Sandboxes

Double posted from the oringal thread over at the Tavern.

I used to be all over this style of play in my teen years. Mainly when I was playing Basic/Expert D&D and AD&D 1st ed. Heck I even wrote a three levels of megadungeon, which is imho the ultimate sandbox. Happy hours playing through Isle of Dread. Here’s a piece of hexpaper and off you go.

Problem was that I always felt the players missed all the good stuff. I started getting peevish about it. Ok so you are going to miss the Ancient Red Dragon in the Volcano which I’ve put in plan sight, I’ll put five in your way on my latest hex crawl :P Playing Griffin Island during the generic pre-Glorantha Games Workshop RuneQuest years was probably my last hurrah for Old School Sandbox play.

So eventually I tired of that and suddenly its the late 80s and we’ve gone all Railroady story telling. Rapidly got disillusioned with that and struggled through a Narrative wilderness (HeroQuest etc) in the early 2000s. Now blissfully back running more open ended adventures, with lots of potiential plot hooks and big cast list of interesting npcs. Are they Sandboxes? Not in the classic Old School sense (Hexcrawls/Megadungeons) and in comparison they are smaller and more tightly controlled in the sense I don’t put boring stuff in. Its all made of win because these days with my limited gaming time its time to GO LARGE OR GO HOME every session ;)

My current game FAE Cowboys & Dinosaurs is a Sandbox, that takes in the whole Hollow Earth, but the players are unaware of it. They are just hitting the trail and having fun times :)  Also I’ve got unfinished business with the Spires, the setting of which I revealled but a small corner of it the Blood of the Dragon for Crypts & Things (watch this space).

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The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – in Metal!

To commemorate this year’s Fighting Fantasy Fest just gone, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson commissioned those fine producers of old school minis OtherWorld miniatures to do a figure of everyone’s favorite FF personality Zagor the Warlock of Firetop Mountain:

FF01 The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Otherworld miniatures

FF01 The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Otherworld miniatures

I got news of this from Andrew Scott’s Realm of Chaos blog, and as well as more figures coming from OtherWorld minis, there’s going to be another range from a company called Pure Evil who apparently will be Kickstarting their range soon.

Pop over to Andrew’s blog for a review of the figure and the full scoop on wants going on with these new FF minis :)

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RQ6 Actual Play: Tales of the Blessed City

Over at the Tavern Forum, Tom Zunder has a short write up of his RQ 6 campaign Tales of the Blessed City.

Being a chronicle of the perspicacious adventures and tremulating exploits of three perambulating personalities of the convivial conurbation that personates itself as “Fayoval, Blessed City of the East”.

This is a RQ6 game, largely RAW, and run face to face on alternate Thursdays.

Our tales exhibits overtly the actions and infers the motives and hints at the emotions of our protagonists, being:

Toc, Shaman of the exiled Sylvings and retainer of House Marozzo, played by the illustriously legal Andrew Watson.
Antonio di Marozzo, of the House Marozzo, notable youth and duelist of the Equestrian class, played by the fastidious revenue agent Duncan Rowlands.
Baptiste, sometimes madam and sometime concubine in the Walled Quarter of Gems, played by the ever teenage Monster Heart, Neil Gow!

Our story starts one hot and sunny endless day in the days of the Twinight, when the solar radiance of the orb above us blazed all the hours of the day and at a time when the sunburnt, eye strained and sleep deprived folk had almost forgotten the meaning of the word ‘day’.

Read more at

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13th Age in Glorantha now live

A quick mention here, due to its D&D leanings, the 13th Age in Glorantha Kickstarter has gone live.

I go into more detail on the Hearts in Glorantha blog

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Lonewolf kickstarter

So John Dever and Cubicle 7 have teamed up to bring a new version of the Lonewolf RPG to market and they have a Kickstarter to bring it into being.  The initial goal, long pasted, was to create a box set suitable for beginning players, with subsquent supplements (already in the pipeline and available in the reward levels or as add ons) building on that for the more mature gamers.

The Lone Wolf game books were a big part of my gaming teens in the 80s, and while more story orientated than Fighting Fantasy they had a unique feel and tone to them which really set them apart.

An here’s one of the jaw dropping gorgeous maps that Cubicle 7 commissioned for the game.

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If you think I’ve forgotten Crypts and Things..

I haven’t. Zarth has not plunged into the red sun Nemesis and there’s still very much (un)life in the Game.

As a teaser part of a little something that David Micheal Wright is working on for me. David did the lovely cover of Tomb of the Necromancers.

Sorcerer by David Micheal Wright

Sorcerer by David Micheal Wright

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Quick NPCs for OpenQuest

Hot of the press from a longer article I’m writing for the upcoming OpenQuest Adventures book. Caveat this is an unedited/proofed version.

Tip #1 Goons

What?

Quick NPCS that you make up during play as and when the characters encounter them.

How?

1.Give them a name

Eg. Sargo the Captain of the Town Watch

2. Give them a quick Concept and assign a skill level based upon the Mastery of the character. This role represents a package of skills,

E.g. Captain at Arms of the Town Watch 65% which I decide covers Close Combat, Unarmed Combat, Ranged Combat, his Resilience and Dodge resistances, and Street Wise. Anything else is covered by the 20% rule (see below)

Continue reading

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Barbarians of Lemuria – Mythic Edition

Just under a week for this one to run, this is the Swords & Sorcery game by one of my favourite British designers Simon Washbourne brought bang upto date and with art by a cadre of artists including the talented Peter Frain (who is currently doing the art for River of Heaven ).  Its a well formed Kickstarter, and you get the full draft of the game as soon as you sign up.  Recommended.

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So Dungeon World

In the summer of 2012 I kinda blundered into pledging at the hard cover level for Dungeon World Kickstarter. It was a hazy decision I kind of half remember. The pitch talked about monsters, classes and Dungeons. It enthused about modern rules for an old school feel. The pictures were bright and dynamic, I was bedazzled. I was even getting a cool graphically designed T-shirt of the logo. Awesome dude! (picture Newt having a Rufus moment with Bill n Ted over this, high fiving and shouting Station with excitement).

"So Dungeon World?"

“Dungeon World is this most Excellent version of D&D!”

 

Then I went away and forgot about. Or I would have done if it wasn’t for the constant stream of excited updates from the designers. Most were reassurances the book was coming. One even announced that one of the co-authors had go married! Of the remainder links to the draft of the game and various stretch goal mini-supplements where posted. All good fun which helped keep the buzz going in my head.

I finally bit the bullet and ran the game after getting the final pdf, which was also bundled with a Kindle version from which I learnt the game reading it off my smart phone’s screen on the way to work.

I then proceeded to play the heck out of it in a combination of home based face to face, a convention game or two and a short mini campaign of Google hangouts.

I could go one about this game since its impressed the heck out of me but here’s a bullet point list of its pros and cons.

What DW does good.

  1. Its a very accessible game. All the rules are summerised on two Moves sheets (Basic Moves- things every body can do and Special Moves – things that crop up occasionally like what happens when a character faces death) and on the Hand out Character Class sheets which tell you all the rules. I’ve played it with a combination of people completely new to RPGing, die hard D&D players and pedantic Storygamers  and once they’ve settled down in to the groove of the game with its give and take, they’ve all effortlessly got on with having fun.
  2. Its a good at supporting improvisational play. The GM presents a Starting scene say “you are standing outside the skull gates of the Mountain stronghold of the Order of Black Assassins” and then the players take it from there by telling the GM why their characters are there and what they are doing next. Play flows fast and furious  from there, but its always in response to what the players do since they get to Move first and the GM only gains the ability to initiate moves when the players fail dice rolls or under special circumstances as dictated by the rules. Detractors may say this leads to a non-fun game from the GM’s perspective, but all its doing is reining in the GM and giving the players an equal share of the game. It also has very robust GM guidelines that support the GM while they adjust to the paradgim shift of perspective that the game requires. I found very easily the the mega-dungeon from when I was a 15 year old AD&D DM effortlessly sprang onto the table, and worked this time, in a ten or session mini-campaign we’ve played on and off via G+ or face to face since I’ve got the game. For me it makes a very good stand in game since its GM techniques makes it very easy to play self contained games, at the drop of a hat.  
  3. It looks at class abilities and is not afraid to make them fun. Not being D&D directly, means that the authors have deviated from normal expectations and revised the class abilities, called Moves here, from the ground up. This quite frankly has lead to some Maximum Game Fun choices :) The sub-classes especially benefit from this: Lawful Neutral Paladins modeled after a certain staring character from 2000AD, Heavy Metal Bards, Druids who can shape change into Bears :)
  4. Very fast play. Normally its just a case of common sense and saying Yes to small details and NO when a character can definitely not do something. When you do need to roll dice its 2d6 + ability modifier + any mods for your character’s class Move. The results are never ambiguous, because generally its 6 or less and you fail (and the GM may decide to make a Move for a monster or the environment), 7-9 you succeed with complications, 10+ you succeed flawlessly.
  5. Its an All in One rule book, which in my space limited world (both in the physcial and mental space) is a good thing. However its a thing 300+ book so I’m glad I got the Limited Edition as part of the Kickstarter :)

What DW does Bad

  1. Book presentation can seem a bit superficial and silly at times.  Some of the art (big gonzo comic book art) and tone of book in places supports this to a degree.  Don’t get me wrong I do include a hefty bit of humour along side the grim in my games, because after all its meant to be fun, but disruptive tedious “hey lets play old school d&d and have a bit of a laugh at it” effect that some players bring to the table before they settle down really grinds my gears some times.
  2. Its a New paradigm for GM to get head round. Sitting back and let players ‘move first’ . Reacting not Acting.  Good that it prevents overbearing DMing, bad if players don’t do anything, and takes practice for the GM not to butt in.  This is where the game through no fault of its own will fall flat on its face for some people. Which if I’m being an old misery leads me on to ….
  3. Its not real D&D. I miss bean counting and some of the familiarity of the rules, and survivability of characters ramped up. If I’m being critical and all nit picky this can really sour me on the game, and I pick up a real version of D&D. However if I accept that what DW does really really well is that it captures the ESSENCE of all those fun moments in D&D really well, then I am happy as Larry once again :)

In summary though its an excellent game who’s praises I can’t sing highly enough of. It really strips down the clutter that some incarnations of D&D accrue and is not afraid to go off in new directions.

Further info

 

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RuneQuest and me

So last post was me & D&D, so where do I stand as far as the game that I probably reverer more in the Old School stakes?

RuneQuest 2 is where the story starts for me. In Pavis in Glorantha sometime in the mid 80s. A one on one session with my friend I rolled up a simple character who could just about wield a sword and was a couple of thousand of lunars in debt to the Fighting Guild as a result. His name lost to me know, but I remember he had aspirations to be an initiate of Humkat (the Gloranthan Warrior god of Death and Gloom). So off on a trip to Troll Town, a Troll strong hold established by the Hero Arkat in the Dawn Age. With me so far… don’t worry it was all new to me and a good three quarters of the game was my GM friend explaining the background to Glorantha and all its associated workings (Cults, HeroQuesting, Myths as a way of changing reality). Solid foundations which I’ve built on still, but still a huge learning curve that fortunately I fascinated with.

RuneQuest 3 is where it all took off. The Games Workshop Hard covers (RuneQuest, Advanced RuneQuest and RuneQuest Monsters) at pocket money prices made the game accessible to all in the UK, and when they chucked them in the bargain bin during the Great Betrayal (when they dumped all their RPG support around White Dwarf 100 at the end of the 80s) everybody and his brother had a copy. This time I was in a proper group of about five playing in a generic setting, possibly Griffin Island, fighting off zombies with a young twenty something Civilised Peasant Farmer whose claim to fame was he was OK with a Pike (about 40% from memory). Next session I wanted more so with the GMs OK I rolled up a Sorcerer called Tel-Kar-Nath who new the sum total of one spell, Venom (“I shall turn your blood to poison!”).  Next session I had grabbed the reins of GMing and huge files of notes were produced.

Stormbringer 1st Edition (a slight detour). Also in the same bargain bin as a result of the Great Betrayal. I’ve gone about this game before, but this was a revelation in terms of scope of what the game could do and how you could modify the D100 engine to produce a very different style of game. A very lethal style of game ;)

Then at University having access to a student grant and making a solid investment in the future I got all the Glorantha Boxsets  from the newly opened Travelling Man (up in Headingley Leeds for those who could remember it). Que the 10 years long campaign set there that one day I WILL PUBLISH the setting for. During this time we kept on striping out the crunch until the system resembled what OpenQuest is today. These were my glory years running RQ set in Glorantha – both at home and at at cons. RQ 3 for me was story gaming done right, a post for another day.

The wilderness years came for me in the late 90s when we gradually drifted away from our regular RQ3 Glorantha game due to entering the wacky world of employment. Then there was the case of mistaken identity that was HeroWars (effectively 1st edition HeroQuest), a wonderfully epic narrative game which is nothing like RQ.

Mongoose RuneQuest – The return!  Well sort of. Bad editing and shonky rules take the sheen off what should have been a fine version of the great and glorious game. But the release of a SRD did lead to the following …

OpenQuest is my RuneQuest (with a bit of Stormbringer thrown , which is why its got so many demons). Originally designed to be a small fantasy interpretation of my favourite bits of BRP/RQ with my own common sense house rulings. Its kinda grown into OpenQuest Deluxe (a open tribute to the collected RQ3 Deluxe of the 1990s produced under Ken Rolston’s time as RuneCzar during the so called RQ Renaissance) and then be paired back to the slim and slender version of OpenQuest Basics. Its been a great journey which started at lunch in my office in 2007 and continues to this day.

MRQ2 Lawrence Whitaker’s and Pete Nash’s go at refreshing MRQ, and a damn fine one too.  I never got to play this one because my group at the time would have none of it, and Greg Stafford pulled the license from Mongoose a year or so into the license.

RuneQuest 6  Loz and Pete now working together as the Design Mechanism revised and expanded version of MRQ2 which is the ultimate big book RuneQuest dwarfing all its prediscesors. A fine version of the game and a worthy inherittor of the name RUNEQUEST :)

Posted in Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying System, General, Nostalgia, OpenQuest, RuneQuest | 5 Comments