Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: The Best D&D Evah, Snappy Solutions to Sandbox Gear Grinding, and How We Rolled Before this Niche Protection Stuff

Game Blogging (Hack and Slash) On the Summer of the OSR — “I’ve found that the difference between my experience on the forums and my experience on blogs/G+, isn’t that blogs are ego oriented, but that bloggers are playing games, while forum browsers are mostly just reading about them.”

Game Mastering (Tenkar’s Tavern) Quotes From Gary Gygax’s Role-playing Mastery – About Understanding the Rules — “Knowing the rules of the game is not nearly as simple as committing the relevant passages to memory, because memorization does not bring understanding. It is not only important to know what is written in the rules but to also perceive how the parts of the rules fit together and work in harmony with each other. This later task is certainly achievable, but it is not always easy.”

Tragic Game Hacks (Age of Ravens) On Rolled Damage — “I recall the first time I hit a game that didn’t use a standard damage system: James Bond 007. At the time I couldn’t wrap my head around the wound system. It seemed like players could get taken out horrifically easily. I was only fourteen and had always played games with big HP tracks. I ended up reworking the damage wounds system to make it more liberal- with rolled damage and players needing multiple shots to put a foe down. Not realistic, but more appealing to my Middle School sensibilities.” [Jeffro notes that Hero Points and NPC Survival Points are essentially a form of hit points in that system.]

The Way It Was (Tenkar’s Tavern)  Character Class as a Role – or – Niche Protection Before MMORPGs —

  • bygrinstow comments: “There very well could have been a guy who’d play a Cleric because the party ‘needed one’ and he’d just memorize healing spells for the sake of the party, back in the tail-end of the 70’s and early 80’s… But I never met him at the time.”
  • The Degenerate Elite comments : “I have played in many games where the M/U was a problem solver with unique spells for, get ready, EXPLORING a dungeon. ESP, Knock, Hold Door, Magic Mouth, Levitate, Light, etc etc. This is their primary purpose in old school games, not throwing fireballs. They are the exploration toolkits that keep the party out of major trouble and divert enemies from their paths.”

Gaming History (About Bruce Heard and New Stories) A Word from the Archmage — “D&D first appeared in 1974, but I didn’t discover it until 1975. I converted the Realms to match D&D magic and monster stats in 1978. So the published Realms does predate Greyhawk and Dragonlance and the Known World/Mystara.”

Gaming Trends (Monsters and Manuals) The D&D Brand — “Pathfinder and D&D in its recent iterations have been stuck in a rather drab and bland place: fantasy may be more popular than ever, but elves, orcs and the tropes of high fantasy are simply not part of the zeitgeist. People want their fantasy rooted in the real world (Harry Potter, Twilight), they want it grim and bloody (Game of Thrones), and some of them want it to do something genuinely different (China Mieville, Paolo Bacigalupi, and so forth). They don’t want Dragonlance, they don’t want Forgotten Realms, and I’d suggest the lukewarm reaction to the first Hobbit film suggests they don’t really want The Lord of the Rings anymore either. D&D can get on the bandwagon to success, I would suggest, but if it wants to do that it needs to recognize that times have changed, and what a 40 year old nerd likes won’t cut it with a 15 year old.”

  • Andy Bartlett comments: “I enjoy rugby. But every few years someone proposes a change to the rules in order to make rugby more appealing… to people who don’t like rugby, over the objections of people who do actually like the sport. It is about markets and profit, of course. I get that. But rugby (and many other things) are more than mere product to be consumed.”

RPG Design (Dreams in the Lich House) Your Path to Real Ultimate Magic — “The bit that’s so interesting about these overpowered first level spells is that it highlights an implied axis in the default D&D spell system: high level D&D spells are high level because they combine usefulness, a powerful effect, and a notorious lack of negative side effects.  Sure – you can have a powerful Wish effect at 1st level, but the short cut is going to cost you more than you can imagine.  If you want to do powerful magic the ‘safe way’, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a ton of experience points.  See you again at level 18.”

Game Design (Pulsipher Game Design) GenCon (and WBC) 2013 — “From a game design point of view, my biggest takeaway was that we in tabletop gaming have reached a point similar to what has happened in video gaming, where ‘discoverability’ is the number one problem in game design.  If someone doesn’t know your game exists, he can’t buy it or play it.  Especially in the mobile game sector in video games, there are so many new games every week that without a lot of luck no particular game can be in the awareness of very large numbers of gamers.  I was told they were 800 new tabletop games at Essen last year and I suppose that number will be closer to 1000 this year.  As a result, just as in the video game world, the marketing possibilities of a game become much more important than whether it’s a good game to play.”

Gamer Life (Charles Stross) Spy Kids — “With few exceptions, Generation X never had the job for life. Members of the generation are used to nomadic employment, hire-and-fire, right-to-work laws, the whole nine yards of organized-labor deracination. But they also grew up in the age of cheap jet travel, on a globe shrunk so small that 48 hours and two weeks’ average wages could take you to the antipodes. (In 1813, you could pay two weeks’ average wages and take 48 hours to travel 100 to 200 miles by stagecoach. In 2013, that can take you from Maryland to Hong Kong — and then on to Moscow.)”

Game Mastering (Tao of D&D) Parenting, Not Autocracy — “Trot 18 random strangers onto a baseball diamond and tell them to play, and 18 people can organize themselves pretty quickly. They’ll use any of the standard ways for splitting themselves up into two teams that were invented for them in elementary school, they’ll debate for a bit about what position to play, or what batting order to be in, but you can pretty much expect that they’ll be playing baseball inside half-an-hour. But put 4 strangers at a D&D table and tell them to do what they want, and they’ll calcify in a couple of minutes on four different strategies. That’s why Fochizzy says that he doesn’t play that way any more. He autocratically decides. Otherwise, nobody plays. I think that’s wrong. I think it’s a rational solution if the goal is to put up a barn or to get a film made. One autocratic individual can motivate a crew without any trouble. I think, however, that the REAL solution is to have the party come around night after night, forcing them to face the same question….”

Robotech (io9) Everything You Need to Know About Robotech — “The most powerful woman in the galaxy is so in love she washes the underwear of a young pilot who is in love with a 15-year-old Chinese pop star who is in love with her cousin, who throws gin bottles at her.”

I’ll Take My Stand (Hack & Slash) On the 10 (ish) Best Versions Of Dungeons and Dragons — “Basic/Expert: There is no version that is both a better introduction to role-playing, an effective tool for use while playing, and something that supports your imagination.”

The Cleric (Semper Initiativus Unam) Clerics as Demon Hunters — “An archetypal cleric, then, is on the fringe of his organized religion, always a step or two away from excommunication. Not all among the clergy feel that his powers are miraculous; some suspect arcane trickery, and others even worse – that they are derived from the monsters the cleric spends too much time investigating. Commoners alternately love them as protectors and fear them as virtual heretics – sometimes both at once.”

RPG Design (Howling Tower) Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea — “Rules have profound impact on the underlying assumptions of a game world. In the stories of Howard and Leiber, human freedom, courage, and indomitability are ultimately more powerful than the potent but decadent force of civilization and its corrupting familiar, magic. Contrast that to AD&D, where a high-level magic-user is unlikely to be bested unless he’s confronted by an almost equal use of magic and where a warrior’s or thief’s inventory is likely to contain as many magical items as a wizard’s, if not more.”

A Shadow of the Past (Ten Foot Pole) Dungeon Magazine #1 — “I hate boxed text. My eyes glaze over when I listen OR read it. I start to think about succubi art. I groan. I LOATHE it. There’s a lot of boxed text in these adventures. There’s also a lot of arbitrary forced decisions. ‘There’s no cleric available to join the party’ and the like. It’s some kind of enforced DM fiat for no particular reason. It’s easily ignored but it shows and reinforces bad style. Along those same lines there’s some “You can’t do X because it would ruin the adventure” crap. Characters have scry spells for a reason: to keep their 7th levels character alive. Yeah, they are gonna know there’s a dragon. Better to let smart players plan than punish someone just so you can surprise them. After all, we’re rewarding player skill, right?”

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