but I also have an issue now. My Ærypt is sun-baked deserts and Zakhara is a land of sands, dunes, and trade routes by camels and oasis's. Looking at the Mystara Map, Arypt is a land of some savannas, scrub land, and jungles! That won't do at all.

So I was comparing these two maps. One is of Arypt of Mystara and the other is Erypt of Oerth. The shapes are similar and fit well with the "Lower Ærypt" on my map. What can account for the changes? Simple. Dark Sun. Or at least the ideas from Dark Sun. Combine those, knowing that my starting point is lush Pre-Dynastic Egypt and my ending is the sun, baked, undead infested lands like Har'Akir or Necropolis, I have my history. Plus the nice thing is I am using the Mystara timeline, but about 640 in the future.
Here we go:
Long Ago* the lands known as Ærypt and Zakhara were once a fertile plain. The inhabitants were few, but they made peaceful lives. To the far west Jungle Gnomes and Jungle Elves lived. Along the Eastern Coast lived tribes of Catmen, known as Rakastas. Till one day a great hole opened in the sky and down came gods (Humans really) they brought with them their slaves (orcs) and began to settle. While the peace of the land was broken, there was no outright warfare. The Gnomes went farther west to avoid contact, but elves were fascinated by the new gods. The Rakasta found much in common with these humans and were soon integrated into their society. Yet as the years grew on it was obvious that these gods were not the benevolent kind. To erect their giant pyramids they soon took elves as slaves as well, with the Rakasta as their cruel task masters. For years untold the elves suffered under the yoke of the humans and watch as their forests were plundered and cut down to build more and more temples, all for the glory of the Sorcerer Kings. But even this was not enough.
The latest Sorcerer King, Anhktepot craved more and more power. Eventually he came upon a ritual that would enable him to take magic from the very Earth herself. He drained the land to fuel his own urge for power. The there was a price. The land around him died and became a desert and he became a withered undead thing. The growth of this desert was horrifically fast. Within 100 years the lush green land was nothing but sands. Having enough of this the tribes of Elves and Orcs banded together and overthrew the Sorcerer King. Anhktepot was defeated and buried alive deep in his own pyramid in the dead city of Har'Akir.
The elves. Homeless began to travel the deserts in search for a new life, but unwilling to leave the lands of their birth.
Let the place simmer for 500 years and voilà. Instant new land with history and reasons to adventure. All that treasure that the locals won't touch. Danger, mystery, everything we game for.

Enjoy your Fourth of July weekend!
Just a test.