Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pathfinder "Basic"

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’ve been rooting for the success of Paizo Publishing in the wake of Wizards of the Coast’s mishandling of D&D. A while back I wrote about the possibility of Paizo producing a rules light/basic version of its wildly popular (but decidedly rules heavy) Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It appears they’re definitely going forward with the project.

The box (pictured above) looks promising. Eric Mona, of Paizo, has said that this picture is just a mock-up of the box. The art (by Wayne Reynolds) is as it will be in the final product but the name of the product (now simply “Basic Game”), font used, etc., will likely change. Mona has also said that the box is exactly the same dimensions as the board game “Kill Doctor Lucky” (which is 11.5 x 9 x 2.9 inches). If Paizo remains true to their sterling reputation, I’m sure it will easily rival, if not surpass, the D&D 4E Red Box produced last year by WotC in terms of production quality.

However, reading what little has managed to trickle out about the project has taken some of the wind out of my sails. It would appear that Paizo is intending the set to be more of an introduction (i.e., an expensive advertisement) for the monster 500 page Core Rulebook. Black Diamond Games has said: “Some details: It's a full 5-level Pathfinder box set that uses the same rules in a more user friendly format. It should have a DMs book, player's book and adventure. No miniatures but standee figures ala Kill Doctor Lucky. It's $34.95.” Elsewhere, Paizo has said: “This is, unquestionably, still the Pathfinder RPG. We've made it easier to learn and to play, but you could theoretically take your character to a Pathfinder Society event and play level-appropriate scenarios alongside people who created their characters out of the Core Rulebook.”

If it’s “the same rules” then there’s no real need for the new set. Sure, it might hook a few people who were initially scared off by their Core Rulebook, but that’s a bit of a bait and switch in my opinion. If people don’t want to play a game that takes 500+ pages to run/understand, I fail to understand why they’d want a game that introduces them to the same 500+ page rule set, just more gradually (and at $34.95 every 5 levels!). I fear it’s the same tactic WotC used with their new Red Box: the same cumbersome rules with little more than a wink and nod toward boxed set nostalgia. No thanks!

The fact that it will include standee figures is also a complete disappointment for me. I have no love of using strategy heavy/minis-oriented combat in my RPGs and the fact that Paizo is including them in their “Basic Set” shows that they introduce this facet of the game early on. So, get ready for the groundwork being laid for attacks of opportunity, flanking bonuses, and five foot stepping for tactical advantage. Again, no thanks!

According to Paizo’s Technical Director, Vic Wertz, they haven’t ruled out putting out another boxed set to take players beyond levels 5 (perhaps in the style of B/X or, who knows, maybe even BECMI D&D). Mark Moreland, a game developer at Paizo, revealed that the company would be previewing the new boxed set in June at PaizoCon so we can look forward to more details then.

Here’s hoping my initial impressions are wrong. I’d love a true “Basic” version of the game!

Monday, April 18, 2011

AD&D 2nd Edition and the OSR

Taking a brake from the wildly popular (/sarcasm) randomly generated inn posts... 

I’ve played through just about every edition of (A)D&D over the years. As I mentioned in some of my previous posts, I’m returning to the earlier editions because I miss that old school style of play that keeps us all coming back for more.

However, I’ve been having a bit of a difficult time with my players. They’re all decidedly new-school in their approach to gaming (even those who, like me, played many of the earlier editions of [A]D&D). Initially, they were open to trying some of the early stuff, most notably B/X D&D or AD&D 1st Edition. However, they don’t really seem happy with either system (the major complaint being that they’re not “detailed” enough for them). I’ve written about that elsewhere but in seeking to bring my group into the OSR it occurs to me that “baby steps” may be the way to go.

So, in our discussions, one player suggested trying AD&D 2nd Edition. I had lots of fun with that edition back in the 90s and think I can still enjoy it because it is largely backwards compatible with everything that came before it (with minor tweaking) unlike more recent editions of the game. I know that old school gaming has more to do with the style of play than with the system used but I also know that some systems tend to support old school style while others undermine it. So, what are your thoughts on AD&D 2E? Can it rightly be considered “Old School?”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Random Inn Names (Tables 2 and 3)

Here is the second group of naming conventions for randomly generated inns (see the initial table for naming conventions here), which I refer to as compound inanimate names (ex. The Cracked Anvil). I tried to keep repetition from Table 1 to an absolute minimum.

As an aside, I like to name it as the dice roll, even if the combination doesn’t make immediate sense or seem to fit together. If you look at the names of pubs (especially historical pubs) the names don’t always seem to make sense. There’s generally history behind the name known only to locals. Strange names or pairings might even turn into a potential adventure hook for the players! At any rate, I hope you enjoy it.

Table 2: Compound Names                         Table 3: Compound Names

01-02 Ample                                                   01-02 Anvil
03-04 Ancient                                                 03-04 Apple
05-06 Blighted                                                05-06 Barrel
07-08 Bloody                                                  07-08 Bottle
09-10 Cracked                                                09-10 Cask
11-12 Crystal                                                  11-12 Cleaver
13-14 Damned                                                13-14 Dagger
15-16 Dented                                                  15-16 Dock
17-18 Elegant                                                  17-18 Egg
19-20 Enchanted                                             19-20 Elderberry
21-22 Fiery                                                      21-22 Flagon
23-24 Flint                                                       23-24 Flask
25-26 Glimmering                                            25-26 Garden
27-28 Gnarled                                                 27-28 Glass
29-30 Hidden                                                  29-30 Hammer
31-32 Hollow                                                  31-32 Hearth
33-34 Idle                                                       33-34 Ice Pick
35-36 Infernal                                                 35-36 Iris
37-38 Jagged                                                  37-38 Jar
39-40 Jeweled                                                39-40 Jetsam
41-42 Keen                                                    41-42 Keg
43-44 Knavish                                                43-44 Kettle
45-46 Laden                                                   45-46 Labyrinth
47-48 Lavish                                                   47-48 Landing
49-50 Macabre                                               49-50 Mallet
51-52 Majestic                                                51-52 Mask
53-54 Noble                                                   53-54 Nave
55-56 Notorious                                              55-56 Nest
57-58 Old                                                        57-58 Oak
59-60 Ornate                                                   59-60 Oar
61-62 Painted                                                  61-62 Pike
63-64 Potent                                                   63-64 Platter
65-66 Quaint                                                   65-66 Quill
67-68 Quirky                                                   67-68 Quiver
69-70 Regal                                                     69-70 Rack
71-72 Rustic                                                    71-72 Rose
73-74 Steel                                                      73-74 Skillet
75-76 Soaked                                                  75-76 Sword
77-78 Tranquil                                                77-78 Tome
79-80 Tilted                                                    79-80 Tuber
81-82 Underrated                                           81-82 Urchin
83-84 Unassuming                                          83-84 Vase
85-86 Velvet                                                   85-86 Vein
87-88 Volatile                                                 87-88 Wagon
89-90 Wondrous                                             89-90 Wheel
91-92 Weird                                                    91-92 Whetstone
93-94 Xanthic                                                 93-94 Xenolith
95-96 Yellow                                                  95-96 Yam
97-98 Yammering                                           97-98 Zephyr
99-00 Zigzagged                                             99-00 Ziggurat

More later!

Random Inn Names (Table 1)

I’m nearing the completion of my tables for randomly generated inns so I’ll be posting them in the coming days. I’m beginning with names because that’s the first thing PCs will notice about the inn. In my games I’ve used lots of naming conventions but the tables I’ll be posting here can be boiled down to four: Simple names (ex. The Sanctum), Compound inanimate names (ex. The Cracked Anvil), Compound animate names (ex. The Blind Wyvern), and Compound obscure groupings (ex. The Pig and Whistle). So, below is the first in the series of randomly generated naming tables: simple names composed of just one or two words. The names often help me imagine what the inn might be like (for example, The Illusionist might be run by a retired magic user or illusionist and feature unique magical entertainment), where it might be located (The Shearwater, for example, is probably located in a port somewhere), or even special features of the establishment (The Labyrinth, for example, might have a mazelike structure inside). Here's how the tables will work...

Roll 1d4 and consult the results below to determine the naming convention.

1 Roll 2d10 and consult the percentile result shown on table 1. (Simple Names)
2 Roll 2d10 twice linking the percentile results from tables 2 and 3. (Compound Inanimate Names)
3 Roll 2d10 twice linking the percentile results from tables 4 and 5. (Compound Animate Names)
4 Roll 2d10 twice linking the percentile results from tables 6 and 7 (Compound Groupings)


Table 1: Simple Names

01-02 The Abbey
03-04 The Abyss
05-06 The Backdoor
07-08 The Bulwark
09-10 The Cave
11-12 The Crown
13-14 The Dive
15-16 The Downfall
17-18 The Eclipse
19-20 The Egress
21-22 The Faire
23-24 The Faucet
25-26 The Gadfly
27-28 The Grotto
29-30 The Helix
31-32 The Hideaway
33-34 The Illusionist
35-36 The Idol
37-38 The Jester
39-40 The Jib
41-42 The Keep
43-44 The  Kingfisher
45-46 The Labyrinth
47-48 The Last Stand
49-50 The Madhouse
51-52 The Morass
53-54 The Nest
55-56 The Nightmare
57-58 The Obelisk
59-60 The Oculus
61-62 The Portico
63-64 The Powder Keg
65-66 The Quagmire
67-68 The Ragamuffin
69-70 Riffraff
71-72 The Sanctum
73-74 The Shearwater
75-76 The Tailwater
77-78 The Turret
79-80 The Underbelly
81-82 Utopia
83-84 The Vagabond
85-86 Villainy
87-88 Wanderlust
89-90 The War Party
91-92 The Xanthippe
93-94 The Yardbird
95-96 The Yearling
97-98 The Zealot
99-00 The Zephyr

More naming tables tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Quest: The Music

While I'm working on my tables for randomly generated inns, I thought I'd provide you with the following...

Back in the 80s, I owned an album set (two, if I recall correctly) called “First Quest.” It was produced by TSR and contained both a story as well as musical tracks for each portion of the story. The outside cover was Easley’s cover of the Dungeon Masters Guide and the interior sleeves had maps and tables printed on them.

We used to play the musical tracks in the background while we gamed back then. Unfortunately, the albums were cracked in a move long ago and I haven’t seen them for sale (or even referenced) anywhere else. Just when I was beginning to think the albums were just a part of my feverish childhood imagination, someone has posted the audio on Youtube. Here is the link for the first track (the others can be navigated to using the videos suggested to the right of the original). Check them out for 80s “fantasy” music at its finest (that’s sarcasm guys, listening to it now it reminds me of cheap renaissance faire music crossed with the Men Without Hats)…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Inns and Outs

I’ve been playing D&D (in one iteration or another) for nearly 25 years and one of my favorite things is designing inns. “Inns, you say?” Yes, as cliché as it may sound, inns almost always end up being the hub of my PCs illustrious adventures. Of course, the inns in my games run the gamut from being just a place for the PCs to hang their hats in between dungeon crawls to being the center of my city-based campaigns, and everything in between.

Recently, I’ve undertaken a project that’s been bouncing around inside my head for a loooong time. I’m putting together a collection of tables to create some colorful randomly generated inns. The tables will provide randomly generated names (from the silly to the sublime), to prominent NPCs (like that innkeeper who is really a wererat running a thieves guild), to unique features (like a series of subterranean prison cells beneath the cellar where unsuspecting drunks are waylayed and sold into slavery), to...well, a ton of other things.

I hope to post some things in the near future for your perusal and would greatly appreciate your feedback as to if you think such a project would be at all useful in your campaigns, things you’d like to see included (or excluded), etc.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Old School D&D on Television

For those of you who don’t watch much television, Community is a relatively new show on NBC starring Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, and Chevy Chase. The show regularly follows the core cast as they seek to complete their “general education” courses at a local community college (Greendale) to earn their college degrees.

A recent episode featured the cast playing Dungeons & Dragons. They were reaching out to a fellow student (not so affectionately referred to as “Fat Neil”) who was a role-playing enthusiast. I know that D&D has worked its way into the mainstream consciousness to such a degree that it’s not uncommon to see it referenced in pop-culture but this episode took me by surprise.

Why? Because this was no passing reference, it was the entirety of the episode. Also, the D&D they featured was old-school D&D, specifically 1st edition AD&D. In fact, Neil’s collection of books was made up exclusively of AD&D materials. When Chevy Chase later purchases a milk crate full of gaming paraphernalia, it’s again strictly AD&D 1st edition materials.

The session they played featured many of the characteristics we all know, love, and associate with the old-school style of play. For example, when one of the characters asks “Shouldn’t there be a board, or some pieces, or something to Jenga?” the DM responds “No, no, this is a role-playing game. It takes place entirely in our collective imagination.” Ah, it made me long for the days before battlemats, attacks of opportunity, and 5 foot stepping for tactical advantage. The goal of the game is stated by the DM: “Your goal is to track down the dragon, kill him, and then claim the treasure as your own.” What!? You mean no saving the world? Nope, just a fun quest with looting treasure as the goal.

The game they played was based upon a fabricated old school module (“The Caverns of Draconis”) and featured a decidedly sandbox-style of play, character death as a result of a critical hit (no need to roll to conform the critical, it’s old school!), role-playing to find creative solutions, etc. I found it fascinating that, in the mind of the mainstream, D&D is still old school!

If you have the time and the inclination, check it out:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Okay so its been a while. I’m back.

There’s been a kerfuffle in the gaming community over a recent article by Mike Mearls, the Group Manager for the D&D Research and Development Team over at Wizards of the Coast. In the article, Mearls essentially issues a plea for all of us who have played the various iterations of D&D to just get along; in essence, it’s an appeal for an end to the infamous “edition wars.”

I must say, the change in tone on the part of WOTC smacks of desperation. It’s no secret that sales of 4th edition materials are floundering, often being equaled or even surpassed by other industry leaders, such as Paizo. Now that WOTC finds themselves in such an unenviable position, folks like Mearls are encouraging us not to bash other/earlier editions of the game.

I can’t help but wonder, did Mearls see how 4e was originally marketed? It was heralded by WOTC themselves as being the best version of D&D. Their initial marketing strategy even employed videos showing how primitive, clunky, and unplayable previous editions were. Yet now we’re supposed to play nice and not say the very things WOTC themselves said back when 4e was being released? Is anybody buying this?