Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Illusionist

I sat back recently to think more about the AD&D Illusionist.Perhaps it's because  Ihave an unhealthy appreciation for horror stories and flicks that  Imaintain a very dark and devious image of an Illusionist.

To me, I see Illusionists as a Magic User dealing in shadows and deception.  Even more so, someone who strives to inflict terror and outright, abject horror from those around them.

The Illusionist plays on fears and uncertainties people hold.   I don't think an Illusionist is necessarily of Evil alignment, but one "properly" played is at best Neutral or Evil in that they intend or don't care if those affected have a negative experience.

Taking this to an obvious endpoint, an illusion is a lie.  Even if it's an illusion of a "Good" thing, it's a lie, it's not real. 

Now all of this is not to say that I don't like Illusionists.   I love them actually.  It allows me to air out my devious streak once in awhile role playing an Illusionist.

In creating an Illusionist character,  I find that they must have great eye-hand coordination and must be intelligent, educated and creative to be successful as an Illusionist.  Class requirements for intelligence are a minimum of 15, dexterity at 16.

I say an Illusionist must be well educated because in order to create a convincing illusion, one should have a very good understanding of what it is they are re-creating which means the better they know the source, the better the illusion.

One could almost say there should be a requirement for a high wisdom score as well ensuring that an Illusionist has a very good sense of what "moves" people, what makes them "bite".   I don't add that as a requirement because while it is a trademark of a good or great Illusionist, not every Illusionist is going to be good or great.  Some are just mediocre wannabe's.

I would also suggest that charisma should be desired to be at bout 13 or better which I think ties into the creativeness required for the class, but that's just me. 

Who is playing the game here?

Did you know that, at least in my world, only Players "play" the game?  it's true.  What?  You think that's obvious?  I don't think so. Bear with me on this.

I think the Dungeon Master's role is to set the stage, know the rules and roleplay the NPC's.  His/her job is to focus on the game itself.  A "good" DM/GM never plays the game, they observe it, they manage it, they adjudicate it, but they never "play" it.

Only Players "play" the game.  By saying they play the game,  I mean they are trying to win.  They are trying to "beat" the adversaries, conquer the challenges and reap the spoils.  In contrast, the GM/DM never makes an effort or "tries" to win or defeat the Players using elements of the game to defeat or kill the PC's intentionally.

Having said that, there is one aspect of the game in which the DM/GM is actively "opposed" to the players, but not as the DM/GM directly.  It is in the roleplaying of the NPC's that the Players interact with.   To correctly roleplay those NPC's (the monsters, people, enchanted objects with intelligence, etc...  the DM  must truly roleplay the NPC as if he/she actually were the NPC.  The NPC in question has it's own "in game" goals, objectives, attitudes, mindset.

I know some DM's take a sort of a "cheerleader" role because deep down, they are good people and want to see the Players do well.  Because of that, they will, when given the option, give the Players a break when it comes to dice results, etc...  Then you have the ones who are all about the game and don't give any breaks, to PC's or NPC's alike.  Of course, there are the ones who secretly want to have the game win and give the NPC's the breaks and nudges but not the Player's  PC's.

I like to think of myself as the Neutral, "it is what it is", kind of DM but to be honest,  I end up being a 4th kind of DM in that I like to follow the action, wherever it is.  Basically, if I see the dice roll result in something no one expected or in a direction that catches either Player's or NPC's by surprise, I'll go with it just to see what happens and keep the game interesting. 

Sometimes following the action ends up in one side or the other getting a break, but well, life's not fair and I tell the Player's don't expect the game to be "fair" either in that same regard.   I try to be the "it is what it is" kind of person normally but yes, sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Declaration Dice

Some folks like to run morale checks BtB.  Some folks don't run them at all.  Me, I like to keep things interestingly random and just before I roll for initiative,  I roll  a die to determine what action the NPC is going to take going up against the PC's.

Declaration Dice

1-Flee (Turn and run from area seeking escape, back is exposed)
2-Fight (Have weapon at hand, prepare to strike)
5-Parlay (If low intelligence then stop to see what PC's do)
9-Parlay (Roll on Parlay sub-table, only individual or leader of NPC's can parlay, if not leader "calling" for the group of NPC's, then re-roll)

One reason I like to use dice to determine their intentions is that I am sometimes guilty of just falling into "attack" mode as I roleplay the NPC's, especially if it is a random encounter or I had not necessarily planned out the encounter with a particular NPC.

Parlay Sub-Table

If the NPC's do not get initiative then they will be as if surprised for one round due to not expecting to fight immediately

1-Negotiate cease fire-become allies/collaborate
2-Negotiate Surrender of PC's
3-Negotiate Surrender of NPC's
4-Negotiate cease fire-go separate ways

I'm always looking for new things I could add to these dice roll results, so if you have an idea or suggestion, let me know in the comments, I would love to hear it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The AD&D Classes in Fantasy Fiction Books

One of the authors I have been reading over the past couple of years maybe 3 or 4 actually) really has a good grasp on the various AD&D character classes in my opinion.

A. Lee Martinez writes stories that , to me, almost always seem to include at least one character that really fits the description of an AD&D class like a magic User or an Illusionist, a Fighter, etc...

Obviously, his characters aren't complete, blatant rip offs of the classes, but I think they are so darn close in some aspects that it's certain to me that he is or was an AD&D gamer.

For example, in the book "A Nameless Witch" he introduces a pretty typical Magic User as the Witch (who is also un-dead) and pits her against a character he refers to as a "Wizard" but almost exactly fits the description of an AD&D Illusionist.  A very high level Illusionist at that.

Not only that, but the same book includes as one of the witch's allies a character that is pretty much the description of an AD&D Paladin.  Well, the character operates very much like a Paladin anyway.

Just about all of Martinez's books seem to include at least one or more characters that fit an AD&D Class mold.  It's been a lot of fun to read them just to see how he implements the classes in stories like his which fall into the "fantasy fiction with a humor and wit" category I think.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

It Doesn't Take Much Time To Build Up Rust

It's interesting to note that my kids/Players have allowed themselves to build up some rust on their playing skills so quickly.

We started a dungeon crawl today in the Middle Earth campaign (to bide me some time until I can write up a new adventure).

They were into the crawl, they really wanted to play.  The past Month or so has been spent on Gladiator Games in the other campaign so this is a nice return for them to Middle Earth. (I added some bit of story surrounding the dungeon to blend it in with the other activities in the campaign so far.)

They started out by rushing in, doing a quick peek around then running off into the next rooms.  They had simple confrontations with a few orcs and a couple giant frogs so far, but it wasn't until they hit the fourth room that it occurred to them to slow down and start really checking out the rooms for secret and hidden stuff.

I have noticed that they are paying more attention to the more mundane items, especially those with Clerics and Magic Users so that now they are wanting to keep things like special colored candles or items they can use as material components in spells, etc...  Where even maybe six months ago, they really weren't paying attention to that stuff and found themselves getting burned because of it later.

The devil is in the details.

So, while it kind of surprised me that they did have any rust to knock off, they did catch themselves in pretty short time and are now back into adventurer/explorer mode again as opposed to Gladiator mode.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Going Boldly Where No Humanoid Has Gone Before

I saw this topic on a thread at DF and I was motivated to say a little bit more about the general topic of how people "play" their non-human humanoids.

Where the MM might say that a race is primarily "Evil"  or some other alignment,  I tend to go in another direction.

As a matter of  fact,  I tend to view my non-human humanoids in a Star Trek lens.

For example,  I see orcs very much like Klingons.  A very aggressive and posturing race that pushes the concept of "honor" to extremes.  Other humanoids that see themselves as "peaceful" have trouble understanding and getting along with them  They also often make the sometimes dangerous and other times tragic mistake of assuming that members of this race are somehow "less" than their own.

Now, on the other hand,  I see Dwarves as behaving somewhat like Ferengi.  Very task and business/financially oriented.  Short of stature with a big chip on their shoulder.

I lack the imagination, I guess, to do much more with Gnomes than to treat them as living versions of our garden statues.  I don't have a Star Trek race that I compare them to.  I see them as fun loving, few cares in life little rascals who LOVE to play practical jokes on others, not out of meanness or spite, but because they genuinely think it's funny.  Especially when "Big People" are involved.  If you are a "Big Person" and have a sense of humor, you can gain a lot of trust and friendship with Gnomes.

I think elves change as they age.  They begin when they are young as more like Gnomes but as they age, they become more somber and serious, perhaps even a bit wistful as though inside they somehow mourn the loss of their youth.

While older Elves may become very Spock-like, they do not shun or look down on younger elves for their frivolity.  Instead, they watch it go on about them while not actively participating themselves though no young Elf would ever dare turn their pranks and festiveness at older Elves.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hurry up and wait!

Ah, the pine fresh scent of impatience at not gaining levels as fast as they want.  That is what my players are beginning to experience.

It's not that they aren't having fun with the adventures they are having now, they are having a blast.  It's just that they can see the potential of really amping things up with higher level characters and being able to tackle higher level threats.

I don't think I give out too few XP, but because I want them to really gain experience and insight, as they grow as Players, I often think I give too much XP (though in the end I realize I did not give too much, I just am really conservative about giving XP out relative to what they have to do during the adventures.

So, how do we resolve this dilemma of gaining levels faster?  Simplicity itself.  I told them to play more often.   I can always throw in a quick and dirty dungeon crawl in between my home-rolled adventures, both giving me more time to get what I want out of the home-roll and giving them something to do in the meantime.

This is really where Wizardawn saves my bacon in the quick and dirty dungeon generation area.  How you don't love Wizardawn, I just cannot fathom.

What sometimes even happens is that they might even have enough XP to gain a level, but they do not have enough money to be able to afford to train up to the next level. 

Oh yes,  I use training to level up.  This is actually part of the character development procedure for the Players and I.  We get a lot of things done for each individual during level training.  If they cannot afford to do the training, they cannot gain the next level, regardless of how many XP they have.

I use level training to have them go on quests and perform tasks for their Masters or trainers or to gain the necessary material components of new spells they intend or hope to acquire during training.  Stuff like that.

Oh yes, as my Players gain their own experience in role playing in AD&D, I  take the opportunity to add more depth to the games and make the challenge s relative to their ability of play.  They have already improved so much in understanding how to play the game since they started over a year ago.

Friday, June 14, 2013

So just where is My World and what happens there?

"My World" is a prime example of what fun a lazy GM can have with maps of the Earth.  The name of my world is "Terra Ursa" and as of right now, there are three major places being defined there.

in location one, the area on the Earth map that usually coincides with North America is where my first and original campaign started out.   It has been on the back burner for awhile now as the Players have been exploring the other two locations created afterwards.  Basically, where each of the U.S. states would be, is a small country that has it's own unique culture, politics, etc...

The Great Plains states seem to currently represent "general" medieval lands.  The Eastern side consists of lands from literary backgrounds such as "Poeland"  and a land based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and others to be planned.

Location two is made up of the place people refer to as "Middle Earth".  The Players have been adventuring in Middle Earth for months now and are really liking it a lot.  Middle Earth takes the place of Europe and Asia on the Earth map.

Location three is now the place where our third and most recent campaign takes place for the Gladiator Games.   I have finally decided that the Gladiator Games takes place on what would be Australia on the Earth map.  The Caesar who rules there rules over the entire continent.  There are several arenas there in various cities that the Caesar travels around to as often as he can (he lives for   the games) but the games travel and go on even when he is otherwise occupied.

1E on Google Plus is getting bigger

For those of you that may be reading this and that use Google Plus, I created not too long ago a Google Plus community called AD&D 1E, One Edition To Rule Them All

In what I think is a pretty short time, we have about 34 members of the community now and discussion is finally starting to pick up to where good conversations can be had.

Feel free to click on the link above and join the community, especially if you want to be active and involved in the discussions.  Lurkers are welcome too I guess, but a community like this is a lot more fun when there are more people actively posting.

See ya there.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spell Casters As Combatants

If you've seen some of my recent posts, I've started a campaign called "Gladiator Games" for my players.   This allows them to pit individual PC's against roughly equivalent monsters/opponents in an arena setting.

It's been all out brawls when fighter classes are in the area, which is pretty much what I expected.  There's only one thing for them to do and that's grab their weapon and wade into the enemy.

I've also watched them send Clerics, Illusionists and Magic Users into the arena with some interesting results.

Clerics do OK so far, about 50% win and 50% losses at this point.  They tend to start out wit a spell then go straight to their weapons.

A Geomancer is kind of a sub class of a Cleric though their spells are more similar to Magic User spells.  Their magic comes from the inherent magical energies that they are able to draw out of select gems and precious stones.  At the same time, they enjoy the Cleric's ability to wear armor and use limited weapons.

There is one Geomancer who has been much more effective than we really anticipated he would be.  Now, his current record is only 1-2, but the two losses weren't that bad considering everything.

The Illusionist and Magic User have yet to win a fight or emerge from one without being knocked around like rag dolls.  The obvious thought that comes from this is that MU classes aren't really meant to be active combatants.  No surprise there really.  The books indicate as much.

Now, in the Gladiator Games, at least in mine, the Caesar doesn't require a kill or even a physical beatdown of the opponent to win the match.  All it takes it to put your opponent into a state or condition that they are unable to continue or win the fight.

With this rule, the Players have found new inspiration and creativity in how they approach to the arena matchups.  They try to frighten opponents into surrender, to make them lost or wander away from the fight, whatever they can do to get the opponent to disengage themselves from the action.  If the opponent will not fight, they cannot win, thus essentially they "lose" the match.

The Caesar ultimately determines the winner based on if it was a good show or not.   Whether the combatants fought/competed in a "sportsman-like" manner and the manner in which the "defeat" of the opponent came about.

Where the MU classes are concerned, the more flash and ingenuity displayed the better.  To just walk in and use the command "sleep" works effectively, but it might still learn the Caesar's displeasure if it is carried out in a blase manner or used too frequently.

This has all led to the Players having more discussions of how spellcasters can be most effective in a traditional exploration campaign as part of a party with other classes in it.  Which is partly what I wanted to have happen.   I wanted my Players to get a better idea of how the various classes work individually in combat so they can better assess how they might be best used in a party elsewhere.

Not only has my Gladiator Games been fun in their own right, but it is helping my Players improve their role playing skills and becoming better tacticians as well.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A New Spell, "Know Thy Enemy"

I am one of those DM's that doesn't let Players know the AC or "To Hit" information about their opponents.  One of the reasons for this is because I don't see how a PC would know such information about an opponent.  I have other reasons, but in considering this and Players who press me to let them know what they need to roll "to hit".

I believe I have come up with a livable alternative for me.  A new spell, usable Clerics and MU's called "Know Thy Enemy".  When a Cleric or MU casts the spell  (presumably the first thing they do) they are able to know who or what it is and the AC of the opponent is made known to the spellcaster who can then inform the rest of the party if they so choose to do so.  Knowledge is power after all.

At that point, a Player can then make use of THAC0 information to know for themselves what they need "to hit" and maybe even get a +1 bonus for the knowledge (I haven't made up my mind on that last bit yet).

To gain that information costs a spell caster a spell slot for the day though and I am likely to make it a 3rd or 4th level spell. scratch that, I think this is just a firsts level spell after all.  I will also enforce  a material component check for the spell to be cast as well requiring something rare and which is destroyed or used up at the casting of the spell each time, requiring the spell caster to keep plenty of that hard to find and obtain component on hand. 

The item in question will be an "eye" tooth/fang from a defeated opponent.  The tooth will crumble into dust upon casting the spell.  The tooth will have to be obtained by the spell caster themself in order for it to work.

A Failure Of Imagination

It bums me out to see people say that they are having trouble with their world or campaign building because they can't locate just the right monster, deity, treasure, etc... in one of the books, magazines, etc... that they have.

Here's how I look at AD&D.  There are 3 main things we find in the three core books, the Players Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual 1.

1 Game rules.  These are the most basic rules on how to keep the game going and how to help you, the DM, make rulings.  How to play the game in general.  How to determine the results  of an interaction.  How is something "supposed" to behave? 

2  Game mechanics.  These are the details of how to make in game determinations.  For example, how do you determine who goes first in a confrontation?   The answer to that is a game mechanic.  What is the process of conducting combat?  Again, that is a game mechanic the "how to do it" information.  Which dice do we roll to determine a score or result, those kinds of things.

3 Details and content.  The books start off a beginning DM and Player with some ready to use stuff they can add to their games right away to get started.  This content is not the last word or the only things that we can use, just something that can help keep the game common enough and easy enough to get anyone reading them off to a start.

Just because something we want is not in a book or adventure  or published somewhere doesn't mean a thing.  The best thing about AD&D is that it is YOUR game and it is MY game.  AD&D is not meant to be a cookie cutter game system where the same things are in place each and every time by each and every person to play it.

We can create our own creatures, magic spells, weapons, enchanteed items.  Anything at all that we can think of and give stats to.  This is one of the reasons  I like OSRIC so much is that because the published books are trademarked and tied to money,  I can write my creations up as OSRIC compliant and share them with others without fear of getting sued or harassed.

Regardless though of whether we share our creations with others or not, the fact remains that we are nearly unlimited in what we can put into our games and still have those games be recognizable AD&D.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Growing as a GM/DM

I have been a DM/GM in AD&D 1E for a very long time.  At the same time,  I really haven't built up that much experience.   Go back over 20 years ago when  I was in my late teens and early twenties and I made the switch from Player to DM I spent about two thirds of my total time in AD&D 1E as a DM.  About 3 years or so.

Then life happened.  The group split up, books got put away.  marriage, kids, time goes by.

A bit over a year ago,  I came back to the game by way of my kids being interested in it.  I starting dusting off rusty old DM skills and refreshing my memory on how things work in the game, joined an online forum (DragonsFoot, best damn AD&D forum on the internet) and got my head back into the game.

It all came back pretty quickly and I have grown into an even better GM since then.  Learning about OSRIC has been a big part of that growth as well.
I have never and I don't intend to begin claiming that I am a "great" or "super" or the "est" GM/DM. 

There are two sides of the AD&D gaming world.   I have been a Player and  I have been a DM/GM,  both sides have a lot to offer.  Having said that, while I still wouldn't mind being "just" a Player in the future I have to say that I am a DM/GM to the bone.  That is where I find the most fun and overall satisfaction in the game.

I love reading AD&D threads in forums, in the Google Plus communities, on blogs and watching YouTube videos by folks like IvanMike.  All of those resources work to motivate, inspire and make me think and re-think my position on various aspects of the game.

A lot of my growth as a DM/GM has been from my kids.  As Players they have been exceedingly patient and cooperative with me while they learn as well.  They have been open-minded and adventurous, not complaining or being negative when I try new things out then change them, tweak them or get rid of them the very next session.  That's huge for me to have that opportunity to try new things and make changes mid stream in the effort to make the game better, more fun, more rewarding of an experience for them.

I tend to make things up on the spot.  Roll with the flow, stream of consciousness kind of stuff.  This allows me to be more spontaneous and adaptable to the Players actions and reactions.

I have learned to create stage settings.  Provide a general environment, a basic structure then let the game fill the space.  I let randomness via dice rolling be the deciding factor for how monsters and npc's interact with the pc's.  In essence,  I let the monsters and npc's speak for themselves.

I don't, as a DM/GM, see my role as to oppose the Players and PC's.  It's not them vs me.   I like to set characters in motion and let things happen on their own.  If anything, I see my role as a stage director, set the stage and keep things moving.

Now my primary goal at this point is to see how much more smoothly I can make the game proceed.  By learning the rules by heart, knowing the details and information about places, characters, monsters and more,  I can "let" the game happen more than "make" the game happen.

The less I have to look things up constantly the more I can speed up the action and make rulings more quickly and confidently.

I have spent this past year or so learning to make the game what I want it to be, making it "my" game.  Now I just need to work on carrying it out more "naturally".