How to I step back up to the gaming table?

It’s been a while since I ran an rpg. And then even longer, as in a decade or more since I did it regularly. It is a worrying commitment to make, but I used to be ok so it probably will be ok again.

To start off I’m thinking about a short run game. A few sessions, nothing major, a story on rails, and a very narrow vision. The goal is to start small an bite off chewable problems.

As I thought about What to run I also thought about Who can play in it.

Firstly my old group have lives now so getting us together is a mongrel. But as it’s small the game probably needs only two or three players. It could be a solo game, or if we get all the players and some bonus folks it could be a romp. It wouldn’t affect the story too much.

A play by email or forum game allows for very detailed and creative story, but is downright dull for game mechanics. Pbp also kills acting skill. A table session is better for actual roleplaying; and that is what really appeals.

Secondly some of the group like rolling, others like acting, and only a few like both. Shamefully I’m not the best mechanical gamer at the table, or the best actor, or any role really. So frankly, it is scary.

We’ve creating the characters and I’ve sent out a quick teaser, so there is no avoiding it now…but that only helps create more apprehension in my mind about quality and a positive experience.

The prep for this game is far more detailed than I used to do, so that might be a saving grace – the plot has holes in it, but not the huge gaping holes that myy normal “seat of the pants” stories had. I think the worst I ran was an RPG using the Palladium engine and trying to replay the UltimaV pc game storyline. It got weird really quickly.

I guess I’ll just look forward to having a beer on the other side of the games, and seeing if they sucked or not. #holdingmybreath #theEmperorProtects

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City Map generator by Frugal GM

Frugal GM has told us of a city map generator and it’s free (I initially thought he wrote it which is why the title of the blog is still that way).

Wait what? What is it?

The Roleplaying City Map Generator comfortably creates maps of any kind of settlement, such as villages, medieval towns, or 20th century big cities, in few minutes requiring only a couple of mouse clicks. You define the values of various city parameters, either manually or via pre-defined or own templates – The Roleplaying City Map Generator randomly creates realistic maps which can be printed or exported as image also as matrix or section.

Ok, but what does it look like?

city-map-UIHow did I not know of this? Godlike. Awesome. Praise be.

Why? Because a quick shot map of a city is far better than just using words. Players can get a feel, even if that feel proves rough, this is so much more awesome than using generic stuff.

Quick play of D&D Next

Friday night the usual suspects got around the big table and played the recent version of D&D Next play-test. So here are some badly thought through opinions on the game thus far:

  • It has changed more than I expected, and the changes are good. It is still D&D which is a good thing. I’m very keen to see and play more.
  • I still dislike levels and hit points, but there is no changing that. We had a good banter about why epic feels epic, and the D&D experience still comes built in with boom factor. So I’m kind of glad that hit points and levels are there, as it keeps essentially what I thought was the game, as they game.
  • I really like the way the Attack bonus for fighters is not 1/level. That makes it seem like their bonus to attack will not be so crazy at high level as to make others look silly, but they have an edge. Paladins, Barbarians and such are scales with them, which makes perfect sense. I think the Wizard’s scaling was missing in the pdf, which is hopefully an omission.
  • I don’t know how the table-top gamers will feel about the changes, as a mini-board is not really needed anymore. 4th ed had a lot of tactical edges which are gone from this play-test. I don’t miss them, but some people might. At some points a grid or minis would have been useful, but we got the job done quickly and clearly through conversation and hand drawn stuff.
  • How in hell are multi-class and class changes going to be handled in this version of the game? Looking forward to that cludge.
  • If you make a Cleric then choose your “always avail” power carefully. You will still be required to heal a lot in this version, so playing a cleric is still “that guy”. I played mine incorrectly in the playtest, but not wrongly enough to make me feel Clerics were anything interesting to me. I don’t enjoy healing. Scratch the class from the PHB in my version. If I’d made up a Cleric of the Reaper, which I almost did, then our party would have owned face – they deal huge damage, but are crappy healers. Now a Paladin maybe a different story.
  • Fighters are great. The new dice mechanics for special powers is empowering without being overpowered.
  • Monks look darn good at high levels – like getting straight 20s in all low stats at level 20. Heh, paragon games?
  • Wizards look the same, but I think our Wizard was playing it wrong too – my read is that a Wizard should always have one 1st level spell to use, and perhaps the Wizard should take a boom spell. Being left with cantrips is silly. It would be like leaving the two weapon fighter with a dagger. Or if he was playing it right and a Wizard can only cast x spells per day, with no default fallback, then scratch Wizard too.
  • I’m not sure a Rogue selection of advantages is handy in terms of having broad attack options, but would need to see how it played. A Rogue reads like it either operates alone, or as a team player, not both.
  • The rules are clear and fair thus far, and simple. It will be interesting to read what the advanced rules add in terms of complexity vs story.
  • The Backgrounds, specialties, and such are a great feature. In fact it is so good it should be added into most games in some manner or another.

More later, when I get another shot at the system. The guy in the pic below better have good fire resistance or a great insurance policy to cover incineration.

dragon attacks castle, poor defender

The way we view a Bag of Holding…d20m

The great web comic d20 Monkey has a cartoon up on the Bag of Scolding which reminds me exactly how we treated the bags of holding in the old days.

i.e. Stuff all the things in that thing noaw!!!! Bags of Holding were fantastic little toys in the game world, not only because it meant we had somewhere to put the wheelbarrows pull of gold coins, but also because we could threaten to stuff NPCs into them.

Or stuff the portable hole into the bag of holding and tear time-space in half with a divide by zero error.

It makes me miss the silly and irreverent way we played roleplaying games. We were not critically interested in story, or character progression, or continuity; it was all about silly fun. Even better when other players were the butt of a joke.

Another I remember well was one character wishing that another character had never owned anything in his life. Ever. (boom, wish granted) The game world re-wrote itself instantaneously so that the wish was true. All the gear was borrowed, all the meals were charity, all the achievements were all on someone’s stolen nickle.

That would cause hell to the mental state of the poor character who now has nothing to their name, must have borrowed or stolen all they have. It sucked for the player but oh how we laughed. What bastards.

Keep only 10 RPG books

Distractingly good blog questions: If you could only keep ten of your printed RPG books, which would you pick? Well darn it, that is hard.

Not so much picking 10 systems, that is easy. But 10 books is hard. Consider too that I’d also say none, as I am getting happier every season with using digital versions of RPG books.

I feel like the guys in the film High Fidelity – top 10 songs to ……

  1. Ars 5e core book.
  2. DeathWatch core book.
  3. An ArM5e source book, but I cannot choose which as yet. Probably the Bestiary.
  4. Ars 4e Grimoire, as it contains a stack of stuff that was great for its time, but failing that then probably the Ars 4e core book.
  5. DnD 4e DMG. To be frank I think I’ll be able to buy a copy of any edition cheaply, so keeping a 3.x or any of the expansion books is probably a waste.
  6. DnD 4e PHB.
  7. Shadowrun core book. I have an edition from the late 90s and am keeping it for the flavour.
  8. Cthulhu core rules.
  9. GURPS core rules (I don’t care what edition).
  10. Rifts core rules. Many folks hate Rifts, and in some part I understand that the system is a bit janky. That said it contains as much lore and fluff to make 10 great games in every book.

Vampire core rules almost made it except it would have been only because of the fun history, not the actual value of the system. Heroes Unlimited is darn good too, but there are many hero systems out there that can compete. I have an old Earthdawn copy somewhere, and a copy of Rus too – both read but never played.

via Untimately: Only Ten.

Ars Magica Computer Game Kickstarter

Its no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ars Magica and also of computer games, and  now an agreement between Atlas Games and Black Chicken Studios is seeking to combine those two wonderful hobbies.

Black Chicken Studios, working under license from Atlas Games, is delighted to present a new simulation role-playing game for the PC. After 25 years and 5 editions, Ars Magica will at long last be paid tribute in a single-player, turn-based video game.

Authentic to the original, this is a faithful, beautiful, and accurate depiction of covenant gameplay and the RPG’s legendary magic system during a dangerous century in the Stonehenge Tribunal. With your help, we’ll bring Ars Magica: Years of Conquest and its tapestry of wars, intrigue, invasion and, above all, magic to life!

The Ars Magica – Years of Conquest game is seeking backing via a kickstarter campaign.

I can only rave about how passionate Atlas Games are about Ars magica, and really hope this concept gets through to reality.

If you are a fan of either, spread the word.

If DnD Next was branded as a new game, would it sell better?

two-hundred & twelve

I had a thought about the debate on DnD Next, and how the version wars are puttering along. What would happen if the same mechanic ruleset was released by somebody else? Is it disliked because of a fear of change, or an inclination of disinterest?

Pathfinder took a variation and made it popular. Could be that they fixed a lot of frustration, and did so without the yoke of owning the product. The same action by the owner might not have been as popular when Pathfinder was released. We now see Pathfinder further tweaking their rules, and getting a mixed bag of acceptance feedback. Coincidence?

DnD 4e went to a new place mechanically with the highly tactical play, and I think it would have been hailed as an innovation if it wasn’t meant to replace older versions of the dnd brand. Meaning as a new game it was very clever and innovative, as dnd a segment of the community hated it.

The same things feels true about 5e – that a third party could release the “Next” rule-set as an indie mod, and probably get a better reaction than dnd’s publishers. Why? Less extremes to worry about. You’d get everyone who wants to test it happily trying, and all the core rules fans ignoring it. The edition war would not start because it would not be an official edition.

If you hold that position as plausible, then it is kind of sad. A new rule-set should be evaluated without that prejudice. Like it or hate it, it should be given the opportunity to be played properly. An rpg is not removing the rulebooks from our shelves, so that if an old edition is a favourite, then it can continue to be played.

Just a thought.