Friday, January 18, 2019

Bones 4 on track . . . good news or bad news?


From the Bones 4 Kickstarter:

"When will my rewards order ship? When does Wave X ship?

At this time, we remain on schedule to begin fulfillment in February 2019.

We are waiting on two final containers to ship. At this point, this puts us still on schedule to begin fulfilment in February. This does not mean on February First, but sometime during the month.

I'm in Wave 1. I am so not ready for this many more minis to paint.

And in other news, coming soon - the Albino Level of Felltower!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Old School play with new school rules?

Douglas Cole also blogged about this. Go read that, too.

Necropraxis put out the results of that OSR survey I linked to a while back.

OSR Games

The comments are where the really interesting discussion is, for me - can a game not be old school, but play old school well?

Of course my answer is yes. I'm playing 4th edition GURPS and Felltower is very much old school. It's inspired by the games I played as a kid running AD&D and by the things I heard about from games earlier. It's a megadungeon crawl with a minimal outside world with a very high body count.

I think that's what D&D5 is, too. It's a new game, and new school in many ways. But it clearly can play old school - and it even as a very playable and interesting megadungeon published for it.

And as a total aside, I find it pretty amusing that more people think Labyrinth Lord is OSR than AD&D 1e is. Heh. I can kind of get it - AD&D 1st edition isn't a revival, renaissance, or resurrection, it's just the old school itself. Yes, there are older games than that, but if the DMG isn't old school gaming, if AD&D is somehow less "old school" than DCC, well, I'm not really sure we're all using the same definition. Which we're almost certainly not. Is an original old school game OSR, or just original? Is it more or less OSR than OSR games? And it's funny to think of people in, say, 1979, lamenting how the hobby had gone all new school with AD&D. Heh. The more things change . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Random Links for 1/16

Wednesday is turning into Random Links Dump Day, since I tend to get done with work late. So here are three more:

- I liked the thesis of this article:

The Basis of the Game is Making Decisions

I won't agree with everything he says, and I have no idea about anything on Critical Role (or much about it at all), but I agree with the thesis. The game is about making decisions. I think it's better to present a game about how it's played - and what you do - first of all. "This is a game of building giant space empires and negotiating with alien races!" might sound awesome, but if what you do is "draw a card, read it, and roll a die and see what happens" it's a game of drawing cards and rolling dice. RPGs are about decisions. And if you play point-based like I do, you're making them right from the start and those decisions influence other ones. The monsters providing an interesting basis for those decisions.

- This game review makes the game sound tempting. Maybe when I have more free time.

- I'm sad I missed out on this boxed set of minis, based solely on the words "Lords of Decay" and "Julie Guthrie."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What's next in Felltower?

We're on track to play DF Felltower on Sunday.

So what's next?

New Paper Men

I'm reviewing some characters, including a swashbuckler and a cleric. I've heard rumors of others, and we're not sure what Jaspar's player will do.

Old Paper Men

Some of the old paper men may return - Aldwyn and Desmond, for example. Gerry is a certainty. I'm not sure if Hamilcar or Ahenobarbus will make an appearance, or Murak, either, but they're out there. Galen's coming.

Equipment Questions

I've fielded a fair amount of gear questions - including one that sent me over to Douglas Cole for his specific crafting knowledge. Booyah for DIY weapon makers!

Old Plans, New Plans?

What actually happens is still under discussion - orcs, Lost City, careful delving on the "apartment level"? The mix of characters will matter.

That's all I have for an update - I have a lot of emails to get through, and characters to review . . . and it's a busy week looking busier. But it will get done in time for delving.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Gratitude to my readers

Thanks for buying my books.

Thanks for reading and using my books.

And thanks for telling other people about them, as well.

I don't say those things often enough. But I was thinking about that as my royalty statement came in today from SJG. I don't make a ton of money from my book sales. Month to month, it's not even a full day's wages (except for my day off, but the others all beat it.) But it's sufficient income over the year to allows me some fund to pour into gaming:

- new books

- minis

- paints

- minis

- brushes

- PDFs

- Kickstarters

- minis

and even some minis, truth be told.

All of that is because of you, and people like you, who buy my books.

I ad-support this blog, too, but I pull in about what I get a month from SJG in a year of ads here. They're useful but not a major haul. The real money I get out of my hobby is from people purchasing what I write. So thank you for doing so. I hope my words and my ideas have enhanced your games.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Felltower, Grinding, and Game Style

Martin Leuschen brought up the prospect of Felltower becoming some grim grinding while the PCs get back up to speed after the loss of almost the entire core of the PCs last session.

"Grim grinding with poor rewards" is how he put it.

My game, though, largely has been grim grinding.

So, what do I mean by "grinding?" In CRPGs, I've always associated "grinding" with repeatedly and steadily clearing out encounters that give you a good XP and resource reward for their challenge level, and/or killing fixed encounters over and over again for their XP. Basically, turning the process of gaining enough power to fight and beat the game into a simple series of repeated actions done over and over.

Here in particular I'd say it encompasses a mix of risk reluctance and confidence that you can eventually build up enough resources to overcome a challenge. The idea is time is on your side.

In most games - and in most of my games, this kind of grinding generally works. You don't take risks unless you're forced to. You maximize the force you can bring to bear. You bite off the smallest chunk you can get away with biting off. You don't, in a word, risk. Sometimes you need bold choices, though, and if you don't identify them well you tend to miss opportunities. I've seen a lot of them, and experience more frustration as a GM from them than from ill-advised risk.

We're playing Dungeon Fantasy now. The power level, I felt, plus a mix of risks and rewards that made any delve dangerous but potentially lucrative, would discourage that approach.

Felltower sprang from that.

Felltower basically depends a bit on not grinding.

Not just the megadungeon, but the entire campaign, has a bit of "replenishing risks but finite rewards" to it. You can literally spend too much time or money gaining your loot.

The Cold Fens had that happen - I expected a smaller number of delves, and so the PCs expended a lot more resources to gain loot than I'd expected,

Felltower itself isn't so parsimonious. There is more loot out than has been found. There are places to go get it. It probably doesn't seem that way with a very significant number of delves being barren of loot. However monsters do appear, and fewer of them have loot than do not. Many of them are just wandering scavengers, who probably will eventually depart themselves when the last of what's worth scavenging is gone. Or not - there is a lot pointing to creatures (like delvers) feeling an irresistible pull to the dungeon.

I'm rambling a bit, but back to the point:

Felltower basically depends a bit on not grinding.

The game expects you to take some risks. You have to go through gates before you know everything that's beyond them. You have to fight a battle sometimes and then go fight another before you've fully recovered. You have to pull the lever. You have to open the door. You have to turn the statues. You have to cultivate allies because you'll need them later. You have to rush ahead because fleeing or staying is too dangerous - or flee, because the other two are too dangerous. And you have to figure out with limited time and resources which one is appropriate. You need to use resources up with cheerful abandon when they're called for and husband others for a dark day, and know which is which.

It's very much the opposite of the Black Company approach, which puts the 15-minute work day to shame. They clear a dungeon (more or less) with a siege, and a graveyard full of monsters one single monster at a time with maximal force and rotating troops. That's something I deeply appreciate . . . but it's not this game.

This game requires a bit of boldness. You'll lose characters - it happens. You can't grind yourself to certain victory."

And one consequence of the "you can't grind yourself to certain victory" is that Felltower is a hard place to bring up replacement characters. Each wave of new characters - lacking the permanent resources found and lost with dead PCs - is less and less well equipped to face the risks that slew the earlier group. Without the video game "levels reset" and "creatures respawn" and "monsters are loot pinatas" it requires an entirely new area to explore and loot. That's something that it isn't unreasonable to expect in the game world but requires more and more time from the GM. In this particular case, that's not generally available.

So the next wave needs to go in without Shieldslayer, Sterick's armor, Inquisitor Marco's Mace, the Wand of Holding, and many item items. The personally owned treasures of the PCs are either lost (siphoned off to relatives or left undiscovered where buried) or are loot in the dungeon, now. It's back to square one, but the dungeon is a bit more barren and the way a bit more dangerous.

I'm not sure if that's a flaw, or if it might not cause a different approach. It may be perceived as a flaw, or a flat-out serious negative or impediment to fun by the players. It's just part of the mix between the design of the game, the way it's been played, and the reality of a GM with less time. Some of which I spent just now explaining all of that, but hey, I didn't have enough going to make a whole side area ready for next week anyway. I expect we'll keep playing but it's possible it's tipping the line over from "sometimes frustrating but fun" to "sometimes fun but frustrating." We'll have to see.

It's possibly ironic that I finished grinding my new Bard's Tale party up to the levels I want them at this morning for an hour or two while I was listening to some study materials. I don't know. Different games. You can't just go fight 396 berserkers over and over for 65K experience in Felltower.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A modified Ghost Tower of Inverness

Issue #24 of Footprints has an article that prompted me to download it, and which might be of interest to my players especially.

It is a modified, shortened version of C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness.

Most interesting, I think, are the pre-chosen equipment options to speed up the start of the game. There are some interesting choices, especially given the challenges particular to the dungeon.

None of them feature a magical two-handed sword, which was a fantastic choice for Lembu, made just because Lembu's 9-year old player wanted the weapon that did the most damage that he could find. L-sized creatures abounded, and took lots of damage.

Worth the read if you know C2 well, or if you played it with me.

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