Thursday, August 27, 2009

Living OD&D (or B/X D&D, or AD&D)

Chicgowiz has some interesting ideas for TARGA a currently moribund association of retro D&D publishers. One of them is a living campaign for OD&D (or whatever edition gets the most response)

I volunteered to do the maps if the project gets off the ground. In addition I will be willing to share the loose background I created for Points of Light under a creative commons license for the Living campaign to use. I own the right to the material and maps (not the art or the brand Points of Light). Mind you this is NOT my campaign of 30 years but something I created to loosely bind the PoL Maps. It amounts to all of one page and doesn't even have a world map.

However one implication of having a Living campaign that it will require people to be charge of it and actively managing it. This will bother some people as it smacks of an "official" hierarchy for Old School gaming. While it doesn't have to be a strict as the RPGA. A living campaign does need some organization to make it work.

An organization is also needed as the public face for convention organizers to deal with and for people to goto for information.

There will be two primary benefits. The first one is a stream of modules designed to work together in a world shared by many. The second is the ability to grow your character and take it to any Living event.

So you will have to decide whether these benefits outweighs the hassle of dealing with whatever organization is setup to manage this.

Now with the gloomy stuff over with there are a couple of things that can be done to make this a very positive thing.

License the core material under a creative commons license/ the OGL. This explicitly gives the green light for people to create their own material

Be supportive of commercial publishers (that means any of you with a hankering to write) who release compatible products.

The umbrella organization is an voluntary association. The main standards are the core campaign documents, and standard forms. Final control is invested in the local organizers. The Association acts as a suppler or distributor of modules and forms.

The character sheet form and item form are the heart of the administration. The basic idea that you go through a Living sessions get some items and then at the end some XP. The referee of that session will fill out and sign the XP line on your character sheet and hand you one or more item cards signed by him.

Anybody can be a referee by downloading the forms, organizing a events, and signing character sheets afterwards.

The referee is king. The forms get your character's foot in the door but if the referee give a thumbs down on something his word is law at the table. This is our main check against abuse. If a player doesn't get this then the referee is allowed to whip out his complementary stamp "THE REFEREE IS KING" and stamp it on the offender's forehead. Conversely if the Referee is a jerk then word will get around and nobody will attend his sessions.

I think with enough of us behind this it will really help promote old school gaming at conventions and various regions. For some gamers the various Living Campaign are their main and often only source for playing a regular tabletop game. I think a reasonable time frame to make this happen would be by the summer of 2010.


Michael S/Chgowiz said...

>>The second is the ability to grow your character and take it to any Living event.

That, to me, would be the cool part. If we had a set of events over the course of the year, and at the end of the year, we would recognize all of those who participated. Not in a "who's the best in the world" because that forces an RPGA like hierarchy that I would forcefully resist, but just simply to allow people to share their stories and enjoyment.

>> This will bother some people as it smacks of an "official" hierarchy for Old School gaming.

That's why I hope/want TARGA to be focused on supporting local events, versus trying to be a big dog. "Enablers" if you will. I want it to be the RPGA in my head - the group that says 'Hey, we're all gamers, we'll get these fun games going for you and that's it.'

I have so little interest in being a hierarchy of OSR because I don't think there can/will be one.

>>The basic idea that you go through a Living sessions get some items and then at the end some XP.

That's the part that I think is going to be difficult. What if one ref runs Module "Kill Bargle Over and Over" as a combat-fest? What if another allows a combat-less approach? Then you have to get into standardized XP/item rewards and then there's that slipperly slope - whoops!

I'd much rather let the XP be awarded on a local basis without trying to standardize it beyond the game system that we use - ie., if we use OD&D w/out Greyhawk, then 100XP/HD. If we use Greyhawk, then we're doing variable XP. If we use AD&D, then we're using BtB XP. Etc. I wouldn't want to make it some sort of "who gets the most XP wins" kinda thing - I'd much rather have it where you participated in a module and you get a ribbon, kinda like the Tower of Gygax. Does that make sense?

(Word verify - beviast - which is clearly the definition of the guy who giggles in glee at someone who has "REFEREE IS KING/QUEEN" stamped on their forehead.)

Frank said...

In a sense, what you are proposing is formalizing (a bit) what happened in the early days. Back in the day, it was quite common for people to transport characters from game to game. GM's would exercise control over what could be brought in by a "guest" player, or brought in from an outside game by a player who visited another game.

I think the biggest advantage of organizing this and branding it will be to make it easy to list your event at a convention or game store or whatever as an event that is open to visiting characters. The standard sheets will also help by organizing the information in an easy way for GM's to understand. Of course many GMs will prefer their own sheets, and will also happily accept non-standard sheets as visitors. The standard will allow a GM to ask a visitor to put their character onto the standard sheet so he doesn't have to try and understand the 20 additional attributes and weird "weapon factors" that the player's home GM came up with.

Will players and GM's abuse this system? Sure. But the bulk of people will follow the spirit of the organization. And who cares if someone brings a "made up" character to your 8th-12th level event? Assuming the made up character is reasonable, it's not going to have any worse effect than the not so made up character from the Monty Haul GM down the street.


Unknown said...

I think its a great idea.

I almost felt a tang of consumer guilt after investing in my 4e collection because I was having trouble getting a reliable weekly game going.

RPGA managed to relieve that feeling because I had a regular group of people to play with and I didn't have to go through the usual social wringers to find them and sit at their table.

I've downloaded most of the free retro-clones and have tried to tell my group about them, but it's the same problem again: finding people who are interested.

A "Living" campaign could help that if you can find the critical mass to get it going.

Good software can also take much effort out of managing the details.

RPGA has changed a lot recently I've heard. The managers don't report anything except who played which adventure. The players are solely responsible for tracking their XP, items, etc. The adventure rewards are then standardized however: you get a package of XP + treasure at the end and its the same for everyone who played.

While it takes away some of the charms of the game and can make some adventures rather mechanical, it does get us around the table once a week and isn't a burden to manage. The bonus though is that it pulls together a weekly group, a club as I like to think of it, of gamers whose door is always open to new people.

If any RPG system wants to garner attention, I think this sort of effort is the best way to build a community.

Anonymous said...

Verification word: ingrati. n. The elitist culture of those who are not grateful.

I think it's not a problem if one DM runs his players through an adventure mill and they come out high level. The convention games would have an appropriate level range.

At a given level your character might be able to field a certain maximum number of magic items plus a certain number of potions. This carries the risk that everyone will take this to mean this is the number of items you should have, because everyone has that number.

The convention rules might state that all characters must carry only magic items present in Ruleset X and custom items are automagically vetoed.

Finally I suggest that when the DM signs the character sheet XP line, and the magic item card, he writes his registered DM number. Registering as a DM would cost a nominal fee, just so people don't register five hundred times online. If a DM has his number revoked, none of the magic item cards or XP lines with his number will count anymore.

The problem is, people can easily forge signatures or register themselves as DMs. Unless you nerf characters when they arrive you're not going to have a stable Level:Resources ratio. Just tracking all this would be a headache.

You could have each character sheet XP line have a note for which adventure the character completed. Like a medal. Characters cannot complete the same adventure more than once to be official. Published adventures can have duplicate potions, but never have duplicate magic items. So then you could be sure that no character would have more than one of the same type of magic item - but wait! They could trade with each other!

You see? Trying to regulate everyone's games cannot work. I like the idea of bringing your own characters to a convention or from group to group.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Couple of thoughts right off the bat:

Until TARGA gets more organized and we actually are doing something, I'm really reluctant to talk about collecting money. Until we get to some critical mass, it's going to be strictly volunteer driven and sponsored at local levels by those sponsors who wish to.

@1d30 - I'm really, really reluctant to start casting anything similar to RPGA with standard treasure rewards, standard XP and standard yuck. Less rules, less restrictions, more local rulings and more local fun.

I would much rather just have people bring char sheets and let each GM decide what he/she wants to do with the player. Since the "rewards" are going to be small to non-existent, the joy will be in the play, not the mix-max'ing and trying to do what I see RPGA doing.

I go back to my days of stock car racing when I'm thinking about this. You can be a tightly controlled series with strict rules - which is what I equate RPGA to. You could also meet the guy at the tech shack, go over your car, make adjustments that he/she deems necessary to fit the rules of the track and race in one of the more "fun" divisions. That works pretty well.

That latter is what I would want this to be, and what I'll support if/when we ever get there.

Zachary Houghton said...

I’ve mentioned this to a couple of people, but I would feel that any sort of organized play design should indeed follow the mechanical lead of Rob’s Points of Light: system-minimal; not completely systemless but easily enough adapted to the classic game or retro-clone of the DM’s choice. That way, we’re not promoting any one game above another. The nice thing is that there’s enough inter-compatibility with most of the OSR’s games of choice that this type of conversion would be feasible.

AndreasDavour said...

I think organized play is big dummy. For it to work you will have to standardize, codify and have an hierarchy of who resolves what is ok. Contrary to fun, hobbyist and freewheeling fooling around with old games because you like that attitude. Let TARGA die in peace.

Victor Raymond said...

Andreas is entitled to his opinion (as are we all). However, TARGA simply needs people to become involved and do things. That's happening.

TARGA aside, this discussion of Living OD&D goes back to how campaigns used to be run.

I think rather than some sort of tracking mechanism (which is an administrative nightmare), I think there need to be some principles to operate by. Some that suggest themselves to be are:

- If a player wants to bring in a character from another campaign or campaigns, the referee is entitled to limit/alter how that character is played in their game. So Joe Schmoe wants to bring in his 13th level wizard with the golf club bag of staves and wands, Stef the Ref can say, "Your wizard arrives here without all those staves."

- Such limiting/altering is for the duration of play in that game, i.e. characters don't permanently lose stuff. (More bluntly, refs don't get to erase what other refs awarded.)

- Bottom line: use common sense, and enjoy the d*** game. :)

Zak Sabbath said...

Seems like a nice idea would be:

-Parcel out different parts of the gameworld to different, trusted, GMs.

-Any new GM anywhere can "invent" a new part of the gameworld by writing it up ("this is the island of____") and submitting it and having it accepted by the existing GMs and generally impressing them as being a decent GM.

-All the GMs (original and add-on) are part of an illuminati-esque newsgroup that is constantly sharing information and exchanging npcs, magic items, plot seeds etc.

-Travelling in-game would require someone travelling in real life to wherever the GM for the distant locale is.

-(or, the GMs could occasionally"swap".)

-People from different locales meet at cons.

AndreasDavour said...

Zak, show very eloquently why I think the idea is bad.

Victor, on the other hand, shows

- Bottom line: use common sense, and enjoy the d*** game. :)

that we basically think the same thing, while we disagree on the usefulness of TARGA and organized play.

You want to bring your OD&D character to someones S&W convention game? Go ask the DM what he agrees to and accept that you might be temporarily nerfed! Common sense. I know, it's demanding to much from the common gamer, but I'm an idealist.

Otherwise just post in your recruitment text how you intend to handle "importing" characters.

You think the OSR needs to be more visible at cons? Arrange a game and use the principles outlined above. Stop yabbering in the blogosphere and just run a game!