Monday, January 31, 2022

Sandbox Everything

OK, first, I am not even making a nominal effort to edit nor organize this. I am writing it right into blogger because, I am sorta excited and stuck on a subject. Yes! Excited! And stuck. I decided going forward I am going to sandbox everything, except those things I don't :). Let me rephrase that, I want to sandbox everything. 

 

We (TLG) is/are doing something I think. A1 is being released with a 5e conversion. I think I will badger Steve into putting a CnC quickstart rules in there as well. But I digress. It did get me thinking about super duper long adventures spread out over various metric tons on modules. They can be sorta a train wreck to keep track of - for me at least as I tend to rely on a knowingly bad memory instead of notes. Luckily everyone around me is as old as dirt and all our memories are bad.(FYI, did you know that the stuff we generally see as dirt has only been around for about 500 million years. Actual dirt is about 4 billion years old. Plus or minus 22 seconds.)

Where was I.... Oh getting a cup of coffee, maybe that will jog my memory. it didn't. I am forced to read my previous two paragraphs.

Sandboxing everything. I guess I could have read the title. Not sure where i was headed with this.


Ok so I suppose the first thing that jogged my rattled noggin was looking at an old hex crawl I once wrote for my campaign. Each hex was roughly 30 miles and the map covered many thousands of miles across. it is dotted with cities and teeny tiny numbers. I can only find a few of the reference sheets. It is those reference sheets that Steve recalled and asked me start writing a series of one page adventures for our Patreon Account. I was just fondly remembering how much fun that map and notes engendered. The players just wandered from place to place and encountered stuff. Most of the encounters typically took one or two sessions to complete. 

And then it occurred to me. Why not do a hex crawl with many hundreds of small adventuring locals and quit with the hole huge arcing campaign or themed adventures stretching on into infinity. I mean, most people only have time for one or two games a week and these typically only last four to six hours. Running long arcing campaigns is just not something a lot of people do. 

Or do they?

The people at Wizards sure seem to think so. And looking at the popularity of their adventures paths series or whatever, they might just be correct. I don't know. I am not privy to all their research. What I do know is that long arcing adventures are popular with many gamers. So, that being said, how am I going to create an atomized set of adventures within a series of long arcing adventures. I think I have a way.

All this is inspired by Go by the the way. So anyway, that's where I am. Now I have to figure out how to actually make a hex crawl type set up that's functional and presentable. Then take a lot of smaller adventures that can, but not necessarily have to, interlace to a larger themed adventure. In fact, the hole hex crawl would be a type of puzzle that would not need to be solved to be completed. 

Off to the races. 

Very excited






 

  

The Resting Monarch

I'm not sure what it is, and it may just be me personally, but I love the concept of the dead king on the throne. The settled bones strong enough to hold the armor in place. The long yellowed fingers resting on the sword's pommel. The hollows beneath the crown that seem to stare out at, filled with a black anger. 

I love the concept. 

It is the perfect segue to adventure!

Here is a beautiful piece painted by David Aguero.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Word of the Day -- Ziggurat

This is one of those words that you just have no idea what it means, even guessing.  A lot of the times I can tell from the base at its derivation, but not for:

Ziggurat -- an ancient Mesopotamian temple that resembles a pyramid having successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top. The word is used figuratively for any structure having stages or steps. ~ Merriam-Webster

French professor of archaeology Francois Lenormant spent a great deal of time poring over ancient Assyrian texts. In those cuneiform inscriptions, he recognized a new language, now known as Akkadian, which proved valuable to the understanding of the ancient civilization. Through his studies, he became familiar with the Akkadian word for the towering temples: ziqqurratu, which was translated into English as ziggurat.

 


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Word of the Day -- Picadillo

Okay, I'll admit that yesterday's word made me think of this word.  The sound is quite similar but the derivations and meanings quite different. Today's word is:

Picadillo -- a spicy Latin-American hash or stew of meat and vegetables often with raisins and olives that is commonly used as a filling (as for tacos) or served with rice and beans.

A far cry some peccadillo, unless of course you are planning to committing a misdemeanor with a spicy hash... picadillo came about as a word in the late 1800's and is American Spanish, from Spanish, stew of chopped meat, from picado, past participle of picar to prick, chop, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin piccare. 

Oddly enough, right after choosing peccadillo as the word of the day, I saw picadillo used in a YT video, someone making a vegetable picadillo.  It's odd how words just show up.  There's a word for that, but it's name escapes me at the moment.  Maybe that will be a word of the day if I can ever remember what that is called...



Who is your character? Tabula Rasa or Innatism

It’s funny how the mind wanders. My commentary about wounds yesterday got me thinking about people who are just born tough. They have good genes and can take a punch and the other guy with a glass jaw falls over in a strong breeze. You’ve mostly heard of brittle bones but there is also rock bones. Good genes? Bad genes? Normal genes?


To wit. Innatism postulates that one is born with some knowledge, predilections, or otherwise while tabula rasa (means ‘blank slate’) postulates one is empty at birth and all knowledge and such is acquired through experience. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.But all this brings me to gaming. Why you might wonder? Well let me tell you. 

The question I ask myself is whether or not a character should start as a blank slate? Should a character start their career with no real abilities or with some abilities. Castles and Crusades follows innatism  (in gaming not as a philosophy of life or existence) in that a character’s six major attributes are already developed and further expressed through character class selection. I think that’s right.  

So on to my question. Should a character begin the game as a blank slate (sans attributes)? By this I mean, should the characters have no appreciable skill set or predetermined direction? Practically speaking, this would mean no class, career, or set of skills leading the player and the player’s character to behave in a certain pattern. I rather like the idea of starting with zero real direction but with infinite potential. Wherever the player and fate chooses to take the character is where they go. Or, perhaps even better would be where chance and choice come together to create a character that even the player didn’t imagine.

From a game-design perspective I like that idea. However, from a player perspective I am not so sure that I do. There is this thing called option paralysis. I am not sure who coined it, but I first read about in a book title “Generation X” by Douglas Coupland. (This is an excellent book by the way. At least, its an excellent book for us GenXers because it really captures the essence of the 1980s, that decade in which we ‘matured.’) Option paralysis is when one is presented with so many options for action that none is taken due to indecision. When playing tabula rasa games, option paralysis can set in.


So I am currently mulling over this issue and thinking of manners of introducing a type of tabula rasa character generation rule (sans attributes – gotta start with something). The innate part would be the attributes, the tabula rasa would be character development. To avoid the problem of option paralysis (there is a game design term, I will look it up later), I intend to incorporate choice and chance as a unit in character development.

This is an intriguing design I have. There is a slight problem though. The tabula rasa approach does not take into account any possible skill the character may have acquired prior to beginning play and it may be a skill set or training in an area that one needs training in to advance further or to even be good at doing. For example, one should be able to read before casting spells from a scroll or, to use a sword properly and effectively, one should at least take one lesson on its use. Anyway. Working on that.  

 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Word of the Day -- Peccadillos

This is a word I rarely hear these days, but I remember my mother's generation using it:

Peccadillos -- a slight offense, something that is minor in charge.

Often you would hear it turn with sexual impropriety, such as the sexual peccadillos of celebrity.  Or just in the general term of minor rabble-rousing.

"The world loves a spice of wickedness." That observation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow may explain why people are so willing to forgive peccadilloes as youthful foolishness or lapses of judgment. The willingness to overlook petty faults and minor offenses existed long before English speakers borrowed a modified version of the Spanish pecadillo at the end of the 16th century. Spanish speakers distinguished the pecadillo, or "little sin," from the more serious pecado, their term for a sin of magnitude. And these Spanish terms can be traced back still further, to the Latin verb peccare, meaning "to sin." ~ Merriam Webster


 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Wounds, wounds, and more wounds

 


I was reading my old Warhammer Fantasy (cubicle 7's current iteration)rules. The 1984 edition or something. I still have the book and it is still in relatively good condition. Perusing through it, my mind wandered to things I liked about it and things that did not appeal to me or my players. One of the things I really liked was the wounds system. Over the years I tried to incorporate wounds into whatever iteration of The Game I was playing. It was all to no avail. Or was it?


Warhammer Fantasy was my favorite game for a few years. Some aspects of it were not to my players liking so we continued with the world’s most popular role-playing game. Actually, we never stopped. It was high school and we could play four or five nights a week if we wanted and on weekends, we would have twelve-hour games sometimes. Warhammer Fantasy and Rolemaster were the ‘other’ games we played. Mostly my players wanted to be more heroic or have simpler games. I never understood the simpler part and a preference for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. That was terribly complex game.

I really liked the wound system in Warhammer. In short, all characters only had a few wound points and getting in a fight could be fairly deadly. Much like Basic Dungeons and Dragons starting at 1st level back in the way back days of my youth. Combat became less lethal in Dungeons and Dragons as one advanced in levels. In Warhammer, combat stayed lethal because those wound points never really changed much. At least as I recall. I enjoyed that degree of lethality, not because I received some unnatural joy from watching player’s characters die, but because I never had a scalability problem and fights were not to be taken lightly.

Wounds also had a ‘real’ feeling to them. There was a chart showing where the wound was taken and how that wound might hamper a character’s ability to perform certain tasks. Hit points, on the other hand, don't do that for me. It is just a resource that one has to manage. Don’t get me wrong, hit points serve their purpose well and to date, that I know of, no one has come up with a simpler solution to address both combat and reward for advancement in one little rule. But it does have a scalability problem.

I like the idea of a wounded character suffering in combat or elsewhere because of the wound and that they might actually die. There is a mechanic in the Castle Keepers Guide. The rule layers wounds with hit points and hit locations. The problem here is that a rule like that creates four layers of damage; hit points, wounds, hit location, and effect. Few people want to keep up with that. That level of verisimilitude can become an agonizing grind at the table – especially if the Castle Keeper is using it for non-player characters and monsters.

All that said, it is important to reiterate that hit points do not represent wounds in Castles and Crusades. Hit points represent a combination of stamina, fighting skill, will, and other factors in and out of combat. When a character with 40 hit points takes 6 points of damage, they may be scratched or bruised, or may not. What does happen is that that character is beginning to wear out, their defensive moves worked around, and their will being sapped. As they take more damage, this all piles up until suddenly, after 40 hit points of damage they are done.

I like the idea that when a character’s initial hit points are determined, that is their wounds. As a character becomes more experienced, accustomed to pain, mentally powerful, and better at avoiding the sword thrusts and arrows of combat, actual wounds are not taken. Only as they become nearly exhausted and worn down do the characters take wounds. Yeah, the more I think about that idea, the more I like it.

Where’s my Castle Keeper Guide? 


 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Word of the Day -- Lutefisk

This is one of those words that I'm not sure where I heard it first.  It's not something you normally come by unless you live in northern Europe:

Lutefisk -- dried codfish that has been soaked in a water and lye solution before cooking.

Preserved fish provided protein during the long winter months for generations in a part of the world with a strong fishing tradition. It is not known when people first started treating dried fish with lye. The reason was probably that the lack of major salt deposits in the area favored the drying process for the preservation of whitefish - a process known for millennia.

 



Magic is Horrible – Is there a Better Way

 

I have a veritable cornucopia of complaints about magic in almost every iteration of The Game in existence. Not so much that I have ever done anything about it but I still grumble about magic. Magic, as it is usually presented, is a potentially massive problem. Not only is this an in-game disaster waiting to happen, but from a meta-gaming or world building perspective, it can also a nightmare. 


 

How does magic work? We have no real world analogues to draw from so it has to be created from the bottom up. What role does magic play in the world setting?  How is magic supposed to be used in the game? (That from a game design perspective.) Is it a resource or something else? Combining the elements game design, setting, and the role of magic into something cohesive and workable is somewhat difficult.

That said, the Vancian magic system designed by Gary Gygax is a 100% functional in game utility. But and here is the big but, when one moves outside the game system’s designed use for magic and begin using it in settings and places for which it was not designed, we gets ourselves a problem. Most every iteration of The Game is, at its core, is a resource management game. Everything is a resource to gather more resources, be it gold or hit points. Fantastical elements are draped over this and boom, The Game.

Here is the thing though, resources are primarily spent and gathered in a closed systems (ie. dungeons). The magic resource is designed for that closed system. It is not designed to be used in say, world building (consider farming). If used judiciously one can make it work, but it takes a lot of shoe-horning. Just imagine the implications if that type of magic were real and widely (or even narrowly) used.

Lets take an example. Cure light wounds or similar is found in nearly every type of role-playing game imaginable. It is the stock spell for adventurers going into harms way. It preserves the hit point resource. But what if cure light wounds were used in the ‘world.’ It would more or less be like a Star Trek doctor bed thingy at every corner depending on the percentage of clerics one has per capita. The death rate would plummet and populations everywhere explode (or implode). Whole schools would be devoted to just learning that spell. A 12th level cleric could show up in a small town and essentially erase death from the life equation. And don’t get me going on creating food and water. Farming could become obsolete


One could limit magic in the setting by just reducing the number of those who can actually use magic. For example, only the topmost .001% of the population even have the capacity to use magic. (corrected - thanks Adam t nevertheless cannot resist saying that 0.1% is one in a thousand, and that 0.001% is one in a hundred thousand) . That would be one person in one thousand. Now if you spread those percentages out through all character classes, leveled NPCs, and start crunching numbers it all breaks down or become ridiculous.


This is because most magic systems are not built for world building. They are built for discreet enclosed encounters. And I am fine with that. The world building is just a place to set discreet encounters. I just talked myself into being OK with Vancian Magic. This is what happens at 2am. Now, on to each spell and reigning them in a bit because even in discreet encounters some are ridiculously overpowered. 

Or I could go with something different. Yeah, yeah, I'll do that because why not break what works

Songs from the Drowned Lands ~ Kernaghan

Recently I took a trip to New York (the city) and needed something to read that I could easily carry on the plane. I don't really buy pa...