Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Comparison of Everquest and DDO: Old School and New School Tabletop RPG Analogy

I've not been blogging or posting here as much lately, due partly to the holidays, real life stuff, in-person gaming, and most recently my total addiction to DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online). By way of background, I first played an MMORPG back in the Meridian 59 days. Then I got hooked on Everquest in 1998-1999. Since then, I haven't played any MMORPG-- nope, not even WoW. Until now.

Having missed every MMORPG and all other Fantasy-ish types of video games from 1990 to the present (other than a brief stint with TOEE), I can't believe the differences between game styles. I think an old school v. new school analogy can be drawn between the two games:

Everquest:

Dying sux. You needed to go get your corpse somehow, and you had no gear to do it with, so unles you could get somene to do it for you, you likely died several more times trying to get your stuff back. You lost hard-earned XP every time you died.

If you killed it you looted it. If a guy shot an arrow at me, he must have had a bow. I kill him, take the bow, run back to city and sell it.

Sandboxey--You could go wherever you wanted in the world at any time and do anything. Sometimes you ran through a high level zone and got slaughered. And as I said, dying sux.

Related to sandboxey---there was a huge world with a lot of travel involved.

Fewer restrictions on gear---you could twink out a low level guy with high level gear.

Less quest oriented. The quests didn't drive the game.

No magic stores.

XP given per kill.


DDO:

Dying is not a big deal. You appear in an Inn fully geared up. (My idea of heaven---dying and ending up in a bar with all your money to buy beer and bar food.) You just pay some money to fix the damaged gear. Sometimes you can even die and then go back into the same quest again before it expires and finish it up.

No looting of the corpses. Rewards are given out per the quests.

Not sandboxey, not a lot of travel involved. You go on quests, that sometimes link to other quests. There is no true world that you are in---just a setting with a bunch of quest givers and places to buy and sell stuff.

Most gear has level restrictions.

You can buy stuff at magic vendors.

XP given per quest completion, except in rare situations with Slayer Quests.


In the sense that the old school approach to tabletop RPG's is one of the players making their own destinies, with less restrictions, so Everquest fits the old school gaming mode moreso than DDO. DDO takes the more modern adventure path approach, just making them smaller and more frequent. XP is given out not per kill, but per quest, so it is less a combat driven at times, depending on he quest.

I am not surprised at the approach DDO took since it is based on 3.5. Thankfully the computer takes care of all the game mechanics and math, which is my main complaint with 3.x/Pathfinder. Because of that, the game is very enjoyable to me. The 3.x based game could be fun as hell if I were a Vulcan and could do the math in my head in milliseconds. Unfortunately, for someone who doesn't want to learn all the rules minutiae to gain system mastery, I'll never play the 3.x game on the tabletop and have as much fun as I do online.

I never got to the high levels in EQ---I think I made 30 or so. I never did the big guild raid stuff. In DDO I am at level 5 (3 Ranger, 2 Rogue). There are probably other distinctions that can be drawn, or other examples to back up the analogy at the higher levels. I look forward to finding out.

I also find it funny that the whole black market that sprung up with EQ, where you could buy game money or game gear with real money, has been taken over by DDO in this case. They sell stuff to you, and tie it to your account so you can't give it away to twink.

I actually kind of like these restrictions though, because I remember how much I hated seeing a 1st level guy walking around with the Armor and Sword of the Gods in EQ.

BTW, my character is on the Khyber world, named "Tapdatbooty". Say hi if you're around.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My First Con, and my first of a lot of things....

I went to Anonycon today, in Connecticut. It was definitely fun. Though I'd never run Red Hand of Doom under 3.x rules, I did enjoy reading it. I converted ti to AD&D rules. We ended up playing the final chapter in the book, the assault on the cult headquarters.

Other than a playtest a few weeks ago, I had not played or DM'd an AD&D game in over 20 years. Even the materials playtested I chose not to use (it was the 4th chapter). So it was definitely a helluva an experience--first convention, first time running a game for people I didn't know very well, first conversion of a newer game to an older ruleset. It was a blast though. I even added in some traps from James Raggi's Green Devil Face 3, just to old school it up a bit more.

I'm glad everyone seemed to have fun. Next time, I won't pull so many punches out of fear of looking like a dickhead DM. My regular group already knows me as such, so with them I can get away with it. :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Annual WOTC Christmas Layoffs Have Commenced.

Confirmed, apparently. 3 people named in the initial post plus one other added later in the thread. Merry Fucking Christmas from WOTC. It must suck to work in a company where every Christmas you live in fear of losing your job, and the stress only goes away when your friend loses theirs.

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/268912-wizards-coast-layoffs-rob-heinsoo-logan-bonner-chris-sims.html

Good luck guys.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This is just goddamn cool---Miniatures Battle of the Moathouse with Gygax, Kuntz, and the original Grognards

You have to check this out....

http://tower.newcenturycomputers.net/staging/Battle-for-the-Moathouse.pdf

Ended up finding it by chance. The pictures are excellent!

Big News from Rob Kuntz and Pied Piper Publishing!

Rob just announced that he is releasing a few great new products.  Among them, an essay detailing dungeon crafting in the early campaigns, including Greyhawk Castle among others, as a learning tool for DM's:

"Within that context, Ramsey Dow and myself have concluded that a treatise—an in depth essay—on dungeon-crafting in its many facets should be of interest, so we are gathering notes to add to my already 10,000+ word MS which describes the creation of Greyhawk™ Castle, Castle El Raja Key and Maure Castle™. This historical and instructive treatise will cover the beginnings of this honored endeavor and track some of the changes that have taken effect with the modernization of the game."

In addition, he is releasing two new products in his Dungeon Sets (tm) line, detailing 12 levels of dungeons, USABLE BY ANY SYSTEM!

"DUNGEON SETS™ was an idea conceived to bring maximum game value to each DM’s table, whatever FRPG system they are currently using. These are un-keyed, color maps with integration notes and a comprehensive legend that are presented as a contiguous, and exacting, dungeon setting. In studying the needs of DMs who all have specific campaigns with real histories, characters and plots of their own, it became apparent that the idea of mainstay adventure modules, such as many based upon TSR’s old model of assumed expediency, has shifted greatly with the contraction of that market and an ever present need over the years for specific game material created by each DM. In keeping with that honored ideal, PPP will make a leap in two areas: in presenting challenging maps for expansion along different creative lines by individual DMs; and in offering supportive materials for these, such as booklets containing new and innovative monsters, NPCs, spells, magic items, magical areas and set pieces which can be incorporated into the map designs as each DM sees fit, thus expanding the range for them to continue “branding” their own campaigns as creatively unique. "

In addition, he will be detailing in other Dungeon Sets, locales alluded to in other products:

"I will be designing sets such as the Fortress of Fyarz and the Cloud Castle of Aer (as noted in the Bottle City). Ramsey will also be creating increasingly imaginative and challenging sets to test the tenacity of your players! The integration notes for DMs will increase as each set expands upon the base we have realized. They will include creative additions not seen at “basic” levels and in concert with supplemental source material will allow for an ever-expanding range of imaginative material to be used in stocking these dungeons and settings."

Release date is November 15. Check Pied Piper for more details.

I can't wait!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kobold Quarterly review---plus, do we really need magazines?

I was one of probably 40000 bloggers given a free review copy of KQ 11 a couple weeks ago.  I've seen it before, both in paper and pdf, and I like it.  It's very reminiscent in style to the older Dragon magazines of a couple decades ago.  The articles are very informative and interesting, covering both 3.x/PF and 4.0.  One article from Monte Cook in particular stood out.  What I liked the most was the ads though. The one from Planet Stories stood out as pretty neat, with a retro look as befits the line of books published by Paizo. 

I remember riding my bike to the mall, so I could hide in the corner of the bookstore and read Dragon Magazine cover to cover, being too broke to afford to buy it.  (That's also where I tore off the shrink wrap from stuff to read it, so I wouldn't have to buy it sight unseen...or to just try to memorize it because I couldn't afford modules either)  Back then, I hardly knew anyone who played DnD, and Dragon was my only glimpse into the bigger world of DnD.   The ads let me know what new stuff was coming out.  I read the magazine as much for the ads as for the articles.  We took the articles as official canon, not knowing any better.  The letters to the editor were really interesting, both the questions people had and the responses given opened up our  isolated game table to other new ideas we would try to incorporate. 

Kobold Quarterly has all that.   My question is, do we need it?  With the Internet, we have an overabundance of everything the magazine gives us.  Even the RPG Notables who were featured in a couple of the KQ articles have blogs, and are approachable on the Internet in a variety of mediums.  Some of the blog and board posts where people made up content or fiction is better than what you find in KQ---through no fault of KQ.  Like I said, it's a good magazine, and brings back fond memories of crouching in a corner at Waldenbooks all afternoon. But since the advent of OGL/d20 where nothing is canon unless you want it to be; and boards, blogs, and chatrooms where anything and everything is discussed and created;  and mailing lists and web pages letting you know what new products are coming out, why do we need a magazine?

I wouldn't buy the magazine, personally, as the Internet fills my needs.  That is not a reflection on KQ though.  It does what it does very well.  It's a good magazine. I just don't feel that I have a need for it. 

Race and Class in Older Editions

Since Friday's AD&D game (my first in over 20 yrs.) I've been thinking about racial limits to class and levels.  When later editions came out, I remember thinking cool, they got rid of that.  It never made any sense. Now, looking back, I think it made sense from a certain perspective.  After getting back into the literary roots of the game, and reading a bit about where certain aspects of the game came from, I think I get and appreciate the class and level limits a bit better.

Basically, the bottom line reason, is that Gygax wanted humans to be the predominant race, and the other races were somehow lesser.  Also, even though they looked human, they were different creatures.  Elves weren't humans with pointy ears.  They were physiologically, and more importantly, mentally different than humans.  Hell, they didn't even have a soul.  They were  a part of nature/faerie world.  The physical similarities didn't make up for the fundamental differences in the way their brains were wired.

I think one of the reasons that the limits were excised was that it is not politically correct to say that someone is inferior to another in certain ways.  It leads to all sorts of accusations of racism and hate crimes.  So as not to engender that, and to recover from the early bad rep of D&D as satanic, all aspects of that were wiped out.

Also, players wanted the ability to make their elves Uber, goddamnit, and why do the rules say we can't?  In all the novels I've read they are Uber.  I wanna be Uber!  Whhaaaa!!  Coming from a different literary background latter-day gamers didn't recognize the base of where D&D came from, me included.

For example, personally speaking, I cannot do higher forms of math--as in anything beyond pre-algebra. My mind is not wired for it.  No matter how much I was taught, over and over, I never grasped it in the slightest. I could memorize steps to do basic pre-algebra equations, but I really had no understanding of what I was doing.   On the other hand, in areas like reading comprehension and analysis, I test very high.  It's a breeze.  My brain is just wired that way.   Within the human race we have very wide degrees of separation between people.  Though it's politically incorrect to say so, not everyone is created equally.  But within the human race, there are measurable norms and variations from that norm.

Now imagine an entirely different race of beings, which only superficially look human, but are as different from you or I both spiritually and mentally as we are from kangaroos, but who are highly evolved and very intelligent, and are able to communicate with us verbally.  That's what gnomes, dwarves, elves, and halflings are.

With that in mind it is completely understandable that they would have racial level and class limits.  Their minds can only mimic the human world's classes and abilities to a certain extent, the extent to which their brains are wired for it.

On the flip-side, something which was not explored but would have been cool if it had been, what are the classes that the demi-humans are naturally wired for?  What spells or spell-like magical abilities would they have had? What inherent racial traits, other than ones in the context of a human-centric point of view or the ones useful for adventuring, would they possess?

It's interesting to think about.

DM'd my first AD&D game in over 20 years Friday night....

It was fun.  I actually DM'd the group in my modified 3.x adventure Red Hand of Doom, as a trial run for the Con I will be running it at.   They didn't know it was coming, expecting the Bard campaign.

Players were my brother and a friend who also hadn't played AD&D in over 20 years, and one guy who never played D&D at all until 3.0 a few years ago.  I had copies of the DMG and PHB for all.  We hadn't expected the new guy to show, which is why I thought it would be a good night to spring the surprise AD&D night on the group. 

Prep time took a bit longer with him there, but it was interesting watching his reaction.  I had pregen characters, and he ended up with the magic-user and the ranger.    He was trying to look up some stuff in the DMG asked "Uh, is there any sort of organization to this book?" I responded "Yeah, Gygax's stream of consciousness."  We all laughed when he asked if the range of spells was really measured in inches.  The dreaded THACO conversation with him turned out well, as he is an engineer by trade.  :) He picked it up fast.

Prepping for the game was fast for me, after I got done writing up the pregen sheets.  I basically copied them from 2 modules:  the pregens in the back of Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, and from Against the Giants.  The copying over and looking up the gear and rules for everything else on the character sheets was essential for me as DM to rememeber the basics.  There was a lot of stuff I never knew, or forgot I knew. Mostly related to combat. Gygax was clear as mud on some matters, and I realized we houseruled back in the day not knowing we were houseruling, as we never really did the surprise stuff by the book.

Nonetheless I decided to do it as by the book as I could, minus weapon against specific armor types, which I thought was an Unearthed Arcana thing, rather than a AD&D original DMG thing.  I was surprised to see it there.  I didn't like it in UA, and I still don't like it. So we eliminated it.  We also left out weapon speed factors.

Damn I like group initiative.

The adventure went well.  It was a bit faster than our 3.0 game, but not by much, I think for 2 reasons.  First, we had to remember and figure out stuff as we went, like thief backstab bonuses to hit, for example.  So that took longer than normal.  Also, we use narrative combat in 3.0, so the time difference wasn't as great as for people who use mini's and grid combat and all the special movement and attack rules in 3.x.  We don't use many of those rules in our 3.0 game.

Still, I thought we'd get more done.  I think the reason why I thought we would make more progress is that the last time we played with this system was high school.  We could literally play for 15 hours straight, get up the next day and do it again.  Now our old working butts are tired at 11:30 pm.

Afterwards, the next day I read OSRIC's combat section, looking for more ways to streamline the combat and make it easier to explain to people. I really like how they explained, especially initiative.  It's a well done book, and from what I've seen the changes they made to the system are very few, mostly minor, but good ones, like fighter specialization, fighters v. low level guys, and some magic item changes.

Playing also made me realize that AD&D is my favorite system, even more-so than 2e which I thought was my favorite for a long time.  There is something grittier about it, less politically correct, and less story based.  Less of a assumption that you are the "good guy".   Most of what I realized I like now about AD&D 1e there was no way to appreciate back in the 80's, because I didn't read its literary influences like Vance, Howard or Leiber, nor did I have the life experiences to appreciate such a game. 

I'm actually tempted to get together a regular AD&D 1e/OSRIC group now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

PDF Piracy

Interesting article.  Think there is a correlation to the RPG world?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/illegal-downloaders-spend-the-most-on-music-says-poll-1812776.html

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A fun surprise for tomorrow night's game...

I am scheduled to DM the 3.x Bard Rock Band campaign tomorrow night.   Tell me what's wrong with these pictures then...

:)









I decided to make them the guinea pigs tomorrow night for my AD&D conversion of Red Hand of Doom.  :)

I started working on tonight.  I am going to run them through chapters 4 and 5 of the module. Chapter 4 conversion is complete.  This will be the run-through of what I plan to run at a local Con in December.

They have no idea it's coming.  Two of the guys haven't played AD&D 1e since like 1989.  The other guy never played any edition other than 3.0.  It should be interesting.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wanna help me brainstorm?

I threw a big curveball at the players last time I DM'd the bard medieval rockband campaign.  It was set in Freeport, with part of the island concealed by the mystical fog from Castle Zagyg's Upper Works.  Freeport was set in the Wilderlands setting.

Anyhow, as part of the last session, I wanted to spice things up. I found I didn't have enough time to learn the ins and outs of Wilderlands, so I decided as a side effect of the players magically opening up large areas of the concealed parts of the island, includng the Castle itself, all kinds of crazy extra-planar rift shit happened.  I plopped the whole damn island chain 2 miles off the coast of Waterdeep, 1st edition Forgotten Realms, a place I know pretty well.  Meaning pre-scimitar-wielding drow, pre-time of troubles, pre-everything second edition.  I personally think that the grey box Realms was pretty old school in mentality.  (Disagree in another place please....)

And I've already decreed that Elminster had his hands cut off, his tongue ripped out and his balls and cock fed to piranha while still attached, for having been caught fondling young boys behind his tower.  So he is out of the picture.

Thing is, I hadn't planned on playing this again until January, so I put it on the back burner.  Our regular session is canceled for this week, so we decided just tonight to play the rock band bards on Friday night. 

I haven't put a lot of thought into the consequences of dropping an island of pirates 2 miles off the coast of Waterdeep.  I figured I had more time.   :)

Wanna help flesh some stuff out?

Here are some ideas so far:

1.  They owe a favor to the crime lord Finn, so he has them investigate the city, with his weirdass submarine contraption.  (Apparatus of Kwalish? or something like that)  They have to break through the Waterdeep naval blockade submarine style and report back.

2.  Large waves and seismic tremors wrecked a lot of the dock area of Waterdeep, hurting the navy.  An alliance with the new island would be helpful.

3.  Waterdeep, unurt by the plopping, after long negotiations, instead of conquering the city, decided to keep them as a sort of puppet state, independent in name, but gets them to do their dirty work.

4.  Tough situations would arise if a city like Freeport with its "evil" humanoids integrated with Waterdeep.

5.  Other cities of the sword coast, enemies of Waterdeep, seek alliance with the new island against Waterdeep.  This would mean that Waterdeep's navy and docks were wrecked heavily, for Waterdeep to tolerate such a thing and the navy of Freeport is relatively intact.

6.  Adventurers from Waterdeep flock to Castle Zagyg, once the blockade goes away.

7.  Naval War!

8.  Trade War!

9.  Part of the mountain in Waterdeep collapses on the city, hurting them badly economically, forcing them to need Freeport.

10.  Freeport's factions unify out of fear of a common new unknown enemy---Waterdeep.

11.  The party's actions in opening up the mist areas and the Castle are known by Freeport and eventually Waterdeep's rulers---making them targets of interest---and hate.

12.  Finn the crime lord finds out about it, keeps it quiet and uses it as leverage over the PC's.

13.  War between the underworld of the 2 cities.

14.  I may use the Ruins of Undermountain, especially the evil city underneath it.

15.  More rifts open up in various places, some permanent in nature.  Some to other primes, some to evil places.

Throw me your ideas!  Any idea is a good idea, both for the short term and the long term.  What would logically happen as a result of this crazy event?  :)

Thanks!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Note the new kid on the RPG Social Networking block---link to the right.

It's called the Role Playing Media Network, set up by Berin Kinsman Unclebear).  It's already having explosive growth, over 100 members in like 6 hours.  It's pretty cool, with chatroom, forums, blogs, media centers, all sorts of neat things.  Check it out...click on the link to the right.  

Just in case the RPGN bites it....

make sure you save your favorite blogs as favorites in another application, like the Blogger Dashboard thing.  All you have to do is click somewhere on a blog to be a follower of the blog, starting with mine of course.  :)

I'm not saying it will crash and burn, just being cautious.  I have no idea what will happen, especially now that I unsubscribed from the mailing list.  Burnt me out trying to figure what was going on...

All 250 or so of the RPG-related blogs I follow are listed on the right, in case you're looking for a starting point.

Megadungeons....

Are just plain ol' boring to me.  The last long term dungeon I played was Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil.  I couldn't stand having my character stuck in a hole in the ground for the best 8 or so levels of his life, rather than walking around the world, doing his own thing.  Granted, I've been called a control freak in RL, and my characters seem to have that trait as well, but to just hang around in a hole in the ground killing shit and taking their stuff ad nauseum is just a waste of time to me.

It's like the difference between the old video game Gauntlet and the newest MMORPG's.  The freedom to do what you want to do, and not be tied to a place to go kill shit and take their stuff.

If you like it, more power to you.  It's just not to my tastes.  I like being above ground, shaping my own character's destiny in the world around him.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Aprarently Conan was real, and we're all a bunch of pansies.

Came across this anthropology article the other day, and it made me realize how much sitting on my fat lazy ass typing on Blogs and Boards has made me a girly-man.  Check it out....



http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE59D0BR20091014?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=11604&sp=true

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Character Class Archetypes, Reality, and Game Preferences

It occurs to me as I play PF/3.5 as written that my preferences for a less grid/movement/tactical game come not only from a preference for a certain style of play, i.e. narrative v. tactical, but perhaps primarily derive from how I define character classes.

My preferences for character classes go back to the original Red Box stuff, where you had a guy who swings a sword, a guy who steals stuff, a guy who can pray and have actual miracles occur as a result, and a guy who can use magic.  I like those 4 archetypes because they are very basic, and because (outside of the magic and miracles) they represented what an ordinary guy Western Europe in the middle ages could do. 

For example, a guy in the middle ages who was a warrior swung a heavy piece of sharp metal.  The more he swung it and prevailed in combat, the better he got at swinging it.  The guy who steals stuff had to rely on his physical body to move around silently, and his wits to determine if there were traps, or people he didn't trust.  The more he was successful, he became more experienced, and became better at doing what he did best.

The rules of Basic D&D let me determine if an ordinary guy who fights with a sword or steals is successful at what he is trying to do.  In other words, you have an average guy who is good with a sword.  He is not supernaturally strong, nor does he have any powers a guy in Western Europe in 1345 AD wouldn't have had. He is not as strong as a giant, nor could he ever grow to be.  If I wanted to determine if that guy in a magic free world swung his sword and hit something, the rules of D&D Basic Set give me the ability to do so.  They don't give me any rules for something an average Western European in 1345 AD couldn't do.  This is the natural world, the same one we all live in today. The rules for these two character classes just describe what we can already do in the natural world, both then and now, and help us adjudicate chances for success.  You could run a game of D&D set in the medieval European world of Earth using the Red Box rules for fighter and thief and its combat rules.

That's the base of the game.  Let's call it the natural world.

Then you have the overlay of magic and miracles on top of it. Let's call this the fantasy overlay, level 1.  In addition to being able to wield a weapon and wear armor, a guy can also cause miracles to occur, as a result of the direct intervention of a deity he worships. Another guy can also tap into mystical forces which are real, and cause fire to spring from his hands and burn his foes. They both tap into the forces of the supernatural.  Certain elements of fantasy books, magazines and movies of the time were basically added to the natural world, and we now have normal people living in the natural world, some of which have the ability to do the fantastic, or tap into the supernatural.  In all cases though, the magic or miracle was something that was outside of you. You were a normal man who was able to tap into something outside of yourself and make it affect the world around you. The character wasn't himself magical, fantastic, or supernatural in any way. 

Next we have supernatural creatures added into the combination of natural world and fantasy overlay 1.  Let's call this fantasy overlay 2.  Some of the less fantastic creatures can be played as classes, and some are there to interact with in other ways (mostly just to kill and take their stuff).  Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Gnomes, etc. represent classic fantasy creatures, with rules which determine their ability to do things in certain circumstances. These races are not as powerful as most of the other fantastic creatures, but are more numerous.  They are inspired from classic mythology and other fantasy elements of the time when the rules were written.  The rules describe how the abilities they were portrayed as having in mythology or in the literature of the day function and interact with the natural world.

There was a strict division in the classes humans were able to play.  You were one of the 4, and there was no overlap in abilities.  You were either someone who fought, stole, used magic, or caused miracles to occur.  

Again though, until we added the fantasy layers, the rules represented reality and how to deal with real life situations that would have occurred in 1345 AD or 2009 AD, assuming we stole without the use of technology and fought with medieval weapons in 2009.  The classes represented that reality.

Classes in later editions don't start off in the natural world.  They are inherently supernatural, jumping right into, stemming from, and are an inherent part of fantasy overlay 2.  How else do you describe a race/class combo that can teleport at will?  Or push a dragon a distance just by using a power?  Or a swordsman who can target, mark, curse, put an oath on, or otherwise affect his foes magically before he even swings a sword? Or heal himself at will?  Is this ability inherent in everyone who lives in the land? Making them all supernatural? Or can it be learned?  Making humans all latently supernatural? Are these people even human anymore?

Just so you don't think I'm picking on 4e, to use 3.x examples, how can someone shoot 2 arrows at once with any accuracy in the real world?  Or not be penalized for shooting arrows into an ever-shifting melee combat?  Or not be penalized when swinging a sword at someone when you're blind?  Or hit four people with one swing of the sword with equal effectiveness?  Or trip or grapple a guy 2 or 3 times your weight? Or grow in strength to be as strong as a supernatural creature 10 times his weight?  Would a guy with a sword in England in 1345 AD be able to do that?

The reality we are starting with in the later editions is not natural, it is supernatural, or superheroic at least.  It's a world where the adventurer is not the average guy who got good with a sword, but something not human as we would describe it on earth in 2009.  Supernatural abilities are built into the class, and the class doesn't describe what a person primarily does (as in swings a sword, steals, causes miracles or casts spells), as much as it describes a list of inherent supernatural or superheroic abilities or powers that a person has. The rules no longer start with a basis of reality in the natural world. They start with a basis in a reality I can no longer identify with, either because I am not involved with or don't like the latest literary, film, or computer game influences, or because of some other reason.

I can understand that some fighters may be better with a bow than they are with a sword due to specializing in it, and that a thief may be a cat burglar rather than a pick pocket. To the extent the rules allow for such specialization, I agree with them.  But other than casting spells due to arcane study or making miracles due to devotion to a diety, I don't agree with rules which represent a reality not present in 1345 AD England.

Not surprisingly, I also don't agree with multiclassing without serious penalties.  Each profession of the four above requires much hard work and discipline to achieve mastery in.  When you dabble in two fields which each require total focus to master and get better at, there ought to be a seriously huge penalty to how fast you can achieve mastery in each (level up) when you are dividing your attention.

To the extent someone may argue that some of these classes from later editions are simply characters with multiclassed abilities integrated so as to make a new class, or a prestige class, I also call BS on it.  It has no basis in reality, because you are essentially starting as human and melding into your very being supernatural or magical abilities, so that they manifest in a sword fighter who can channel electricity bolts from their being through their sword on a successful hit.   Or who can blink in and out of a this phase of existence, like a phase spider, and strike down a foe without them seeing you coming, not due to casting a spell, and channeling energy outside of yourself, but by using energy and power you somehow have made a part of yourself.  Again, you're no longer human.

To the extent a class system is more based in the natural world, with magic or miracles being something a special class of adventurer has to cast spells to achieve, who is a normal human being in every respect other than their ability to cast spells,  I like the game system better.  Likewise, to the extent all playable races have abilities which aren't magical or supernatural (like the ability to cast faerie fire) but are rather the product of them living in a certain environment and being in tune with it due to the nature of their race (detect stonework traps), I like those races better.

Was I imprinted by my early experiences to therefore like certain editions and styles more than others?  Yup.  Obviously.  Does it matter to me what someone else plays?  Nope.  Enjoy it.  I just write these essays and experiment with newer systems to help me to better define what I like in a game, and why I like it.  There is no one game system which is inherently better than others, except on a personal level, due to personal preference.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The role of Customer Service in an RPG company

I wonder how much different D&D would have been if the original attitude prevailing at early WOTC as described in the link below had been present for the past 10 years.

An interesting thread on this topic is running at TheRPGSite.com now.

Here's the link mentioned above,   from Al at Beyond the Black Gate, and think it's pretty relevant to the discussion...Enjoy...

Back to the subject at hand in this thread,  I doubt that any of the PR or customer service mistakes would have been made. It would have been so fundamentally against the corporate culture to do so, that they would never have come up.

I think that the Lisa and Vic mentioned in that article link are the same who now own Paizo, so maybe in a sense the spirit of the early WOTC days is still alive in Paizo/Pathfinder.

Fundamentally it comes down to who owns/runs/works at the company, and why they do so. If it's all about the money to the detriment of the hobby and those who enjoy the hobby, you have problems. To the extent the decisions and corporate environment reflect the spirit of enthusiastic members of the hobby making things for others who enjoy the hobby, you have a company like Paizo doing well with PR effortlessly, because to them it's not PR. It's just being themselves and enjoying what they're doing.

I wonder if we can ever get such an attitude back for D&D pen and paper tabletop roleplaying in some way...I don't know if the cultural underpinnings are there anymore to support such widespread manic enthusiasm for either the current or older versions of the game.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Scott Rouse leaves WOTC

Being the PR guy for WOTC these past few years must have been like being the guy back in the 90's who had to make sure Bill Clinton didn't get in trouble with women while President.

That WOTC was a PR nightmare of their own making can't be disputed.  That it was Rouse's fault though is another question.  How much input he had in choosing the direction of 4e, or deciding to pull pdf's we don't know.  How much his hands were tied in dealing with WOTC's messes we don't know either.

The situation could have been as simple as:

WOTC Suit who never played D&D before:  "We need to make a new version of D&D that effectively destroys most of the 3pp market with a very restrictive token "partnership" license only a fool would sign onto because it puts all the power back in our hands, gets kids who play MMORPG's to play D&D, and changes the game mechanics and language drastically for the sole purpose that no one can legally make anything for it via the OGL.  After that, we need to do everything we can to make sure no one plays any version of the game other than our latest one, so we need to stop selling anything for any other version of the game."

Rouse:  "That will piss a lot of people off."

WOTC Suit who never played D&D before:  "Who gives a shit?  All that matters is that every buck that people spend on RPG's goes to us.  It's your job to put the best face on whatever we do. Just don't tell the truth about anything.  Spin Spin Spin.  Deny 'till you die.  Give vague non-specific glimpses of the new game. Get the suckers excited. That will hurt the 3pp's, as people stop making or buying for the old system, just like in the 3.0 switch to 3.5 days."

Rouse: "Once the truth is out about what we did, I'll look like a liar, and so will the company."

WOTC Suit who never played D&D before:  "Who the fuck cares. At that point, there will be no real competition anyhow (and I'll likely have gotten a promotion and be out of this Hasbro backwater division anyhow, for my cost cutting profit increasing measures of firing half the division after the new version is released.)  If people play old systems, they likely won't spend a buck on anything new anyhow.  So fuck 'em.  We need to get the people who still delude themselves into thinking they can't make up better shit than the piss-poor waste of paper we put out every month.  After all, it's not like some company is going to keep the old system alive, revamping the old rules, and still publish quality material for it.  Besides, people are too stupid to believe the truth that this was our plan all along, even when the truth is obvious, staring them in the face."

Rouse:  "Ok.  Sounds good.  I'm on board with the plan.  Brilliance!"  (goes to polish up his resume.)

Good Luck Scott.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Massive Hoard of Old School Gaming Material Looted at Local Store-----Check it Out!!!

So, as a result of what I posted last weekend, I contacted a local comic store which I didn't even know existed, that's right near my house.  I asked them if they had any Dungeons and Dragons stuff.  He said nothing new, just a few boxes of old stuff.  My interest piqued, I asked if I could take a look at it.

OH MY F^%KING GOD

A MASSIVE collection of old school stuff, much of which I had never even hear of, going back to the 70's.  All kinds of odd publishers.  Apparently they had been in some guy's mother's attic since the 80's, and the guy just wanted the comic guy to sell them for him.

The comic guy said there were a few kids in earlier in the week, who asked if he had any D&D stuff, and he directed them to the boxes.  The kids took a look, and apparently not recognizing a thing they understood to be D&D, making comments about "old shit", they left it untouched.

Thank GOD for the stupidity of kids today!!!

I purchased it ALL!!!   I'll save the price to the end.  Before you ask, NO!  I am not selling a damn thing.  :)  I would be curious as to your best guesstimates as to how much it is worth though.

I just brought it home tonight. First, and most importantly, such a massive organizing endeavor required Beer.  Much Beer.  A 12-pack at least.  I'll put the pizza on hold until after the organizing. No sense getting the stuff greasy.

Next, I laid it out on my kitchen table organized by publisher and type, and typed up this list.

Note that this stuff is 99.5 % in fantastic condition.  Well over half of it, and most of the magazines, are in plastic sleeves.  The stuff looks virtually untouched. The only thing that has seen better days is the MM1, which looks like a Tarrasque got a hold of it. Everything else is in amazing shape.


Behold My Treasure!!!!!!!!


Judge's Guild:

Book of Treasure Maps III
Character Codex
The Book of Ruins
Modron
Island Book 1
Portals of Torsh
The Illhiedrin Book
Zienteck
The Book of Treasure Maps II
Wondrous Relics
Fantastic Personalities
Portals of Twilight
Tegel Manor (1980)
Caves and Caverns
Spies of Lightelf
The Unknown Gods
Wondrous Weapons
Lara's Tower
The Caverns of Thracia
Rat on a Stick
Frontier Forts of Kelnor
The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor
Ready Ref Sheets Volume 1 Second Edition
1 big 2-sided map of the Wilderlands, one side with hexes, one side without.
Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches
Wilderlands of the Magic Realm
Map--1-sided-Map 1-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 2&3-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 4&5-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 6-Laminated (other side bland hexes)
Map--2-sided-Map 7&8-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 7&8-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 7&8-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 9&10-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 9&10-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 7&8-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 12&13-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 12&13-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 12&13-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 14&11-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 14&11-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 15&16-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 15&16-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 15&16-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 17&18-Not-Laminated
Map--2-sided-Map 17&18-Laminated

Midkemia Press:

Jonril, Gateway to the Sunken Lands-with Map (co-author Raymond E. Feist!!!)

Bard Games:

The Compleat Spellcaster
The Compleat Adventurer

Chaosium:

Carse (Midkemia Press City)
Cities

Columbia Games:

Rethem Kingdom Module
Orbaal Kingdom Module
Chybisa Kingdom Module
Azadmere Kingdom of the Dwarves
Son of Cities Expansion Module for Cities of Harn

Iron Crown Enterprises:

Thieves of Tharbad (Middle-Earth)
Haunted Ruins of the Dunlendings (Middle-Earth)
Creatures and Treasures

The Companions:

Plague of Terror
Highroad
Streets of Gems
Gems for Death
Cards of Power
Sylvan Settings

Beast Enterprises Ltd.:

Tortured Souls 4
Tortured Souls 5
Tortured Souls 8
(Like an early British Dungeon Magazine, #4 is from 1984)

Flying Buffalo:

Grimtooth's Traps Too (1982)
The Isle of Darksmoke 1, The Nameless Village and the Dome Level

Role Aids:

Monsters of Myth and Legends
Angry Wizard Fez III
Swordthrust
Evil Ruins
Deadly Power
Question of Gravity
Undead
Dark Folk
Shipwrecker
Fantastic Treasures II

White Dwarf Magazine:

Issue 44x2
Issue 50
Issue 79
Issue 55
Issue 74
Issue 51
Issue 45
Issue 34
Issue 85
Issue 36
Issue 53
Issue 32
The Best of White Dwarf Scenarios Volume III

Dungeon Magazine:

Issues 2-13
Issues 15-18
Issue 20
Issue 21 (with poster)

Basic/Moldvay/Holmes Etc.:

Player Character Record Sheets (3-hole punched booklet of green sheets)
B4 The Lost City (3-hole punched)
X9 The Savage Coast
X3 Curse of Xanathon
AC10 Beastiary of Dragons and Giants
B6 The Veiled Society
M2 Vengeance of Alphaks
X7 The War Rifts of Kron
M1 Into the Maelstrom
CM3 Sabre River
X6 Quagmire
AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn

AD&D Books and Supplements:

DMG New Cover
Unearthed Arcana
Monster Manual 2
Field Folio
Players Handbook Old Cover
The Rogues Gallery
Players Reference Screen
Monster Manual Old Cover (pretty beat up spine, but this is the only thing in the collection in less than really good shape)
WORLD OF GREYHAWK (I put this in all caps because it is not boxed, but in a folder, with maps of Greyhawk, the maps are the same as the boxed set and thre is a booklet called the Gazetteer.  I've never seen or heard of this version before).

AD&D Modules:

WG4 Forgotten Tample of Tharizdun
A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity
Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits
D3 Vault of the Drow
I10 Ravenloft II: The Houe of Gryphon Hill
I12 Egg of the Phoenix
C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
S2 White Plume Mountain (Orange Edition Extra Artwork)
WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure
UK1 Beyond the Crystal Cave
UK2 The Sentinel
C4 To Find a King
X13 Crown of Ancient Glory
I5 Lost Tomb of Martek
D1-2 Descent Into the Depth of the Earth
G1-2-3 Against the Giants
I11 Needle
MV1 Midnight on Dagger Alley (With Magic Viewer!!!)
H2 Mines of Bloodstone
N5 Under Illefarn (For Realms)
H4 Throne of Bloodstone
Waterdeep and the North
Empires of the Sands

Dragon Magazines:

Issues 56, 57
Issues 73, 74, 75x2, 76
Issues 80, 81, 82, 83x2, 85, 88
Issues 94x2, 95, 97, 99
Issues 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109
Issues 110, 111, 112, 113, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119
Issues 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 129
Issues 130, 131, 149, 155
Best of Dragon Volume 3

Assorted Random Stuff:

Imagine Adventure Games Magazine Issue #1 April 1983 (Apparently a UK Official TSR version of Dragon Magazine)
Game Master Publications GM3 In Search of New Gods
Entertainment Concepts (1982) Search for the Lost City:  A Jungle Adventure
The Armory (1986) 30-sided Character and Other Tales
Heritage Models (1978) Rules for Wargames, Wizards and Warfare, by Peter Irving
Dragon Publishing: Dragontales-- An Anthology of All-New Fantasy Fiction August 1980 (Apparently a TSR publication of Fiction Stories.  Even Tom Moldvay has a story in there called Black Lotus Moon)
Fantasy Games Unlimited Castle Plans for Sieges in 25 mm Scale (including the castle maps and plans, 4 sets)
Warlock The Fighting Fantasy Magazine, Volumes 6 and 8, (1986)
Squadron/Signal Publications (1981) Down in the Dungeon (Color artwork)
Avalon Hill:  General, Volume 26, No. 6
Heavy Metal Magazine October and November 1981
Marvel Comic: The Savage Sword of Conan #111
Harrier Comics Presents Redfox No. 9


The Price I Paid:


$100 bucks.  


For all of it. 

HA!!!!!!!!!!!

And best of all, I have a 3 day weekend coming up.  I now have plans for the weekend---Do Not Disturb!

What do you think it's all worth? Best guess?


Monday, October 5, 2009

D&D and Halloweens Past


1992. We were in college, and after an entire day of paintball wars (single shot pump action pistols, none of that automatic spray the woods with paint crap for us), we got ready for a whole long night of D&D.

Anyhow, we're all drinking and rolling dice and on the third floor of this guy's apartment. We hear the knock on the door of trick-or-treaters, but we're all too tired and drunk to go down and up to answer it. Besides, all we had was beer to give them anyhow, and we weren't parting with the beer.

Next thing you know, his window gets pelted with half a dozen eggs. We look out the window, and it was a bunch of high school kids, too old to be trick or treating in the first place, taunting us like the frenchman from Monty Python's Holy Grail.

Being all adrenalined up from a successful D&D slaughter, we all looked at each other, finished our beers, grabbed our paintball guns, and proceeded to hunt down and shoot the punks for the next hour, all over the neighborhood.

Best Halloween D&D night ever.

Regional Demographics of Gamers in the US

I'll probably land in hot water for the stereotypes I am about to bring up, but here goes.  I was thinking this morning about the lack of gaming stores in my area, Connecticut.  As far as I can tell from a few years of looking, there are none.  I have to go browse for books at the local big chain retail bookstores, and they basically only carry official D&D books.  The closest ones are in NY City and Boston.  Even then, NY only has like 2 decent ones.  That's for a city of what---11 million people?  All crunched into just a few miles?  

Then I read on various blogs about states in the midwest and west having tons of FLGS (friendly local gaming stores) all over the place, in little towns even and they stay in business.  In some instances, new ones are opening up. I know these states don't have anywhere near the population density of NY City or Boston.  Some states probably don't even have the population of these cities in total. And it's not as if the whole state is serviced by one or two stores.  The geographic distances make that an impossibility. 

So, what's the deal?  Are there more gamers in the midwest and western states?  Is there something about the culture that fosters this?  Or do the metropolitan coastal areas just buy the books online and value a sense of community less than these states?  Is the slower paced lifestyle more conducive to gaming and a gaming lifestyle?   Is this the same in less metropolitan areas around the world? Are hobbies like gaming and other hobbies in which you get benefits from having a FLGS nearby more prevalent in non-east coast-metropolitan regions?

What's up?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Too Heretically Delicious Not To Post...THOR!!!


The next edition

This may be an exercise in futility to say this, but lets try not to get into an edition war on this one.  I'll try and narrow the topic to a specific question:

Since 4e is so tied to the digital medium, and it took so long to get the digital aspect of it functional and integrated, do you think the next edition (4.x or 5e) will be a change as great as 4e was from 3.x?  Or does the investment in all that technology and digital integration force the next edition to be a modification/expansion/overlay of 4e, in that it would be to much of a new investment and too great a loss on the old investment to make such large-scale changes by making much of DDI useless?

Your thoughts?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pathfinder Update 2: Combat

Tonight I got schooled in combat, 3.x/Pathfinder style.

My head is still spinning. We had our first real fights in tonight's game.  It involved a lot of tactical movement with miniatures on a grid/map of the place. What became apparent to me is that without in-depth knowledge of the rules of movement, and what types of actions you can do in certain parts of your turn, you just suck and are far less effective as a player.

The other guys in the group know most everything by heart, and are learning the PF variations on the 3.5 rules.  For me, I'm just learning the 3.5 rules for the first time, and am moving from our usual narrative combat style of play to something very structured.

It's almost like the guys who put together 3.x said to themselves:  "We have a game where people do these couple dozen things in combat all the time. Let's codify everything related to them in the rules, rather than let the DM just wing it when someone wants to try something other than swinging a sword or blasting with a spell."

The combat reminded me of chess with randomness elements, more than anything else.  It's a thinking man's combat, analytical.  I don't know how such a style would handle outside the box creativity, if it weren't accounted for in the rules.

One part of me likes it. I could see myself enjoying it on certain level, if I could ever figure out all the 1001 details of it all and how each element interacts with the rest.  It's truly a game where gamemastery of the rules makes for a great player.  I can also see because of the gamemastery why people look for every advantage they can get with prestige classes, and other splatbook stuff that gets their characters some sort of advantage.

I also can see now where 4e came from a bit more clearly.  There's not much of a leap from what we did tonight, to what I've heard about in 4e games. To the extent that (from what I've heard) 4e is more bland, and not as based in a simulationist world, then I could see myself liking it a lot less than 3.x.

The combats definitely take a lot longer than I am used to.  The tactical advantage gained by movement/skill/feat/spell/combat rules combinations are significant, and require more time that rolling to see if you hit something every round.

One other think I noticed that when playing D&D with virtual strangers, all you have is the game. There is no bullshitting time. We get there, roll, kill, loot, and go home.  The guys I play with all seem pretty cool though, and I'm sure it will change over time as we get to know each other.  But it's just an odd thing not to spend half of our time in non-game related talk.

EDIT to add in response to someone who told me not to feel like I played poorly:

Thanks man.  I think I was more bewildered than anything else.  I read the combat rules in PF, and in the 3.0 rules we use, but we never implemented most of them from the 3.0 rules into our game.  It's an entirely different thing to read about them, and then see them effectively implemented.

I kept saying to myself "Wow. This is D&D huh?"  I feel like I should have felt like I was left behind for these last 10 years, but due to my ignorance of the true 3.x game, didn't feel that way--if that makes any sense.

The other thing I realized  is why I am so confused when people say that "X spell is broken" ,when X spell is basically the same as it's been since the 70's. When the game is so rules centered, where every action has a predictable outcome, if you throw a spell in there which throws off predictability, people don't like it.  Maybe a rigid ruleset has made DM's less flexible and less capable of handling it.  Player's maybe don't want to have all their tactical logical plans shot to hell because of the randomness factor.  It makes more sense.

I'm sure 3.x is a fine game, and I am enjoying learning it for the first time.  I just don't see myself and my group adopting it once my little solo experiment with it is over.  But even with all that being said, I'm having fun learning something new, and the group is a bunch of decent guys.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I'm gonna do it.... !!!!!!

One of the guys in my new Pathfinder group runs AnonyCon in Stamford CT. He asked me if I was willing to DM a game there. For the reasons described in my other post, my houseruled game would be difficult to DM. I was thinking of doing a AD&D game (if I did it at all), just because it was the game I had some of the most fun with ever, and I haven't played it since the late 80's/early 90's and want some nostalgia play.

I've decided to do it. I am going to run AD&D, because I haven't run it in over 20 years and have the itch. To add to the challenge, I'm going to run the "Red Hand of Doom" module, originally for 3.x. I'll convert it, both as a way to re-familiarize myself with AD&D, and as a way to ensure that no potential players know whats coming.

Plus, I am going to do this in coordination with TARGA, an organization created to raise awareness of traditional adventure roleplaying games. I ran my rum-and-coke influenced mouth the other week ago on their mailing list with ideas and critiques, so now I feel obligated to put my money where my mouth is.

I'll probably give out TARGA fliers, info, and CD's to people who show up. I figure that since Red Hand was a great 3.x module, showing how 3.x games can be backwards converted and still be fun is a nice way to get newer players into older games.

I will spend a lot of time converting the module, and after the event I will post the conversion notes and stuff on my blog so others can do the same thing if they want.

So once I decided to do it, I went to the old books and stuff to see what I had. The DM's and Player's screens were still there, intact. I used to have AD&D official player character record sheets, the orange ones which were joint sheets. There was one for Magic-User/Illusionist, one for Cleric/Druid, etc. I remembered telling myself 20 years ago that I was going to save one of each and not write on them, just in case I could ever get access to a photocopier somewhere (much harder to get access to one as a 16 year old kid in 1986). Sure as shit, when I checked there was one of each saved. Damn I'm good. Work photocopier here I come!!

I've also managed to pick up an additional PHB and 2 more DMG's over the years, to add to my one of each. Now the players can share a PHB between them.

I've never run Red Hand under 3.x, but always wanted to, which is another reason I want to run it here. I have no idea how long it will take to play out. As such, I will hopefully playtest it once it is converted. I may make the duration open-ended.

More details as I get further along. I'm kinda excited.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Does Pathfinder mark the end of the age of prestige classes?

Do you think people are just tired of splatbooks after the 3.5 era, after seeing what the never-ending splatbook nuclear arms prestige class race ultimately lead to? Are we thankful for good interesting core classes that can be played to high level, and want to just stick with them? Does the Pathfinder RPG mark the new age of far fewer prestige classes?

Did the interruption of no 3.x splatbooks force us to be a bit introspective, take a look around, and realize "Shit, prestige classes are a pain in the ass.  Who needs them and the kind of game they lead to."

The point of my question is as to prestige classes specifically, not splatbooks in general.  Or are prestige classes so integral to splatbook sales that they can not be left out?

Was Pathfinder the impetus many needed to finally say "No more prestige classes!" ?  A natural break with the past in some ways which justifies putting an end to them in peoples' campaigns?  A way to justify getting off the prestige class treadmill?

Another reason may be we are all older now, we who played through the 3.x era, and can pick and choose what we want a bit more discriminatingly, and are less reliant on splatbooks for game mechanic related things? Ideas are always good to glean, but game mechanic stuff like prestige classes, less so? That seems to be a lot of what I am seeing in a thread on TheRPGSite.com I started on getting older...

Also, maybe just going back to core is scratching that Grognard itch?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Update: Details of my first Pathfinder game--what actually happened.

Here are the details of the game you asked for.

I am playing something I’ve wanted to play for a while, a dwarven wizard who can cast in armor, a “fightin’ wizzie!”  Pathfinder’s rules have 2 feats that allow me a arcane failure reduction of 20% by 7th level I think.  Also, I want him to make his own magic armor, shield, and weapon eventually.

I decide to start him as a fighter at level 1, so as to not have to take feats in armor proficiency, and also to give him a boost in hp at low level.  By way of backstory justifying it I came up with the basic “His family was killed by an assault of Drow, and he watched most of them get killed by Drow  wizardry.  Now he wants to learn the ways of the wizard to seek his revenge some day.”  He is already a trained fighter, and for some years has been studying under a wizard master, who says he’s almost there, he just needs to clear his head a bit, go out and see and do things, and eventually those spells in the spellbook he is having so much trouble with will eventually come to him.  So he joined a bunch of people on a mission for hire.

We did the 4d6 dropping the lowest for character generation, and I came up with (after racial adjustments):
  
Rags the Dwarven Wizard-in-Training

Str 12
Dex 16
Con 17
Int 16
Wis 12
Cha 9

I dropped a point into Craft: Armor; Craft: Weapon; Knowledge: Engineering; Knowledge: Engineering; Ride.

Then we did something interesting: we took some background traits or stories which gave half a feat.  We are doing the Legacy of Fire adventure path, and I ended up taking Reactionary, giving me +2 initiative, and Reclaiming Your Roots, which gave me a masterwork Dwarven Waraxe.

The Dwarven Waraxe thing is cool because I planned on using one as a bonded item, and starting out with it as part of my backstory is damn neat, and it gives me a reason to have one.  Plus, a universalist wizard gets an ability to telekineticaly hurl and have return to me a weapon held in hand a few times a day. How cool is it to hurl my family heirloom bonded item a Dwarven Waraxe?  Totally unexpected for a wizard to even have one, the ability to use it, and a proficiency with it.  When it flies from the hand of a dwarven armored wizard who has a shield in his other hand, its gonna be neat.  Thankfully this group isn’t a bunch of min/maxers, so I can try out stuff like this.

The rest of the group consists of a druid with a big snake as a companion, and a cleric and a paladin who both follow the same god.  We are all NG or LG, though after the first session I decided to change to N to better reflect the character’s personality as it was coming out in-game.

The DM is a cool guy, a Yale University post doctoral student, with a German or Austrian accent I think.  It’s often like listening to Arnold Schwarzeneggar when he takes on the voices of the NPC’s. :)  It’s sometimes hard to understand his pronunciation of proper nouns, but he does a great job in every other department, and is very prepared, and takes a lot of pleasure in acting out the roles of the NPC’s in character.
      
So, the adventure begins with us traveling with a guy to meet his boss-lady, who wants to hire us to clear out/reclaim some town for her.  She is of a noble family, working for an overlord of the main city of the area.

As we approach the caravan she is in (desert setting), we see flames coming from camp.  We manage to help put out the fire in one of the wagons, but not before one unfortunate guy in the wagon was burned to death.  We are thanked, and asked to do the main mission, which is to clear out the town from gnolls.  I manage to haggle for a few hundred more gp each out of her.  Through all this I learned about something in the game we never did before–assisting another character in something.  We did it a lot with strength checks, and in talking to other people with diplomacy stuff.

We are also given a side mission–-to find out how the fire started, and if it was caused by someone.  My character, Rags the Dwarf, doesn’t believe in extra missions without extra pay, so he just goes through the motions and by way of “investigating members of the caravan” just hangs around the fire with the dirty, smelly, scruffy, greasy mercenaries, sharing cheap wine and feeling right at home.

The other members of the group do their jobs and ask everyone everything under the sun.  The guy who plays the cleric is an exceptional roleplayer, and he does a great job at asking questions and getting to know people.  Through it all, though, I am amazed at how many skill checks were made and for all manner of things.  Just during one conversation many skill checks were made for bluff diplomacy, sense motive, etc.  In my main group we never make such use of social skills, letting the scenarios be roleplayed out mostly and what you think about if someone is full of crap is what your character thinks.  For diplomacy, we live and die by what we say, not the roll of the dice, though our high skills can enhance it. The main determiner though is what the player says, not the character’s score.  There was also heavy use of knowledge checks.  Apparently these are all standard in most gaming circles in the 3.5 era, so when I say heavy, I mean in relation to the game I normally play in or run.

Anyhow, all signs point to one guy, the greasy smelly guide, who everyone thinks did it.  The rest of the group talks to him, and basically piss the guy off enough that he doesn’t  want to talk anymore.  He says he didn’t do it, it was little bad luck gremlin-like things that did it, and he hates gnolls, having had his whole family killed by them.  He now lives for revenge.

Rags the Wizard in Training, upon hearing this from other members of the group, takes a bottle of wine from the now-drunken mercenaries, walks over to the caravan guide (who is reputedly an expert at killing gnolls), sits down next to him and says basically “Hey buddy, you have hatred and want revenge, I have hatred and want revenge.  I don’t give a shit who killed the guy in the fire.  I don’t even care if it was you.  Have some wine and tell me how to kill gnolls so I can get more powerful and kill drow.”  It was a beautiful bonding moment.

Next up, the middle of the night mission to find and save the caravan’s prize goat.  We hear the sound off in the distance, and head out to investigate.  Rags is thinking “the hell with the goat, but if it’s dead, hey, we can have a good meal out of it maybe.”

So the thing is stuck in a cactus grove, which bordered a steep ravine filled with cacti.  It is also tied to a cactus, an obvious trap. I figure, lets head in, spring it, and beat the shit out of whoever set the trap once it’s sprung.  I didn’t count on losing 3 of my 13 hp from the perilous cacti in walking 3 rounds to get through the grove.  I also didn’t count on having to roll 10 different failed checks to just pick up the goat, cut the rope, and walk out of the grove.  Apparently these gremlin things cause bad luck, in that you have to make every roll twice when near them, and take the worst roll.  Of course, as soon as I managed to do so, the little gremlin thing jumps out from behind a cactus and starts shrieking at me.  I go to throw the goddamn goat down the ravine and into cactus trees so I can fight, but the rest of the group yell to me “No!  It’s the prize Goat!” I say “yell to me” because every one of them, including the brave Paladin, is safely on the other side of the cacti, and the other side of the fighting zone, 3 movement rounds away. Rags taunted the paladin whom I’ve dubbed “Brave Sir Robin” about this during the fight.

Apparently this shriek is a very special kind of shriek, usable once a day, that shatters metal.  Bye Bye family heirloom and future bonded item Masterwork Dwarven Waraxe.
      
Now Rags is pissed.  He pulls out the light crossbow and shoots and kills the little fucker, which was trapped by the druid with an entangle spell.  Still enraged, he picks the corpse up, and begins to drop-kick the corpse into the ravine to be impaled on cactus trees.  The rest of the group yells “No!  We need it as proof that the caravan guide was innocent!”  Note:  they yell this from safely behind the other side of the cactus grove.

Rags finishes the drop kick, and the gremlin thing goes flying.
  
He then picks up the shattered pieces of the Axe, hoping to repair it some day.

We return to camp, heroes of the hour again, for saving the little goat.  The cleric can’t heal me fully, having used his other cure light wounds on the goddamn goat who got fucked up running away from the gremlin thing after I dropped him.

We go to bed, planning to set out next day to clear something out as a prelude to clearing out the town.  Rags is planning his future goat dinner, cooked by fireball, once he figures out how to be a wizard.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My first Pathfinder game

I know I'm gonna regret  blogging with a rum and coke buzz, but here goes.

Today I began my first Pathfinder game with a new second group, playing the "rules as written."  I'm doing it mostly just to learn the ruleset everyone uses who follows the Pathfinder evolutionary branch of D&D, rather than the 4e evolutionary branch, which I have no interest in.  It's a very new experience, because my main non-Pathfinder group is a weird animal. It's my brother and myself, who have played together for 26 years, and a couple friends. Me and the bro have houserules, some of which are detailed in the bard campaign guide (upper right of blog), but we have several times more houserules than listed, because we just know each other and agree on a certain playstyle.  We don't even articulate them all, nor would we be able to if asked.  They are basically just understood between us.  The other guys we play with aren't rules lawyer types, so they don't really care what we do.

That odd playstyle and house-ruleset, and its difference from mainstream 3.x/Pathfinder play, became apparent during my inaugural Pathfinder game tonight, and in discussions leading up to the inaugural gameday.  I am playing Pathfinder with 4 other guys I had never met before we decided to play as a group. We all met via email before we got together in person to play.  So, in that regard it is a very new experience to me as well.  I've never NOT played with my brother, other than with the classmates in 1983 who got me into D&D in the first place.  The others I have played with over the years are just a small handful of people.  These new guys seem really cool though, and have a lot of gaming experience, though when I told one of them I had been playing D&D for 26 years, he said he hadn't even been potty trained for 26 years.  :)

I can't describe my thoughts on Pathfinder without a bit of an intro as to where I am coming from in my regular long-term game.  My regular non-Pathfinder group's game can best be described as 1e/early 2e, with some skills and feats from 3.0.  We basically took the 3.0 rulebook, used the d20 system and spell descriptions, and then proceeded to take a battleaxe to all parts of the game that did not exist in 1992 D&D.  Hence, for example, no DR, no ability score increasing magic items or spells, no attacks of opportunity except as comes up during narrative style combat, no mini's or grids, no prestige classes, no special attacks like bull rush or grapple---basically we just swing heavy sharp metalic objects at people and blast them with fireballs, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.

The other weird thing we do is basically ignore the rules unless it makes for a good book. Let me explain. Basicially, we all play D&D as if we are writing a book together. If we would think either the dialogue, the scene, or the action taken by our characters is cool, and would be really cool to read in a book, we do it. If we don't think it would make a good read in a book, we don't do it.

An example of how that comes up in gamelay is as follows---a guy in my new Pathfinder group told me that in his high level 3.x campaigns his character had upwards of 20-30 buffs/effects on his character at any one time.  Though we use the 3.0 rules as a base in my main group, and the rules provide for it, we never buff like that.  In fact, we rarely buff at all, though the rules allow it, and even assume we do it. Why not?  Because when was the last time you read in a book 3 pages of the main hero spending time getting buffed before a combat?  It would make for a sucky read, and take away from the heroic action.

I am the main guy who buffs, because I am a wizard, and I get mocked for it by the rest of the group, even though I do the basic mage armor, blur, and mirror image buffs before the big bad guy.  It's become a running joke that my wizard is a coward because he buffs.  But I guess that's one reason we don't have a 15 minute adventuring day.  We have plenty of spells left after each encounter because we don't waste them on buffs.  Since we don't use a formal xp system, and just level whenever the dm feels like it, it doesn't matter if we are underpowered as compared to monsters we are "supposed" to be fighting at our level. 

Playing the Pathfinder game "rules as written" is like playing 3.0 for the first time.  As such, I have no meaningful review of Pathfinder, as my experience is not really one most people share. The review would be meaningless.  As for the 3.x system in general, I can say I like aspects of it, like certain skills and feats which help you differentiate your character from others of the same class, but overall I like it less than earlier editions of the game, because of its gradual morphing into a tactical combat game, whose morphing seems to have been completed in 4e.  I prefer a narrative combat style of game.  So, there's my belated review of 3.0 and 3.5, which applies by default to Pathfinder.  I can't compare Pathfinder to other editions, because I never really played other editions as written since early 2e (we never bought or played the latter 2e stuff, which incorporated early incarnations of prestige clases, skills and feats from what I've heard.)

That being said, on our walk back from the game tonight, when describing my regular game, one guy asked why I didn't just play a narrative non-D&D ruleset, and he named several games for me.  I guess the reason is that I like D&D and all the elements that make up the game. I have a certain list of elements in my head which to me represents D&D.  The further one gets from those elements, the less it is D&D to me.  Those elements are probably more limited for me than for others because I have basically never played any other role playing game (other than a very brief stint with MERPS for my brother). Ever.  Just D&D.  It's the only one I ever wanted to play. I never felt the need for another. I don't consider myself a RPG'er in the larger sense of the phrase.  I just like to play D&D, and to the extent the game I play is like the game I played early on in the 80's, the more I like it. I also don't consider myself a gamer in the general sense, as I don't play any type of card games, board games, or MMORPG's or computer games.  I have sporadically in the past, but never really got into it that much.  I'm just a guy who likes to play D&D.

When the new player asked me about 4e, I told him I didn't like it.  He asked me if I played it, and I said no.  He wondered how I could form that opinion. It's basically because it doesn't contain the elements I consider to represent D&D in my head. Compare it to pizza.  My favorite is hawaiian pizza, which comes with ham and pineapple.  But I'll still eat and enjoy a pepperoni pizza.  And I recognize all pizza's as pizza because I have it in my head what properties pizza has.  To me, 4e is lacking certain elements I associate with D&D.  It's not pizza. It may be a meal, but it's not pizza. To others it has those elements.  Others consider it to be pizza.  Everyone has their own elements.  (Yes, I have pizza on the mind, as I skipped dinner and Dominoes is closed, damnit!)   To each their own, as long as they all enjoy their game. Bottom line, we all roll dice. Have fun, roll dice, kill stuff, and take their shit. Lather, rinse, repeat.  :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Holy Crap---Magical Gear Lists, AD&D and 3.x

I was just reading through the old Forgotten Realms Grey Boxed set which was released for AD&D in 1987 I think.  Under the section for mercenary companies, they list the uber company "The Flaming Fist" which was lead by a 20th level fighter, who was also a ruler of a large city.  The Fist cost 10,000 gp per day to hire.  The guy who owned it was super rich and powerful, and could afford the very best of all gear.  His gear was:

1 Greenstone Amulet
Plate mail +2
Displacer Cloak +2
Ring of Absorbtion (750 spell levels left)
Ring of Anti-venom (absorbs poison, 22 charges left)
Girdle of Storm Giant Strength
Gauntlets of Ogre Power
Silver Dagger +2
Silver Longsword +2
An Intelligent shortsword +1 with some minor detection abilities.
A bracelet that alows him to commnicate telepathically with 2 specific people.

Compare him to the iconic 15th level fighter Redgar from Enemies and Allies:

+5 Full plate
Amulet of Natural Armor +2
+5 Greatsword
+2 Mighty composite longbow
20 +1 arrows
Bag of holding
Boots of Striding and Springing
Bracers of Health +4
Cloak of Resistance +4
Gloves of Dexterity +2
Headband of Intellect +4
Belt of Giant strength +6
9 potions of cure moderate wounds.

Keep in mind when comparing the 2 equipment lists that the AD&D guy is the leader of a major city, and head of the largest richest most successful mercenary company in the entire world.  And it says of his gear specifically:

"Eltan is probably the most heavily loaded of the normal high level types, such as successful PC's, shouldn't be walking around with quite so much stuff.  Eltan has it because his mercany company represents the ultimate in equipage, ...and because Eltan is a very rich man who has tried to prepare for every eventuality, such as powerful adventurers trying to knock him off with ease."

When comparing him to the 15th level, yes, 15th level, Redgar, who as Enemies and Allies states is "...an average representative of their race and class."

WTF?!?!?

I'll probably have more to say on this later, but as for now I am still in the WTF!?!? stage.

Does the core mechanic of 3.x push such a reliance on gear?  Or does the CR system designed monsters/XP awards drive the race for gear with plusses next to their name?

I know this is probably an old argument and an old topic for debate, but I don't think I've ever seen a better example of how the gear drives the gameplay/character builds as this one.  I know they're different systems, but still...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I watched a game of D&D tonight streamed live over the web...

Tonight I watched/listened in the background to a group playing D&D 4e streamed live over the Internet.  The site is http://lordsoftyr.com.  Apparently they do it every 2 weeks.  They had some sort of computerized gaming table software, and I think had some people playing remotely as well.  It was very interesting.  The players seem to be a husband and wife, with a few friends.

I have hardly played or even seen games played by people outside of a very small group of friends.  Ignoring the fact that they were playing 4e, and I have no real clue how that system operates, I was struck by the similarities between their game and mine. There was lots of out of game talk, kids running around, looking up rules, people trying to figure out how something works, the eating and discussion of food, putting the kids to bed, references to geek culture stuff (star wars, etc.), swearing and jokes, but underneath it all was a bunch of people laughing and having a good time.

I don't mean to say that 4e players and games aren't supposed to be similar or fun. The similarities were notable because my experience with other groups are very limited.  It brought home to me that what really matters about playing the game, and why we actually play, is the fun with friends, not the rules.

I think streaming game sessions could also be a good way to introduce people to a new game system. Were I so inclined, I could have really sat here and tried to understand how 4e works as a system as a way of deciding if I wanted to buy it or not.  A live broadcast of an actual game session could be a good sales tool for anyone looking to market a gamesystem. If it was specifically for that purpose, however, I would make sure the kids were already in bed.  :)

It was also my first experience seeing how a virtual gametable worked in actual play.  At a glance, I don't think it's for me or my group or the style of game we play, but for others it might be interesting to take a look at.

Does anyone know if any other groups have either live streaming or podcast versions of their game sessions?  I'd be interested in checking them out, whether live or archived.

I also think that if some groups got together to stream their games live they could make money at it. You might even be able to set up some sort of subscription moel.  If Monte Cook, or the gang at Paizo or Rob Kuntz were to set up a semi-regular webcast of their personal games, I betcha there would be people who would pay to watch it.  It's like reality TV for geeks.

Ironic that my 50th blog post is about watching a 4e game.  :)


EDIT:  So, inspired by my ideas above, I posted this over at Paizo's Boards:

Have you guys ever thought of live webcasts or recorded podcasts of actual games you play with each other? You could probably get a subscription model out of it. Can't beat getting paid to play D&D and have a good time. You might even have guest DM or player of the week kinda stuff. Also, it would be a good way to introduce the game to people who are unsure of whether they are going to buy it, and as a way to introduce certain aspects of the game or other supporting products by showing how you use them. I think most DM's and players are always looking to be better at the game, so it would be looked at as a way to learn from the best in the industry.

Plus, it would be fun to watch. It's like reality TV for geeks. If you screw up or do something cool, you'll either get your balls busted or get accolades the next day on the boards.

Also, as an idea for Paizocon, live webcasts or podcasts we can download of the event which aren't taken by some audience member's cell phone camera would be something you might make some money at as well. If you could go to Paizocon for 50 bucks from the comfort of your own home, and watch the seminars or view games or conferences or panel discussions at your leisure, it could make some money and please a lot of fans who can't afford to go there. Virtual Paizocon. Heck, via chatroom functions you might even be able to take live questions and answers if it was streamed live.

On the marketing of OSR products

There seems to be a disconnect between the people producing the products as a result of the OSR, and the gamers they are trying to sell to.  The producers of new product have a desire to produce stuff for older game systems.  I think the fundamental assumption they make, that there is actually a demand for those products in any great quantity, may be flawed. A desire to produce does not necessarily equal a desire to buy.  I know people will point to LULU sales, and Knockspell and Fight on! as examples of demand, but as a whole I don't think the target demographic of "people who would buy stuff for older games and RC's" is currently that big.  How to grow that group and make more sales is the big question.

Though I don't play any OSR or older edition games anymore, I am hopeful that the retroclones bring new gamers into the hobby.  In that regard, I support it and am glad that it seems to have grown.  That being said, a post by James Raggi at LotFP got me thinking about a few things regarding the marketing of older edition products.

http://lotfp.blogspot.com/2009/09/great-shame-of-osr.html

The basic question he asks is "How come no one is buying stuff for retroclones or older games produced for retroclones if the product doesn't say D&D on it?"  I don't think the problem is the lack of D&D on the label.

Just because someone plays, or still plays, an older game or retroclone doesn't mean they are looking for anything new to buy.  Between Torrents and other file-sharing downloads, and the fact that there is already a ton of material out there that can be converted to any edition of D&D someone wants to play, you have to wonder that even if you have a large pool of potential purchasers, are their needs already being satisfied? Also, given the fact that most players of older versions or their clones are likely older players, they have probably developed the skills need to make up whatever they need anyhow.  After 30+ years of gaming products, OGL and otherwise, can there really be anything produced today that is not already out there in some form or another?  Plus, we are in the worst economic depression since the 1930's.  People are buckling down on their spending. Also, it seems that the most valuable IP in terms of the stuff that might sell well is being given away for free--namely, the games themselves.  Labyrinth Lord, S&W, etc. can all be downloaded for free.  I downloaded them, checked them all out, enjoyed them, and never spent a penny. 

As to the demographic of the potential purchasers, what is it?  Who are you shooting for?  

Let's use this as an example of a breakdown of the demographic:

  • People who played older games and still do.
  • People who used to play older games and got back into them recently.
  • People who used to play older games and haven't gotten back into it.
  • People who never played the older games but played more recent ones.
  • People who never played RPG's

Once you get those categories, you go to the next question:  Are they playing a game that would make them interested in a product I am producing for that game system?  Though playing a game system is not necessarily a requirement for purchasing a product for that system, it definitely helps.  If playing a game is a necessary requirement for that potential purchaser to buy a product for that game, then a producer of that product has to find a way to get that person to play that game so that he can then sell his product to him.  That's a big hurdle for a guy who just wants to sell a module.

Next question: Do the potential purchaser even know of the product I am producing?  Most people don't, because knowledge of the OSR seems to be an Internet thing mostly, limited to a small subset of the D&D online gaming community, which is itself a small subset of D&D gamers.  A subset of that knowledge, knowledge of the products produced for older games and clones other than the rulesets, seems to be a very specialized bit of knowledge.  I wouldn't even know where to go for a good listing of all products in the OSR and I'm pretty well connected to the on-line gaming community.

Once you get past those threshold issues, you have to ask: Is there a need in the potential purchaser's mind for my products?

If there is not a need, then you ask: How can I create that need so that they buy my products?

Lastly:  Is my product good enough to satisfy that need so that I make a sale with that purchaser, he tells his friends and I make sales with them as well, and also make future sales?

It seems that the potential purchasers of RC products can be drawn from every demographic.  I have no idea which one would be the best to target your time and resources at.  It seems that most of the people who are into older games either never left, or used to play them and are playing them again since the recent 3.5/4.0 schism and Gygax's death. 

I think the biggest problem that people who develop products for the RC's face is the limited audience.  I remember an episode of Beavis and Butthead, where they each got a box of candy bars to sell for a school fundraiser.  Beavis had a dollar, and gave it to Butthead for a candy bar.  Butthead then used the same dollar and bought one from Beavis. That happened over and over until they ate all the candy, and ended up with one dollar to turn in to the school.  I wonder if we are seeing the same sort of thing here.  If you look at all the blogs associated with the OSR, its mostly the same people talking to each other and commenting.  Is it an echo chamber?

One thing that would bust the OSR wide open would be if one of the clones was sold in regular stores. LULU doesn't count. All LULU does is give us a chance to print out a book and bind it because we don't want to get caught doing it at work.  By stores I mean Borders and Barnes & Noble type places. If the clones were sold in stores, then you overcome a big hurdle upfront:  awareness of the game and people actually playing it.  This assumes of course that there is in fact a wider potential market for games of that sort in the first place.  They would be sold mostly to younger people, who grew up with MMORPG's, a shitty education system that dumbed them down and also stifled their imaginations, and who read far less than our generation did. 

The good thing for producers of clone related products is that kids today have been indoctrinated into believing that buying stuff and being a mindless consumer is the ultimate way to affirm anything and everything good about themselves. If they aren't spending money and don't own the latest and greatest thing, they feel worthless.  So if they play a clone, they will buy for it.  It's just a matter of getting them to play the system in the first place.  The only way to do that is to make the games seem cool, sexy, and make the kids think they will somehow get laid, get rich, or somehow affirm something they believe or want to believe about themselves to be true if they play the game, with absolutely no hard work or effort required.  Associate the game with something the kids want to be associated with.

That being said, it seems the largest potential group of consumers of older games and clones will not buy the clones in any great level like the heyday of TSR when it was associated with devil worship.  Still, having S&W or LL in the Barnes and Noble will definitely help sales of clone-related products. 

Barring that happening, the clone product producers have to ask themselves if there is enough need or desire out there for their products to support the sales they hope for?  Maybe there just isn't, for all of the reasons I mentioned above.  Just because you have a desire to produce something doesn't mean there is a desire to buy that thing.  It seems that with the OSR we have a supply being produced before there was a demand. Or, perhaps more accurately, the true demand/desire was of the guy who wanted to make a buck off of making an old school D&D module.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bought the Pathfinder RPG Hardvcover today.

I got a copy of the hardcover in Connecticut from a Borders bookstore.

I had to drive an hour to get it, and it apparently is the only bookstore of the major chains (Borders and Barnes & Noble) in about 150 miles that is going to get one in any time soon---and this store only got ONE in.

The thing is so heavy I had to strap it in with a seatbelt, so in case I stopped short it wouldn't blast through my engine block.

I'll take a look through it this weekend and let you all know my thoughts. I know it is definitely well worth picking it up, even if, like me, you have the pdf. There is just something about having a book to read and understand something. The pdf is good as a reference once you learn it, but to learn and get it I think that for me a book is a must.

PC's who give a sh*$

It's very interesting in running a campaign (the Bard one) with players whose characters pointedly do not give a shit...about much of anything...to look at modules for ideas and find that almost all of the recent ones (last 10 yrs) are premised on the fact that characters, if approached with a problem that's not their own, actually give a shit about the poor bastard with the problem.

This could be just a failure of memory but wouldn't you say that back in the AD&D days, characters didn't so much give a shit about helping others, as they did in helping themselves, first and foremost?  And the modules were designed with that premise in mind?  It seemed to be mostly about slaughter and looting, and if someone else was helped along the way, good for them.  Or, if you want my help, you're gonna pay dearly for it bitches.  Granted, a lot of modules have "other character hooks" sections, but the main one, and the one modules seem to be written around, is one of the helpful do-gooder PC.

Even if you want to explore other plot hooks, often because of the story format of modules, and the tie-ins from one section to another, you have to do large revisions of sections to make it fit.  Certain encounters are based on the characters following the story arc of the helpful PC---otherwise that encounter wouldn't make sense.

If this is indeed a true observation and not just a revision of history, when did the shift in assumed motivation occur?  By shift I meant in the modules themselves, not in the players. A shift in the design premise of the module that the PC's players use will be do-gooders. Seems that the older modules didn't have this built-in assumption.

What came first, the do-gooder assumption in module design creating more and more players playng that way, thinking it was the way to do it, or the players out there actually doing it so modules were designed for them?  Was it a result of the whole 2e abortion of assassins, devils and demons?