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Tag Archives: d&d

Thinking about an RPG for my kids

My son is two and a half. There’s some time until I can introduce him to roleplaying games. Right now he’s into puzzles, tractors, and fire engines. I think if I was introducing RPGs to him any time soon he’d be more interested in putting out fires,  moving hay balls with a tractor, and dragging cars out of holes. That’s what his current plays are like right now.

It’s quite fascinating to see really. We were perfectly prepared to accept even girlish interests from his side, but from a very early time on he was all about wheels and big machines. His favorite place to go to after nursery is the train station. His grand dad is absolutely awesome because he owns a tractor. And so on.

So… I won’t be playing RPGs with him any time soon. Even video games are not his bag yet, although I did have some success with having him play the opening stage of Ecco the Dolphin. You know, the part where you swim in the ocean, look at fish, jump out of the water with your friends, before aliens come and kidnap your pod and you have to rescue them.

Ecco is kind of a weird game.

In any case, I don’t have a regular game, and it’s some time until I can play with my kids, so of course I am thinking how to introduce stuff to them.

And of course I am thinking old school D&D. Maybe with a board and a dungeon. Maybe with Legos. Maybe with other minis.

I was actually thinking about doing it like a boardgame first. There are a few board games that do the dungeon exploration game quite nice (I own both Hero Quest and Descent), but I was considering doing this as a game on a hexmap. Something along the lines of Talisman or Barbarian Prince. This is for kids after all.

Think about it like this: the players get a map of an area on a hexmap, they have some starting point, and they get miniatures to play with, and they get some very basic quest in the beginning, and then they get going. Depending on the size of the hexes they get a certain amount of movement points per day, they can move that many hexes, and every hex has a base chance for an encounter. Ideally I would have some key encounter areas figured out before, and even if not, I would have encounter tables.

This is all not too different from actual D&D, the rules would have to be pared down a bit, options would have to be cut, and allowances would have to be given for creativity from the players. He doesn’t have the cultural references that the rest of the world has yet. He doesn’t know what elves and dwarves are. So one would have to think about that.

It might be a nice little game.

[Circûmflex] HP dynamics

Sometimes it is quite interesting what comes out when I just change something small, and then think it through again.

I added one version of the Death and Dismemberment table to the game as an alternative to the original rules. Neither “Death at 0hp” nor “At Death’s Door” really seemed to work for me.

My players naturally gravitate to At Death’s Door. Most of them have played Baldur’s Gate before. They would feel cheated if I told them they died at 0hp. But I think it is cumbersome.

Of course then I replaced it with a whole table and a roll instead of a simple bleeding out rule. Go me.

But adding this table gives an interesting dynamic to the game.

So lets have a look at it. With the rules as I currently have them:

  • hp indicate how much fight a character has in him/her; a character is fine as long as he has positive hp, damage at this point does not cause wounds.
  • if a character falls to 0 hp or below a roll on the Death and Dismemberment table is in order. The character then suffers the consequences according to the table. This can be instant death. Or a very serious injury/lost limb. [I still need to rewrite the table for my own game]
  • A character can use his/her shield to soak up all damage from one combat turn at the cost of the shield (the Shields shall be splintered! rule)
  • A character can use his/her helmet or sturdy hat to turn a fatal blow into an injury instead, at the cost of the headgear and being taken out of the fight by unconsciousness (the Helmets shall be shattered! rule)

There was another idea I found, in that one could use the damage dealt under 0 as a modifier for the roll on the table. Meaning that a good roll from an opponent might make a fatality much more likely.

Here’s the thing though: this idea basically turns hp into stamina; and it provides some interesting player agency (sure you can soak that hit with your shield, but the next one might be worse…). Death on the other hand, only comes when either a roll says so, or when abilities are so degraded that life becomes impossible.

Still working on this one.

The Wilderlands are a strange place

Ready Ref Sheets, page 49:

Somehow Anchovies are fruits in the Wilderlands

Ready Ref Sheets, pg. 49

By the way, apples show up only as rare crab apples and as the unique Golden Apple. This means that in any given hex you have a 1/400 chance of finding coffee or rubber, but only a 1/8000 chance of finding sour apples. And a 1/16000 chance of finding a non-sour apple that gives immortality.

Have I mentioned I love the old JG stuff?

Day 2: Oh no, I created munchkins

Hmm.. I noticed that I might be kind of weird in this blog hop. I actually decided to post all the questions and answers in seperate entries. Most of the other participants just seem to do the whole thing in one batch. Me? I am using this as an excuse to actually post a lot more than I have been doing the last year or so. Small entries might not be so great, but at least I can get them out quicker than those I write on for ages and then don’t publish. There is one which I want to publish tomorrow that has been laying in my drafts since January last year!

Day 2: First person YOU introduced to D&D? Which edition? THEIR first character?

Did anyone else notice that some people in this blog hop are kind of weirdly focussed on the edition thing? Seperating AD&D and D&D and for some reason starting with 3rd edition it’s something completely else.

Not that I like 4th edition, but I don’t doubt that it’s D&D. On the other hand neither do I doubt that of Pathfinder, Labyrinth Lord, or any of the retroclones, so there is that.
The people I introduced to D&D first were my friends Achim and Julian. Horrible munchkins the both of them, which is why they both ran multiclassed human Fighter/Mages in AD&D 2nd edition, houseruled in by their Monty Haul GM. Which was, uhm, me.

Ok, I admit, I should have read the combat rules better. They managed to talk me into strange situations in-game and were a on a power trip. They managed to conquer an island (empty, well, after they killed the gnomes that lived there, but what did they care? They wanted to grow weed on it) around 5th level. That was when we decided to retire them and start over with a bigger group.

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Oh look! Another D&D movie…

…only this time D&D stands for Drakar och Demoner, as in the Swedish RPG I just wrote about yesterday.
Well, the acting and the special effects don’t seem to be really that different from the last Dungeons & Dragons made-for-TV-movie, which itself was orders of magnitude better than the first one. Not that Book of Vile Darkness was good.

Day 1: I had to do it all by myself godamnit!

With the 40th birthday of D&D happening there have been a lot of blogposts about that lately. d20 Dark Ages called for a blog hop (whatever that is) celebrating the whole thing. And guess what? I finally caught one of these multi-blog-questionnaire thingies before the whole thing was half over already. Weird.

What started AD&D for me

What started AD&D for me

Day 1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first Character?
Hmm… I got into RPGs over the German entry drug Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye). Which I had to find out about all by myself. DSA back then was basically available pretty much everywhere because it was published by one of the biggest game publishers in Germany, so that is where most German gamers got their beginning. This also means that some of the standard trappings of D&D never really made it to Germany until way later: miniatures for example were barely in use when I started, only 3rd edition brought this aspect of the game into focus. Most people playing with miniatures were into Warhammer, if interested at all, and GW miniatures were the only thing one could get for a long time.

Although… there was HeroQuest as well. I had that, as did many other guys my age. But even though I knew that the games were similar we had this understanding that DSA was HeroQuest for adults, and that it didn’t need miniatures to play it.

Anyway, D&D was something that was mentioned in a PC gaming magazine which ran a special on Fantasy and RPGs, but that was way after I already had the starter set for DSA. A while later I bought a German-language Starter Set for AD&D 2nd edition. I had introduced some people to RPGs before, but my regular players were rather enamoured with a system closer to the computer games they were playing (I think it was Diablo back then) so we switched to AD&D.

The first character I myself played (instead of just made and never used) was a Chaotic Good Fighter/Cleric.

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Roleplaying on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

GURPS Discworld

Image via Wikipedia

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…