Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Rule of Three

Might be a showing of my aging, culminating into a grumpy wizard.

Might be the limited attention span, after imposed hours on the blue teleprompters.

Might be that I've been serving as a conduit to people's first TTRPG experience.

Might be that my sessions are getting shortened due to busy lives.


I strogly believe elf games should strive to withhold The Rule of THREE.

Why? Easy to remember, not overwhelming. For some groups I ain't got no time for the last portion of Dungeons & Dragons & Accounting.

Some Examples:

Keep just three Classes: Fighter, Magic-User, Thief. Remove the Cleric, for good. Fine, if you are a heretic munchkin, or your players fund a violent coup, have three subclasses per class: Barbarian/Ranger/Warrior, Assassin/Thief/Tongue, Alchemist/Sourcerer/Wizard.

Three bulky items until your encumbrance goes way up, and you are slowed down.

Get a +1 for every 3 points above 10 on a stat, -1 for every 3 points under.

How many rations/torches make up an encumbrance slot? Yes, three.

Three types of armor: leather, chain, plate.

Three categories of weapons: light (daggers, slings, darts, etc.), medium (swords, bows, axes), heavy (polearms, crossbows, etc). If your group are munchkins, add tags, special abilites, conditions, and more to them.

There should be three roles in the party: Treasurer (keeps track of loot, encumbrances), Mapper (or journaler), Caller.

How many coins fit into an encumbrance slot? 300.

How many magic items can a PC carry until they get all twisted and corrupted by the eldritch forces imbued in their possessions? THREE

Three Alignments: Law, Chaos, Neutral

Three things expected from the GM: Builder (of adventure sites, worlds, fantasies), Referee (during actual play), Secretary (scheduling games, managing props, introducing new players to the mantle)

Three interesting NPCs in the homebase town.

Three starting adventure sites for the group's first delve.

Three warring and competing factions for the players to bite their teeth in.

Between gaming sessions, introduce three elements as potential hooks or enticing quests. Drama should catch up to them.

For every three rooms in the dungeon there should be: one empty (with clues, graffitis, dead bodies), one trap/special, one monster (lair, NPC, active outpost).

My biggest concession is to keep the six traditional stats: Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha. I just can't run away from them. Reducing it to three like your Into the Odds, Cairns, or Mausritters didn't provide a satisfying experience for my group in the past.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

On Spells, Mules, Canoes, Carts and Coin

If you check the sidebar to the left, you might have noticed that I list Basic Fantasy RPG as my poison of choice. Settling at this system as a chasis for any significant campaign play in the OSR style of gaming!

Anyways, my regular group of The Calaveras, where we jump on and off short games, story-games, etc. I'm currently running a campaign stitched from published adventures that were in my backlog, one page dungeons, and other materials. Now they are tackling The Sky-Blind Spire by Michael Prescott (Trilemma). Given the stitched nature of the campaign and our busy lives, the World and the base town of Amniposita have only been sketched out.

The characters stand at the moment at level 2 (had to enforce the rule of "can't gain two levels from one adventure" for the Dwarf Thief, so close to 3rd). They have a good change of coin! These vast amounts of wealth gained from previous adventuring are staggering. They throw off the local economy, bringing in throves of wealth.

So, how were those coins utilized and drained?

  1. The Elf Magic-User wanted to inscribe a spell scroll into their spellbook (Shield). 500gp
  2. After bribing some students at the Universarium in Amniposita, where the local Sage resides, the group found out that the Spire was in the middle of a lake. And potentially guarded by Undead? Total: 100gp
  3. Given the above (nautical nature of the location), they purchased two mules (40gp each), two carts (50gp each), two canoes (50gp each), and feeding for two beasts of burden for a week (1.4gp). Total: 281.4gp
  4. Given 2. they decided to hire two retainers, including a Human Cleric. Each requested, and was granted, 50gp upfront, plus a full share of treasure. Total: 100gp

This is only a dip on their wealth, but almost 1000gp evaporated just like that.

And I don't want to get into full accountant mode:

  • Taxing treasure brought back to town (I should, 10-25% seems plausible)
  • Or charging for upkeep costs (I hear 1% of current XP thrown around)
  • Or charging for a banker

I suppose there is no point to this post. Just wanted to get this in writing to remind myself that adventurer coin is there to be spent. Missing any carousing rules, or enforcing gold spent equals XP (not just recovered), there are still several avenues for wealth to be spent.

Also, Equipment Emporium is a great supplement, regardless if Basic Fantasy is your poison. Snatch it!

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Four Desert-Island Books

This touches on something I wrote about not long ago, namely how our collections look like, and their size. Running into the following video sparked some thoughts again:

I like this a lot! And find it a worthy exercise.

My Picks

1. The Tome of Adventure Design, Revised
2. Knock! Magazine, issues #1, #2, #3
3. Stonehell: Down Night-Haunted Halls (and Into the Heart of Hell if allowed to cheat ;) )
4. BECM Rules Cyclopedia from 1991


Some Considerations

Considered what I personally own, and what has been perused at the gaming table.

The author of the video above has some damn fine choices. Lots of overlap!:

1. The Tome of Adventure Design, Revised
2. Knock! Magazine, issues #1, #2, #3
3. Veins of the Earth or A Folklore Bestiary (cheating by providing two entries)
4. AD&D 1e DMG

These are some excellent books, by all accounts. Whilst I haven't cut my teeth with AD&D, and also haven't had the urge to add A Folklore Bestiary to my repertoire, I can understand their merit and inclusion.

In my opinion the best materials are those that provide (a) a ruleset, (b) randomizers for game generation, (c) an implied or explicit setting, and (d) in some cases rules for oracles, procedures, or solo play. Any book that gets close or reaches these four categories is a clear candidate. Doing everything at once well is almost unthinkable.

For example Maze Rats is great, because it is an easy-to-teach game (simple to pick up for neophytes), but also has a myriad of random tables. So it solidly covers (a) and (b). And it also has decent referee advice. On the other hand, Lamentations of the Flame Princess' Rules & Magic is great at (a) and (c), but severly lacks in (b), and needs extensive supplemental material to function at the table.

Some examples that condense a lot of the four categories, and are worthy contenders for a single book to take to a desert island are:

  • BECM Rules Cyclopedia from 1991
  • Some of Kevin Crawford's catalogue: Worlds Without Number, Stars Without Number, or Scarlet Heroes jump out.
  • Esoteric Enterprises by Emmy Allen.


What are yours? What did you get the most out of? Which island do you want to be stranded in?

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

On the OGL and OSR

I live! A bit salty that my regular diet of demonic cackling, cloud yelling, fist waving, and general resignation has to be interrupted to come back to the blog. Life is even better outside of the Matrix. And I rejoice at having morphed into a grumpy old cackling demon. So let me indulge here as well.

Oh wonder! A Fortune 500 corporation wants to encapsulate your imagination and put a price tag on it. Let's monetize and shoehorn micro transactions on your deepest desires and fantasies, on a private activity with accointances, friends and family. The eldritch tentacles of capitalism, oh my, find their way through your orifices to suck your brain.

Te amount of panic I'm seeing in some creators I follow on the sidelines is remarkable. If anything else, and with selfishness, this will serve to have an updated version of some of my favorite games, with a truly open source license. Because, never forget, OSR stands for Open Source Roleplaying. That is a long standing argument settled, right there. Since the birth of the OSR is unequivocally tied to the birth of the OGL license, this is irrefutable.

WotC has lost their little credibility and image over the last few years to become a pariah in the space. Ex-Micro$hoft execs taking over the C-level positions was already a screaming warning. But these shitshow already happened (to a lesser degree). Time is a flat circle yiddi yadda.

Human memory is damn short, and we tend to quickly forget and forgive via the limitations of our fruit-fly brains. This grumpy demon won't.


Thursday, October 20, 2022

❄️ Waste Inferno ❄️

The Silver Warrior by Frazetta

Sound - track.

FOR CENTURIES, the frozen island of Efirene, nicknamed "Inferno", has served as the Empire's dumpster. Criminals, dissidents, deserters, or anyone looking for a fresh start took refuge in this Waste. A known secret, three competing archmages carried out foul experiments in the island, obliterating themselves (and making it more dangerous) in the process. Engadin the Enchanter, The Iron Mage, and Ralagazzam the Restless.

TEN YEARS AGO the Empire fractured into a myriad of city-states. Decadency and corruption survived the fall. Inferno, now in an awkward position, still accepts the scum on the other side of the Ocean. A brass collar inscribed with explosive runes placed on every Criminal's neck.

NOW, your sorry ass lands on the docks of Inferno, dizzy and starved after a one-way unforgiving voyage across the Ocean. A tight collar is placed on your neck. Buy your Libero state with the daunting 10'000gp fee, and with it the right to roam free, acquire land, or leave Inferno forever!

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Stranger in a Strange Land

No, this is not a post focusing Heinlein's book by the same title. More popular in its time, this work definitely flies a lot under the radar these days. Touches on a lot of varied themes. A read I greatly enjoyed some years back, and that probably is more notorious for coining and spreading the term "grokking".

This post is about the dichotomy of a lot of roleplaying games that operate under the dynamic of one Referee and a bunch of Players. This is: what does my Character know (about this world, about the adventure) that I, the Player, have no way of knowing? Which can be extrapolated to: how much homework do I, the Player, have to do in order to enjoy this experience?

This task is tackled with different approaches, and varied rates of success in my experience:

1. The Referee prepares a detailed multi-page primer document, which encapsulates the most distinctive, pressing, and (for the game) important points about the campaign world and its assumptions.

2. The group has a shared understanding of media and tropes associated with the upcoming game. Books, graphic novels, TV series, films. And the group grooves from there. D&D becoming its own regurgitated ideas also falls in here.

3. The Kitchen Sink approach. Everything goes, within one extremely broad theme. This is liberating, but removes the sense of wonder very quickly in a game that could be primarily focused in exploration.

4. Players get a significant share of the world-building. Player: "Which God does my Cleric worship?" Referee: "Dunno, you tell me".

My puzzlement comes from "Strangers in a Strange Land" not being a more common happenstance when starting and adventure game. It is ubiquitous all over literature and other media: Peter Pan, Gaiman's Neverwhere, Harry fucking Potter, John Carter of Mars. This vehicle serves as an outlet for exposition for the viewer/reader, so why not use it more prominently in our games?

We can make characters foreigners from distant continents, time travelers that got stuck here, someone from our own reality that lives this adventure in their dreams. The possibilities are countless.

I'm not claiming this is not used, or that I'm proposing anything innovative here. Just that next time character creation comes up, let's just liberate ourselves from the burden of doing too much work ahead of a game. And consider the "Stranger in a Strange Land" from time to time as a viable option.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Striking Collectionism?

 What has actually seen the table

... vs what has (maybe) been read and sits on the shelf, but has never seen actual play.

(excluded above are home-printed materials and adventures that have seen the table)

Whenever the new shiny release or Kickstarter drops, I remind myself of the pictures above. And that as much as I take enjoyment from reading roleplaying materials for inspiration, a solid book, graphic novel or film will likely be much more appropriate. The materials above could last me several decades of gaming as it stands.