Thursday, 11 October 2012

Dungeon Design vs Aliens

Much has been made, elsewhere, of the difference between the "OSR" style dungeon and "New" style dungeons. In the older style a dungeon was often a sprawling complex where the objective is not the room at the end of a series of rooms, but just one room among many. In the newer style there may be some wiggle left or right, but dungeons exist as a series of planned encounters that lead to the final chamber.

These philosophies are very evident in the new version of the computer game XCom versus the older X-Com, and are especially present in the "boss fight" base assaults, where you take the fight to the alien facilities.

In the old game the "HQ" was somewhere in the complex. Probably nowhere close to the door, but you could could trace several routes to the HQ and the alien commander's location. In XCom the alien bases are a series of rooms, a chain of encounters designed to test your resources and skills before presenting you with the final encounter.

The connection between table-top adventure design and computer game design has never appeared so clearly to me.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Revisting Character Mortality.

Pendragon can be a very dangerous game. On one hand, it's supposed to be a generational game, where the loss of a character means you move down the family tree and start playing the next one. On the other hand, it is unlikely that a beginning character will produce a 21 year old heir any time in the first twenty-five years, given the rules on childbirth and infant mortality.

It is also a game where healing from sustained injuries can take a long time. In a game where characters have 24-32 hit points on average most characters heal 2-3 hit points a week (every Sunday morning). Long convalescences are rare in fantasy RPGs, but they're certainly part of the "tropes" of an Arthurian game.

In a recent adventure one of the characters, Sir Carwyn, was struck by a giant. Where giants normally do about 9d6 damage, this was a critical success, effectively 18d6 damage, minus about 16 points for armour and shield.

Although not technically "instantly dead" the character was beyond saving, and would perish that evening.

What was remarkable was the bonhomie the player approached the situation with. The quest the players' character were on was his -- rescuing Sir Carwyn's sister from the giant. But he accepted it, and immediately engaged in the process of making a new character.

In this day and age I find that this attitude is perfect for the "OSR" movement. To paraphrase the Gospel of Odie, the player was content to gamble with his character's fortune, even when the result ended in that character's fatality.