Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dragon's Lair Opening

I'm currently experiencing a bit of old school video game nostalgia. So here's the opening and bit of gameplay for one of my favorite frustrating arcade games that I spent waaay too many quarters on when I was younger. I never got near the end.

Hmmm. . .I wonder if anybody's made a dungeon that's a homage to this game? I should do that for the 4E game were playing right now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Rock & Roll Moorcock


This one isn't directly connected to Moorcock's fiction but its the opening tracks from the album Warriors on the Edge of Time:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moorcock Video Inteview

These's been a few posts today in the OSR sphere about Moorcock, so I thought I'd round it out with some multimedia goodness from YouTube.

The interview is interesting, but I will say it just sort of wanders where it wants to. I'm just imagining young Marc Bolan following Moorcock around as he was trying to work.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

RPG Excavations: Rolemaster 2nd edition (Part 2)

I think one reason I’m enjoying figuring out Rolemaster is that I’ve always been addicted to tinkering with games. However, I’ve noticed with my deconstructions of both AD&D 1E and Rolemaster was that I started thinking I’d create some sort of homebrew that took elements from these systems, but I ended up adopting more and more of the system until I felt comfortable with the entire ruleset and felt like didn’t really need to create a house ruled version. It may be wrong to go into a game thinking, “how can I change this?” or, in my case, “how can I make this simpler?” Yet I’m relatively certain that I wouldn’t have as intensive an understanding of these games if I hadn’t approached them with my game designer’s hat on.

So I’ve been reading Spell Law, and I’m very impressed once again. The spell system is pretty simple, and the spells are just brief writeups with a few notes such as range or duration. They remind me of OD&D’s spell write ups. Spell Law is also the easiest system to port into another game. Using Arms Law in D&D would require the wholesale replacement of the combat system and alterations to the monsters (already too much work), but, I feel like, Spell Law could be adopted without disrupting the other systems of the game. Spell Law is something to consider if you want a more holistic magic system that has a rationale for its various parts. One aspect of Spell Law that is rather well thought out is the fact that psionics, known as Mentalism in Spell Law, is incorporated from the start as a distinct sphere of power. It is a part of the system rather than being an entirely new system that was awkwardly bolted onto D&D. Psionics haven’t really worked very well in D&D, in my opinion, until the most recent addition of the game (largely because all of the various powers now use essentially the same exception based design elements).

I can see why people looking for more detailed rules have often preferred Rolemaster to D&D, but I’m also very aware that this system is also quite a lot to take on. Rolemaster also seems to have been a fairly influential system as there are elements to the system that clearly influenced later games. For example, you can see D&D 3E as a descendent of Rolemaster. They are both Class and Level systems, for example, that also use extensive skill systems.

I’ve been reading various posts about Rolemaster and the one complaint people often have about the system is that it take quite a while to resolve combat. We’ve been playing D&D 4E, and the combats can be rather long sometimes. As a result, I’m becoming increasingly aware that two hour combats are not the thing that keeps me coming back to the table each week. Combat can be intense and fun on its own, but if it’s eating up all of the time you have at the table then I’m less certain about its usefulness. So I’m torn about Rolemaster in regards to this issue. On one hand I admire quite a bit about the Rolemaster system, but I’m unsure if it wouldn’t be too much to take on as a system. I could be wrong though—other folks claim if you stick to mainly just the core system then combat moves along fairly quickly.

I’m looking at maybe using the combat charts from Rolemaster Express, which I recently downloaded, to begin with. I figure if you started with the more simplified charts it might not bog things down too much, and you could move onto the full on Arm Law system eventually if you felt like you wanted the additional detail.

If anybody has some advice on this it would be great.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frazetta's Spider Man

I didn't comment here on Frank Frazetta's passing the other week largely because I didn't know what to say. I've loved the man's work for a good portion of my life. I loved Fire & Ice, for example. However, I didn't become a full-on Frazetta fan until I was in my mid twenties, and I checked out a book of his artwork from my college's library. I posted a gallery of Frazetta images a few posts back that had some of my favorites (Silver Warrior and Dark Kingdom in particular). It is the image below which just blew me away when I first checked out the Frazetta book. The hellish intensity of the picture is amazing. Please click on the image to see it larger.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blue Oyster Moorcock

There's been a fair bit of discussion in the OSR recently about the connections between Heavy Metal and D&D.

So here's Blue Oyster Cult with lyrics by a certain Michael Moorcock (one time resident of Ladbrook Grove and author of this writer's favorite fantasy adventure novels). I'd put Blue Oyster Cult in the "Hard Rock" category I suppose but in the late 1970s Fantasy and Rock were definitely cross polinating.

So as you listen just imagine the stories of Elric. . .Hawkmoon. . .Corum. . .Erekose. . .Cornelius. . .von Bek. . . Arflane. . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

RPG Excavations: Rolemaster 2nd edition

I’ve had copies of the Iron Crown Enterprise’s Rolemaster books among my rpgs for about fourteen years. I inherited them from a friend who was moving away and wanted to get rid of his gaming manuals. During the time I’ve owned them I would sometimes take them out and try to read through them. I had trouble making any kind of sense of these books. They were filled with charts and abbreviations which were, to say the least, inadequately explained. Arms Law’s notorious critical hit charts were fun to look at, but I had very little idea of how they might be used. MERP was supposed to be a simplified version of Rolemaster, but I found myself lacking the patience to even get through that book. I considered getting rid of them numerous times, but I hung on to these tomes because, for all their obfuscation, they still called to me: there’s a good game in here somewhere.

Back in my rules lite days of playing Amber Diceless and Fudge, I used to make derisive comments about the guys who I saw at the local game store who were all clearly Rolemaster heads. They couldn’t have been roleplaying, right? They were just sitting around looking at charts, weren’t they? The even more complicated versions of Rolemaster that came out in the 1990s seemed to confirm to me this vision of the game as “Chartmaster” or “Rulemonster” as its often referred to by its detractors.

So the other day I was taking a look at Arms Law and suddenly the light came pouring in. I found myself understanding more and more. This led to much more intensive investigation of the game than anything I'd previously done.

My reaction? Holy $*%#! It is quite a game, and it has some brilliant aspects. However, this is a game for hardcore gamers who are looking for a very detailed system, but it actually uses a fairly simple system at its core. The game's major flaw isn't the system itself, but it is the confusing organization of the rules. Like the AD&D 1E Dungeon Master's Guide, there's more here than you'll need and sometimes important things are not clearly spelled out.

One of the things you have to realize about Rolemaster is that the system was designed to be modular. The golden rule is: use only what you need. You can always expand things later. I initially was thinking that I’d create some bastardized homebrew drawing bits from Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying system (which I love) and Rolemaster, but I’m becoming more enamored of Rolemaster on its own.

The character creation system is interesting because it combines elements of a skill system and a class/level based system. Basically you buy skills as you advance in levels with what are called development points. The catch is that different skills cost different amounts to buy depending on what your class is. Fighters can buy weapon skills relatively cheaply while they pay much more for magic based skills. The nice things is though that you can build whatever skills you want into any class. Swordwielding mages are totally a possibility here.

I’ve got a pretty good handle on Arms Law, which contains the combat rules, and I even managed to roll up a character using Character Law. Spell Law, the game’s magic system, still eludes me, but I’m confident that I’ll soon get a handle on that as well.

I likely won’t be playing this game anytime soon as my group is currently deep in 4E territory, but I’m glad I’ve got a better understanding of just what’s under Rolemaster’s hood. Now I just need to take her out for a spin. I’ll being doing a follow up post soon.