Saturday, February 22, 2014

Experience Points, Levels and the Demarcation Line of the OSR

Earlier this week, Mike Mearls had an article at the WotC website talking about experience points and levels in DnD Next. I am not going to critique the article here, but it got me thinking about the "line in the sand" that separates 2e and 3e, or OSR game rules from those that follow. It comes down to one thing, and it's not skills, feats or any one of a number of other things that annoy me.

Nope, it comes down to one simple thing.

Class based experience tables.

Prior to 3e, each class had it's own experience table and their own rate of advancement. Part of the balance between the classes was just that - the rate they advanced in levels based on experience points.

I do remember the houserule we used in high school for a bit - one level gained per adventure, no counting of experience points. It sure seemed to make leveling easier, less number crunching and the magic-users sure loved the idea. Multi-class characters were always an issue, and thieves got boned. We didn't use this houserule for long.

Now, Mike goes on to say that counting expo for more "open" campaign is fine, but for adventure paths, automatic or paced leveling is the way to go:
Tracking experience points and using them to award levels makes a lot of sense in open-ended games, where the players can go where they wish, tackle the specific challenges that appeal to them, and create their own goals as a campaign progresses. In this type of game, when the players decide to assault the lair of a blue dragon, their primary goal is most often the treasure and XP they'll gain for defeating it. 
In a more story-driven campaign, however, that lair assault could have a more complex purpose. The characters might serve as an elite cadre of spies and operatives for a king. The blue dragon might be a key villain who plots against the crown. Defeating the dragon removes a threat to the realm and creates a key event in the campaign's story arc. In this type of campaign, treasure and XP take second place in the characters' goals, behind the dragon's importance in the narrative.
That "story-driven campaign" crap reminds me of the old Dragonlance series of adventure.
No matter what the players did, they always ended the same way. The players were not part of the story, but detritus carried along by the pre-ordained story plot.

I suspect DnD Next will be heavily supported by "story-driven campaigns". Shame.

Not that I'm all that surprised. I'm not saying that Next won't support "open-ended", or home brewed campaigns out of the box. I just think the follow up products will be much like Pathfinder Adventure Paths, with even less wiggle room.

I may be wrong...

Books or Boxed Sets - How do You Prefer your Rulesets?

In recent years, I can only think of the following publishers putting out their rules in boxed sets:

Brave Halfling - S&W Whitebox, Deeper Delving and X-Plorers

LotFP - two editions of Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

North Wind Games - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Precis - Ancient Odysseys - Treasure Awaits

Troll Lord Games - Castles & Crusades "White Box" Edition

I'm sure I missed a few, but as far as I can tell, most RPGs are released as books and not in boxed format.

As a gamer, do you have a preferred format in which to buy your RPGs, and if so, why?

(personally, I like boxed sets ;)

Latest "Thieves' World" Addition - Traitor (an edited version)

Life is like a box of chocolates. Yadda yadda. So is eBay, as you never know wxactly what you are going to get.

With Traitor for Thieves' Word, what I got was the player handouts and pregens removed from the middle of the booklet and some editing done to the pregens. If nothing else, it's nice to see the adventure got some good use back in the day, whenever that day was ;)

More and more tempted to run something using Thieves World as the setting. Time. Time, or lack there of, is my enemy.

Ah well. Do have some other thoughts bouncing around my head too...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Not Nearly as Far Along as I had Hoped...

I'm still working on putting the 339(?) entries to the OSR Superstar Competition into one document. It's moving along but no where near where I had hoped it would be. Isn't helping that we have a new chief at work, which means I had to do a breakdown of what my unit does and to justify my staffing had to work on the breakdown while home.

What is the ancient Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times. I's be happy to stay with boring and dull for a bit ;)

I also need to send out copies of Dagger, the RPG for kids - I have the copy to email out, but at about 150+ emails, sending the copies is taking second place to finishing the consolidation of the entries so I can send it out to the judges.

I'm not complaining about the number of entries, but damn it was a lot ;)

What is Your "Go To" Non-D&D / OSR RPG?

I ask, because I'm not even sure if I have one. Well, there is Tunnels & Trolls, but that is still fantasy and stripped down to it's history, very much "D&D".

I've heard much goodness about Savage Worlds, but I think I'd really need to play in a few sessions to really wrap my head around it. Ubiquity (Hollow Earth Expedition and others) seems almost like a stripped down Savage Worlds. FATE just makes no sense to me, even if I did support the Kickstarter and have endless support for it. Yet another game I'd probably have to play in order to grok.


I guess I don't have a "go to" non OSR RPG.

That sucks.

So, what's your game to play when you're not playing OSR?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dude! What's Up With Your Cat Posing With Your RPG Books?

If you read this blog with any regularity, you've seen numerous pictures of my feline daughter, Ashley. If you've gamed with me online, you've probably seen Ashley's tail at the very least as it crossed the screen mid game.

Ash has her own blanket on my desk. It's her spot when I'm on my computer. Why fight the inevitable when you can just embrace it. Besides, every book that hits my desk she feels a need to check out. Might as well make it a signature of The Tavern. On the plus side, she keeps the mice away ;)

At some time, like all pets, she'll move on to the rainbow bridge, and I'll have these pictures to hold me over until we meet again in the distant future. She's a young 7 years old, so hopefully she'll be posing for Tavern Pics for many years to come :)

DCC RPG in Space? CRAWLJAMMER is the Fanzine you are Looking for...

I liked the Spelljammer setting back in the 2e days. Never to really use it (or Planescape) but I bought a bunch of stuff for it that now sits on the top shelf of a closet behind other stuff, because that's how much gaming stuff there is in the Tenkar household (not counting gaming stuff in the basement or in storage).

Anyhow, I digress a bit, but the fact remains that I like bit's of space opera in my fantasy at times. CRAWLJAMMER is a zine that puts a little space opera in your DCC RPG.

Issue #1 of CRAWLJAMMER gives a taste of what's to come. Don't expect Traveller type detailing. It's flavor or crunch, which is just the way I like it.

Highlight for me? The Lizardman Mercenary, as it could fit into a standard DCC campaign with little if any tweaks. Really well done.

Issue #1 even includes a 1st level adventure: Cry Freedom and Let Slip the Bat-Men of Venus.

These two bits alone are well worth your three bucks.

I'd rate this up there with Crawl! It's the right size to sit next to my Crawl! collection too!

How Much Detail do you Expect in the Adventures You Use

Some folks like to run adventures that are fairly barebones and fill in the needed details on the fly. Others like to have everything needed (and possibly more) - this could be boxed text and or paragraphs describing the encounter / room / tactics and if this then that situations.

I fall somewhere in between. For "drop in" adventures not part of a bigger plot line, less most certainly is more. If it's ore of a mini-campaign (Razor Coast and the like) more is better, at least for me.

What do you want in the adventures you buy? More? Less? A bit of both?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Important Are Player Visuals in the Game Sessions You Run?

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

Tomb of Horrors

Many DCC adventure for 3.5

They include player visuals - snapshots of locations, walls, writings, rooms, monsters, etc - all used to bring the players' interactions more fully into the game session. Or at least, that is the theory.

Do you like these "visual handouts" or not? Why or why not?

Looking at The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

I literally hadn't looked at this in 20 years, but discussions in the weekly group had me dig it out of the nether regions of the endless closet.

I forgot how much this module does right, such as:

- tri-fold cover, which could double as a poor man's DM's screen (given a choice between a module and a DM's screen, teenage me would go for the module every time)

- illustration booklet - holy shit, but it is well done - damn shame I can't draw for shit, or I'd be doing this for my game sessions

- "This module is meant to stand on it's own, and includes areas on the map where Dungeon Masters may add their own levels" - I did so back in the day, just wish I could find those maps 30 years later

It does suffer quite a bit from "boxed text-itis". Too much to read, to the point the players' attentions will stray. Easily enough to fix, but common for the era.

Still, i ran this multiple times. May have to do so again in the future.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

More Thoughts on a Thieves' World Campaign...

The Thieves' World Boxed set has grabbed me by the proverbial balls. I'm thinking it might make for a very nice sandbox yet episodic campaign.

Here's my thoughts:

Crypts & Things for the base ruleset

Scarlet Heroes for the skills / traits. Basically 2d8 plus stat bonus plus trait bonus if applicable. Average task requires an 11 or better. I'd have to write up a list of applicable traits but that's fine.

D30 Sandbox Companion for filling in any holes.

I'd have to get the Thieves' World Player's Guide into my players hands. It's out there on the interwebs for them to find.

I'd ask them for their goals and plans and work the hooks and schemes around that. Flexible plot points for the players to choose and react to or not. Less dungeon, more intrigue.

No expectations that it would follow the series of books, but notable characters may be seen.

Damn. I don't have time for another campaign, but the idea is just so damn cool...

Bundle of Holding - Classic GDW Traveller!

Yeah, there is Mongoose traveller, which is OGL, but can you DIE during character generation in Mongoose Traveller? I don't think so.

Then there is Traveller5, which I don't think anyone without an engineering degree can understand, and they'll be the ones saying "this shit makes no sense!"

Or you can go back to the original. Plain old Traveller. Where men were men, and often died before they got to experience the first game session.

Totally old school. Totally fun. I'm totally in, as I have the rules and the class books, but little in the way of campaign material.

I'm just thankful it's not the traveller New Age crap ;)

Grab your Bundle of Traveller here.

Mortality: Inevitable Yet Terrifying

latest in a series of guest posts by The Tavern's patrons.

We accept that we have a limited lifespan on the planet.   No big deal, in a few decades, we'll fade from existence.   Such is life and the natural course of affairs.   Right up until it hits you smack in the mouth or when someone you loves lapses into forlorn silence.

As gamers, mortality is something we deal with day to day.   For OSR folks, we can lose a handful of characters without more than a nodding of the dead to indicate death has once again defeated the living. Occasionally, one grabs our soul and plays out a life not as a shade of ourself but something superior, something far different, than the original idea.  The character springs to life amid the whims of a game master but is truly born in the soul of the player behind it.  There are few characters that reach that inspirational level but when they do, it is agonizing experience for not only the player but for the game master.

Game masters are the embodiment of life for the characters.   Certainly they pull strings, but I, they, want to make characters flourish.   To do so is to them alive and along with them a string of others. The world opens, play expands, and those characters, those players, continue to make memory after memory.  But it has end.  No one can live forever.

Game masters come and go.   Groups wither and die.  What once was, can be no more.   Characters are bound to us but have lifespans far shorter than desired.  A character's lifespan can be as short as the game master's

Mithirill & Mages

Monday, February 17, 2014

Games From the Basement - Thieves' World Boxed Set

I really enjoyed the first couple of Thieves' World books. Later ones seemed to be much less enjoyable, but the first three or four were simply aces and I could see myself running a campaign in the city and the surrounding area.

I never did.

I wasn't able to make it work in my head in D&D terms, and at that point in my gaming history we had already played some RuneQuest and moved on, or back, to AD&D as our fantasy ruleset of choice.

Damn but I can see this playing out in my head right now as a S&W sandbox. Lots of adventures, few dungeons, lots of intrigue, few magic items but the ones found will have history and power and overall lots of fun.

The encounter charts are inspirational and the mapping is damn near magical. The city is presented in a systemless manner but the personalities are stated out for nearly every damn system that was on the market back in 1981. Which systems?

AD&D, Adventures in Fantasy, Chivalry & Sorcery, DragonQuest, D&D, The Fantasy Trip, RuneQuest, Traveller (yes, Traveller) and even Tunnels & Trolls. The names working on the conversions is nearly a who's who of the early days of RPGs: Dave Arneson, Eric Goldberg, Steve Marsh, Marc Miller, Steve Perrin, Lawrence Schick, Greg Stafford, Ken St. Andre and others.

Ye gods but I really want to run this now. Damn me cleaning out the stack of games to make room for a real closet to be built...

Next Week I Play in my First Session of Swords & Wizardry

It sounds really strange to say that, but it's true. Although I run Swords & Wizardry on a regular basis, I've yet to play in a session as a player. That's a pretty big difference.

Heck, from 81 or so through 97, my first "age" of playing RPGs, with the exception of my very first session, some later whacked out session with 12+ players and 2 DMs and convention play, I DM'ed as a rule when it came to (A)D&D. Rifts and Battlelords I gladly joined as a player, but pretty much everything else I was the GM - easily 4 out of 5 sessions found me behind the screen no matter the game or the genre.

Upon my return in 2008 via Fantasy Grounds, I was a player, mostly because I couldnt figure out the interface as a DM. I didn't want to run 3x, I wanted to run classic D&D with my own adventures, and that was damn clunky for what I wanted it to do. I could, however, embrace it as a player, and I did get a chance to play in extended Dark Heresy and Castles & Crusades campaigns.

Move us up to D&D Next's beta and G+ Hangouts, and I was again playing as a player - until DM burnout and a broken game system led to me running ACKS, then AD&D 1e / OSRIC, some Ambition & Avarice and now Swords & Wizardry Complete. I have recently been playing in some of +Joe D 's excellent Blood Island Campaign, as we rotate the DM's chair. Joe runs a damn sweet LotFP Weird Fantasy (more heavily houseruled than even my S&W campaign).

Next week, +David Przybyla is going to run a session of S&W for us as we playtest something that he has written. I jumped at the opportunity, as I have yet to play in a session of S&W as a player. So, in a way, it will be a bit of a playtest for me too ;)

Final Tally - 339 Magic Items Entered into the OSR Superstar Competition and a Map Peek

Partial map for the final round

The magic number of magic items is 339.

It's not quite set in stone, as there might be duplicates or missed items in my count, but it shouldn't change by much. We'll have an accurate count when I send the judges their copies of the entries later on this week.

Next round for the 16 qualifiers will be designing monsters.

The final round of 8 finalists will get to complete and flesh out the partial map shown above by our very own +matt jackson (there may also be an open round using Matt's map - we'll see when we get there). Maps will be judges less on artistic ability and more on content, imagination and usability - but that's a bit down the line ;)

Huge thanks to all that entered!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

325 Magic Items Entered thus far in the OSR Superstar Competition - Just Over 3 Hours Left to Submit

Let me put it simply:

325 Magic Items submitted to the OSR Superstar Competition with mere hours left to enter!


There is still at least one more set of prizes to add to the list, I just need to finalize the details with the publisher. It is some damn good stuff (that I own and is based of the S&W rules).

Cut off for entries is 1159 PM NYC time tonight. That being said, I won't be up at 1159 tonight. I'll probably be up around 8 AM, which is when I will give the final tally. I'm not so much of an ass that I'll cut off late entries before the tally, but don't be late. Maybe my stomach will continue with it's grumblings and I will be up at 1159. Just send that shit in now ;)

There have been suggestions that I assign some of the prizes to "best magic weapon" and other similar categories - ain't happening. My judges will being having enough work as it is judging the best overall entries from the number we will have and I'm not going to throw a spanner into the works.

We will be expanding the first round to 16 qualifying entries from 8 - spots 9-16 will get $5 RPGNow gift certificates and move up to the second round.

There will be 8 qualifiers for the second round from 4 - positions 5-8 will get $10 RPGNow gift certificates and move up to the final rounds.

I'll be covering the cost of awarding the RPGNow credit to the expanded qualifying list.

At the earliest, judges will get a list of identifiers redacted submissions by this wednesday, but it may take longer (as this is by far more entries than I could have expected), as all the entries will be going into one huge document for them to review, with each submitted item given a number for me to match up on my master list.

Then the judges will need time to review and make their decisions - figure at least a week on their part, so it may be two weeks or so before the second round kicks off.

Trial and error folks. If the process moves more slowly then I may like, the best excuse for that is the amazing response to the event.

+R H is the man to thank for putting up the cash to kick this off and giving me the kick in the ass needed for me to kick things off on my end. God bless you sir :)

252 Magic Items Entered thus far in the OSR Superstar Competition - 15 Hours Left to Submit

The response to the OSR Superstar Competition has been nothing less amazing. Yep, simply amazing.

Just over 15 hours left to enter - over 250 magic items submitted.

So many additional prizes submitted I'll need to a spread sheet to figure it all out.

This, my friends, is what the hobby is all about.


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