"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Moldvay Basic: Forward

I have a stack of B/X rulebooks. They typically are scattered around the house never far from reach - much to my wife's delight. Last night I picked up the red basic rulebook and flipped it open to the very beginning - the Forward.

The Forward was written by Tom Moldvay and consists of seven short paragraphs. The entire Forward takes up about 2/3's of a page. I have read this many times in the past but this time I specifically noticed a few things that I found interesting - your milage may vary ;)

1. The first paragraph is a short introduction to a scene about saving a princess from a dragon. The scene is concluded in the final two paragraphs. When the scene concludes it does so in a way that appears impossible to replicate in the given ruleset - ie killing the dragon with a single blow.

2. I find the second paragraph very interesting for two reasons. a) it gives credit to the Original D&D rules and stresses how Mr. Moldvay tried to hew closely to that rules original intent, and b) it describes how a closely D&D is to a movie or novel - this would draw a lot of ire from the OSR now.

3. Mr. Moldvay identifies the need for a re-written version due to the difficulty for new gamers to understand the Original D&D rules.

The Expert rulebook doesn't have a Forward.
I think that I may try to make it through the other sections of both of the books and post any comments, thoughts (as spares as those might be), and/or reactions.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If D&D Deities Were Real

I use religion fairly superficially in my B/X games. I use the typical vast pantheon that I assume is pretty common in most D&D campaigns.

One thing I do find interesting is considering what a world would be like where not only is the existence of multiple deities a given but also where they take an active enough roll that their clerics have supernatural powers.

I take the easiest way out in my campaigns and just treat them as any other commodity/service in the game world. You need a sword made - you go to the weaponsmith. You need a curse removed - you go to the priest. They also become a great source for adventure hooks.

Three things that I think would happen in a D&D "Deities are Real" world (not saying they/him/her aren't in our real world):

1. The already mentioned commoditization of religious services.

2. There would not be any Atheists.

3. The fear of death would be largely removed. The great unknown would be answered. Dead adventurers have been brought back to life and are able to tell the tale. Heck, if you have a high enough level cleric or magic-user you could magically check out the afterlife ahead of time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Am I Part of the OSR?

- Warning: this is part good natured rant and part stream of consciousness self examination -

I have been mulling a couple of questions over since my last post.

1. Is there actually an Old-School Renaissance-Revival-Revitalization-Rebirth...?
2. If so, am I part of it? -and-
3. Is it doing anything to help me enjoy my gaming more?

My thoughts:

1. Is there actually an OSR?
This question came to me after reading some comments on Joethelawyers blog about the OSR happening in an echo chamber. I think this is a very real question. I have no doubt that the vast majority of old-school and/or new-school players do not read forums or blogs and have no idea that there is any talk of an old-school revival.

I do believe that the publishing of Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry have opened some players eyes to old school gaming. But what proportion of their downloads/sales have been to people that were already playing old school games versus those that are trying it out for the first time? I have no idea but my guess (completely unsubstantiated) would be most are already playing old school games.

I fear that the OSR is happening in a cavern. Every once in a while someone might wander in but for the most part its just us Morlocks talking amongst ourselves.

2. Am I part of this OSR?
My answer would be "kinda". I consider myself an old school gamer but I have a few reasons why I would consider myself on the periphery of the OSR:

A. I have no real interest in developing/publishing anything. My focus remains on finding some people with whom I can enjoy playing these games. I think this is why my work on the Pit of Tortured Souls keeps stalling. it is not something I am going to be using in a game any time soon so it just doesn't make it to the top of the to-do list. It seems to be that in this "online cavern" you need to be trying to write something to be considered part of the OSR.

B. Old School style games are not the only ones I read and enjoy. The only face-to-face gaming I have done recently has been with 4th edition D&D. I enjoy reading ChattyDM's recent posts about his game where he started seeing the power of player goal driven adventures. My second favorite edition of D&D is 2nd Edition. I enjoy reading how games like Burning Wheel or Agon use their mechanics for different effects and I like to contemplate how I might incorporate various aspects into my games. All of these things kind of make me feel like an oddball in the OSR.

C. I prefer the original rulesets to the retroclones. I play B/X not Labyrinth Lord. I would likely play OD&D instead of Swords & Wizardry and I would play 2nd Edition AD&D instead of OSRIC (I know this is not strictly apples-to-apples). Now I have no problem with any of the retroclones - I think they are all very fine games and more power to those that play them. I just prefer the originals and I find it easier to explain to people that I play the old basic/expert version of D&D instead of explaining what Labyrinth Lord is. I think that the term OSR is now, for all intents and purposed, used for those using retroclones and publishing new material for those games - it doesn't really refer to those of us who just play old D&D and don't publish stuff.

3. Is any of this helping me enjoy playing?
And I ask this in a larger context than just "does the OSR help me enjoy playing?" but also do all of the forums, blogs, publishers, etc connect with the OSR help me enjoy playing?

I enjoy my blog and putting my random thoughts about gaming out there to discuss with other like minded people. I also really enjoy reading other peoples' thoughts about gaming. However, does any of what I say here or what I read on other peoples' blogs or forum posts help me enjoy my games more?

For me this is a two-pronged answer - yes and no.

Yes - I have met others through my blog that I have had the opportunity to game with that I would not have been able to otherwise - see the Online B/X game for instance. I have found online resources that I use in my games that I would not have found. I also have incorporated new techniques into my DMing that I think make the game more fun. Honestly though most of these new techniques are in fact "new" they come from newer and even "indie" games.

No - Sometimes I find myself thinking that things were easier and more fun "back in the day" before all of this online stuff. While I still love to play I am beginning to think that all of the best gaming moments are behind me. I hope that I am wrong and that I have a whole group of great gaming moments ahead of me with my kids but who knows.

With all of the blogs and forum posts I now find myself constantly thinking and worrying about things that the OSR holds as ideal that I would never have worried about before. Pretty lame I know.

Is a pure sandbox the only "true" way? Why can't a campaign have a big bad guy with a story? Honestly, until all of this online talk about sandbox vs story I never thought about it - sure my games were more sandbox focused than plot-based but they had plot elements in them and it wasn't something I ever worried about. It was just the way I played. And you know what - they were fun. We can all agree that railroads are "bad" but I had a great time playing Keep on the Borderlands and the Time of Troubles trilogy. B10 Nights Dark Terror is a great module even though it has a plot.

I know it is just me being insecure (I get if from being a non-type-A person who was in the investment banking industry, populated by the epitome of type-A people, for 10 years) but I often find that I feel like I am being graded for old school pureness when I game - whether by others or just myself critiquing how "pure" things are. Who the hell cares?

Why should I feel defensive if I consider converting a Paizo adventure path to B/X or 2nd edition? I have no idea! Who cares if I prefer 2nd edition to 1st? What is the big deal if I come up with a campaign idea that involves having to find a mcguffin before continuing - hell, the whole G-series does this. So what if I use D&D's task resolution mechanics but instead use them as conflict resolution mechanics and have the players do some of the narration? The OSR seems to take issue with these though.

I would enjoy playing B/X, 2nd edition, 4th edition, Savage Worlds, Agon, Burning Wheel, RISUS, FUDGE, In a Wicked Age, Castles & Crusades, and all of the other games listed on the lower right hand side of my blog.

I think I would enjoy running or playing in a well run campaign using Paizo's adventure paths or Dragonlance.

You gotta problem with that? ;)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ahhh, youth

I played at the local meetup today. I volunteered to run another 4E game but the facilities ended up being really crowded and there wasn't room for all of the tables due to a Magic tournament. So I volunteered to skip running a game and play instead. This freed up some space in the room but the tables ended up being more crowded.

I played a 1st level fighter in a Living Forgotten Realms scenario. I had fun - the DM was great and the scenario was actually pretty good.

However, the table next to us really caught my attention. It was a table made up entirely of early/mid teens. They were playing 3.5 which I have very little interest in but they were having a GREAT time. They were animated and excited. One was standing on his chair showing how his character was doing something and another was shouting when his character was shouting his vow of vengeance on some foe or another. It was great to see and it made me want to join them - even if I don't like the ruleset.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Desperate Nobles

The PCs are all connected in one way or another to a noble house - either family members, trusted advisors, generals, etc.

All of the noble families are in attendance at the King's Palace - Castle Wisteria - for summer court. There are six major noble families:
- House Kimbertos (the King's house)
- House Van de Kamp
- House Scavo
- House Mayer
- House Solis
- And the PC's house

The following events take place during the first 36 hours of summer court:
1. The Queen commits suicide
2. Rel Van de Kamp (the head of the house) is poisoned - he may or may not survive
3. The Scavo residence in the capital city burns down
4. Bishop Kaul, a son of the King, is seen late at night digging in the church's graveyard
5. Lady Solis is seen leaving the stables with straw in her hair followed shortly by a young stablehand.

Now turn the PCs loose!