Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Hating Game Balance, Weeping for Grognardia, and Best Beginner Module

Game Mastering (Dungeon Fantastic) What do you need to start playing? — “I write up monsters as I think of them or need them. NPCs, too. I map just ahead of the players. I write down the crazy crap they say and make it true about the game world. I make crap up and make it stick. I rule stuff off the cuff (‘rulings not rules’ is a good way to roll during a session) and then I write them down and use them again if we like the results (because that’s how you make rules).”

Role Playing Game Design (Nine and Thirty Kingdoms) I Hate Game Balance, Part II — “Someone brought up something about ‘gew gaws’, which I could have touched on earlier, but it kind of bleeds into a whole ‘nother hate-filled rant. But certainly the shopping lists of feats, powers, skills, spells, all carefully defined to cover up any potential loopholes and make sure everything seems balanced are a huge part of my hatred for the concept. For one thing, they only seem balanced. There’s so many of them, with so much minutiae attached to each, and “system support” in the form of a steady stream of publications expanding the gew-gaw lists, there’s simply no way such games could be balanced. Which is probably why so many people in this thread bring up stuff like two advantages that cost the same, do the same thing, but one does something extra as well; it’s a side effect of creating a massively-complex, let’s pretend-it’s-balanced system. People are going to wind up disappointed with such a system… unless the loopholes fit their favorite character concepts.”

Game Blogging (Once More Unto the Breach) Dave Larkin’s comment on Who will weep for lost Grognardia? — “Ironically, James seems to have reenacted the very arc of gaming history he was most interested in exploring: he started out running and talking about ‘pure’ OD&D, then gradually added supplements, then moved up to a more ‘modern’ system (Labyrinth Lord rather than B/X), then added more options at his players’ request (the AEC rather than AD&D), then, like Gygax, tried to publish his home megadungeon and found the project to simply be too overwhelming and ended up tapping out and signing over his creation to a third party. I have to wonder, if and when James returns to blogging, will he be running retroclones of Cyborg Commando and Mythus? ”

GURPS (Dungeon Fantastic) Melee Academy: Keeping Your Reach Advantage — “The true advantage of a 2-hex reach weapon is that you can attack over the heads of your 1-hex reach friends, forcing anyone who closes with them to suffer two attacks.”

Dungeon Design (Semper Initiativus Unam) Spell Effects in the Dungeon — “Looking through the OD&D spell list, there are some obvious candidates for spells that have been cast weeks, months or years in advance by some wizard, and the PCs are only coming into contact with them now. These are some ideas for spell uses that have been in effect when stocking a dungeon.”

GURPS (No School Grognard) Melee Academy: Using Your Friends to Keep Your Reach Advantage — “Shield walls with reach weapons are also a good trick for monsters. 8 orcs in a single line abreast are spread too thin to overwhelm a pair of PCs – each PC is attacked by only 2-4 orcs at a time. If the orcs have a shield wall and a second rank with Reach weapons, each PC can be attacked by 5 orcs, and 3 of the orcs can make All-Out Attacks. Many PCs have a hard time defending against 5-8 attacks in a single round.”

Dungeon Mastering (Tower of the Archmage) Getting Lost — “Why do you want to allow your players to get lost in your dungeon? For one thing, it encourages your players to keep moving, and forces them to be less cautious. They have to explore new areas, and can’t retreat. They might be bruised, bloody, low on spells, and ready to head back to town with their loot… but they can’t. It’s a chance to see how inventive they’ll be. Will they try to hole up in a closed off room, or at the far end of a dead end passage? Or will they press on deeper into the dungeon looking for another way out? Or will they try to circle back, and find their way back to the original exit? Or will they do something else?”

GURPS (Gaming Ballistic) Melee Academy: Reach basics — “Many interesting but frequently futile discussions arise when conducting thought experiments that feature two fighters on an infinite featureless plain. In our case the forum thread (link to be provided later when I’m not behind a work firewall) pointed out that if Reach 2 decides to be aggressive and attacks into Reach 1’s Wait by closing to a two-yard distance (optimum striking range for his pole weapon), Reach 1 can have his Wait trigger on Reach 2’s step, which means he can step instantly to a 1-yard distance, and attack Reach 2 first, seemingly bypassing Reach 2’s spear. Just like magic.”

Gaming History (The RPG Corner) Three Paladins in Hell — “The original David Sutherland piece has a typically ‘First Edition’ approach to the eponymous paladin and his gear: his plate, shield, and sword are straight out of a book on medieval weapons and armor, but there’s a distinctly a-historical concession to the resource-focused realities of old school adventuring in the form of belt pouches strapped to his waist to hold all manner of rations, potions, and other such necessities. The devils in the picture are all identifiable in the Monster Manual – across the board, the feel of the piece is that this could have come directly out of an actual session of gameplay.”

Gaming Theory (The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms) Do I Hate Game Balance? — “I really do hate balanced games, not just because they tend to make all characters feel the same (as ProfessorOats mentions,) but because balancing characters against each other, or against the GM’s opposition, is primarily about removing everything uncertain and interesting from the game.”

Game Mastering (Random Wizard) Best Beginner B Module Series 1 to 9 — “B4 is a great module. I think it works well for a dungeon master in showing them a set of progressions to more complex play. The upper levels of the pyramid are keyed. The lower levels of the pyramid require some work of the dungeon master to flesh out how it all works. And then, it can move into more Expert play as there is an entire hidden civilization under the pyramid.”

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