Saturday, 26 December 2015

Two Simple Rules for GMs

I've learned:

1. Don't plan sessions around a particular player or PC being there.
2. Don't cancel because a player can't make it.

Just stick to those two rules and you'll be fine.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The 5e "Adventuring Day"

Because this comes up a lot...

Page 84 DMG: "Assuming typical adventuring conditions and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day. If the adventure has more easy encounters, the adventurers can get through more. If it has more deadly encounters they can handle fewer."

It does not say anything about official game balance requiring 6-8 encounters in a day.

Read more:

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Dragonmeet 2015

I had a great time at Dragonmeet yesterday - it definitely helps to be accompanying a highly social 8 year old who's not afraid to ask to get into every game going (by my count he managed 6* games in 5 hours!). I finally bought 'Vornheim' - which I'd been after for a couple years - from James Raggi, and met the legendary Jonny Nexus, getting him to sign the copy of 'Game Night' he sold me. I was too shy to talk with Joe 'Lone Wolf' Dever, but my friend Jelly did. :)

*Bill played Zombicide, a WW1 aerial dogfight game (without me), Terminator: Genisys minis battle game, a Wild West finger-flick game (without me), and two Steve Jackson dice games, the entirely random Chupacabra and Brains(?), a you-are-the zombie game with a light skill element. The latter two left me wanting to play OGRE, the game on the SJG guy's T-shirt. :D

I think the highlight of the convention was getting to play Terminator: Genisys miniatures battle game with Bill, refereed by one of the designers. The first really good modern/future minis skirmish game I've played, it uses different dice for task resolution vs unchanging difficulty numbers representing skill, weapon damage & armour. It's a great approach which made for a really tense and exciting game as my Human Resistance fighters under Kyle Reese desperately tried to hold off Bill's Skynet Terminator Endoskeletons. At one point we looked sure to be overrun - you really get that movie-style sinking feeling as your massed volley of plasma rifle fire has zero effect on the advancing Machines - only my anti-tank systems had much effect. Once some of the Terminators got into melee with my guys they were shredding us right and left, and I managed to blow away one of my own guys in the crossfire. :) But then the tide turned as some lucky strikes shocked the Terminators and we were able to run in and coup-de-gras them ("Hasta La Vista Baby" move) before they could recover. I was still taking losses but as the number of Terminators dwindled, our greater numbers began to tell, and by the end Kyle and the three surviving members of his squad stood victorious over the smoking battlefield.

I manged to get a half price copy of the game from the Games Workshop stall  stall with the Games Workshop banner (£35 instead of £70!) and we took it home, played another quick skirmish before bedtime. :) Thanks to River Horse games for a great product!

Downsides of the Convention - I could not find a proper listed timetable of speakers anywhere (not on the website, nor the programme, nor posted anywhere), and didn't get to hear any. Likewise, if there were any drop-in RPG sessions I could not find them, or a way to sign up on the day. I get to play RPGs a fair bit already so that was not a huge loss, but the lack of publicity re Speaker schedule was more of an issue.

Still, I had a fantastic day for my £10 on the door, and it's a great new & very accessible venue - definitely going again next year!

Fun in 4e D&D

While I have ripped Wyatt on ENW for his "guards at the gate aren't Fun... long treks through dwarven fortresses isn't Fun... skip to the Fun" - it actually makes some sense within the tight focus of the 4e system. The 4e DMG knows what it wants to do and is mostly pretty good about doing it - whereas the 4e PHB is pretty terrible at introducing players to the game (HotFL/HotFK much better, if anyone had bought them). DMG would still have benefitted from more clarity in explaining the kind of game it was, but the biggest issue was in presenting it as nominally another edition of D&D when its focus was so different from earlier editions.

I'm currently running both BECM Classic D&D and 4e D&D (and 5e D&D!) and they serve very different masters, they achieve 'Fun' most effectively through very different techniques. As you say, 4e works with hard scene framing, what I called Pemertonian on ENW, as it was Pemerton who helped me understand how 4e worked and why my attempt to run prodecural sandbox in 4e (conversion of Vault of Larin Karr) did not work well.

The 4e DMG hints at this difference, but IMO does not do enough to effectively distinguish 4e from its predecessors, given that most DMs will be carrying in baggage from 1e-3e. The DMG2 helped a lot, still without going all the way.

Instead of "X is Not Fun", the 4e DMG should have said "4e is intended for Y, not for X".

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Nostalgia and the OSR

Is the OSR nostalgia? If it's nostalgia, it seems to be mostly nostalgia for an era of gaming - the mid to late 70s - that most of the participants never themselves experienced.

I think the very early OSR or proto-OSR (Dragonsfoot, C&C, OSRIC) was based around 1e AD&D modules and module-based play (mostly competition modules), the era that began with Against the Giants and ended in the late 1980s. I think that nostalgia and simple continuity of play plays a big role there - a typical Dragonsfooter in 2002 probably was just playing the same way they had been doing in 1986.

But the more recent West Marches, Grognardia and post-Grognardia OSR seems much more about the sandbox hexcrawling and the megadungeon, styles already falling out of favour in the late 1970s and only ever experienced by a relatively small number of gamers at the time. If it's nostalgia, it's nostalgia for a mythic past, rarely nostalgia for our own remembered past.