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HelgaCon II
HelgaCon has come and gone. I'd be more disappointed it's over, except that I'm so exhausted. Sleep deprivation I suppose is part and parcel of a gaming convention, but for some reason this one was particularly bad. Despite going to sleep exhausted each night, my body insisted on waking up before 8 each morning.

But enough of that, let's focus on how awesome the convention was! The house was fantastic, and we had enough people to fill pretty much every bed. There were 14 people in attendance, and we ran 9 total games over the weekend. I started Friday night playing a very cool game of Dread, a horror RPG that uses Jenga as it's conflict resolution mechanic and is otherwise very free-form roleplaying. I really enjoyed it. I played a completely naracissitic actor who amazingly managed not to die, though probably more due to lack of time to complete the game than anything else.

Saturday morning/afternoon was a gauntlet of GMing, first a WFRPG game and then my pulp Savage Worlds game. The interesting thing was that despite being way over-prepared for my SW game and feeling pretty under-prepared for the WFRPG game, the Warhammer game actually seemed to run smoother to me. Though I think both were well received. I built a lot of terrain for the SW game, and I'll post again later with detailed pictures of that.

Finally, Saturday night I played Tomb of Horrors - AD&D 1e. It was awesome and hilarious. I felt almost ill with sleep deprivation at the beginning, but caught my second wind well before we made out of the first room (which took actually several hours). My favorite moment was when after being stuck trying to figure out how to get past that room for hours, we finally gave up and left the tomb to rest and memorize a Legend Lore spell. The result of the spell was that Dan read us several couplets with clues to getting past the room, then in his usualy hard-line GMing style refused to read it again.

We panicked -- none of us had time to write down the rhymes. Would we be able to piece together the clues if we couldn't even remember what Dan just said? John, a somewhat newer player, asked 'Does it matter how we record what Dan said?' There was further argument as to why that would matter if Dan wouldn't re-read it anyway. John continued posing the question, and tempers were starting to rise, when I turned to John and said 'Did you record Dan when he was reading that?'

Yeah, it turns out John's camera has a video mode that records audio as well. He had filmed the whole thing. After a few more moments of panick as John tries to figure out how to play it back, we hear the words of the poem again and there are several high-fives around the table. We had to listen to the thing several more times before figuring out the obscure method of proceeding past the room.

By 2:00 am, I was too tired to continue. I went to bed, fell into a deep sleep, and cursed my luck when I woke up the next morning at 8. That morning and early afternoon we played Dan's OD&D game, which was a bit more straight forward, but still managed to see Dan's second total party kill of the weekend. I cursed Gygax for the details in his spells, such as detect magic which lasts 'for a short time' and is 'of limited range'. Even worse, the haste spell details the number of people it affects, but there is no mention of what the actual effect is.

Then we had to pack up and go. I seem to only have pictures of the first and last day. I guess Saturday was just too crazy for me to bother with the camera. Probably because of my back to back GMing. Next year, I think I may try to work the schedule to not make anyone have to do that.
April 6th, 2009 - 09:21 am | Comments (1) | PERMALINK

M1: Blizzard Pass
The other solo module I tried out while sick was M1 Blizzard Pass. This is the module that started it all for me (not gaming, but my interest in solo modules). It's for a single Thief character levels 1-3. The text again is structured in sections like a choose your own adventure, however many (but not all) sections are written in invisible ink. A pen is included that can be used to reveal the sections. My ebay copy came with no pen, and about half the sections revealed but unreadable due to fading. Fortunately, I found the hidden sections printed in a document hosted by the Acaeum here.

As a kid, I really enjoyed choose your own adventure books. Perhaps this is why I liked this module so much. It really does read like a choose your own adventure, with very few cases of actual D&D mechanics. Sometimes you're asked to roll a d20 to hit a monster, but based on the result you're directed to one section or another that narrates the combat. You certainly never roll for your enemies, that's all pre-written.

Occasionally you get to use your thief skills as well. In this case, there's a series of boxes with invisible numbers in them. You're directed to fill in a number of boxes equal to your level, and if any are below your skill value you succeed. I'm not sure why you get to fill in more boxes for additional levels. Assuming the numbers are evenly distributed, shouldn't the increase in skill level be enough to make success more likely for a higher level character? I decided to ignore this mechanic (especially since often the boxes were already filled in on my copy), and instead just rolled percentile.

There were several endings in the module, depending on what choices you made. After making it to an ending, I went back a few sections and chose a different path to see how it played out. Death was possible, though very unlikely and usually narrated rather than randomly occurring through combat.

Did this style make for a more cohesive story than BSOLO? Yeah, probably, though it felt like I was reading a mediocre kid's book. Also, it failed to really give me the sense that I was playing D&D rather than reading a book. The story certainly had a D&D flavor to it -- I loved the evil cult whose deity/symbol was a giant frog. (What is it with old school D&D and giant frogs?) But again, it just didn't feel like I was playing D&D.

All in all, I think I preferred BSOLO to M1. In both cases though, it was a pale imitation of actually playing the game. I have two more solo modules I bought off ebay. Maybe next time I'm home sick or trapped on a plane/train/bus I'll give one a try. Other than that, they'll probably just gather dust on my bookshelf.
April 6th, 2009 - 10:22 am | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

Organic D&D Sandbox
So I've been contemplating BJ's idea for Sandbox roleplaying worlds. For those who don't know, it's loosely based on the West Marches campaign. Sort of 'open world' tabletop rpg, to borrow a video game term, where the GM builds a large world and it's up to the players to push the plot forward by exploring said world.

The downside of West Marches as written for BJ I believe is the scheduling system. Instead, he's considering running on a static night, and whichever players show up that nights are the ones to play. Of course, that means they'll have to figure out which plot to pursue at the table, rather than planning it ahead of time. This makes a lot of sense to me, as I suspect true West Marches would only work in a college setting where the participants all have oodles of free time and live very close to each other.

So here's my twist. Instead of pre-creating the world, the players are involved in dynamically creating the world through the course of play. A website or similar is maintined with a list of rumors circulating the player's home base. 'There are orcs in the hills to the west guarding a great treasure' or 'An evil wizard kidnaps children when the moon is new and takes them back to his castle to the north to cook and eat them.' The GM can seed the rumors, but players also have a means of adding their own rumors that they themselves make up.

The site also has a means for players to confirm rumors they themselves did not start. Each player can only confirm each rumor once. It's something like a voting system. The GM can then at his leisure sift through the current rumors, find ones that have a large number of confirmations, and make them true by building them into the world.

The GM ultimately is still responsible for creating all the content, but he doesn't have to front-load the entire process. He can start with a very small world, and then allow the world to grow over time. What's more, the players have some hand in forming the world around them by making up all kinds of rumors.

Of course, you'd have to have players you can trust to come up with good stuff for this to work, but I'm thinking of the people I game with and I think it would work. Depending on how much effort you put into authoring the website, you could put limits on the number of new rumors per player, or confirmations per player, etc. Personally, I would want to hide the number of confirmations from the players, so they have no idea when perusing the list which rumors are likely to be true and which are not.

Well, there you go, food for thought, and gaming post #3 for me today. More to come, but maybe I'll wait until tomorrow.
April 6th, 2009 - 03:48 pm | Comments (0) | PERMALINK

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