Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Mastery of Magic

I am seriously considering making magic users in my AD&D 1E game specialize, so to speak, in a specific type of magic use.

There are those who use alchemy/potions for the most part, those who use incantations/spells, those who use siglas or runes and even those who use gemstones for the basis of their magic.

Not to say that a magic user couldn't use the other types of magic.

In my own imagination, to try to learn all those types of magic as an apprentice would be overwhelming.  I can see focusing on one type and dabbling in one or two of the others.

Perhaps one could come out of apprenticeship with one focus of study and gain ability to do others as they increase their experience and strength.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is the battle the game or is the story the game?

I read AD&D forum posts with great interest.  Some of the information I agree with, some  I disagree with, some is of no interest to me and some make me stop and think about it.

One thing I think about more and more is related to the posts regarding initiative and melee combat.

It's my observation that the folks who really get into the minute details of initiative are those for whom the battle is a or "the" primary part of the gameplay.

Those who seek "simpler" initiative and melee rules are seemingly those for whom the battle is but a brief part of the game overall.

In other words, for some people, the battles are the point of the game, the rest is just dressing.  For others, the role-playing and storyline are the point of the game and the battles are but one part of a bigger story.

There are players I divide into "role players" and "battle managers".  The "role-player wants to have a purpose.  Rescue someone, overthrow someplace, obtain an item, etc...  The "battle managers" are those who track every weapon attribute, they only see the next battle or opponent ahead of them and live for the adventures in which the battle and it's rewards are the purpose of the adventure.  To defeat an army, to kill monsters, to loot a town, etc...

I'm not saying either is bad or good, right or wrong.  It's the thing that makes different game players get into the game.

For a DM however, You have to know your players.  You want to try to have something in it for everyone.  What's the point of writing a great story/game if no one wants to play it? 

I am a storyline player and DM.   I run campaigns as having places that PC's go to and stay at.  Then during their interactions in the towns, etc.. they hear rumors and are approached for hire or see a wanted sign with a reward, etc...  With that, they decide what they want to pursue and we are on the way to another adventure.

Sometimes the adventure is to capture someone, to kill something, to rescue someone, to recover lost or stolen treasure, who knows, the possibilities are endless.

For each rumor they hear, each poster they see, each potential employer that approaches them, I have an adventure already written and ready to go for whichever they choose.

I think this gives my players opportunities to have a bit of each storyline and battle oriented adventures.

For battle oriented adventures,  I tend to pay more attention to weapon attributes, initiative dependencies and other details.  For these adventures, the battles are the stories they will tell their drinking companions at an inn or tavern over a few drinks.  These are the stories bards sing of because of their great heroics and abilities of the combatants.

For story oriented adventures,  I tend to use initiative and battle rules that are simpler and move the game play along toward the next step of the story.  These are the fables and tales that will be told by story-tellers of how the day was won, the victims rescued and the treasures claimed.

So,  I see value in both approaches.   I understand the value in knowing the weight and speed of a weapon.  Of knowing if one is using a weapon they are familiar with or is one they have trained with most of their life.

So, it's ok to have a preference as a player and I think even as a DM. Having said that, For a DM to provide a better game experience for all the players who may be a their table, it can be a good thing to step outside your comfortable zone and be able to give the players a different experience and really button them down on their combat mechanics or pay more attention to long range travel plans and trekking or mapping or interacting with NPC's.

It doesn't have to be one or the other.  It can be a bit of this and a bit of that.

Friday, July 6, 2012

OSRIC Keeps Pulling Me In

OSRIC, Old School Reference and Index Compilation.  Basically, this is AD&D 1E under the Open Gaming License.

Many people, including the author of the OSRIC book, will tell you that OSRIC is nothing more than a platform on which new resources can be made available that are compatible with AD&D 1E.

Since it's introduction and gain in awareness, many people have commented that for new people learning AD&D 1E or even for people who are coming back to the game but don't have the core books, etc.. that OSRIC is the better way to go in terms of introduction.

OSRIC is easier to understand, they say.  The rules are made clearer and more obvious.  With certain small and brief deviations from the original material, I would have to say I agree with those comments.

If one were to gauge players of AD&D 1E by placing true "By The Book" folks at one end and total "Homebrew" people who see the core books at most as general suggestions but nothing to take too seriously, then OSRIC falls in the middle, on the BtB side of the middle line.

That's OK though.  The goal of the book/system is to make the game as similar as legally possible to the original AD&D core books.  It wants to keep it close to the original where ever possible.

At the same time, it's obvious that they want to make the game as accessible as possible to as many players as possible and chose to "tidy up" some of the areas that perhaps they felt needed tidying up the most.

Even as a DM I find myself referring to OSRIC more frequently in making certain determinations and trying to acquaint myself with a less used rule.

I am probably as close to a total Homebrew DM as one can get.   I love having the core books but I have no problem houseruling where I see I want things to be. 

Having said that, even being a notorious homebrewer, it's good to have some base point.  Something to start with and, if need be, tweak from there.

OSRIC is very good for the homebrewer I find.

I own the main core books of AD&D 1E.  The Players Handbook, The Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual and Monster Manual 2.  The rest I have no personal use for.

I use my core AD&D books  a lot.  Especially as I don't use published modules but write every one of the games in my campaign.  The books become even more valuable to a homebrewer,  in my opinion, than they are to those who mostly stick to published modules.

OSRIC fits into my homebrewing even more because I have it in PDF and easily accessible on my computer.   I don't always have my AD&D core books with me, but I have my OSRIC PDF in a remote directory which means that as long as I have my laptop (which I usually do) and as long as I have a wifi connection (which is pretty common these days), then I have access to OSRIC which has kept me engaged in many a spare moment away from the house.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Keeping things interesting

I notice there seem to be two primary approaches to playing AD&D.

Those who play as though it is a season of "24" in which every minute of every day is filled with tension, action and intrigue.

Or, the "skip the monotony" folks who will roll for wandering monsters or encounters on a once an hour or so basis so as to move through the boring bits quickly and then focus on when something does happen.

I lean more towards "skip the monotony", though I am more of an increased randomness person.

Instead of just rolling for wandering monsters once per hour of the day, I have other types of interactions to fill in the time. So I still roll once an hour for wandering monsters who I treat as opponents, but I also roll once an hour for non-opponent encounters, then once an hour for "shit happens" events like a tire hitting a rock or hole and falling off or a horse breaks a leg on a hole in the road, etc..

Sometimes I can roll all three for the hour and still nothing happens. Talk about a boring time. Eventually though one of the three rolls hits or even all three come up and then there's more action than anyone wanted.

I've done a "shit happens" roll where a tire fell off a wagon, a "non opponent" roll where an elf stopped to ask for directions and a "wandering monster" roll in which party of orcs attacked all at the same time.

Now things are getting interesting.

Looking at melee

I see in some forums how complex initiative can get.

I prefer a more simple approach myself.  To me, initiative is a process which includes surprise and declarations/intentions of attack.

1) First, roll for surprise if it is applicable.  After checking each player/monsters surprise adjustments, then surprise is rolled for each "team".

2) After surprise is determined, I have each PC/monster describe their intentions for this round in terms of what weapon/spell they are preparing to use.  what change of position they will be making and if there is a specific target they are aiming for.

1d6 is used by each "team" PC's vs monsters. 

3) It's then a "roll off" to see who attacks first (provided they aren't surprised).  Highest number takes initiative and in the case of a tie, roll again till a winner (high number) emerges.

Now we know if and who is surprised or not.  We also know who has the upper hand going into battle.

The next obvious question is "who is attacking who?"

I allowed each PC to identify their target if they wanted to after the surprise roll.  What the players don't realize is as they were declaring their intentions, the monster(s) in my head, if they are intelligent enough to, were also declaring their intentions and targeting a specific PC as well.

If the monster is not an "intelligent" monster or the PC doesn't really know who or which monster they are attacking, essentially just running into battle eager to get to the first opponent within reach, I assign a number to the potential targets.  if there are say, 10 monsters and the PC did not declare a target,  I grab 1d10 and mentally assign each of the monsters a number one through ten.  Roll the dice and there is the intended victim.

Same goes for PC's when it's the monsters turn to attack.  Unless a specific PC is identified, say a team of four PC's is in action, then I grab 1d4 and mentally assign each PC a number one through four.  Give it a roll and there again is the intended potential target.

Sometimes you have a number of PC's or monsters that don't exactly match none of the die you have available.  Say you have 3 PC's and the monster is just going in randomly.  I will take the die closest above the number the number of targets and re-roll on the un-used number.  OR, if it is a team whose numbers are divisible, say two, then  I grab a die, like  d4 and every other number relates to a target.  say one and  three relate to PC 1 and two and four relate to PC 2.

Another hotly discussed area of initiative and melee is spell casting.  The rules can seem a bit complex in the PHB on this.  Personally,   I take the easy way out and if the initiative dice of the attacker was the winner, then they will interrupt the spell casting declared by the spell caster.   Just like that.

No determining this on that segment or turn or whatever.  If the opponent lands an attack and they had rolled initiative, consider it done.

I look at it this way.  This is supposed to be a game, not a historical battle re-enactment.  Not only do we want to play the game, we also want to keep it moving. 

The above is about the extent I go through in melee fighting.  It's quick, it's random, it's not all that complex.   I generally let the dice determine those things until a player gets out of order.  They become cocky and reckless or they are oblivious to the game because they are being distracted by a tv or something.  Suddenly, the dice don't mean as much anymore and I start getting creative,  making the calls myself.

Enjoy the game.