Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Time Out!

For those of you wondering if I will be at DunDraCon this year, have no fear. Unfortunately, Adventures in Oz will not be there in an official capacity. It seems that real life intruded at just the wrong time and I missed the event submission deadline this year. Unofficially, if anyone wants to play Adventures in Oz, I and my adventure notes will be there and there's lots of space in the Open Gaming room.

In the meantime, I've been catching up on expanding my podcast listening to the System Mastery podcast. They review old and (best left) forgotten tabletop RPGs with a healthy dose of humor.

It should also be noted that they have a few biases and pet peeves regarding the games that they review. The one that I want to address in this post is the requirement of extensive downtime, especially with regards to healing and recovery. It was a common feature in games for quite some time and some treatments of the subject are indeed worthy of mockery (How it's discussed in the Prime Directive RPG is something of a running gag for these guys).

But it doesn't have to suck. I ran an Old School campaign for many years with all of the downtime rules switched on and that was overall a success. Here's a few tips that I've picked up from my experiences.

1) Give every player a character to play. The first time I did this was back in my Cartoon Action Hour campaign. The party was split, with only one character remaining at the site of the big set-piece battle I had devised. So I decided to give each of the players whose character was not present a temporary character to play for that battle.

For the run of my Old School campaign, each player had several characters, some of whom were in downtime at any given moment. When the characters were high enough level to attract henchmen, those henchmen were also available as alternate player characters while their main character was unavailable.

2) Make downtime worthwhile for everyone. My earliest experience here was kind of a bad one. By Third Edition D&D, most of the required downtime rules from earlier editions had fallen by the wayside, except for those required by wizards. Spellcasters still had to take time out to make magic items, like scrolls and potions, as well as to add newly acquired spells to their spellbook. So for the megadungeon game that Kris Newton ran, the party wizard tended to be something of a drag on the rest of us. It didn't help matters that we had a rival party exploring the dungeon, so whenever we took downtime, we felt the need to negotiate with the rival party to keep them out of the dungeon as well.

I had better luck running the Pathfinder version of the Castle of the Mad Archmage. By the time i got that organized, Paizo had published their book Ultimate Campaign which featured, among other things, a detailed downtime system. Now, while the spellcaster was making magic items or was otherwise holed up in their sanctum, the rest of the party has activities that they can do as well. Earning a few gold pieces, building credit with the locals, or even catching up on experience points for when the player misses a session.

3) Use downtime to provoke dramatic choices. At least some of the problematic treatment of downtime, specifically as it relates to injury, is the assumption that attempts at recovery must happen immediately after the injury. But what if there are still things to do in the adventure? The System Mastery guys suggest that the injured character must go into recovery mode immediately and the player must avoid the gaming table because their character is functionally useless.

But what if the character doesn't go immediately into recovery? While I didn't have this happen due to injury, I did have players make the choice to not take the downtime required to level up immediately in my Old School megadungeon game. Because leveling up not only takes time, it takes money in those rules. In the early levels of the dungeon, there was not a massive amount of treasure, so it did sometimes happen that a character would earn enough XP to advance in level, but not enough money in the bank to pay for the training.

In a slightly different game, that could be a dramatic choice. If the villains of the adventure are working on a timetable, the heroes will have to act quickly and decisively to thwart them, which may not leave significant time to heal up between fights. The big fictional example is the first Die Hard film (The only Die Hard film I've seen). John McClane is increasingly battered in his fights with Hans Gruber's henchmen over the course of the film and the increasing difficulties those injuries cause him are not shied away from. And since he is isolated in the building, the best he can do for healing is some improvised first aid.

The Burning Wheel RPG makes this sort of decision a little more interesting. Since skills only advance in those rules when they are used for increasingly challenging tasks, characters are encouraged to attempt more difficult things. But there are also a lot of mechanisms for making tasks easier. The result is a tension between making the task you're rolling for hard so you can advance your skill, or get lots of help so the roll is easier and you're more likely to get what you want.

When a Burning Wheel character in injured, they take wound penalties to their die rolls, making things harder until they recover. So again that tension comes into play. Do you take the time to recover and remove those penalties, or do you accept the penalties and use them to make tasks more difficult and therefore more likely to improve?

Any other thoughts on making downtime a more natural and interesting part of your game?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Adventures of Consequence

The more time passes, the more I realize that Adventures in Oz needs a revised edition. Not that it's a bad game at all. Just that I've learned some things that I didn't even think about 6 years ago.

While there are some tweaks to the rules I want to make, the Narrator chapter needs to be a bit stronger. It's decent, fairly generic Narrator advice. However, it really undersells some specifics of Oz that are baked into the rules.

The big thing about AiO is the Friends List/Oz Point rules. That's the key innovation of the game. But I don't know how strongly I sold it in the game's text. As I said a few months ago, I think I gave short shrift to that in my presentation of character creation. I'm sure the Narrator's discussion could use some bulking up, too.

But the thing I've really come here for today is to talk about another thing that didn't get talked about much in the AiO Narrator's chapter that really should have been: Adventures that are initiated by player actions. Because there are things in the rules that are intended to create adventures that aren't really discussed.

For example, the whole notion of limb loss during combat. The most I do in my discussion of this in the book is say to handle it very carefully. There's a lot of story potential that winds up left on the table.

As much as I say that I included the whole limb loss rule because of the Tin Woodman's backstory, there's another tale that can inform your Oz adventures. In Baum's the Magical Monarch of Mo, the titular monarch loses his head in battle with the Purple Dragon. While he does eventually get his head back, he spends some time in the interim trying on various replacement heads of differing materials.

So if a character in your Oz adventures loses a limb, they have just created a new set of adventures for themselves. Not only do they have the option of going on a quest for their old limb, but seeking out a craftsman to make the replacement limb that they want can be an adventure, as well. Maybe they want a cool steampunk robot arm, but all they can find are clockmakers who want to put a little cuckoo in it. So they go on a quest to find the Steam Punk. Or whatever.

The other thing that can feed adventures is the creation of magic items. A lot of games that have magic items include rules for making them. But for the most part, it's largely handled as a downtime, non-adventuring activity. AiO, by contrast, specifies that magic items require a number of ingredients that must be quested for. While there is a loophole where you can spend an Oz Point to have one of these ingredients already, the real fun is in the journey.

And the cool thing about both of these adventure possibilities is that they don't strictly come from the Narrator. While the Narrator may certainly include enemies wielding Deadly Weapons in their game, exactly how that fight plays out and whether anyone loses a specific limb should not be mandated. Also, it should be player choice exactly what they want for a replacement. Likewise, it is perfectly fine for a Narrator to say "A new threat has come to Oz and we need these 3 things to work the magic to save it." It is also fine for the player of a Sorcerer character to say "Narrator, I want my character to make a really cool magic item. What magical ingredients do I need to find to make it?"

Monday, September 26, 2016

Kick Me, I'm Dreaming!

I've been far too quiet on this blog lately. I didn't even finish the RPGaDay thing, though I did only miss by 1.

But some things have come up on Kickstarter that might appeal to some of my remaining readership.

First of all, the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Boxed Set. As long time readers may know, I've got a long history with GURPS. But GURPS has a reputation as a complicated system that just doesn't have the "pick up and play" appeal of something like D&D or Pathfinder.

This box set hopes to change that. The box set includes a focused subset of rules for the Dungeon Fantasy genre, pregenerated characters, a small bestiary and an adventure. Old hands should find much familiar, while new players should not be overwhelmed.

It's fully funded and working its way through stretch goals. I'm a backer, but not as much as I'd like to be, so maybe if all of my readers throw in, it will be like I backed this the way I wanted to back this.

It's also been a while since I've posted anything Oz related. Which is the primary reason I'm mentioning this next one.

The Wicked Wizard of Oz is a Fighting Fantasy-style Choose your Own Adventure gamebook currently looking for funding. I am personally very choosy about my Oz and this hits both of my red flags: Focused on Wizard and dark/punk reimagining. I know this is a personal preference and there are certainly people reading this blog who enjoy that sort of thing.

A much clearer plus side is that the project is being undertaken by someone who has worked on Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in the past, as well as someone who has had a few successful Kickstarters.

It's very close to funding as I write this, with just a few days left.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #30 Describe The Ideal Game Room If Your Budget Were Unlimited.

I more or less answered this question last year, but I do want to add a couple of details. Especially with an unlimited budget, I'd love to get my hands on one of those fancy gaming tables with drawers and shelves along the perimeter for players to put their characters sheets and dice and stuff.

The other detail I would like to add would be a whiteboard. Back when I was gaming at the university, each game got their own classroom. My players sat in desks and I had the teachers desk for my materials. It worked all right, except during fights, when the map and minis occupied the teachers desk and everyone had to crowd around the table. But the ability to write things on that whiteboard, whether it was NPC names or initiative tracking, was a boon.

Monday, August 29, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #29

I don't think the question for today is particularly useful. For the record, it's "If you could host a game anywhere on Earth, where would that be?"

The need to travel the Earth to game just feels odd to me. The "gaming Dream Team" question earlier this month covers travel to at least some degree. "I would go to Calgary so I could game with Steve again." That sort of thing. The immediate physical environment of the gaming space will be the topic tomorrow. The only other reason I can think to travel abroad doesn't really apply to gaming. I mean, maybe you could say that it would be cool to run a game set in Ancient Rome while in view of the Coliseum, or maybe even LARP in the Coliseum. But outside of that sort of circumstance, gaming somewhere and doing touristy stuff are rather separate things.

You might also talk about things like convention gaming here. The gap between the gaming at the location and doing touristy stuff is a but smaller, but still present. Still, it is very fun. I do love running and playing games at DunDraCon and I still hope against hope that one day, I will go to other cons. Winkie Con, an Oz convention, is next on my list, but Kubla Con, CelestiCon, and even GenCon would be awesome.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #28 What Film Or Novel Would You Be Most Surprised That A Friend Had Not Seen or Read?

I am always surprised to find out that people haven't seen The Wizard of Oz. While I know a lot of people haven't read the book, the film seems like one of those cultural touchstones. "Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!" "We're off to see the Wizard!" "Ding Dong! The Witch is dead!" "I'll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!"

Another supposed cultural touchstone that seems to be losing its luster is Star Trek. While the new film franchise might bring some of it back, Benedict Cumberbatch will never be Khan to me. Sorry, but a Sikh from India being presented as a genetic superman is way more interesting than Pasty White Prettyboy #49303238.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #27 Describe The Most Unusual Circumstance Or Location In Which You Have Gamed.

I would have to say the most unusual location I've gamed it would have to be a shed. There was a table in the shed, but not quite enough chairs or perimeter for everyone to sit around it. We were playing D&D, but didn't have our map and minis out. There might not have been room at the table, but Kris was running the game and it was one of his more experimental sessions.

He didn't change systems on us or anything, but there was a trial going on for one character's soul. An NPC cleric of a good god had been corrupted to evil by the actions of one of the other PCs, but had died very soon after, so there was a question regarding the final dispensation of their soul. I don't think I played my regular character that session, but was called on to speak for the powers of Good in the trial.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...