Showing posts with label Dungeon Crawl Classics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dungeon Crawl Classics. Show all posts

Friday, August 04, 2017

What RPG Have I Played Most Since August 2016? #RPGaDAY2017 -- Day 4

Today's answer will be short and sweet, which is similar to the reason this has been the game I've played the most this past year. Because of its easy ability to accommodate one and done gaming sessions, I've been playing a lot of Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games. It's a great adaptation of the 3.x system with a lot of twists that give it a feeling all its own.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Another Lankhmar Update: Don't Forget Savage Worlds LANKHMAR!

Earlier this week, I shared my excitement that Goodman Games had acquired a license to release adventures that take place in Fritz Leiber's classic Lankhmar/Nehwon setting. Toward the end of the post, I mentioned that Pinnacle Entertainment Group's Savage Worlds role playing game was the only other game that I thought had the potential to capture the Sword & Sorcery feel of the setting. When I wrote that, I knew that Pinnacle was planning to release their own Lankhmar related products, but I did not know when that release would occur.

Now I do. The Savage Worlds setting book for Lankhmar: City of Thieves will go on sale April 14th. At that time, purchasers will be able to pick up copies of the PDF and pre-order the print copy of the book.

Pinnacle has also given us a glimpse of what the rules will look like with the "No Honor Among Thieves" rule.

No Honor Among Thieves

Betrayal is a part of life in the City of Thieves. Sometimes a companion double-crosses his mates over a few gold pieces. Other times he might cheat on a friend over the love of a woman. Most of these betrayals are met with a wry smile and a vow to reciprocate at some future date. There is no honor among thieves, after all.

Sometimes the betrayal is more personal. In Lankhmar, whenever a character is betrayed by a close friend or associate (a trusted ally or even another player character—Game Master’s call), he cannot spend a Benny to reroll any opposed defensive action.

If the betrayal is an actual attack (almost assuredly with The Drop) and the victim doesn’t Soak all the wounds and / or remove the Shaken, he must make a Vigor roll versus the damage or go unconsciousness per the Knock Out Blow rules on page 25). He may not spend Bennies on this roll.
This rule is an example of how easily the Savage Worlds rules set, and in particular it's ability to incorporate "Setting Rules," make it a good fit for the Lankhmar setting.

I do have one minor complaint though. The image of Fafhrd in the banner ad above doesn't capture the humor he is often expressed as having in the stories. Fafhrd laughs in the face of danger and is often boisterous in the face of adversity. To be fair, the image looks to take place after a particularly dire moment in the series (no spoiler, but rage would be an appropriate expression), but it is too rare that Fafhrd is show smiling. Thankfully, the Pinnacle website has what must be one of the first illustrations of a happy Fafhrd, made all the more enjoyable because he is too rarely illustrated this way.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lankhmar the Dungeon Crawl Classics Way

Goodman Games announced at Gary Con that they have been granted a license to produce Lankhmar themed Dungeon Crawl Classics products. The Dungeon Crawl Classics role playing game is the first role playing game since the original D&D rules that has been expressly designed to capture the tone and feel of the fiction Gary Gygax highlighted in his famous Appendix N.

Most early post-D&D role playing games fell into three camps. They were either designed to be easier to play versions of D&D that shared some of the inspirations (Tunnels & Trolls falls into this category), designed to emulate more realistic combat and character creation with a consistent world mythology that varied from D&D (Runequest and The Fantasy Trip fall into this category), or D&D micro-improvement clones (Arduin and Warlock) fall into this category. None of these games quite fit into the category of "Fantasy Heartbreaker" coined by Ron Edwards, for reasons that become clear when one reads the full Edwards piece.

Many of these games, The Fantasy Trip I'm looking at you, were designed to present consistent mechanics that emulated some kind of physics. In moving this direction, these games actually moved away from Appendix N influence and became something else. D&D was a hodgepodge of influences, all narrative. Runequest too had a hodgepodge of influences, but one of them was SCA combat experience. Basing combat on real world experience is a solid design goal, but it isn't a design goal driven by an attempt to emulate the fantasy in Appendix N. It's hard to imagine someone attempting Fafhrd's escape from the Ice Witches by strapping fireworks to his skis using the Runequest or The Fantasy Trip rules. They weren't free form enough.

To be fair, it's hard to imagine that happening in AD&D either. I can see it happening in Moldvay/Cook Basic, but interestingly enough that game actually falls into that first category of post-D&D design. All of this brings us back to Dungeon Crawl Classics. It is very easy to imagine this game inspiring such a scene, and Doug Kovac's strong focus on what Jeff Vandermeer calls "The Weird" only adds to the seeming natural connection between DCC and Lankhmar. There is only one other game that I think can capture the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser well, and that's Savage Worlds. A game that I believe also has a license to make Lankhmar based products. The Savage Worlds game will likely, in my completely uninformed opinion, focus more on the street level heroics of Nehwon and so there will be little cannibalism between the two games. In fact, I think there might be some great synergy between publishers.

Goodman Games is running a contest which will allow people to playtest their upcoming adventure at Gen Con.

As an aside, I think that the DCC cover is a nice homage to the old Fantastic cover that featured Ningauble, Fafhrd's weird and enigmatic patron.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Two Unpublished Superhero Role Playing Games I'd Love to See Printed in Print on Demand

I am an avid collector of Superhero Role Playing Games with a collection that ranges from Superhero 2044 to Icons: Assembled Edition. It's a bit of an obsession with me and I have it as a goal to eventually own every super hero role playing game ever published. The advent of digital publishing has made this a little more difficult than it was, as it has led to an explosion of super hero games, but I am still trying. 

A perfect example of how difficult this can be is Plaid Rabbit's Modern Knights superhero role playing game. Have you never heard of Plaid Rabbit or Modern Knights? They were a part of the growing digital publishing industry in the late 90s and early 00s. Much like Steve Jackson Games' digital Pyramid, finding copies of Plaid Rabbit games is nigh impossible - especially if you are like me and seek to only acquire your games through legal means. Digital is great, but when material disappears it strangely really disappears. And this is in a format that should allow for truly deep catalog retention due to ease of "shelf space" etc. 

But we collectors don't just have to worry about the evaporation of digital games, because our collecting mind is also tortured by the "advertised but never released game." These are games that were far enough along in the development cycle that the publishers spend advertising dollars to promote them, or at minimum to offer them for solicitation. When it comes to this category of games, there are two superhero role playing games that I would have loved to see in print. I also hope that the publishers - one that is still in business and one recently resurrected - see fit to at minimum offer these games digitally.

d20 Modern Spectaculars
Yes, you read the title of the first game correctly. Wizards of the Coast at one time planned to publish a superhero role playing game for there d20 Modern rules set. Wizards had already released a number of high quality products in the line. Enough that any skepticism I might have regarding the ability of the d20 System to smoothly handle superheroic action were dismissed by my enthusiasm. Here's the advertising blurb for d20 Modern Spectaculars:

New for July in WoTC 2005 calendar:

d20 Spectaculars: New rules for running a d20 Modern campaign in a super-heroic setting.

This new supplement for d20 Modern provides a campaign setting where player characters become the first super heroes. Characters begin with only a few tricks, but as they increase in level they gain fantastic powers. d20 Spectaculars provides everything players and Gamemasters need to participate in super-heroic adventures, including rules for super powers, power trees, new classes, and equipment. A full campaign setting with material and adventure seeds suitable for all levels of play is included.
by Mike Mearls, Bill Slavicsek, Owen K.C. Stephens; 160 pages, $29.95

Let me repeat those designer names again. Mike Mearls (who's work on D&D has been spectacular), Bill Slavicsek (Paranoia, Star Wars, D&D, Pokemon Jr.), and Owen K.C. Stephens (a designer who can make the d20/3.x/Pathfinder system do essentially anything) were the designers on the project. Stephens has been as open as an NDA allows on the subject, but he has made it clear that the designers were paid and treated well even though this product was cancelled. I desperately wish that Hasbro would devote like 60 hours of development to finish the manuscript and put it up on their D&D Classics page. That's all I ask...that or a super secret copy of the unpublished manuscript which I will put into a steel vault and never mention to anyone.


On the opposite end of the "graphic design" and "modern mechanics" spectrum is Judges Guild's never released Supra-Sentinels role playing game. The game would have likely been published in 1983 if Judges Guild hadn't gone out of business. Based on the publisher, the art, and the advertisements, this game would have been an interesting glimpse into what a late stage old school superhero role playing game would have looked like mechanically.

There has been some talk by the designers of the game - on rpg collector message boards - that there is interest in seeing this game published. Given Judges Guild's stuttering rebirth in the early 00s, followed by their recent Kickstarter and cooperation with Goodman Games, it seems like a possibility. Given that Goodman Games is publishing old Judges Guild modules - and Journals - in hardback format without "updating," I would love to see them give Supra-Sentinels a similar treatment.

I honestly don't know what the market outside of "me" looks like for these products, but I would purchase them in a heart beat. I'd even try to get my players to play them for a spell.

Then again, if I could get reliable contact information for Donald Saxman I'd love to see if he would be interested in doing a 2nd edition of Superhero 2044 with some rules editions by Wayne Shaw. I'd love to do an edition of the game that highlighted the influence that it had on the superhero game genre. Speaking of which, it's time for me to get my nose to the grindstone and finish that Superhero 2044 combat tutorial I promised.

Monday, September 08, 2014

#RPGaDAY Days 8&9 in one Post Because "My Favorite Character" Stories are Painful

I honestly cannot believe that Dave Chapman (@autocratik +Autocratik) actually asked gamers to discuss their favorite character. There are fewer things in all of geekdom more annoying than listening to gamers convey the "epic" adventures of their favorite characters. In fact, the order of annoyance in geekdom is:

1) Filksinging
2) Guys who blog about "Fake Geek Girls"
3) Conversations about a player's favorite character and why you should allow his/her 25th Level Anti-Paladin of Asmodeus who wields a +10 unholy avenger, rides an Apparatus of Kwalish, and lives is a Fortress of Daern into your low-level campaign because "I can mentor your other players how to win at D&D."

There are no exceptions to this being annoying. It is even annoying when I do it. I could discuss how much I love my Cathar Vampire from a short lived World of Darkness Middle Ages campaign. I could discuss my steampunk influenced Amberite who manufactured a Golem horse with which I rode through Shadow opposing the vile Benedict. I could even mention "Molecular Man" my Vision-esque character, and one of the first characters I ever played in Champions.

I could mention all of them, but no. I'm going to take you down the rabbit hole that is Tae Pao Kee. When Oriental Adventures came out, I noticed three things. First, the Kensai was badass. Second, the new martial arts rules were crazy cool. Third, the changes to the Monk class shifted the character from a Destroyer pastiche (as stated in the preface to Oriental Adventures...yes...Monks are Remo Williams)  to a mix between one of the Five Deadly Venoms and San Te from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

From that moment, I knew I had to make a Human Kensai who became a Monk. After all, being a +5 weapon who can declare maximum damage "x" times a day comes in really handy when you have all the Monk abilities added on. And when your martial art does somewhere between 5d8 and 15d8 (depending on when you multiply the damage from a flying kick or add bonus Monk dice), you quickly see why the good folks at TSR designed the Bloodstone series of adventures. Oh...and not only was Tae Pao Kee grossly overpowered...he lived in a Fortress of Daern.

As for my favorite dice? I have to say that I love the Zocchi set that is used in Dungeon Crawl Classics the rpg.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

#RPGaDAY #7 Most "Intellectual" RPG Owned -- My Answer Might Just Surprise You

For the seventh entry in his #RPGaDAY project Dave Chapman (aka +Autocratik aka @autocratik) asked the members of the gaming community to answer what the most "intellectual" RPG we owned were. Dave's own answer set the tone when his response was non-ironic. He wanted us to share the game that we legitimately thought was most intellectual -- though some people still answered the game ironically with responses like "Marvel as it has the most super geniuses." In the non-ironic responses there were references to Nobilis (Dave's own choice), Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth, Mage: The Ascension, and other games from the "avant-garde" or "artiste" era of role playing game design.

In many ways, I think that the listed choices does a disservice to the many games that preceded the games of this era, not to mention many games that came after these admittedly intellectual games. When I think of intellectual, I tend to think of it in two categories. The first is "thought provoking" in the philosophic sense and the second is "well researched" akin to a dissertation or research paper. All of those above qualify by both standards, but so do many others.

One cannot deny that Chivalry and Sorcery by Ed Simbalist and Wilf Backhaus wasn't a well researched role playing game, or AD&D for that matter.  

Steve Perrin and Ray Turney's Runequest is a mythopoeic marvel - especially in its use of Greg Stafford's Glorantha setting - that provide interesting intellectual fodder regarding the origins of faith.

Tom Moldvay's Lords of Creation touches on many of the issues that the later "artiste" games cover. Being a "Lord of Creation" in that game is to be a game master who makes new worlds.

There are many others of the classic era of gaming - I didn't touch upon Empire of the Petal Throne for example - but there are also more recent games like LacunaMy Life with Master, or the controversial Vampires by Victor Gijsbers. Vampires is an attempt at a deconstructionist roleplaying game, but requires an explanatory essay. The essay and the conversation around the game are thought provoking though and all three of the games mentioned are story telling games of the post-modern school.

I own all of the games mentioned above, but not one of them is the game that I believe to be the most intellectual game that I own. That game - a game that combines scholarship, mechanical innovations, and is thought provoking - is Joseph Goodman's Dungeon Crawl Classics. The game was inspired, and is informed, by the author's intellectual desire to understand the literary inspirations that influenced Dungeons & Dragons. Goodman read the entirety of Appendix N for the purpose of learning about D&D and this led him to desire to create his own RPG. Given the length and breadth of Appendix N, that's a pretty scholarly effort in my opinion and worthy of praise. His game balances mechanical innovations and nostalgia. It also fosters discussion as to what exactly the purpose of role playing is.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

[Gaming] Dungeon Crawl Classics Play Session Report

I was one of the earlier gamers to preorder the Dungeon Crawl Classics roleplaying game.  The entire premise of a role playing game that captured the feel of Appendix N source material without being a retro clone of older rules sets appealed to me.  When my copies -- one regular and one limited -- arrived, I immediately set about the task of reading the rules.  They were clear and captured the feel of the game play I enjoyed as a younger gamer. 

While it is true that DCC captures the feel of games of past generations, it is also true that they are quite innovative.  The game's use of a dice chain to represent the affects of bonuses and penalties is fun in theory and in practice.  It's spell system for Wizards and Clerics, as well as its "Mighty Deeds" system for Fighters, are exciting.  For the first time in a d20 based RPG there is a solid spell duel system that manages to incorporate the normal magic rules while feeling like the magic of fiction.  The ability to invoke patrons, and the mercurial nature of spells add a nice spice to the overall system.  I think that this is a very strong game, and want to play it more and more...

I was very excited to play and began the campaign to convince my players to give the game a try.   This last weekend, I finally got that opportunity.  The only thing missing was a "thematic" ally in keeping the game's tone on target...ah we needed you.

What follows in this blog post isn't a glowing example of joy, instead it's a demonstration of how a well written game can lead to a less than fun time.  This is even when the players knew pretty well what to expect. 

I told my regular players to be prepared for a possible TPK, and that they shouldn't get attached to their characters.  I also told them that they would have to make 4 characters each due to the high lethality of the adventure. Four of the players rolled their characters up in person, and one used the online character generator.  It was an interesting band of characters  made up of farmers, jewelers, glovemakers, and coopers.  Most of them were human, but there were a couple of Dwarves and a Halfling.  On the "attribute" side, and interesting thing happened.  Every player had one character who was significantly above average.  Not with multiple "18s," but with a couple of 16s an no bad attributes.  I could tell right away that the players had begun to build an attachment to their more competent characters.  One player went so far as to call his extraordinary cooper Lord "Spivak" and created a back story that the other 3 characters were accompanying this self-important barrel and chest maker on an adventure.

As an aside, Spivak wasn't his name.  I have forgotten the specific name at the time of this writing, but it should be noted that the player had already become attached to the character and that attachment was only set to grow.

At the beginning of the adventure, I warned the players that this would be a lethal adventure and that their characters would likely die.  They each looked at their characters and began to sort them out as fodder and potential hero in their mind.  Fodder would open doors and heroes would be cautious in the hopes of becoming 1st level characters -- who have a significantly higher chance to stay alive than these beginning characters.

The party heard of a mystic gate that opened between the stones of a neolithic structure when the stars were right...and the stars were right tonight.  They journeyed to the top of a hill that contained the structure in question, only to see the mysterious constellation above them and a mystic gate between worlds before them.

The players were quite impressive in their caution and use of reason and restraint.  They solved the riddle of the constellation, and lost no party members trying to enter the complex.  The next room went as they planned.  They had fodder risk the danger, and the heroes followed behind.  They also came up with and interesting solution to the third room's dangerous trap.  Through an ingenious application of levers, they were able to not only neutralize the trap but to almost turn it into a weapon against their foes.

This is where the fun begins, and where some of the characters began to shine.   You see, the party behaved in a highly efficient tactical manner and Lord Spivak's crowbar seemed to be the weapon that kept dealing the final blow.  He was a wonder to behold, as he split the skull of a giant demonic serpent.  Also a wonder to behold was the Halfling Glovemaker who used all of his small but "unhuman" strength to hold a door closed long enough to create a plan to deal with the dangers behind the door.

After three major combats, a couple of defeated traps, the now smaller party encountered what would be their last fight.  Their foes weren't particularly impressive.  In fact, even with the low hit points starting characters begin with it was likely that a blow from one of these foes would be non-lethal.  When one struck Lord Spivak, I wasn't too worried.  He had a good chance of survival.  Sadly, he was struck down.  I could see the disappointment in the player.  This was his noble character, far better than his surviving character Friar Sloth (actual name) a character with stats suited to becoming a Cleric.  It was almost as upsetting for me as it was for the player.  The heroism of the character, and his great story were darkened by one quick roll of the die.  It was a truly chaotic situation, and a disappointing one for the player.

This was something that I hadn't prepared the group for.  I had prepared them to have a group of characters who were all extremely incompetent.  I hadn't prepared them for the whimsical and almost meaningless loss of a valiant one.  I don't know that my group will want to return to the world of DCC, though I certainly do.  The death of Lord Spivak is one of the best gaming moments I can remember for some time -- as was the amazing bravery of the "unhumanly" strong Halfling Glovemaker.  We even started having quick in jokes, like how all Jewelers start with a 20gp gem we like to call Leather Armor.

While this was a problem with my group, it isn't something that the designers of the game didn't predict.  They have even provided advice for groups to help players get in the mindset.  I'd prepared the group for some character loss, but I couldn't prepare them for the loss of characters who had been so awesome in the past 3 encounters.  In addition to the potential for lethality, I should have warned them to Embrace the Chaos.
Embrace the Chaos
The DCC RPG is unpredictable. Really unpredictable. One moment, the PCs are losing a battle against a Rat God and thousands of his furry minions, and the next, the dwarf has won a strength check against the god, ripped free his bejeweled scepter of death and is hammering that Rat God back through time and space to whatever pit that spawned him.

And the opposite happens as well: When that glorious natural 1 rolls up, the entire table howls with agony, and you get the chance to add another notch in your judge-screen.

It isn’t pretty. It isn’t predictable. But it is a fundamental feature of the game. No battle is truly lost until the last PC gives up, and death is never more than a heartbeat away. With judicious use of Luck, spellburn and piety, the PCs can turn the odds in their favors. But stare too long into the abyss, and at some point the abyss will look back.

Image by Jody Lindke