Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The world is my sandbox!

It's been a while since my last post, but that's mostly because I was away on vacation in Europe for two weeks, followed closely by a visit from my mom.  All of that was great, but quite exhausting, and not particularly conducive for writing about my great love for role-playing games.

That doesn't mean that I've been completely idle in the world of elfgames.  Far from it, my friends!  Let's I didn't really do much related to gaming in Europe, although I did plow through Charles Stross' Laundry Files (well, at least the five main books).  I've enjoyed a couple of Stross' other novels (Accelerando and Glasshouse both managed to impress), and even when they have suffered from prioritizing "big ideas" over characters (something I've encountered more in British sci-fi, for some reason), they have been rife with gameable ideas.  

My favorite of the covers

The Laundry Files also has plenty of game-ready ideas (in fact, it's been covered (DriveThru)), and also manages to have some appealing characters and well-paced plotting.  It's certainly not meant to be taken as seriously as some of his other works, but not everything has to be high-art.  And we were talking about elfgames, right?

But that's not all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spells without levels

The title of this post reflects a recent design ambition of mine, which is to eliminate spell levels from OSR games without eliminating spells.  I have a few reasons for this.  First, as I've been recently discussing, I have an interest in sandbox play without character progression, and having spell levels starts to feel overly restrictive when characters don't even have levels.

Another thing I've noticed, however, is that the nature of spells and spell levels in OSR makes it difficult for such games to support multi-classing.  At first glance, it may sound like I'm talking about very unrelated things, so I'll explain a little more.  

Don't make me choose, OSR!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Concepts in sandbox play

So, in continuance of some of my earlier thoughts about sandbox play and how it relates to character progression, I've been slowly coming up with ideas for a very simple tabletop FRPG that is based on the idea of little-to-no appreciable improvement from "experience."  Let me discuss some of my initial thoughts.

Strategic advantages

One advantage of having a game like that with very human-scale characters is that you can take advantage of certain assumptions to simplify the game mechanics.  For instance, I don't have to worry about things being highly scalable.  Everything can be muted down to a similar level of power, where special abilities allow you to specialize, but don't end up abusing verisimilitude and game balance in the long term.

This means I don't have to provide really big ranges for power levels.  Things don't have to be super-granular.  This immediately calls a certain mechanic to my mind, one which I have enjoyed greatly in practice: the skill system for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  What occurs to me is that, lacking character progression, character abilities and character skills can be much the same thing.

Wait, that's not how reflections work...

Friday, March 10, 2017

Empress session report - The Rise of the Murderhobros #4, part 2 of 2

It's hard to believe how much we accomplished in the fourth session.  I have a feeling that part two is going to be longer than part one.  I suppose that if I'm wrong, I'll just edit this sentence later.  If I'm right, I'll leave it there, and look pretty prescient.

Anyway, where were we?  Ah yes, the gang had just been roused by a commotion from outside the inn, and townsfolk were moving en masse in that direction.  Naturally, the party joined the surging crowd, and made their way towards the town's eastern gate.  They were greeted by an interesting sight.


Well, not quite that.  They were more lupine-themed, for one.  The self-styled Wolf Brothers, Howl and Growl, had arrived to challenge the town of the Lugosi to...A WRASSLE-OFF!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Empress session report - The Rise of the Murderhobros #4, part 1 of 2

This session, things really started to take off.  The Murderhobros Three were about to face off against a savage lion-man and a terrifying spheroid bear-bot-thing, which had just sprouted a spinning buzzsaw at the end of a small arm that extended from its chest.  That's how things started, and from there, the Gonzometer started beeping like crazy.

Note: This is what actually happened.
Everything else is in Duncan't head.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cool news for yours truly!

Hello loyal reader...s?  Anyone out there?  It doesn't matter at all.  This is a public record that I keep for private purposes.  It's sort of like yelling from the top of my lungs on an abandoned street.  I have no problem with this.

Anyway, like the subject says, a bit of good news for me: I'm going to by GMing at Gen Con 50!  Goodman Games was looking for a few people willing to Judge (that's DCC for "GM") a few slots, ideally four or more.  I signed up for the requisite four, so I could get a badge and hang with the crew.

Not my first choice of venues, but that's not why you go

Empress session report - The Rise of the Murderhobros #2-3

As we check in on our murderous trio, we're going to cover two sessions in one shot.  This is primarily because second of these was a pretty short one due to the intrusion of real-life demands on our participants.  That's fine; we're role-players, so we have to work around that stuff.  So without further ado...

And so it begins again...

Picking up where we left off, the crew was walking rapidly away from angry gang bosses and alarmed citizens in the town of Hoblington, making their way to meet Duncan's mysterious benefactor.  As the group approached the place, Duncan informed his compatriots that they were going to be going through a (hopefully) abandoned village to climb down a sea cliff.  There, they would find a cave wherein dwelled his employer, a dragon named Krakatoka.

Zab and Radj reacted to this announcement with a healthy dose of disbelief, and concern that their new friend wasn't right in the head.  Oh well, they reasoned; we've come this far, and hitched our wagon to this maniac.  Let's see where this never know, right?

Monday, February 20, 2017

DCC session report - Blackrock Manor #5

In this installment of Blackrock Manor, we return to our intrepid band of monster killers and treasure hunters, standing over the body of a slain construct of metal and glass in an otherworldly trophy room.  So far, their expedition has made good decisions and possessed good fortune.  The former would be remain the case, but not the latter.

Vanquished at the end of last session
The trophies in question occupied metal plinths, some of which were surrounded by strange fields of light, of which some were stable and others flickered unpredictably.  With little difficulty, the party was able to obtain all the artifacts that weren't protected by constant fields.

Let's pause a moment to take the roll call, in alphabetical order, no less:
  • Brendan, doing his best to prove with Gregh the Warrior that might makes might
  • Gareth, offering the sage judgement of the Wizard Sizarius, and getting the hell out of Gregh's way
  • Stan, whose Courve the Thief always erred on the side of Not Dying
  • Steve H., bravely rescuing fellow dwarfs with his Rune Priest, Martine
  • Steve W., insuring that Grognard the Dwarf gave Martine plenty to do
  • Xavier, pushing Archimedia the Thief's luck to nearly-tragic ends
So what treasures did our gang liberate from this forgotten museum?

Friday, February 17, 2017

An idea for the sandbox: no character progression

Sometimes, we are so used to traditions and convention that we forget to question them.  One that I've been re-considering lately, for the first time ever, is the idea of character progression.  I only know of one RPG where improvement of skill over time was not assumed to happen: classic Traveller

This was the rulebook I had back in the day

With that one exception in mind, I can't think of any tabletop RPG that doesn't have a system for character progress.  The main question that most rules answer is whether to have a class-and-level system, or track individual skill levels.  Games carefully consider what is the proper rate of character improvement.

But is this all absolutely necessary?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: The Well of Souls and The Treasure Vaults of Zadabad

This is technically two reviews, since we're talking about two adventures; The Well of Souls is billed as an introductory adventure, and The Vaults of Zadabad is its immediate sequel.  Both are sold by Stormlord Publishing, with both being penned by Carl Bussler, with Eric Hoffman on Treasure Vaults. You can find them on DriveThru, but The Vaults of Zadabad has versions for DCC and Swords and Wizardry.  I have both adventures for DCC, in PDF format, and that's what I'll be reviewing here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Empress session report - The Rise of the Murderhobros #1

As I mentioned in my last post, I am now GMing for a weekly crew using my homebrew rules for Empress 2.0.  Now, I still need to catch up on session reports from the Blackrock Manor campaign, but due to its monthly nature, it won't be hard to bring this blog up to speed.

A legend is born

So as for my Empress gang, a bit of history...I was previously GMing a group with Empress 1.0 as a weekly thing, with all players connected to an audio group chat in Roll20 (later using Roll20 for shared maps and Google Hangouts for the audio).  With that group, we had some great moments, but I didn't feel that my campaign was working for the group, and we tried to transition to a weekly DCC campaign.

That campaign eventually ran into scheduling issues, and as a result, it's become my monthly DCC group aka Blackrock Manor.  And I have to say, the rules and whole sensibility of DCC are a much better fit for this crew, as are in-person sessions.

Unfortunately, the mix of in-person and online players didn't really work for the people online (crosstalk at at the gaming table can become very indistinct over webcam).  As a result, I lost one of my original players, but he wasn't done with our campaign, bless his soul.  Instead, he wrangled up a couple of players in HIS area, hyped them up on probably-untrue stories of my GMing prowess, and drafted me into being their GM.  Well, I always said I wanted enthusiastic players.

Friday, February 10, 2017

A long time coming, but content is nigh!

Hey non-existent readership, it's been a while since I've posted here!  That's not because I haven't had anything happening in terms of OSR role-playing - au contraire!  I'm currently GM'ing for two separate campaigns - my monthly DCC game, and a weekly group playing with Empress 2.0.  Both of these campaigns have been extremely rewarding, to date.