Sunday, December 1, 2013
My son is a huge fan of the web comic Goblins. I have to admit, it has certainly brought a chuckle to me more than once. Link to this particular episode. You don't need to know anything about the series for this to be funny, just have played "those other games". If you have ever had that discussion around your gaming table - check out Grain Into Gold. This is a fantasy economy that actually works!
There are numerous ways to try and get your players to get into the idea of role-playing. Sometimes it’s something small like forcing them to determine what kind of cup they want to use. After all in the fantasy world, there are no drinking fountains (that’s bubblers for you Wisconsin folks) and no Dixie cups. (for you Southerns, there are Dixie cups in the North and no one considers them racist.) So what do they use? In my fantasy towns, the fastest way to find yourself in the bottom of a well is to drink straight out of the bucket. So anyone who wants to drink something between meals needs to carry his own cup. The really Viking-like will want drinking horns, though they are kind of difficult to stand on a table. You might think that a wooden cup would be the cheapo version, but think about how tough it is to carve out a wooden cup without power tools. It’s actually a lot quicker to solder up a tin cup. Then again, ceramics are going to be the really cheap version. After all, they’re just mud that was properly fired after being molded in a matter of seconds by a skilled potter. But you have all sorts of ceramics: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, plus they can be glazed or not, and then can be in the shape of a cup or perhaps a stein, etc. Was it painted or decorated in another way? Don’t forget leather, whether it’s waterskins or hardened flasks. So what is each player going to pick for their character? What does it say about them? Further, it’s not just the players. What does the tavern keeper choose for his bar room? What does it say about his bar? Are glasses fancier then ceramic? Do steins show that this is a place for real beer drinkers? Were the leather jacks coated in water proofing that makes the beer taste different? And if you figure out what type of vessels you’re using but want to figure out what they are drinking out of those cups, take a look at 100 Bar Drinks for some ideas. It's got 5 stars, so we must have done something right.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Coins of Fletnern has been out for five years now. (WOW, time really does fly!) We recently found this review of the FREE product, and well, he liked us! Coins of Fletnern can be found (for FREE!!) at RPG Now and at Steve Jackson's e23
Hollywood - No, the one in Fletnern. It was named because it is a huge forest (“wood”) with a lot of holly. I have no idea why the Hollywood Hills were named that; I hope it is a reasonably similar reason. In any case, don’t criticize Fletnern for naming things what makes sense. I guarantee, there is no film industry in Hollywood; not even a group of actors. Do all your place names make sense?
Sunday, November 24, 2013
I wanted to explain a couple of things as a game designer. Try as we might, most people wind up being reactionary instead of, well, action-ary. I played many RPGs before I wrote Legend Quest. So I had a much better grasp of the pros and cons of certain gaming functions then Gary Gygax did when he first wrote D&D (and AD&D). That’s not a slam - I had the benefit of hindsight that he did not. I never liked the whole wands and staves thing. Case in point - the wand of fireballs. If the party gets one at lower level, it takes the game balance of restricting the number of spells a mage can cast and throws it out the window. Now the low level mage is constantly throwing one of the better spells in the game, instead of waiting until the most opportune time. On the other side of the spectrum, if higher level mage gets his hands on one, it is mainly useless because it only does damage of 6d6, when his spells are likely doing double that or more. At that point it is effectively a lawn mower for eliminating rabble you don’t care about. I forget if there was a level required or not, but I recall having an enchanter in the game open his shop during a siege of the city and a bunch of apprentices went walking out to the city walls and annihilated an attacking army. One item I did like was the staff of power/magi - I know - two different items, but they were very similar. As a GM, I would assign extra powers to these staves. Not only did it cast a whole bunch of spells for you, but when you cast your spells through it, it enhanced your spells - It made it as though you were a higher level caster. That was the way I wanted wands to work: They enhanced the magic you were using, not giving you magic you had never had before. It was this point that created the talismans in Legend Quest. In LQ, talismans (and they can be anything, including wands and staves) can add to the power of your spells or to the area of effect, range, or accuracy (or some combination). So there’s some strategy here, not simply putting nearly limitless power in the hands of a young mage. (For those of you who think 100 charges in a wand of fireballs is putting a limit on it have never actually played a D&D mage.) Honestly, the Jurassic Park concept of having to have some concept of the power (knowledge of science in their case) you are wielding instead of just wielding power that others developed and built on plays here. You cannot use a talisman in Legend Quest to cast a spell you never learned. Another one in the same style - I remember huge fights erupting around finding gauntlets of ogre power and/or belts of giant strength. Let’s say you have a fighter with a 18/88 Strength. You find ogre gauntlets, this will take him from a +2/+4 (I think) to a +3/+6. I would argue that the thief with a S 14 needed the gauntlets far more than the warrior guy did. After all, he would go from +0 to +9, not +6 to +9, and when those extra points were doubled or tripled in the back stabbing, the +6 damage went to +18. Clearly, the fighters opposed this idea. And I should have too, but not for the same reason. According to those rules, I could take a five year old and have him start heaving boulders. Again, I wanted Legend Quest’s magic items to enhance the player, not remake him. Strength or Agility items add +1, +2, +3 - not automatically go to Strength of 10. What’s the difference? I think Legend Quest’s use of enchantments gives power bump ups, and ones that can be controlled. The control lets you increase the power as you go, but in multiple ways. A character with a S 7 and a +1 enchantment could get a +2 strength enhancer and use character points (experience) to increase his attribute score. So yeah, that looks like he got a lot better, but it was only through the normal character progress and a touch more magic. I like to think that while our magic items are definitely beneficial, they don’t put the character completely outside the ability of a non-magically enhanced character to compete. Humility amongst player characters is important!
Sunday, November 17, 2013
You know what I hate? Alignments! You know what I hate more? Game writers who don’t understand their own games. Case in point - Chaotic evil or chaotic neutral creatures who have their societies and governments (rules to live by) spelled out. Guess what - Chaotic creatures wouldn’t form societies. They wouldn’t agree to live by rules. OK - I haven’t played that other game in decades; I was only reading something on a campaign for that game where it was talking about the slaadi, you know the CN “demons”. Look - Slaadi should not be able to form societies. Slaadi should not be able to be classified into a limited number of forms. Slaadi should be more like Lovecraft creatures where you cannot describe them and would never be able to understand their motivations. Lovecraft creatures - those are chaotic. I wish if those guys were going to pretend to write about these alignments, they would have some concept of what they were writing about!
Anyone who reads my posts will have seen that I like modern ideas brought into fantasy games, but only when they make sense. One thing I have added from time to time is the notion of fads. For you gold farmers out there who are thinking, “This is going to be another one of those posts about culture and who needs that in a role-playing game” stay with me. I may just thrill your gold lust. What’s a fad? Something that becomes culturally significant, but only for a short time. Why do adventurers care about fads? Well, because depending on the fad, they could make a huge amount of money. When a fad hits, the merchants go crazy. They are willing to pay any sum and risk anything in order to fill the market (and make huge profits). For this they most always need adventurers. Why do they need adventurers? Well, even in the most mundane fads, the fad desired product will become so expensive that the risk of robbery will skyrocket (as will the cost of robbery). So that dull caravan guarding mission now becomes an actual adventure. What is the fad item? Well, they are seldom common things. Some of the fads I’ve used have been certain colored clothing (the dyes become extremely expensive - this one is more mundane), bearskin rugs (certainly a good adventurer type of product), and dragon meat (which is really an adventurer required product). But think for a moment: bearskin rugs need to have as few holes in them as possible. Sword swingers are of no use. (Yes - I have actually had adventurers who using a touch of magic wrestled and strangled bears. Oh they got hurt, but they did the job.) With dragon meat - It’s not like it stays fresh for weeks on end. So you either need to find a local dragon (nearly impossible if there is an army around) or find a way to either transport it without spoiling or transport it extremely fast. These are the challenges that make what might seem like a grinding type of a mission into something with a little problem solving. The risk is always that the fad will end before you get back. Once it’s over, it’s over! This means that if they get lucky and do a couple of runs, the third one (you know, the one where they’ve got it down now and know what they’re doing) is usually a bust as the fad ends. So they make some money, but are often all whiney about missing that last opportunity. This is what keeps the game balance in check - prevents them from becoming Persian kings. Think about it. Not only is it a fun way to add some zest to your urban encounters, but it really can create adventuring quests, either working for others or out on their own.