Monday, September 26, 2016

A call to action!

The Gibbering Gamer has been in a sad state the last few months.  While I could apologize to my few readers profusely and promise more frequent comment, there's a large chance I wouldn't follow through so I won't do that.

Instead, I'll say this: I want to "up" my convention performance this year.  To support that, I'm working on a Fudge hack that will be the system with which I run all my convention games.  It's based on regular Fudge with some Fate and Powered by the Apocalypse (a la Spirit of 77 because it's rad) thrown in for good measure; basically, it's all the stuff I find cool in a bunch of systems put together in a way that I think will work for me in general, and at conventions specifically.

At this point, it's largely my notes thrown together in a pseudo-narrative document.  It is nowhere near complete.  I'd very much like to get some feedback on the document; not on the writing style or format or layout, but rather on the mechanics and play-style.  A few short play-tests would be awesome.  If nothing else, I'll list your name in the final document if you give feedback.

The document is the only thing in this shared folder:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1uDpP8NyrImT2hEbDFCOTRfYlk


Now, that said...

If you're not listening to Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, you should be.  It's a great podcast on which I am a part-time host.  It's made up of a great bunch of gamers - some of the best RPers with whom I've ever had the good fortune to play - and it's a fun show to boot.

There's also a thriving channel of actual play episodes, too!  So you can listen to actual plays of everything from Legend of the Five Rings to Traveller to Star Wars and Vampire: the Masquerade.  Really, there's something for everyone.

So fire up those feed burners and give Happy Jacks a listen.  You'll be glad you did.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Powered by the Fudge!

A while ago, I got to play in my first Powered by the Apocalypse game at a convention.  It was fun, and I was really enthused about taking what I'd learned from that game and applying it to Fudge.  I was using Spirit of '77 as my guide, and pulled in stuff not just from Fudge, but from Fate and d20 Modern as well.

Well, nothing really came of it and I don't really have the time to devote to writing it up.  So I'm posting what little I did write here so that if anyone wants to pick up the ball and run with it, they're more than welcome to do so.  Enjoy.

Approaches

Characters have six Approaches which are used to describe how the character is going to do something.

Careful: A Careful action is when you pay close attention to detail and take your time to do the job right.
Clever: A Clever action requires that you think fast, solve problems, or account for complex variables.
Flashy: A Flashy action draws attention to you; it’s full of style and panache.
Forceful: A Forceful action isn’t subtle—it’s brute strength.
Quick: A Quick action requires that you move quickly and with dexterity.
Sneaky: A Sneaky action is done with an emphasis on misdirection, stealth, or deceit.

Approaches are rated on the following scale, from best to worst:

Superb
Great
Good
Fair
Mediocre
Poor
Terrible

Each character starts the game with one Approach rated at Great, one Approach rated at Good, three Approaches rated at Fair, and one Approach rated at Mediocre.

Stunts

There are two different types of stunts: basic stunts and role stunts.  All characters have access to basic stunts.

Attack (Deliver a Beatdown/Hack and Slash/Smoke His Ass/Volley)
Defend (Take a Hit or Get Outta The Way/Defend)
Focus (Keep Your Cool/Defy Danger)
Manipulate (Get In Their Face/Getting What You Want/Parley)
Investigate (Scope out a Scene/Discern Realities)
Aid (Help a Brother or Sister Out/Aid or Interfere)

Roles

Each character selects a role.  The roles are as follows, and each role has role-specific stunt trees associated with it.

Strong
Powerful and good at combat, the Strong character typically relies on a Forceful approach.

Fast
Quick and nimble, the Fast character  typically relies on Quick or Sneaky approaches
.

Tough
Able to shrug off the most damage, the Tough character typically relies on a Forceful approach.

Smart
Brilliant and skillful, the Smart character typically relies on Clever or Careful approaches
.

Dedicated
Strong willed and alert, the Dedicated character typically relies on a Careful approach.

Charismatic
As charming smooth talkers, Charismatic characters typically rely on Flashy approaches..

Rolling the Dice

To do something, describe what the character intends to do using an Approach and a Stunt, then roll 4dF.  Move up the scale starting at the Approach level once for each “+” shown, and down the scale once for each “-” shown.  Where you end up is the result.

If you don’t have Fudge dice, regular d6s can be used.  In that case, move up the scale once for each 5 or 6 shown, and down the scale once for each 1 or 2 shown.

Rolls which result at levels higher than Superb are Superb; rolls which result at levels lower than Terrible are Terrible.

If the result is Superb or Great, you have achieved a full success and your character does exactly what you described.

If the result is Good or Fair, you have achieved a partial success and your character does some of what you described, or does it all but with a cost.

If the result is Mediocre, Poor, or Terrible, you have failed and the GM can take an action against your character.

Sometimes you might be told to roll with Advantage or Disadvantage.  When you roll with Advantage, you ignore one “-” result (or a 1-2 result on regular d6s).  When you roll with Disadvantage, you ignore one “+” result (or a 5-6 result on regular d6s). 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Let's Read the AD&D 2E PHB, Part 3!

Today I'm reading chapter 3 of the AD&D second edition Player's Handbook: Player Character Classes.  Rather than give a blow-by-blow of the chapter, I figured I'd talk more about the approach to classes used, and the changes made to classes in, second edition.

But before I get into that I was struck with something while reading this chapter.  More current editions of D&D have been saddled with the criticism that combats take forever, especially at higher levels.  In second edition, hit dice are capped at 10th level (9th for warriors and priests) with a fixed number of hit points assigned per level thereafter, and Constitution bonuses to hit points no longer apply after 10th level.  So a 15th level fighter in second edition would have 9d10 + 18 + (Con bonus x 10) hit points, whereas a 15th level fighter in, say, 5th edition would have 15d10 + (Con bonus x 15) hit points.  I wonder if that disparity is one of the contributing factors to lengthened combats in 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions of D&D?

Anyway, on to the changes made to classes in second edition from first edition.  As I've mentioned in other posts in this series, better organization was one of the driving factors of second edition, and that is evident in the treatment of classes.  In second edition, classes are grouped into one of four groups: Warrior, Wizard, Priest, and Rogue.  All classes within a group share the same hit dice, combat, and saving throw progressions.  Fighters, rangers, and paladins are all in the Warrior group, for instance, and so those shared items need only be explained once, leaving the individual class descriptions to focus on what makes a fighter different from a ranger, and what makes a ranger different from a paladin.

As part of this reorganization, several classes underwent monumental changes.  The assassin, for instance, was removed completely; that's a pretty monumental change.  Magic-users were given the ability to specialize in a school of magic, and the illusionist became an example of a specialist mage, alongside conjurers, necromancers, and diviners.  Bards morphed from an almost unattainable pinnacle of multi-classing to a regular class in the rogue group.  Clerics - similar to mages - were given the ability to become a priest of a specific mythos, and druids - very similar to illusionists - became an example of a specific mythos priest.

Later books greatly expanded on specialist mages and specific mythos priests, and introduced the concept of "kits" which will be covered at some later point.

The second edition Player's Handbook retained the first edition rules for multi-class characters (allowing demi-humans to take on multiple classes at once, like a fighter/magic-user) and dual-class characters (allowing humans to leave one class and take on another, like the fighter who hears a divine call and leaves his old ways behind to join the priesthood).

And with that, my reading draws to a close for the day.  There will be more to come, once I read the next chapter (alignment... oooh).

Friday, August 12, 2016

Let's read the AD&D 2E PHB, part 2!

In my continuing quest to re-read the revised second edition AD&D books, I move forward into chapter 2 of the Player's Handbook: Player Character Races.

The chapter starts simply, with a quick definition of the word "race" - as it applies to AD&D - being one of many fantasy species as opposed to what we consider one's race today.  It then immediately jumps into minimum and maximum ability scores, explaining how a character must have a specific minimum score, and cannot go above a specific maximum score, in certain abilities to qualify for that race.  Minimum and maximum scores are considered before any racial adjustments are made, so it is possible that after adjustments a character could fall below the minimum, or go above the maximum, in a specific ability score.

A quick example may be in order.  To select the Halfling race for your character, you must have a minimum Strength score of 7.  Assuming your character has a Strength score of 7, and you select the Halfling race, you would then apply a racial modifier of -1 to your Strength score for a net value of 6.  This is below the racial minimum allowed, but since it was the racial modifier which brought it below that value, it's acceptable.

It then goes on to speak about one of the most hotly debated topics of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game: class restrictions and level limits.  Human characters can choose any class in the game and rise to 20th level in that class; for reason of game balance, or racial archetypes, or Gary Gygax thought it was a cool idea, or any number of other reasons, non-human races (called demi-humans) do not enjoy that benefit.  Demi-humans are limited both in class availability and the maximum level they can attain in those classes.  However, demi-humans can multi-class, whereas humans cannot.

As I mentioned in my last post on this subject, the revised editions of the AD&D second edition core books re-organize a lot of the information in the volumes, putting more information that players need into the PHB, instead of in the DMG.  Interestingly enough, while chapter two talks about racial level limits it does not include the actual limits in the PHB; it instead refers the player to their DM for the level limits imposed on non-human characters.  An interesting choice.

The last topic the chapter touches on before discussing the actual races is that of languages.  Basically, all characters automatically know their native language, and a number of other languages (which are defined per race in the race description) based on their Intelligence score or, if the optional proficiency system is used (which will be discussed later), what proficiency slots are spent on the desired languages.

Next, we get into the actual races allowed to players in the Player's Handbook: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Halflings, and Humans.  Each race receives about a half-page write-up, including a general description, habits, likes, dislikes, special abilities, and available classes.  They're all fairly in-line with the modern, fantasy expectations of them; if you've ever seen the Lord of the Rings movies, or read the books, or played any fantasy RPG ever, you've got a pretty good handle on Dwarves, Elves, Half-Elves, Halflings, and Humans.  Gnomes - as described in the PHB - are much less like the Dragonlance/World of Warcraft "tinker" gnomes, and much more like... Dwarves with a sense of humor.

The last page-and-a-half of the chapter detail other characteristics: height, weight, age, etc.  Nothing really blog-worthy here.

And with that, my reading draws to a close for the day.  There will be more to come, once I read the next chapter (player character classes).


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Let's read the AD&D 2E PHB!

I've been looking over my AD&D second edition collection recently; in doing so, I realized that it's probably been 25 years since I sat down and read the core books, and I've never actually read the black-covered "revised" books.  I figured it was well past time I did so.  And what better to post on my blog than a summary of my re-visitation to the game which stands out in my mind as the defining D&D of my youth?  So!  With that in mind...

Forward: This is NOT AD&D 3rd Edition!

Thus the reader is notified - in big, red, bold letters - the nature of the book they hold in their hot, little hands: basically, it's a revision of the classic second edition Player's Handbook - not an entirely new edition of the game - made easier to read through improved layout and organization. 

And the layout is improved; gone are the three columns of text found in the original 2E PHB, having been replaced with an easier to read two-column layout with a larger font, more stylized headers, and new artwork.  The first page of each chapter is comprised of one column, central to the page, with an artsy, Celtic-esque design bordering the text.  Color is used throughout, both in the illustrations and in the text (section headings are red and purple, with red highlight text). 

Of course the size of the book is increased, with 25% more pages in the revised PHB than in the original.

A two-page introduction - "Welcome to the AD&D Game" - follows the forward, wherein can be found exceedingly basic, high-level blurbs on how the books are organized, how to learn the game, other books in the game line, etc.

Then comes "The Real Basics", a somewhat high-level overview of the game itself.  This is where the obligatory "what is roleplaying" stuff is found, including an example of play, a glossary, and a one-page step-by-step guide to character generation. 

Chapter 1: Player Character Ability Scores
One of the things I appreciated most about second edition AD&D was the re-organization of the order of the abilities.  In first edition, they were ordered in a way which never made sense to me: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma.  Second edition changes that order, listing them as Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma; this groups all the physical abilities together (Str/Dex/Con) and all the mental/social abilities together (Int/Wis/Cha). This seems to me to be a much more natural order, one which remains in D&D to this very day.

In addition to the standard "roll 3d6 in order" approach to generating abilities, the PHB provides five other approaches which can be used with GM approval: roll 3d6 twice for each ability in order and choose the best; roll 3d6 twice for each ability and order the best results as desired; roll 3d6 twelve times, ordering the best 6 as desired; roll 4d6 and remove the lowest for each ability, ordered as desired; and roll 7 dice, adding each die as desired to a base score of 8.

The rest of the chapter goes on to describe and define each ability, explaining what the numbers mean and providing a table for each of the ability's modifiers.  Being pre-3E, the concept of universal modifiers is one not used in AD&D so each ability has completely separate modifiers, often even using different dice.  Although, in second edition, TSR did narrow modifier rolls down to either d20 or d% rolls; gone are the 1d6 rolls to open doors, for instance.  Finally the chapter provides some basic role-playing hints using a sample set of abilities as a guide.  Pretty standard stuff, here, if you've ever played AD&D.

And with that, my reading draws to a close for the day.  There will be more to come, once I read the next chapter (player character races).

Monday, August 8, 2016

From zero... to HERO!

Hmm.  Looks like I'm going to need to update my "D&D post image".  But I digress.

Who doesn't love a "from zero to hero" story? From Frodo Baggins to Harry Potter and off to Luke Skywalker, the stories that we table-top RPGers love are just filled with heroes who ascended from humble beginnings to greatness, in one form or another. And isn't that the basis of pretty much any version of Dungeons & Dragons and its many clones or play-alikes? You start with a meek 1st level character and take part in his or her rise to greater levels beyond?

Only it's not; at least for me. D&D has never really captured the whole "zero to hero" feel, because even as a 1st level character you are standing on the shoulders of the true "zeros". I mean, consider this: you're a blacksmith in a small village. Suddenly, the graveyard of the village church erupts as a handful of the living dead burst forth from their graves. Fortunately, a party of adventurers arrived yesterday, and they spring into action! The magic user mutters a few words in a strange language and bolts of pure arcane energy scream towards the zombies, destroying one. The fighter pulls his ornate blade and jumps into action, lopping off a second zombie's head. Finally the cleric steps forward, brandishing his holy symbol and calling out his god's name, which causes the last zombie to turn and run away from the divine power. Those are all 1st level characters, but they are heads and tails above the blacksmith (originally called a "zero level" character, no less!)

Enter the 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons supplement, "Sages & Specialists".  Considering all the books of its ilk - the Complete Handbook series and the like - this book is one of my favorites. It brings to AD&D 2E what third edition touched on with NPC classes, but with much more flavor and detail. In it, you can find complete class write-ups and mechanics for apothecaries, appraisers, blacksmiths, cartographers, engineers, guides, healers, historians, scribes, and seers.

All of the classes are well thought-out and put together, and include stats from level 1 to level 20. Not a single one of them leaves the reader feeling blah, or thinking that the class is unplayable, even down to something as mundane as the appraiser or the historian. Almost every class introduces new proficiencies, plus dedicated experience point bonuses for completing specific class functions; a blacksmith, for instance, gets 200xp for each major item created, whereas a cartographer gets 200xp for detecting a fake map.

Now, the book is designed for creating fully fleshed out and mechanically unique NPCs.  But come on, how awesome would it be to run a "from zero to hero" game with the PCs playing apothecaries, engineers, and scribes? Not only would I personally greatly enjoy playing in such a game, but running a game like that would the Holy Grail of games for me.

So, yeah, if AD&D 2E is your thing and you haven't checked out "Sages & Specialists", you owe it to yourself to do so; it's available on Drive Thru RPG in PDF format.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Funny story!

Set the way-back machine to the heyday of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, second edition.  I was a master of that system.  I had most of the rules memorized to the point where they were instinctive, and could flip directly to the correct page for any rule sans index or table of contents.  But then my group expanded, we started playing other systems, and AD&D 2e fell to the wayside.

Since then, I've been going through system after system, trying to settle on one that would as familiar and exciting to me now as AD&D 2e was then.  The closest that I've found have been Fudge and S. John Ross' Risus: the Anything RPG.

A couple of days ago, I was flipping through Risus as I waffled once again on what system I'd like to run for my next game.  In the "Credit Where it's Due" section, I came across the name of a game I'd heard of - maybe once or twice, I couldn't be sure - and decided to check it out.  Lo and behold, I was blown away.  So far, it's everything I could want in a system: it's lightweight, but it has a firm structure, and it gives the players the tools to create virtually any character they'd like.

Here's the funny part: this game was released just a few short years after AD&D 2e, was highly critically acclaimed, and had a limited edition 20th anniversary release in 2012.  It had been there all along, and I had missed it.

If you haven't already guessed, the game is Over the Edge by Atlas Games.

So, you're probably going to see a bit more activity on the old blog here, focused around that game.  Because... damn.