Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Buy Your Elder Sign Now!

I think this is the best thing my eyes have ever seen.

AD&D House Rules & Character Sheets

AD&D is a game that (despite the rulebook's insistence that there is a correct way to play and an incorrect one) has always been houseruled. Even when I was younger and didn't understand all of the rules, I just ignored what I didn't get--which, I suppose, is a type of house ruling. So in the light of that, I thought I'd offer some brief notes as to what I'd change in AD&D.

Not using the armor vs. weapon type table.

No weapon speed factors.

Using the revised Monk and Bard Classes from The Best of Dragon vol.III.

Ignore the unwieldy hand to hand rules from the DMG.

Not using weapon proficiencies.

I'm going the keep the prices and coin from the Player's Handbook, but in practice I'll likely almost entirely ignore electrum and platinum pieces.

Characters make attribute checks by rolling their attribute or lower on a d20 for class attributes. Non-class attributes are rolled at the attribute minus 4.

Things I'm unsure about:

Not sure whether I'd want to use the classes from Unearthed Aracana. I like the idea of Barbarians and Acrobats, but the rules seem increasingly fiddly.

Not sure about casting times. I might just adopt the OD&D/Basic D&D method for casting--which is basically that spells take place instantaneously.

I'm by nature a lazy DM and much of these rules are me just trying to shape the ruleset into something that I'd feel comfortable running.

Here's the character sheet I made:

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Dungeons of Castle Dragonscar Levels 1 & 2

Here's both of the completed levels together. I'm toying with the idea of a random stocking method which I'll try to detail in a later post. Certain chambers would be "setpiece" encounters, some would be designated as empty, while other rooms would have randomly generated encounters within.

I mentioned over on the OD&D boards that drawing these feels like a weird stress reliever. Call it Dungeon Therapy.

Anyway, here they are:

Deleted so my players won't see them!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nick's Headspace: The Fountain

I know this is strictly speaking a tabletop RPG blog, but I've been listening to the soundtrack to Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain rather incessantly. This all started in order to find inspiration for this gmless fantasy/ horror/ western we're thinking of playing this summer, but I can't help but remember how bowled over I was by this film.

If you want to see the aching pain of real cinematic beauty see The Fountain. Leave your questions at the door and let it wash over you.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Just saw this bit of brilliance about Dave Arneson.

Castles! Castles! Castles!

Here are a few castles that I created for an epic interdimensional fantasy campaign that was partly inspired by Roger Zelazny's Amber series. Icewatch is loosely based on a real world castle (Caernarvon Castle in Wales), and Ravengard was my attmpt to create a seat of sorcerous evil, and it was inspired by the interpretation of Barad-Dur from the old Rankin-Bass Return of the King animated film. They both exist in the frozen Norse-inflected realm of Valtallas.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dave Arneson (1947-2009)

I never met Dave Arneson, and I only had the barest sort of contact with him through his occasional postings on the OD&D board, but I'm realizing we've lost the person who's innovations led to our hobby. I mean Dave was the guy who said to himself: what if we did THIS with Chainmail.

It's a sad day.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fantasy Boardgame Fun-A-Rama

So we've been playing Talisman (the edition by Fantasy Flight Games) and its been lots of fun. When we picked it up a few months ago the guy at the game store described it as "D&D meets Candy Land" which sounded just about right to my wife and I as we'd tried to play The Fury of Dracula over Christmas and found it a little frustrating (likely due to the fact that I'd not carefully gone over the rules). We want games that are fun, not too complex, and which are playable in under three hours. Our Talisman games have been running about three to four hours, but there are several ways to speed up play which we might want to do from now on.

I've been curious about Descent for a while now, but I've read enough descriptions that make it clear that the game can often take four or five hours. Unfortunately, my wife and I aren't really up for a five hour game. After reading a bit of stuff online it has become clear to me that there are lots of older dungeon crawl boardgames that would serve us better. I used to play TSR's old Dungeon boardgame when I was younger but now I think I'm looking for something with just a little more complexity. Milton Bradley's Heroquest (which was licensed from Games Workshop) might be fun, but everything I've read indicates that the sweet spot for dungeon crawlers was really hit with Games Workshop's Warhammer Quest. The bad news is that Warhammer Quest is long out of print and copies of the game go for ridiculous amounts of money on Ebay.

Lots of people cried in horror that 4e was becoming a boardgame and while I sympathize I actually think 4e is almost more interesting as a boardgame or as a boardgame/rpg hybrid (which is what it seems to be). I prefer older editions of D&D, but I can see that for the type of game that it is 4e is pretty damn good game. I've got a bunch of WOTC dungeon tiles and some of their figures, and it had occured to me that a slightly sripped down version of 4e might be lots of fun if you essentially played it as a boardgame. Ideally, you'd be able to play without a DM as it is discussed in the 4e DMG. I read a post over at En World a while back suggesting that WOTC should sell 4e in big box with a slimmed down rulebook, lots of minis, a nice set of dungeon tiles, power cards, encounter cards, and advancement rules through 10th level. And they should sell it at Target and Toys R Us. I know I'd buy it.

Anyway all of this has led me to consider trying to cobble together my own dungeon crawl boardgame. It occurs to me that older versions of D&D might also be easily adapted to this sort of play. I downloaded the Dungeon Bash pdf a while back which is game that adapts D20 as a boardgame, but it also wasn't what I was looking for.

I'm going to need to think on this.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Room of A Hundred Dwarves and Other Highlights of Third Grade

Unlike a lot of other rpgs D&D has for a variety of reasons always been linked to boardgames in my head. This likely has to do with my early experience of the game. You see I started playing D&D even before I owned the game. This must have been around the spring of 1981 or so when I would have been in 3rd Grade. I had seen some kids at school playing, and so I endeavored to make my own D&D game. This consisted of me drawing a dungeon on a piece of construction paper from school and looting a green six sided die from an old game set at our house. I drew numbers on the rooms and that’s all I figured we needed. Having noticed the squares on the dungeon maps I’d seen, I imagined that you rolled a die to move through the dungeon—just like in Clue or a million other boardgames.

Then my friend Eric (who we decided should be the DM because he’d actually played “real” D&D with his neighbor) would make up whatever he thought should be in the room. I think we just rolled a certain number on the six-sided to hit. Goblins might have needed a 3 to hit while a Dragon (the nastiest thing we could imagine) would have probably been a 6. I’m not even sure we were using hit points, but we might have been. There were also no classes: we were all playing warriors of some type. I didn’t even bother to name my character. There was one room where we had to fight like a hundred Dwarves. That was rough (although they died really easy and never made any kind of a group attack). It just took a looong time to kill them all. We’d get to a room, kill everything in sight, and then we’d find whatever gold or magic was in the room (and there ALWAYS was gold or magic). It was fun.

One of the funniest things was that we’d mostly play during our English class! We were supposed to be doing some sort of project, but we’d sit and play our D&D game instead. Our teacher got upset at us several times, but at other times she ignored us. We weren’t being particularly disruptive and the group of us were generally “good” kids who had a little more leeway.

At home I decided I wanted to have a D&D game with miniatures. I had a couple of knights and a pack of plastic monsters and dinosaurs my parents had bought me at a local drug store. I then took some cardboard and drew a dungeon with permanent marker that was big enough to move the figures around on. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that one of the plastic monsters I had was the same plastic monster that Gary Gygax had utilized several years before as the now infamous Rust Monster. At the time, I, of course, had no idea what a Rust Monster was. These dungeon boardgames went through several iterations, but they were all fairly rudimentary in their construction, but that hardly mattered to me: I was in love with the idea of a "dungeon" game.

It occurs to me now that this endeavor of mine explains a lot about the person I’ve become. I started out making and hacking games and I’m still doing that today.