Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Giant's Bag

From the Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #7, April 1975, pp. 9-11 (with only a few corrections to spelling), I present a bit of early Greyhawkiana. To the best of my knowledge, this work is in the public domain, but I don't pretend to either be an intellectual property attorney nor play one on television. --JB

THE GIANT'S BAG

An Account of a "Wilderness Adventure" in Fantasy Wargaming.

by Gary Gygax

The LGTSA has been involved in a fantasy campaign for over a year now, using the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS rules (Gygax & Arneson) just recently made generally available; for along with Dave Arneson's group in the Twin Cities, they got to be the "official play-testers" (to which they say whoopee...). During these months there have been many hundreds of "Dungeon Expeditions" and "Wilderness Adventures". These games were often harrowing, mostly exciting, and often funny. The following account is one of the latter (I hope!). The referee was Rob Kuntz, with Ernie Gygax and Gary Gygax playing.

*   *   *   *   *

Four great war horses forced their way through the brush bordering the stream. The party was making its way through the trackless wilderness southeast of the walled city of Greyhawk, seeking monsters to slay and treasure to loot. At the head of the horsemen rode the sorcerer Nestre, with his elven apprentice close at hand. Behind were two armor-clad fighters, his henchmen and bodyguards. The four followed the tiny watercourse southwards, and eventually came to the place where it fed a broad river; here they dismounted to camp for the night. Trouble came almost immediately thereafter.

A great crackling of broken branches and the heavy tread of huge feet alerted the adventurers, and when the giant appeared a moment later it was no surprise. Weapons at the ready, they confronted the tall form. It made no hostile move, so Nestre stepped forward and spoke.

"Are you come with peaceful intentions?" the mage shouted.

"Duhhh..." the giant replied.

Somewhat relaxed by this friendly greeting, the men invited him into their camp. As soon as the great oaf was sprawled at ease by the fire, Nestre inquired if the giant was on any important business. The big fellow said that he was simply out for a month's stroll in the greenwood, so the mage immediately sought to enlist the services of their guest:

"We are, good Giant, here with a purpose. We have with us a map leading to a fabulous store of wealth! Things in this forsaken land, however, seldom turn out as planned, o we are willing to share the treasure with you in return for your aid in gaining it! Do you consent?"

"Duh, sure, duh," the giant replied indecisively. And so the bargain was sealed.

Nothing further disturbed the encampment -- if anything came near it probably fled after seeing what sort of creatures dozed near the dancing flames. With the first light they saddled their steeds, the lumbering giant shouldered his sack, and all five now struck out in search of the treasure. The map led them along the bank of the turgid river to a spot infested with enormous crabs. Naturally, this was the very spot which the parchment scroll indicated as the repository of the unknown spoil. The men attempted to wade into the current, but they were quickly discouraged by the aggressive attacks of the giant crustaceans. Would the giant be willing to try? Immediately the tall creature stepped into the murky water, and as the crabs came near he struck left and right with his tree-like bludgeon. A few survived to flee, but the bulk of the monsters were flailed to pieces. The sopping, gore-drenched men then saw the giant stoop and disappear entirely under the water.

In a moment he reappeared with an iron-bound chest atop his shoulder. Soon the giant was ashore, had the trunk open, and was loading the contents into his bag.

"What else was down there?" Nestre asked eagerly.

"Dere was only tree roun' things besides dis here box."

Now the four adventurers dived into the river in order to retrieve the three spherical objects. Before long they were back, staggering with a trio of moss covered objects.

"What the devil!" expostulated Nestre, "Rocks!"

"Haw! haw! haw!" the giant guffawed, stuffing the last of the contents of the chest into his now bulging sack: "I ain't never seed no guys as funny as youse are."

Eventually, the whole party was seated before a flat rock, safe in a small cave, dividing the loot. The giant was gulled into accepting a few hundred pieces of gold, while the four humans shared the cream of the treasure among themselves. Somehow, this act of greed seemed to engender still more avarice in the mage's heart. He began to eye the giant's copious bag with keen interest. Was there some choice item therein? If so, Nestre the Clever (err, Cleaver) would certainly be able to gain it also!

"Say, my bulky friend, may I look in your bag?"

"Duh, nope!" the giant said with a shake of his tangled and dirty locks.

"Not even for a -- GEM!" and with that the wily mage presented an indifferent jewel of 100 gold pieces' value.

The giant declined: "Gimme a big gem, an' I'll letcha peek."

"Two small ones?"

"A great BIG one!"

Now Nestre had several large jewels, but his greedy nature prevented him from accepting the logical. Instead he became even more determined to dupe the oaf: "Here. Look at this huge gem," said the mage, presenting his crystal ball. The giant's face lit with pleasure as Nestre made the globe alive with tiny and colorful scenes.

"Yah, yah! Oboyohboy! Gimme dat!"

"Not so fast," the mage said, swiftly jerking the crystal ball from the giant's reach: "You can have it under two conditions: One, you must be able to make pictures in it like I jut did. Two, you must allow me to look into your sack."

"Suresure," replied the giant, "Now gimme da pretty!"

Smirking with confidence, the sorcerer handed his glittering scrying device to the eager giant. The hulking brute hunched over the crystal ball, grunting and puffing as he tried to make pictures appear therein; all to absolutely no avail, of course, being a typically stupid and unmagical giant.

"You failed!" tauted the mage, "Now give it back to me, for I want to look--"

"STUPID GEM!" thundered the giant, "I'll teach it!" and with that he smote the crystal ball with his oaken club, while tears of frustration ran down his cheeks.

These giant tears went well with the smaller ones rolling from Nestre's eyes...

"All right (sob!), biggie, here's the large-type gem you asked for in the first place."

"Youse made me cranky," the giant said, "so now I ain't gonna let nobody poke their nose inta my sack unless they forks over TWO big gems."

Shoulders stooped in defeat, the mage handed over two fine jewels, each worth not less than 1,000 golden orbs.

As the sorcerer rummaged through the contents of the bag -- finding spare skivvies, old bones, a comic book, three lollipops, and other assorted trash, the giant was heard to say:

"Whyinhell did dat dumb shrimp wanna rummage 'roun' in dat dirty ol' bag anyhow?"

"YARGH!" was the only reply from the mage.

*   *   *   *   *

AFTERWARD:
Late that night the giant decided that he had important business elsewhere, so he left with most of the treasure. Upon awakening next morning the four men found his note and a pair of his soiled drawers. The note read:


Stranger still, they waited three weeks, flying the drawers like a banner from a tall sapling near the water. Needless to relate, the giant did not return.

DexCon Schedule!


The schedule for this year's DexCon convention in beautiful Morristown, NJ has been posted, and it looks like there's a veritable flood of old-school games to be had. The Return of the Grognards is in force!
  • R0188: D&D Expert Rules; “Return to the Isle of Dread” Thursday 2 PM - 6 PM
  • R0220: AD&D 1st Edition; “Ghost Tower of Inverness” Friday 9 AM - 1 PM
  • D0997: (Panel Discussion) "Return of the Old School Revival" Friday 11 AM - 12 PM
  • R0233: AD&D 1st Edition; “I6: Ravenloft” Friday 2 PM - 6 PM
  • R0236: D&D Expert Rules; “Return to the Isle of Dread” Friday 2 PM - 6 PM
  • R0253: AD&D 1st Edition; “White Plume Mountain” Friday 8 PM - 12 AM
  • R0278: AD&D 1st Edition; “Ghost Tower of Inverness” Saturday 9 AM - 1 PM
  • R0279: AD&D 2.5 Edition; “To Kill the Dragon King of Cormyr” Saturday 9 AM - 1 PM
  • R0307: AD&D 1st Edition; “I6: Ravenloft” Saturday 8 PM - 12 AM
  • R0308: AD&D 1st Edition; “White Plume Mountain” Saturday 8 PM - 12 AM
  • R0332: D&D Expert Rules; “Return to the Isle of Dread” Sunday 10 AM - 2 PM
In addition, there are a lot of board games being played that would be of interest to the OSR, including Awful Green Things From Outer Space, Dune, etc. The complete schedule of all events can be found here.

Also, I'll be running Red Dragon Inn (B0604, Friday 2 PM - 4 PM) and Ogre Miniatures (W0798, Saturday 2 PM - 6 PM). While I've played and run Ogre Miniatures a bunch of times for the local gaming group, this will be the first time I've done so for a convention. Wish me luck! (Of the RPGs listed above, I'm running White Plume Mountain.)

This is looking to be an AWESOME convention, and keeps getting better every year. Hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gary Gygax on Kicking off a Campaign

"The milieu for initial adventures should be kept to a size commensurate with the needs of campaign participants -- your available time as compared with the demands of the players. This will typically result in your giving them a brief background, placing them in a settlement, and stating that they should prepare themselves to find and explore the dungeon/ruin they know is nearby. As background you inform them that they are from some nearby place where they were apprentices learning their respective professions, that they met by chance in an inn or tavern and resolved to journey together to seek their fortunes int he dangerous environment, and that, beyond the knowledge common to the area (speech, alignments, races, and the like), they know nothing of the world. Placing these new participants in a small settlement means that you need do only minimal work describing the place and its inhabitants. Likewise, as players characters are inexperienced, a single dungeon or ruins map will suffice to begin play." - E. Gary Gygax, Dungeon Masters Guide, pp. 86-87

Finding this passage in the DMG was like a lightning bolt for me, back in my early days as a DM. It's sort of tucked away in the "flyover country" between combat and the magic item descriptions, but I poured over those pages endlessly. In fact, it's still my standard "go to" scenario for starting a new campaign, and one that I plan to be using in a week and a half when my new Erseta campaign begins. Good stuff.

Castle of the Mad Archmage in Action

It is so cool to see something that I wrote being used by other people. So neat to see how other people bring it alive, take my words and breathe life into them, and take something as expansive as Castle of the Mad Archmage and make it their own. That's what megadungeons are all about, and I am thrilled beyond the telling to see how Jim over at Carjacked Seraphim ran his players through a piece of it.


Apparently, he's got some sort of setup with a projector throwing up maps on the wall. Color me jealous!

I hope more videos are forthcoming. It may seem sort of hum-drum to some (heh) but it's pure gold to me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

US Supreme Court Strikes Down California Video Game Law

From the Associated Press:

The Supreme Court says California cannot ban the rental or sale of violent video games to children.

The high court agreed Monday with a federal court's decision to throw out California's ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento said the law violated minors' rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments.

The law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18. Retailers who violated the act would have been fined up to $1,000 for each infraction.

The court on a 7-2 vote said the law was unconstitutional.

More than 46 million American households have at least one video-game system, with the industry bringing in at least $18 billion in 2010.
I don't play many video games these days (mostly Rock Band, or emulators running old games on my Wii, like Donkey Kong or Echo the Dolphin), but this is a decision with ramifications for the RPG industry, and I'm very pleased that the court's decision was so clear.

Setting aside the arguments about parents having the right to make decisions about what their children can or cannot play, if California (or any state) has the power to ban or restrict video games based on violent content, they set the precident that they have the power to do so for tabletop games as well. Further, nothing would have been able to stop them at just restricting violent content; they could have, in theory, used any sort of "community standards" to do so; religious themes, nudity, etc. Today it's Grand Theft Auto IV, tomorrow it could be Carcossa or LotFP: Grindhouse.

All in all, while this was a direct victory for the video game industry, it was an indirect victory for the RPG industry as well, and for free speech in general.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Greyhawk Session 19

AKA, "the last session of the Greyhawk campaign", or alternatively, "the TPK session".

This session wraps up the Greyhawk campaign, by design. Present were Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Mongo, half-orc fighter and devotee of Pholtus; Liberus Faxen, human savant; Theric, human paladin of Pholtus (and his henchman Salvomar, the human fighter); and Ardo, human cleric of Pelor.

Inasmuch as this was the last session, the players decided to head to the bottom of the spiral staircase and explore the surroundings. First, however, the mountebank took up a collection among the party to commission a replacement for the missing statue of Zagyg on the grounds of the castle. That devotion taken care of, the party entered the dungeons and made their way to the third level.

In short order the half-orc managed to fall into a pit, taking minor damage, and the resulting commotion summoned the attention of a trio of carnivorous apes on the far side of the pit. With the apes preventing an easy crossing, the party turned around, only to find themselves beset by a half-dozen huge scorpions. The party managed to finally lay the creatures low, but not before their venom had claimed the lives of both the half-orc and the fighter henchman! Their heavy-hitters out of play, the party returned to the city to see to their proper burial, and then returned to the dungeons for what would end up being the last time.

Almost immediately, the party stumbled into a deadly trap. Discovering a passage that lead to a steeply inclined corridor, the party set off a falling portcullis, trapping them in the passage. Cautiously they moved up the ramp, which as it turned out what precisely the wrong thing to do. An enormous juggernaut in the form of a stylized rhinoceros squashed all of them to jelly. The mountebank was the only one not instantly killed; he was brought to zero hit points, and expired gasping ten minutes later.

It is as this point that the traditional GM's victory song must be played:



(In fairness, there was a way out of the trap; rather than continuing on, had they managed to lift or bend the portcullis immediately, they could have escaped their rhinociferous doom.)

All in all, a TPK in this session made the most sense from a stylistic point of view, because this was to be the final Greyhawk game, with the next session starting an entirely new campaign in a homebrew setting of my own design-- Erseta. While folks spent the rest of the evening rolling up and polishing their characters for the new campaign, I spread out the maps of the top three levels of CotMA, showing them where they had explored, and what they had not, and showing off some of the neater aspects of the lower levels as well (including the maps of the labyrinth level, which made their collective brains hurt). For the record, my players are now free to read through the free pdf version of the dungeon.

I am very pleased with the way the campaign went, largely driven by a great group of players who instantly gelled with one another. I'm hoping that the new campaign setting will open things up a little more, as I am free to go beyond the (admittedly sketchy in my use) boundaries of the Greyhawk setting and explore some of the themes I find most compelling. There will be a tentpole-- the dwarven city of Glitterdark-- but it will not be quite as central a locale for adventure as the Castle of the Mad Archmage was in the Greyhawk campaign, and will have a different role in the mythology of the setting. There will be quite a bit more going on, and perhaps even a lot more travel and political intrigue.

But the basic concept will remain the same; the individual characters will come and go as part of a common pool, so that the exact composition of the party will vary from session to session. I don't quite have a stable of 30 or 40 players like the DM of the Rythlondar campaign had back in 1975, but thusfar the system is working well, and I'm happy with the feel of it. I'm very much looking forward to kicking off the Erseta campaign in two weeks time, and will of course report the goings-on here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cheaper than Beer

A thought has been running through my head the last couple of weeks, and I would like to get a little feedback from my loyal audience.

Although I'm known for my mega-dungeon work, I have an idea for a line of "one night adventures". They'd be very generic both in terms of system (although they would be usable with Adventures Dark and Deep, OSRIC, AD&D, Labyrinth Lord, S&W, etc. etc.) and in terms of setting, to allow them to be plunked down into any campaign with a minimum of fuss. One could, of course, get 'em all and run a campaign using nothing but them, but they wouldn't be self-consciously so designed.

Each would be only 4 pages or so long, including text and maps. Art minimal if present at all. Just enough to last a typical group of adventurers for a single evening. Hence the "one night adventure" tag.

The kicker would be that they would be released as pdfs for $2 each. Hence the "cheaper than beer" title of this post; that would be the marketing slogan.

The question is, would you buy these sorts of modules? A series of one-shots, deliberately kept small in scope, at a price about as low as you can go without giving it away.

One night adventures, cheaper than beer. Would you buy a round?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rythlondar

Oh... my... gods...

Risus Monkey has uncovered a lost treasure trove from the hoary mists of time. The very origin of the hobby of fantasy role-playing. An 80 page collection of detailed campaign notes, all neatly typed up (on a real typewriter!) for sending out to the players and other interested persons. RM is to be praised and commended for this find, and also for taking the time to make it available to the hobby at large. It is absolutely incredible. 

This so takes me back. Not that I played in this particular campaign, of course, but the whole tenor and tone of the thing is so spot-on to my earliest memories of the game. It's eerie.

Especially seeing those lists of character ability scores like that... Just raw numbers, no intricate back story. But is that THE "Rick Loomis" (of Flying Buffalo fame) listed as one of the players (on p. 12) I have to wonder? Did he venture to Michigan to play in this game, perhaps?

The very precise numbers of gold pieces are really a trip, too. We would account for every single GP exactly the same way. The use of the level titles, the wildly variable treasure amounts (162,170 g.p. one week, 16,570 another, and "the group could only carry out 180,720 GP of the dragon's treasure"). Classic stuff!

You can so easily see the origins of the Judges Guild campaign in these pages, or Greyhawk, or Arduin. This was the field in which we played, and in which those fertile seeds were sown.


This is an absolute treasure-trove of how the game was really played back in its earliest days. Obviously I've not had the chance to read closely through all 80 pages, but it will be interesting to do so and compare what we see herein to the various modern theories about what "classic D&D was really like". I have no doubt that a few favored theories are going to be proven wrong by this material. It is, from my own personal experience, completely typical.

If you have any interest in the origins of the hobby, do yourself the favor and download and read this collection of scans. It is a time machine back to 1975.

Guy likes him some wraiths, though. :-)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Film Review: X-Men First Class

There will be some spoilers below, but anything too bad I'll hide in invisotext.

Back in high school, I got into Marvel comics in a big way, right around the time that Secret Wars was happening, the Dire Wraiths were invading just about every comic book, Beta Ray Bill had Thor's Hammer, and X-Men was riding high. I got out of it fairly quickly, but not before getting seriously into TSR's Marvel Superheroes RPG (which was absolutely terrific-- a great implementation of what we would now call a "universal mechanic"). When the first X-Men film came out in 2000, I thought it was terrific, and although the second movie wasn't as good I didn't hate it. The third film... well... it meant well even if I thought it fell flat. I still haven't seen the Wolverine film, but I'm told it's forgettable.

But this... X-Men First Class is just better in every single way than all three of the previous X-Men films. Even not having seen Wolverine, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's better than that, too. This was an absolutely spectacular movie on just about every level you can name.

First off, the first half of it isn't even really a superhero movie. No huge SFX scenes, and the scenes with SFX aren't driven by them at all-- the effects are there to advance not only the plot but the development of the characters.

And that might be the defining element of this film that makes it so good. It's about the characters. The plot is there (and it's awesome), but it is used to grow the characters and their relationships with one another. Charles Xavier and Raven (Mystique), as well as him and Lensherr (Magneto) and the rest of what will eventually become the X-Men team. Plus Raven and Lensherr. And Raven and Hank McCoy (Beast). And on and on. The plot becomes incidental, driven by the inevitable effects and counter-effects of the relationships that are forged on the screen.

But that's not to say the plot is given short-shrift. Far from it. X-Men First Class is a period piece, set mostly in the early 1960's, and it deftly weaves the machinations of Nazi war criminal and mutant Sebastian Shaw (played by Kevin Bacon who is absolutely creepy and chilling as the concentration camp Dr. Schmidt, aka Shaw) as he tries to manipulate the United States and the USSR into a nuclear war, climaxed in the Cuban Missile Crisis, after which he believes mutants will rule the devastated Earth. And that's something that I absolutely love about this movie. The entire first half feels more like a 1960's spy film-- James Bond, Matt Helm, Derek Flint-- than a superhero movie, complete with gratuitous scenes in Vegas with scantily-clad girls and (if I'm right) only slightly anachronistic songs. The villain even has his own atomic submarine! Pure 60's.

The second half of the film kicks into high gear with a montage of Xavier training the group that will become the X-Men and attempt to thwart Shaw's diabolical scheme. But even that is done more through snippets that demonstrate the growth of the characters and their different relationships with one another than purely "things blowing up and people flying around". The climax is suitably big, with a surprise (to me) appearance by veteran character actor Michael Ironside as the American naval commander. The whole thing admirably sets up the "first" X-Men movie, and I can easily see how these characters become those characters years later.

There are all sorts of suitable "Easter eggs" for veteran X-Men fans, and I'll leave it to viewers to catch them all. One of the other admirable aspects of this film is its work on a metaphorical level. The themes of gay rights and discrimination in general is definitely there, but I found it to be somewhat more subdued (and thus more effective) than it was in the first three films. There was a touch of humor, but the film didn't descend into self-parody, which all too often genre films lapse into (particularly those which are the fifth in a series).

But I've also got to call attention to a part of the soundtrack. Normally film soundtracks don't capture my attention all that often, but in this case they have come up with a distinctive theme for Erik Lensherr (who will eventually become the Magneto we see in the other X-Men films) that ranks up there with the all-time best movie villain pieces in history. It's instantly identifiable, and just like the equally marvelous Imperial March (heard in The Empire Strikes back and all Star Wars films since) it instantly conveys a sense of dread and menace. It's used to terrific effect in a number of scenes, where you just know that Lensherr is about to do something completely bad-ass and horrible, but as the sense of menace on the screen grows, so too does the music grow in menace. Here it is in a typically wonderful scene.


Excellent stuff, and an excellent film. See it not only if you're a fan of genre films, but if you like your films driven by character rather than effects.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG: First Thoughts

Obviously the big news in this little corner of the blogosphere is that Goodman Games released the free beta of their forthcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, which has been highly anticipated by some (myself included).

Disclaimer; inasmuch as I am myself in the process of an open playtest of my own Adventures Dark and Deep rules, bear in mind that I do have a dog in this particular race. I shall do my utmost to be objective, but there is at least a certain level of competition between DCC and ADD. Not that I have a well-established game company producing my game, but still, I think it's worth saying.

Since it's just been released this morning, obviously I've not had time to read it in-depth, let alone play it, so this is purely a "first impressions" post. It must also be said that the free beta is not the complete game, but a subset thereof, without all the spells and monsters, or rules to go past 5th level, and presumably other rules as well. Just enough to give a feel for the game.

The first thing that strikes me is the art. There is a LOT of art in this book, some by classic TSR artists like Erol Otis, and other by newer artists. A lot of it has a very "old school" feel (much like Justice Stewart, I can't define it, but I know it when I see it). There are also flat-out cartoons sprinkled throughout, much as we saw in the old DMG. I won't quibble about the art itself, although I am ambivalent about the value of such things, but I will say that there is too much of it. It feels like almost every page is graced with an illustration of some sort (although some pages are given solely to a table), often to no real effect other than to show off the fact that there's an illustration. Many are full-page drawings, to boot. Half as many would, I think, be sufficient. (All interior artwork is b&w, by the way.)

Too, the cartoons, while a welcome nod to the old DMG (and something I intend to include in my own work when the time comes), are simply too plentiful. What gave them zing in the DMG was their scarcity, I think. There are a lot more of them in DCC, and I think it makes them lose their effectiveness, and alters the tone of the whole work.

Speaking of tone, there seems to be an internal struggle within the book as to whether it should be serious or light-hearted. While it certainly avoids the joke-on-every-page effect of Hackmaster, DCC does include more flat-out humorous or silly lines than a serious rulebook would have, while simultaneously not having as many as a purposefully funny rulebook would. Personally, I would prefer that the game set a tone and stick with it. The "Proclamation" in the beginning could have been lifted straight out of Hackmaster, for example. It's self-referential and unnecessary.

On the other hand, I do love the tone in regards to player expectations that the game sets. For example:
The Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game assumes experience on the part of the judge. We assume you are competent in designing encounters, populating a dungeon, and finding challenges appropriate to your party’s level of play.
This is a great attitude, in my opinion. No "what is roleplaying?" section for this game. I applaud the sentiment that drove this being included. I also note with no small amount of pleasure the use of the term "judge" here. They're definitely hitting the right buttons on this score.

In terms of system, the game uses race-as-class, with elf, dwarf, and halfling as the non-human races, and the "big four" (warrior, cleric, wizard, thief) as classes. It does use ascending AC, but "unarmored" is AC 10, which I found a clever twist on an old fault-line. All spells require a check, which consists of a modified d20 rolled against a table specific to the spell being cast. There's a "luck" attribute. There are critical hits and fumbles, with tables that seem directly inspired by the old Arms Law tables by ICE. Combat (and other things, presumably) are done using "action dice", with characters getting certain dice determined by their level and other factors. A character might have a d20+d16 as action dice, meaning his first action is more likely to be successful than his subsequent one.

Which brings up a huge beef I have. DCC uses odd dice; d16, d7, etc. Why? Other than being outré for the sake of being outré, what does this gain anyone? Kind of like people who use the word "outré" rather than "bizarre".

(See that? How that last sentence sort of stood out because it was trying to be funny and self-deprecating in the midst of an otherwise-serious post? That's a sort of example of the tone thing I was talking about earlier.)

My last complaint is the "character funnel" concept. Each player is expected to roll up between 2 and 4 zero-level characters, and the one or two that survive is the one that gets played. Obviously I've not played through this idea with DCC, but zero-level characters were a dismal idea when Oriental Adventures and Unearthed Arcana tried it, and I see nothing in DCC that improves upon the general idea. I don't want to play a butcher on his way to becoming a warrior, damnit. I want to play a warrior.

There also seems to be a slight discrepancy rules-wise. If I roll up a character, one of the things I'm supposed to roll randomly is his zero-level occupation. Unfortunately, some of those occupations are race-specific; halfling trader or elven sage, for example. What happens if I roll that but I want a dwarven character? The rules say if a player "has a strong sense of the character’s background in mind already" they don't need to roll for background. But it seems odd that the optional rule is the one that allows you to pick a race/class. I would think it would make more sense to have the random roll be the optional rule, "if you can't decide on the character's background", for instance.

Don't get me wrong, however. There is a lot of great stuff here. Lots of little things hither and yon that can instantly be applied to any game roughly of 0E or 1E's ilk; armor penalties for ability checks and saving throws, for example, or the critical hit/fumble tables could be used as-is. I've not read them carefully through, but the rules for "spell duels" could probably be adopted whole-cloth as well. Plus dozens of other bits and pieces large and small. The layout (with the exception of the excessive artwork as noted above) is easy to read and the organization seems at first glance to be well thought-out.

There are also some concepts here that I like on the surface, but haven't had a chance to read in-depth and try in practice. The notion that magic is dangerous and expensive is a good one, and there's some room for the concept of "mercurial magic" (where each caster rolls to determine how any given spell will work for him), although I'm not sure I'd make it a universal rule. The otherworldly patrons idea is one that is long overdue, and combat seems to strike a nice balance between tons of options and stultifying minutiae, but again until I see it on the table, it's hard to make a definitive decision.

Overall, while there are some decisions in terms of layout and content that I would have made differently, it is quite obvious that DCC is a very well thought-out work, and a lot of love and attention has gone into it. I would certainly play it myself if given the opportunity, and while there are a lot of elements in there I would use in my own home game, I'm not sure I'd want to give up my own home rule set for this one, even if it wasn't one I was writing myself. DCC is absolutely worth the time to read through the free beta download, and I'd give up more than a single afternoon to play a game. If the full version is of a similar ilk to the free beta, I will definitely be picking it up and seeking it out at conventions to sit in as a player.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Glitterdark Teaser

A hundred and fifty years ago, when the Drowning Death swept across Dornia and Eriania, not even the magnificent city of the dwarves known as Glitterdark was spared. The proud lords of the Great Gap shut their doors against the plague that swept the world of men, thinking themselves safe and secure against the blight, but to no avail. 

The same plague that made men abandon a quarter of their own towns had claimed the city of the dwarves entire. The once-bright streets and causeways deep beneath the earth were consumed by darkness and filled with the reek of death. The forges of the master smiths were silent, and the once-active mines were stilled. 

Since then, fell things have crept in from the dark beneath the dark and from the mountains beyond the gates of the city to claim the treasures the dwarves left behind. It's been a century since any living man has trod the road to Glitterdark, and it has been almost forgotten by the bards and sages of men. 

But I happen to have a map given to me by an old gnome who visited the city once...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Apologies

Apologies again for my lack of posts. We are dealing with a death in the family and that is taking up almost all of my time at the moment. Will return to posting when circumstances permit.