Monday, February 25, 2013

Bye Bye, Level Limits!

As an addendum to my post earlier today about my Labyrinth Lord house rules, I've decided to take a page from another retroclone, Swords & Wizardry, when it comes to the dreaded demihuman level limits. I'm referring specifically to page 16 of the 4th printing of the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules. That page discusses options for continued level advancement for "non-humans." I think it sounds like a great idea to allow demihumans to keep advancing in level, but just at a slower rate. To me, it's a good solution to the long-time debate.

Labyrinth Lord/Basic D&D House Rules (2/25/2013)

Ok, since one of my possibilities for my next campaign is another attempt at running Labyrinth Lord, here are my updated LL house rules (compatible with all versions of Basic D&D). The only portion I'm feeling a bit leery about these days is Combat. I'm feeling like I should heavily simplify/do away with Combat Maneuvers and everything below it. I'm just not sure if I want all those levels of granularity, but rather keep things as abstract as possible, in the pure tradition of D&D combat.
Anyway, here they are (please let me know what you is welcome): 
Hit Points: max at first level.

Attribute Checks: (as needed) roll d20 under attribute score; bonuses/penalties can come from DM for perceived difficulty, difference in levels/HD and/or attributes between character and opponent, etc.

Bonus spells slots for high INT or WIS: see LL Advanced Edition Companion chart for clerics.

Zero HP: at 0 HP or less, save vs. death. Success means 1 hp and unconscious. Failure means...well, death.
Shields and Saves: at GM discretion, shields may give +1 bonus to saving throws such as breath weapons.

Two-Weapon Fighting: gives +1 to hit.
Natural 1 and Natural 20: a natural 1 is always a miss and a “fumble,” the effects of which are up to the GM. Natural 20 is an automatic hit. GM may also allow for some“fantastic effect.”
Hold Action: during combat, a player can hold their action for use later in the round. However, held actions not used in a round are lost at the end of the round.
Combat Maneuvers: from ACK System (most are -4 to attack roll, opponent save vs. paralysis). These can include disarming, wrestling, etc.
Firing into Melee: on a roll of 1-3, a character hits a friendly. Roll another to-hit to see if the friendly takes damage. Chance to hit friendlies is eliminated if a player takes time to aim. Aiming and firing in the same round confers a to-hit penalty of -2. Aiming and waiting until the next round eliminates penalty.
Called Shot: performed at a -8 penalty, but a hit usually means automatic critical (double damage). Taking rounds to aim lowers penalty by 1 for each round taken.
Offensive Focus (declared at beginning of round): +2 to hit, +2 AC for round
Fighting Defensively (declare at beginning of round): -2 to hit, -2 AC for round
Full Defense (declare at beginning of round): no attack, -4 AC for round

Counterspell: a magic user can counter another magic user’s spell by casting a spell of the same level. An INT check is made to determine if MU can identify opponent’s spell. The countering is an automatic success, with both spells cancelling each other out.
Retaining Spells:  When casting a spell, player must roll equal to or less than INT minus level of spell. Success means spell is not used up. Failure means spell is lost until PC rests and recovers spells per RAW.

Retaining Spells: When casting a spell, player must roll equal to or less than WIS minus level of spell. Success means spell is not used up. Failure means spell is lost until PC rests and recovers spells per RAW.

Immune to all undead attacks and also hear noise on roll of 1-2 on d6
Retaining Spells: When casting a spell, player must roll equal to or less than INT minus level of spell. Success means spell is not used up. Failure means spell is lost until PC rests and recovers spells per RAW.

Fey Luck: Three times per session, a Halfling can choose to make any of their rolls (or the roll of another player) an automatic success.
Hide on roll of 1-5 on d6

Can harm creatures that can only be harmed by magic (even with bare hands).

Can also tell direction underground on roll of 1-2 on d6.

Automatic hit and double damage on natural 20.

Cleave: can attack another opponent immediately after killing/incapacitating an opponent (from ACKS).

All thief skills progress as Hear Noise (all use d6). After 15th level, roll 2d6 and only fail on double six.
Read Language: Level 1=20%, 2=40%, 3=60%, 4=80%
Use Scroll: 10% at level 2, and +10% per level until 10th level (90%)

Friday, February 22, 2013

End-of-Week Non-Elmore (2/22/13)

Nope, no Larry art this week, folks. Instead, I'm putting up an image from a game system that's captured my interest again: the Dragon Age RPG.
At the moment, I'm feeling torn. While I'm on GMing hiatus, my mind's been able to relax and I've had time to consider what I would want to do when I return to running games. And my brain has gravitated to two game systems: Labyrinth Lord and Dragon Age. Neither is better, in my mind; they're just different, and would scratch different RPG itches for me.
For Labyrinth Lord, I've got a ton of materials to use besides just the rule book, as well as rules knowledge and a desire to run some Basic D&D-type adventures. I've also got my eye on using the Dawnforge setting, which is high fantasy for sure. I know, I mentioned in my 2013 resolution post that I was going to be working on my own campaign world, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. Truth be told, the Dawnforge setting pushes all the right buttons for me, and any campaign world I would have created on my own would have stolen liberally from the setting (and some others) anyway.
When it comes to Dragon Age, its dark fantasy aspect is appealing. No faeries and unicorns, kids. I've enjoyed the setting when I've played the console game. A big draw for me is the mechanics of the game, which I find very interesting. The simple fact that it diverges so much from the d20-dominated, D&D-derived games is appealing. I think it might be good for me to try/learn a different game system.
Anyway, bottom line: I'm not stressing out about my divided attentions. I'm just going to be taking time to read through the materials I have and consider what I might want to do next in my GMing career.
Happy gaming, people!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dragon Age RPG on Wheaton's Tabletop

If you haven't (or even if you have!) seen an episode of Wil Wheaton's Tabletop, take some time to watch his recent Dragon Age RPG game session. The game was run by the DARPG's creator, Chris Pramas, and the players included Chris Hardwick as well as the vampire from Being Human and the comic book store guy from Big Bang Theory.

Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the game.

It was pretty entertaining, though sometimes it seemed like they could have been less, well, giddy. I mean, I love joking around at the game table, and things should be light-hearted at times, but there's a point where you have to focus on the game with a bit of seriousness. However, this is a web show, so I think there's a case of "observation influencing the observed," and the guys were hamming it up a bit. I thought Pramas seemed somewhat exasperated with the players' antics at times, but again, this is a show and not a regular campaign session.

I have to say that my interest in Dragon Age RPG has been piqued again. Is anyone out there playing this RPG, and if so, what are your impressions of it?

On a related note, I decided to pick up the Midgard campaign setting recently, because I'm a sucker for published settings. Coincidentally, the setting book has rules for the AGE System. Hmm...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I watched John Carter...

...and I didn't think it was that bad. Certainly not as bad as it's been made out to be.
I haven't read A Princess of Mars in ages, so I can't attest to how faithful the film was to the source material. But hey, isn't it possible that some folks, having seen it, might have been drawn to read the original tales? If so, I'd consider the film a success.
And you could do worse than Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris.
All of this had made me eager once again for Warriors of the Red Planet!

Friday, February 15, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (2/15/13)

So, following in the footsteps of my last two EoWE posts, here's the cover illo for the final installment of the Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragons of Spring Dawning. We see the famed Brothers Majere, accompanied by Tika of the crimson curls, exposed and tanned thigh, and ample...courage!
Posting these covers over the last few weeks might have set me on a collision course with yet-another Chronicles re-read! Hopefully it won't cause a flare-up of Gamer ADD in connection with my stalled Dragonlance campaign...hmmm...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

So God Made a Gamer

Have you seen this yet? I had to laugh and smile when I watched it.


Does every old copy of Unearthed Arcana in the world inevitably fall apart?

I was at Top Deck Games the other day, one of the few FLGS's in South Jersey, perusing their selection of OOP D&D materials. They've always got some good old stuff in there, at very reasonable prices. In the recent past I've picked up copies of the 1st and 2nd Edition D&D core books there.
Anyway, I saw they have an old copy of Unearthed Arcana there. I picked it up, and immediately pages were slipping out. What the hell? Does every single old copy of Unearthed Arcana really have the same problem? How is that possible? Is the damned thing cursed? I'm sure some of you D&D scholars out there have the answer.
Others have posted about the many reasons Unearthed Arcana bites the big one, but for more than just the binding. I'm sure the book isn't really universally reviled, as WotC just did a reprint of it. I'm guessing, at the very least, the new verion's binding will be vastly more durable!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

DexCon 16, Anyone???

Any gamers out there going to DexCon? I know that Joe Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard fame and fellow New Jersey-based gamer will be there, but is there anyone else in the area that's going?

I got my copy of Gygax Magazine #1 yesterday, and I saw the ad for GaryCon and felt a yearning to go...but alas, that will probably not come to pass! So I figured I'd look for something a bit more local.

I'm thinking that I want to go to DexCon, and break my convention cherry! I went to the small but awesome TrollCon East in 2011, but I've never been to a big con. I would love to see what one of these events is all about, and I definitely would like the chance to meet some fellow bloggers if you're headed there. It would also be cool to meet some other local gamers.

So, chime in, folks, and let me know if you're gonna go!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Roleplaying & Me 2013: Resolutions

Alrighty, so, my first post in this two-parter encompassed some reflections on my current relationship with roleplaying. Now I want to go over what I'm planning on doing with regard to roleplaying over the course of the coming year.

I believe I've settled on Labyrinth Lord as the rules I want to use going forward. Based on what I know of my current self, I have come to the conclusion that I need to run a version of Classic D&D. It's what I  have the time to run; in other words, it's got the level of complexity I can deal with as a busy adult. In addition, it has the "characters as archetypes" feeling that I want. Ultimately, I believe it's the system that I can dedicate myself to "mastering." It is also available to players for free, or at a relatively small sum at the FLGS.

Just a note: I can't remember everything about what I liked as a kid, other than I was a RAW (rules-as-written) guy. The closest we came to rules tinkering in those days was a verbal agreement to ignore this or that rule in the book. We had so much time to memorize rules and ignored those that we didn't like, and we had time to remember the few-and-far-between unwritten house rules.

Speaking of house rules, I know that I like to keep them to a minimum, but there are some definite tweaks I want to incorporate. In particular, I'm really losing interest in Vancian magic as written. But I think I have a solution to that issue. I'll do a future post outlining said house rules.
Here's a list of other things I want to accomplish over the coming year:
  • A series of posts outlining the style of my next campaign, and how I'm going to approach GMing going forward after my hiatus
  • A purging of my assumptions about how much I know about RPGs, especially D&D. This will probably involve going back and reading the games with as much objectivity as I can muster...which could be a major undertaking. But it's a long time coming.
  • I want to roleplay like a kid again...which will probably mean no detailed maps, no need to take tons of time to strategize and brood over detailed city diagrams, and other things I never worried about as a teenaged roleplayer.
  • This is a big one: I am going to work on creating a campaign world. I've talked myself out of this in the last year or so, convincing myself I don't have the time. But I think this will help me get more of a creative outlet, as well as make me more invested in the campaign I will run. I've found myself easily losing interest in published settings (Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk) as I run them. I'm excited about the prospect of building a world, something I haven't done for a long time.
  • I am also determined to start crafting "substantive posts." I want to offer some stuff for people to use when roleplaying, such as new creatures, adventure hooks, etc.

So, those are my goals for 2013! Wish me luck!

Friday, February 8, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (2/8/13)

Last week I posted the cover illo for Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It is logical that this week I feature the cover for Dragons of Winter Night. Duh. Call me lazy, I don't care. Anyway, it's appropriate to show a winter scene this week, because we on the U.S. East Coast are prepping for what some are predicting will be a nasty Nor'easter. I'm not one of those scrambling on the eve of snowpocalypse, however. People out here get way too panicky over a couple inches of the white stuff, let me tell you.

Anyway, I'm still working up my "resolutions" installment of my 2013 "reflections and resolutions" duology. I'm probably going to post it this weekend. I know, you can hardly wait. It's definitely just me brainstorming out loud, in the tradition of "blog as sounding board" posts. But one of my resolutions is to start trying to craft some substantive posts that contribute some ideas to the community. It's an aspiration, at the very least!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roleplaying & Me 2013: Reflections

Yes, I know it's February, so I guess I'm a bit behind schedule in discussing my RPG reflections and resolutions for the new year. But, all things in their time, eh?

Anyway, I've taken an indefinite hiatus from GMing. The good folks in my primary gaming group, who I game with on Wednesday nights at All Things Fun, have taken up the GM mantle. I am grateful to them, and have already become a player in their own campaigns. And I'm having a blast!

So, I'm allowing myself  some time to step back and recharge my GMing batteries. I've been going full-speed and full-bore since I returned to the table-top, in my usual all-or-nothing, obsessive approach to my interests. Yes, I usually exhaust myself because of this approach.

I need time to ruminate on what I've learned, and indeed relearned, about myself and my relationship with gaming. It's been almost two years since I got back to the table-top, and I realized that I came back with a lot of assumptions.

I also realized I need to flush those assumptions. I can benefit from my past experiences, but I need to start fresh and not assume, for instance, that my grasp and understanding of RPGs (D&D in particular) is complete or comprehensive. That's a big one: just because I have a history with D&D, I haven't actually read the books or played the game for many, many years. I need to get to a place where I can take a breath and read the old books with new eyes, with my assumptions left at the door.

Since I've gotten back into table-top RPGs, I've felt like I've been breaking off a lot of rust. I need to be easier on myself, I think. I always hold myself to a very high standard. After running and playing in several campaigns for over a year and a half, I think I've reached a deeper understanding, and discovered/rediscovered what my preferences are when it comes to running games. I've definitely solidified what I like and dislike when it comes to being a GM. Part of this is play style, and part is system preference.

Anyway, enough  rambling. My next post will outline my specific roleplaying resolutions for 2013.

Friday, February 1, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (2/1/13)

I decided to get some Dragonlance up in here! I've professed my love for Dragonlance in the past, so I won't go into it again in this post. The covers that Larry did for the books in the Chronicles trilogy are forever bound up with my childhood, and my eventual discovery of the joys of D&D. Therefore, I have a strong association between his art and the game; this fact no doubt causes much disapproval among the grognards out there.
But listen, kids: I read the Dragonlance books well before I got into D&D. So when I talk about the world of Krynn, it's not in connection with a set of modules that people continually hold up as the worst examples of published railroading. Nope, it's a world that I visited over and over in the Chronicles and the books that followed, a world that I escaped into on many occasions during a less-than-ideal childhood. So, like most of the people in the OSR, I say a hearty "NO THANKS!" to the Dragonlance modules. But the novels I will always cherish.
It's amazing how the talismans of youth can become such a part of us. Seeing the cover to Dragons of Autumn Twilight has never failed to stir longings for adventure in my soul! The cliche that characters in beloved books are like old friends is so true. Seeing Tanis and his compatriots is like coming home, every time I look at them.
Hey, you wonderful folks out there, feel free to share your own Dragonlance appreciation! I'd love to hear some dittos on this one!