Monday, March 28, 2016

Blogging A to Z Challenge

I will be participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge for April of this year! For more information, click on the badge in my sidebar.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Druids in Basic D&D (and the AD&D bard)

They suck.

Okay, they aren't much different from other contemporary versions of the druid in terms of how they play, but the process of getting there is freaking terrible. On the surface, the idea of having a sub-class of the cleric as a kind of "prestige class" would seem to work. After all, just as a magic-user might conceivably go from studying all of magic broadly to studying a single "school" in great detail (although I haven't seen a version of D&D that allows this, except for 3.5 and 5th edition where all wizards choose a specialization), the cosmology of Mystara might allow a cleric to switch from worshiping a larger pantheon to honoring a single Immortal from that pantheon.

Unfortunately, this logic doesn't hold up when the new focus of worship has little or nothing to do with the old one. Druids' entire nature - the thing that makes them more than just (in AD&D 2 terms) another mythos priest - is that they worship the unified force of the natural world, instead of personifying it the way that the standard cleric worships a God or Goddess of Time, of Magic, of Death, et cetera. In real-world terms, this shift would be like a Roman Catholic priest who is credited with reviving interest in the Church (thanks to his* reputation as a miracle worker) deciding, after twenty years, to convert to a pantheistic Neopagan religion.

Even worse than the complete hash this makes of Mystara's already unusual cosmology is the fact that the BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia druid is locked to clerics who have already attained name level (9th or higher, in this case). I have yet to have a party in any RPG I've run reach 3rd level, let alone 9th. Hell, I saw getting one of my AD&D players' character to 2nd level as cause for celebration. It's the same problem I have with the bard class as presented in AD&D's first edition; in a day and age where a twelve-year-old video game still has at least twice the number of players as even the newest (5e) or most popular (probably 3.5e) edition of D&D, very few people will get to a high enough level that they'll be able to play this type of character. It's one thing to make a class exceptionally difficult to qualify for due to ability score requirements - it's quite another to make the player's character jump through a number of almost-literal hoops over who knows how many months or years to play their chosen class... assuming the character doesn't get killed in the process.

I would normally just shut up and use the druid as presented for OD&D in Eldritch Wizardry, but this is the very first presentation of the class - and it really, really shows. The distribution of powers is far from equally spaced out.

As for why I've decided to write about this? I'm thinking about adopting the Rules Cyclopedia as my preferred rules set for non-Advanced D&D (for a game I'm hoping to run over the summer), but this is one of the things about it that really annoys me. My ideal goal is to find a game that I can run completely without house rules, and so far B/X is the closest to that goal.

*Yes, "his". I'm not using it as a lazy, supposedly gender-neutral pronoun like the D&D books in the 90s; I'm simply following the real world in this example, as the Roman Catholic Church still refuses to allow women to become members of the clergy. Sad, but true.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Something very cool

So, last Friday, I attended my friend's game session, expecting to experience Savage Worlds again (as it was his week, which he alternates with the person running D&D 5). My friend did not run Savage Worlds. Instead, he ran something which he was literally coming up with off the top of his head, taking an occasional two-minute break to create a simple table.

I won't detail what it was exactly, but it was awesome, and one of the other players has tentatively enlisted me as an editor if the two of them decide to organize and possibly publish this brand-new game. All I'm going to say at this point is that it is not a medieval fantasy game, and it's similar in concept (if much cooler in execution) than a highly-anticipated video game from eight to ten years ago. If it does get into the planning stage, I might write a quick preview of it here.

Sorry if this post seems like a bait and switch. I'll be sure to write a better post later this week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review/shameless plug: Ternketh Keep, and the Airship of Horajefa

So, in case my one follower hasn't heard, Alexis Smolensk of The Tao of D&D has been providing some cool stuff - ranging from an adventure module to an early preview of his upcoming novel - in exchange for donations to help him out with rent and bills. For $15 CAN, the prospective donor gets a copy of the adventure he talked about at length on his blog, Ternketh Keep (a preview of which can be found here), as well as the deck plans and description of the airship that can be used to get there. I took the plunge and donated, and let me tell you, it's worth every penny.

Not only is the module itself pretty cool, and designed to be easily adaptable to any suitable fantasy RPG (although it's designed for AD&D, and Alexis includes a few notes on using it with other systems), but both it and the airship can be provided in PDF or Microsoft Publisher format, or both upon request; the descriptions are in Microsoft Word format, but considering that most people will be using Gmail (in fact, Alexis mentioned that some donors had issues with the download in other email clients), it can be easily opened and saved in a more convenient format if you don't have the newer versions of Word that use .docx files.

I highly recommend donating at least $15.00, as this module is pretty cool and the airship is very well designed - even suggesting a Spelljammer-esque means of celestial travel. Plus, the donations are going directly to help out a guy who I'd certainly like to be able to continue blogging. The page explaining the various rewards is here.

(Full disclosure: I was not asked nor paid by Alexis to do this. I bought some of what he's selling, and I enjoy it, and I feel like he deserves to be paid for this quality of work.)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Clumsy and Random

So, a little over a week ago, I was a participant in a Star Wars Roleplaying Game session (the d20 one, not the current game with the extra-weird dice). It had been forever since I played or ran a d20 System game, so it took a little while for me to get up to speed. Nonetheless, I was able to make my character, a Jedi Knight named Titus Crom, and fun was had by all.

Titus came into the story in the middle of a prison break occurring in a massive Imperial skyscraper; the details that the GM told me about this time period in the Old Republic implied that I had been arrested for being (rather obviously) a Jedi Knight. I was freed, and joined a newly-freed smuggler and another Jedi who was making his way through the complex. They stayed in touch with their allies (four other player characters working on getting into the building from the top down) via com-link, and I was brought up to speed on the Jedi's mission: Defeat the Sith Apprentice on the very top floor of the building.

We made our way through, and right before our fight with the Sith Apprentice, the GM rolled a d20 for some reason that slips my mind now. It was a natural 1. He racked his brain for a bit, and then announced to us:

"The Sith Apprentice loses his connection to the Force."

Wow. Not what we were expecting, but considering that it was now a battle between two Jedi Knights in top form, and a single crippled Sith Apprentice, we figured that this should be an easy fight.

It was not. D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder may be obsessed with balancing everything so that the players won't have too tough a time with their enemies, but SWRPG is very, very tough. For this reason, the GM had instituted a rule that, after all racial and other modifiers were applied, any 9s that were rolled for ability scores became 10s. So Titus has exactly average Strength and Dexterity - not high enough to take any of the lightsaber combat feats - with only slightly above-average Constitution and Intelligence, but a 14 Wisdom and a 17 Charisma.

Two Jedi against one disabled Sith, and I still came within one blow of dying.

Of course, once a bunch of guards showed up, I was able to effortlessly sweep them down using Force Slam, and pin a straggler to the wall and interrogate him from halfway across the room. My total bonus to Use the Force is +14, on a twenty-sided die.

I have hung out with this group once more since then, and hopefully the fruits of that more relaxed session will make good blog material. For now, I'll leave off with a few observations:
  • The GM was excellent; aside from a few notes on his cell phone, he was able to give us descriptions of everything from memory and/or improvisation.
  • Star Wars and the d20 System are a nearly perfect match.
  • That said, I still really want to try White Star.