- STARFARER Space-Opera Roleplay
- STARFARER Campaign Codex.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
Sunday, January 2, 2011
I was going to call this TEARS & TANTRUMS™ RPG. But I feel this heading is more apt, since I have corrupted little minds.
Firstly, I probably should explain: My father-in-law Doug Williams recently visited us and he brought along our niece and two nephews. Kayla is age 10 and Kane and Ashley are twin boys, age 7. Being an impromptu visit by the latter three, I was kinda thrown aback when it was announced that they would be staying with us for four days. As I am still working two jobs these days (writing and factory working), I knew that trying to write in our 2 bedroom home would be merely pretence, so I swallowed my pride and let that go for those days. I
remembered a little while ago early 2010 when I was entertaining the thought of having both of our families visit us for Christmas in Bega. One of the activities I planned to do was to introduce Kayla, Kane and Ashley to Fighting Fantasy, specifically Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
I have posted about WoFTM before. Pundits will know that this book was first published in 1982. I remember receiving it via the primary school book club in 1983. As a December baby, the astute of you will calculate that I was 10 when I first challenged the creatures of the underworld therein. I surmised that Kayla perhaps mature enough to do the same. However, I didn't just want to throw the book in her lap, along with two dice, a pencil and an eraser, and then expect her to instantly find the book cool.
I did the next best thing: I read it to her. Like a Dungeon Master would.
Naturally, Kane and Ashley wanted in on the action. So I briefly explained the concepts of SKILL, STAMINA, LUCK and the basics of combat. During this process, I watched each of the kids roll their respective d6s for their attributes.
Finally, three adventurers stood before me, awaiting the horrors of Firetop Mountain:
- KANE, the Swordsman.
- KAYLA the Amazon.
- ASH the Axe-battler.
I read out the ‘RUMOURS’ section of the book, making special note to emphasise the part about the Warlock’s magical power. There was a lot of text to get through and I could see already that I was losing the twins rapidly. Then, I showed them the picture of the mountain, and how it looked as if the cliff face had been savaged by some gargantuan beast.
‘Whoa! Look at the skulls on the post! I wonder what lives in the caves?’
I had them hooked. We had a great time. It took us three days to get to the inner sanctum of the Warlock (I helped them a little with the Maze of Zagor).
* * * * * * * * *
NO TEARS & TANTRUMS™ GAMEBOOK ROLEPLAYING.
Here are a few suggestions that may help when introducing youngsters to (the dark and evils of!) Roleplaying Games.
START SIMPLE: When exposing youngsters to RPGs, please remember that you are exposing them to concepts that may be alien and a little frightening to them. Take it slow and start with something simple.
KNOW YOUR GAMEBOOK: If possible, play through the book yourself and make notes. Keep an eye out for things which might be frustrating, quarrel-inducing and the like. It will help you to manage things when it comes time for the children to play.
BEHAVIOUR AT THE TABLE: A zero tolerance of children fighting/quarrelling with others is a good start. Reinforce that your word is final.
DICE: Let the dice fall where they may. As you might expect in my game, there were a lot of 6s rolled during the character creation process, but thankfully as the game wore on (mainly because after ‘magically’ rolling a ‘6’, imagine their surprise when that number came straight off their respective STAMINA), they were all inclined to let the dice fall where they may. Watch their rolls if you need to and admonish them for not rolling properly or are caught cheating. All rolls not made on the table do not count. To not tolerate tears/tantrums from those who roll low at a crucial juncture. This is a game.
MATH: Encourage them to add up their own numbers. Do not help them to speed play.
CHEATING: Thankfully this did not come up for me, but I was prepared to impose some harsh penalties (like missing out on treasure for 3 goes).
DECISION MAKING: As there were three players, I gave each of them a vote. The majority vote dictated the decision of the party. For impasses, have players must throw two dice and whoever gets the highest, gets to make the decision for the party.
TREASURE: Try and divide treasure evenly if you can, but do not adjust the amounts of gold dictated in the book.
ITEMS: Pass out the first item yourself and then explain who gets the second, third (and so on). This establishes an acceptable routine for them to follow. As an alternative, have the children roll two dice at the start of the adventure to determine who gets the first item. In some instances, I used large amounts of gold as an item to offset the other two getting something.
NARRATING: Practice your narrating skills. It helps to treat it like a bedtime storybook. Try and avoid a monotonous tone when reading out descriptive text. Don’t forget to show them pictures if you have them.
COMBAT: Try and run combats as written if you can, but do not be afraid of adding in extra monsters if you need to. For Fighting Fantasy, brush up on your rules for ‘Fighting more than One Opponent.’ Also, make it exciting; like you would if you were Dungeon Mastering for a group of your regular friends. Just saying ‘Miss, Hit, Hit’ gets boring very quickly.
MAPPING: Draw the map for them, so they understand how to do it.
Children are quick studies and learnt their boundaries fast. Despite my having to shut down play at one point, I only had to do it once. They understood the consequences of bad behaviour.
* * * * * * * * *
DAY 3: THE WARLOCK’S SANCTUM
On the morning of the day they were leaving for Great Aunty Shirley (they call her Aunty Grandma); they finally burst through into the Warlock’s sanctum. After robbing him of his power (which they remembered from RUMOURS), they defeated him in combat and set about looting his chest. They found to their dismay that despite them having three keys, only two of them were correct. I fully expected either one or both the twins to have a fit.
Kane said: ‘Right! I hit the chest with my sword!’ Ashley and Kayla also agreed to do the same thing.
I followed their lead and backtracked a few references, as giving them the option for doing so had already passed. The thunderous rumbling once again filled the air and everyone was required to Test your Luck. Kane was unlucky that time and ended up a sooty outline upon the floor.
This is it: The time where indelible marks are left upon people’s minds and souls.
‘Hahaha! Cool!’ Exclaimed Kane and Ashley. “Can we keep this book so we can try again?”
“Sure.” I said, smiling.
But remember: For once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.
It was time to go, so I gave them their map, some pencils and some dice each. I also gave them some books to take with them.
- Island of the Lizard King
- Eye of the Dragon
- Crypt of the Sorcerer
- And my copy of Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
So long, my old friend. I will miss you.
Those days playing Warlock of Firetop Mountain with Kayla, Kane and Ashley have stayed with me, reminding me of a time when I played Blood Sword with Mark and Adrian James. (Blood Sword –incidentally-- is set in the same world as Dragon Warriors). Blood Sword is a series of 4 game books that (ended weirdly) could be played with up to 4 players. I loved Blood Sword as it eliminated the need for a Dungeon Master and yet was still an RPG of sorts. We three ate those books alive.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
One of the things that surprised me the most is the HUGE swathe of RPGS (being retroclones, variant RPGs et.al.) now (or soon to be) available, that are –in some way, shape or form—Dungeons and Dragons Simulacrums. The concept is common enough now that it has its own wiki entry. I find it hard to try and group the bulk of these under one banner, and I think that describing them as a Simulacrum is possibly the best term I can use: I use it to describe retroclones, reimaginings, revisions, or whatever you wish to call them. So, with apologies to each of them:
- Swords and Wizardry
- Labyrinth Lord
- Castles & Crusades
- Raven Crowking’s Fantasy Game
- Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
- For Gold and Glory
- Old School Reference and Index Compilation (OSRIC)
- Dark Dungeons
- Realm of Geeking (Chris Perkins’) AD&D3
- Basic Fantasy Roleplay
I am sure there are others. I have spent the last week trying to track down and collate them, so if I have missed yours please let me know and I shall edit this post J
You see, I love old school. Similarly, my mission statement is to bring ‘Old School to a New Edition.’ Pretty corny --I know-- but it is something that means a lot to me, and I don’t mean that in the way being all well and good by slap Benguiat Bold or FritzQuadrata Bold on top of a heading and claim that it is old school; I mean that in design and execution to the nth degree, regardless on how long it takes me (sorry to those waiting on Temple of the Kraken; it will be done soon. Not 2010, but soon).
Getting back to the Dungeons and Dragons Simulacrums, a lot of them appeal to me, especially old school looking/feeling/(however-you-quantify-it) RPGs. The thing is, when I drilled down into a number of them, I found things I didn’t like. These things shall remain nameless, because they range from personal taste to marketing perspectives, nothing more.
So, I even toyed with the idea of making my own.
The thing is, there are so many damn Dungeons & Dragons Simulacrums out there, my audience will be small at best, and were I to release my own RPG --I fear it would be lost among the crowd. Also: The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is something that I am following with interest; Adventure, Dungeons and Danger was born from Goodman Games leaving for 4thEdition D&D and I am pleased to see that Goodman Games taking back a little ‘old school’ with their DCC line by launching their own RPG. I will have to wait and see what is in store there and I hope that I will like what I see.
As an aside (and to shake you all up), perhaps this dalliance is born from having cold feet with PFRPG? Without trying to scare people; I really don’t know the answer to that. As an adventure writer (and a poor one at that, given the lack of releases over this year), I need to believe in the aspects of the game I am writing for. I’ll be honest and say that I have been dismayed with some of the threads on Paizo’s forums, which has made me sit up and ask a few questions. These threads have ranged from people complaining about key aspects of recent releases, character class makeup and a variety of other things. It is these things that have made me sit up and ask myself:
‘Can I really bring ‘Old School to a New Edition’?
So, yeah; whilst on this sabbatical, working in the SunGold Milk Factory 40 hours a week to pay for the horrors which have made up 2010, I have looked over the fence (long-time readers will note that I have looked farther afield some time ago as a means to expand my audience) to see what is over there. Thing is, the grass might be greener in some places. It is a patchwork farmland.
I got into this game to be an adventure writer. I believe in PFRPG and I will continue to support them and you for some time to come.
Temple of the Kraken is tight. It is not finished, but it is tight. Wait for it. Roll some 4th or 5th level characters and put them aside, just for this. It is good.
I will even let slip here two ideas I have for a next module:
- Gothic Horror Supermodule. Whilst I would like to take my time and write an Adventure Path the size of Paizo’s, I need to be realistic. This supermodule follows the discovery of a lost legacy within the demon-haunted forests of Tranfax. I am looking at the size and scope of ‘Scourge of the Slavelords’ as an estimate and will either release the adventure episodically (in standard module sizes) after I write it and/or release the whole ‘A1-4’ (so-to-speak) as an entire book
- Continue in the vein of ‘Horror at Dagger Rock’ and ‘Temple of the Kraken’ and write stand-alone adventure set an ancient desert city. This module would feature a ‘game within a game’, tricks, traps and lovecraftian horror amid the shadows of an ancient tower. The PCs (if successful), would become the honored rulers of a city.
Thank you to everyone who has bought Rel-Draxa. I am now the proud owner of Campaign Cartographer 3, Dungeon Designer 3 and various add-ons and annuals. I cannot wait to see how our world turns out.
Thus, here endeth the sabbatical: 2011 is going to be tiring but satisfyingly successful. Happy New Year!
To take you out is the picture attached to this post: The 'Fell Captain' of the Temple of the Kraken. The image is © David Fisher. Enjoy.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Well now, hey there and welcome back! My partner and I have moved from Bega, in New South Wales, to Stawell in Victoria. It looks as if we will have another move to accomplish in the next few weeks, this time to Warrnambool, where my family informs me, lies our future. For latecomers, my parents' tenuous health have necessitated that I move closer to be within a few hours' drive in case of emergency. My partner (god bless her) has already picked up work as a Lab Technician meaning that we are nearly back on track. I am extremely happy about that.
PRODUCT TITLE COMPETITION
Anyway, back to the post. Whilst in transit, I started a competition to see if someone in the RPG community could come up with a product title for my Adventure, Dungeons & Danger line. I think that this is important for a number of reasons:
1. If Adventure, Dungeons & Danger ever becomes its own roleplaying game system, the term 'Adventure, Dungeons and Danger' will spearhead that as the title.
2. The product title is analogous to the likes of WORLD OF GREYHAWK, FORGOTTEN REALMS, AL-QADIM, PLANESCAPE, et.al. Meaning that I can create more product titles for different (specific and perhaps interrelated) genres. I can keep a similar 'old school' look and vary the layout and the name as popularity dictates.
So obviously this was a good time to determine and define what sort of generic setting I was going for. I have been trying hard to explain it, but I think it cannot be any more succinct as 'Swords and Sanity' a term coined upon the blog Swords against the Outer Dark. I especially like the subtitle: 'Where Sword & Sorcery gaming meets Cthulhuania and Yog-Sothothery' I shall be following this site with great interest.
The title I came up with for this generic setting was 'ELDER REALMS' and the competition was designed to see if anyone could come up with a better title. Instead of finding one, I found two close contenders: ELDRITCH DARK and DARKLING HORIZONS. Each suggestion captures what I was after and both have come from members of ENWorld.org. At this stage, I am still sticking with ELDER REALMS as the Product Title, but as I get closer to releasing Temple of the Kraken, the Product Title may change to one of those two suggestions.
So, a heartfelt thank-you and congratulations to 'KalebDaark' and Robert J Grady for their contributions: Both will receive a brand new Pathfinder GameMastery Guide in the mail very soon.
Oh the pic? I like to listen to my fans and critics alike --and I wanted to see if I could create a color map of Rel-Draxa. Don't forget that I am learning these software packages as I go, so I have no formal training. It is work in progress and I have cropped it a little so as to not give away much from Temple of the Kraken or to stymie those who have been loyal in purchasing Rel-Draxa. This pic is just a test to see if it *could* be converted without having to start from scratch. I am moderately happy with the results I am making, so when it is complete, I shall work out a way of getting it to my loyal fans. It does represent a move away from 'old school' mapping, but I want to see where this goes. Unlike the picture, the map will be vectors, so a viewer can zoom to any magnification and not encounter pixellation. For those interested, I have been lurking over at the Cartographer's Guild and avidly reading the forums for tips and tricks. It was because of the Cartographer's Guild that I encountered the Ankeshel map from Sunken Empires. That map is everything I wanted Rel-Draxa to be. I have gotta say that is the first map that has made me *want* to become a better cartographer and artist. It is the driving force behind my buying a PDF copy of Sunken Empires and attempting a color version of my own map. I would like to acknowledge the cartographer Jonathan Roberts (Torstan of the C Guild) for his outstanding work. Astute viewers will note that I followed Jonathan's use of the golden ratio for the underwater sections. As I use a set of more simplistic lines in my maps, I will have to rely more on labels and notes in order to convey what I want.
When I set out to buy this product, I was surprised to find that this title is popular enough to have sold completely out of the print version, although I am assured that more are on their way. PDF only until then. As a fan of all things dark and forgotten, Sunken Empires fits right in to what I want to do as a designer and a gamesmaster, in fact it has given me an idea for a sequel for Temple of the Kraken. My only disappointment is that the OGL sections seem restrictively small which seems a shame and I am unsure if I can use any of the monsters from the bestiary in any of my own products (It appears that only the Defense/Offense/Statistics/Tactics/Ecology sections of the monsters are OGL. Does that mean the monsters' names and special abilities are Product Identity? If someone from Open Design could clarify, that would be great). In terms of content, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars but in light of accessibility for 3PP designers (and in my case, I need clarification on the monsters bit), I am taking 1/2 a star off. 4 out of 5 for me. If you are a GM thinking about expanding all those Lovecraftian bits in your Pathfinder game, do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Monday, April 5, 2010
I hope everyone had a Happy Easter!