Monday Pointers, 2014-10-27

D4: Possessing the Elf

As plenty of people have pointed out over the past 40 odd years, D&D elves have evolved into Mary Sues, basically prettier, more graceful humans that fight like fighters and cast like magic-users. What could be the reality of this pretty facade? An alternate take on the LotFP (and similar games) Elf class.

D6: What Do Spells Tell Us

In the tradition of exploring the OD&D implied setting an analysis of what setting the Fifth Edition spell lists imply.

D8: More Implications

Speaking of implied settings, what are the implications of the original Fiend Folio as an implied setting.

D10: Rifter Reviews

An entire blog’s worth.

101 Days of Rifts: Palladium and OSR

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Hey Herb, didn’t you start this blog because of an interest in old school game and especially old school D&D. Why are you focusing on Rifts, a cheesy 90s game that everyone knows is junk.”. Okay, maybe you aren’t doing the judging but are wondering why Rifts instead Gamma World or Runequest or Starships & Spacemen or anything by Sine Nomine given how much you’re into their games. I contend that Rifts and Palladium games in general are old school. In fact, I’ll lay down my marker and say Palladium is the oldest old school company still in existence and is ignored by the OSR to the OSR’s loss. Actually, ignored is probably too strong a word. I think the OSR and the Palladium fan base should naturally overlap and just never have.

The Palladium system, as I have pointed out before, is a variation of OD&D. As such, it uses Gygaxian building blocks. Palladium has used this to advertise all their games as compatable. That’s a bit of a stretch but it does mean Palladium supplements are great supplements for an old school game. A couple of year’s ago when I tried to do a month of posts using Jeff Rients’s Alchemical Formula I picked Palladium’s Mystic China as a supplement. I think any OSR oriented person would do well to add a Palladium book or two to their collection. Picking the right one, such as Rifts England or Splicers can add a strange spice to your game not dissimilar to early Arduin in feel.

Since the late nineties Palladium has produced a quarterly house magazine called The Rifter. To give an idea of the contents here is the table of contents for issue #4, the first I bought (for its Nightbane content):

  1. From Behind the Desk (editorial)
  2. Palladium New, Info, & Coming Attractions
  3. Palladium Fantasy RPG Hook, Line, & Sinkers for the Western Empire (scenario outlines)
  4. Knight of the Dinner Table (yes, the comic)
  5. Palladium Fantasy RPG Long, Strange Trips (G.M. tips & ideas)
  6. Palladium Fantasy RPG Death is Not Always Final (monsters)
  7. Nightbane RGP The Tribes of the Moon (character races and classes)
  8. Rifts A.R.C.I.E. Three vs. The World (adventure)
  9. Rifts The Evolved (monsters)
  10. The Siege Against Tolkeen (gamer fiction)
  11. Hammer of the Forge (gamer fiction)
  12. Optional Character Sheet

Pretty much looks like an issue of Fight On to me except for the fiction.

Finally, the Palladium Forums at the company’s website spend a lot of time on either houseruling things (Palladium is like OD&D, every game is unique) or doing new material. There is less of a web presence and much of it has been static for a decade but it is still there.

Palladium’s heritage and fan base are very much OSR types. While they might put a bit more emphasis on cannon, especially the Rifts section, for game worlds with as many books there is a smaller cannon police feel. I think if you’re into the OSR mindset Palladium games are a great fit.

Buried Treasures: Old School RPG Magazines and Fanzines

Because I can’t keep track I thought I’d create a list of RPG fanzines and magazines dedicated to pre-3.x D&D, clones of it, and T&T. Images are the most current issue. The order is not meant to be a comment, but just reflects the order I remembered them.

If I missed your magazine or you’d like the link or thumbnail changed please drop me a line. I’m only interested in those still being actively produced (I’m unsure of the status of Green Devil Face so I didn’t list it).

Monday Pointers: March 23, 2010 Edition

D4:Customizing 4E – “Old School”
MJ Hanish at Gaming Brouhahah has some notes on optional rules from the Fourth Edition’s Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 and some campaign restrictions to get a more old school feel out of the current WotC game sold under the D&D banner. He includes core ideas and then some specific recommendations for a Moldavy/Cook or AD&D game. With a lot of people who have never played the older editions and the upcoming new red box knowing how to adapt fourth to our style is worth investigating. If you disagree, try MJ’s last paragraph.

D6:Raggi gives the perfect standard for OSR membership
Playing one of these games is pretty much the only requirement to be “one of us.” No matter where you came from, what you did before, doesn’t even matter if it’s your favorite sort of game. You play the game in good faith, you’re one of us, and fuck anyone who tries to impose greater “membership requirements” than that.

D8:Feeling Old School
A interesting thread on requesting descriptions of old school games other than D&D. With some specific requests. Head on over and share your knowledge.

D10:Musings on Sandbox Campaigns
Bat in the Attic has some interesting points about running a sandbox campaign. I think the second is the most missed point about sandboxes. They exist without the player characters and the GM should have an idea of what is happening outside of what the PCs do. Then, if the PCs run into those plans by NPCs you get plot.

D12:Realms and Remembrance
Having gotten a great response to his Secret Origins post of inside facts about the original Marvel Superheroes RPG Jeff Grubb decided to follow with one about the early publishing history of the Forgotten Realms.

D13:Red Box Bryan College Station
Bringing out the D13 to toot my own horn again, I’m working to start a monthly BECMI game inspired by Red Box New York, Red Box Vancouver, and Red Box Calgary. I’ll also be using Meetup to promote. Expect a longer post on my Red Box Network idea later this week (or not…we all know me).

D20:How the Red Moon Came to Glorantha
I found Greg Stafford’s personal site recently and it has some interesting articles. This one, on the genesis of White Bear, Red Moon was a revalation. As someone who learned of Glorantha from gaming it was odd to find out the part of the world that has dominated, almost to the exclusions of all others, wasn’t originally conceived as part of that world. This only reinforces the drive to create “My Glorantha”.

D100:Speaking of the Mythmaker
Allen Varney, in his rotating spot in the High Adventure column at The Escapist profiled Greg Stafford. In light of my mission statement/subtitle here I have to share this quote:
Roleplaying is one way for us to stimulate that mystery sense. Furthermore, its tropes activate all kinds of deeper curiosity and let us exercise both beneficial and gruesome fantasies that lie dormant in us. Choose anything from great heroics to serial murders – what greater opportunities do geeks like us have than to seek these while sitting at a table of friends? Are we heroes as a result? Nah, course not. But we are friends with shared thoughts, and that is good for the soul. And when we romp through those tropes, something deep inside is exercised – the mystery stirs.

So, we start another week. Last week was my best ever in terms of numbers. While I think the fact that I posted five days running might have something to do with it I have to bow to the reality that my TARGA posts got the numbers. Still, to new readers welcome aboard. I hope you find my material interesting to enough to stay. And that Miss Manners post is still getting hits.

Researching Spells: They have to be new

So, I wandered back to an excellent discussion of B/X spellbook limits at Ode to Black Dougal.

Looking at my comment I think I left an important idea out but researched spells, which I allowed to exceed the spellbook limitations, CANNOT be spells in the B/X rulesbooks or that you can be taught by other magic-users. Basically, the idea is there is a common legacy of magic, the spells TSR provided, that make up the limited spells. To become more than a copyist of others you much research your own.

I didn’t have this in mind back then, but I think it is a crucial addition. In fact, I could swear this exact limitation (spell research means spell creation) was in the original Dungeon Master’s Guide in conjunction with the Intelligence limits on spell (which I believe research allowed you to exceed). Maybe it is in some other early book but I could swear I read it back in the day (maybe one of Gary’s rants in The Dragon).

Regardless, I think if you’re going to allow Magic-Users to exceed whatever limit your rules set offers (as do all versions up to second edition where it became optional) you should only allow it by researching of entirely new spells.

A Demon Haunted World

Yesterday I wrote about using the background of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically the show’s ancient history, as the setting of a Swords & Wizardry game. I specifically discounted the idea of using S&W for a modern world game in the setting.

Well, today I’m partially turning my back on that on that idea. I think a S&W supplement in a modern day world where the characters move in a shadow world populated by the last vestiges of the Old Ones is a great idea. I want to create a modern fantasy game not of the de Lint/Bull school (as much as I love War for the Oaks and similar novels) nor of the strictly horror genre but a modern swords and sorcery game of demon hunting, forbidden magics, and a parallel magical culture. Touch stones for such a game would obviously include Buffy and Angel. I would also add Neverwhere and the Harry Potter novels. For those wondering about the latter, it wandered in from discussions my Trollsmyth and d7 as well as here about appealing to Harry Potter fandom.

If nothing else I think such a project is an excellent response to the twin questions: how far can you stretch Classic D&D and will the OSR create something new or just repeat the past.

Thus, I’m announcing my S&W project, tentatively called A Demon Haunted World: Swords & Sorcery in the here and now. I’ll present pieces as I create them here at Places to Go, People to Be with at least one new piece every Thursday. I already have a character class, The Chosen, to replace clerics (and modeled on Buffy herself obviously). I also have some ideas on the economy of the magical world based on gold but with different values and uses for different alloys and colors. Some fairly common (and some less common) rules for wizards already running around will be in, such as Light/Dark wizards, counter-spells, and wizard dueling. Finally, new races are already on the drawing boards with men divided into four kinds and half demons giving five racial options. Half demons will be a character class by themselves but the four types of men will have different class options (and advantages at certain classes).

The long term (Christmas 2010?) goal is to actually write this up as my entry into the pdf/print product market. I’ve been looking for something that spoke to me in a way that made me want to publish. Given my love of modern fantasy of all types I think this is it.

A Demon Haunted Past

This world is older than any of you know and, contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the earth and made it their home…their Hell. In time they lost their purchase on this reality and the way was made for the mortal animals, for Man. What remains of the Old Ones are vestiges, certain magics, certain creatures…and Vampires

A quote from Lovecraft perhaps? Maybe it’s from August Derleth or even Clark Ashton Smith?

No, the above is actually Joss Whedon and from The Harvest, the second episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the show was definitely about hip young people slaying modern demons (both of the life stage and supernatural kind) bits and pieces of this history would show up over the course of the series, especially in the seventh season, and would play a major role in the spin-off series Angel.

I find it interesting that what many gamers would consider a core swords and sorcery trope is at the core of Buffy. The show is very modern in its time period, its characters, and its sensibilities yet its core mythology, from the pilot on, is one that has great deal in common with the weird tale. Certainly, Whedon admits to being a horror fan. However, in the interviews I’ve seen it’s horror of a movie sort and it is a rare film, in my experience, that has any mythos much less one with a horrific demon haunted past. That said, despite its similarity it does miss some of the elements in the Lovecraftian past. While the Buffyverse is a universe where the struggle against evil never ends and most characters will eventually fail (an idea more obvious in Angel than in Buffy) it is still more heroic than fatalism. The heroism is in the struggle and even failure can be a defeat of evil.

Watching the entirety of both series (itself an enjoyable pastime) with a notebook in your lap could be a great way to “design” a setting for a game, especially one of the very flexible retro-clone like Swords & Wizardry.

No, I’m not saying you play S&W in the show’s modern setting (although that could be interesting). There already exists an excellent role-playing game for it. However, imagine taking the open to this post and all the various references to ancient demons, cults, religions, and magics through out the two series. Then set it among the ruins of Atlantis or some other pre-Sumerian civilization or even in a Hercules/Xena ancient world.

I suspect we might start seeing bits and pieces of A Demon Haunted Past showing up here every now and then.