Monday, September 10, 2012

Schroedinger's Game

For many months I've just been a player, not running anything. It's my default state, really. But every once in awhile I want to run a game.

The problem, of course, particularly for me, is that there are just too damn many great games out there! It's like Schroedinger's Cat. There is a large probability wave of different games I could run, but each time I move toward one, another calls out to me.

I have a few restrictions. I won't run AD&D (or 2e or 3e or 3.14159e, or 4e). I'd run D&D, and have, but not as a regular thing.

I've spoken about this in the past to a friend of mine who is both in my face-to-face AD&D game and also works with me. So last night at the game, while we were trying to decide what to do next ...

... a little background here. When last we left our intrepid heroes, half the party was down, either dead or dying. The rest of the party was trying to kill three will-o-wisps. Not the easiest of challenges.

One player had to drop out for a while for family reasons, which brings the group down to a more manageable 7 altogether.

And we kind of all agreed that things weren't going the way we all wanted them to, and we needed a change.

We all still have faith in our DM, that's not the issue. But interparty things have occurred.

We need a change, and we'd like something different to cleanse our palates ...

... So, one of the options was a Different Game System. And another was a Different GM.

I opined that if I were to run something, it wouldn't be AD&D. My co-worker shortly thereafter suggested that I run Champions (second edition -- it's the one I'm most familiar with).

This met with general approval, and before I knew it I had been shanghai'd.

The probability wave has collapsed, and the game is Champions.

I came home and dug out my vintage Champions gear, and am getting ready to run a few adventures using it for the first time in literally decades.

And I couldn't be happier!

Friday, June 1, 2012

And that's awl she wrote...

No, that's not a typo; that's a pun.

In last night's DCC game on G+, one of the characters had but an awl for a weapon. That was awl I needed to get the awl puns flowing. When he lost the weapon, I said: "He gave it his awl."

(There was another, but I've forgotten it.)

The great thing about G+ gaming is that nobody can throw dice at my head when I do that!

Yes, I'm mean to my fellow players. But they still let me come back...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Favorite Quote

Here's one of my all-time favorite Referee/GM advice quotes:

"The purpose of a referee is to present obstacles for players to overcome as they go about seeking their goals, not to constantly make trouble for them. This is a very subtle distinction, and many beginners have trouble with it."

Book 0: An Introduction to Traveller (p.12) written by Loren K. Wiseman

Now, there's just a whole multitude of goodness in those two sentences. present obstacles for players to overcome...

Tricks and traps are obstacles. So are wandering monsters.

And the fact that the obstacles are for the players to overcome indicates that they should not be insurmountable.

(Although fighting may not be the way to overcome that particular obstacle...) they go about seeking their goals...

Note that their goals are not necessarily your goals. You can design an adventure, but what the players do with it is ultimately up to them.

...not to constantly make trouble for them.

I've known a few referees who didn't get this point. There seems to be a lot of material out there of the "Let's screw the players!" variety.

I mean, I'm no saint. I've done it myself. It was fun, but not in a long-term way (and that particular game went away a long, long time ago.) I think we'd all be better off to remember this advice.

So, for the comments, what's your favorite piece of Referee/GM advice? I particularly mean from a published game book, like mine above, but I'd also be willing to accept something an 'older, wiser' referee passed on to you.

Phone lines are open!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Random table for Jeff

This is in response to Jeff's post here.

It's a d30 table, because I know Jeff likes his d30.

Random Mishap Table (for Jeff)

Dungeon events, roll hourly:

d30 result

01 --- Toe stubbed on loose flagstone, 1 hp damage
02 --- Torch "just goes out"
03 --- Torch dropped, goes out on 1-3 on d6
04 --- Backpack strap digs in too much, must stop and adjust.
05 --- Pebble in shoe; stop and take it out or move reduced by 1/4
06 --- Skivvies riding up; all rolls at -1 until adjusted
07 --- Head hit on low ceiling (or outcrop); 2 hp damage unless wearing helmet
08 --- Trip and fall taking 1-3 hp damage.
09 --- Charley horse! Must rest and massage it out or movement halved and all rolls -1.
10 --- Distraction; somebody stops to check something out (1 turn wasted)
11 --- Accidentally stab buddy with ready weapon, roll normal damage (but no STR)
12 --- No event
13 --- No event
14 --- No event
15 --- No event
16 --- No event
17 --- No event
18 --- No event
19 --- No event
20 --- No event
21 --- No event
22 --- No event
23 --- No event
24 --- No event
25 --- No event
26 --- No event
27 --- No event
28 --- Drunken monsters, 1-6, party automatically gains surprise
29 --- Someone dropped their purse! 1-2 copper, 3-4 silver, 5 gold, 6 platinum (1-100)
30 --- Someone dropped a magic item! 1 cursed, 2-5 low on charges, 6 normal

Monday, January 9, 2012


Wizards of the Coast announced today that they were working on D&D 5th edition. (Which shows that, while they can't count, at least they're consistent...)

Despite having a draft of a playtest document already, they claim that they want input from gamers on what Type V should be like. Well, here are mine:

Did I order a kitchen sink?

Why, no. No I didn't.

If you're going to put out a game that you want people to actually play, you need to redefine your concept of "core rules". I don't want three vast tomes that I have to fully read and digest before I can start to play. I want to get started and learn more from there.

Start us off with one core book, why don't you? You can call it a "basic set" if you like, but before you do take a look at the old basic sets for what they did right (and the older WOTC ones to see what NOT to do...). Actually, take a look at the Pathfinder Basic Box for a not-too-bad idea.

Give us 4 classes: Fighting-Men, Clerics, Magic-Users and Thieves (yes, I know you're going to change the names. That doesn't matter. The basics do matter, though, and you know that you know this.) You want your fighter to be different? Roleplay it! You don't need five different fighting classes.

Give us 3 or 4 races. Just humans, elves and dwarves would work (okay, halflings if you absolutely must...). We really don't need to start out with half-Tiefling, half-Dragonborn, fully psychotic unplayable messes. Really we don't.

But players like lots of options!!! you say.

Bloody good for them, then. You want us to have options? Fine, put out option books. But make it absolutely plain, both in the player's and DM's sections, that options are OPTIONAL. Nobody can come into my game and insist that idiotic class/race combination is automatically playable because "it said so in this book!". And while we're on that subject:

Empower the DM.

It's his or her game, after all. I got quite sick and tired of 3.5, because there were far too many books and the players would use them to slap the DM around. He wouldn't take it, but they kept trying. Hey, I'm here to game, not to watch another argument. If you could just put in the book somewhere, in nice bold print:

What the DM says is final. If you want to argue, do it in your blog.

it would certainly save a lot of grief. (Your mileage may vary; it's possible I've just been playing with a bunch of immature mooks for the past 30 years...)

Bring back the sense of wonder.

If you absolutely have to put in a system for every hick redneck magical type to make their own magical items, put it in a supplement. An entirely optional supplement.

Magic is supposed to be ... well, magical. The production line, magic-as-tech version from 3.5 (and I'd assume 4.0 as well) was entirely wrong for D&D.

"Hey, we found a wand! Let's see what spell it duplicates."

Whatever happened to the Wand of Wonder? That was a nifty item. And it's a good example of how magic should be, truly wondrous and not just another 'ho-hum let's toss it on the pile with the rest of them' kind of thing.

(There should also be a section in the DM's advice on keeping magic rare. In one game I was in, we seriously considered making for our house a picket fence out of the innumerable +1 swords we kept picking up...)

What else? You might want to mention in there that it's a game of exploration, not combat. That changes the whole emphasis and thus the whole game (and for the better, I think; again, YMMV.)

Also, take out critical hits. Gary Gygax warned DMs not to include them, no matter how much the players wanted them. Sure, it's kinda cool to deal out an incredible amount of damage to the bad guy, but when he does it to you (and far more often...) it's not that much fun.

And it's about having fun, isn't it? Or is it just about selling more product?

Anyway, that's the view from my branch of the tree. As Craig Ferguson says, "I look forward to your letters."