Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How much should characters be able to cheat death in a (fantasy) game setting?

My train of thought is something like -

Akrasia has some very interesting suggestions on making magic in OSR type games more like the tales that spawned them (old post found via Brendan via Dr Bargle).

In that post, Akrasia casually drops in that he has "removed the spells ‘raise dead’ and ‘reincarnation,’". Which is right and sensible, since it deals with a couple of the biggest potential mood issues of D&D, in my view -
  • At a certain level, death becomes a road-bump rather than an ending
  • Even with Autarch's rather good The Demographics of Heroism, your small duchy / large city still has a high priest(ess) who can 'raise dead', so it's not just your PCs who won't stay dead
Just because it's a good fantasy setting, that doesn't mean it's a good game setting (Lord of the Rings being one of the stand-out examples here). And a key differentiator in my view is whether a fair degree of magical (or at least non-natural) healing is available to the characters.

So, my thought is that Akrasia is right, and those two spells should be removed, unless you're going for properly high-fantasy. But that characters should be given Fate Points a la WFRP, to partially make up for this.

I also really like his view of merging cleric and magic user spell lists, and having there be consequences to 'black' magic - the latter point also being echoed in Brendan's post.

However, I'd do things slightly differently -
  1. Magic users get the merged spell lists, and the consequences of 'black' magic, and the normal magic user armour restrictions. This, as per Akrisia's intent, gives you magicians from the vast range of architypes.
  2. Clerics you keep, and with their armour / weapon options. They also get no consequences of spell casting, as the power comes from their deity - except that over time (levels) they get more and more like the deity they follow. Presumably they're OK with this, but it might seem like a tough bargain when viewed from the outside. Mechanically I'm not sure how you represent this, since the alignment 'penalty' that Brendan alludes to for magic users is irrelevant for clerics, and you want the player to still have control over their character. What you can do mechanically though is, per deity, limit the range of spells from the full list that clerics can cast (although this requires a lot of preparation work on fleshing out the deities and their spell lists). Perhaps starting with few restrictions and low levels and ramping this up at high levels is how this would work

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fundamental questions about your world setting

Some great posts got me thinking about one of the fundamental questions of a world setting - Thought of the Day: A World Without Heroes (The Alexandrian); Disease and Disaster in Hammerstein! (Dr Bargle) and Medieval England Did Not Have Dragons (Monsters and Manuals).

The question being, if gods, magic and monsters exist and affect the world, just what does this mean?

I don't know my answer yet but my initial thoughts, for my medium-fantasy setting, are -
  • Some disease is natural, most is supernatural. But actually what does this matter to the world, as they've not had, and may never have, Edward Jenner or John Snow?
  • The intelligent (playable) races were created, although at what stage of progression I've not yet decided. Were the first mages / shaman living a stone age lifestyle, or later than that? I'm a bit vague on my Tolkien, but I think he had elves born into Middle Earth in quite an advanced stage.
  • What's the dynamic between other intelligent races (here I'll include the less-smart humaniods, such as ogres), and monsters (here I'll include dragons, at the risk of offending). My thought is that the former compete with the playable races, in the same way that different races and realms compete. The latter are rare (although they need some way to come into contact with the adventurers) but not so rare that your sheep are safe.
My other thought is, the setting is unusual that has a pre-history. Most I can think of - game and novel - exist only in the now, unless the past is just there to provide ruins to explore. Exceptions spring to mind - Tolkien, Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy and Paul Kearney's Monarchies of God - but equally most settings exist for a very long time at a medievalish level of development. Is this laziness, or again supernatural?

New blog, first post

A place to think out loud about pen and paper RPG stuff.

My history teacher introduced a group of my friends to Dungeons and Dragons in my very early teens (25+ years ago, ouch) and we, as DMs and players, must have made nearly every mistake in the book. One of which was that dragons weren't scary, just good sources of treasure.

We eventually outgrew D&D, with it's out of scale power levels, or so we saw it, and moved on to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (original edition, of course).

I drifted away from the hobby in my third year at university, substituting with computer RPGs (along with a diet of Quake and its successors) and then World of Warcraft when that came along. But the reality is that there's mostly game and very little roleplaying in a computer generated world, and so I find myself turning back towards the real thing.

I'm not sure it's possible to be involved in this hobby without being something of a world builder, so here's a place to set my thoughts on various RPG subjects into bits and bytes.