Friday, April 29, 2011

A Synopsis Of Precisely How Things Went Wrong

I was recently talking with Eric about last campaign and how things went down. He was taking issue with some things I said in my post titled Coddling. The issues he took umbrage with were as follows: no one attempted to resurrect Kethranmeer or mark his passing, the unbalanced nature of the final battle, huge bonuses to stats I let them have, and their lack of magic items. With this post, I intend to kind of expand upon what I mean by my comments, and hopefully give my players a better understanding of my intent and how my mind is working.

No one attempted to resurrect Kethranmeer. Eric asked if there was any way he could bring Kethranmeer back to life, and I told him there was no way for him to bring Kethranmeer back to life. Probably something along the lines of, there is no way you can bring him back. Xein was a level 15 Alchemist. He has no potion or formual that can bring someone back to life, the most he could do in that room was make a Craft check, and Kethranmeer was a construct of sorcery. Craft won't do it. Xein made no skill checks to discern whether or not there might be some sorcerous method of restoring a fallen Soulless back to life. He did not ask a more accomplished alchemist or some sort of sorcerous smith. He asked if there was any way he could do it and I said no. I could have been clearer, but he did not make any skill checks. If you want to figure out something, you have to do something. If you ask me if there is a trap on a door without making a Perception check, would I tell you yes or no? Unless of course you just opened the door, then obviously, I would tell you. You can't just ask the GM a bunch of questions and expect him to feed you all the answers, sometimes you actually have to do something in the game world, other than kill kids and burn people alive while entombing them beneath the earth. This goes back to "we need information" and no one having any input on how the players actually go and get that information. Other than going to the library, which is honestly a good start.

Marking Kethranmeer's passage. They collected his corpse and laid it to rest in the bottom of the mansion. They said no words of passing. D'alton did not comment on the loss of a brother and Xein did not comment on the loss of a friend. They put him in the basement and left him there to collect dust until his sons came to get him. Some time in the last ten years, Xein built a tavern in honor of him called The Plated Dragoon, which means armored horseman. A nice gesture, if a bit after the fact, but the naming choice is...odd. I remember now that D'alton did say he would seek out the Rankethlek and try to help them, another nice gesture. My main issue here was role-playing. No one had anything to actually say about Kethranmeer and his death.

The unbalanced nature of the final encounter. Ha! Ha i say! Nakmander was level 19 and faced off against five 15th level characters. On top of this, if they had desired it and not fucked things up, Gonigi (a 19th level Psychic Warrior) would have aided them. They were also fresh out of the gate, all hit points maxed and all spells still ready to be used. The final fight should have been easy as pie, Gonigi had even said prior to that evening that he would look kindly on them if they would join him in battle against Nakmander, they opted to not pursue that. Eric said that Derf/Fred was at fault for their underpowered nature, because Derf started off the fight trying to kill Gonigi and Gonigi spent most of the rest of the combat attempting to restore his hit points and hold off Derf. Fred had been playing Derf as a sociopath since day one, and both Jeremy and Eric complained at length about the unreliability of Fred's character and how troublesome it was. However, neither of them did a single thing about it, not even talk to Derf to ask him to chill out. They just let him do the crazy things he did and live with them and kill people with them. Derf is on them. My NPC stood between them and death and had gone on record as thinking Derf was a liability. It isn't my fault they made poor choices in companionship and refused to address those issues, despite complaining about them constantly. I certainly wasn't going to quash Fred's efforts, for a while, he was the only one truly role-playing, and I refuse to punish good role-playing.

Huge bonuses. To create characters, I let the guys use the epic fantasy point buy system, with twenty-five points to build abilities. That is pretty epic. It more or less allows for three fifteens and three thirteens. After the Pathfinder race adjustments, which are generally +2, +2, and -2, you have two seventeens and four thirteens. With ten being "average" and such, the guys have way overpowered stats. They didn't have to make any hard choices when creating their characters, they had plenty of points to make them well balanced and without weakness. In addition, at fourth, eighth, fourteenth, eighteenth, twenty-fourth, and twenty-eighth, they get a +1 to two ability scores. At eleventh and twenty-first level, they get a +1 to all ability scores. Working from the previous example, and trying to keep everything more or less even, we have two nineteens, two seventeens, and two sixteens, albeit at twenty-eighth level. Those are good stats, far above the human(oid) norm. Conceivably, 4d6 minus the lowest die and arrange as desired, could result in higher stats. You could easily end up starting the game with all sixteens. Keep in mind, that Hekinoe would more appropriately be classed as high or standard fantasy, which use twenty and fifteen points to build character ability scores, rather than twenty-five. 

Magic items. Magic items are plentiful in Hekinoe, and far cheaper and far more available than even in places like Forgotten Realms. The players were literally in the hotspot of sorcerous trades in Hekinoe. They could have walked into any run down shop in their district and come out with a literal ton of fetishes and potions and rings. They had the money to do it, and prices were generally fifty to seventy-five percent cheaper than in a normal DnD setting. They had limitless access to magical items, just chose never to pursue it. Possibly because magic items are as unreliable as magic, which is why they didn't really find them as loot everywhere, and why Nakmander lost a finger in the final battle. One thing to note, despite frequently fighting in the western sorcerous epicenter of Hekinoe, they weren't fighting badass sorcerers loaded to the gills with +10 Blades of Unending Vorpal Annihilation. They fought sorcerers yes, but ones that strangely did not arm themselves with the plethora of magic crap at their disposal, another example of coddling. Final point on this issue: what do you call a gun when you are the only group in a highly industrialized society that uses them: a very easily recharged wand of big fat magic missile. What do you call a keen adamantine mercurial bastard sword? A Savage Blade of Doc Managan replica. What do you call a +5 adamantine scimitar? Eloise. What do you call a fully upgraded steam cannon firing explosive rounds? Over-powered. They had plenty of magic items, I just bent the rules for them, changed the names, and came up with a non-magical system of magic items for them. Which they refused to use.

With each of these issues, I kind of turn it back around on my players, and I think that is fair. Hekinoe isn't my story, it is theirs, and it is my role as the GM to facilitate that story. Jeremy decided that D'alton needed to go back to the bank. The group agreed to their mutual blackmail scheme, and Xein and D'alton later pledged allegiance to Nakmander. They killed a bunch of drunk teenagers in the depths of The Fell Peaks for no good reason. They made choices to pursue these plot hooks rather than the others I threw out there, and to a certain extent, I made them deal with the consequences of their actions. That's called empowerment, heh, or at least Lewis Black would call it empowerment.

Hopefully, this time around they'll make a Sense Motive check while talking to someone instead of relying on their passive checks to play their characters and role-play for them. The time for plodding along has ended. The plot doesn't move or develop until they move it along or attempt to develop it. They want to be big damn heroes/villains with epic abilities and powers, they'll need to take their character's destiny into their own hands and determine their fate. This campaign is about them, I'm just here to facilitate it and flip the pages. If they are  Hell bent on doing nothing with themselves and just walking around in Meroteth, well, that is fine with me, and we can fight Fell Human thugs for seven scenarios at one hundred or so experience points a pop. I don't want to do that, I have ideas, lots of ideas, a plethora of ideas. I just need them to take the initiative and go out and do those things. 

Monday, April 25, 2011


I think all my research into older editions of the game has caused me to want to further evolve my game with a few concepts that I believe are lacking. The main one is obviously the coddling of my players, which has been discussed a bit in the previous post by that title.

The second concept I'd like to incorporate has to do with power level. Pathfinder and 4th Edition have an almost super powered element to their structure. By 20th, Hell, even by 15th level, they are as gods compared to the common man. How many level one human warriors would it take to bring down a level ten or fifteen Pathfinder fighter? Would it be any easier if we strip him of the magic components of his gear? How many would it take to bring down a moderately prepared wizard or sorcerer? The abilities that go along with these levels make characters gods in all ways that matter, and 4th Edition is no better. What I would like to see is my players becoming Batman at 15th level, rather than starting out as Batman and becoming Superman. At least until they hit truly epic levels like thirty something and maybe once in a while try to do something that is actually epic. I guess my thought is that if you want to play at being a super hero, just play Mutants and Masterminds, or GURPS at 500+ points.

The Batman/Superman analogy was stolen from something I read recently. If I can dig up where, I will cite it. The gist of it is that Batman is only slightly above average in his strength, speed, intellect, training, etc. He can just afford a lot of nifty gadgets. Whereas Superman is just mostly invulnerable and powerful from the get go. It takes Batman a bit of experience and work to get to where he is, and a lot of his badassery comes down to his loot. I kind of feel that veteran adventurers, especially those of fighter and rogue type classes, should be the same way.

Another concept I'd like to add is that sometimes, things aren't even or fair. The game world is what it is, and if you are going to bite off more than you can chew, you are going to have to deal with the consequences of your actions. You aren't always entitled to a perfectly balanced encounter or a lock that is within your ability to open. This kind of refers to the number one way to not die that I refer to in a previous post, don't do stupid shit. There is an element of realism to this being a part of a campaign setting. Some dudes and places are just tough, and newbs just can't handle them. You have to find a way to work around the challenges, work towards overcoming them, or flee like little bitches. It happens.

Just a few thoughts and goals I guess. Kernels of some ideas. 

Edit After The Fact: Philontomy's OD&D Musings and a Quick Primer for Old School Gaming are both pretty interesting reads and where I got these ideas.

Friday, April 22, 2011

To Do List Mk II

So roughly five or six months ago, I posted a to do list of sorts here on the blog with a bunch of stuff I wanted and needed to do. It really served to kick me into gear to work on a few things I needed to get done. I actually managed to finish all of the stuff on the need list. So, in the interests of progress and efficiency, I'm going to do so again.

Things I Need To Do 
-Take a break from running Hekinoe and run something else. (4/29/2011)
-Get Jeremy excited about DnD/Hekinoe.
-Teach Eric that Hekinoe isn't about being ultra powerful and having no weaknesses.
-Build up a buffer of at least three Hekinoe scenarios.
-Add to the pile of scenario chunks I have amassed so I have more bases covered when the guys decide to go "off the rails" heh.
-Make the wiki more robust.
-Complete something vaguely resembling a campaign book.

Things I (Still) Want To Do
-Play Dark Sun as a Thri-Kreen Ranger.
-Play Gamma World with Cockroach as my primary origin.
-Get Heather to play DnD at some point.
-Create a non-Hekinoe campaign world, to play a Fourthcore DnD campaign in. Not even necessarily a totally Fourthcore barely-a-narrative-there campaign, but just something challenging and deadly and dark, but also fun to run around in killing monsters and looting their shit.
-Run Labyrinth Lord  (or Basic Fantasy, or OSRIC, or Swords & Wizardry, etc) adventure, just to perhaps see if there is anything in the updated versions of the older editions that we like.
-Run a Ravenloft campaign, for the fuck of it.

Yay goals!

Monday, April 18, 2011

From Role-Playing Public Radio:

Further Figurings...

See, I don't need a break precisely. What I need is a break from Hekinoe. I need some just straight up mindless fun. Hekinoe, and GMing it, is fun. I have had more fun there than anywhere else in my gaming career. The thing is, Hekinoe is rewarding, and that is a bit different than fun. It can be fun, our exploits are a true example of that. But again, rewarding and fun are more or less two different things. 

To go back to Erevan and the 4th Edition sessions I played with Lance, Shawn, and Kristina. I had Erevan sew together a pile of rats to make into a weapon. What the fuck? That is far too ridiculous and downright stupid to do in my Hekinoe campaign, but in the 4th Edition game, it worked. We laughed and giggled and I was constantly amused, and hopefully my DM and party members were as well. It wasn't necessarily more fun than my Hekinoe scenarios, it was just...different. I didn't care about the story. There wasn't really a story, we were out in the wilderness and stumbled upon one another and then stumbled upon some kobolds and chaos and hilarity and looting ensued. 

It was fun because we just killed monsters, took their shit, and didn't think too hard about the consequences of our actions. Sometimes, that can be a shit ton of fun. As an example of the differences between Hekinoe and my 4th Edition group: shmeeps. Back in 2nd Edition AD&D, I allowed the guys to breed sheep with monkeys and then with bats to make shmeeps. Weird, sorcerously created pets that they sold. It was ridiculous and hilarious and silly. I wouldn't allow that sort of thing in my Hekinoe campaign, because there is (supposedly, heh) a more serious tone to the campaign. In the 4th Edition group, I would have taken it a step further and tied ten of them to a quarterstaff and made it into a shmeep flail. 

So my desire boils down to what I would call the DMing equivalent of watching a mindless action film. Lots of explosions and paper thin plots. Just endless entertainment and bombs and explosions and action and adrenaline. I think Gamma World will really hit the spot. I mean, don't get me wrong, it was probably more fun to play it, but I think GMing it will be a hoot as well. We'll see.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Do I coddle my players? I ask this question not referring only to my current Hekinoe campaign. These characters are the plot, if they all die, the campaign is done and no one, not even Fred, gets to know what happens or what it was all about (Eric already knows, I told him about three or four years ago...actually, Shawn does too, wow). I shudder to think what would happen if one of them died. Would the others undertake an epic quest to try and restore their fallen friend to life? I doubt it. They basically left Kethranmeer on the wolf-iron floor where he fell, no memorial, no words of passing, just dead, melted slag. No attempts were made to restore him to life, other than waving a wrench at him in the hopes that it would fix all the magic bits in him that had been destroyed by being dropped to negative twenty-seven hit points.

...that was just a hair ranty. I miss Kethranmeer. ::sigh::

Looking back, it was my NPC that died. It was Kethranmeer that came close to death time and time again, but not the PCs of my players, save for a few times over the course of the campaign. Looking further back, it was Jason that offed players more often than not, not my monsters.

I've always kind of been of the mindset that, yeah sure, you took a nap, you have all your hit points back. I've never implemented strong wounding mechanics or mechanics that represent being brought right to the welcome mat of Death's door. I've never even killed a player, other than my own NPC.

Wait. Scratch that. Nate had a Gorvix Paladin that died in battle against a red dragon back in 2nd Edition AD&D. I gave the guys a wish scroll, and then like a bitch, was just belligerently a bastard about my interpretation of their wording in the attempt to kill the dragon in question. They were very creative, and I should have just let them have it after all the going back and forth because they did deserve to succeed. Eventually they got pissed at me and just barreled into the dragon's lair and Nate's Gorvix died. Oh well, you learn I guess. 

I'm not speaking from the standpoint of mourning my lack of notches on the old battle axe haft. I just look at things like Eric freaking out and trying to create a feat that performs true resurrection  for free and I didn't immediately tell him no. Instead, I try to power it down and make it yet another viable means for them to avoid death. Here is how you  avoid death in this campaign:

  • Don't do stupid things.
  • Xein is an Alchemist, use formulas to heal people.
  • Kuyst is a Witch, use spells and hexes to heal people. 
  • Create and buy potions to heal people.
  • Everyone takes the Skill Focus (Heal) feat, even Ran'dahl's little living nightmare critter.
  • For fuck's sake, someone take levels in Druid, the only divine class allowed in the game! Nakmander did.
There are also six supernatural ways to come back from death. Three are spells, two are class features, another is something that was mentioned here on the blog a long time ago. If the guys want to avoid death, they should follow the above methods and I should let fate take them from this world if it so desires it and leave it up to them to get the fallen back to this side of the shadow realm. It is the GM's prerogative to fudge the dice any way he so chooses, but fudging them in the player's favor every time is counter productive. 

I need to accept that death is a possibility, their characters are mortal (despite the huge bonus to stats I let them have), and they can die, and should dread it if they like their characters. I have a long record of not ever killing a player. I think that long record is a disservice to my players. I think now that it bred complacency, but not necessarily on a conscious level. They've just never seen anyone go past one hit point, or stay down for longer than a round, only to get back up on the very next. 

If they like their characters, they should be cautious with them, but it is my duty as the GM to make being cautious a necessity and worth it. It is my duty to show them that the world is not covered in foam and bubblewrap, and they could honestly get gutted by a Fell-Human thug's knife, or eaten by a karthak in the sewer. 

I think I need to hardcore reassess my GMing style. Thanks Fourthcore!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pining For The Never Had and The Barely Recollected

I got into DnD around the time of 2nd Edition AD&D, at the point that I believe is referred to as 2.5 Edition, when all that Skills and Powers stuff started coming out. That was when I got into the game, back in 1994. I've never played Basic, Expert, 1st Edition, none of my players played a Halfling or Dwarf as a class. I never even knew what the Little Brown Books were until I saw this on a blog I really like to read. Prior to that picture, because there was a 1 in it, I thought 1st Edition AD&D was all there was before 2nd Edition AD&D. Well, aside from Basic, that is. But I thought Basic was the same thing as Dungeons & Dragons and had no idea that Expert existed or there was such a thing as a blue or red box or anything. 

I dunno if you know this about me, but I love DnD. My morning blogroll consists of checking roughly twenty DnD blogs for content. Interestingly enough, a bunch of those are so called "old school" blogs where the authors play and talk about systems like Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Swords & Wizardy, and so on. The actual tally is as follows:
  • Fourth Edition: 7
  • Pathfinder/3.5: 4
  • Old School/Retro-Clone: 9
  • Other: 1, I don't rightly know what to call Your Dungeon Is Suck.
The fact that I read all these "old school" blogs and frequently peruse all these old school gaming clone pdfs on my laptop wouldn't be odd, except that I never played those games. I'm not nostalgic for the yesteryears and simplicity of the Little Brown Books, you know? I have copies of them, now, but I read them and there isn't that gut reaction of nostalgia for them that makes me yearn for things. 

However, when I read stuff about how awesome it was back in the day and how the player played the game, not their stats, and so on, I feel something. I peruse the shitty art and horrific layouts of the 1st Edition AD&D books, and I feel something. It can't be nostalgia, because I don't know those things, I wasn't there when that stuff came out. There wasn't a time when I played and loved them. I feel the same way when I page through my OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord pdfs. Something in me responds to these books and these rules, and I yearn for them. 

I'm not sure what any of this means. I mean, I look at my Pathfinder books and all the options and the high page counts and the endless selection of feats, and I giggle with joy. I love Pathfinder so much, great system, great game, and I love playing it. However, there is some strange alchemy within the rules and style of play of these older editions and their clones, some if it affects me and speaks to me in a fashion I cannot ignore. 

When I hear people talk about dungeons as a mythic supernatural underworld and how to build a megadungeon, which is essentially a campaign setting where the players rarely see the light of day, it speaks to a part of me. I yearn for those sorts of things. I yearn for my players to play the game without complete reliance on their d20 to do the work of searching a room for them. I yearn for them to interact with the game world, not their character sheets. Something inside me is drawn to the 1st Edition AD&D books and I don't know how long I can resist exploring this desire. ::sigh::

On a side note, I find it kind of odd that I read seven 4th Edition blogs and nine old school blogs, and only four Pathfinder blogs. Mind you, one of those Pathfinder blogs is actually just a general d20 blog and is the author no longer posts and is now merely a collection of articles with no new content. I don't play 4th Edition (right now) or Labyrinth Lord or 1st Edition, or anything of that sort, but I read these blogs literally every day. Very little of what the authors say is specifically relevant to my games, but I find them interesting and informative all the same. These aren't like my blog either, these guys are changing the game and writing articles about concepts and history of the industry and that kind of thing. Real interesting material that only occasionally touches on the actual campaigns they are playing and what sort of infuriating thing their players are doing. These are good blogs with good product that I find to be riveting reading material, material that has no relation whatsoever to my game. 

I wonder if perhaps it is time to admit that I might be just a little bit of an "old school" gamer at heart...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Figuring Something Out...

For a while now, I have needed a break. I should have actually taken one when our last campaign ended, but I couldn't stop and make myself do so. I was too excited about the next campaign and how much fun I was having working on it. So I'm trying to figure out how exactly to take that break now that the new campaign is in full swing.

I've gone through a couple iterations of the idea. The first was the background light campaign idea that I was working on for a group of low experience players. The second was an alteration of that idea where it was going to be me, Eric, and Jeremy and our wives. The third was trying to play in Ieanegatniv with Lance and Shawn. The fourth idea was to create a bat shit crazy high fantasy campaign setting based on Josh's 4th Edition test character, God-King Lothorium Axelord. It was pretty ridiculous, hehe. The fifth version is that I've decided to play Gamma World with Shawn, Lance, and Jeremy.

We have the core set of Gamma World, and the two expansions. That is three total adventures, taking players from level one to nine or ten or something along those lines. I like Gamma World, and having the pre-made adventures cuts the work down quite a bit. I am all set to move forward with this idea, like right now, as are my players. However, there is an issue, Lance and Shawn will be playing via Skype.

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, Gamma World comes as a big forty dollar box set. You can't buy the rulebook alone so you and your players all have a copy of the rules. Fine, I can handle that. The internets are a wondrous place and I have already found a series of printouts for forty-one of the forty-nine origins. The skills can be explained, and we don't have to worry too much about equipment. Problem(s) solved(ish).

Unfortunately, we have the deck of Alpha Mutations and Omega Technology to deal with. I can't just recite the cards to Lance and Shawn every time they wonder what they're capable of, and waving them under the webcam probably isn't too helpful either. Lance and Should could buy and construct their own decks, but then we play right into the Evil Corporate Hands of Wizards and buy boosters. I am brandishing my fist in the air. The best solution I've come up with, is to either make some manner of Excel spreadsheet and share it with Shawn and Lance so they can peruse it when "drawing" cards, there are like eighty cards though, and I am looking to work as little as possible in this outing. Or, I can just send them an email or lengthy text with the contents of the card, and they can collect them all. Like Pokemon!

Ok, so all the Gamma World issues are more or less resolved, what now? 

I guess I should probably read the adventures and we should play. Heh.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tombs of a Certain Type

So, I read about this thing called Fourthcore, seemed like a pretty cool way to play 4th Edition. Very interesting and challenging. I got to talking with Fred about it as well, and he thought it was interesting, but thought perhaps we could try it via Pathfinder, as that is the system we all know fairly well. Recently, for reasons I'll not discuss, I have been perusing some older modules from 1st Edition AD&D and I took this whole ultra challenging DnD thing a step further.

The Tomb of Horrors.

The module has a fine pedigree, penned by E. Gary Gygax after some inspirational advice from an individual I can't recall the name of at the moment. The Tomb is well known for its lethality. It is not a hack and slay adventure, there are only a few select monsters to be found within the original version of it, less than five I think. A lot more heavy on the tricks and traps and vigilance. 

The Tomb has been present in one form or another for a while now. It was first created in 1st Edition AD&D, it was not updated to 2nd Edition AD&D, there was a boxed set called Return to the Tomb of Horrors though. It was kind of a cross between a super adventure and a campaign setting. I own it, but have not perused it too much, at least not much further beyond, "Hey, cool undead shit!" The basic premise is that a city gets built on top of the Tomb and reveres Acererak and evil shenanigans ensue and must therefore be thwarted. 

In 3.5, the Tomb was updated by Bruce Cordell (I think), a guy whose work I tend to like. The general consensus seems to be that it is far less lethal than the original, mainly because it allows saving throws for things and the poison mechanics in the game have changed since 1st Edition AD&D. In the original, if you walk into the Sphere of Annihilation, it annihilates you. In the 3.5 update, you get a saving throw to avoid walking into it like you intended to. 

In 4th Edition, the Tomb has been made into some sort of three part mega adventure with portions for each tier, which is kind of neat. I'm glad it is still around. Lance actually brought it to PAX when we went, I didn't peruse it too closely though, so I'm not sure if it keeps the old school death incarnate flavor. I also recently found out that certain DM members of the DDI thing got a bonus 4th Edition update of the original Tomb, which is pretty cool.

Anyway, I decided to take this Fourthcore idea to the next level and asked the guys if they wanted to run through the Tomb of Horrors. Oddly enough, they were all happy and interested in the idea, despite the warnings. I still haven't figured out all the details, but I think it will be a fun diversion to give me time to build up a buffer of Hekinoe scenarios.

Also, I will take great joy in killing those dumb shits. Heh.

My one concern is that if I run the guys through the 3.5 version of the Tomb, and by the combination of sheer luck and lowered lethality, they survive, then the mythology of the Tomb is lost forever and I can never run them through it again. Ah well, we'll see I guess. If the 3.5 Edition of the Tomb doesn't hold up to the deadliness of the original, I'll just covert the original myself. Heh.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hatred Of An Edition Fed By A Misconception

I have a long record of disliking 2nd Edition. I have gone on record as saying it is a stupid game and THAC0 and descending AC are an abomination. Those last two are completely true statements, however, they weren't the only reason I disliked the edition. To be honest, I don't remember a lot of reasons why I disliked it. I only really recall disliking it based on the differences between it and 3.0/3.5 Edition. Which is odd. I clung to the game for a few years after 3rd Edition came out before finally switching, I mean I included a lot of elements from 3rd Edition in my game. I removed Demi-Human level limits, allowed Clerics to convert their spells to healing spells on the fly, and a few other 3rd Edition elements that seemed fairly interesting or sensible. 

As time has passed, I have grown to hate 2nd Edition AD&D. Where one might feel nostalgia for their gateway into a hobby that has been so much fun, I have only bitterness and ire. These feelings have intensified as time passed, to the point where I make snarky THAC0 jokes and the suggestion of returning to that bygone era fills me with wrath. 

Back in 2nd Edition AD&D, I was an awful DM. I knew the majority of the rules, and I had lots of materials like the CDs of all the handbooks and rules compendiums and all kinds of stuff. I created all kinds of races and classes and whatnot, for no better reason than because I felt like it. None of it was remotely balanced, I mean why play a fighter when you can play my berserker kit that gave you like a thousand attacks per round and allowed you to use all armors and specialize in any weapons? Had more hit points than a fighter too.

I was a shit DM though. My scenarios were all fights, and it was all stuff I wanted to do, rather than what we as a group wanted to do. I didn't care about the guy's characters or what settings they might like to play in. I just did whatever I wanted and expected them to follow along rolling dice, or get the fuck out. My traps were poorly designed and included as afterthoughts, and my riddles and such were barely such. Thing is, I hated scenarios loaded to the gills with fights. It wasn't fun. This, as I've said before, led to a lot of problems with me being dissatisfied with the game and my group and whatnot. 

So here's the thing. Since 4th Edition came out, there has been something of a resurgence in so called "Old School Gaming." Or maybe it began before that, I don't know, I don't conduct polls. I just look at Google for five seconds and then spout off gibberish. Since the advent of the OGL or GSL or WTFL, there have been a bunch of clones of OD&D, 1st Edtion AD&D, and 2nd Edition AD&D. Games like OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Dark Dungeons, Swords & Wizardry, and so on. Most of these are available as free pdfs from the places that produce them. I have perused them and read a lot of stuff about older editions of DnD and how you are "supposed" to play/DM them. 

I am beginning to think that the issue isn't that 2nd Edition AD&D is a stupid version of the game. I am starting to think that it is more likely that I was just a twelve year old DM using poorly reconstructed rules from notes and memories and didn't really have the maturity and intelligence to do more than  read the rules. I wonder if there is a way to blame shitty DMing on years of being dosed with Ritalin and Adderall...

I saw the rules back then as the rules. It says in every single DnD rulebook I have ever read that the rules are a guideline, and the DM has the final word and should just come up with whatever he wants if he feels like it. I always read that, but never really processed it properly I guess. In the earlier editions, the rules don't seem to be there to cover every eventuality (something you also see written in a lot of the manuals), they are put there to get you playing the game so you and your players can figure out everything else. The vagueness is a function of the system, not a bug.

I guess what I am saying is that 2nd Edition AD&D probably sucked because I started young, never played as a player, and didn't properly know how to DM it once we got old enough to want to do more than kill faceless orc armies on sheets of college ruled paper. My understanding now is that it was more about improvisation and cunning. You didn't have forty odd skills with which to interact with the environment, you couldn't just roll to Search a cavernous room deep beneath the mountains. If you wanted to search a room, you had to actually say you were going up and fiddling with the weird moose head on the wall to unlock the secret door. You didn't just roll a d20 and "find" the pit trap, you had to light a torch, look around, poke at the floor with your trusty ten foot pole and find it. You didn't need Spring Attack to leap off the cliff edge and slam into the goblin below you, you just did it, and if the roll was good, something cool probably happened. There was no buffer of skills between the player and their environment, you actually had to interact with the dungeon, rather than your character sheet, to get what you wanted out of it. 

Does that mean Pathfinder is stupid? Nah, I love it. I love the expansiveness and the complexity. I wouldn't even begin to know how to make a mechanic like Xein's mutagen in an older edition of the game (although, now I have like six ideas). I think I just understand older editions of the game better now, and that allows me to recognize their merits and flaws and how they can surpass modern versions of the game in some aspects. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Real Music

A certain..."individual" asked me recently if I miss listening to "real" music. In a word, no. I love the music I listen to, obviously, otherwise I would listen to something that isn't it. 

The issue that brought up his question was me listening to Warp Riders, an album by The Sword. My understanding of the album is that it is about a character called the Archer that discovers an artifact or seeks an artifact known as the Orb, and he is tasked by the Orb to find and defeat a being known as the Chronomancer. To do so, he must journey through time and space and a city called the Nightside. I don't know about you, but that sounds like the best 80s sci-fi film ever. It also inspired a post from a while ago about a city in space that is inhabited by The Darkest Night Detective Agency, and the final scenario of the Rebellion Arc campaign. 

Fine, the music isn't "real." I get that it isn't about love or loss and the band isn't turning a genre on its head or whatever, I get that it is about space pirates and being sold as a slave in a interstellar city on the edge of the universe. However, it does rock and it does have a good sound though. I think of it as a DnD campaign set to music, and that makes me love it. I like the imagery and the adventure that the lyrics paint a picture of, I can see Nightside in my mind's eye, and the song makes me want to go there. 

Music speaks to you, to some part of you, that is why you like it. I like stories, and especially stories about space and adventure, so of course concept albums like Blood Mountain by Mastodon, 2112 by Rush, and Warp Riders by The Sword are beloved by me. Of course I like songs about vikings and sowing the hydra's teeth in soil to make skeletal warriors. I also like Led Zeppelin, because they are awesome and have songs like Kashmir and Houses of the Holy and Heartbreaker, and also because they wrote songs about The Lord of the Rings and vikings.

I listen to the music I like, the music that speaks to me on one level of another, I don't listen to stuff that doesn't. I listen to MC Frontalot because he writes nerdy ass shit about computers and grues and whatnot, and I can relate to most of it. I listen to Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew because I dream of wearing a tricorn hat and brandishing my pistol and cutlass. I listen to Witchcraft because their dark imagery and guitar work appeal to my tastes. I don't listen to rap because I  am not a thug with a platinum grill and my wife is not a gold digger.

Listen to what you like. It is cool to you and that is all that matters. Unless of course it says stuff like beating your wife and raping strangers is cool and you should do more of it, then you should probably find some real music to listen to that does not advocate sociopathic behavior. 

Whatever, I'm going to go listen to a song about vikings. 

Music: Forget You - Glee & Gwyneth Paltrow
Music: Bed Intruder - The Internet(s)
Music: Bowie's In Space - Flight of the Conchords