Thursday, July 21, 2022

Common Elements of Epic Adventures: Familiar Faces

   For those that don't know I had a serious health crisis early in the year. I didn't cheat Death, but I did win on the long odds. Three times. So blogging was light.

  Returning to my discussion of Epic Adventures let me address the first element I think they have in common: the characters are neither low nor very high level. 

  This doesn't mean 'start the PCs at 5th level so they can be epic!!'. This means that the PCs have to grow into their own as well as into the campaign. Among the concepts of my gaming philosophy [Psychotronic Gaming] is the ideas that PCs drive action and that status quo is the enemy. Combined with the rest this means that as PCs start, level up, grow, and develop they inevitably change the campaign and grow to be a part of it. Verisimilitude and resource management effectively forces the PCs to have their own individual, unique relationships with multiple NPCs ranging from hirelings and henchmen to mayors and sages. In the end after 2-4 Real World years of gaming the PCs are integrally part of the campaign such that what their actions and fates matter to the campaign as a whole.

  There are no shortcuts to this. This is something that is organic to the "process" of RPG campaigns. Like true inside jokes. in-group jargon, etc. it can only healthily develop and 'set' over time and with familiarity. Just making a mid-level character and slapping them into a contrived huge battle to save the world is going to have the elements of an epic adventure but won't be one.

  Many bad movies have the elements of a good movie: established, well-known actors; famous writers; famous directors; etc.; yet miss the mark and are, well - junk. Do people watch it? Sure. Might it be a cult film? Yes. But that is NOT because it is epic.

  Just like a lot of creative endeavors/art quality and expertise takes lots of time and practice and that includes with individual characters within an RPG campaign. Relationships between PCs and between PCs and NPCs alone take a lot of time! 

  This means the build up to a truly epic adventure is going to take years of Real World time. The good news is, those years will be full of great fun with friends.

Next time: why you can never plan an Epic Adventure.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Back in the Day: Playing The Never Used Rules

   As most everyone who finds this obscure blog knows I started playing OD&D in 1977 and switched to AD&D 1e in 1979 and have been playing 1e ever since. In August of 2022 my 1e campaign, still running, turns 43 years old.

  Online I see a lot of statements that are variations of, 'I am certain that no one ever used [AD&D rule X]', usually met with choruses of approval. So let me tell you the rules I used then and now!

Grappling, Pummeling, and Overbearing:  Always used them. As a matter of fact, overbearing was a critical element of the fight in Eagle Valley. The base numbers are super-simple to pre-calculate and if you understand the rules it is as fast as any other combat.

Encumbrance, Rations, Light Source Duration: Not only have I always used these rules, they are critical to the game!

Maximum Level of Spell Knowable, Maximum Spells Knowable per Level, Spell Components, Chance to Learn, etc.: These rules are very important to make magic-users work right and I have always used them.

Armor Type Adjustments, Weapon Speed, Area Needed by Weapon: Always used them as one of my players pointed out. If used it means more weapons than you think are great weapons.

Maintenance Costs, Training Costs, Training Time, and Modifying Training Time: I have always used them, although I did adjust maintenance and training costs for some classes, like monk.

Psionics: Always used them, although the tiny handful of PCs with psionics sometimes wish they didn't have them.

Reaction, Morale, and Loyalty Checks: Like Grappling, etc., the modifiers are easily pre-calculated and with practice the use of these rules is very fast and smooth.

Race and Sex based limits to Attributes, Classes, and Levels: Again, always used them, still use them with some modifications. For example, very recently a half-elven ranger in Seaward went to 7th level because the character had earned 5 times the normal amount of experience to go from 6th to 7th.

Initiative, Combat Sequence, and Segments: By 1982 I began experimenting with initiative rules and went through at least 5 major variations of initiative by 1988 until I settled on one that is very close to the rules in the book with a few exceptions. So I have played by the book, otherwise, and am now virtually by the book. I have always preferred segments and my players will tell you I 'count segments' as a way to manage and speed up combat.

I probably missed a few, so let me know what other rules you have questions about.

And I was never alone! I have many friends from then and now that used/use these rules!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Psychotronic Gaming: Status Quo is the Enemy

   A key element of Psychotronic Gaming is that change must occur

  There is a tendency for campaign settings to remain static, especially mass-produced settings - the same king is King of Kingdom X; the same Cleric is Theocrat of Y; the same dragon menaces trade along the coast of Z; etc.

  This seems very close to how comic book continuity morphed from a tool to allow better storytelling into a straight-jacket that suffocates innovation. In Marvel Comics the Fantastic Four always got their powers about 17 years ago and in DC Superman made his debut as Superman about 10 years ago - forever.

  If you want your TTRPG campaign to last you CANNOT do this! Change is as critical as keeping strict time records!

  Here is an example from Seaward.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Common Elements of Epic Adventures

   Returning to more frequent blogging after a critical illness, I hope that you remember that I was just starting a series on Epic Adventures before I was taken ill. This is what is often called a 'setup post' - I am discussing what I will be discussing in future articles.

  In reviewing the common elements in the various epic adventures I have played in or run I have identified a few common elements they seem to share. To wit:

1) The player characters are neither new nor high-level. What I mean is it appears that the 'sweet spot' of the most epic adventures involves PCs of 4th to 8th level. Competent but nor overwhelming.

2) Treasure is not a primary motivation. While there is almost always a lot of sweet loot involved after the adventure is over, the motivation for the adventure is never primarily treasure.

3) They involve large numbers of characters and/or NPCs, usually enough combatants to make mass combat a necessary element of play. 

4) The stakes are high. 'Failure = guaranteed TPK' is usually the minimum threshold for an adventure to be epic.

5) The outcome is unpredictable. Even if the PCs do everything they can to stack the deck in their favor no one, including the DM, is sure who will win.

6) They involve NPCs familiar to the players. Not as universal as the others, this seems to make it easier for an adventure to be epic.

  Over the next few weeks I will be blogging nd podcasting about these individual elements.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Slowly Turns the Tide

   Back when I started this blog almost nine years ago (hard to believe!) I had never really combined the internet and RPGs. I hadn't ever gone to an RPG forum (and now post about once a year on HERO Games forums). I hadn't ever done much, if anything, on Facebook RPG groups. Heck, I had no idea what Dragonsfoot was until a month before I started this blog! I had made a Google+ account and found out that there were a ton of RPGers there, started this blog, and perused some of the internet's RPG resources.

  There were plenty of blogs and many of the good ones are still around, and have been joined by new good ones. G+ had a ton of good discussions. But I was disconnected from a ton of gaming at the time. I was clueless that the Forge was ever a thing and didn't know how weird people could be, although I learned fast - it is long deleted, but when I did a review of the free 5e PDF and concluded that the free PDF didn't include all the rules I received death threats in my comments. Not tongue in cheek, either.

  But 95% of my online RPG experience has been terrific, with 4% meh and 1% totally messed up. Nice ratio.

  But there is one odd thing to me. When I started writing here a lot of what I was writing about was seen as radical, weird, and impossible. Back in 21013 when I wrote about how I essentially require all players to have and use multiple characters each the G+ crowd concluded I was loopy. Same results from the same year when I discussed strict encumbrance as needed. And my discussion of the centrality of disease rules, parasite rules, strict time records, henchmen, hirelings, sages, and so on. Likewise, when I rejected RPGs being about storytelling and discussed 'emerging narratives' versus pre-planned there has always been a ton of push-back. My instance that alignment, encounter checks, and on and on and on all had a lot of dissent and few supporters. 

  This varies a bit. Why? Over time as I keep mentioning these things and explaining why they are important with examples more and more people have come to agree with me. And many of them spread these ideas on their own, convincing others. 

  Slowly, but seemingly constantly, the ideas and concepts I learned in the '70's and early '80's are spreading again. Convinging people to try the old ways again. It took 7 years but I finally convinced someone to play AD&D 1e ("it is unplayable!" they repeated told be for more than half a decade) and now they call AD&D 1e "how to really learn to play D&D".

  I see the future as less Restoration and more just Original.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The WASP War, an Atlantaverse Update

 Strap in, folks, this is the summary of 8 years of roleplaying. Back in 2013 I started a new Champions campaign with my oldest sons and many of their friends. They players have changed and everyone followed my 'every players has multiple characters' rule, and we ended up with multiple games with multiple GMs in a shared universe, so there have been a LOT of PC heroes! The 8 years of real time have equaled about 8 years of game time, for various fun reasons involving session timing. Because of a statement made by a player in 2014 we started calling this sprawling shared shared campaign the Atlantaverse.

  When I started the campaign I made a new, unique setting of an Earth like ours that had minor history divergences in 1801 and 1908 and a major one in 1938. By the time the first game started in-universe in 2013 the Atlantaverse had superheroes, supervillains, mages, aliens, and trans-dimensional visitors. The United States in-universe is a parliamentary system with 3 major and 7 minor political parties. And so on. All told with the contributions of players and other GMs the Atlantaverse grew so big, so complex, and so interconnected that my licensed setting book will be released in 2022.

  But one of the antagonists in the Atlantaverse, the first villains they ever faced, is WASP. WASP is a mysterious international organization that combines organized crime, terrorism, radical ideology, and cybercrime. Their uniformed agents are about on par with the soldiers of standing armies but armed with bleeding-edge weapons, allowing them to go toe-to-toe with any conventional forces and win.  Their elite troops are bionically and genetically enhanced and have even better armor and weapons, making them equal to low-level supervillains. Divided into cells that make it virtually impossible to attack the organization as a while WASP has been a thorn in the side of the heroes from literally Day One of the campaign. Their secret origin is available to my patrons on my Patreon page (see the sidebar).

  So the players all agreed that their long-erm goal was to take down all of WASP. This weekend, they succeeded. This is a summary of what the in-universe press calls the WASP War.