Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thoughts on Some of the New Editions and Clones, Plus a Con Report, and Some Other Random Shit

I purchased the S&W Complete the other day, and I love it.  All the classes of AD&D, races can be other classes, full spell list yet simplified spell descriptions, and simple combat.  It's simple and perfect for me, a guy whose preferred system is AD&D, yet who has forgotten the finer details of the game.  Even though I have like 6 AD&D players handbooks, if I ever get a group together again, I'll do S&W Complete.

I downloaded Adventures Dark and Deep, Joe Bloch's version of 2e AD&D designed as if Gygax had written it, based on comments Gygax made over the years.  I liked it, especially the variety of casting and bard classes.  It reminded me of AD&D plus those old "Compleat" books of the early 80's.  It looks like it has the makings of a great game, but as for me, I think I'm just a bit too old to invest the time in learning a game with so many similarities to the game I know, yet which require me to really get into the rules to determine the differences. 

I DM'd Lamentations of the Flame Princess at the CT Old School Con in October.  The system is simple and works fine.  The only issues I had with it were some of the redundancies with the skill systems, which apparently will be fixed in the new Grindhouse Edition.  I really liked how they did thieves skills.  About the only thing I didn't like about S&W Complete was the thieves skills section, wherein they kept the generic progression, making all thieves of the same level the same.  I would definitely import over LOTFP's skill system to S&W Complete.  LOTFP is very compatible with older editions, with monster conversions and the like easily done on the fly.

A brief note on the Old School Con---it was a blast.  Tavis Allison and I did something neither of us had done before---we ran a simultaneous dungeon crawl.  2 groups, same time, 2 different DM's.  If they encountered each other, then so be it.

The setup was fun.  Tavis and I got together the night before with Tavis' long time friend and with another player to roll up characters and get the LOTFP system down.   One neat thing we did:  each of us created 3 or 4 magic items, which would be randomly selected by the players the next day.  The items couldn't be class specific, could not be a numeric giving item (i.e. a plain old plus 4 longsword) and had to be weird, as befitted a Gygaxian campaign in Zagyg's castle.  They were great fun to make and play with.  Tavis has them, and promised to post them to his blog sometime, so keep an eye out.

We had the groups pick different entrances, then let them loose in the dungeon.  The goal of the groups, the measuring stick we used to determine which group won, was two-fold.  The first criteria: which group reached the deepest level of the dungeon.  The second criteria: if both groups managed to reach the same level, was which group got the most treasure won.  The one caveat to this is that the groups had to survive the dungeon.  Not that they had to get out by the end of the session, but they had to all be alive when the time was up.

It was an interesting dynamic, the simultaneous co-dm'ing.  We used Castle Zagyg Upper Works for the upper levels, and then Castle of the Mad Archmage for the lower levels.  There was no freakin' way we could possibly memorize all the encounter areas in enough detail to be fully versed in it, and Zagyg would have been the harder of the two to do that with, with its detailed descriptions.  We read enough of UW to get the basic story of each area, and ran with it.  Mad Archmage was easier to play on the fly, as the room descriptions were mostly non-existent, because it was a bare-bones dungeon written in the old school style.

Tavis and I sat literally back to back at two tables, thinking we would be able to hear each other and incorporate what the other group had done on the fly.  It turned out that we couldn't really hear that well, with all the people talking.  We basically updated each other every so often with a quick pointing out on the map where each group was, and what they had done since the last update.

The one problem we ran into was when Tavis' group left Zagyg via a tunnel down, and we couldn't find out where that was on the Mad Archmage levels.  It didn't give an actual level number, it gave a name of a level.  We had the benefit of having Jeff Talanian there with us, who co-wrote the Upper Works with Gygax, but he wasn't sure how Mad Archmage synched up.  Tavis made his best guess.  Later, I determined what level it actually was, which meant that our groups were now actually on the same level.   No bullshit, it truly ended up that way.

Now the juices were flowing, as Tavis and I knew but the players didn't.  We kept each other constantly updated via whispering back to back, so I'm sure the players knew something was up.  At one point, while the group I was DM'ing was in a tough fight with a couple of devils, our table was literally surrounded by Tavis and his group.  Initiative was rolled between the groups, and Tavis' group won.  First up was their magic-user, who when asked what he was going to do, replied "Fireball.  Going for the win baby!"

And a toasted flesh win it was.  Their group wiped out my group, taking one of them prisoner after killing the devils. 

We played one more game later that night, with the survivor leading another group into the dungeons, picking up where they left off.  This time, since there was just one group, Tavis DM'd and I assisted with monster lookups and prep work.  Because the last group went the furthest in, they won the Major Award, a 6-pack of Old School Mountain Dew (the throwback version, with sugar rather than corn syrup.)

Other than the Con thing, the only D&D I've been playing lately has been with my my nephew, who is 5 yrs old, when I babysit for my brother.  As I've said in other posts, I think kids are natural role-players, as it's all the same as all the other games of make-believe they play.  Rules are irrelevant.  He treats it like a Live Action Role Playing game.  He doesn't just tell me he is sneaking around, he gets down and crawls around under the tables to sneak up on the bad guys.  Every once in a while we roll dice to see how something goes, and I just tell him what he needs to roll to do something based on how hard I think it is.  I just tell him what numbers need to come up on the 20-sider to make what he wants to happen actually happen.  It just adds some randomness and suspense to the game.  I swear I've learned more about the Old School style gaming with the 5 yr old nephew in a system-less make-it-up-as-you-go game than I have in 25 yrs of gaming. 

One thing I'm excited about is my purchase at Anonycon---The Dresden RPG.  Readers of the blog know I'm a one trick pony, in that I only play and know D&D, but I love the Dresden books so much I wanted to get the game.  Though my crusty old synapses resist learning any new game, this is made simpler by virtue of the fact that it is a highly entertaining system to read, as it is written in the voice of the characters of the novels.  Apparently Jim Butcher had a lot of input into it, and it really shows.  It's almost as entertaining to read as the novels themselves.  I plan on spending some time over the holidays break reading the books, learning the system, then trying to entice my wayward fellow D&D players to give it a spin.   I'll probably DM, since being the only single guy w/o kids gives me the most time to get the game down.

Other than that, not much new. Been doing some writing, which I hope to post here someday when it won't embarrass me too much to have it read by others.

Singing out...