Friday, 29 June 2012

Mouse Tales

We began a game of Mouse Guard tonight.

One of the interesting things about Mouse Guard is that the GM gets a "turn" and then the players each get a number of turns -- at least one, but possibly more based on events in the GM's turn.

Some of the players' turns may be soaked up on Recovery rolls. For instance, my Mouse, Willem the Healer, fell into a stream we were crossing. Willem pulled himself out, however apart from being soaked, he picked up the Tired condition. One of my actions was to use a Resources roll to try to get rid of the condition.

We tried to complete our voyage on our turns (we failed) and collect some spearmint (we succeeded), and I tried to teach another mouse about Herb lore (I failed).

Player Agency is hard-coded right into the rules. This isn't a rules set that would deal well with a protracted narrative arc. The players are free to have their characters do almost anything they want on their turns, the GM doesnt' have the right to veto a Player action (although "whole group approval" is a tool that the game uses frequently -- useful for genre, theme, and character enforcement). 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Swords against Terror

On the Legend of the Flame Princess forum there is an ongoing discussion about a post-renaissance setting for a game which may or may not be like LotFP. Alternate names have been proposed -- I like False Dawn, as the Dawn of the Age of Reason hasn't really occurred as far too many learned men still muddle in the arcane and unknowable.

The funny thing is, judging by most of the art, I always presumed that this was the default setting for LotFP. There's a lot of "musketeer" art, with bulky matchlocks and lace collars, and the rest. When reading it I frequently refer to Backswords and Bucklers, an Elizabethan game using the OSR, as a comparison.

I have always liked the era. Lace & Steel, Flashing Blades, and the more modern Witch Hunter RPG grace my shelves, they all work in and around the era, although only the last is normally a game of supernatural terrors.

More to the point of the post. A series of eighteen LofTP crowd-sourced adventures are going to be proposed this July. the adventure titles and descriptions are up already. If you were looking for a couple bullet point outlines to inspire your own adventures, you could do far worse than look here. There are a couple that really caught my eye.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

When Dice Turn Bad

Mild spoilers for players in the Kingmaker Adventure path -- mild, because we're pretty far off the rails at this point.

In today's Kingmaker game the group faced a battle versus a small army of trolls, then an opportunity to root the bad guy out of his lair. The battle system laid out in the AP, and expanded on in the 3rd party "Book of the River Nations" -- a very useful supplement for those involved in this AP -- is very simple, units have stats, and battle is conducted in a series of contested rolls. The difference in results in applied as abstract damage to the units.

Out brave heroes have a force of their kobold vassals, their "best" unit, bow and axe wielding Streltsy, and their new and barely trained second unit, which formed their reserve.

And the players stopped rolling well. Again and again they rolled low, the only saving grace being the troll forces rolled low as well, not achieving the required target number.

The "encounter" was fairly well balanced, however in the end both of the human regiments were shattered, and the kobolds surrendered the field to the trolls.

The dice results created a palpable depression of mood. The characters had worked with, fought with, and achieved many victories alongside their first regiment, which was now gutted. It was as if a treasured NPC had passed away. It was a memorable moment. And I didn't arrange it, plan it, it wasn't part of "my narrative" or the story-arc. Instead it was all the dice. More importantly, it was the players' dice.

Dice turn bad? Not a bad thing.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Big Black Book

An enforced seven day absence from the internet has developed into a three week absence here. Time to mend that.

Yesterday my "deluxe" copy of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, or DCC RPG, arrived. At about 500 pages of thick paper, this monster is a little thinner than the old "family shelf bible" but is a stunning tome, and with it's sinister "gold leaf" cover art it will certainly make everyone think you're reading the Necronomicon.

That I cackle as I read amusing bits in the rules, thus simulating a slide into madness, can't hurt this impression.

Where some of the "Retro" games just work on recreating  an earlier set of "that game" -- Labyrinth Lord and others come to mind here -- and games like ACKS start with an earlier rules set of "that game" and work forward, with things like Domain and Trade rules -- DCC RPG is a mix of the older versions and the newer versions.

And then DCC RPG takes a 90 degree turn and heads into new territory. No one looking at a character sheet should be too surprised. The six traits have been renamed, but there are hit points and AC and nothing should really leap out as unfamiliar. Saves resemble

However in play things tend to work a bit differently. Wizard and Cleric spells? Be prepared to come at these from scratch. Wizards make skill rolls to cast spells, each spell has it's own one page entry. GMs and Players may want a pdf so they can print copies of the spells for the spell-casting players. Clerics, on the other hand, have an increasing chance to annoy and anger their patron deity. Both Wizards and Clerics can interact directly with their otherworldly patrons. This has a really "swords and sorcery" feel to it, magic is not just a talent or skill.

In R Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing there is a quote I'll borrow: "Priests speak with the voice of the gods, wizards steal their words." Not directly true in DCC RPG, but never have I seen a system that better emulated this.

There are a couple things about DCC RPG that bother me. It really seems they went out of their way to introduce odd dice. d7s, d14s, d16s, d24s, and d30s all enter play alongside more common dice. Although translating a +/-4 modifier into a larger or smaller die size is an interesting mechanic who really has a collection of d16s and d24s? In practice this strikes me as clumsy.

Still, there is a lot to like in DCC RPG, I look forward to taking it for a spin.