Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Out On Campaign?

This is a piece of a big idea my brain is chewing on right now, but I think there's at least something I can share right now.

I don't know how many people read this anymore, but a few months ago I posted the basic outline of my big idea here. For those who don't follow links, my idea is that a roleplaying game can be separated out into a number of separate levels. The System (the rules of the game), the Setting (the physical location of adventures), and the Campaign (What the characters are expected to do in play). If you want to be a stickler, you can even add a level below the Campaign which is the Adventure (specific scenario), but that's only useful in certain contexts.

My rant in the link above was mostly about how I felt sort of cheated by gaming products which use the word "setting" in their descriptions, but instead mostly speak to the Campaign level rather than my (more neutral) definition of Setting.

As I was working on explicating this idea, I had something of a realization: Successful gaming products are the ones that reach down to the Campaign level in some fashion.

Let's take the most popular and recognizable RPG out there: Dungeons & Dragons. The basic rulebooks touch on System, Setting and Campaign. They are rulebooks, so of course they provide System. They also communicate Setting through race and class choices and a pseudo-medieval equipment list. They answer the question of Campaign through details like reward structures (XP for killing monsters/gathering loot) and advancement benefits (hit points and combat powers are common gains when leveling up).

This is why you can say "Let's play D&D" and it's a meaningful statement.

It also explains why GURPS has not been as successful as some other games on the market. The basic rulebooks are full of System and only System. Their Setting books are largely Setting, leaving Campaign level alone. While there are those who love GURPS for this reason, it does stand in the way of broad market success.

Looking at this sort of model as a designer is actually kind of fun. But as a publisher, I've got to ask "Have the products I've published sufficiently addressed the Campaign level? How much work am I making the GM do before they play my game?"

While a couple of tweaks to the rules of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road have suggested themselves since I released it, I can't help but wonder if the book's  Narrator advice needs punching up as well. Or maybe something more than that.

I don't know how many people actually read this anymore, but comments are welcome.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things

For a long time, I was blogging weekly. Now it seems that I'm blogging weakly.

And that's something that I need to work through. I feel like I've been in the doldrums a lot lately. But I've forgotten the lesson of Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth. It's very easy to get lost in the Doldrums, but finding your way out takes effort.

I think at least part of that effort is blogging. Setting a rhythm for myself. Putting myself out there. Trying to say something new at least once a week.

As of right now, I do have something kind of cool to announce. DriveThruRPG and RPGNow are having their annual Teach Your Kids to Game Week and Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is there. Not only are they offering the usual 50% off of digital titles, they're also giving a 20% discount to print titles as well. I think this is the first time they've run a sale that included a discount on print books.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

That's News To Me

I was hoping that the whole blogfest thing would kickstart a new burst of inspiration and motivation. It kind of worked. A few words here and there in a variety of projects, mostly an article on comedy gaming that's been in the works for ages. But that does mean that I've left all my blog followers with nothing to read right here and now.

One of the things that I've been thinking about recently is DunDraCon. I've already made my hotel reservation. The convention hotel tends to fill up quick, so we actually missed it last year. Thankfully, the DDC website has a section for people who want/need to roomshare. It also saved us some money since my wife and I only had to pay for half of the room.

But there's always the question of what to run for the convention.

I could always run Jaded City, the adventure in the back of the book. I've done it for years and it generally tends to go well. But the book has been out for 5 years (released May 15, 2010) and it might be time to come up with something new. Which means pushing my brain back into Oz mode, dusting off some old inspirations and coming up with something new.

One idea that's been kind of poking at me is the idea of having everyone in the Royal Palace in the Emerald City for Ozma's birthday or some other social function, but then a horde of Winged Monkeys flies in and wrecks the place. It's a great sort of starter scene that gives players something to immediately respond to, but I've never been able to figure out what comes after that. And with the  Winged Monkeys already appearing in the Jaded City adventure, I don't want the idea to become overdone.

Another thing that has been particularly interesting to me of late has been the Oz dungeon crawl. I don't know that I could ever get into the whole kill-loot-repeat loop with AiO (and the system is designed to rebel against that), but as I've experienced old school gaming I've picked up the idea of the "story told over space."

In an old school adventure, you are not handed the story. You might get some clues of what the story is when the old man in the tavern gives you a map, but that's not guaranteed. Instead, you discover the story like a hunter tracking game. You move through the dungeon finding traces that the thing driving the story has left behind. The lazy version of this is finding diary pages all over the place that directly explain certain things. But a well done adventure in this style can convey a lot of that through other means, like map layout, monster and treasure choices, and a number of other things.

I could run The Castle of the Mad Archmage. I've got the AD&D and Pathfinder versions (I'm currently running the Pathfinder version.) With my whole "better note-taking" methodology, I could run a new group through the dungeon as it appears in my home campaign after being modified by the actions of my players. Then go home and watch as my players discover the remains of things that they didn't do in the dungeon.

Monday, August 31, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #31 Favorite Non-RPG Thing to Come Out of RPGing

This is probably the topic I've spent the most time just thinking about. Because a lot of things have gone into the RPG hobby, but not a lot has really exited the gravitational well of the hobby.

Typically, the things that do escape carry the D&D brand. D&D video and computer games. D&D novels. D&D board games. The list goes on.

The D&D movies were interesting. I was in a position to see the first film in its theatrical release. It was a fun movie. Not amazing, but a fine way to kill 2 hours. I saw the first sequel a number of years later, and thought it was actually better. A more modest budget, certainly, but I think it had better dungeoneering than the first one, on top of better writing. I have not seen the third film and am not sure I want to. There's talk of trying again and "doing it right" in the near future. We'll see.

But to answer the topic, I think my favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGs is the Dungeons & Dragons Saturday morning cartoon show from the 80's. It was interesting in that, as much as it used D&D classes and monsters, the rules of children's TV at the time pushed it into becoming its own thing. They couldn't kill monsters with their magical weapons due to rules on violence and the need to keep each episode self-contained meant that the characters couldn't "level up" in any significant way. And that's really what makes it stand out in my book.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #30 Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity.

It's so hard to choose a favorite. Not because they're all so good, but because of my nigh impossible standards. My feeling about tired fantasy tropes kind of colors my view of the entire gaming hobby. So reading about this or that celebrity that "plays D&D" doesn't mean as much to me as the celebrity who's willing to talk about their broader gaming passion. I want to read about the celebrity who played Star Frontiers or Boot Hill back in the day. Who practiced their method acting skills in a Vampire game. That sort of thing.

And the only celebrity who really touches on that is Wil Wheaton. His Tabletop show has featured a couple of different RPGs, like Dread and Fiasco and his current Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana show uses a non-D&D system in a setting that uses fantasy tropes without necessarily being beholden to them.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #29 Favorite RPG Website or Blog

The site I most typically visit when I want to see what's going on with RPGs as a whole is I think that's mostly because what's actually at is not relevant to the gaming hobby. Maybe when I get bored, I'll check out or (Wouldn't that be a hoot?) Which means, yes, I did find the site by putting "RPG" in front of standard internet suffixes until I got something relevant.

Everything else, I tend to check out rather intermittently. I follow a few blogs on blogspot, reading them as they interest me. I've got a Tumblr and check through the gaming relevant hashtags. Maybe one day, I'll kick the blahs I've got and become a creative social media machine. But that's a maybe.

Friday, August 28, 2015

RPGaDay 2015 #28 Favorite Game You No Longer Play

This one is actually a little painful to write. You see, I used to run different campaigns using different systems all the time. They weren't always very good campaigns, but I had a lot of enthusiasm.

But the last 3-4 years have been something of a doldrums for me. While I have been gaming continuously through this period, I have not been as imaginative or enthusiastic as I have been in the past. I have been grateful for The Castle of the Mad Archmage, not just as an opportunity to learn about old school gaming, but also for having enough content that I didn't have to do very much to have a game ready to go every week.

My primary breaks from this routine have been DunDraCon, playing games that interest me there and running Adventures in Oz demos. But even those AiO demos use the Jaded City scenario from the core book. Another canned, low effort production.

So Favorite Game That I No Longer Play? Pretty much all of them.
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