Monday, June 27, 2011

Fighting Styles 101

I've decided to try and add fighting styles to my world as kind of a way of making each country more unique. This post is going to be about that sort of thing.

In Vyanthnem, we have the talon blade duelist style of combat. This style combines the deadly striking power of the Vyanth talon blade with lightly armored agility and a buckler defense. The lightly armored nature of the fighting style allows the buckler to be used more effectively and allows the warrior to move and respond more quickly than a more heavily armored warrior. Almost all Vyanth warriors are practitioners of this style of combat, and it is taught to many slave warriors in the gladiatorial pits and fighting arenas, though the natural agility of the Vyanth make them the most deadly practitioners of the style.

In the streets and barracks of Meroteth a style of combat known as Kon'zaub'ner is practiced, which focuses on wielding a weapon in one hand while preparing spells with the other in the midst of a swirling melee. This style takes advantage of the close quarters fighting in Meroteth's streets and the sorcerous bent of its citizens and is primarily practiced by the soldiers and sorcerers defending and policing the city. It is believed that Sorcerer Magistrate Nakmander himself designed this style of combat and decreed that it be used by his soldiers.

In Volungshemle, the Children of Volung favor a style of battle that requires immense strength and endurance. Most often, they wield a bastard, or hand and a half, sword in a two-handed grip, with a durable buckler of steel or wolf-iron strapped to their forearm.There is no name for this style, though it is sometimes referred to as the fighting style of the father, because Volung himself wages war with a massive sword and buckler. The core concept of this style is brutal overhand blows that rend armor and flesh, backed up by the unstoppable strength of the Children using a strong buckler to batter incoming blows aside. The style is crude, but effective, and very much akin to the butcher's work that the Children of Volung are accustomed to.

Beyond the mountains of Gate Town, in the Old Empire, a style of unarmed combat is practiced by the ancient fighting schools there. The warriors of these orders have adapted the most notable talent of the Eldumans and melded it with their unique physiology in a fashion that augments their considerable combat skill. The crystalline bones of the Eldumans are capable of being reinforced with psionic energy, some Eldumans have been able to make their bones nearly unbreakable with this power. Others use this ability to alter their physiology by making the bones of the striking portions of their body denser, turning strong, debilitating strikes into bonecrushing blows that can send enemies to the ground or reeling back. This practice has a simple name: Deathblow.

In the deserts of Serethnem, the agile Sereth people use a blade known to other races as the Sereth sickle blade. The Sereth call it the quelerel, and also name the style that focuses on the use of the blade that same name. Quelerel, like the talon blade duelists of Vyanthnem, utilizes the innate agility of the Sereth over brute strength. The style focuses on lightning quick strikes with the blade and taking advantage of the weapon's deadly curve to quite literally slash the legs out from beneath an enemy. 

If I come up with any other fighting style that might be appropriately unique for the various nations, maybe I'll post a second set, but those are the first ones that come to mind. Hopefully I'll be able to come up with some reasonably balanced feats to make them more than just a blog post. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Skill and Such

Doing my daily blog roll, or Google Reader feed I should say, I get exposed to a lot of DnD related opinions. One of the things I come across pretty regularly is that somehow, skill systems are the devil and are ruining the game. Or at the very least, they have the potential to ruin everything. Obviously, this is not an opinion held by everyone. However, I disagree with it and plan on blathering on about it, and skills in general.

I have recently considered gutting Pathfinder in an experiment that involves removing all skills except knowledge skills, as kind of a way to kick start player involvement in the game. If they can't make a good argument or properly conceal themselves or whatever, they don't get to do it. This coincides with the argument against skills, as it is believed that they make players lazy. They allow them to just roll dice instead of explaining what they're doing. Instead of coming up with an argument, you make a Diplomacy check. Instead of making a strong threat, you roll Intimidate. Instead of vividly describing your banister slide and your chandelier swing, you roll Acrobatics.

Who the fuck plays like that? Oh, I know, shitty players and GMs.

When we started playing again, I decided to run my games with the caveat that a vivid or well thought out description can compensate for a shitty die roll, and a shitty, thoughtless description can mangle a beautiful roll. Some of my players take this to heart, others ignore it.

To show an example of this set up, Fred once had Derf Bluff Kethranmeer, he got a good roll, however, he used information that Kethranmeer knew to be false. Kethranmeer played along, but for the rest of the campaign he didn't trust Derf and kept an eye on him. Unfortunately, this never came to a head though. Would have been fun to role-play it. Fred wasn't a lazy player in this instance, I only use it as an example of how I handle skill use.

I have seen some opinions about skill systems from old school blogs that let their players go on at length with a description about how they're going to grab their ten foot pole, shrug off their armor, dig a little hole, and basically pole vault a gate or wall. Awesome, you found a non-skill based solution in a system that doesn't have skills. However, the GM makes a Dexterity ability check to see if you perform the vault, just like he makes a Charisma check during a well thought out argument. My question is this, how is that not a skill system? Granted, it is a piss poor one that doesn't take into account experience or expertise or background, only innate ability, but nonetheless, it is a skill system. 

 I like skill systems, it is why I like GURPS so much. I only find skill systems to be a problem in two cases:

  1. When the players get lazy, in which case, you punish them for it. 
  2. When players don't enjoy using them. 

GURPS, being a skill based game, rather than classed based, chokes you to death with the massive feat of accounting that is managing your skills, advantages, and disadvantages, and I love it. Pathfinder is easy. Takes seconds to distribute skill points. Even if you have eighty skill points and ten feats to choose, it should only take fifteen minutes or so to take care of it. Of course, this relies on two things:

  1. You know what you're doing and how to play the game. 
  2. You knew what you wanted to play more than five seconds before sitting down to make the character.
Skills are a complicated issue, I guess. Some people, like me, love them. Others, like Jeremy and Lance, can't stand them beyond a certain level if complexity. This is part of why I am interested in Labyrinth Lord and trying it out, I want to see how games without skill systems, other than thief abilities, operate and how creative my players and I can get. We'll see. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alternate Rules: Shielded

I read this old school blog called Grognardia, I like it, the author has some good content and his writings about his campaign and what he likes about certain game systems is what originally made me kind of fall in love with Labyrinth Lord and some of the concepts behind old school gaming.

Recently, he wrote a post about two-weapon fighting vs. the use of shields. His thought was that two-weapon fighting is way too impractical for anyone but the most skilled combatants to use, and a measly +2 bonus to AC can't really compete with it the in game benefits for doing so. Even in Pathfinder, with half your Strength bonus to your off hand damage, and the -2 penalty to attack rolls, having bonus attacks is definitely superior to a small AC bonus. You can also take a feat that grants you a shield bonus to AC when you wield two weapons.

With Pathfinder you can use a shield and go the two-weapon fighting route and do shield slams and that kind of thing, but just a straight buckler and sword can't truly compete with how handy two-weapon fighting is, other than in terms of prerequisites for the feat and how many feats it takes to get awesome at using two weapons. It takes quite a few feats to get the attacks and shield bonus from two-weapon fighting, with a shield, you just wear it, I believe there is also a feat you can take that gives a bonus to AC.

Eventually he comes to the idea of your shield bonus to AC being based on Strength. I really like that idea, I'm just wondering how practical/useful it would be to implement in my Pathfinder game. Perhaps something along the lines of half your Strength bonus to AC with a buckler, and then half your Strength bonus plus one or two as you move up the line of bigger and better shields. The thing is, Pathfinder/DnD combat is so abstract, I'm not sure a rule like this is remotely necessary. So what if shields are super useful? Combat is super fucking abstracted in this game. I've met players that believe your attacks per round are how many attacks you make in a six second round and your hit points are an actual measure of how many stab wounds you can suffer. Neither of those is accurate. I guess this is a moot point really, no one in my current group uses shields. Of the two weapon based combatants (we have a monk and a bunch or sorcerers other than these two) Jeremy's guy dual wields revolvers and John's dual wields rapier.

Thinking back, I vaguely recall Mutants and Masterminds having a system of health and dying that I really liked. I wouldn't call it more realistic or less abstract, but I like it more than hit points. The gist of it was that if you take a hit of a certain power level, you made a Fortitude save, failure weakened you, success meant you were tough and shrugged it off. As you failed saves you became progressively more fatigued and staggered and eventually passed out or died. For some reason, I always fancied that set up.

I don't know that I'm prepared to make a ruling on the shield issue. As I said, it is pretty irrelevant in my game. However, I think I would like to reduce the Dexterity requirements for Two-Weapon Fighting feats. The requirements are high, I believe a nineteen in Dexterity and a +11 base attack bonus to take the feat that give you your third off-hand attack. I'm not sure, I guess. I think that perhaps I need to think on this issue a little bit more before I make a decision, this is more of an exploratory post I guess. We'll see. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Alternate Rules: Defense

Armor is highly impractical in my world of Hekinoe. I had to actually scale the environmental danger rules down a step, or my players would have died by now from heat, most days in The Know World end up getting to be at least ninety out. It is too hot for heavy armor, and Pathfinder resolves close range firearm attacks as a touch attack, which I like, but with guns being so commonplace, armor is basically useless, beyond a few special types I've come up with.

My thought is that it would be prudent to add a Monk AC style feat series to the game. I would model it after d20 Modern or 3.5 Unearthed Arcana's class defense bonus. I figure that people with the reflexes and instincts for it would have developed a style of fighting that involved not being where a bullet was aimed or a blade fell. Something beyond just having good reflexes that was discovered when men realized that a close range bullet can punch through plate mail as easily as leather armor. 

It would apply to touch attacks, and wearing armor would negate it or halve it, as would being immobilized or restrained, but I'm not sure if I want to treat it like a Dexterity bonus to AC and have it be negated by using Bluff in combat or when flat-footed, though that would seem appropriate.

The requirements would be something like Improved Initiative or Evasive Reflexes and above average (thirteen or higher) Wisdom or Dexterity to kind of indicate quick reflexes to dodge with or a strong gut instinct/intuition telling you where not to stand. Perhaps a base attack bonus of a certain level would be an appropriate prerequisite as well to indicate experience. I don't want to make it too all difficult to obtain, but it is a pretty useful feat series, so I have to make the requirements reflect that.

I'm not sure how I want to stagger the bonus though. The class defense bonuses start at +2 and some go as high as +10 by twentieth level. It totally overpowers a Monk's class AC ability, which starts at zero and caps at +5. But, a Monk would have a high Wisdom to go along with that, so maybe the progressions I've been looking at aren't that overpowered in comparison.

I think I have a good starting point to work with, we'll see what comes up. On a side note, considering the whole nature of my post about Coddling, perhaps it is time to teach the guys about heat exhaustion and dehydration...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why I Like It: Pathfinder

A Note: I don't know anything about Golarion, the adventure paths, or all the third party stuff. I make this post strictly from the point of view of the Pathfinder "3.75" ruleset and the main books associated with the rules.

Audience participation. This is one of the main reasons I really like Pathfinder and Paizo. Instead of dropping a one hundred and sixty page splatbook on us every month, Paizo involves its customers in the process. Advanced Player's Guide, Ultimate Magic, and Ultimate Combat were each cut up into bits and pieces, then released for public consumption as free pdfs. People get the pdfs far in advance of the book's release date, play around with them, post on forums, and your comments and critiques get involved in the next round of playtesting, and all the comments and critique of that round get involved in the final product. We the player get to help the company make their product, we're given a voice to complain with or critique with that the company listens to. It is grand. A cynical person might say that Paizo is getting free playtesting and errata work out of this, but fuck, I get free pdfs prior to a book being released, and if I want to, I can have an impact on a book. I think it is a fair trade off.

Pdf sales. I love this. I'm not going to lie and say I've never pirated a pdf. I love to own books legally, I try to buy as many as I can afford and find, as long as they are of decent quality. Pathfinder actually sells quite nice pdfs of their products, usually around the ten dollar mark. The pdfs are high quality, some with hyperlinks to other relevant sections of the books, and also always with nice bookmarks. I love physical books, but I don't need physical monster manuals, and a pdf option is a cheap way to preview a book you're curious about that you're not sure you really need. The pdf sales also show that Paizo is intelligent and understands that this is the digital age. Some people do all their gaming over the internet or on their iDevice or phone or whatever, and sometimes it is more practical for people to have a ten dollar pdf than a forty dollar two hundred and fifty page hardcover book. As I said in a previous post, I used a pdf reader and dice roller on my phone to build a scenario for Labyrinth Lord. Pdfs are handy, and I think most gamers are willing to buy, rather than pirate, if the quality is there.

Price. To talk about pricing, I have to rag on Wizards/3.5 a bit, sorry. Wizards is the king of the one hundred and sixty page splatbook for twenty-nine ninety-five retail price, page one hundred and sixty is always an ad. They have said before that they offer a reduced price on bigger core books (PHB, DMG, Monster Manual), so they can charge more on slimmer additional content books like Complete Arcane or Psionic Power or whatever. The price per page of those splatbooks comes out to nineteen cents per page. The price per page on the PHB and DMG is ten cents a page for six hundred and twenty combined pages. The Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide and Gamemastery Guide are both over three hundred pages and they both retail for thirty-nine ninety-nine, ends up being about twelve cents a page for both of them. Ultimate Magic, which is close in tenor to a splatbook, is over two-hundred and fifty pages and weighs in at about sixteen cents per page, retailing at thirty-nine ninety-nine. The Core Pathfinder book is sort of a PHB and DMG combo of over five-hundred and seventy pages and is about nine cents per page, retailing at forty-nine ninety-nine. Granted, the last page of each of those Pathfinder is an add, just like Wizards' books. I guess what I am saying is that all of Pathfinder's core books are more expensive per book, but cheaper per page, so there is more content overall. Maybe. I dunno, the one hundred and sixty page splatbook page count limit infuriated me. I have never been displeased by buying a Pathfinder book, so I think that if the quality is there, I am ok paying forty bucks, retail.

Options, like 3.5 Edition, there are a lot of feats and classes and such and they give you a lot of variety. I'm not going to go on at length about it, I already have in 3.5's thing. One thing I do like is Archetypes. Instead of making hundreds of classes and prestige classes, Pathfinder has things like Archetypes, options you can choose that replaces a class' feature with something else that changes the way it plays. An Alchemist can exchange his Mutagen ability for an alternate Mutagen that improves his mental stats instead of physical. An Archer Fighter can replace his armor abilities to gain the ability to make trick shots with a bow. All of the changes are small, but they are effective at altering the class in a fundamental way to fit your goals for playstyle.

Class variety. Even without archetypes, the classes have a superior variety over previous iterations. All Barbarians will rage, but they now have variations on the effects of their rage. Some become terrifying, others develop an utterly impenetrable mind, others gain the ability to hurl huge rocks or cause their mount to rage alongside them. Sorcerers have various bloodlines that grant them differing bonus spells and feats and strange abilities.

Power creep. Power creep is a real threat in these games, latter 3.5 splatbooks are much more potent than the core book stuff. Pathfinder "solved" this by just amping up the abilities and powers of the base classes and races. This is an admittedly crude solution, but it shows that they recognize that power creep exists and are at least attempting to rectify it/head it off.

I really like Pathfinder's skill system, it is mechanically no different than 3.5's, but it borrows some elements of 4th Edition. Like 4th Edition, some skills are folded into others, Listen and Spot are now Perception and Move Silently and Hide are now Stealth, and so on. In addition, cross class skills are not a thing in this game. You have class skills, and if you put a skill point in one them, you gain a plus three bonus to skill checks with that skill. Buying ranks in any skill only costs one skill point, regardless of whether or not it is a class skill, class skills just get that nice plus three bonus. It is a little simpler to manage, you don't have to mess around with half ranks and that sort of thing, plus the overall list is slimmer, which makes picking and choosing a lot easier. 

I guess everything I said about 3,5 Edition applies here as well, the games are very similar. The primary differences are Paizo's style versus Wizards of the Coast's style and a few slight rules clarifications, alterations, and so on. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thought of The Drive

Posted today, instead of tomorrow, because.

So, on the one hundred mile drive to a hospital (ok, 96.4 mile drive) I had today, a few thoughts occurred to me. One of them was Pathfinder/DnD related. What would a campaign be like where the GM kept track of the player's hit points? What would a game be like where the GM kept all the magic pluses and abilities of weapons and armor and such secret? What would it be like if I just had a massive dice roller doing all the math of the game behind the screen for the group? 

Instead of your +5 mithril flaming burst short sword, you have a gleaming silvery blade that becomes scorched and blackened when it draws blood and erupts in flame when it splits armor and strikes foes. Instead of being at one hit point, your breath is coming in ragged gasps and you grow ever weaker as your lifeblood puddles at your feet and you strain to draw your blade. The ring upon your hand is not a +1 ring of protection, instead, it is a silver band of magic that grows warm when your are attacked and a blade halts before striking your flesh. 

I'm not sure how feasible a campaign of this style would be, where the GM essentially rolls all the dice. Would players even enjoy that sort of thing? Part of the fun of the game is rolling dice to do stuff and being infuriated or excited by the result. It just seems more story-like and more conducive to role-playing, the players can experience things more I guess, rather than worry about math. Anyway, I'm not sure the idea has any merit, but I thought it might be neat. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Inquisitivitivity: Part 1

We gamed last Sunday. We didn't get a super shit ton done, but we did make some progress. I was tired and had had a long long day at work, Fred seemed like he was exhausted as well. It was hot, and we were missing two members of the team (Jeff and Jeremy). I think it went fine though, if a bit slowly. Fred was running late so I think the rest of us were kind of dilly dallying so that we wouldn't be too far into everything when he showed up. 

There a few things I wanted to happen, mainly for them to meet with my NPC and to find a common ground with him, and also to actually see the shadow monsters. Both happened, and both went fairly well. I think the guys understand quite clearly that the shadow monsters are not something to be trifled with at this time. 

The goal of the scenario was to get information, but they didn't spend a lot of effort researching the past ten years. Primarily, they focused on local stuff and sorcery. The visit to the library got kind of side tracked with the whole rifling through Krieg's property and trying to set an ambush for him and that sort of thing, heh. 

I was kind of bummed that I couldn't include some of the fights, one is pretty cool, I don't know if they'll end up getting to it though. We'll see. Regardless, I think we're ready to get into the meat of the scenario when next we meet. We finished roughly a third of the scenario, so there is definitely enough material for our next session. As always, I am optimistic about next time.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Smartphones Are Skynet

Slow day at work today, not because the city is behaving though, heh. With only my phone, a notebook, and a number two pencil, I was able to construct an entire Labyrinth Lord scenario. Plot, side quests, main quest, hooks for future scenarios in the land of Somnium, enemies, loot, etc. I fucking love this phone.

To be fair, my phone is equipped with an Adobe pdf reader app, a sweet dice rolling app, a nice little notepad app, and pretty much every DnD related pdf I own, along with this Blogger mobile app I am using.

Why I Like It: 4th Edition

One of the main things I like about 4th Edition is the refinement of the challenge rating system. I find the encounter balancing system to be easily understood, which makes making combats a lot easier. With the experience points budgets and encounter levels, it is very easy to understand the estimated power level of the party versus the difficulty of an encounter. It gives you very good control over how much you challenge the party.

Format. I love the format of 4th Edition, the way stat blocks are laid out and written. I find the class blocks to be informative and concise, far more easily understood than other editions and their endless sprawls of text. Powers are laid out very clearly. The way they breakdown the targeting and timing mechanics of each power are very nice and easily understood. I guess a lot of what I love about 4th Edition involves how easily understood stats and such are, they really work hard to convey info in well designed blocks and such. The feat format is well designed as well, they're broken up by tier and sometimes by race and class, which can save a little bit of time by showing you directly where to go for feats, rather than having to have to page through all three thousand feats. 

I think defenses are a cool concept. One of the design ideals of 4th Edition is to put the issue of success with a d20 roll on the attacker. Like your AC, your Will or Reflex defense is something you control with your stats or feats, and the enemy has to meet or exceed it. I also enjoy that they've allowed you to use the best of your Strength or Constitution for your Fortitude defense, Intelligence or Dexterity for Reflex, and Wisdom or Charisma for Will.I know that it is basically a new version of the saving throws we've had forever, but I do like that they've made it so that the instigator of an action has to make the d20 roll. I also enjoy that defenses have a static number, you're not relying on luck to protect your from an effect that is going deal two hundred damage to you in a round (i.e. Finger of Death), your defense (or that of your enemy) is what it is and you (or the enemy) must work to shore it up and can use effects to improve your chances of affecting your opponent's.

Static hit points. Brilliant, enough said. Your Constitution still has an effect on how many hit points you, but you don't have massive differences in survivability like you can in rare cases with other editions. 

I think the design behind the skill system is pretty grand. Many skills have been folded together with others to make some skills more comprehensive. Perception now covers both visual and aural detection and that sort of thing. There has been some oversimplification of the system, but I can get over that. The trained static bonus combined and the 1/2 level bonus system of 4th Edition, really combine nicely to make a very simple and easily understood/used skill system that doesn't end up being some overbearing system of accounting and book work. (A note, I never felt that way about 3.5 Edition and do not feel that way about Pathfinder). 

The power system has some appeal to me, but it is a kind of mixed bag. Encounter and at-will powers for martial character represent a sort of suite of maneuvers and techniques learned over years/levels of engaging in battle. At-wills for spellcasters represent orisons and cantrips and such fairly well. In theory, the power system is basically just a different version of the Vancian system of magic, spellcasters are still fundamentally limited in what kind of shenanigans they can pull off, the limits have changed to once a day and once every five minutes, rather than by how many times they memorized something, but they are still limited in a similar fashion to previous editions. Like I said, mixed bag, I like some of it, and other chunks of it bother me. Overall, I think it is a positive. One thing I very much like is that even wizards have to make attack rolls now and that all stats can be used to make an attack roll and every ability score has a use, some affecting the secondary affects of powers. Granted, attacking with Intelligence or Charisma is a bit...odd, however, DnD is rife with dissociative mechanics and attacking with your Charisma bonus is no different than having two hundred odd hit points and having to be stabbed a hundred and fifty times by a goblin to finally croak. 

So there's some stuff about why I like 4th Edition, I'm sure I could come up with a few more points, but those are the major ones. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Alternate Rules Part 1

So, I've been playing Pathfinder for over a year now. I feel confidant in saying that Pathfinder is close enough to 3.5/3.0 that my experience playing/DMing the latter carries over to the former. That puts me at roughly nine years of experience with this ruleset. I feel like I know the system and how the rules work, I feel like the rules themselves don't have too many surprises left in store for me. 

For a long time, I have resisted making new DnD things. I don't toy around with feats or classes if I can avoid it, I have created traits and a few feats yes, but always for reasons of background or by basing them first on something I've seen in 3.5 Edition. I think now I am not only comfortable making house rules for wonky stuff like janky magic or world unique races, but bending/breaking the rules of the game itself to fit my needs. I think I have the experience necessary to do so without turning everything pear shaped and reducing it all to rubble. 

So what does this mean? First, it means that there are things that irritate me about Pathfinder, just like there are things that have irritated me about every edition of the game. Second, it means I'm prepared to go back to just pulling shit out of my ass that I think is cool and start looking at things and changing them if I don't like what I see. I can't guarantee how often I'll post something like this, but it might become a regular thing. We'll see.

We'll start off nice and simple and slow. Monks. It doesn't explicitly say it in Pathfinder, but I've always felt they are more psionic than anything else, a lot of people probably agree with me. A lot of their abilities are listed as supernatural or spell-like abilities, but there is nothing in the rules that speaks as to whether or not they are a magic class or what. They're clearly something other than a warrior type class like fighter or barbarian or rogue. 

So this rule isn't a rule pe se, more of a clarification. Monks, and all of their powers, are considered psionic in nature, the same way a Psion's, Psychic Warrior's, or Soulknife's are. So, effects that suppress magic don't affect them, but effects that suppress psionic powers would keep them from performing some of their powers. Ok, yeah, that is a rule, but there you go, Monks are a psionic class in the same way Soulknives are. Super.

While I'm thinking of it, I might try and go through some of my old 3.5 stuff feat by feat and prestige class by prestige class to see what might fit in with Pathfinder and maybe convert it if I have to/feel like it. We'll see. Not sure how committed I am to this whole "I'm changing everything!" bug that bit me. I'm not even sure I really need to convert anything ultimately. Who knows. Monks are psionic, whoa!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why I Lik(ed) It: 3.5 Edition

My favorite part of 3.5 Edition was hands down the prestige classes. They were a way to specialize your character and help forge it into exactly what you thought it should be. Towards the end of the edition, they were reaching, but for the most part, there were a lot of cool options to be found for prestige classes. With the qualification requirements and everything, it just felt like prestige classes were a major way to define your character and what they were about. Don't get me wrong, you should be able to show what your character is without ten levels of prestige class just by playing the game and making choices while role-playing, but I felt like prestige classes were a very nifty way to mechanical way to represent your character and what they were about.

Feat and Skills kind of go along with prestige classes, I thought they were great ways to bring your character, via game mechanics, closer to being what you envisioned in your mind. Your fighter didn't have to depend on Strength or Dexterity to determine whether or not he hit hard or was hard to hit, you could take Power Attack or Dodge or Combat Expertise. I dunno, it just felt like between feats, skill points, and prestige classes, it was easy as Hell to make your character into what you wanted to be.

Challenge ratings were another concept I really liked, every monster had a challenge rating and in the DMG there were tables for building encounters and awarding experience based on the party's level and the challenge rating of monsters and traps and such you put in the encounter with them. It was somewhat tricky at times, and I don't think I fully understood it at times, but it made building encounters of the difficulty I wanted a lot more easier. It kind of just gave me some guidelines for building encounters that eliminated a lot of the guess work. I'm not a huge fan of taking a stab into the dark and hoping things work out.

Level adjustments and templates were pretty cool, a nice and easy system for indicating how powerful a race or template was and how much more powerful than other players that the race or template was going to be. It kept the power level of the players fairly balanced so no one was surging ahead of the group for most of the campaign, unless they had like a +4 level adjustment and some racial hit dice, then thing admittedly got a little crazy.

The d20 mechanic. Pretty much everything came down to a d20 roll, whether it be initiative, attack rolls, or saving throws. I liked that. It made the rules a lot easier to explain to new players and a lot easier to adjudicate situations not covered by the extensive rules of the game. You want to do something? Roll a d20 and apply pertinent modifiers.

Ascending attack rolls and AC and so on. High was good, low was bad. This kind of ties in with the d20 mechanic, but this made the edition glorious. Don't get me wrong, I had the THAC0 tables for each class pretty much memorized by the time we stopped playing 2nd Edition AD&D, but positives always equaling good and negatives always being bad was a great addition to the game I thought. It made it easier to explain to new players and it made combat a little easier as we didn't constantly have to reference attack roll sheets.

Ultimately, I think it was the complexity and wealth of options of 3.5 that made it appeal to me so much. This however eventually left a sour taste in my mouth with the advent of the 160 page splatbook for 35 dollars that was produced on a pretty much monthly basis. There is such a thing as too many options and too much of a good thing. Complete Arcane, Complete Mage, Adventurer, Scoundrel, Divine, Champion, etc, etc, etc. Spoiler alert, none of these books were complete anything. They just kept coming, never once creeping up above the 160 page mark. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why I Like(ed) It: 2nd Edition AD&D

I've been thinking real hard lately and reading a lot of flame wars (or more accurately called napalm shoved so far down your throat that your asshole burns wars) on forums and shit. I've decided that if I wasn't already, I am officially an Edition War Nonparticipant. Edition wars are stupid. Each edition of DnD is different, which is why different people adhere to different editions and abstain from and levy napalm at other editions. Each one has merits that made and make it popular. As long no one comes into your basement and throws your books into an oven, leave the issue alone and play what you enjoy for the reasons you enjoy it. 

The thing I read most recently was a forum thread on the Wizards of the Coasts forums where some chucklehead was acting like Fourthcore was ruining 4th Edition for everyone. He was complaining about everything from save or die effects to the overpowered nature of a boss monster in Revenge of the Iron Lich that you were not meant to fight directly that was only there to be an obstacle to avoid. That is the way Fourthcore is, insane difficulty coupled with getting real fucking lucky instead of having your PC splattered by a caving in roof. The guy would just not accept that Fourthcore is Fourthcore and some people like it. It was stupid and dumb and unfair and counterintuitive to the 4th Edition design standards, so it is dumb and everyone should stop playing in that style. He kept stating that Fourtcore represents fake difficulty, not actual difficulty, which is fair. There are save or die effects in Fourthcore, there are traps that will kill if you don't avoid them. So what? That is Fourthcore. If you like the random chaos and hardcore difficulty of that style, play it, if not, play regular 4th Edition.

Anyway, to continue. This thread really inspired me to talk about what I like about the various editions I have played. I enjoy this game and have had fun with every edition. I remember having fun when I played 2nd Edition, despite my comments to the contrary. A lot of fun, I only decided I hated it when 3.5 came out and it seemed like a better system to me. There is no need to burn the bridge on past editions when one I like better comes out, it is ok to still like stuff about 2nd Edition, even though I liked 3.5 more.

So what, thinking back, did I actually like about 2nd Edition?

First and foremost, there was a shit ton of material out for it. I mean, I didn't have spending money to spend and I had no idea what a torrent or modem was back then when we first got into it, but there was a lot of material out there and I had access to a good chunk of it. There was an option for pretty much everything you could conceive of between all the race and class books and all the kits and whatnot. I mean you didn't have sweet things like skill points or feats to customize your character, just non-weapon proficiencies and kits, but the kits were enough at the time. Unfortunately, I cannot recall a single instance of anyone in my group actually using a non-weapon proficiency outside of something like Blind Fighting or Bowyer/Fletcher. I guess it is no surprise though, we were strictly kill it and take its shit back then. And we enjoyed it.

I guess I also liked not worrying about the narrative so much as well. It was just fun to put the guys in a room with some monsters and watch them slaughter everything, though these were not exactly complex battles being fought on my college ruled note paper. This might be more of a feature of our group than of 2nd Edition though, so I'm not sure it is legitimate. Whatever.

I remember never once wondering if a kit or class or race was balanced against the others, that obsession is something I developed later. I miss that, it was fun just creating cool stuff and letting my guys play it. It was hard enough balancing encounters in the first place though, so it made for some added difficulty guessing what monsters would be appropriate for a fight. Without the fetishizing of balance, it was just easier to put what was in my head to paper though, and I miss that.

Thinking back, one thing I really liked was that there was this table in the DMG that tabulated the difficulty of a monster based on its AC and spell abilities and powers and calculated how many experience points it was worth. This table made my life so much easier when I started creating monsters and putting the guys up against creatures with levels. I don't think I've seen such a clear cut method for assigning experience point value to monsters since then.

Character creation was a breeze, even more simple than creating a character in Pathfinder or 4th Edition. Roll your stats, roll your hit points, pick a few proficiencies, write it all down as you go, done. Very quick and simple, so much so that you could roll a character immediately after character death and not tie up the game for two hours or so.

I guess you can attribute most of what I liked about 2nd Edition to nostalgia and not really caring about the rules and such, but hey, I was in junior high at the time and we all had fun, so who cares. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

DaMaging/ Tribute

I have made a few observations over the last 16 years of gaming, one of them: the DM does all the work. I have had the pleasure of watching Clint go from notebook-and-pencil-my-way-or-the-highway to the pretty damned good DM he is now... He has kept me from quitting a few times as well, and always bends over backwards for his players to make their experience fun for them and everyone else.

That being said, some of you may think I am copping out when I went ahead and purchased a premade adventure set, as Clint has built his from the ground up (over sixteen years, a lot in the last couple), but I say to you, nay, WE ARE BUT MEN! Wait, what?!?

Anyway, as I was saying, typing, whatever... there are a few things I would like to point out about me: I have attempted in the past to be the DM/GM a handful of times, most with utter failure. I have tried world building and then I get to the point where I don't know how I want to set something up/ anal for detail occasionally. I have a lot on my plate lately and the summer off I have isn't enough time to try and make something solid. Also, I have some learning to do/ nervous about a lot of things in the game world, people laughing, for example, at something I think could have had the potential to be really cool and neat if you could have only seen it through my eyes (I use undead carnival as an example).

So what am I trying to say? I am got us a premade adventure for several reasons, the first and foremost is time constraints for me and the second being that I need to learn how to set this stuff up without making myself look like a buffoon. Hell, I guess there is a third as well, how to manage a group...

I hope I am going to do this game justice for the two people we will be introducing it to, and I won't lie, that makes me even more nervous. My own girlfriend and one of my best friend's wife, I would love to show them what makes us all love gaming for the different reasons we do (friendship, crazy and the story/ choose your own adventure).

I would like to be all set to game on the 26th of June, with all characters made and ready to go so we can get as much done as we can before the eventual boredom I perhaps foresee happening. I don't know, hope it doesn't feel like I am bugging everyone to get their stuff done. Ker already said if feels like homework.

Till next time, ROCK OOOOOOON!