Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Cha'alt on Roll20


I'm opening up Cha'alt to the world, at least those who frequent Roll20.

So, if you're interested in a 5e D&D game that's part cyberpunk, part mutant wasteland, part dungeoncrawl, here's the link.

These weekly sessions will only be about an hour long (Thursdays, 11:30 - 12:30pm central standard time) and text only (I'll be sitting at my desk in a fairly public space).  So, we'll dive in ASAP. 

Come with a character concept ahead of time.  check out these character classes!  Races can be any standard fantasy thing you want to come up with... as long as it's not too immersion-breaking, I'm fine with it.  Half centaur, half stalk of celery, and half nuclear bomb?  Umm... no.

If this turns out well, I will most likely blog about it... perhaps even self-publish the campaign as an adventure or setting book down the road.  So, signing up to play means you're cool with that.

VS


Monday, July 16, 2018

MotBM an OSR Dead-End?


Ok, this deserves a blog post all its own...

So, I and many others read this review of Maze of the Blue Medusa right over here.  There's been a lot of feedback, as well as, quite a bit of push-back from the OSR.

Now, if the reviewer was railing against commonly accepted OSR staples, I would wholeheartedly agree with their rebuttal.  However, I got the sense that the reviewer is himself an OSR gamer and was judging MotBM on its own self-proclaimed old school merits... and found it lacking.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see the reviewer advocating for adventure paths.  He simply wants a megadungeon to have some logical cohesion along with something going on that relates to the PCs.  You know, an adventure!  That's not some newfangled modern 4th edition story-game nonsense.  On the contrary, it's the foundational bread and butter of RPG scenarios: there's something going on that draws the PCs in and makes some kind of sense as they involve themselves.

I don't know if this is quite right, not having read MotBM (though this is probably the 13th review I've read over the last year), but from the reviewer's perspective, it seems like a deconstructed megadungeon.  All the parts are there, but it tricks you into thinking it's fully assembled.

Just because an adventure (any adventure) says, "You can do what you want with it - make it your own!" that doesn't mean it's useful, what the customer wants, or is worth paying for.  Now, I think MotBM is worth buying and I intend on purchasing the 2nd edition yonder.  But my acquisition is not why the ordinary gamer wants it.  

I'm looking for inspiration, what worked, what didn't work, why it captured the 2017 imagination as hard as it did.  Why?  So I can surpass it, of course.  Hoping to publish my own megadungeon in 2019!

Anyways, when it comes down to it a gaming product should be gameable - especially when it's expensive, talked up to the nth degree, and was a work-in-progress by two accomplished gaming authors for 4 friggin' years (trying to verify that, but not finding a source - will keep trying)!

If the reviewer, and he's not alone - I've seen lots of feedback over the last 12 months - thinks it stops short of providing satisfactory gameable content, that's a flaw.  Thankfully, I don't believe MotBM's flaw is shared by the OSR.  If anything, MotBM strayed too far away from old school principles - and that's what bit it in the ass.  

But I'd love to read your thoughts, will gladly engage in discussion and hope to have my beliefs either verified or reduced to ash after I've read the damn thing (probably end of August).

VS

p.s.  Ever since I realized my interview with Patrick Stuart pictured not Patrick Stuart, I've felt a little bit bad about it (but not so bad that I actually did anything).  So, here he is pictured!  Also, here's a link to that post-MotBM interview.  For completion's sake, here's my post-MotBM interview with Zak S.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Cha'alt: Session One


Last night was the official start of my new post-apocalyptic D&D campaign Cha'alt: Sun-Bleached Death Under Magenta Sky.

4 players, specific classes I came up with last week, a few house-rules, handful of scenario notes, and... that's it.  Nothing else.  I didn't have any rulebooks, charts, screens, supplements, or full-fledged adventure.  No music, weird lighting, artwork, or any theatrics, pyrotechnics, special effects, etc.

I was, admittedly, a little apprehensive about going that route, but it felt very refreshing.

The only thing I'm going to say about the session as of now is that three PCs came from the wasteland (wasters) and one came from the dome-city (domer).  After conducting their initial business, they were attacked by raiders and ran for their lives.  While being pursued, they found a place to hide... and explore.

Oh yeah, I can also tell you the party's dragon priest was almost swallowed by a giant sandworm.

I want to keep the rest under wraps because I intend to open the Cha'alt campaign world up to everyone - details coming soon!

However, I also want to share some system / game mechanics that I came up with to make my O5R game feel like D&D without sacrificing the range I've cultivated with VSd6.

Difficulty

Easy:  10
Moderate: 15
Hard: 20
Near Impossible: 25
_______

In addition to a d20 roll, players add their character's level and relevant ability score modifier.

For example, Harold's techno-mancer tried to imbue a disused subway car with power and force it to run over his enemies.  He rolled his d20 and got a 14, then added his level (they all started at 1st level) +1, and finally his intelligence modifier +3 for a total of 18.  That means he was able to get the subway car up and running and moving in the right direction, but couldn't put as much force or direction into it as he wanted.

Result: it struck and wounded one of the oncoming attackers.

I'm using this for pretty much everything, except standard combat maneuvers.  So... spells, special attacks, perception checks, etc.  However, all rolling comes after the all-important roleplaying.  You can't just roll to check for traps without describing what you're doing first.

VS

p.s. Almost forget to mention, if a player gets 5 or more points above the target, he generally gets a little bonus, like a critical success.  If he gets 5 or more points below the target, he's bound to get some kind of penalty or further loss, like a critical failure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Shades of Amber


Patrick Stuart's False Machine review of Amber: Diceless Role-Playing brought up a lot of great memories.  I haven't played Amber since High School in the early 90's, and haven't read the core rulebook in over a decade, yet Wujcik's wisdom seems burned into my psyche.

I just re-read his review, and while I can't pinpoint the exact sentence getting to the heart of this blog post, it's in there somewhere.  Allow me to plunge my warlock hands into the primordial soup and see what I can yank out...

As a designer of RPGs myself, my foundation seems to be context.  In any interaction, there are a number of variables, each having their own weight, pushing and pulling the odds of success, failure, or something in-between hither and yon. 

For me personally, needing to hit a target number of 14, rolling a 15, and saying, "Yeah, you hit," or rolling a 13 and saying, "Nope, you miss," just doesn't satisfy me like it did when I started out playing Basic D&D in grade school. 

After years of gaming, I realized how much I preferred subtlety, nuance, interpretation, the dice as oracle and I, Game Master, as the one who speaks for them.  I want the dice to give me a range, a degree of good, bad, and ugly where I'm able to refine the raw material... shades of gray, rather than just rolling to see if the outcome is either black or white.

That's why I came up with VSd6, a system using d6 dice pools.  The result allowing GMs to know which way the wind is blowing so they can narrate the actual outcome... their outcome, rather than something hypothetical and polarized.  In this way, the dice results are like potential energy, awaiting the GM's ultimate determination.

Where Amber expects the GM to do all the factoring in his head, the RPGs of Kort'thalis Publishing (Alpha Blue, Crimson Dragon Slayer, The Outer Presence, and Blood Dark Thirst) provide tools cutting out much of the guesswork. 

The GM as final arbiter; rules merely a framework for GM and players to immerse themselves in virtual reality - is the very definition of old school.  That's why I believe both Amber: Diceless and my own RPGs are essentially OSR.

VS


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Cha'alt: Character Classes


So, a couple weeks ago was session -1, and yesterday we finally got to session zero.  Although, to be completely honest, it's more about having lunch with friends than pre-planning D&D.

Regardless, some campaign discussion happened.  For instance, here are the available character classes in Cha'alt: Sun-bleached death!

Basically, it's Shadowrun within the domed cities and Mad Max / Gamma World / Dark Sun everywhere else.

  • Dragon Priest: Dragons rule the world of Cha'alt and they are perceived as Gods by the inhabitance.  However, there are priests who worship other god-like beings too... such as, worm priests (yes, giant sandworms burrowing in the wasteland).  Focus: non-offensive spells, such as healing, protection, divination, flight, creating water, etc.
  • Sorcerer: They wield the magic; this was a land of fantasy and technology before the apocalypse.  Focus: offensive spells; destructive sorcery such as fireball, lightning, acid arrow, magic missiles, etc.
  • Urban Ranger: They live in the domed cities, detectives, investigators, blade-runners, and bounty hunters.  Metropolitan killers in nice slacks.  Focus: tracking, locating weaknesses of their prey, and surviving in city environments.
  • Brutalizer: If you're going to live in the wastes, you either have to be a hunter or gatherer.  These are the hunters - they tussle with big game out in the radioactive ruins.  Focus: killing!
  • Scavenger: Thieves of the wasteland, scavengers who search for necessities, tech, magic, and anything that can be used to survive.  They know how to get in and out of the ruins and sewers beneath the domed cities.  Focus: detecting and disarming traps, skulking around silently, getting into hard-to-reach places, hiding in what little shadow there is and striking death-blows.
  • Techno-mancer: They plug into cyberspace in order to access the network, repository for all the available knowledge.  Focus: creating, repairing, operating, and maintaining machines, electronic equipment, and any kind of high-tech gear.

For the dragon priest, sorcerer, and techno-mancer, magic (even techno-magic) is rather free form (player describes what he wants to have happen).  Spells / day = character's level (3rd level character can cast 3 spells per day), but additional spells may be cast at a cost of 1d4 HP per spell.

Next time I blog about Cha'alt, I'll talk about PC races!

VS


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

It's The Adventures, Stupid


I've had this blog post on my mind for a while now...  It all started with a discussion on g+ about Labyrinth Lord.

How one of the first big retro-clones has been virtually eclipsed, why, and if it's possible for Labyrinth Lord to reclaim its former glory.

Well, what makes for a successful RPG?  I'm sure there are many factors that could and should be discussed by those interested in the answer.  But today, I'm going to focus on the primary reason: SUPPORT!!!

Support for that RPG keeps it going, makes it feel alive, engages players, and provides material for using that game now and in the future.  The ideal kind of support is adventures, the backbone of roleplaying.  Various supplements can't hurt, but a large number of scenarios is probably the best gauge for success when it comes to new RPGs.

Just look at your DCC, LotFP, and S&W.  They come out with adventures all the damn time.  If Labyrinth Lord wants to compete, it's got to have just as many high-profile scenarios coming out under the Labyrinth Lord name.  That's why it's so hard for the little guys to compete... any one-man shop is going to be hard-pressed to generate one adventure a month or more.  You need a team!

On that LL thread, I made the boastful statement that I could turn LL around if put on the payroll as brand manager, scenario connoisseur, or whatever to the tune of $50K a year.  Yeah, that seems like a lot, but the juice has to be worth the squeeze.

What's funny is that it's all compatible!  There's no earthly reason why you can't swap one system's adventure for another.  But perception matters with these kinds of things.  Brand awareness affects the market.  We're only human, after all.

I've tried to maintain a regular flow of adventures myself with the several RPGs for Kort'thalis Publishing, but in the end I only succeeded with Alpha Blue.  Crimson Dragon Slayer almost kept pace, but I think sci-fi more lenient than the over-saturated genre of fantasy.  Alas, I realized the full extent of this lesson too late.

Having said that, I'm going to make an announcement regarding Kort'thalis Publishing's RPG lines.  But first, I want to finish Alien Ass, Hydrogen Gas, or Cosmic Grass... No One Warps For Free!  It'll be released before the end of July.

I've already mentioned elsewhere that I'm taking a break from RPG publishing once this last adventure is completed.  There are juicier fruits out there that I have to find.

VS