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Friday, 27 September 2013

Finished Sorcerer... Next: the Sorcerer supplements

That's just a quick note about what I'm reading. I mean, what are blogs for?
So, just finished Sorcerer by +Ron Edwards (delays did, well, delay me from reading it - and the annotated edition requires critical analysis).
I've only got three notes.
1) At least, now I know what to recommend to new GMs, if I want to get them to run games I like. I call this "The Unfettered GMing style" or "Lazy GMing".
2) I'm continuing with the Sorcerer supplements without delay. And that's an achievement for the author, whether he knows it or not.
3) It's curious how similar the themes and even some mechanics are between Sorcerer, Unknown Armies, and Better Angels - and yet, they differ in subtle but important ways.

And no, don't tell me "how would you run Exalted with this". Because I'm thinking more and more about it...

Off to reading!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cool toys for OSR fighters

The current thread on the Big Purple is giving me ideas. It's about whether OSR fighters should have "cool manoeuvres" or not. (And frankly, I think they should, or the wizards and clerics should be brought down a couple notches as well. Fighters are inherently cooler than other classes, but it should be made clear even to fighter-haters, too!)

AFAICT, the two main objections to the fighters having such manoeuvres is a) we don't want to describe each swing, and b) we want more down-to-earth fights. I agree with the latter, FWIW. But let me address how it could be done.
So, I admit I don't get it why people would equate "more powerful/interesting fighters" with "more detail how a swing happens"? 4e proves it ain't so IME. At least, I often can't imagine the specific actions from the movements on the grid.
And it's even arguable whether a 4e fighter is more powerful than a OD&D Fighting (wo)man. I mean, just how often does a 4e Fighter kill 4 kobolds in one attack, minions or not? The 0e Fighting man can do that. So it's about having more interesting options baked in the system (that is, on top of everything else you could and should be doing!)
But fine, let's get down-to-earth. You know what rule would make OSR/TSR-era D&D more down-to-earth while also reducing complexity?
"When the fighter attacks a non-fighter of the same or lower level, he rolls for damage". Possibly add "....rolls the d20, but applies it as damage".
There, you have it. A 1st level Fighting (Wo)Man is a Veteran. IME, when a veteran fights some young buck and sees an opportunity, meaning "his/her turn in initiative came", the other guy is in for a world of hurt. Seen that happening, it wasn't pretty. And no, when a fencing expert feints, you'd better start praying for your soul.
Yes, that makes them the masters of the battlefield. Just like Clerics are masters of the religious matters and healing, and just like Wizards are the only ones that can cast spells... no contradiction here. Keep in mind, they can still fight back, they just need to pass his AC. There's no option for the fighter to cast a spell, not even with a roll, so it's still not equal, just less unequal. And of course, everyone rolls against a higher-level enemy, so it doesn't mean anyone overshadowing the rest in "boss battles" (assuming you've got boss battles).
-A Fighter always rolls for damage one die type higher. He or she can kill you with a knife as fast as a normal human can hurt you with a shord sword. That also means the warrior is never unarmed (rangers and paladins don't get that increase, but get the benefit of not being unarmed). The warrior can choose whether to deal subdual or normal damage, too.
(To anyone that objects, think of a warrior that can shatter bones with punches and break joints as a simple move. No, Monks aren't the only ones that get to be good unarmed fighters - just look how many wrestling matches Hercules had, how many of them ended in death, and what happened to the local though who tried to fight with Odysseus. Or, to put it in another way: beginning of the 20th century, one Japanese Judo sensei sees an European Fechtbuch. His reaction: "Wait, Europeans practiced ju-justsu in 17th century?"
Knowing that, I have a special message for anyone who tells me only Monks should have unarmed options. Said message translates from Bulgarian as "fuck off").

But fine, that's more powerful, but not really all that interesting. Let me see what else I can think of.
-Adapting the system of Stunts from Dragon Age and effects from the Bo9S and 4e.
Hey, pay attention to THIS sword!
Inflict a penalty of (your level) to the attacks of anyone in hand-to-hand range with you, who tries to attack anyone else.
A sword is hanging above our heads.
Double your damage dice before rolling (2 effects).
Fortuna rules it all.
Make your damage rolls explode, Savage Worlds-style. Self-explanatory.
Trip, and you fall.
 The enemy rolls an opposed attack roll against your roll, or is down.
Your blade, it's mine, your soul, like ice...
The enemy rolls an opposed check against your attack roll or is disarmed.
Get lost, fucker!
 Push/Shove. The enemy rolls Fortitude or Reflex/Save vs Death or Wands. Failing it, he/she is pushed back.
"Aren't you Isabel's husband? Just don't hit me with the horns!"

That's simply a taunt (yes, you can try taunting without an effect, but it's your action for the round with most GMs I know...). The enemy rolls a Will-based save with a penalty of your level. A failure means the enemy gets a penalty of (half your level, roudn up) to attacking anyone else. A second successful Taunt on the same enemy gives them half that (round up again) to AC, as they're sacrificing their defence. A third Taunt leads to them having your Charisma as penalty to their to-hit rolls, because anger blinds them and makes them predictable. Further using Taunt has no effect.
Note: The Charisma penalty is always negative to the enemy, even if you have a -1 on Charisma. Equally, even if you have a +0, the penalty is still -1.
On top of that, taunts aren't penalised for being used on the same enemy (see below). You are, however, penalised for using them on more than one enemy in a single fight.
Warning: Doesn't work on non-sapient creatures. Opponent gets a +3 to their roll if you don't share a language, or +5 if you don't share the same culture. If you're different to the point where your cultures have different meanings for common gestures, and you don't share the language, this is impossible to do. The GM might warn you if (s)he thinks it reasonable for you to have spotted that.
Cleave in 'twain!
Deal maximum damage on one of your dice, and roll another. That means that if you attack with a 2d6 two-handed sword, you deal 2d6+6 damage. If you hit with a two-handed axe, deal 1d12+12 damage (or if you're playing OD&D, deal 1d6+6 damage). This effect costs as much as 3 normal effects,
Traps hidden inside traps...
Feint: until his next action, the enemy has Your Intelligence modifier as penalty to either his AC or his to-hit roll. You must choose which one now.
Can you fight what you can't see?
Blind: until his next action, the enemy has a -4 to attack you. On his action, he can make a Fort/Save Vs. Death save to end the effect, or close their eyes and attack blindly. Doesn't work on constructs and other creatures lacking eyes. Opens an enemy to backstabbing/sneak attacks. You need two Manoeuvres to activate this!
Bind: this requires the enemy is armed with a weapon. Until his next action, they've got your Strength modifier as penalty to hit (see Taunt), and your Strength modifier as penalty against attacks from other characters. If they have another weapon that can be used up close, like a knife or rock, they can avoid the penalty to hit, but not the AC one.
The drawback is, the same AC penalty applies to you as well. he one that binded can choose to releast the Bind. Otherwise, the only way out is for the enemy to win a Str/Dex opposed check with you (each of you picks which one to use).
Stun: if you're using a bashing weapon, it's automatic. Otherwise, the enemy can choose to roll an opposed to-hit roll against your roll. If the stun succeeds, until enemy succeeds a Fort Save/Save vs Death, their attacks and defences suffer a -4 penalty. This costs two effects.
And here it's coming again...: roll to hit again, against the same enemy or another you can reach in this round (even with a missile weapon if you have one ready). This costs 2 effects, or 3 if you want to change weapons on the fly.
It's all in the feet.
You can move one hex on the battlemap. If you activate this at the cost of 3 effects, you pass behind the enemy's back and can backstab. On his turn, he needs to win an opposed Dex check in order to turn around without giving you an opening for attacking immediately.
...and so on. I'm pretty sure I can make up others.

How do you get effects? Roll a d6 along with the d20, on a 5, pick one effect. On a 6, pick two. You can elect to "save" an effect and deal it later when you roll another effect.
On 7th, 13th and 20th level, you add one more die to roll. Yes, teoretically, you could roll 8 effects. In practice, that only happens 1:1296 times.
Whenever you repeat a manoeuvre, however, that enemy gets a +1 damage against you, and you have a -1 on your saves against their spells until the end of the current combat. It pays to be unpredictable.
Keep in mind, you can deal effects even if you failed to hit. You can't add damage to an attack that didn't deal damage, but that doesn't prevent you from taking down an enemy.
-As above, but you pay for stunts with Elan points instead. You get 1 point for dropping an enemy, i.e. dealing the decisive strike, or after an attack if you take voluntarily a -5 penalty on your roll to hit and a -3 on your AC and damage until the end of the round. The two are cumulative, so you can take the penalty, drop an enemy nevertheless, and get 2 Elan points instead of 1 at the end of the round.
To add 1 effect on an attack, pay 1 point. To add 2 effects, pay 3 points. To add 3 effects, pay 10 points. Your points are lost whenever you have a rest. However, you need to hit successfully.
-Adapting the On Mighty Thews system - get effects depending on your roll to hit. For each 2 points you beat the necessary number, you get 1 effect to invoke.

As you can see, nothing here looks like magic powers, which is one of the objections to the 4e powers (including one of mine - I know all of that is possible, but some powers seem too dependent on the enemy to be able to invoke rgwm with any reliability in a fight. Hence, they seem magical - to me. That's however NOT due to the system, but to me having a different idea from the designers what fights look like, including epic fights).

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Reading Sorcerer RPG: does it work as a manual for simulationist GMs?

I purchased recently Sorcerer RPG by +Ron Edwards from Adept press. It was in a Bundle of Holding, or I might not have bothered.
Then I started reading and went "wow" (not as in the notorious MMORPG - it was more of "wow, that's what I'm trying to tell my friends - the ones I'm teaching GMing"). Because, well, that's what I call Simulationist play. As in, "pretend to be the character to the point that you only bother with what the character is thinking - no story arcs, no pre-planned plots, no nothing".
And that's almost word-for-word what +Ron Edwards is advising you to do as part of his "Narrativist" game. Even more, that's THE game for narrativist players - AFAICT, storygames started with it!
Still, so far, I only disagree with one sentence in his advice. "Don't play the setting". Well, no, you can't do that if you need to play the NPCs...because the setting is an NPC, too (just like any other organisation)! But that's ONE sentence.
I usually disagree with half the GMing chapter in "traditional" games. Seriously, guys... ONE sentence? That might as well be written by me (no, I'm NOT claiming credit-I discovered my current GMing style long after Sorcerer has been written. I just haven't read it, for various reasons that are kinda besides the point).
And then I remembered that the OSR advice has similar points, where I'm nodding my head in agreement.
The only other games where I agree with the GMing chapter to such an extent? Atomic Highway, Fates Worse Than Death, Crimson Exodus/Fantasy Dice RPG, Legends of the Wulin, Apocalypse World/Monsterhearts. Runequest 6 also comes close. But that's not even 10% of the games I own...
Still, all of these games are from wildly differing "schools". Seems like good GMing is good GMing, no matter who's doing it. (Well, if it's "open-ended" GMing, at least. I've run games that were going against this, and the players were still happy. So it might be called "good" GMing - although I'd consider my current style to be far superior both in terms of simulation and in terms of story - but it would be wildly different).
Just food for thought.

And in the meantime, I purchased the Sorcerer supplements, and I'm looking into other games by the same author, too. He's got a KS campaign for his "S/Lay w/ Me" game (which I discovered the day after buying the PDF). Of course, I'm now a backer.
The only other KS I'm currently backing is the one by +Levi Kornelsen for his zombie apocalypse game. But that's another story and should be told in another blog post.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Yet another Open RPG Day...

We had another Open RPG Day. This one...didn't go so well. Or rather, not well at all.
To begin with, half the GMs that promised to run games, didn't come or pulled a last-minute cancellation.
Then one of the GMs that actually came and ran a game is actually considering to swear off GMing. It's because the players made it living chaos, and she didn't manage to rein them in.
I also asked her to run me through the same adventure she had prepared for them. Yes, I asked her to run the game one-on-one for me, without adjusting any difficulty. FWIW, it's urban fantasy.
They had used 4 hours and announced they can't solve it, the mystery is too hard. I solved it in 69 minutes by the clock, half of which I spent eating dinner and talking off-topic. With a character fashioned after Shang Tsung from the MK movie, because why not?

Frankly, I'm not too sure whether I'm going to run an Open RPG Day October edition. Maybe, but we shall see.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

An OSR-inspired storygame

I was bored, and hence another RPG was born. This one is for GM-less/rotating GM/Simultaneous GMing in Play-by-post games.

First, pick a genre and setting. Any genre and setting work, as long as your group has a shared understanding of what works and what not.
Next, write a 100-150 description of the characters. Underline (or note in bold) any quality, like "fast with blades", that's helpful. Underscore (like this) anything that might hinder you. If a quality could be both, use both of them. These are called your descriptors/traits. The beneficial ones I call advantages, the negative ones are flaws. Simple as that - character creation is over!

Ah, but I must first start with the GMless part.
In each scene you will have one or more of 7 things. An antagonist-1, a reward-2, something unusual-3, a plot twist-4, an unexpected challenge-5, something bad/harmful-6, or nothing (red herring)-7. If you roll an 8, pick one thing and roll another die. (That part was inspired by the OSR wiki).
Now go and narrate what's going on, not including anything but what you rolled. The one that rolls chooses how many dice to pick after the first roll.
You roll 3d8 to start the first scene, then we go from there. At the end of every post, you offer me rolls I could make, or stakes. I do the same in my post.

And since we got to the rolls themselves...
For these, the players roll 2d6(exploding at 6, but a maximum of 3 dice)+1 point/advantage-1 point per flaw that applies, looking to get a 6 (and both advantages and flaws might be a result of the fiction, if we both agree). If you squeeze by 1 or hit it barely, you only get whatever is at stake, but at a cost. If you get an 8, it's a clean success. For every 2 over 8, so at 10, 12, 14 and so on, you get a bonus perk, as offered by the GM. Maybe an enemy is impressed with your knife skills and now would consider hiring you. Maybe you kill the guy outright. Maybe someone thinks they own you a debt for killing the guy.
However, if you don't get even a 6, it's a clean failure. At 4, 2, 0 and so on, the GM gets to add a complication that makes the PC's life miserable.
The good part is, whenever you fail a roll due to the flaws on your character sheet (so, it would have been 6+, except for the minuses), you get to add a new trait, or cross off a flaw. What did you learn from your mistakes? Roleplay it!
And yeah, you might remove flaws, but the smart move would be to overcome them towards the end of the game. Just like in 1234567890 Hollywood flicks...

I was thinking to allow re-rolls for failure or the like. But re-rolls being the bane of PbP, I chose against it.
So, that's it. Simple, isn't it?

Oh, and if you want to play it, feel free to. But please, send me an e-mail or even better, post somewhere how the rules work in play, and send me the link! I'm curious myself.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Naked went the gamer

Nothing so new and original today.
I bought the newest Bundle of Holding.
From there, I noticed I now own Sorcerer. Which was good, since Sorcerer and Burning Wheel are two games I keep getting recommendations for...and since Luke Crane refuses to put BWG on a PDF sale site, I'm not likely to try it any time soon.
But then I decided to check Sorcerer. And from there I wnet to Ron Edwards' site to download some char sheet.
And there I read Naked Went The Gamer.
I think everyone of us should read it - hopefully, again. There are many things I disagree with Ron Edwards about.
This article isn't one of them. In fact, much of what he describes about "old school" mirrors my own experience with other games. Make of this what you wish - just think about it.

In a way, I already got more than I bargained for from the Bundle of Holding. I went to buy books, and I got a reason to think about society. If that's old news to you and you're working against the things RE is writing about, congratulations. I had...slipped.
So, I think I should add a link to the Bundle of Holding website.

That's all the post I'm going to write for tonight. I've got more things to think about, since I notice with great displeasure that I had been going with the current for a while.