Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm sure someone important said it

"Character backstory is what happens in levels 1-6".. Maybe I'll fix and attribute the quote when I get to a computer later, but I have some thoughts to share if you've got a moment.

Most osr systems seem to have about three or four character classes, plus races handled in one way or another.

Fighting-man and magic-user are usually offered, and cleric and thief might be there, depending on the mood of whatever writer is copying-and-pasting old saving throw charts while (nod, wink) attributing the material as "derived" from OGL material.

Enough of that. There are two to four character classes, plus races which might be races or might also be character classes.

There is no barbarian, no monk, no initiate of the seventh favored solstice of zartan, the classes are kept minimal and usually picked based on the results of tossing three cubes a total of eighteen times. Characters are written on a single sheet of paper and are not developed before play.

And I think that can be a good thing. To be honest I haven't really played that format yet, only read about it. My feelings on this matter will probably not survive contact with actual gameplay, will be changed in some way that I cannot hope to predict.

Anyways, much of my time in D&D has been spent in 3.x, so I tend to expect flavor expressed in the form of character class. But if I am going to embrace OSR/DIY values, I feel some pressure to abandon the idea. I wonder about a third option, with some capriciousness built in.

I am thinking about "concept cards", and I am sure my idea isn't that original. For one reason or another, a player recieves a card with the description of a variant on his character. The character isn't just a fighting-man, he is now a berserk, or a blue-lotus monk, or a duelist. A wizard might become a geomancer, or demon-touched. These kits would be permanent additions, or might not, perhaps there are rules that have to be followed to keep the path. They would have a specific mechanical effect, and would probably not change the xp cost of leveling. Something to flavor a character which looks in some ways like multi-classing or prestige class, witbout bulking up the rules more than necessary.

These might be made available at a certain level threshold, say level four or five. They might be chosen completely at random, or partially at random with the DM selecting out a group of them based on the character alignment, or the player's style.

I think it should be a moment of revelation.. the player touches a standing stone on a hill and is thunderstruck, or uncovers an ancient tome detailing a special path.

Characters would be limited to one kit only, and they should probably have ability score requirements, although that brushes with the old issue of limiting player options based on factors outside their control, a hallmark of OSR material which always rankled me, like XP bonuses based on high score in prime-requisite.

Just felt like throwing this out, to try to figure out what i think about it, and maybe get another opinion or two.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

a little bit of what is going on

Matt [7:34 AM]:
Weren't they sealed 'forever' before the story started?
Grag [7:34 AM]:
well, yeah. but then something bad happened.
Matt [7:34 AM]:
Yeah. That is BS. You D E S T R O Y the evil
Matt [7:34 AM]:
you don't put it in a little box for a kid to come open someday
Matt [7:34 AM]:
Kid = adventurer with too much curiosity
Grag [7:34 AM]:
christmas just isn't as interesting if you don't!

Friday, April 2, 2010

"What are you running next?"

Today one of my players asked about my next planned game. He was wondering if I was still planning on a low/no-magic game, as I had mentioned this in the past.

As mentioned before, I am trying not to think forward to the "next" game, as I have this one to finish.

Still, I can't help but put forward some thoughts. Clerics are a common thing to be annoyed at, and it's tempting to want them out of the game, but what if we just make healing potions available?

Spellcasters in general can be annoying when running the game, but they are part of the fantasy trope. One can't have spell-slingers in the game without allowing them as a PC option, right?

One thought that has been percolating is the idea of having a clear divide between "gifted" magic users, and rule-magic.. Rule-magic is traditional vancian d&d casting, and gifted people are those born with a particular magical gift. This might be as simple as being able to throw some magic missiles, and as powerful as having an innate ability to disintegrate or raise dead. Maybe spend hitpoints or temporary con damage to cast, vis-a-vis microlite20.

The gifted magic users are sometimes hated or feared, sometimes become central figures in a cult. They are targeted by rule-magic users that want to dissect them and try to reproduce their power.

Or not. It is just one idea, and doesn't jibe with the sandbox concept that I've been considering, or at least it doesn't feel right to me.

I think there are some hard decisions I will need to make about what sort of game I want to run, which should shape what sort of system/rules I use. Maybe I'll even explore concepts with a series of one-offs.

As I mentioned before, it is important that I not really try to make these decisions. This will only lead to spending game-prep time working on a campaign that is not the one I am currently running.

I must remain focused.