Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm On The HIGH-WAY to....phlegm.

In case anybody wondered where the postings were, they are in my head, they just can't get through the congestion.

ack. hack.  the winter cold  is one of the best argumnents against intelligent design. Unless the universe is designed from the viruses perspective......hmmmm.  I think the cough medicine just kicked in......

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Epees & Sorcellerie : dogheaded, loving fanboi review.

Nicolas Dessaux's (Frightful Hobgoblin) has released the English translation  of  Epees & Sorcellerie (Sword and Sorcery,) and it is great.  Go here and download the free PDF, then, as I did, go back and order the very reasonably priced print version from Lulu.  If one were to draw venn diagrams of the OSR, the OGL and the micro d20 schools of design, it would sit right in the sweet spot where all three intersect.  

I have to admit that I was already predisposed to get the game due to his excellent one page RPG , Searchers of the Unknown, so keep that in mind.  I'd love to play SOtU , but my gaming group wants a bit more crunch than a one pager -why, I'll never understand, since we all bitch about rules bloat. But anyway.

E&S  is an Original D&D derived system that is largely setting free (well, Fantamedieval is a setting, so there's that..) with the six basic stats, three basic classes, hit points, levels, load and shoot magic, and some standard races (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Orc).  However, it is not a retro clone.  Its a way to play the same kind of genre and adventures that OD&D aimed at; and, yes, it does use some mechanisms and tropes from it; but if you are looking for a pure clone, this aint it.  Nor does it try to be, which is exceelnt, as there are quite a few of those around, many of which are excellent (Swords and Wizardry, anyone ?) 

Its main departure from purist OSR is in adding some d20 derived ideas (ascending AC, roll +mods vs AC combat); and all resolution (and stat generation) is based on a 2d6 no funky dice mechanic, which adds nicely to the play value, as far as I'm concerned.    One needs to be careful in adding modifiers to rolls as the 2d6 curve is more sensitive than 3d6 (or 1d20), but even then, unlike (say) traveller, as the characters can be epic beings, this is less of a problem than in everyman style games such as (say) traveller).  I do note that the system is also easily played as that rarest of things, an everyman (ie non fantastic) semi -historic human centric fantasy role playing game. 

It also differs quite a bit from OD&D by being very cleanly written and well organized.  It has an excellent index, fer crimminys sake - that alone makes me love it.

It does lack Thieves (Boooooooo!) , so normally that would be a big minus for me, but the fighter class is much more of a S&S genre style dangerous dude/adventurer, so most of the things a thief do are in there -and the rest fall into the very micro d20 style minimal but inclusive skill system.  So, I'm sure the authors will be delighted to hear that I'll forgive them for ditching thieves.

 Combat is  of mild complexity -somewhere between ODD & ADD, quick, allows decent player input and tactics and playable with reasonably non ruleslawyery non munchkiny players who realize that they can play the Advanced Squad Leader Fantasy RPG if they want serious crunch in combat.   It makes the point that the rules are to manage combat situations, not recreate real life; a useful distinction, I think, as long as one doesn't veer into GNS theory.

It has monsters, magic and some good campaign advice; a three point alignment and some great period (free ) art from medieval and reniassance illustrations - a style that I just happen to love, so caveat emptor if you are looking for rich modern warhammer/D&D4e style graphics. 

 The rules set is long enough to be reasonably complete but short enough to read in a hurry. The systems reflect the consistent mechanism focus of the OGL/d20/3E family of games without bogging down in detail.  It is 65 pages long, of which 20 are the real rules, with the rest being spell descriptions, monsters and campaign advice. 

I'll probably use it for my long planned Landsknecht campaign (aka Flesh and Blood) or an outremere 13th century knights (aka Sir Pagan) and Saracens setting.  Or maybe a non-epic 5th century briton campaign (aka everybody dies and the Saxons cheer).

As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly what the OSRs post clone focus is and should be -exploring where the original play and rules styles might have gone other than to AD&D.  Well done !  This knocks it out of the park.  STOP READING BLOGS AND GO GET IT NOW

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My personal skill resolution system: just what the blogosphere needs, yet another one......

Thought I'd share how I resolve skill issues in my fossilized OD&D campaign.

I assess a task on three axes. 
First, how important is a success for the gameplay:
  • if it has to happen, the roll is usualy 3d6 + stuff vs stat, and simply gives degree of success. 
  • If it will ruin the campaign, don't allow it in the first place.
  • If it is a grey area, in that it could happen, but won't kill the game if it fails, read on.

Second, consider if it is it likely to be relevant to the character's class or, if they've taken the time, their personal . 
  • If class appropriate, add their level to the stat.  
  • If just a backstory skill, add half. 

Be generous -for example, bargaining for a good horse is probably a fighter related skill,  although reading may not be.  etc etc.

Third, do I have any idea how likely success is.
For the record, despote my deep and obsessive love of skill based games (Traveller Mon Amor) I think they can be a pain in class based games.  Plus, I hate (hate, hate) having elaborate difficulty lookup charts -(besides wondering if "amazing" is really better or worse than "incredible" ).

 In general, i use the well worn and reliable, roll under stat + stuff to succeed.

If I can take a guess at difficulty, I use an xd6 roll -
  • For easy, I just let it happen. 
  • If it isn't much of a challenge and if I wouldn't  mind it happening , 3d6 ; 
  • if it is hard, but okay 4d6.  
  • if it seems really hard, or I don't want it to happen, but can't justify it as a game killer,  5d6
 An honest appraisal of the above is most skill use is based on 30+ years of gming, and how difficulty really works: either its a gimmie, so don't waste time, or a 3d6 roll to give the player some dice time and a feeling of success.

If the player is coming up with an overly complicated plan, or missing the easy or obvious way, I use 4 d6. 

If he has outsmarted me (bastard ! ), and/or will really complicate my life (like, solving the mystery in game one before the pizza arrives) , or is being astonishingly stupid, stubborn, obtuse or all three at once on purpose (or at least it seems to be) I punitively go with 5d6.*

I use xd6 becuase I like the bell distribution -not only is this a phoilosophical thing for me, it is a more reliable distribution - if you have the target a point or two above the average, you have a really good chance of success -in other words, the chance of failure diminishes faster once you get good at somthing.

If I don't have the slightest idea of weather its likely or not, use a D20, and I have autosuccess and auto failure.  If I don't know (or care) about difficulty, I like a linear roll; since I don't know the liklihood of failure, it may as well be a constant factor.

If I'm remembering, I call a bell roll (xd6) a standard roll, and a d20 a wild (or whimsey) roll.

There we go.  What else ?  I generally assume that tools either allow it in the first place (lack of which makes it impossible), or make the task a gimmie.  Lockpicks would be an example of the first, climbing gear, the second.  I try not to add too much situational stuff -I assume that most of that is noise, and cancels out.  Finally, I always try to reduce things to a single roll; permutations are a stone bitch, and eventually get you a player who invents a maxim gun in the stone age, or a master ranger who cuts his foot off setting a snare.  And, while fun........well.  Y'know.  Table flips and all.

Roll on.

*Remember, I said this is how I work, and I'm a fossilized self aggrandized old grognard, so no irate responses about how my needs deprotagonize the colocated storytelling player's meta-experience, okay? I have the heavy lifting in the campaign, so I get a few selfish perks. Go empower the reprotagonized bloody albatross as much as your want on your own dime......

PPS.  My job is keeping me very busy and interested.  So, thus the lack of posts; fact is, I ain't cutting what little time I have for gaming so that I can write about gaming that I'm not doing; that way lies madness, and arguing on Traveller and D&D boards...;) .