Yesterday on Facebook, Silver Gryphon-Games posted a picture with the caption of "Player Character Deaths : Don't cry just roll-up another one ...at level one". While certainly funny at certain level, It sort of got me to thinking about how times have changed in gaming. I know what you guys are thinking right now, not another in the old days story. But I beg you to bear with me.
So, turn back the clocks to the late 70's and early 80's. You are playing D&D with some friends and your level 5 Magic-user dies. The party has no way to bring you back, so you have to sit down and create a new character. So you break out your dice and start creating a level 1 character of some sort.
But why Level 1? After all that doesn't seem quite fair does it? I think there were of course several answer to this question. First and foremost, there were no real guidelines for this. The rules of course only talked about first level character creation, so that seemed like where you started. The examples that one could find in those pre-Internet days seemed to show that you started back at level 1. I think the biggest thing is that the game was not designed to be fair. You read that right, not designed to be fair.
Let me explain. When you look at the earliest rules, it really seems like players were suppose to maybe reach somewhere around 10th or 12th level. Hell, in AD&D the Druid class's max level was I think 14th (someone can correct me, I don't have my book handy). Honestly the game was suppose to be dangerous and player were suppose to die. A PC that reached 9th was suppose to be something special. At that level most classes had some sort of castle or other structure building option.
So what does that have to do with rolling characters up at first level? Well if player death was suppose to be common, what do you think the median level of a party might be? If you answered low-level, I suspect that would be the correct answer. Even if the party wasn't low-level, the math would usually advance the new character up fairly quickly. After all provided the character survived and got their share of the XP, While they would be behind the other characters, eventually they would be within one or two levels of the other party members. Of course that assumes that their characters didn't die.
Of course, we don't really do this sort of thing anymore. Mostly because rolling up characters get a little boring after a while. And of course who doesn't want to play the more powerful characters? I think we all want to do that. Of course I've found that the higher level characters can be just as boring after a while. Like all things, it really depends on the adventures your group is trying to run.
Well that's it for this week's trip down memory lane. I thank you for staying with me. Catch most of you on the next Podcast.
Recently, I was involved in some Air-soft stuff. It's funny seeing people "play" war that way. It also got me to think about one of my favorite games from the 80's, although I admit we didn't play it that often. That game was Twilight: 2000 (T2K).
The basic premise went something like this. World War 3 happened. There was limited nuclear exchanges. The war kept going on after that. The players are assumed to be what remains of the US Army in Europe. I think the traditional starting point was the players were part of the last battle in Poland after which most of the armed forces sort of disintegrated. So the players were on their own and usually they were trying to get out of Poland. Eventually there was a supplement that gave the players a way to get back to the US.
I'm sure I'm not doing the game justice in my description above. I think for many people the Cold War had a lot to do with people's interest in it. I think this was certainly true of the people I played with at the time, since half of them were actually in the military. It always sort of interesting when people play a game about something they could actually face in real life. Of course it also meant that sometimes there were discussions about how certain thing really worked rather than what the game said.
One thing for sure, is that T2K, was a very complex game. The game had it's own worksheet you used for character creation. The longer the player had been in the service, the more skills they had but usually the more radiation exposure and other issues they had too. Player had to qualify for certain MOS/Groups if memory serves and it was usually hard to do. And you wanted to because they usually gave you more skills. As complex as character creation was, the combat system was more so.
I just remember the damage system was complex. Each weapon had an armor multiplier (I think) and a damage. So you rolled damage, and subtracted the result of the armor used times the weapon's armor multiplier. Then the result I think was referenced in some way to determine the resulting wound. The same basic system was used for all weapons large and small. So, M16's against APC armor could be determined or hand grenades vs tank tracks. I just remember that as the GM, I would do all the math because it was just easier and faster than having my players do it.
It's odd but I don't remember too many complex adventures. In many ways, I think we use to run T2K as a form of sandbox game. The players went where they wanted and the GMs just decided on what happened from there. Mostly the players were just running for their lives and trying to scrounge for equipment to survive.
I should note that there were several adventures published for T2K, I just never really used them. A few of them had more MOS choices in them. One them including Navy Seal and other Spec Op choices. All of which were very hard to qualify for but if you did, you had a lot of skills.
You can currently get the Twilight: 2000 Bundle on DrivethruRPG for 40 USD. Which includes a revised combat system, that I've never seen nor used. I'm half tempted to pick it up. Since it seems to have every supplement made for the old game.
It should be noted that there was a revised edition of T2K that used the GDW house rule system that was used for Dark Conspiracy and Traveller: The New Era. The 2300AD game also use the background history of T2K because of the way the 2300AD history was created.
I wondering how many people have played this old game and what your memories of it are.
I've been running the Gamma World 2ed lately. One of the things that I've been noticing is that I suck at describing things? One of the things that gets interesting in Gamma World is that you find yourself trying to describe everyday items in a way that allows the players to guess what it is without telling them out right what it is.
But why are we trying to describe anything at all? I think part of it is set the mood and allow the players (and the game master) to get into the game being played. I think it give the players something to interact with. Take the players coming up to a pole in the ground. How big is it? What is it made out of? Why does it seem to be there? All questions that when answered help describe it and then allow the player to interact with it or not.
Of course how much description is too much? And yes for the record, I think you can have too much description. I think that's maybe why I suck at giving descriptions. I want to provide information but I also do not want to bore my players to death. I know I've been in gaming sessions where the GM was giving a length descriptions of everything, at some point I think most of us drifted off.
Which leads us to another question, what do you describe? I think I've always wrestled with this question. After all an RPG is not a movie or book where they can spend minutes or pages describing the city. One always describes major places that the players go to a certain extent, but shouldn't we do at least a little on the minor places?
I guess for me, I do better at describing thing when I write, I do not seem to do well in the fly when I speak.
I guess I'm asking all of you, do you suck at descriptions? If so, why do you think that? If not, are there any tips or tricks you can give?
We have gotten several reports of issues downloading episodes from the iTunes application. I'm not really sure why this is happening, but I was able to confirm it.
It does seems to be related to the new servers the Archive.org has been placing the media files on. At least that's what it seems like.
The hard part is what to do next. Other podcast downloading tools don't seem to have this issue.
I need to know how many people use iTunes and are unable to download the last two episodes.
I do take this seriously and am trying to work on how to fix this issue.
Recently, I had to reform my gaming group. You see after our Christmas hiatus, we found that we didn't have enough people anymore. This was due to players moving or having changes in their job schedules. This left us with too few players. This of course meant we needed to get new players. This left us with a big problem. What to we play?
You see there were two different Pathfinder Games that were going on. Do we try to integrate the new players into those games? Both games had already gone through massive players changes in the past and only may one or two characters that started the adventures were still around. As Game Master (but not for these games), I could not fathom trying to retcon the new players into the those games. I had the added wrinkle that some of the new players I got couldn't guarantee that they could make it every session. It was decided that we should just play a new game, hopefully one that adventures could be done in one or two sessions. That way players could come and go more easily.
We discuss several games that I could run with little effort. In the end, Gamma World won out. Although I own three editions; 1st, 2nd, and 4th, I decided to stick with 2nd edition. I choose it because I could easily run the classic GW1 Legion of Gold module with little or not modification. It was cool because it had 3 mini-adventures that I thought could be played in 1 or 2 sessions. I think even the final part of the adventure can easily be played in 1 or 2 sessions.
Since almost no one had the rules, we had to make characters at the first session. A few people came over a little early to make them. One nice thing about GW 2nd is that character generation is simple and random. I think including buying equipment most people got it done in about one with several of the players doing things at the same time. Smartly, I printed out copies of equipment lists and the like. In the end, we ended up with four mutated humans and one pure strain human.
No matter who you are, I don't think you can take Gamma World seriously. I know I can't. My players certainly couldn't. But for me, that is what makes it fun. Player get to have crazy mutations like 4 arms and 4 legs, wings, hand that emit low level radiation, and the like. They also get to run into really silly creatures like humanoid mutant badgers with axes and crossbows or giant termites with gas generation. Of course Gary Gygax's GW1 module does help matters. Gygax pretty much seemed to have written as fantasy module but with mutants and technology instead of elves and magic. It takes place in a barony for example. I think he also assumes that most people are normal humans and not mutants. At least no where can I find where major NPCs are said to mutants.
So what did the players think of the game system? I think they enjoyed the lack of rules. For example character creation is easy, there are no classes nor skills. There are only race choices after that, the players can decide for themselves if they are sneaky or more martial in attitude. After using the hardcore initiative systems in most modern Role-Playing Games, the rather simple system was nice change of pace. When it was the player's turn, we either went around the table or the players just decided which of them would go first. It was a little odd to get use to doing again. Still I think the players enjoyed the experience. There was much laughter and mockery. In general, I think everyone had fun.
The only downside is that we only game every two weeks and our next session is not until the first weekend in March.
It's been a while since I've posted a blog entry but thought I would jump on this month's Blog Carnival to get back started into do a blog weekly. It was really a hard choice. After all this month's topic is Pimp A Game. So which little played game to show love to? I was toying with Justifiers RPG, but I no longer have that game. In the end, I decided on SpaceMaster.
SpaceMaster is an old game from Iron Crown Enterprises. The version of the game that I've played a lot and still own is the one based on Rolemaster version 2. This was before all the RMSS silly that happened.
So what was so great about SpaceMaster you ask? After all it was based on Rolemaster. Is not Rolemaster a complex game? Strangely enough, parts of SpaceMaster were much simpler than Rolemaster. For example, there were certainly a lot fewer weapons charts. Much like Middle Earth Roleplaying (MERP), it's charts combined many weapons on a single chart. Have a laser rifle, it use the laser chart. Have a laser pistol, it uses the laser chart. The only difference is where they max out on the chart much like Rolemaster's shock bolt or fire bolt spell charts. The super fun critical charts remain the same.
One of the other things that was interesting was the fact that even with an implied setting, one could still create and use one's own setting. Much like Rolemaster, they have a rather interesting section that gives information on creating your own. Which is nice because I'm not 100% down with the 10,000 years in the future setting that comes with SpaceMaster. I found it was usually pretty simple of just removing some of the races, equipment, and some skills. Being an old Traveller player, I prefer my FTL to take a little longer. The default speeds of FTL are something around 10 LY per day. I usually divided that by 10. Which was useful because one could easily use published material with just a little work.
If one also had the Star Strike and Armored Assault Games, then Gear Heads could make short work of the design systems. One thing that I always thought was cool was the fact that vehicle and starship construction rules were nearly identical. As a matter of fact by combining the rules, you could create a starship that has vehicle drive system (or vice-verse). Outside of maybe Mega-Traveller, I can't think of too many games that had that amount uniformity across starship and vehicles.
The nice thing is that you can get various parts of the Spacemaster from DriveThruRPG. So check it out if you feel so inclined.
Well, I haven't posted something in a few weeks and it's time for to start up again. This week, I would like to talk about something that is currently happening for me personally. the need to restart a stalled group.
So what do I mean by that exactly you my ask? It a group that had momentum. We were gaming on a regular basis. In our case every other Saturday. Then a few things happened. First up was life events for two of our players. Life events are events that change a persons life. It could be marriage, birth of children, divorce, new jobs, etc. In the case of one player, he got a new job and that changed his available schedule. The other player was forced to move so he could get work. This shrunk the available size of the group. It also in our case shrunk the number of people that could be counted on to play on a regular basis. In my group we have at least 3 players that depending on the needs of their job can play from time to time. Which means in my case we were left with 3 people including myself that were guaranteed to show up. The other thing that happened was the Holidays. I think for most people this is a time that RPG gaming takes a hiatus. This of course creates a stall. Sometimes it's hard to recover from such a stall. In some cases because people start planning to do other things. I know for myself, this was the case. I began to plan trips and activities because there was no gaming going on.
So now here it is almost 6 weeks of no gaming. In many ways it feels like there isn't a group. So what's a person to do but to see about trying to restart the stalled group. When one does this, one has to look at what the current batch of players are up to. Are there time constraints to worry about? Are there possible scheduling conflicts? Is there another day and time that works better? Are more people needed? Are there dangling adventures?
While restarting a group seems simple, sometimes it's not. We had a lack of players. First we attempted to see if there were days and times that would allow our current players all play at the same time. The only day and times that worked were on a Saturday evening/night. I hate to say it but being single, I'm not sure I want to commit to that. The second options is to keep the current plan of every other Saturday afternoon. Which meant I needed to find more players. Luckily for me, I was able to tap a few guys that were playing in my Thursday night games. That group had stalled as well. I'm happy that I was able to take the remains of two groups and form one group.
The second part for me to restart a stalled group has to do with looking at dangling adventures and what sort of things we can or should run with the group at hand. One thing for my current group that has come up time and time again is that not all players can make it to every game session. Take the dangling adventure, I think the poor GM has had to retconn the appearances and disappearances of several Player Characters. This should be like this. I think the GM really wants to finish his adventure, but I'm not sure myself if it should continue. I think the issue of not having all the players all the time (or even most of the time) is an issue we all face. I think this is why adventures which can be run in a 4 to 6 hour time frame work out well. The players are able to get involved, have fun, and get things resolved. You play with the players you have at hand and you don't have to worry about retconn hell. That's not to say that an adventure couldn't run into another session but it should not be the norm. This means if you are going to make adventures of epic nature. You may want to breakdown what would have been a large adventure to a series of tasks. Each task being a session adventure. Something that does not require each player to be there for each session.
So currently that's what I'm going for. No it's not pretty but that's the way things go sometimes. I wonder if you the gentle reader have ever had issues like this and what you did to solve them?
I find it interesting that there seems to be a resurgence in my interest Cyberpunk. While I know that there have been Cyberpunk genre games out there, it seems there has been a lot of Cyberpunk related stuff that starting to come out again.
First there was the Cyberpunk 2077 video for the some video game. While not an RPG, it does seem to be based on the old RPG in some way. At least it seems that way if they have a picture in the background of Alt. Then there is the Savage Worlds Kickstarter, Full Metal Cyberpunk. It all got me to thinking about the viability of a Cyberpunk setting.
You see, I still remember when Cyberpunk the RPG first came out in the 1980's. It seemed so relevant at the time. The United States Economy was so-so. Japan seemed to be taking over the world Economically. No matter what anyone else says about that time, I remember thinking about how many of the Cyberpunk Elements could happen. I guess in a way the future looked a little bleak to me at the time and Cyberpunk seems to reflect that.
The odd thing about Cyberpunk is that by the time Cyberpunk 2020 came out, the world didn't seem so bleak. Of course I purchased it and thought much of it was still cool. Then something happened. It seems like Cyberpunk was more about the metal than the meat. Which is the danger of almost all Science Fiction type games. Somehow we what the flashy metal. Which explains why there were at least three Chromebooks for Cyberpunk 2020 that I can think of. I own two and have to say while the first one was OK, I think they really started to stretch things there. I'm almost thinking that some people wished there was not the whole concept of Cyberpsychosis. I pretty sure some people ignored it.
I guess the problem always seems that much of the Cyberpunk stuff just didn't seem as bleak to me anymore. I guess I always liked my Cyperpunk to be a little more gritty and honestly tied to reality in some way.
To be fair, I am considering that Full Metal Cyberpunk thing for Savage Worlds. The information sounds interesting and it is for Savage Worlds.
So, I wonder how many of you still play a Cyberpunk type game? And Yes, I'll count Shadowrun. Even though personally, I don't quite call that Cyberpunk at all. It's more modern urban fantasy then Cyberpunk (I think it lacks Attitude, but that's just me). So, please let me know what if anything you run!
With my birthday being this month, like most people I start to think about how old I actually am. Being a gaming, this also got me to think about the aging of characters. After all, if a character lasts long enough, shouldn't that character age??
That of course got me to wondering about a whole slew of things. The first of which is, if people actually choose a birth date for their character? Heck is there even a real calendar for the setting? Do people actually keep track of what exact day it is? My own experience in this area is that we generally don't. We may know the age of the character because we wrote it down but we rarely choose a birthday. And of course it usually complicated by the fact that most games don't really use a calendar. We may keep track of how long it takes to get there or say, it's certain time of year, but we really refer to the calendar date. Of course Genre and setting has a lot to do with calendars. If a setting or Genre using a calendar system that is not similar to what we normally use, the less likely it is that it will actually be used. So modern day games tend to have an edge here. Games like Traveller with simple 365 day calendar also have an edge. I've seen Fantasy games that have their own calendar but I don't think I've ever used them.
Even without an actual setting calendar, one could still age a character if you knew that it has roughly been a year. Like if you start a game and it's fall and you go through all the seasons and it's fall again. At that point, you could age your character one year. How many people do that? At least many of the games I've played in, we may know how long in days an adventure has lasted but we forget how many days a player has been adventuring in total. As a GM, I think unless I can have a calendar that's simple to use, I know I don't keep track very well. Which makes me wonder if I should just use the simple Traveller calendar sheet for all my games. After all it's just a simple 365 day counter. It should be page one in my GM notebook for that game.
So we have a calendar and we keep track of passage of time. I guess the last question is do people have the characters suffer the effects of aging? Of course this question only applies if you do keep track of time. Otherwise, your character is ageless. Of course this really depends on the game system in question. Some games like Traveller, have the aging built into the character generation. Other the effects of an age group seem to be in some hidden part of the rule book. I'd like to hear from people that have had aging affect their character.
I guess in the end, it all boils down to one thing. Is it important? If a game is going to be short lived, then I would say no. But if the in game time is going end up being years, then I say it could be. Send me your thoughts.
Greetings and Salutations listeners and readers of RPG Circus,
It is hard to believe but here we will be starting Season 5 next week. Which means of course that we been around four and half years. I am very proud of that. Not to mention, that I still have fun doing the podcast and the off and on blog post. That's very important in this sort of operation as one does not get paid. So, the fact that you guys are out there and still listening and still sending us written and audio comments is very important to us. So, please by all means send more!
Of course every time a new season comes around, it's time for us here at RPG Circus to at things and see if there is anything different we should be doing. After all, there are always things that can be improved upon. Still, we did have one milestone last year. We actually recorded 25 episodes last year, which is more than we have every recorded in a single season. I look forward to seeing how many episodes we can get done this year. For those that want even more episodes, I doubt that we will be recording more than once every two weeks. Of course that said, there are other things that I would like to try this year, but I'm not sure yet how to intergrate. As you know I've fooled around in the past with a little video stuff. I think I'd like to do a little more of that this year. I'm not sure of the format for those videos or what topics those videos might take. Or if I will do them at all. It's still something of wishful thinking right now. I do know that if I do them at all, they would be fairly short.
All which comes back to you. We want you to help us help you. Tell what topics you would like us to cover. Tell us what you like or dislike about the show. Tell us anything. Tell how you think we should be using various social media.
So Happy New Year and Good Gaming.