Wednesday, September 12, 2012

DIY. Reskinning. Gameshaping.

As usual, I'm late in joining the conversation. Which conversation?
The Glories of Incoherence by James Maliszewski back in 2008 B.G. (Before Grognardia)

I found this topic while doing research on an adventure I'm writing. Basically I was looking for ways to describe D&D as sort of a recipe that that DM can use as a basis while still being able to throw in their own flavors from their genre of choice. But how far do you go with alterations?

Specifically, at what point do you need to make up a whole new class or monster?
Would it be easier to take an existing idea and just tweak one or two things?

Here are some quotes from Mr. Maliszewski:

"...1E never attempted to explain the Ranger and its jumble of abilities. Why are Rangers spellcasters at all? Why are they good at scrying (besides the Aragorn/Palantir thing)? As a kid, I found the Ranger simultaneously intriguing and baffling. He clearly wasn't Aragorn but neither was he Robin Hood. Who the heck was the Ranger? Like the Monk, the Ranger seemed odd and so I was forced to find a way to make sense of its seeming incoherence. I eventually came to some conclusions and ran with them and had a lot of fun doing so. Rangers, to this day, remain one of my favorite classes, despite -- or perhaps because of -- their weird mish-mash of abilities."

So how about this scenario: A player is making up a thief character. He tells the DM he wants the character to be a sort of aborigine, a member of a primitive society somewhere.
So he won't have the lock-picking skill because he has had no exposure to that kind of technology.
Should it be left at that? Does a whole new class have to be created?
Perhaps the DM could compensate the lack of that skill with another appropriate skill like survival or something.

When you read about the fighter class, what do you imagine? A ruthless mercenary? A knight in shining armor? Depending on what movies you've seen or books you've read recently, maybe you'll imagine a samurai, a cowboy or a soldier.
That's one of the strengths of the D&D rules. Because of the simplicity and universality of the core abilities and saving throws and such, they work with a wide variety of descriptions for the type of character you have in mind.
Whole other games were based on the core D&D rules, even before the whole D20/OGL explosion.
Gamma World. Buck Rogers. Masque of the Red Death.
AD&D 2nd edition Player's Option: Skills & Powers provided even more choices for character creation.

James again:
"RPGs need rough edges and elements of incoherence. Creativity thrives on the tension between rationality and lunacy and D&D has always been right smack in the middle of that tension. Shove it too far one way or the other and it either becomes boring or unbelievable. I want the game to exist in the eye of a storm; that's where it's the most fun and that's where pulp fantasy D&D exists."

"The eye of a storm." In the middle of something. Not necessarily a statement about "rules balance."
But in the middle of what? The middle ground between light and shadow.
People talk about rule mechanics or the game engine. These are just the odds of something happening according to the dice. So that's one side of an RPG.
The other side is the descriptive part of what is going on in the imaginary world. A continuing series of choices and consequences.
Where the two factors meet in character creation or during play is "the eye of the storm", I think.

Without rules, the game is just sort of a conversation that could potentially turn into an argument or just not be fair and fun.
And without the description, you would be just rolling dice and doing some math.

The "rough edges and elements of incoherence" are the nuts and bolts of the mechanics, the gears of the game engine.
This is where the fictional description has to describe what's happening with all those die rolls.

One gear in the thief description is the lock-picking skill example mentioned earlier. What consequence if a player wants to alter some things? Well, when is a thief not a thief?
If the DM agrees to this kind of player input, let the experiment proceed fairly.

If a player wants to describe their fighter character as a barbarian, assuming that class isn't normally available, why not roll with it. If the player and DM can collaboratively hash out what advantages and disadvantages come from being a barbarian, play it up and have some fun.

How you describe the results of all those dice rolls and math is going to depend on what type of entertainment you are trying to create and imagine. This can be as broad as genre type, but it can also focus on a certain mood or theme. 

And finally:
"What D&D desperately needs is to be generic again and it hasn't been in 20 years (at least). I have no interest in doing anything that adds unnecessary specificity to the game."

"What I want to see is a game that's very specific about its inspirations but without catering to the ready-made campaign setting crowd. I want D&D to be a do-it-yourself game again."

So where was I going with this?

1. Don't change the player, shape the game.
2. Rules should facilitate imagination.
3. Be cool to each other.
4. ???
5. Optional complexity. Functional simplicity.

Gamma Red Death World: Image Overload

What survivors might see on a journey...

Engineer Picture  (2d, fantasy, character, dwarf, engineer) 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gamma Red Death World: FLAILSNAILS on G+


Everyone thought the Martians had died. In a sense they had. 
But they left behind seeds that grew into even more horrible monsters and caused waves of genetic mutations. It seemed the Earth would be overgrown by this new alien ecosystem.

Humans with knowledge of ancient magic and weird science desperately tried to use the salvaged Martian technologies to  fight back this new threat.

Legends from every culture throughout the ages say there is another world.
An alternate world that is connected to Earth like a shadow.
A hidden realm made from the stuff of dreams and nightmares.

Most of the paths and gates to this world have been obscured or locked for millennia.
Now strange magic and arcane energies unleashed on Earth have spoiled  and eroded many forgotten portals to this mystic world.
Creatures thought to exist only in folklore are stepping through...

Gamma Red Death World is a game set on Earth in the late 1800's after an alien invasion. It uses Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future as the core rules.
The main reason being the game will be available for FLAILSNAILS crossover play on Google+. 
Another great reason is the fact that these games are available as free pdf downloads on Goblinoid Games website:
Mutant Future PDF


STEP ONE - Abilities
Roll 3d6 for each ability and write them down in the order rolled.

STEP TWO - Character Class
Pick a character class.
Cleric (LL pg. 8)
Fighter (LL pg. 11)
Magic-User (LL pg. 12)
Mutant (MF pg. 14)
Thief (LL pg. 12)

Basic Android (MF pg. 12)
Dwarf (LL pg. 10)
Elf (LL pg. 10)
Halfling (LL pg. 11)
Mutant Animal (MF pg. 13)
Mutant Plant (MF pg. 13)

Refer to the skill lists at the bottom of this post.
All characters roll two random General skills, then choose an additional General skill.
Clerics, Magic-Users, Androids, Dwarves and Elves also get to roll one random Scholar skill, then choose one additional Scholar skill.

Any character may trade two General skills to choose one Scholar skill.
Skills can only be rolled or chosen once. Re-roll duplicates.

STEP FOUR - Saving Throws
Record Saving Throws.

All characters use Wisdom as Willpower for mental combat.

STEP FIVE - Power Points
Choose spells or roll for mutations as appropriate for character class.
The following rules replace the normal rules for spell memorization and mutation use:

Power Throws 
Classes with powers, spells, mutations or psionics have a new score called power points, based on one of their attributes.

Cleric Points = WIS
Magic Points = INT
Mutant Points (Physical Mutations)  = CON
Psionic Points (Mental Mutations) = CHA

When using a spell, mutation or psionic, roll a power throw with 2d10.

Success: If the power throw is equal to or less than current power points then the power works as written in the rules. Subtract 1 point from power points.

Failure: If the power throw is greater than current power points then power fails to work. Subtract 2 points from power points.

Backfire: If current power points are 8 or less, each time a power throw fails something bad happens.

Characters recover 1d4 power points per level every 12 hours.
Total power points cannot be greater than the ability score they are based upon.

STEP SIX - Hit Points
All first level characters roll Hit Points for their class and add their full Constitution score.
Any Constitution score modifiers to Hit Points are not factored in to this initial roll.
At each subsequent level characters roll additional Hit Points as usual for their class, including Constitution modifiers.

STEP SEVEN - Starting Funds
All characters roll 3d8x10 for starting gold pieces with which to buy equipment.