Thursday, June 25, 2015

I love the OSR

If it wasn't for the Old School Renaissance I don't know if I would have ever found my way back to the most creative exercise I've ever had the privilege to participate in.

Somewhere between eleven and twenty seven I had always been made to feel that playing a table top rpg was something to be ashamed of. But I kept the important books on my book shelves, in the trunk of my car, in my back pocket hitchhiking. Lined paper in rain soaked bus stops scribbled full of fantastic world, villains, connections.


And pissed off because this medium I loved so much had garbage directions for how to play the game. I didn't know this at the time. I felt there must be something wrong with me. If so many people are into this game, fuck it was a cultural phenomenon as big as skateboarding, and I can't get it... What am I doing wrong?

So I gave it up. In 1998 on Lower Hurrican Gulch at an off the grid cabin where I live in the
Elk Mountain range I torched the whole collection. I was getting "real".

I've made many foolish mistakes in my life, and I'm not done yet, but that was by far the worst. I would have limped through life three times less the person I am if I did not resent this act.  Not that my creative endeavors lapsed because I remove rpg's from my daily scribbling, reading life, just that they kept swirling around undirected.

Fast forward to Gary Gygax's death and I'm googling D&D and I stumble upon an essay about some guy traveling across country and showing up at Gary's house and playing. I haven't been able to trace this article down again, but yeah, the author of the essay was saying it was amazing to just drive up to Gary'ss house and there were people hanging out and you could just start playing D&D at the picnic table with the guy who created this game. I am so stupid. Instead of laying carpet in Daytona Beach I could have gamed at Gary Gygax's picnic table. Instead of surfing and doing drugs in Tijuana I could have gamed at Gary Gygax's picnic table. Instead of climbing fourteeners and big mountain skiing down into potential avalanche chutes I could have gamed at Gary Gygax's picnic table. Instead of .... Yada yada yada.

Long story short, the OSR has given back what I thought I lost, and I love you all for it, roll d10 tell me what you get;

1- You are a weepy tart aren't you.
2- My half orc father would suck the juice out of your finger bones,
3- I'm surprised they gave you clothes milk sop.
4- Clean the latrine and we won't kill you, yet.
5- Got any coin?
6- There is room for sycophants such as yourself.
7- I believe your private parts may fetch a fair price on the open market.
8- Rumor is...
9- A breath of fresh air in a cloistered belfry, give this man a fresh towel.
10- Have you tried the sorbet?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sailing Vessels for USR

For sailing vessels commonly found during the age of Sword & Sorcery pulp fiction adventures I have turned to Elric!'s Sailing on the Seas of Fate supplement from Chaosium for basic seafaring statistics.


There is a nice spread of different types of sailing vessels to be found in its pages; from simple canoe to two-masted brigs and war galleys. It also provides a nice guide of terminology you will find when describing characteristics of sailing vessels.

Having a ready made terminology for adjudicating sea adventures I find immensely useful when I'm trying to provide a nautical setting, and Chaosium does provide enough of this bedrock information.

The book is also useful for providing basic answers to everyday mechanical questions one would encounter plying your fantasy seas regardless of the game system to be used. The most important of these being movement speeds.

One topic the book does not cover are costs of purchasing and maintaining a sailing vessel ins a fantasy world. A sailing vessel naturally occurs as a likely resource sink for adventurers who have looted their fair share of moldering crypts. That and land holdings, estates would likely come up as possible uses for the PC's ill-gotten gains. Mercenary forces too. With enough gold any barbarian dog can put together a band of desperate sell swords, but how much gold is that really? How do you come up with a sensible economic scale for these above mentioned enterprises?

I'm not saying the Elric! supplement should have addressed all these topics, but if you have costs on ships and what it takes in men and material to maintain them on a monthly basis you should be able to extrapolate out all these other concerns for your campaign world.

In the spirit of the USR rules set I have had to approach the Chaosium BRP system with an eye towards stripping game elements and mechanics to a minimum. Seaworthiness, Hull Quality, Structure Points, these all become your USR Hits, Armor, Stats... Specialisms can be used to detail characteristics to differentiate say a war ship from a merchant cog. For example;

The Moebius; a Ghazorian merchant cog, 15 crew members.
Hull Quality: 4         Length: 70'   Beam: 18'  Draft: 7'
Seaworthiness: 22

The Sailing on the Seas of Fate descriptions and uses of the few game statistics for the boat are easily understood, and can be taken out and used on their own in most fantasy settings. The Sailing on the Seas of Fate ship record sheet provides a great compass heading for "stat'ing" up a sailing vessel in USR game terms and can be adequately shoehorned into USR's simple format.

From my experience with D&D, Champions, GURPS, BRP, etc. vehicles in general become overly complex character sheets and their utility gets buried under the time heavy bookkeeping and cost calculating. For both the player and the GM. And vehicles in a campaign world, at some level become a commodity and therefore must be able to generated in large numbers.Through USR I am trying to reduce the paperwork so everyone can spend more time courting adventurous death. Unless your players want a crunchy sea battle. I think these rules can be used with battle maps and detailed turn sequences if everyone wants to game out a tactical simulation.

I found Zach S.'s Wavecrawl Kit a useful tool as well for random encounters at sea. Combined with the Sailing on the Seas of Fate event tables I have plenty of material to game out fantastic Sword & Sorcery sailing adventures. If the supplementary rules I'm hacking into my Sword & Sorcery game are lacking in any area I would say I don't have rules for flying creatures and vehicles. At some point I will search the web for useful rules to hack and add them in.

Pulp PDF's

This seems to be a site where you can download a pdf of old pulp magazines available in the public domain.

This type of original source material should be of keen interest to the harried Game Master desperate for plot hooks, npc's, adventure seeds, world info, items, etc.

Thanks to +Rob Garitta for pointing this site out.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Cracking the Nut

How do you all handle NPC actions in a "hotbed of political intrigue" interactions with the PC's? Do you heavily script the encounter, randomly roll, or rely on tables? How about the ever cascading complications from the PC's actions and gauging NPC's reactions? Specifically any behind the scenes info that the PC's would not be aware of? 

While in an average dungeon crawl monsters are prepared to act in rather well defined roles in the immediate tactical situation, providing a dynamic stage within the greater "world",and when to present antagonistic forces full on into the faces of the PC's  and make it a believable, logical  occurrence... I've always found a challenge. 

The old addage "if it makes for a better story, just do it" makes me feel good all over, it isn't the fine grain detail of some type of "method" I seem to be fumbling for.

Lately I rely on random tables for immediate, in game encounters than ruminate endlessly in between game dates on what to do with the situation.