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

Posted in OpenQuest, Scenario design | 1 Comment

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

Too much D&D

So the free version of D&D 5th Edition is out, and I fell strangely underwhelmed. Reason why? Well its probably because in the last four years or so I’ve picked up a small bookshelf worth of D&D Variants.

First D&D in its OSR forms was explored in great detail. Then after that was exhausted I moved onto modern forms; Pathfinder, Dungeon World (a story telling game not 100% mechanically related but definitely in spirit) and recently 13th Age was purchased.  Pedants beware this not an exhaustive list of D&D variants, just one coloured by my personal experience.

The Originals

D&D Cyclopedia: I started off with red box Molday and quickly moved onto blue box expert so this has it all in one book (sans the illustrations, examples and solo tutorial) + the bits from Companion/Masters that I never got round to buying (because I’d moved to AD&D land by then). This is the book I wish Wizards of the Coast had republished even as a limited run, because my copy threatens to disintegrate every time I lovingly touch it.

AD&D 1st Ed: If D&D was my early teens AD&D was my mid-late teens and was still being occasionally played into my early 20s. So lots of memories here, and even though I probably use OSRIC (see below) at the game table, the core three books of AD&D have a lot of nostalgic power.

Straight Retro-clones

OSRIC (=AD&D) I love this big hardcover book. Its the AD&D 2nd ed I wanted back in the day, a simple reorganisation of the rules into one coherent whole. The combat chapter makes sense! Its strangely humble, saying its merely a rules index so modern publishers can put out AD&D compatible adventures under the Open Gaming License (which it is published under in its entirety), but I’d use it any day of the week as my AD&D at the gaming table.

Labyrinth Lord (=B/X).  A very clever clone of Basic/Expert in one slim volume. Made me realise that I’m not interested in that style of play however.  Also available is the Adv. Labyrinth Lord supplement which works on the premise that back in the day we learnt with basic/expert and then simply added the bits (Classes, Monsters, Magic items etc.) we liked from AD&D. Which is certainly how I did it.

Swords and Wizardry (=OD&D).  The premise from this one is that its based of the Original white box D&D  from the 70s with its supplements added, cleaned up and made comprehensible, I love this stripped down back to basics approach presented here. Finally a version of D&D that I can keep in my head! The S&W complete crams in a complete comprehensive version of D&D that is comparable to later big three book versions of D&D in one slim volume.

Basic Fantasy (=B/X with bits of AD&D). Notable for two things. A more straightforward and clear interpretation based on the idea that you use D20 Systems Resource Document (the Open Gaming version of D&D 3rd Ed released by Wizard’s of the Coast) more closely, keeping its clarity of rules but building in the Old School flavour. Secondly if you see OSR rule sets as an almost Linux expression of D&D, Basic Fantasy is a distro that keeps most actively to that idea of it being free and community supported (yes I know S&W does but for me BF does it slightly better).

Retro-clone inspired

These games use one of the above clones as a base and then takes it from there.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: LotFP is basically a  Horror and Weird take on D&D, using Basic Fantasy as a base. I’ve seen this one grow up from its initial incarnation , with some very dodgy photo shop art, through its Grindhouse box set incarnation, were that art was largely replaced by the cream of OSR Artists old and new and the game was focused to razor sharp proportions, to the current high quality two book format Rules & Magic (available now) and Referee’s book (crowdfunded but still in production).  I think its a classic game that takes the premise of old school D&D and runs out of the park with it, while cunningly never forgetting where it comes from.

Woodland Warriors: Uses the Swords & Wizardry as a base, simplifies it and only uses D6s, and gives it a child friendly setting all in one small slim book. Its genius makes me weep.

Crypts and Things: My own take on OD&D using Swords and Wizardry as a base and putting it in the blender with early White Dwarf D&D, Fighting Fantasy, 80s UK FRP & inspiration from the Howard/Lovecraft/Ashton-Smith/Michael Moorcock. The result a gleefully dark Swords and Sorcery game, where the players get to play Elric, Grey Mouser, Fafhrd and Conan, in a game referred by Clark Ashton Smith :)

Modern D&D

Pathfinder: I love Pathfinder, it does big book D&D and is clear and expressive while it does it. For me it comes packed with a big friendly DM I call “Bob” an impressive bear of a man, with a big bush beard and a deep friendly US accent that calmly guides me through the 1000s of pages. The online PRD was revelation when I sat there GMing it for the best part of the year in 2012 (and the reason I’ll be doing an online SRD for OpenQuest soon).  Its just not the D&D that comes anywhere my preferred playing style (rules lite and pacy) and there’s no way that  I’m memorising all the moving parts. But perhaps one day Bob will quietly persuade me to have another go, and it was certainly a variant of D&D that my players, all self proclaimed Kings of D20, highly respected.

Dungeon World: I accidentally blundered into the Dungeon World Kickstarter one bored hot afternoon at work and a year later ended up with a hardback and a T-shirt. Its a version of D&D completely rewritten from base using the Apocalypse World storytelling game engine. I love it. Once I got my head round its terminology and structure its the fast pacey flexible game of D&D that I want to run and it errs on the side of Mega Gaming Fun for the players ( the sub-classes especially get a big up in the fun stakes).

13th Age: To be honest I’ve not read too far into it, but I like what I see so far. Like DW its a more story orientated game, but its not so much a rewrite from the ground up being based on the existing D&D 3rd edition SRD,  simplified with storygaming mechanics/assumptions.

Torchbearer: Make no mistake about it this is a cleaver and very focused book by the same people who bought you Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard. Presentation wise it reminds me fondly of  AD&D 1st. However its fallen down the cracks because for me it asks me to think about Dungeon Crawling far too hard to be taken seriously. When its designer Thor Olavsrud says “This is a hard game” early on in the first chapter I started loosing interest in this book. Baz King of RPG Treehouse fame kept with it and his read through can be read on UKRoleplayers.com.

If I was to have to keep on from each category (which to be honest given the mess my office has descended into may have to be the case) these would be my winners.

  • Original: D&D Cyclopaedia
  • Retro clone: Swords and Wizardry
  • Retro clone inspired: Lamentations of the Flame Princess (I’m taking it as given I get to keep copies of my own games so C&T survives the cull ;) ).
  • Modern: Dungeon World.
Posted in Crypts & Things, Dungeons And Dragons, General, Labyrinth Lord, Nostalgia, Swords and Wizardry | 2 Comments

Lots of OpenQuest goodness just released!

Satisfied, victorious, warm and cuddly are all terms I would use to describe how I’m feeling at the moment. Why?

Well a big chunk of OpenQuest releases went live on DriveThruRPG.com for you good folk to buy yesterday.

Life and Death:  An expanded version of my post-apocalyptic fantasy setting now with three adventures (The Dust of Eternity, Dead Pot Country and Life & Death), more ready made concepts and details of the Guild of Treasure Hunters. Also completely playable with both OpenQuest Basic Edition or Deluxe Edition.

OpenQuest Basic Edition: A short concise no art version of the game in 6 x 9 inch format, available as a free pdf or low cost book. Ideal as quick reference version, a try before you buy OpenQuest Deluxe, or as a self contained game.

The Savage North (Directors Cut): Back on sale now after a quick spell offline as a missing map was replaced.

PLEASE NOTE: If you bought a printed copy of The Savage North before I took it off line to replace the map, please send me your DriveThruRpg.com receipt to newt@d101games.com and I will send you a replacement free of charge.

So now there’s no reason not to give OpenQuest a whirl.

SPREAD THE WORD!

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Fighting Fanatsy Fest

Strongly tempted by this although with my con attendance already booked up this year, I might have a problem justifying it with the missus.

As well as Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone, Fighting Fantasy Artists Russ Nicholson, Chris Achilleos and Tony Hough will be there and Arion Games will be running sessions of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG.

More details and sign up here

Oh and if the flyer doesn’t get your blood flowing :)

fffflyerv9page001copy

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The Savage North Director’s Cut now available

Savage North The Director's Cut by Jon Hodgson

Savage North The Director’s Cut by Jon Hodgson

All Hail The Return of the Conquering King of the North,

The Savage North Director’s Cut is available via DriveThru in both pdf and print.

If you bought a pdf via DriveThru in the past, just go to your library and redownload it to get this cleaned up version with 26 new pages of content.

This is our old school swords and sorcery setting/adventure for OpenQuest broadly compatible with other D100 games.

Posted in OpenQuest, Swords and Sorcery | 1 Comment

Off to 7 Hills see ya!

So the day has finally come to bugger off to the new spring con being held in Sheffield this weekend – 7 Hills.

To give it some uniqueness the con’s organisers have given it a Sci-fi theme. I’ll be flying the D101 flag with sci-fi themed games of Crypts and Things (“Zarth Wars“), The Company (“Operation Mud brick” ) as well as giving the River of Heaven a spin.

Plan to have a ton of fun catching up with friends old and new.

Then its back home to the forges to transfer any inspiration I’ve gained from the con back into something tangible.

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Crucible of Dragons now available!

Crucible of the Dragons cover by Jon Hodgson

Crucible of the Dragons cover by Jon Hodgson

The long awaited Crucible of the Dragons for OpenQuest is now available via DrivethruRpg.com

A 260 page sandbox setting/adventure book for OpenQuest, but broadly compatible with other D100 rpgs, inspired by Ancient Greece, Clark Ashton Smith and Ray Harryhausen monster movies!

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