Saturday, May 24, 2014

Something Tiddly

I have started to write the game. I work with a TiddlyWiki, and I think that it is a great way to start writing while still exploring the subject.

I have published the wiki via my Dropbox, Behind the veils of night - an old school D100 game. You can read the rules and campaign background there. As the wiki can't save to my Dropbox account you can't make edits to the wiki. You may however download it.

The name of the game/campaign is tentative at this point.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Some design goals

This is some of the goals I will try to accomplish with my old school D100 design.

Short rules

I want the rules to be short. Old rpgs had very short rules. As I mentioned in another post the whole rules of RQ2 was like 100 pages and the rules part of third edition of Call of Cthulhu is like 35 pages long.

Fast play

The game mechanics should be fast. Minimize the math and the number of rolls needed.

Simple rules

This will be hard for me to accomplish. It is so easy to add rules for this and that. But I will have to try. The old school rpg rules was simple (and sketchy at times). 


This is the whole point of doing an old school rpg. The rules should be recognizable and give the players that special warm fuzzy feeling of home. Even if we add some twists to them.

Prevent power gaming

I have never liked power gaming. It sucks the fun out of gaming. I think this means less player choice during character generation (haters will hate) and character improvement.

Incorporate innovation

This is a bit contradictory as the game should be old school. But I feel that some recent rpg innovations can well be incorporated into the game, as long as those innovation does not take away the old school feeling. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

D100 and other dice

What's so great about using a D100 in a role playing game?

The simple answer is that it is transparent and easy to understand. Every one can interpret their chances if they need to roll 42 or less on a D100. It's simple and elegant.

Dice set
And there are a special feeling in succeeding och failing with that odd percentile.

Then there is also my gaming history. As I explained in an earlier post my first game that I played a lot was RuneQuest II. D100 became the golden standard for rpg mechanics for me.

I know that there are more interesting dice mechanics in later rpgs. I really like both Greg Gorden's in Earthdawn and Jay Little's in  Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition. But the whole idea with my game is to be old school, so we will use a straight D100 as the main resolution mechanic in the game, and if I would  construct a more contemporary game I would probably use cards as the resolution mechanic as cards are highly customizable (but that's another blog).

There is an interesting discussion on reddit under the heading What's the problem with percentile systems. The discussion, I think, misses the distinction between using the 1-100 scale for skills and the use of a D100 for skill resolution. They can of course be used together and you can use a D100 for rolls without using the 1-100 scale for skills (maybe not the other way around, though). I understand that people have problems with a 1-100 scale when you need to add and subtract values or when you use a system like RoleMaster where you add (or subtracts) D100 rolls from each other. The math isn't complicated but it slows down the game. I think a 1-20 skill range combined with a D100 resolution system is the way to go (as we will see).

It would be possible to build a system that only uses D100 for all game mechanics, but much of the old school fun was to sift through your dice bag to find the D8 or that special shiny D4. Weapon damages and randomized spell effects could all be accomplished with all those other dice D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20. A bit of variation from the main D100 mechanic.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Old school you say?

This is nostalgia.

Trying to capture something lost.

Old school.
When remembering how it was playing rpgs in the early 80s I recall the fun and the feeling of endless possibilities. The anticipation you had when you entered a room with a magic sword hanging on the wall. Yeah. The only problem was that the sword was guarded by two lions and a reptile man.

No, our adventures back then did not make any sense. But we had fun.

If I flip through the rule books of the early games what strikes me is how sparse they where compared to today's game books. And I do not use sparse in a derogatory manner here. The rules and background material was a scaffolding that we could use to build our imaginary stories with.

Today many games have hundreds upon hundreds of pages of rules. This paralyzes me (save versus will or be frozen in place). This may be a fault of mine, but I think that many other gamemasters and players feel the same.

The RQ2 rules is just over 100 pages. If we compare it with the text density of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, published 2001, it would be like 50 pages. The Forgotten Realm book is 320 pages, more than six times as long as a complete game with background materials from the early 80s.

And do I really as a gamemaster need to know that Featherdale in the Realms have 14 020 inhabitants and that 82% of them are humans. This is too much detail. This can be fun to read for the really nerdy, maybe, but it would not in any way contribute to a gaming session.

For me old school gaming is about simple fast rules that still gives a feeling of a reality (how fantastic it may be) and a background that gives room for the imagination of the gamemaster and players while it nevertheless inspires to stories.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

From where and back again

I started to play role playing games in 1981.

The first game i bought was Traveller. The little black box. It was a strange and wondrous world.

Aged role player.
I was introduced to the hobby by a friend who had "connections" in Stockholm. We lived in a rather small town in the southern of Sweden and no one there knew what role playing games was. Neither did we, really. We called them English games (engelska spel).

My friend had The Fantasy Trip and that was the first game we played.

My first fantasy game was Games Workshops version of RuneQuest II. That was the game I fell in love with hand had the most fun with.

But I soon expanded my gaming library with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, RoleMaster and many more.

I soon became a game system junkie.

After meeting Mark Rein Hagen on a convention and playing Vampire I became more and more interested in the story telling aspects of the hobby.

I read everything at the Forge and all articles I could find via Alta Vista.

It made me reflect about role playing games and game design.

My friends was not that interested in rpgs with an story telling orientation, so I played less and less.

And then happened growing up and getting a family. I still read and bought many games, but played almost nothing for ten years.

Lately I have been interested in the old school games. Hence this desire in me to try and construct an old school D100 game system. I don't know if the label will be correct when (and if) this project is completed, but at least it is an intention and a direction.

In the beginning

The night was dark.

As I walked towards my little cottage the young moon shed some light on the path. I was a bit unsteady from the wine i had drunk in the Happy Rooster.

Suddenly a form stepped out from behind a juniper and startled me.

Trying to write a rpg.
- Well, well, an hoarse deep voice said.

I fumbled after my sword, but realized quickly, that I must have left it at home before going to the inn.

- I hear that you are going to make yet another role playing game, the voice continued. Is that wise?

- I, I don't know, I stuttered.

- Many unwise man have already wandered down that path without finding mercy from his peers.

- Oh. But...

As the form took another step towards me, the moon lit up the outline of a tall man. I could see deep set eyes in a face with an enormous nose. I did not recognize the man, but the pouches in his belt and the tattoos on his lower arms made it more than obvious that the man was a wizard.

He stared into my eyes as I tried to continue my explanation.

- But you know. I do this for my own pleasure. Nothing else. I have dreamed of this since long before my beard turned grey. This is my fantasy heartbreaker of sorts.

- Hrmpf. Fool.

- Don't you remember how funny it was to play back then. The rules were light and the wonder was great. No tomes with hundreds upon hundreds of spells and feats. No ten hour long character generation sessions. Now days role playing games often becomes a chore. That makes me sad. Maybe I'm just old and bitter...

The man suddenly looked a bit resigned and sighed.

- Maybe you are right. And maybe you are brave. I will be watching you. You won't see me but rest assured. I will be watching. I hope that you won't disappoint me.

With those words the man was gone again. So quickly that I wondered if there weren't magic involved.

I continued towards my home. My mind was ruminating over what the wizard had said. Should I dare?