|Eow Links 84|
Eow Links 84
"Eow" for End Of Week. TTRPG Links I gathered during the week. This is iteration 84.
My favourite for this week is Modern Table Top Games are Broken, it is not a TTRPG post, but it is very close. "Don Featherstone said you do not need rules to recreate history, just a player who plays historically"
I can tell you from experience that kids new to fantasy role-playing games will choose, every single time, to play D&D, with its shiny books, over my scribbled house rules, with my lone testimony that my rules are better.
The first is meaningful choices. (...)
The second is random chance. (...)
The third is resource drain. (...)
The fourth is a check.
The importance of commodification / The importance of the Internet / The importance of ink and paper
after a handful of turns I realised I could predict the outcome of the game; the next two hours were merely an exercise in rolling dice.
Modern wargaming rules are frequently well written, include many illustrations and use clever game mechanisms to help model the period and above all, they are simple. Simple is the problem.
The "Solomonic" solution seems to be similar to what 5e (and modern D&D in general) does: half your bonus come from ability score, half from class. This necessarily makes the game more complex than ignoring either abilities or levels, but seems to be the most popular solution.
One of my gripes with a lot of D&D, and not just modern D&D, is tonal confusion. Is this a sword-and-sorcery style hero romp, or is it about about Champions of Good fighting Champions of Evil? Is Forgotten Realms a setting based on realpolitik or on mythologized archetypes? Is the moral high ground a viable thing to defend, or is everything merely subject to the whims of fate?
Slaying the Dragon, on the other hand, takes a much different approach. It dispatches the Gygax-helmed era in some 61 pages, and spends over 200 subsequent pages going into a deep dive on the next phase of TSR – the era which would see its critical and artistic zenith, its decline and fall, its purchase of TSR by Wizards of the Coast, and the initial phase of repairing burned bridges which Peter Adkison and Lisa Stevens of Wizards had to undertake.
Whenever the new shiny release or Kickstarter drops, I remind myself of the pictures above. And that as much as I take enjoyment from reading roleplaying materials for inspiration, a solid book, graphic novel or film will likely be much more appropriate. The materials above could last me several decades of gaming as it stands.
I've been running a game of Old School Essentials recently. After six or eight sessions, the group found the dungeon's treasure trove, beat the boss and her henchman, and made off with a treasure hoard. The XP from all this loot means that most of them gained a level for the first time as well.
Now is probably a pretty good time to share some thoughts and observations about this particular game
Contribute. Make something. Write something. A monster. An encounter. A drawing. A review of an adventure, or a novel, or self help book about creativity that you like. Do something positive. Run an OSR game at a convention or game day at your FLGS. Give books to a youth game group. Whatever positive thing you can do, do that.
Take the goblin pill and see how deep the treasure cave goes
Take the gnome pill and wake up in the garden, a jolly fellow
…The planet desperately needs more mischief-makers, gardenwatchers, mushroom lovers, pranksters, mirthful chucklers, and jolly fellows of all kinds
General Gossip's job is to give the PCs an idea of where they might find adventure sites, patrons, business opportunities, and unexplored wilderness.
Specific Gossip is information (and misinformation) about a particular site or opportunity. This info will often be vague, sometimes misleading, on occasion really helpful, but only once in a planetary alignment will it offer a map or info on specific denizens.
Here’s Moldvay’s table in the “Basic” column and my table in the “Meeting” column. What would three or four useful columns be, for your own campaigns?
Also note how a lowly +1 Charisma bonus already stops all immediate attacks by intelligent monsters. Is this how you run your game? I want this to be how I run my games.
Recently game historians Paul Stormberg (at Dragonsfoot) and Ben Riggs (on Facebook) have been sharing a trove of historical sales data from TSR for various D&D and AD&D products. As a nerd, I'm a sucker for this sort of stuff, but was frustrated by the fragmentary and piecemeal nature of it so I decided to copy & paste their numbers into a combined spreadsheet of my own.
Popular westerns went from the tough but heroic John Wayne to the spaghettis of Clint Eastwood, reaching a culmination in Unforgiven that essentially deconstructed the genre and cast the “hero” in a very different light. War films gave us Platoon instead of The Longest Day. Frank depictions of sexuality also became acceptable. Essentially “the culture” decided this shift, artists and directors and musicians needed to break norms and explore new territories to keep their visions fresh and original. It’s a natural process, the way art always evolves. But things are lost, old forms abandoned along the way. S&S was a casualty.
I'm looking for everything I'd need to tell a group of new players before I get to the start of the game proper, the point where I'm like "you're in a room and it's horrible, what do you do??"
Maybe use the skills for bending the rules as written for spells. You want to cast hold person on a dragon? Okay, if you make your skill check, it happens. Wanna use Turn Undead on rabbits? Skill check, but only if they are really evil rabbits.
I mentioned a few of these elements to my home-game crew as I was reading through it and they were enthusiastic to try this setting in a way I have not seen for other settings I have mentioned to them recently. Brancalonia feels refreshingly different, not so serious but then as 'sphaghetti fantasy' it is not supposed to be. All in all a solid addition to my shelves, I look forward to getting it to the table.
I don't have definitive sense of what constitutes a "skirmish game", but I know one when I see it. In my mind it is a game with a small number of figures under your control. Maybe you have one or two character figures and a few minions under your command and you are given a mission for the game. Accomplish this mission, and keep other players from accomplishing their missions, and you win the game.
Another tactic that the DM can use in design and the players can then exploit is putting combat in terrain that allows the players to control how the monsters approach them. Choke points in doorways, so only a few monsters can attack at once. Walls, buildings, and objects to take cover behind, especially when the monsters are using missile weapons.
"High" is a problematic term for sure. I'd say there is fantasy that is concerned with world building from the top down (global, thorough, past and present, methodic) and there is fantasy concerned with world building from the bottom up (inside out, incidental, on-the-fly, always in context). For me that distinction accounts for a lot of high vs low — moreso than grittiness of tone or how polarized the morality of the world is.
3.0 220 pages. 3.5 324 pages. 425 monsters.
More so than the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums or Manual this book felt like the Monster Manual of old.
Acid Western is a film genre that emerged in the later part of the 20th century. It departed from previous Westerns’ romanticized notion of the Old West and instead explored dark, subversive, and existential themes.
Frontier Scum does away with the Old West entirely but keeps the dark, subversive, and existential. The Lost Frontier is entirely non-historical—just set in an analogous technological period—but it’s defined by very real historical issues: unbridled greed, human suffering, and brutal struggle against both nature and an unjust society.
but most usefully, you'll need prompts that help you generate gaming ideas to keep your session moving quickly in a pinch. In a perfect world, you'll have the tools you need to generate as much as an entire adventure with just a few dice roll prompts.
Running one-shots is hard, as is maintaining (or committing) to a long campaign. Take away some of the time pressure by pitching to run for 3 sessions or so — you don’t have to worry as much about pacing, and you can take feedback and do any tweaking you need to between sessions.
Seems reasonable to me. I like it. I also like being reminded the clarity of Tom's language usage in writing the Basic Rules. Many rules can be written with some running of the mouth by an author. Tom Moldvay commits none of these sins. I still use this book as a style guide when considering the words I'm using when writing rules.
Before modern communications and speed of travel, letters of introduction (or recommendation) were a key piece of allowing utter strangers to meet and work together.
Basically, a go-between writes a letter affirming that the bearer of said letter is worthwhile and of the proper social standing to meet the recipient of the letter.
My idea is to make my own Mars adventure game using the Cepheus Engine. My working title is Blades of Barsoom. Conveniently, the first few John Carter books are all in the public domain, so I’m free to use them for source material.