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Tag Archives: Fantasy

Half-assing the dungeon (Under the City State Part II)

Yesterday was the first time in months that we got together to play. It turned out to be less successful than I thought, although we had some fun.

We started with Dungeons and Dragons, as a continuation of the previous adventure which my players had mastered without any killed enemies at all. I foolishly had expected that we’d be in the dungeon a bit longer. Unfortunately they managed to find a viable way to find a way to the plot MacGuffin (an altar that raises the dead without the interference of all those pesky priests). They killed a few troglodytes (the neanderthal kind) and then managed to get themselves close to the altar without killing more than a few revenants on the way. Technically they were supposed to find the altar after dealing with the tribe of troglodytes. Instead they killed two of the trogs outright, then blamed their deaths on the undead when they met the next group of the tribe, got rough directions to where the undead were coming from, and the used then goblin cleric’s turn undead power to determine where exactly that particular wave of undead was coming from, herding the undead the right direction. Then they found the place and decided to get the hell out of there. Did I mention that these are the most careful adventurers I have ever played with?
I thought I had a few more hours of play in that dungeon, so I didn’t have anything prepared for the rest of the night. We played a bit more with them trying to get out of the city quick before the questgiver noticed that the altar he had them find was mostly resurrecting undead, and then they went on their way as caravan guards towards Thunderholt.

Well, yeah. It was nice as long as it lasted, but I should have thought a bit more what to do if they managed to solve the adventure too fast. I had thought about using another adventure I wanted to play for a long time, but I didn’t get to lay the quest hooks because they decided to leave town too quick. I have to make this work a bit better next time.
The rest of the night we tried out Over The Edge, which my players got rather enthusiastic about once I had explained the free-form character generation to them. After a short while they had three nice characters that I thought had some promise for an OtE game: a mage from a vanilla (anime) fantasy setting with the tendency to get transported to places he did not really want to be, a post-adolescent middle-eastern commando turtle (like a teenage mutant ninja turtle, only older and geographically confused), and a reporter with an identity problem and coffee addiction.

It went over surprisingly well, or maybe less surprisingly so, considering that my players are rather fond of roleplaying anyway. So far they tried to get the mage back to his dimension, but did not really get so far in that endeavour.

Poles love Warhammer

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

No, seriously. It’s even a bit creepy. In Poland Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is THE roleplaying game. This comes from the time when Poland finally opened up to the west and the first proper game that was published was WFRP. It gelled perfectly with the Polish soul. And if you don’t know what I mean with that you have never seen vendors sell candyfloss and balloons on a Polish cemetary.

This of course poses a certain problem for me, as I have a profound dislike for Warhammer.

It’s not that I really hate the system. I will not go and tell lies about it, I will not try to make it worse than it is. There are even some nuggets in there that I really like (e.g. Skaven). But in my opinion the whole Warhammer background is needlessly gauche and over the top.

Warhammer is… how shall I say it? Like a Manowar album. It’s nice listening to their songs once in a while, singing along with these ridiculous lyrics, trying not to break into laughter when looking at them in their videos, all earnest and proud. But how am I supposed to deal with that all the time?

Of course the problem so far only came up in discussions about roleplaying. In my English language group I have two players who do play Warhammer, but I don’t. And so I don’t need to play it with them. And I don’t speak enough Polish to play in a game yet, so that option will not even come up.

The infuriating thing comes when someone tries to tell me that Warhammer is the top of the evolutionary ladder for RPGs, and that D&D must be for kids because it has all these ridiculous monsters. Completely unaware that playing Warhammer and telling people that their game is kids’ stuff comes across… rather like a bratty teenager, desperate not to be seen as a kid anymore.

Well, hello, we are playing games in which we are wizards and thieves and elves and whatnot. Not trying to seem like kids should not be the top of our priorities!

Of course I met other people like him before. The same arguments I heard in Germany about DSA. Maybe that is why it annoys me that much. Because I thought I had these discussions behind me already.

One Page Dungeon Contest 2012

Submissions are now open for the OPDC 2012. At least according to the official Facebook account an the website.

End of Submissions is April 30, 0:00 UTC and… actually, just go and read the page. Obviously some people already submitted, which is way faster than last year, when two weeks before deadline there were about two submissions.

Ok, looking forward to see a lot of excellent adventures again!

Under the City State (Part I)

dungeon

Uhm… why do I actually keep on playing other games if I know that I can run D&D without problems in any case? I tried out my homebrew ruleset with my group  and it worked beautifully.

There are some slight roadbumps there (like me having no index in the file), but I gamemastered without any real problems (besides trying to find the amount of starting money in either my own rules or the LL book).

The session itself was… quite awesome.
It was D&D, and all my players had played at least Baldur’s Gate,  so some genre conventions were expected. Like the first adventure being set in a dungeon.

The characters managed to get down to the second dungeon level, and there was exactly one attack dice rolled during the whole evening, and that one was the PC Orc pastry chef tackling the PC thief because he wanted to sneak out the tavern without paying. (and that one attack was a critical…)
“Ok.” says the orc’s player. “I guess my character is actually lawful.”
The rest of the night they intimidated, pulled rank, sneaked and bribed their way through the sewers into the dungeon under the City State.
There is a altar there, somewhere in the dungeon, and legend has it that it can resurrect people just like that, without any cleric praying for it. The questgiver thinks he has found an easy way to make a lot of money: If it really resurrects anyone it will be easy to find people who want or need to resurrect one or two of their loved ones/companions/party members. It will be easy to undercut the local temples with that if you don’t have to do anything else but bring a body there to get it resurrected.
He is technically right too… but… there might be a twist in that resurrection power.
Anyway, the party found itself together quickly: a local goblin cleric with a supremacist attitude, an orcish pastry chef from the clan of the Killer Frogs, and a human thief from somewhere in the west.
They quickly caused some havoc in the starting tavern (trying to sneak out without paying), then tracked down the questgiver, then for a while tried finding out where the hell that dungeon he was talking about was. The orc and goblin decided to get some beer and bribe some sewer dwellers, while the thief thought it was better to use some investigation in the city. In the end both sides ended in the dungeon, on completely opposite sides of the complex.
The two sewerdivers managed to enter the sewers only a few corners from the connection between sewers and dungeon. When they found a ratman bustling about they bribed him with beer and then threatened him with bodily harm when he told them how close they were to the entrance.
Stuff they found in the dungeon:
– the thief contracted cave tarsiers which now follow him everywhere hoping to get food. He didn’t realize yet that they make sneaking pretty much impossible.
– the one time they DID tell some subhumans his position he annoyed those so much that they left him alone and just told him not to follow them
– they found a line of talking stone faces that had decided to form a (bad) barbershop quartet
– a tribe of goblins was living there. The goblin cleric went full good shepherd on them and asked where they had been during their last few masses. It quickly became obvious that one of the reasons thet were living in that place was to get away from the priests.
– there actually WAS an altar on the dungeon level, but the goblins didn’t really know what sort. It turned out to be a temple of Smintheus the Rat Eater. My players of course thought that a god with that aspect was a bit far-fetched… alas

Discworld Roleplaying Bibliography

The Discworld Companion

Image via Wikipedia

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

Image via Wikipedia

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

Image via Wikipedia

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 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.

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)

Whatever happened to the netbooks of yore?

One thing that I haven’t heard mentioned anywhere in the last few years are the Netbooks. Not those small and handy computers everybody went  crazy for the last few years. No, I am talking about files of the collected wisdom of the internet crowd on one topic or another (I know them mostly from Fantasy Roleplaying).

Whatever happened to them?
Okay, I know what happened to them, they still are at Olik’s and the Blue Troll’s websites, just as they were in 1998. But what happened to the idea of Netbooks? When I started with the Internet they seemed to be one of the biggest things on the Net.

Basically in the late 80s/early 90s people using the Net, and with that I mean mostly the Usenet and BBSs, were compiling wondrous resources for people with tight money but an internet connection. Now I hardly can say that those things were up to par with the best of the officially printed material of the time, because they were not.
But I can say that a lot of them contained a treasure of new ideas, rules, and mechanics to enrich (or bog down) the Fantasy Roleplaying of the time. And sometimes there would be the occasional little gem in between all the bad stuff. And this actually would be why they are not mentioned anymore: all the bad stuff in between.

The whole thing was a trend that already was over when 3rd edition came around. All of a sudden people took to the Open Game License like dwarves take to mead. But people still were remembering the old netbooks back then, and so at least one page was formed which wanted to create new Netbooks for the new system. They actually got quite far, building a few interesting things with new character classes and monsters, and had a lot of gorgeous ideas for people who were doing this essentially free, and then they quietly disappeared again in 2005. They said that the market was oversaturated with free d20 content and that they could not see anyone really taking to their books. I guess if you really were into publishing anything for the D20 system in that time you would just try to get it to a publisher. Or something like that.

Anyway, what I am interested in right now is the ways that I can use the old netbooks from the 90s for my campaign. They have a wonderful community-created homebrew vibe, not unlike the roleplaying blogosphere of today *coughcough*, and there should be some ways of putting that stuff into a campaign, even if a lot of the stuff in them seems to be a tad stupid.

But I am missing the concept as such, especially the fact that they seemed to be mostly just made up of Usenet entries collected into a larger text file, and then allowed to be distributed over the net. It just was so… what’s the word? Neat. Something like that would be hard to do today, where everyone thinks they’ll be able to  publish the next big thing with their own OD&D-clone. Although I do understand the attraction in 1. having the possibility to have your own things published and bound, and 2. not having to search for these things all over the Internet. Do you remember the days when every role-playing site around had a download page where you could get different files and programs to make your DM life easier? (or harder, depending on what you brought onto yourself) Roughly around the times when 3rd edition came around and the Internet bubble burst, all of a sudden the traditional download page was disappearing. I used to hunt through the webs for ages, trying to find new hidden treasures that I did not know about before, a feeling that is largely gone by now.

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor

 

Yes, Oh God yes! The world needed this.

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor.