Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Ed Greenwood’s Sandbox, Why Vancian Magic is Good Design, and Gerry Klug Interview

D&Disms (Beyond the Black Gate) Diversity Quotas and the Traditional Adventuring Party — “It’s interesting to me, as a Pulp Fantasy fan, that the ‘traditional adventuring party’ of D&D (and its attendant offspring) has been so thoroughly ‘multi-racial’. Not only does the well-balanced party contain the (hopefully) optimum range of character classes to overcome the various challenges they will traditionally face, it is also standard to have many different player races represented.”

Gaming History (Delta’s D&D Hotspot) Clerics in Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes — “What we see here is that, not only in swords & sorcery literature, but also in mythology, clerics are mostly (if not totally) absent. One might be forgiven for thinking that clerics would be heavily present in a book entitled Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes, but this is certainly not the case. Compare the very frequent references in the book to the entities’ fighting-man and magic-user abilities. These two are standard entries in the stat blocks! Hell, even psionics is a standard entry. But clerical abilities are not in the stat block. Clerics really are the odd man out in D&D.”

Forgotten Realms (The Society of the Torch, Pole, and Rope) Current Clacking — “From that one quote, you see that Ed’s Realms campaigns were ‘sandbox’ affairs, even if he didn’t use—or even know—the now-common term. And although 2nd edition AD&D somehow got the reputation for being the version that eschewed the sandbox for the railroad, there’s nothing in the actual rules that says it has to be played that way.”

Gaming History (Akratic Wizardry) Two Vancian Thoughts — “Many AD&D classes have direct literary influences.  The ranger class clearly is based upon Tolkien’s Aragorn, and the monk class purportedly is based upon the character of Kwai Chang Caine (from the 1970s television show ‘Kung Fu’).  I had always assumed that magic-users as a class were somewhat generic, meant to accommodate characters as diverse as Merlin and Thoth-Amon.  But I now think that Vance’s magicians are the direct source of the D&D and AD&D magic-user class.”

Gamemastering (Necropraxis) Inconsistent or Unknown — “If a player ever says something like “hey, that doesn’t make sense!” the response would be: yeah, that’s kind of mysterious, do you want to investigate, and if so how? If I already know some backstory, then the player can figure it out through adventuring, and if I don’t, then we can figure it out together.”

Game Design (The Dragon’s Flagon) How old school D&D gets magic (mostly) right — “Making magic a limited resource allows it to function very differently from mundane skills.  Spells often allow automatic success, but you only have a limited number of them per day, so you must be judicious in deciding when to use them and when to rely on less certain but unlimited means.  Using magic to solve problems becomes more than a question of flavor; it’s instead a choice between the uncertainty of the dice and the uncertainty of finite resources against an unknown future.”

Gaming History (Semper Initiativeus Unam) Arnesonian Magic System — “The Vancian system is one that has survived not so much out of sentiment but because it is dead simple to use in a game. Like hit points and armor class, the specific rationale is second to the fact that the system is very effective in game. It limits the magic-user in a readily defined fashion and keeps the bookkeeping manageable.”

GURPS (Gaming Ballistic) GURPS Ballistics – The 1/2D Range — “This is an Nth degree quibble in the land of a game where quibbling is mostly all you can do.”

Gaming History (Geeky & Genki) GAMECAST EPISODE 20 – CHRISTOPHER KLUG AND THE JAMES BOND 007 RPG — “This week, we have an awesome interview to share! In honor of James Bond’s 50th anniversary, (and in honor of Alex’s drooling fanboy status WRT the James Bond 007 RPG) we talk with RPG design luminary and lead designer on the James Bond 007 RPG, Christopher Klug!”

Campaign Design (Greyhawk Grognard) What makes an interesting campaign map? — “I’ve been going through various campaign worlds, and especially the cartography thereof, and noticed something rather striking. Strictly in terms of cartography, most of the most successful fantasy gaming worlds have what I would call “interesting” cartography. Specifically, large inland bodies of water that allow for aesthetically pleasing and varied contours in what would otherwise be large dull areas of solid terrain.”

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5 responses to “Blog Watch: Ed Greenwood’s Sandbox, Why Vancian Magic is Good Design, and Gerry Klug Interview

  1. Douglas Cole August 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Hah! Finally made it back on the blog watch. I’ll have to be more interesting in the future. :-)

  2. Robert Eaglestone August 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Left unanswered (or perhaps I skimmed too lightly): why is Vancian magic considered good design?

    • jeffro August 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      “It limits the magic-user in a readily defined fashion and keeps the bookkeeping manageable.”

      Also…

      “Using magic to solve problems becomes more than a question of flavor; it’s instead a choice between the uncertainty of the dice and the uncertainty of finite resources against an unknown future.”

      It’s both easy to run and provides for a quantitatively different flavor due to the limited number of automatic successes.

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