|Eow Links 96|
Eow Links 96
"Eow" for End Of Week. TTRPG Links I gathered during the week. This is iteration 96.
My favourite for this week is What's in a Label?, "A sophisticated campaign flowed pretty readily between wargame, story game and traditional role-playing game"
Helm is as good a setting as I’ve come across for a game based on The Black Company novels. I’ve seen these books referenced a lot as RPG inspiration, but rarely see this fleshed out effectively. The Black Company are a band of soldiers for hire moving from one reprehensible master to another.
In my ideal D&D ruleset player advancement would stop short of 10th level. I think the 9th-level domain goal is a wonderful one and any advancement after 9th by the player should feed into that. And in fact, I would try to being domain leveling into lower levels in my ideal D&D.
The first modern role-playing games are most definitely an offshoot of Wargames.
And by the first early role-playing games I am not thinking of Dungeons & Dragons. I'm thinking of Braunstein, Brownstone, and Blackmoor. These were tabletop war games wherein most of the players were given responsibility for a single character, often a non-combatant, who had specific victory conditions based on things they could achieve on the board. Most of the play was done simply by having conversations between characters.
In my imagination, clerics will always explicitly be a Roman Catholic styled class. I know, specialty priests and all that. And what of weird D&D, Dying Earth as opposed to Medieval Europe? Well you do you. But, I like having the Church, and demons, and witches, and black magic, and plagues, and crosses. All built on top of the ruins of the ancient, weird stuff...
Because of these foci and the fact that your mind is constantly traveling from one focus to another, total immersion in a game is not possible. You cannot remain only in the character level and roll to hit someone. The second you need to see if you hit someone your mind is at the Game level. It may jump right back to the character level, but it might not, it might hang out at the Game level to see how everyone’s turn goes and where the enemy is located and what spell you might use in this situation. Or you might have gotten thirsty after making your roll and go and get a drink.
Even with all these changes, my game is significantly simpler than 5e and even AD&D. I have enjoyed fiddly games, but I just want something easier to run. Creating a 5e or AD&D PC takes a while, and my players forgot half their features by level 10 in my 5e campaigns. So, it is also a lot easier on my players.
And yet the world building that goes into MOST literature (and its television adaptations) is there in order to serve the needs of the story. Hobbits are present because the author wants to show the triumph of the humble everyman over The Wise or The Impossibly Powerful Evil.
You also get cognitive blind spots where your definition shall lead you astray. For example, parts of the old-school crowd are so wedded to B/X purism and its procedure-based gameplay (“the gameplay loop”) that that they end up ignoring AD&D, and with it the actual defining tradition of the classical era; as well as neglecting OD&D, the wild primordial soup of runaway creativity that gave us the strange thought experiments that are now worth examining and reconstructing.
When I’ve seen heartbreakers in the wild in the 2020s, they tend to have campaigned successfully on Kickstarter, land with a thud when they’re released to wider distribution, and then disappear. This means that, unlike the fantasy heartbreakers of yore, people are paying money for games that in the end aren’t very good.
Splicing frames of reality with each step, a wrong right turn intractably alters the source — there is only forward here.
Have as much prep done ahead of time as possible, especially player prep. They should have their characters finished, equipment bought, basic setting info learned, and quest established before you even begin. It is so easy to lose precious time at the beginning of a session to "pre-adventure" gameplay.
You've got to leave some loosey-gooseyness in your game and you've got to risk something. It's okay if the first try flops. It's okay if the players run roughshod for part of the game. We learn by doing, not by planning for all contingencies before we act.
I'll admit that I'm lucky in that I started young and was too stupid to know how much I sucked at DMing at first. For adults, the second game is often a bigger challenge then the first, because session 1 inevitably falls short.
I will sit this alongside the classic Eisen’s Vow which states that, “I will not permit the players (people who do not know about D&D yet) to discover the rules.” In other words, I’m going to invite players to engage with the World of the game rather than the rules
It was common in many Italian westerns for the main characters to be violent, powerful figures, each acting solely in their self-interest, whom fate seemed smile upon despite (or because of) their duplicitous natures. Betrayals and double-crosses happened quite regularly.
Charisma (or its equivalent) is regularly deemed a "dump stat" in many RPGs, but I think this is the first time the text of a game explicitly makes this claim. The irony is that, while Charisma isn't as broadly useful as many other attributes in Stormbringer, it nevertheless plays a role in demon summoning and binding — significant activities in the world of the Young Kingdoms.
In 2016, a friend suggest we try and run a game for our kids, with Tranchons & Traquons from the excellent Kobayashi. Awesome. That sparks back my interest in TTRPG, I skim the Internet, and I come across the Pandora Box: the OSR blogs.
Add page numbers to your preparation notes and character sheets. This is a tip for both D&D DMs and players. For 1,500 years people have learned how to create the equivalent of digital hyperlinks in physical books by referencing locations in an index.
3 mile, one hour hexes can also be a great diegetic hex measurement as they are the same distance as one league and it sounds cool and old timey fantastic to have NPCs say “The bandits are camped 4 leagues up the road” instead of miles or hexes.
It is likely that what drew you into the OSR was a contact with an “OSR” (be it a person, group or product). If you liked that “first-contact-OSR” you joined the OSR. If you didn’t like that “first-contact-OSR” you left or never joined the OSR, and probably warned others off the OSR. That “first-contact-OSR” will therefore have strongly coloured your understanding of what the OSR is.
The prep structures are easy to grasp, well integrated, and make preparing sessions a breeze. I want to underscore this point: I really think, or at least hope, that this game is going to change the conversation about prep in the OSR. These structures are not perfect, not universal, but they are deeply functional in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen before.