Harry Potter and the Bag of Dice

So, last month was free RPG day. We all got cool games but how many new gamers did it bring into the hobby.

Two weeks ago was the premier of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince. How many potential table top roleplayers waited in line to see it at midnight and how many free RPGs did we get to them that night. If you are concerned about bringing new, young blood into the hobby you should treat that as more than a rhetorical question.

I mostly ignored the back and forth over James Mishner’s “The industry is dead” post. Probably because I don’t read RPG Pundit thus missed the flames getting lit. However, I did catch some of the brush fires around it, most notably Trollsmyth’s musings on it. He had a valid point I hear a lot that no one address:

Because there is a huge number of kids out there reading, writing, and yes, even roleplaying right now. A sizable groundswell of interest in fantastical fiction and play that crosses gender lines has risen up in the Harry Potter generation, the likes of which have probably never been seen before. But you’ll notice I mention nothing about games. Regular readers know what I’m talking about: fanfic and free-form roleplay. It’s easy to laugh and dismiss this sort of thing (just as RPGs were laughed at and dismissed in my youth, when they weren’t being blamed for suicide and devil worship), but here are a bunch of kids so desperate for roleplay that they have built websites and software and communities to facilitate their play. They’ve done it all on their own. Why on their own? Why didn’t they take advantage of the 30+ years of RPGs that were available? Probably because they were never invited to.

So, again, I ask, why are we trading free RPGs with each other once a year in a comic book store, where most potential table top roleplayers already are playing tabletop and not out there giving free quickstarts and game out to the Harry Potter kids.

We have two more chances in roughly two years with the Harry Potter franchise. Wouldn’t it be great to see every theater with a midnight showing giving out a Harry Potter goody bag sponsored by local gamers. Along with the branded products it could include a version of the S&W quickstart with a more Harry Potter like adventure. Maybe a GORE quickstart (or CARE for Classic Alternative Roleplaying Engine) aimed at the same crowd with 2-3 adventures. Maybe a “welcome to tabletop adventures” website linked to with additional free and pay products building on those materials.

A crazy marketing nightmare? Maybe. It also might be an idea to help the hobby grew a new generation.

Gaming Update 07/22/2009

Friday night we started the Rolemaster campaign. To say it’s a change from my house ruled LL campaign is an understatement. In three hours of play we basically had a combat after a tiny bit of ship handling. I have an advantage in two players have a set of charters and one has more extensive experience with RM. I let them handle much of the results look up while I ran combat. It got me to thinking of the possible value of Master/Apprentice DM training via pair DMing not unlike pairs programming. Perhaps I’ll write about that or, even better, experiment with it.

Although the situation I was engaged in was somewhat impromptu (actually stolen from The Dice of Life on the same day) reviewing my half-done 5×5 Matrix I was able to fit it in as the first location/event of my one of the plot lines. I have selected a follow-up location for event two in this plot which is also the first location for another.

What’s interesting is all was created on the fly. I had a very high level outline of the setting, a sketch map on one piece of notebook paper, player backgrounds, and a Jeff Rients Alchemical Proposal for allowed rules and fluff (although a bit more expansive given on the rules side given RM). Using the Everchanging Book of Names I’ve added a two places (the island of * and its north eastern port of &) and one NPC (the harbor master #). I kept each on note cards and a sheet of notes which I’ll be typing into my folder for the game.

As an aside I’ve been storing all computer files for the game in a Subversion repository for backup, revision tracking, and general internet accessibility.

I’m better prepared for this Friday and may be engaging one of the characters’ backstory.

If you missed buying Death Frost Doom

have heart.  I just got the following email from Noble Knight Games:

RE: Death Frost Doom

I’m talking with them now, should hopefully be within a few weeks at the most. I’ll drop you a line when they come back into stock.

Best Regards,
Aaron Leeder

So, if you haven’t bought a copy it should be in next month or September.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about well, let James Mal over at Grognardia give you a description and review.

Gaming Update: Markers for a Heartbreaker…

Back when I discussed our shift to Rolemaster I admitted I don’t really like D&D.  That’s not quite true.  I like D&D a lot except for a few things but they become deal breakers.  More and more I’m finding myself writing a heartbreaker for another try at “old school” gaming…probably more a retro-clone supplement more than a full on game.

That said, given we didn’t play last Friday and thus have no gaming update to make I thought I’d throw some markers for a retro-clone 1st generation derivative I might write:

Flatten the Hit Point Curve: While I have no problem with increasing hit points I do have a problem with the D&D curve and it’s a fairly common one: At first level even a fighter can be killed by a house cat and by 10th level the average Magic-User is roughly on par with a White Dragon in hit points (24 vs. 27).  There are a couple of ways to accomplish this: separate wound and fatigue points or just a flatter curve.

Lack of the Ability to Be Good at Things: I have discussed before why “skills” aren’t anti-old school when they are seen as what the character is good at as opposed to what he can do.  In City States of the Apocalypse I tried using the Tunnels & Trolls saving roll and talent system but they didn’t work out well due to poor design (and DMing) on my part.  Today I read a post on using FATE Aspects in C&C that was similar to my idea but not as game breaking.  I think I’ll look into something similar.

Magic Shouldn’t Be Unified: If there is one thing the first edition of The Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying Game got right it was the multiple types of magic-users.  Magic isn’t one method or set.  However, we don’t need a dozen classes either.  I’d say have three or four who do different things.  If you do real campaign time you can have an alchemist as one.  The spell slinger of D&D is another.  A more ritual oriented mage is a third.

Dungeons: I’ll admit I’m a Silver Age quest player more than a dungeon delver.  That said, there Tolkien/modern fantasy super world changing quest doesn’t appeal either.  Is there a middle ground, more of a “Knights of the Round Table” approach?

I’m sure I can come up with others but I think these three will be among the hallmarks of whatever system I come up with.

Gaming Update…

Last Friday my group finished up the character creation for our next game: Rolemaster.

The game has a name, a combo of the two suggested, which seems to indicate I’m headed for long running silliness: Six Savage Salvagers of the Seven Seas.  Before that they had named their ship the Incorrigible.  That seems to fit us.

Our framework is the characters are the officers of a salvage vessel in an archipeligo called The Beard that connects two contients.  On the eastern one is a large empire and a pseudo-Arabia.  The other is more secretive allowing trade and access only through a handful of ports.  The continents are also connected by a more northern archipeligo called The Brow.

The crew is somewhat Firefly like in that they take what jobs they can get and sometimes don’t worry too much about the morality of it all.

Interesting bits of trivia: the ships of the setting are more Chinese Junk than Western Cog/Crack.  This allows a smaller crew for a given size plus a little flavor.  Except for the Frenzing Barbar everyone is a spell caster, although only one pure one (and no hybrids).  Half the crew has a mysterious past (and the others haven’t provided backgrounds yet).  The only elves are aquatic and the only dwarves are Sea Dwarves (campaign secret: if you have the old Heroes magazine with the ships of Glorantha article those Dwarven ships roam the seas south of the beard towards the 10,000 Islands).

We don’t play this Friday so next week’s Tuesday post (gaming update) will be about my prep work for the first week.