Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Moving Forward To Now

Well now, I notice it's been a few days since I last posted here.  That's what happens when "Real Life" decides to take over for awhile.

What's been going on in "My World" since the last post?  hmmm, let's see...

I'm writing a dandy of a game, written with "The Exorcist" somewhere in the back of my mind.  It's part demon confrontation, part possession encounter and part "whodunnit".  It's coming together slowly but surely.  We don't want to rush a good thing.

I've been reading a lot of forum posts at DF and from all the nice rpg/AD&D folks  I have circled on Google Plus.

It's interesting to see how much thought and time we put into our games.   The question I have is how much is it escapism and how much is it that we are just getting lost in our imaginations?

One thing I found very interesting came out of a poll/question in the DragonsFoot forums in regard of how to "De-Tolkien-ize" AD&D 1E.

Someone put into words almost my exact thoughts on that and all I could do was agree.

There really is no need to "de-anything" because if you start from a blank world, as I have, and you homebrew pretty much everything or edit to your own liking that which you didn't write, as I do, then it's more a matter of, what do you choose to put into your world from among the many and varied things possible to choose from in the AD&D 1E books?

To put it more succinctly, it's more about adding in rather than taking out.

If a DM/GM doesn't want certain races in the game such as elves or dwarves or halflings and only wants humans, then by golly, the DM/GM just houserules that all PC's can only be human.

To me, that's the beauty of AD&D 1E (I refer to it specifically because it's the only edition I have ever played and know).  For me, it's like a huge box of LEGOS with no directions.   I can build anything I want with them using just this bottomless box of bricks and my imagination.  Things are added into the formerly blank playfield, not taken out.

I have finally acquired the Monster Manual and Monster Manual 2.  Now I have the 1E DM Guide, Player Handbook and the MM and MM2.  It's all I want or need.  It's my bottomless box of LEGOS.  As I write the next game, I can pick and choose from what is available in the books to build my adventure.

What's even better, if it's not already in one of those four books,  I will use the information provided in them as a template and create something entirely new.  I did exactly this when starting to write the exorcism adventure I mentioned at the beginning of this.  

I needed a demon more to what I imagined.  The MM2 has an entry for "Pazuzu" who was the villain in the "Exorcist" movie, but I felt that MM2 just turned him into a comic, jester version of the evil and nastiness of what that demon is really capable of.  So, I created another "Version of Pazuzu using his Sumerian name instead.

This also became my answer for another question in the DF forums asking why people thought 1E is the "Best" version of AD&D. (to be fair, it was asked in the 1E sub-forum inquiring why those who already hold it to be so, do so.)

Until next time, good adventure.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Taking another step in gameplay

The kids are having great fun as we moved into this next phase with dungeon crawls.

They have had characters take total beatdowns with only my good graces preventing Total Party Kill (TPK).  Accordingly, I have increased the treasure commensurate to the risks.

The combination of more intense battles and more and better rewards is providing for some major fun games.

However,  I have been perhaps over-lenient in dealing with character deaths in favor of trying to teach them the basic mechanics of the game.

As of the game they are currently in, this has changed and wow what an effect on the game.

One PC didn't take advice to make use of their thief skills and wound up getting shot by a poison arrow from a trapped door.  Not only did she take the damage from the arrow, but is slowly dying from poison in a dungeon they will not get out of soon enough to save her.

Not only that, there are no clerics, etc anywhere nearby to be of any use to her.

The more active the character is, the more she speeds the poison through her system, thus ending her life even faster.

This has added a whole new dimension to the game for the players, even those who are not facing permanent, imminent PC death.

Mind you, these are kids between ages 9 and 12 years old. I am intentionally playing with "kid gloves" on, so to speak.

They are learning the value of a strategic retreat when out-numbered or plain over-powered.

They are learning to look before you leap.

They are learning that not everything, or everyone, is what it seems on the surface.

And now they are learning that even powerful spell casters and mighty warriors can be brought low by things they never bothered to consider.

All in a game.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Devil Is in The Details, face him or run away?

You know,  I have been doing a lot of reading about AD&D and RPG's in general for the past while since returning to the game.

I read blogs, forums, whatever I can find to get myself back into the "groove" of things.

Something I have noticed is interesting to me.  There seems to be an obvious division among people involved.

There are many ways I could possibly express it, but instead, I will brazenly rip off someone else's term.

There seem to be those who pursue "D&D For Dummies" and those who throw themselves into "Advanced" D&D.  Obviously, the "advanced" referenced here isn't just the title of the well known game.

What exactly is the breaking point between the two?  Details, it seems.

Now to me, the ability to incorporate lots of details into a fantasy game is actually all about another whole level of imagination.  There are those like myself who believe that the more "reality" you can bring into the game, the more your imagination can mold the fantasy world you engage in in much more diverse and exciting ways.

Think of the monsters and character classes, abilities and capabilities that are part of the game.  Someone with little imagination will take a vague presentation and call it good.  That's akin to saying, " You are facing a bug that is 8 feet tall and is coming to attack you" and you reply " ok, I hit it with my weapon, now what?"

That's just pathetic, isn't it?  Where is the fun in that scenario?  I've eaten cafeteria meatloaf more exciting than that.  Yet there are countless people who like to keep their RPG games not too far from that, just to keep it simple.

I say though, let's fill in more of the story.  Yes, it's a giant bee in a dice and paper fantasy world that we are dealing with at the moment.  Is this a honey bee or a giant bumble bee?  What exactly constitutes "giant"?  Are it's abilities proportionate to it's size?  Tell me more. The more I know, the more I can use what I know about bees, giant or otherwise, to figure a way to deal with this doggone it!

Details are the starting point.  We don't have to shoot for "ultra-realism" in our creations, but by starting with what we do know, we can then extrapolate from there.

Also, for a lot of "give me more" gamers, we can gain a more exciting game by making it "real enough" to create situations that challenge both our level of knowledge about the world, both real and fantastic, as well building excitement by facing things that "could be real" if we suspend dis-belief just enough.

By adding more details to it, fictional or otherwise, we are adding more depth and challenge to the game.  Now we must pit the sum accumulation of anything we have ever learned against the game.

Not only do we get to wrap our minds around interacting with fantastic scenarios and creatures in combat and other ways, but we get to make some use of all those things we ever personally studied (or didn't) in school and from books and TV, etc...


What's the matter? Are you afraid that falling asleep in the back of biology class is now going to cost you dearly in the middle of a swamp adventure? 

Does the thought that spending more hours watching Scooby Doo than doing homework is going to kill a favorite character off?

At my table, you better bring everything you got to the table.  I plan to incorporate everything I know into this game and then I will go out and learn new stuff just to toss in more.  You had better be ready because while I, as a DM, am not out to deliberately kill characters,  I have no pity for those who fail because they lacked enough information or imagination to think outside the box and find a solution that isn't obvious.

So yes, I want to know absolutely everything about that new geomancer class because if there's a chance I can pull something out of my ars...enal to beat the bad guys or find a treasure trove of magical gems, I will go study the rulebook for it as well as get books, go online and whatever else I can do and maybe become a specialist on gems and stones just to be successful here.

Bring on that devil in the details,  I want a piece of him.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Should a player get involved with their characters

It's not as lewd as you might try to make it sound. 

First of all I think in AD&D, or any other Role Playing Game for that matter, it requires a certain amount of "buy in" to make the game worth playing.  "Buy in" meaning suspension of disbelief and essentially pretending to be someone else.

For some people, it is little different than a board game.  A more literary version of chess and they handle their characters more like chess pieces or avatars than making any effort to "become" the character.

Then there are the "G.I. Joe" players who play as though they have an action figure in their hands and they are putting on a puppet show.

Moving on, we come to the "actor" perhaps what is most ideal in terms of role playing as they are becoming the character, at least in thought and "sitting at the table" playfulness.

We won't follow this to the next step because then I fear one is bordering on mental illness in believing they really are the character.

Now, none of these examples is "wrong" necessarily (except maybe the last one).  Some people are more comfortable with playacting and others are not.  They feel more "in control" of the situation by playing through avatars.

It's just a matter of the comfortability of each person.

Games seem to be the most fun when they have all or at least most of the players involved at about the same level.

Also, a lot of the "buy in" has to do with how involved the DM is and how much detail the characters put into the characters.

The fewer details applied to the characters, the less there is to "roleplay" the character as a unique personality. 

Some people are cautious about getting into the characters too much early on because characters die easy at lower levels.  Some people actually get so involved in their characters they become stressed "for real" when the characters "die" in the games.  Thus, they intentionally play the characters as avatars until the characters survive to a more survivable level and begin to fill in the personality and details.

Going back to the DM's role in this.  A charismatic and very engaging person who is a good story teller and narrator can make the players feel a lot more comfortable about "getting into character" during the game.

Having said that, they can go a little overboard and take over the story, not leaving much room for creative stretching of the Player Characters as I mentioned in the last post.  It's a balancing act for the Game Manager.

However you approach playing your characters though, make sure you do so in a way that is comfortable to you.  Playing a game, especially a role playing game, is no fun at all if you aren't able to relax and have fun.  If you are feeling stressed and uncomfortable about the game, you won't have fun and it will most likely impact the environment of the game for everyone else too.

This is something to consider for the other players at the table who are more comfortable with role playing and "getting into character".  Don't push other players too hard, mock, deride or chastise them for not getting into things as much as others at the table.

After a few times they'll either get more comfortable and get more involved on their own or they'll decide that it's just not the kind of fun they really enjoy and move on.