Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Fast and Slow Levels, Defining Role-Playing, and GURPS Melee Academy

A package arrived at the game session I attended yesterday…. (The guy had decided to get them when it was announced that they’d only be available at the old price until they ran out…!)

Adventure Design (Greyhawk Grognard) Quasi-Generic Modules – “This sort of portability is something modern designers might want to bear in mind when designing new adventures. Many OSR titles today are, in some ways, too generic. I think my favorite type is a mix; a module that is set in a particular setting, but which can easily be ported into other campaigns with little effort. That, to me, gives the optimal mix of background texture and portability that makes a module most useful.”

Adventure Design (Semper Initiativus Unam) Fast and Slow Dungeon Levels — “I think the ideal pattern for a megadungeon would be a fast first level, a big slow second level, and then two fast third half-levels that each lead to different paths down. After the third level, of course, things begin to be weird.”

Gamemastering (Hack & Slash) On the Corpse of the Quantum Ogre — “Are their [sic] misunderstandings about game expectations? That happens. Are those misunderstandings deliberate efforts on your part to force an outcome? That’s called lying.”

Role-Playing (B/X Blackrazor) On Role-Playing (Part 8 of 11) — “People make the mistake of thinking play-acting is the same as role-playing and then get upset and frustrated that their 18 charisma character isn’t a “smooth talker” (because the player isn’t a smooth talker in real life) or that their 18 intelligence character can’t hold his own in intelligent discourse (because the player can’t in real life). They get upset that they can’t “role-play the way they want to” and perhaps more upset that the people who DO play-act well are getting XP bonuses because of it (!) and then they want rules and systems for governing “role-playing” (like adding a “negotiation” type skill) and before you know it, you have 3rd edition (*sigh*).”

Role-Playing (B/X Blackrazor) On Role-Playing (Part 9 of 11) — “Any game where buying iron rations is a more important encounter than a life-or-death struggle with a group of enemies (orcs or ogres or peasants with pitchforks) is the STUPIDEST GAME EVER DESIGNED.”

Role-Playing (B/X Blackrazor) On Role-Playing (Part 10 of 11) — “Despite calling itself a ‘roleplaying game’ D&D has never spent much word count on the subject, preferring to focus on dungeon design, monsters, spells, treasures, combat rules, etc. Role-playing was initially incidental, and its never been wholly focused on – as a priority and feature of play – in any iteration.”

Adventure Design (Semper Initiativus Unam) Slowing the Pace (But Not to a Grind) — “Making larger groups of level-appropriate monsters, and encounters with (sometimes wildly) higher-level monsters, is a better way to encourage exploration and innovation instead of grinding. If there are 60 goblins between two rooms, the challenge becomes about circumventing or dealing with them rather than simply wading in and going for the slaughter. Of course, this assumes that the dungeon is properly Jaquayed so there is a way around.”

GURPS (Dungeon Fantastic) Melee Academy: Ranged Weapons & Hitting the Wrong Target — “If you miss you attack roll, you might hit someone else. This is bad if you’re shooting past your friends. This is ten kinds of awesome if you’re shooting past your enemies. Consider it a second chance to get some killing in.”

GURPS (Gaming Ballistic) Melee Academy: Muscle-Powered Ranged Weaponry 101 — “Really, you’re going to want to be hiding behind someone here. Ideally a lot of someones, with Shield Wall training and Sacrificial Block. Your own #1 worry is other ranged types for the first instance, and a clear field of running that a Dodge Monkey can exploit to close within your effective range. While DF Heroic Archers can do melee combat with their bows, most real-world specimens cannot do this. So unless you’re a spear or axe guy throwing spears or axes, you’re going to lose your primary attack mode unless you are kept safe.”

GURPS (No School Grognard) Melee Academy: Entering a Room in Dungeon Fantasy — “Upon opening the door and entering the room, the temptation to charge forward should be resisted. Moves and Attacks with melee weapons are low success, high risk maneuvers in GURPS. Charging an orc only to miss him and then get backstabbed by the hidden ninja is an embarrassing way to go in Dungeon Fantasy. It’s generally better to the let the enemy come to you.”

GURPS (Ravens N’ Pennies) Melee Academy – Someone took my lucky charms! Now what…? — “Obviously, this isn’t exactly efficient. Considering that the commando is going to have gotten of at least twenty-five (fourteen or eight) attacks with a firearm that do about the same amount of damage. So how do you differentiate a witch from the other template? By being a “Swiss-Army” caster. Witches can give their entire team bonuses with the right combination of spells, but even better, they can give their foes penalties. ”

Adventure Design (Semper Initiativus Unam) Pacing in the dungeon and within levels — “The reason to alternate between fast and slow dungeon levels is that time spent exploring the dungeon should be a tactical decision. Slow levels are defined by treasure and obstacles to that treasure. Every round spent in the dungeon has the risk of drawing a wandering monster, and every room entered contains potential risks. A well-paced dungeon is one where players can intelligently make these decisions, because the fast levels and sections are either not worth exploring in detail, or are actively hostile to such. Slow levels and sections, the meat of the dungeon where the interesting encounters, obstacles, and treasures are located, are spaced out by fast areas that clever players can cross without detailed exploration, and possibly use as multiple attack routes for the slow areas.”

Role-playing (The Tao of D&D) The Actual Definition Of Role-Playing — “I tell you, ‘My character turns left.’ I have just role-played. I have just assumed a part, essaying that the part takes a given function in a situation that has been given to me.  ‘My character lifts his weapon.’  I have role-played again. ‘My character moves to fight.’ I have role-played again. In fact, it is impossible for me to describe anything my character does without in fact role-playing. Because it is a character. And I have chosen to speak for that character, and describe what that character does.  It is a role I have adopted.”

Flashback (Grognardia) Backwards Thinking — “In my experience, basing a character’s uniqueness on mechanics is a certain way to ensure that the character is hardly a character at all but rather more like a well-built CCG deck. Moreover, most rules, in order to maintain ‘balance’ — another bit of backward thinking — end up creating a wide variety of false choices. Sure, you may now have dozens of feats and prestige classes to choose from, ensuring that no one else in your character’s party will have the same exact ones as he does, but, in the end, most of these feats and prestige classes differ only in either flavor or in limited situations. In the end, what you get is characters whose uniqueness is predicated primarily by roleplaying — as it always has been — but with a unnecessarily baroque mechanical superstructure to support a Potemkin village of ‘choice.'”

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