Committed, Participating, or Watching from the Sidelines

Regardless of how one defines the OSR (or defines what is not the OSR), there are certain levels of involvement. I don’t say that to judge, it’s what comes to mind when I think about me and the OSR.

I love to fiddle with Swords & Wizardry. It is the closest thing to my preferred way of DMing and playing. It’s fairly easy to bolt-on subsystems from other games and everything a player needs to know can fit on the character sheet.

I’ve stalled on my year of Magic project because my big spell building system had a fundamental flaw that I couldn’t fix without starting over. If it was in any state of publishing, I’d post it and let others see if they can fix it. So much of it is scattered hand-written notes, I wouldn’t know how to best put that stuff out there.

For the curious, the fundamental flaw was that every spell effectively came out as a 4th or 5th level spell, even weak ones. I made a math error when I was making 1st and 2nd level spells. When I re-checked the math, lo and behold, they were really 4th level spells. Bleh.

As much as I love Swords & Wizardry, I play in a Dungeon World group. Most of the players in my group are half my age. I am older than the referee. I see these guys one or two times a week outside of the game and they love their characters. Believe it or not, we’ve even had character deaths and a near TPK.

The group won’t be able to meet this entire month and I suggested that I run a game in the interim. Everyone to whom I mentioned it to seemed enthusiastic. One player in particular has wanted me to run a separate game for a long time. Then that same player said

Let’s do Marvel Super Heroes this time.

They did not mean FASERIP. They weren't born yet when TSR made my favorite supers game.

Could I get them to do Swords & Wizardry? Yes, I could. But my inner bard keeps saying that I need to give them what they want. We would all have a bunch of fun and I’d enjoy the challenge of learning a new system. This isn't coming from a place of weakness: I enjoy playing just about any RPG. (RPGs I do not like include diceless, narrative only based games, and games similar to Vampire the Masquerade.) The point of the group is spending time together and I know that they will eventually come back around to my S&W game.

What’s the point of all this?

I want to do more than participate and chime in from time to time.

I'm determined to get this younger group of men and women to at least try Swords & Wizardry. Heck, if 5e is as OSR Friendly as the math appears to be, I'll be happy with Basic D&D. I'm sure once Basic is posted, I'll create a conversion kit from 5e to pure S&W. (I doubt that I'll be able to post it, but that's another story for a later time.)

I read about all things Swords & Wizardry, make house rules, and generally create stuff. I'm on and off posting. I get into non-OSR games like Dungeon World because I can find those games available at the right times and places. I even make stuff for Dungeon World. I conceive of great projects and get overwhelmed by them in any system, I guess. Bleh.

I would be happy to play a game on online, but the times seem to be just an hour too early or in the middle of the day. What I want to do is run a game on Google Hangouts. I plan on running a Swords & Wizardry game at Nuke Con here in Omaha, if I don't chicken out. The fear comes from committing a bunch of money that my family might otherwise need due to an emergency. That's life when you live hand-to-mouth.

I also want to add some new things to the OSR:

I use Sign Language at home. I think ASL is awesome. I think using ASL in-game is more awesome. The game takes on a different flavor when the characters (and the players) use the language. For spellcasters, it makes gestures for spellcasting more fun, especially in-game. More than that, a deaf Thief will not Hear Noise, but will have a better chance of seeing through a magical illusion.

Quick Aside: People who are deaf do not see better to compensate for a lack of hearing. Some do not see better at all. Some folks I know have developed an enhanced peripheral vision to be more aware of so many things that most folks totally miss. My son, for example, has tremendous peripheral vision. His hearing has changed over time and he prefers to speak (for now), but his early years taught him to be aware of so much visually that it still surprises me sometimes.

The key here is not to set up a "deaf race" and define racial abilities like being deaf was the fifth racial option. The point is not to stress the deafness, but to present variations of traditional classes. Truth is, when I play a bard, I think of Robert DeMayo, Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Terry Foy. I've seen Terry do Shakespeare serious and not-so-serious. I'd really love to see Robert do the same.

I want to add conversions to all sorts of systems. Give me the Alternity races in S&W (there was a Dragon magazine article that did that). Give me the hovertanks from FASA Centurion Legion. Give me a d% character from Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying.

I want to add monsters and creatures that are not related to horror. I am not a fan of horror. After a while, I just run out of synonyms for gruesome or horrifying. I'll admit, it's much harder to come up with creatures that aren't the stuff of nightmares. Despite that, it's still worth it.

I want to figure out how to make RPG material for a Kindle much easier than it is. I figured out how to make alternating shaded rows on tables. I figured out an fairly easy way to go from TiddlyWiki to HTML to MOBI formatted eBooks, but there are still a few quirks. I hope to make more things for a Kindle, even while I'm ironing out the kinks.

Anyway, I've rambled long enough, I think you get the idea. I hope to update more often now that real life has calmed down. I hope to contribute more than just an occasional emo post.

Wish me luck.

Dungeon World Hack Begins

I was quite happy to post in the Dungeon World Tavern that I was developing a campaign front about my crazy mishmash setting I've been playing in since I was a kid. You know, the Spelljammer + Centurion Legion + B/X + C from BECMI + 1e PHB + 1e Unearthed Arcana + Best of Dragon Vol V + 1e Oriental Adventures +2e Monstrous Compendium - 2e PHB - 2eDMG? Over the past couple of days, I hatched a way to handle the spacefaring fantasy ships. I'm open to feedback. I do not believe I have figured out the best way to play any game, much less Dungeon World, so constructive criticism is welcomed.

I still have a lot to learn about DW, though I really enjoy the group I play in. I sometimes still wait for my "turn" because I'm used to initiative. Otherwise, I enjoy the Barbarian and I doing all kinds of fun things. Nothing gets in the way of two crazy people and their fiction:

We appear on a ship being attacked by a sea monster. He rolls a 12 to rip the harpoon gun off its mooring and use it in an attack from point-blank range. When the sea monster died, he jumped in the water, swam underwater to the sea monster carcass and retrieved nine harpoons. I keep the gun and ammo in my bag of holding.

I'm a Cleric, and Cure Light Wounds is rote for me. You can see why we are friends.

Weren't You Going to Talk About Ships?

For some pirates, their ships became iconic. The Golden Hind went around the world with Drake. Queen Anne's Revenge is as famous as her captain. The Royal Fortune is a bit of an exception as she was whatever ship Bartholomew captured and renamed.

So in some ways, it seemed that a ship in my space fantasy would be like a magic item. It was magical enough in that it can fly, traverse interstellar space, be airtight, and everything else needed to make a ship from the Age of Sail travel among the stars. The issue with treating them like a magic item is that they were either all the same or I would be creating a lot of magic items.

So then I thought that a ship is a piece of equipment that is an extension of her captain and crew. This feels right for Dungeon World because the no one should get bogged down in the details of the ship while a good story is going on. Better to build an epic story of the characters chasing down the dread pirate windows through asteroids than to get all hung up on the equipment. It would be like playing a Fighter and talking about a sword all night.

Still, a ship should have Armor and Hit Points. Epic ship battles shouldn't end when the mizzenmast is lost to cannon bursting through it. There should be a way to measure how much punishment a ship can handle. It could be my lack of experience with Dungeon World, but I couldn't figure out a way to handle hit points or toughness by equipment tags. (And I tried a lot, let me tell you.)

I then made the mistake of thinking of a ship as a monster or character itself, complete with stats, moves, and class damage. I over-complicated the use of ships attempting to define a bunch of moves that I wanted in a space battle. Looking for inspiration, I went through notes for Microlite20's way of handling space combat and realized my error. I certainly didn't need to invent "moves" for a ship as anything that I wanted a ship to do could be done by the character piloting the ship. Evasive Maneuvers? Describe it or roll Defy Danger. Attack another ship? Volley. Ram and/or Board an enemy vessel? Hack and Slash.

So the answer is this. When a character pilots or captains a ship, any rolls that need to be made are based on the character's stats. The only exceptions to this rule are that a ship would have it's own damage die to roll instead of the character's class and it would have its own hit points. The ship can be further described by two pairs of tags of which three are already equipment tags:

Quick vs Clumsy (still -1 to all rolls)
Fast vs Slow

As for the ship's size, we'll use the tags from monsters: Huge, Large, Small, Tiny.

To set the Armor and Hit Points of the ship, there are four base types of ship (in order from smallest to largest): Corvette, Caravel, Man-O-War, and Carrack. A Corvette is similar to individual Tie-Fighters or X-Wings in Star Wars. A Man-O-War is a military ship akin to a Destroyer. It is usually heavily armored and has overwhelming firepower. A Carrack is a colossal ship used for hauling cargo. Without others to defend it, a Carrack is an easy target. The final type, the Caravel, is a jack-of-all-trades type of ship similar to the Millennium Falcon. It is larger than a small fighter. It can haul some cargo. It has more weapons that a small fighter, but cannot compete with the armor and weaponry of a Man-O-War. (I imagine that new merchants to space start with a Caravel.)

Starting with these four types of ships, you can modify the tags. For example, you may buy off the clumsy tag. You can add or remove armor if you like. You can also add or modify weapons. Adding a Cannon, for example, gives you a +1 piercing weapon. Adding a second ballista gives you weapons with a far tag.

TL;DR How Exactly Do You Do Flying Ships?

I haven't worked out the prices, yet, but here is what I have so far.

Ship Types

Corvette Class Ship; fast, quick, Armor 1, Hit Points 8, Damage d6

Caravel Class Ship; Armor 2, Hit Points 12, Damage d6

Man-O-War Class Ship; fast, Armor 4, Hit Points 16, Damage d10

Carrack Class Ship; clumsy, Armor 2, Hit Points 20, Damage d4


Ballista; far, reload
; near, +1 damage
Magic Missile Launcher; near, 2 piercing

Next post, I will have the coin costs and provide a few examples of creating ships.


Working on Two Projects at Once

I hit a total stop on the spell building system I was working on. The math did not work at all. I don't mean it was close enough that some handwaving would make it usable, it was just flat broken. I have been attempting revisions over the past couple months, but my core concept is just not going to work.

So, I am going to build off the four by five magic system to re-create the system. Right now, I am up to a six by nine system, but that may change. In short, add the value of the verb and noun to get a base value. Add to the base value to increase the effect, range, or area of effect. The final number will be a Target Number to roll over. Wizards and Clerics add their level as a bonus to success.

For those that use the Emphases System, any related tags will add to the bonus as well.

So, while I am tweaking the new spell building system, I intend to post on my second favorite game at the moment, Dungeon World. I'm in a DW group and I enjoy playing again, instead of running a game. However, I will be running a DW group this fall, so I need to get going on the campaign work now.

I intend to work out the details for a world that is part Qelong, part Nyambe, part Spelljammer, and part Hibernia. I don't own Qelong and I haven't read it, but I mention it because some I have discussed it with feel like it could be in Qelong. I have Nyambe somewhere, but I'll wing it for now. Some of the stuff I've written about previously on this here blog, but with the dynamic of Dungeon World rules, some things will translate differently.

The Spelljammer part provides an Quasi-Imperial British type of feel to the setting. (It may be more Space 1889 than Spelljammer.) Qelong and Nyambe influences the primary culture on a planet that is rich in resources and experiencing a Golden Age. Hibernia, influences part of the cosmology and religion of the world. It sounds like fun in my head, but if it falls flat for the group, well, I may go back to being a player.

Once I get the math worked out, I'll be back on track for the Year of Magic theme for Swords & Wizardry. I just need to keep writing and that is hard after an almost two month long hiatus. Hopefully, I should ping pong back and forth on these two things so that I will keep posting.