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Monthly Archives: January 2012

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 4 – Spiritual

Clerics/Priests
with religious researchers discovering more and more gods nearly every week somebody needs to take care of worshipping them. Priests are generally a bit underpowered in comparison to other classes, but they do great things in local communities, be it bringing together the youth and the old people of Sto Lat, celebrating the most wonderful sacrifices possible, or putting a stake through the local vampire’s heart.
In other words: the traditional cleric. As in D&D/AD&D rules, maybe some care should be taken to allow only appropriate spells, but I guess that could be the players job.

The Monks of Cool, whose tiny and exclusive monastery is hidden in a really cool and laid-back valley in the lower Ramtops, have a passing-out test for a novice. He is taken into a room full of all types of clothing and asked: Yo, my son, which of these is the most stylish thing to wear? And the correct answer is: Hey, whatever I select.

-Terry Pratchett; Lords and Ladies

 

Monk
standard monk, there seems to be a veritable amount of monasteries worshipping various principles in some distant locations, e.g. the Monks of History, the Listening Monks, and the Temple of Cool. One should try to adapt the character’s abilities to fit his order, but otherwise simply a D&D Mystic/AD&D Monk.

Druid
more interested in building newer and better stone circles than in nature, but still there, especially in Llamedos and on the Vortex Plains, but also in various other locales. Use AD&D druids or own variants.

Do I see a theme here? So far most of the classes do not even need any further twisting. I should create some spell lists with appropriate spell names for Magic Users and Clerics (I should call them priests though), but otherwise so far most things can be done by typical D&D classes. I am a bit unsure about the Paladin because it feels rather unDiscworld, and I think the Ranger might be missing. On the other hand there is no mention in the books of any sort of ranger class.

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A Map of the Sto Plains and Adjoining Locales

deviantArt user SM9T8 created this stunning map according to the descriptions in the L-Space Wiki and the Discworld Mapp.

Discworld Roleplaying Bibliography

The Discworld Companion

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Discworld Companion:

Pretty much an encyclopedia about everything Discworld. These books are indispensible and actually seem to be more complete than the roleplaying books mentioned below. In addition to entries about pretty much anything mentioned in the books they also have small but nice maps for different places (including a map of Lancre much better suited for roleplaying than the one in the tourist guide below), and some random information not mentioned in the books… yet.

Pratchett, Terry; Stephen Briggs, The Discworld Companion Updated.Gollancz 1997. ISBN 0-575-60030-6
Pratchett, Terry; Stephen Briggs, The New Discworld Companion. Gollancz 2003. ISBN 0-575-07555-4.

The Streets of Ankh-Morpork

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Maps:

Starting with The Streets of Ankh-Morpork Pratchett and Briggs published a few rather beautiful maps that are just perfect for roleplaying. Especially the Ankh-Morpork map might be essential to any game set in the city. The tourist guide to Lancre… well not so much, but still better than Death’s Domain, which I didn’t even include here.

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, The Streets of Ankh-Morpork, Corgi 1993, ISBN 0-552-14161-5
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, The Discworld Mapp, Corgi 1995, ISBN 0-552-14324-3
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, A Tourist Guide to Lancre, Corgi 1998, ISBN 0-552-14608-0

GURPS Discworld

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GURPS Discworld:

I am not too much of a fan of these books as one might have noticed, nevertheless I think I should include them here. The books show some really nice ideas in some parts, and are at least helpful. My copy of the first book had the GURPS Lite rules as an appendix in the back, but according to my infos “The Discworld Role-Playing Game” actually has them interspersed in between the text, which gives the whole thing a much more complete feeling. Still, it’s GURPS, and in my opinion that system lives off it’s sourcebooks, and not it’s rules.

Phil Masters, GURPS Discworld, Steve Jackson Games 1998
Phil Masters, GURPS Discworld Also, Steve Jackson Games 2001, ISBN: 1-55634-447-3
Phil Masters, Discworld Role-Playing Game, Steve Jackson Games 2002, ISBN 1-55634-687-5.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 3 – Magic Users

Wizards
as magic user, mostly male; Wizards have an established university system with the Unseen University in AM as it’s core facility and for a long time also the only example. Meanwhile other schools have been recognized or established, such as Brazeneck College in Pseudopolis (Unseen Academicals), The Academy of Artificers in Sto Lat (Discworld MUD), and the Illusionary Institute of Djelibeby (Discworld MUD). Technically all these are male-only, but there are examples of female students attending due to either skill or subterfudge (GURPS DW: beards are expected, but who’s to say all of those beards are real?) There are also known schools and traditions of magic in Klatch and Krull, which seem more accepting of female students than the schools of the Sto Plains. An additional tradition is that of Hedge Wizardry which, while technically connected to traditional wizardry often works more on a traditional apprentice system, not unlike that of witches.
As Magic User in rules, might specialize as in AD&D rules into various orders. Spell list needs to be adapted.

Witches
as magic user, only female; Witches have a more common sense attitude to magic than Wizards. In many cases their spells and magics are more based on Nature and Healing, or at least less flashy than Wizards spells (except if they want to be flashy). This does not mean they are not powerful though. Their system is a more traditional apprenticeship system without much formal organization over the level of local covens. There are different traditions that are much more dedicated to specific schools of magic, with Genua having Vooodoo witches, and an organisation of Fairy Godmothers being part of the larger society of witches.
Use Magic User as in rules, spell list needs to be adapted.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 2 – Covert

One of the Patrician’s greatest contributions to the reliable operation of Ankh-Morpork had been, very early in his administration, the legalising of the an­cient Guild of Thieves. Crime was always with us, he reasoned, and therefore, if you were going to have crime, it at least should be organised crime.

-Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!


Thieves
technically basic thieves/rogues as can be found in the rulebooks. Thieves in the area of Ankh-Morpork and the surrounding planes have a special status: the Thieves’ Guild in Ankh-Morpork is a fully acknowledged guild in their own right, with it’s licensed members having a quota and a receipt system in place. A practice that seems to have spilled out to other places as well. Unlicensed thieves encounter harsh penalties though. Not from the local law who often co two could care less, but from their fellow thieves.
As in rules.

Assassins
an old and noble profession. There are various variants all over the discworld, but the most renowned and famous school for this vocation is the School of Assassins of the Ankh-Morpork Assassin’s Guild, one of the most renowned institutes of learning in the Discworld. Anybody “inhumed” by a guild member of the guild can be sure that his inhumer was of equal, if not higher social status than him. Many people attend this school even if they never have the intention to become professional killers, as the education there is just that good. Many noblemen, citizens, aristocrats, but also bureaucrats have this class (e.g. The Patrician).
As in AD&D rules.

The Golem: How He Came into the World

The Golem: How He Came into the World (Orig.: Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam) is a 1920 silent movie by Paul Wegener depicting the legend of the Golem. It also is a fantastic fantasy movie.

[Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 1 – Fighters

The point that must be made is that although Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan would look quite stunning after a good bath, a heavy-duty manicure, and the pick of the leather racks in Woo Hung Ling’s Orieil, soft boots, and a short sword. All right, maybe the boots were leather. But not black.

– Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic

Fighting Men/Warriors
Your common fighting man. Get a weapon, point it to the enemy, don’t die. Surprisingly effective. Variants include most heroes, most watchmen, soldiers, etc.
As in rules.

Barbarian
Fading as a trend (and maybe jumped the shark with self-help books like “Inne Juste 7 Dayes I wille make you a Barbearian Hero!” by Cohen the Barbarian), but still going strong in some more backw… eh… traditional places.
As in AD&D rules.

Paladin
Arguably lacking on the Discworld, only a few individuals might truly be Paladins (like Carrot Ironfoundersson). The GM should play the alignment restrictions as strict as possible or not allow it at all.
As in the AD&D rules.

Roleplaying on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

GURPS Discworld

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GURPS Discworld

I bought GURPS Discworld when it came out with the full intention of playing it. My group consisted of at least 3 other Pratchett fans back then, so I would have had a wonderful audience. The problem was… well…
It was not a bad book. Has SJG ever produced a really bad book for that line? And how could one go wrong with something like Discworld? The novels were pretty muche made of roleplaying satire from the start!

In his review of Discworld Also Robert A. Rodger put it like that:

“This is where GURPS Discworld disappointed me. It continued the Discworld as parody mode, and supplied guidelines and suggestions for GMs to run humorous games adventuring across the Disc.

Which is not what the bulk of the Discworld novels are about. The plots are not funny; Prattchett‘s voice and writing is. The characters aren’t absurd parodies; they echo archetypes but evolve into full characters. And the stories aren’t about adventures; they’re about people protecting their homes, their families and their virtues.”

Needless to say the book was read carefully and with interest and then ended up on the shelf collecting dust.
The book wasn’t bad, just… wrong. The whole thing seemed woefully uninspired. Short descriptions of Discworld locations and a few halfway decent adventure ideas were weighted against the overly complicated GURPS character generation, unnecessary details about the novels (like synopseses for all of them), and a very forced attempt to create a “funny” atmosphere in the game. If I noticed one thing gamemastering it’s that one cannot force “fun” on the players if they don’t want to have it. It’s a bad sign if something like Discworld manages to produce a book as lackluster as this.

It’s one of the few times when I really regretted buying a game supplement, and that’s coming from someone who owns multiple Forgotten Realms products.*

Discworld as a setting

But that still left me with the idea of setting a game on Discworld. It just would fit so well, y’know?

The first few novels are pretty much 100% D&D fare. With thieves’ and assassins’ guilds in the faux-medieval metropolis of Ankh-Morpork, with weird forgotten temples, druids and barbarians, dwarves and trolls, wizards and witches, and just a pinch of Lovecraft lurking in the background.
The whole of Discworld is a wonderful pastiche/satire on the typical early D&D/fantasy novel setting of the time.

I maintain that it should be easy to actually do some roleplaying there, and that the problem with GURPS Discworld was that it was overthinking it. What was the inspiration for Discworld in the first place? Pretty much D&D, wasn’t it? Terry was a D&D player, he played the game, read the White Dwarf, created his own worlds along this game. It wasn’t GURPS guys in his age group were playing in early 80s Britain (because GURPS did not exist yet), it was beautiful, make-up-your-own-and-mix-with-whatever-you-got D&D.

Coming attractions

So let’s do that. How can we play Discworld with just Basic D&D, or in my case Labyrinth Lord, rules?
I will post some of my ideas in the coming days.

Some basic ground rules so no confusion will arise: This will be roughly OD&D. I have the Labyrinth Lord rules and prefer them for a game (them being pretty much OD&D with a clearer structure), but I have also both the three basic AD&D books and the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion, and will use them for additional rules.

I think that OD&D races-as-classes fits the setting better than the AD&D race-and-class method, although some of the later novels have interesting combinations of character concepts. The AEC mix and match method might be advisable if someone really wants to play a dwarfish fighter/thief. Personally I’d prefer a character with a clearcut class in this setting though.

——–

*I always hoped it would get better with the next book, but it never did. Never have I seen such a shallow and futile campaign setting…

Down and out in the city of Ankh-Morpork

Discworld MUD LogoI knew it was a bad idea from the start.

On the second day of Christmas we were bored. No thing to do, no place to go out to (shops ins Poland are closed on national holidays, so are restaurants, and everything else but gas stations), and after a few days of them we also had enough of family. My tolerance for stuff like that is low anyway. So I thought: “Hmm, why not play the Discworld MUD for a while again?”.

And then I thought: “God, that is a bad idea, isn’t it?”

“Why is it a bad idea?” asked my girlfriend.

“Because the last two times I had this thought I lost a week each on playing this game.”

“So where is the problem? You have a week of holidays right now.” she said then.

And so, half-convinced it was a good idea, I started the game, created an Agatean called Lee, and, just as predicted, I only got out of it more or less at New Years’ Eve. But as this time I was not dead at the end of the week I actually played on. I slowly seem to get the necessary survival skills for this game. Slowly.

The last two times I had been permadead within a week in both cases. One can buy additional lives in the game, yes, and it is done by pretty much everyone, but I never really had the money to do it properly. Pishe is a greedy hag. And so when I died I was dead. And of course a little bit frustrated to continue. Especially considering I had just spent a week in that game.

Ah… the Discworld MUD. Based on the books by Terry Pratchett this MUD (Multi User Dungeon) is a colossal multiplayer text-rpg version of it. For some reason I never managed to get as deep into graphical MMORPGs as I am into this game. I didn’t get into other MUDs as deep as I am into it yet either. It’s not the first MUD I played, but it is certainly the one that stayed with me. I guess it’s the fact that things in this game just are, well, somehow familiar, which fascinates me. The surroundings in the game have been lovably crafted according to Terry’s writing, the city of Ankh-Morpork has been designed based on the official map, and it’s not even the only city in the game. There are about a million rooms in the game so far and it still is being developed. There are half a dozen currencies in play, and as many languages, which actually affect what one can understand in the game! My Agatean Mystic still has bad reading skills in Morporkian and so I as his player have to guess what signs mean.

The different locations and locales actually lead each other to drastically different experiences in the game. The city of Bes Pelargic (nearly as big as AM it seems) is basically it’s own Asia-themed MUD with distinctive enemies and political factions. The five houses of the Agatean Empire are locked into a constant war with each other with shifting alliances and enmities. The same goes for the Coffee Nostra in the city of Genua. And in between there are literally hundreds of different minigames that can be played or left alone. Delivering food in Bes Pelargic becomes a death race sometimes, inhuming clients is what assassins do to earn money. Thieves try to steal and fill their quota of course, while Wizards try to find the best spells and have to navigate their libraries for that, or they just try to best themselves playing billards with each other. And then there are the CTF games which seem to happen every weekend in a special arena and lead to a lot of excitement on the talker channels.

Ok, of course there are some negative things about the whole game. The first and most likely most important one is: it’s still only text. When walking around in the virtual world one is treated to lots of wonderfully crafted description and a small Ascii diagram showing how the surroundings look. That is not very inviting for new players.Especially those people that grew up with graphical interfaces everywhere.

Nevertheless the MUD draws comparatively many players. All in all I never have seen less than one hundred players online, except directly after a reboot. I guess the draw of Terry Pratchett is a big factor in this, the quality of the MUD in other parts is also quite important. I still remember the first time I logged on, in what must have been ’99 or so. Back then only a part of AM and some external areas existed. It has come a long way since then.

And there is of course the fact that the world itself is not quite as true to the books as they would wish it to be, with the addition of priests that actually do something being the most glaring one (although one that I can excuse, as the novels never really showed them as being powerless in the first place), and the rather obvious effects of some spells being another one: the Portal spell is common as muck and can be seen in use constantly, and it totally defies everything Pratchett wrote on the topic.

On the other hand: the world is so huge no-one would want to walk from one place to another. Especially as some parts (Bes Pelargic) are only reachable by very obscure means otherwise (getting lost in the library and L-space and using Travelling Shops via the Brown Islands being the only real ways).

The game itself is rather newbie friendly I guess. Before one even is left out into the Discworld one ends up in a newbie area called Pumpkin town where one can train up a few things one might want to use later. Mostly using dummies made of pumpkins. It’s a rather nice introduction to the game which ends with the decision which nationality and birthplace to choose. So far I saw only humans as an option on the lists, much in accordance with the novels, even though I wish they’d at least implement dwarves just for the fun of it. As mentioned before nationality affects what one can do in the game. I chose Agatean from HungHung, which made me end up in the port city of Bes Pelargic. HungHung seems to be partially implemented so far, but only open for playtesters, at least if I can believe the webpage. Bes Pelargic is the only place in the Empire that is really playable so far.

Others are downright dangerous. One of my earlier characters was Uberwaldean and died his first death only a few steps from the starting tavern in Escrow. Uberwald is crazy dangerous, with the whole country overran by werewolves and vampires at night.

Then one tries to get ahead playing here. By now it is actually possible to do a roleplaying focused career, without killing too many enemies. But if one wants to loot and pillage one is able to do that as well. The enemies for the beginning are of course a bit ridiculous. Even the cockroaches in the city of Ankh-Morpork are able to withstand two or more hits by your new character, and rats last even longer. But soon enough one can actually go ahead and explore the possibilities. The quests are a bit ridiculous in many cases, often not really explained as to why exactly I just got Quest XP for climbing down a gully or sending flowers to people, but obviously many of them were implemented before the Achievement system came online. Achievements are another way of getting ahead, from having a player account ten days old to killing a certain kind of enemy a number of times, up to really weird things (eating 1000 cabbages for example).

So, yeah, I keep on playing it even if I know I could do other things. It’s just so damn fascinating.

Links:

Discworld MUD (website with online client)

Discworld MUD Wiki (wiki with info on most important things in the game)

Kefka’s Maps (of course you could try to find your way around without them… but I wouldn’t advise it…)

Winswand’s Grimoire (fanblog considering the various spells in the game)