Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What everybody forgets about the OSR

What people forget time and time again when it comes to what the OSR is about, what it ought to be doing, where is it going; that it defining characteristic is the use of open content, leveraging digital technology and using the internet for distribution.

The net effect is that there are no gatekeepers, there nothing that the OSR as whole (if something like that is even possible) or segments or cliques can do to impend any projects from being released and distributed.

No one incident prompted this essay but I follow the OSR as best as I can and I think everybody needs reminded of this aspect of the OSR. That in the end it the OSR is not about one vision, not even about Gary Gygax's and Dave Arneson's vision. It about the freedom to take the pieces that existed at the beginning of our hobby and assemble them into the form that YOU judge best not what some what publisher or author says is best. And it is perfectly fine that you wind up agreeing with what a particular author says like Gygax, Arneson, Mentzer, Gonnerman , Proctor, Finch, Raggi , etc.

If your favorite retro-clone or supplement is not open enough. Or you don't like the community that surrounds it. You can always go back to original wellspring the d20 SRD and follow the same steps as OSRIC, Basic Fantasy, etc did to realize your vision of your project. Regardless whether it is for sharing or for commercial sale.

Going hand and hand with that is the fact that for better or for worse the OSR is a thing. For the past decade and a half there been a group of hobbyists actively publishing, promoting, and playing classic editions of Dungeons and Dragon and similar RPGs. This is result of everybody taking advantage of the freedom granted by the open content found in the d20 SRD to expand the quantity and variety of material that supports classic D&D.

So it is any surprise that we have the situation we have today?

But the good news is that it is not a zero sum game. The projects that a group who is interested in using a classic edition 'as is' has zero impact on a group whose project is about using newer mechanics with classic edition concepts. This is what true creative freedom looks like, messy but the opportunity is there for everybody to participate in the manner of their choosing.

It not just about publishing either, technology has allow fans of even the most obscure RPGs to communicate with one another and find some way to play new campaigns. Software like Fantasy Ground and Roll20 make this even easier.

And the OSR has benefited hobbyists who never quit playing the classic editions. Today it is far easier to find new material, new gamers, that are willing to play your favorite edition.

I submit that we live in a second golden age of tabletop roleplaying and in some ways exceed the first age in the 70s. That if you ever find yourself wondering where everything went all you need to do is shift your perspective to another corner of the OSR. In the years since the release of Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy and Marshal and Finch's OSRIC the OSR has grown far and wide. There are forums, blogs, websites, kickstarters, paterons, Google Plus, Facebook, etc, etc.

On my blog I have a link to Hoards and Hordes which is a list maintained by Guy Fullerton of various OSR product he consider Gygaxian. Even with that arbitrary limitation by 2012 he couldn't keep up with the everything that was going on. The list from April 2012 onwards become about what Guy find interesting.

It is a mess but from where I stand it is a glorious mess.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Potions and Elixirs for Swords & Wizardry

Potions has always been part of fantasy roleplaying since the release of the original roleplaying game in 1974. Not as common are the use of elixirs which traditionally are prepared from herbs not made by magic. Of course in fantasy campaigns, they may have their own type of magic infused into the brew.

As part of the work I am doing on my Majestic Fantasy RPG, I not only wrote up how I used potions in my campaigns but also included a list of elixirs as well. I was originally inspired by the excellent list of herbs that Harn had as well various herb lists found in GURPS supplements like the old Witch World. Over the years I developed my own set of elixirs for my players to use including the dreaded White Nightshade.

While I am late for Swords and Wizardry appreciation day, I hope this more than makes up for it. Enjoy!

Majestic Fantasy RPG: Potions and Elixirs.

Alternate Download Link

If you like the pictures in the pdf and on this post they are made by The Forge Studio who produces an excellent series of stock art for publishers to use.

Note: I refer to advantage and disadvantage a concept I use from the 5e SRD. Substitute +2 for advantage and -2 for disadvantage if you don't use that rule in your campaign.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Random Memorized Spells for Swords & Wizardry

Making a random table is easy, making a good random table that useful is a bit harder. While I haven't been blogging as frequently I am still gaming and one the things I been doing is working on the various parts of what is going to be follow up for the Majestic Wilderlands Supplement.

This particular project is about randomly generating memorized spells. This came about because one of the things  I am doing is writing up a Monster Manual style listing of common NPCs that I used. This includes various magic users NPCs that I used.

While doing this I realized that I don't have a good way of coming up with memorized spells. What I been doing is using the NPCs I created for Scourge of the Demon Wolf and varying the spells a bit. I wanted more variety with less sweat I had to put into Scourge.

So I sat down with the spell lists and looked them over carefully and assigned what I thought were the odds of somebody memorizing them.

Then I coded up the tables using NBos' Inspiration Pad Pro and tweaked the result until they look about right.

After that I had everything I need to write up Random Memorized Spell Generation for the Majestic Wilderlands RPG.

Since like my original supplement, it  is based on Swords and Wizardry, the rules are designed to work with the Core rules edition.

One additional thing I want to point that this booklet also illustrate the use and different between random tables and random assortments. In the mid 70s Gygax and TSR released the Monster and Treasure Assortment. It contained charts to generate the monsters and treasure for nine levels of a dungeon. What made this different is that each chart was very simple to use. There were two charter per level, one with a 100 different monster entries, and another with a 100 treasure.

What interesting to me that the starting looked that Gygax rolled on the the random tables of OD&D 100 times and then edited the results to make sure there was enough variety. This booklets does the same for memorized spells. I used the table to generate six sets of memorized spells for 3rd, 6th, and 9th leve, and four sets of spells for 12th, 15th, and 18th. I then did some minor editing to rework result I felt where nonsense.

Hope this proves useful and let me know how it works for you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

How not to design a RPG

Since their successful Runequest Classic kickstarter, Chaosium has been working on a new edition of Runequest. This editions is built on Runequest and is designed to support the Glorantha setting the same way Runequest 2 did. Yesterday they formally announced the new name which will be Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.

As part of this effort Chaosium has released a series of designers note.
Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Overall I applaud this project. It is a bit of downside that the folks at the The Design Mechanism are not involved due to creative differences but they are still in business and writing excellent material for the renamed Runequest 6, Mythras.

By now I am sure you are asking what this has to do with how not to design an RPG. While reading Part 2 I noticed this section

The RuneQuest percentage skills character sheet elegantly serves non-combat roleplaying through these two important design rules:
RPG Design Rule a: "If it's not in the rules, it's not in the gameplay." [ie, player knows it's not an important thing to think about]
RPG Design Rule b: "If, in a scenario crisis, a player can't find problem-solving tools on their character sheet, they won't look elsewhere for them." [ie, When players are flummoxed, they look to their character sheets for inspiration. And they won't be inspired to use any tool they don't find there.]
I strongly disagree that the above are two important design rules for a RPG. In fact they are bad design because theylimit the flexibility that is one of the primary strength of a given RPG.

Consider this what is the point of a RPG? Over the year I have come to the conclusion that is not to play a set of rules in the way that we play chess, backgammon, Risk, Panzerblitz, Axis & Allies, etc, etc. Rather the point of tabletop roleplaying to experience a campaign by playing a character interacting with a setting where the action is adjudicated by a human referee. The rule are an a tool to facilitate this.

And to be clear,  while I contend playing the rules may not be the point of tabletop roleplaying, which set of rules is an important personal preference, and referees find certain sets of rule work better with the way they run tabletop rpg campaign. Both directly impact the enjoyment of the campaign.

The first point made in Chaosium's post was that if it not in the rules it is not part of the gameplay. When it comes to tabletop roleplaying campaign, it is the setting that defines and limits what the character can and not to do. If the rules and the setting conflict it is the rules that need to bend. If the rules don't cover something that the character could reasonably do within the setting then it is the referee job to figure out how to adjudicate. Never say "Well it not the rules". This is especially pertinent to Glorantha which has DECADES of background details about how it does and does not work.

The second point is way off the mark. In my 30 years of tabletop roleplaying when I run into the situation where the players ONLY look to their character sheet for solution is because the referee is browbeat them into thinking that if it is not in the rules it can't be done. I always been a referee that said roleplay first, we will figure out what you need to roll second.*

I think the authors behind the new Runequest need to think long and hard about their approach if they believe the above two are true. My advice is to focus writing good tools to allow players to experience Stafford's Glorantha as various characters. To remember that anything they write will never cover everything that is possible in Glorantha.  Especially considering the mythic nature of the setting.