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Monday, February 20, 2017

Living in the Past: Monday Edition

Great game on Fantasy Grounds Sunday night with Deron and the crew.  It's always good to play or run a game where, in the end, you walk away eager for the next session.  It happens pretty frequently for me these days, which I'm thankful for.  Playing with good people helps, and while I've played in my fair share (and then some) of bad games with people whose company I didn't enjoy recently my experiences have been very positive.

I'm currently playing in a Labyrinth Lord game where we have been exploring Stonehell, kicking in one door at a time and clobbering bad guys.  We take our fair share of beatings, but that just adds to the 'danger-factor' and the camaraderie we (the players) share.  It's alot of hack-and-slash, a few traps, and alot of monsters.  For a couple of hours each week I allow myself the freedom of the mega-dungeon, and it really is liberating.  There's a small bit of role-playing, but the majority is action, which suits me just fine!

AD&D1e is on the weekly schedule for a few fun hours as well, and this game I run.  Nothing makes the memories come alive like a 1e game, even if the retro-clone is nearly identical, there's something about the trappings and rules of 1e that are somehow mystical and magical to me.  I crack open my books (ok, my PDF's) and instantly i'm transported to my childhood.  OSR rulesets are starting to appear on Fantasy Grounds with some regularity, and the community has been hot to make them available and support them.  DCC, Swords & Wizardry, and Basic Fantasy are all either available or in-the-works.

I know I live in the past....alot.  I do it with movies, music, and tv too.  I'd rather watch Spiderman 1967 than some newer, MTV toon of Spidey.  Games are the same for me.  I know there's alot of interesting new stuff out there, but I'll tell you what I really wanna play...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, & Other Strangeness: This was my gateway drug, the game that revealed to me just how much fun could be had outside of the traditional fantasy and Sci-Fi games I had been playing up to that point.  Creating a smart-mouthed alligator mutant who loved cinnamon toothpicks and had a small mutant bird as a sidekick (in his mouth most of the time) was somehow very freeing, and really taught me alot about roleplaying more extreme characters.  I had a number of Palladium fantasy books by that point, so the system was familiar and comfortable.

Robotech The Role Playing Game:  While we're in the Palladium zone, I had alot of love for this game.  It helped that I was watching a boatload of anime at this point, including all of the Macross vids.  Honestly, I don't know if we ever played this game correctly, but the thought of pushing through the enemy in my Veritech fighter was major fun!

Cyberpunk 2020: Night City never saw me coming.  I was a force of nature, wheeling and dealing my way to the top of a pile of chrome and wires and a crap-load of guns.  Sure, I needed a permanent Med-tech or three on staff to keep my Street Samurai in tip-top shape, but it was worth every Nuyen.  I was such a huge cyberpunk fan, having discovered the work of William Gibson back in the early 80's, that playing this game was one of the highlights of my gaming career.  the Mechanics for the game were a mess, and dying was easier than OD&D, but the books were really well put-together and evoked an impressive ambiance that was addictive.  I never could run a successful game, but I was an avid player.

Warhammer Fantasy Role Play :  Not since I had bought my AD&D1e books had a game entranced me in the same way as WFRP 1e.  A massive hardbound volume with really evocative art on the cover sucked me in immediately.  The mechanics were just as interesting, and far more gritty and deadly than 1e.  I really appreciated the combat and the carer path systems, but it was the Old World setting that really was the icing on the cake.  I spent several years running a campaign in WFRP, though I couldn't find anyone to run the game so I could take a turn playing.  It was a small letdown.  I bought many of the extraneous sourcebooks like the City of Middenheim and Realms of Sorcery, and much of that content makes its way into my fantasy games now.  It really stuck with me, and is a great game if you stumble across a copy.

On the weeks where not everyone could show up at game time, we played a ton of Steve Jackson's Car Wars and Nuclear War, both great card games.

I know I'm not the only one.  There's more of you out there than the 'kids' playing 5e or MTG suspect (OMFG, did he just crap on 5e?).  We're not letting go of the past, oh no.  Instead we're shining a bright LED light on that pile of RPG's!

What games from your past would you like to play again?  Looking to run some Paranoia!?!?  Need to spend a bit of time planning a Top Secret! campaign?  Maybe you miss running that duck in Runequest, or that freaky alien in Jorune?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ignorance: The Player's Best Friend

For many of us, we are eternally chasing the dragon.  In this instance, the dragon represents those feelings we had the first few times we sat at the game table as players.  Do you remember?  You had no books.  You needed to share some dice, and they looked weird as hell.  Someone handed you a sheet and said something like, "Here.  You can play Grebon the Fighter," or that same guy had the guy next to you help you make what they kept calling a PC.  Maybe you know these people at the table, maybe you just know one or two.  The guy at the head of the table has a stack of books and more dice than everyone else, and he seems to be in charge.  After a minute or two of furious rolling, and scribbling, and making sure there was soda and chips in the appropriate place, that guy at the head of the table started to speak.

"You arrive at the edge of the town of Rethern, a tall wooden wall surrounds the place.  From behind the wall you can see billowing black smoke, you can feel the heat of flames, and you can hear screaming from every direction.  Underneath the screams, you can make out another noise...a low growl, a grunt, and a throaty laugh.  The gate stands open before you, what do you do?"

On so many levels, you have no idea what to do.  Are you supposed to talk now?  Do you roll dice to figure it out?  It says on this paper in front of you that you have a short sword, can I use that? What the hell made those crazy noises? Holy shit this is fun!

It's not that playing isn't fun anymore.  Of course we love the game, the hobby, and all that it entails but sometimes I know that I yearn for a game where I have no idea whats going on, where I don't know why it's happening, or how to deal with it.

The simplest way I can think of to recreate that feeling is to play a completely new game.  New rules, new setting, new genre...all of that can go a long way to spark those old feelings.  Interestingly, I don't do this much, nor do I often have an opportunity to play in a game I am unfamiliar with.  Mostly we stick with the same game, the same rules, and even the same players over and over again.  It's human nature that comfort and reliability trump newness, strangeness, and discomfort.

As a DM and a player, I try and keep things fresh when I can.  In the games I run, I introduce strange and never-before-encountered monsters that I find online or that I create myself.  Sometimes there are paradigm shifts that are injected that may not be normal for  players, such as a recent game where we all had to play members of this strange, new race of shapeshifters, hunted by all of the other human and demi-human races.  Maybe we're playing a game where magic is common, so we switch to a setting where it is rare and dangerous (Low Fantasy).  There are any number of ways in which we can keep things interesting, keep the players guessing and keep them engaged.

This week I've really not been posting, my attention focused on a series of new creatures/monsters for a mini-monster-manual of sorts.  I know that if i'm always looking for new material, then so are others.  How do you keep your 'old' game fresh, and your players involved and entranced?

Play Update:

For those who are interested, I'm planning on dropping these in now and again.  I Run/Play in a few games each week, all online via Fantasy Grounds and Roll20.

This last month or so I've started running an AD&D 1e campaign in Fantasy Grounds (my VTT of choice) now that Vodokar (on the forums there) has released his ruleset.  It runs on top of Castles & Crusades ruleset, so in order to play you need to have an FG license as well as the C&C ruleset (10$ from the FG store), but IMHO it's really worth it.  Vodokar has released at least 4 updates since its release, and it now handles multi-classing pretty well.

It's a pleasure to run, for several reasons.  Primarily It's just great to be able to play my favorite game via FG.  For most of my VTT life I've been running or playing C&C, which was the only available ruleset most like AD&D1e, and we enjoyed our games, but I really wanted to recapture that OSR feeling.  Vodokar's new ruleset nails it!

If you're not an FG person, it may be difficult to grok, but having all of the resources of the C&C ruleset available the moment you fire up the AD&D1e ruleset makes the DM's job really easy, as all of the reference material is immediately available to utilize in your new game.

The look and feel of the ruleset is great, evoking images and emotions about playing back in the early 80's that I had really missed.  The character sheets are great, and in order to keep it flowing old school style, I've been using images and creatures from my old books like Monster Manual 1 and Fiend Folio.

Using a free-to-use Dyson map I was quickly able to stock a dungeon with creatures, loot, and traps and the party was quickly on their way to delving into what I hope will turn into a nice little campaign.  I know Vodokar would very much like to produce some modules for the ruleset, which would be great for newer DM's looking for their first OSR experience via a VTT.  You can read more about the project here on the forums or feel free to ping me on G+ or Twitter to ask questions about it.

I'm not a big fan of recounting the events of the game, or streaming games, for people to check out.  Seems boring to me, so you won't see that sort of thing here, but as I get more info about rulesets or play/run more stuff I'll update the blog so you can find out about 'em (as an example, one of the players in my game is also the creator of the DCC ruleset also avail on FG.  I'm chomping at the bit to dig a bit deeper into that if my plate can squeeze in some space for it, but right now it's a tad full).

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

When We Become the Monsters...

Being a pawnbroker in my day-to-day life gives me a unique perspective when it comes to gaming.  I wasn't always a member of this old and not-so-honored profession, but even in my early days of gaming I was fascinated with operating a castle, hiring henchmen, and buying and selling in my game worlds as both a player and DM.  Hell, there were some campaigns that eventually centered around my character's professional life, like that alchemist I played who set up a Ford-like factory assembly line for potions and items that sky-rocketed him to a position of financial dominance...and also made him the target of many a greedy thief and contracted assassin.

It struck me today, what seems like an innocuous Wednesday in the pawnshop, about the ebb and flow of money and goods among the population that I primarily serve.  This shop exists, as many do, in a low income/no income environment.  My customers need money, often for basic necessities like food, gas bill, cigarettes (trust me when I say that this is a necessity in this community) and all manner of things a person needs to manage life from day-to-day.  As long as they have tangible collateral (most commonly in the form of gold jewelry), they can secure a small loan to get them through until some money finds it's way back into their pockets.

Wait...but if they are poor (low/no income) then how do they get money?  Good question.  It's simple, actually.  On or about the 1st day of each month they receive some sort of a payment from the government or from a pension (more usually the former, but sometimes the latter) in the form of SSI, Unemployment, Welfare, Disability...and this month they get a big payout in the form of their IRS tax returns, what we refer to around here as 'Second Christmas'.  On the last week of each month, they look and act like zombies, waiting for this payment to show up, and they will do almost anything to survive until it arrives.  Hmmm...sounds like a D&D monster to me.

 I'm interested in the Urban Poor, the lost and dispossessed folks who dwell in the cracks and the crevices of the large towns and cities that dot our campaign maps. Who are they, how did they get there, and most importantly how do they survive?  Beggars? Perhaps.  Charity from the Clerical establishment?  Maybe.  Most likely they live short and miserable lives as they spiral downward deeper into poverty and despair.  This, in my mind, makes them dangerous.  Are they people, or have they become creatures, feral extensions and expressions of the city in which they dwell that has changed them, altered them within a womb of pain, hunger, hate, and apathy.  What if, in that city wherein strange sorcery and wicked wizards ply their deviant magical trade, some bits and pieces of mystical energy are set loose and finds itself in the company of such a person, an emotionally wounded and susceptible vessel?

The Derelictus

Frequency: rare
No. Appearing: 1
Armor Class: 6
Move: 9" (20')
Hit Dice: 4
% in Lair: 60%
Number of Attacks: 2 or special (grab)
Damage/Attack: 1d4/1d4
Special Attacks: Energy Drain
Special Defenses: +1 or Better Weapon to hit
Magic Resistance: 30%
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Neutral
Size: M
Psionic Ability: nil

The Derelictus is a host vessel, a man, woman, or child infected by a living magic and existing in a symbiotic relationship with the force that inhabits its body and mind.  Once on deaths door, the host vessel is given new life in order to keep the magic secreted inside of it alive.  Vampiric in it's nature, but not undead, this creature haunts the alleys and sewers of the city in which it dwells.  It will approach its intended victim, palm out as if it is simply a beggar looking for a handout.  The creature may make a noise, a low grumbling, or a whine, and if it is strong enough may even utter a phrase such as 'help please' or 'alms kind sirs'.  If some sort of donation or offering is made (of any kind) then the creature will simply return to its hidey-hole, sated on the magic of kindness.

If, however, the creature is shunned it will be moved to action.  Unable to find respite in kindness, it will take the energy it requires to continue living on.  The creature will attempt to grab its victim with both hands, one hand on either side of the face.  If this grab attack is successful, it will latch on and begin to drain HP at the rate of 2/round until it has drained the victim to 0 HP.  If so drained the victim will fall unconscious and lose 1 CON point permanently.  Once attached the creature can only be removed if killed. If sated, it will flee and seek refuge in it's chosen domain.

The Derelictus has no particular 'look', as it looks vary in that any host may be acceptable.  The one thing they all have in common is that they will hide their eyes.  The eyes of the Derelictus glow red, blue, or green depending on the nature of the magic energy that has chosen the host.  It can see into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrum, requiring little or no light to 'see' its victim or surroundings.  Hiding its eyes allows the Derelictus to move more freely about its chosen domain, as well as protecting the creature from daylight or bright light sources, which it will shun.  A Derelictus caught in bright light will have a -4 to all attacks and will attempt to flee to a darker area.

The magic within the Derelictus provides it with some general Magical Resistance, as well as 100% immunity to sleep or charm spells.  It can likewise only be damaged by magical weapons.  The creature is only as smart as the host creature, so this may vary but is generally average.

A Derelictus may have access to magical trinkets that it has taken from victims.  Those that fall to the grasp of the creature are robbed of all items and coinage once drained and unconscious, an instinct of the host.  The host must eat and drink in order to keep itself alive, and will always pay for food from vendors.  While they will not interact socially, they do blend in normally among the other poor or undesirable riff-raff of the city in which they dwell.  If encountered in their 'lair', there will always be treasure.  It is not unusual for a Derelictus to be wearing a ring of protection or a similar item, as they can sense when items they steal have magical potency and offer protection, even if the host has no previous knowledge

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dark Corners of the Interwebs

There's not gonna be any pile of word poop today.  No diatribe.  No topics of interest or conflict.  Instead I hope to shine a light on what I find valuable in the social media stream in which I swim. These are the people I steal...erm..Borrow ideas from.

 Some people, some sites, some stuff.

Ian Hagan over at has me thinking I need to add a bit of weird science to my otherwise 'normal' fantasy game setting.  It all feels very Vancian...

You could do worse than checking out the work of James V. West here.  His new 'Zine Black Pudding really highlights some of his best work.  It's James' OSR character sheets that really sparked my renewed interest in the OSR (I never left the game but really had no interest in creating work of my own for publication)

Larry has been gaming a long, long time (like me) and his website is where he has some interesting articles.

Gavin over at Necrotic Gnome Productions is someone you should be interested in.  You can find one of his sites here at but he has others.

Maybe you've never heard of this guy, Thomas Novosel, but his work is ever-evolving and really interesting.  Check him out here at

Eric over at always has some good OSR posts and I enjoy his take on stuff

Over at the Tower of the Archmage, David is whipping up some really nice, usable content.  I played with Dave briefly in a Fantasy Grounds game and he's a solid dude, so check out his site here at

That should be enough to chew on right now.

of course, I follow a host of other folks on G+ (My Primary Social Media Hangout) and Twitter and Facebook to boot, but this is a good start.  Enjoy..Tell em the Goblin Stomper says 'Hey!'

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It's Torture, Playing OSR Style...

This blog post isn't about right or wrong.  It's not about good, or evil either.  The way I approach torture in-game is not about my personal beliefs or my moral compass (assuming I have one), it's about two basic concepts, role-play methodology and a mechanic.  In other words, what is the PC doing in order to extract the information they seek, and how does the target of this behavior react?

  1. 1.
    the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain.
    synonyms:infliction of pain, abuse, ill-treatment, maltreatmentpersecution
    "acts of torture"
  1. 1.
    inflict severe pain on.
    "most of the victims had been brutally tortured"
    synonyms:inflict pain on, ill-treatabusemistreatmaltreatpersecute
    "they have tortured suspects in order to extract confessions"

In OSR play, the player doesn't simply declare that he/she is looking for traps and then rolls, instead the player tells the DM that he is searching for traps and (more importantly) the methods being used to do so, and THEN a roll is made to determine success or failure. The Old School Primer by Matt Finch does a great job of explaining this difference, as below:

The Pit Trap (Modern Style) 
GM: “A ten-foot wide corridor leads north into the darkness.” 
John the Rogue: “I check for traps.” 
GM: “What’s your target number for checking?” 
John the Rogue: “15.” 
GM: Decides that the pit trap in front of the party is “standard,” so all John has to do is roll a 15 or better. “Roll a d20.” 
John the Rogue: “16.” 
GM: “Probing ahead of you, you find a thin crack in the floor – it looks like there’s a pit trap.” 
John the Rogue: “Can I disarm it?” 
GM: “What’s your target number for that?” 
John the Rogue: “12. I rolled a 14.” 
GM: “Okay, moving carefully, you’re able to jam the mechanism so the trap won’t open.” 
John the Rogue: “We walk across. I go first.” 

The Pit Trap (Old Style) 
GM: “A ten-foot wide corridor leads north into the darkness.” 
John the Roguish: “We move forward, poking the floor ahead with our ten foot pole.” 
GM: Is about to say that the pole pushes open a pit trap, when he remembers something. “Wait, you don’t have the ten foot pole any more. You fed it to the stone idol.” [if the party still had the pole, John would have detected the trap automatically] 
John the Roguish: “I didn’t feed it to the idol, the idol ate it when I poked its head.” 
GM: “That doesn’t mean you have the pole back. Do you go into the corridor?” 
John the Roguish: “No. I’m suspicious. Can I see any cracks in the floor, maybe shaped in a square?”
GM: Mulls this over, because there’s a pit trap right where John is looking. But it’s dark, so “No, there are about a million cracks in the floor. You wouldn’t see a pit trap that easily, anyway.” [A different referee might absolutely decide that John sees the trap, since he’s looking in the right place for the right thing].
John the Roguish: “Okay. I take out my waterskin from my backpack. And I’m going to pour some water onto the floor. Does it trickle through the floor anywhere, or reveal some kind of pattern?” 4 GM: “Yeah, the water seems to be puddling a little bit around a square shape in the floor where the square is a little higher than the rest of the floor.” 
John the Roguish: “Like there’s a covered pit trap?” 
GM: “Could be.”
 John the Roguish: “Can I disarm it?” 
GM: “How?” 
John the Roguish: “I don’t know, maybe make a die roll to jam the mechanism?” 
GM: “You can’t see a mechanism. You step on it, there’s a hinge, you fall. What are you going to jam?” 
John the Roguish: “I don’t know. Okay, let’s just walk around it.” 
GM: “You walk around it, then. There’s about a two-foot clearance on each side.” 

It's obvious the difference in play style here, and this play style permeates OSR style games throughout, which brings us to the topic at hand, torture.

Assuming you allow torture as part of your game-world/game-play (and if you don't for whatever reason maybe you should stop reading here, because it could become offensive if you're easily outraged) the question becomes, how deep down the role-play rabbit hole do you go, and how do you resolve such behavior?

In my games I love good role-playing, and an incident involving torture can add much intensity, emotion, and yes even humor to a game session.  Like much OSR play, this is usually a situation where I will blend rolls with rulings.  The victim has X amount of resistance before he/she/it gives in or gives up (expires) which I attribute to a few factors but chiefly CON.    The Torturer has Y amount of CHA to oppose this, and the modifiers I determine based on the role-play. It sounds complex, but it's really far more quick-n-dirty.

Glokta, the Inquisitor from Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy

Let's say there is a goblin with some information the party believes useful, but the goblin is loyal to his mates and has no reason to give the intel up.  The goblin has a CON of approx. 10 (this is a ruling, completely arbitrary, as I have no stats for a goblin) and Barg the Fighter has a CHA of 10, so they are evenly matched here.  Barg needs to roll under a 10 on a d20 (since there is no formal mechanic for this) in order for the goblin to give up the info.  Maybe the Goblin is more scared of Skel the Orc leader of his band of misfits, then he is of Barg, so I decide to give the goblin a +2 to resist, so now Barg needs to roll under an 8.  Barg smacks the goblin up a bit, but not worse than his mom used to, so no bonus there.  The player (Barg) rolls a 15.  No good.  The goblin remains quiet.

The player seeks a new tactic and lets the DM know that Barg has decided to up the ante by sliding his serrated knife into the goblins knee.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.  This will negate the goblins 'fear of the boss' modifier, so we are back at 10 as the target.  the player (Barg) rolls  an 11.  No good.  Lot's of screams but no info.

Now the player decides that Barg is gonna lay it on thick.  He decides that a very hot blade near the goblins eye, or in it, will do the trick.  This is really awful stuff, and the goblin knows that Barg has come to a point of permanent bodily disfigurement.  I change the modifier to a +4 and the player rolls, getting a 9.  Bingo!  The goblin screams, then begins to tell Barg everything, even things Barg never asked about.

maybe your players carry a torture kit?  Like thieves tools only hurtier...

There are other ways to handle this OSR style.  AD&D1e has Subdual (which you may have seen used against Dragons perhaps), which involves doing non-permanent HP damage to a target in order to make that target pliable.  the DM could easily apply this game mechanic to torture damage in order to determine the point at which the target reaches a point of compliance.

I know that there are alot of DMs who do not use or allow torture in their games, but I have to say, in my experience it is often very common for a player to engage in this behavior, so those opposed should either be clear at the start of a game, or not get their nuts in a knot when a player brings it up.  Given the nature and setting of most games, it seems perfectly reasonable to me.  To ME.

Do you have a method, mechanic, or process for determining the efficacy of torture in your game?

Friday, January 27, 2017

OSR Characters Don't Need a Background...

But I Still Give 'em One!

With true, rules-light OSR systems, PC's really don't often last long enough to have a background be meaningful.  No matter how skillfully or carefully one plays them, the chance of dying is very high in the game where 'save or die' is the modus operandi.  That's fine with me, as I came up in that world.  I was born and forged in the fires of a game that tried to kill any and all who sought fortune and fame within its bounds.   I don't care though, because I still give my guys a short background.  In this case, it gives me something to say about them as they are buried in the folder with their adventuring brethren.  Even level 1's deserve a few, short words spoken over them as they greet the great beyond.

I've had the opportunity to play in a few 5e games now, which means I've created a few characters in that ruleset.  In the past, creating my characters has been one of my favorite parts of the game.  With OSR  rulesets, character creation is a fairly quick process once it's been done a couple of times, even by a new player.  I like the process regardless of how the DM house-rules it, so play the numbers where they lie, or mix it up...whichever.  I usually end up with a PC I can get behind and enjoy playing.  Even when the DM hasn't called for it, and the chances are high that the PC won't even last a full session, I tend to write a few sentences about that characters life, his history, his other words, a background.

In 5e, the background bit is built in to the ruleset, so as you create your character you pick up/roll for traits, flaws, bonds etc.  I understand why they baked it in, but I don't like it one bit.  New DM's are likely (as I and many folks were) to follow the rules/guidelines as written.  They don't have to of course, they can choose to ignore this part of character creation entirely, or mold the process into anything they choose it to be.  Instead I have the sneaky suspicion that players fill these fields out, and give little further thought to them, or if they do, only in passing.  In a game where survival is high, I think that players should be encouraged to really flesh out a background, perhaps even writing a page or two.  After all, 5e has death saves, short rests, and a host of other ways to keep the PC's alive and kicking so there's no harm in a bit of background investment.

As a player, I create a background for each PC regardless of the DMs rules.  I find that my character isn't complete without me knowing something about him.  It's not always the same things, sometimes I work out some family history, other times a terrible incident that led him to become an adventurer, and at times I just list a few traits and flaws so I have a key to his behavior.  It all depends on the character class and stats, the game I'm going to play, and most of all my mood.

When I'm in the DM's chair, I often rely on the players to offer up some sort of character background.  I live between the sandbox and the railroad, and my game world grows very organically through play.  The backgrounds of the characters help to forge the foundation for much of the game-space.  This is less of an issue when I run Holmes or Labyrinth Lord (without the AEC) or Swords & Wizardry, but as I creep into more advanced rulesets like 1e and Castles & Crusades (or add the AEC to my LL game) I find that story and history of the game world take more of my time and energy and the backgrounds become a focal point for some or all of the characters.

As an example, a player who's character is born in poverty, a bastard child who grows to become a dangerous fighter, may have a father of unusual racial descent.  Another player may come from great wealth and/or nobility, and being a third son is sent away to study with a mage of questionable morals and ethics.  You can see that a little goes a long way.

I know that for new players, writing a background (however brief) may not be something they know how to do or understand.  Here is where the DM should step in.  Do a bit of hand-holding and talk the player through the process. "Did you have parents?  What did they do to earn money?  Did you grow up rich or poor?  How did you get that sword you now have?" are all great questions to both help the player determine an background, as well as get that players juices flowing for more information about the character, information yet to be played out!

Some DM's play sans backgrounds of any kind.  For many people, playing the game as-is and having the players amass only new history without having any origin story or similar background information getting in the way of the 'here and now' of it all is as valid as any other mode.  I find this not as enjoyable, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.  Regardless of how much time and effort I put into any character, I realize they can end up as food for a hungry Owlbear or on the wrong end of a goblins rusty blade. A game where death is not omnipresent is problematic for me, but that's another post altogether.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Adopting the Future...

The last few blog posts have been good ones.  Enlightening.  Thought provoking.  A bit controversial.  I appreciate everyone who took the time to read them, and those who commented in the various forums they inhabit.  It's safe to say that people hold some strong opinions about these topics, and while no argument is likely to sway them from their current position on such matters, we've been exposed to some viewpoints from the other side...and I think we can all agree that everyone is entitled to their own opinions no matter how we feel about those opinions or the topic at hand.  It's time to move on now...

Many of us OSR guys have been touched in some way by the new generation of games and gamers who enjoy our hobby, even if what they've adopted is not necessarily as easily identifiable by us Old Heads as the rpg we know and love.  The introduction of 5e has had an interesting affect on the gaming landscape, and while it's not my cup of tea, it has certain aspects that I consider advancements, rules or mechanics that bear closer inspection and perhaps even adoption.

Even many of the OSR games, retroclones like Labyrinth Lord, Castles & Crusades, and Swords & Wizardry contain small changes that make a big difference for those folks clinging to older core rulesets like AD&D 1e, which I still play as well.  Thanks to the Fantasy Grounds AD&D1e ruleset that has recently become available, I'm now playing my favorite game once again.  While I always Housefuled the game, as I think most folks did/do, I did make a concerted effort to try and remain true to the core of the ruleset and that Old School manner of play.

Still, it's hard to ignore some of the great ideas that can add texture and nuance to the older games, and that likely will not break them but instead elevate them, clarify them, and make them once again seem as fresh as the day you first cracked a rulebook.

What sort of houserules have I adopted in the past?  Well, for one thing, I always felt that if a character could close the distance between himself and a combat target, that in that same combat round he could strike.  Is it a charge attack at that point?  No, I don't treat it as such.  In fact, I allow a move a strike in the same round, each combat round.  I know that it's not how AD&D1e combat should play can move OR you can attack, but normally not both (though there are exceptions).  I know there will be folks who are now running to the books to figure out if I'm right or wrong, but that isn't really necessary.  The bottom line here is, I allow a move and a strike in the same combat round on most occasions.  Exceptions are determined by me as each combat round unfolds, because that's how I roll/rule.

Which brings me to the sort of new rules that I find intriguing, and might introduce into my Old School Game.

I think that it's safe to say that alot of OSR gamers like the concept of Advantage/Disadvantage.  It's a quick and easy (and a bit dirty) way to adjust the possible outcome of a situation that we would have solved in the past with a simple +/- modifier.  5e really brought the heat with this.  It's not a game changer, but in every way possible it seems like a game enhancer.

It's also interesting that there's now a formal Inspiration system.  I've been using a simple system like this for many years, calling it Luck Points or Fate Points or some-such so that players had a small amount of control over their universe beyond their character sheet.  There was never anything formal for me, but if I had a player who engaged in some great role-playing, or they took an action that was heroic/insane in order to solve a problem or defeat a monster, I would reward that behavior with both XP and a Point.  So it's safe to say that I've already adopted this mechanic, or did they steal it from me???  Hmmmmm....

Many GM's will weave a tapestry of rules and mechanics from other systems into their game.  That's not me.  I really am, at heart, something of a purist.  When I show images of monsters during my 1e game, I pull those images from the Monster Manual or Fiend Folio.  I try to remain true to both what I love about a game, and what my players will enjoy.

I'm curious what other bits and pieces OSR folks may be adopting from 5e.  Do you allow the use of anytime cantrips?  Have you adopted a quicker form of healing?  There are many things that make 5e wrong for me as a whole, but it's possible to find some value in a newer system even if you never intend on playing it as a standalone work.