Happy to bite the bullet

I have been thinking about game design a bit recently, triggered by the comments about realism vs abstraction. All game systems are inherently compromises between realism vs abstraction, complexity vs simplicity or rules ligth vs rules heavy.

I have seen a lot of articles that imply that simple rules and rules light go had in hand whereas the reality has in my experience been the opposite. If you have a very simple rule for each situation then you can easily end up with tens of hundreds of simple rules, one for just about every situation. AD&D is a prime example of this with just about everything being handled in its own unique way.

I have complained in the past that RM2 was totally inconsistent with the way it handled skills with different pricing structures for musical instruments and weapons to the way you buy martial arts to the way you buy most other skills. Some skills give +1 per rank and others +5/+2/+1/. Some skills cancel out penalties while others have built in failure penalties such as failing your quickdraw roll. The whole skill system is a hodge podge of different mechanics.

Intothatdarkness’s firearms rules sound the opposite of that in that they are based upon one core metric, the energy of the prjectile based upon muzzle velocity and mass which should mean that any and every possible firearm should be able to be modelled with just one mechanism. The firearms tables I have seen before worked on the idea of one table per ‘type’ and a mk 1 would be a very light version, mk2 would be a pistol, mk3 a carbine, m4 a rifle and mk5 some kind of support weapon. I think the idea of a table for pistols, one for rifles and so on makes more sense and most combats could be carried out with just one or two tables. so very little page flicking between combat charts.

Into is also using a 2 second combat round which is my preferred interval. Cutting a round down into such small chunks makes what is possible in a round more limited so and so player declarations become simpler. I like this as trying to protect someone while they spend 5 rounds trying to pick a lock can be quite intense under fire.

It sounds like Into has also solved the critical issue with firearms. Under bought and paid fore Spacemaster or modern day RM all projectiles were doing puncture criticals and soon enough every possible critical has been delivered and recieved and the excitement of ‘what will the critical say?’ is lost. By having a critical table by location rather than by weapon that should give loads of possibles.

I am not a fan of adding in additional rules but these sound right up my street.

Also relating to comments made this week Brian said that he had rolled all magic into essence and I am defintely heading in that direction myself the more I tinker with spell law. I definitely agree that magic is magic and the false barriers between the realms do not seem to add more than they detract.

Well, that is about the sum of my musings this week. It has been one of those weeks with no gaming on my part and the next planned session is so far away that it in itself is not stoking the fires of the imagination.

Miscellaneous Musings

Heading off to vacation so I probably won’t get new posts up for the next 10 days or so, but I thought I’d put up some random thoughts.

  1. It’s great to see new contributors to the Rolemasterblog! People who don’t sign up for the RM Forums don’t see the various RMU development threads and may not realize there is ongoing discussion and activity. I think this blog helps spread the word about RM and perhaps reaches other RPGers who might not go the forums.
  2. I got a few more messages re: BASiL mentalism spells. Right now I’m making real progress on finalizing my next submission: Empire of the Black Dragon and I’m very focused on that. Writing is HARD, but I find that it’s easier to write following your creative impulses. I’m having a great time writing adventures–its just flowing so I’m going to go with it. Part of it is the “unique’ nature of the material which is more fortresses and layouts than regional & cultural overview. Reformatting mentalism spells is more work than creative but I will get around to it!
  3. I started another great book, The Twelve Kings of Sharakhai. I’ve always loved a good desert setting and we really haven’t had one with Shadow World yet. Terry? With that said, I wonder if someone could come up with a unique desert culture that isn’t the standard middle eastern/Arabian tropes? I’ve always been intrigued by the Synshari race.
  4. I’ve been reading a lot of other blogs (and linking to good posts I find here). Not many Rolemaster blogs and almost no Shadow World blogs. BAD!!! The ones that I do find haven’t had any recent posts–some have been inactive for years.
  5. Armor makes a difference! My PC’s generally go light on the armor due to our simplified rules and the inherent trade off between encumbrance and protection but a couple of them are reconsidering…. The had a “run-in” with an Alliance Jenaara and Kal-chah warriors and got their butts kicked!
  6. Peter, the banner pic you put up is much better than the word jumble that was up before.
  7. I have a great artist interested in doing the layouts for my next project–hopefully he signs on!!
  8. I’m loading up my kindle for my trip–any good book recommendations?

Special skills, special spells. Gods in roleplaying.

As part of the ongoing discussion of Clerics and Channeling in Rolemaster and Shadow World I thought I would call attention to a great blog and commentary over at Grognardia.

Peter has talked about rolling Channeling into the Essence Realm and I have basically rolled all of the Realms together–only organizing them by casting mechanism.

But this blog raises some earlier thoughts I had about Clerics and Channeling in general. Before Shadow World I was running a “diety-lite” setting where Gods were mere abstracts providing the homogenous powers provided by Spell Law Channeling. Now with Shadow World, I’ve fully embraced the use of active, involved Gods and built the Orhan/Charon spells lists and organizations to better define Clerics “special skills”.

However, were I to start from scratch I might do something different. Probably further consolidate all spells into the single realm of “Essaence”, and when and if applicable utilize “Channeling” as gifted benefits or powers from Gods or Higher beings when applicable. That’s basically what I’m doing now, but in the context of controlled spell acquisition and DP expenditure.

Interesting to read D&D design theory from 1984 and similarities between providing special Diety specific skills/spells and our own discussions on Diety specific spells lists.


Combat realism in Rolemaster & RMU. Good, bad, neither?

Interesting writing over on “Takeonrules

By this time, I had been playing Rolemaster and Dungeons & Dragons, games that placed a tremendous amount of rules explanation on combat and fighting.  And I maintain that by placing emphasis on combat, combat is more likely to occur.

Blog Post worth a read. Thoughts? I haven’t spent much time on 5th Ed., but I get the impression that the focus has deliberately changed to support role-playing and narrative rather than combat. Other new games like Monte Cooks Cypher System are paving the way for new role-playing narrative forms.

Is RM and RMU chasing down the rabbit hole for ever greater combat realism?

Pulling at loose threads

How many loose ends does your campaign have trailing behind the PCs? I have only been running my face to face game for a few years now, playing maybe 40 hrs a year or so and yet already there is a trail of loose ends, uncompleted quests and unsolved mysteries.

I have intentionally set up two concurrent story arcs. The point of having two is that I don’t want the campaign to feel linear or railroaded. One plot often interferes with progress in the other and the inter-weaved stories are richer and more complicated than a single story.

On the other hand too many loose ends do not add to the overall story, in my opinion. I think that too many loose ends can leave the players feeling frustrated and for the GM more balls to keep in the air if he is to keep tabs on every loose end.

Something I learned from solo rpgs is to keep a log of plot lines or more accurately loose ends. This simple technique first of all made it blatantly obvious how many loose ends there were. It also made it pretty easy to plot in mopping up these loose ends as I prepped future sessions. I am not saying that you have to nicely clean up every loose end in the very next session but when an opportunity presents itself it can be very fulfilling for the players to finally track down  loose end.

For the GM it can also mean less work. Why create a new assassin when there is one in the characters’ history already? My player characters are hanging around a 50 mile radius area and bringing people back into the story is pretty easy right now.

It isn’t just me that says keep the total story lines count down. Look at classic sci fi and fantasy TV series and although you may get a different adventure every week you rarely ever get more than one over arching story arc that spans from episode to episode.

I have no idea if there is an optimal number of story arcs to have in a game but I bet it is more than one would expect. When I started thinking about this I thought the right answer is two but that I think is way too low a number.

Firstly one needs the main campaign plot. I also think you should have a side plot to stop it all becoming to linear as I mentioned above. Each PC should probably have a story arc that comes from their character background and I would say that each character should be able to spawn their own story arcs, most PCs do not start out wanting to become a lich lord or whatever but the GM should be be able to accommodate those that are compatible with the game.

I make that two story arcs for each player and the campaign. That also fits with that is happening in my campaign now.  Or to be more exact, I have more than the twelve (five PCs and the campaign times two) story lines  and loose ends and that is why things seem somewhat crowded and my players often forget who did what to whom and why.

The forgetfulness could be middle age but having too many plots, NPCs and clues floating around certainly doesn’t help.

Time Travel in Rolemaster & Shadow World

In a recent BLOG POST, I touched upon Time Travel as a technology or mechanism that could be introduced into a Shadow World campaign. Tricky, right?

A lot has been written on time travel in RPG’s and if you have ever allowed it in your game you know it can generate great adventures but create a lot of hassles as well. Some suggested solutions are only allow travel into the past, time travel only occurs in alternate timelines that don’t affect the current one or there are side effects to encountering yourself in the past etc.

I mentioned a few mechanisms to introduce time travel or time manipulation during game play:

  1. Portals. These can be used not just to transport over distances but over time as well. Several gateways Terry describes in Emer Addendum hint at such a power.
  2. Flow Storms/Foci. Want to change things up? Add a Time jump into the effects of an Essaence effect. Not only can you send the players to another interesting time/place but you create a whole adventure path if they want to return to their own time.
  3. Spells. Spell Law never introduced Time related spells, but I think some were added in a companion? (citation needed). I posted up our Time Mastery spell list on the RM Forums. The list is a work in progress–and very powerful in some aspects and very limited in others. A couple of spells take some work and ingenuity on the GM’s part:

6. Time Jump I – Caster can “jump” 1 rnd/lvl into the past or future.

I thought of only allowing the caster to jump into the future–that’s an easy solution where the caster is basically “out of play” for the # of rounds. But that’s not really useful unless it’s just used to avoid a impending bad situation. So how do you handle a caster going back X rounds into the past? First you have to realize that there will be 2 casters for X of rounds (then the other will cast the spell and go back into time and everything is back to normal).  One option is to have the PC announce that they will be casting the spell in the future and then they can play 2 versions of themselves for those set number of rounds. One issue is that the original caster may not survive or be able to cast the Time Jump spell in the future… One resolution is to qualify that time travel creates a new timeline and that this new timeline might not end up the same way. That also means that there will be 2 casters permanently in this new timeline. Interesting…

This spell gets much simpler at higher levels when a caster can travel forward or back years or decades and thus removes the problem of 2 casters or travelling such a short time that the other “self” is present.

8. Time Bubble I – Caster is enclosed in a unmoving time singularity. He can either slow time by 1/2 or speed time by x2 during the duration. The caster cannot interact with anything outside the bubble or vice versa.(no causality). Perception is modified by the time difference(slow inside will make outside activity appear hyper fast, etc.)

Time Bubble is a more useful and less complicated time spell. Basically the Caster is demising themselves from the current timeline and either speeding up or slowing down time within that bubble. This allows the caster to create extra time to heal, prepare another spell or just get away from a dangerous situation. The bubble wall is inviolate. (Unless someone else has Time Merge to cross into the bubble.)

15. Time Stop I – Target up to MEDIUM size is enclosed in a time singularity where time is stopped. No information(visual or otherwise) can pass through the barrier.

A useful spell, it’s basically a version of Time Bubble that can be cast at a distance on a target–basically freezing the target for the duration of the spell. This does not slow or speed up time within the bubble but stops it completely. For a group, this would allow them time to prepare, heal or buff against a troublesome foe.

But Time Travel doesn’t have to be literal. Here’s the thing–one of the great parts of Shadow World is the immense timeline. It’s a great read, adds a lot of depth to the world building, but most of it will be lost on players: I’ve read it A LOT and I can’t keep track of most of it!So when people ask WHERE they should start a SW campaign I say how about “WHEN”? Want a hack ‘n slash one-off adventure? Introduce the PC’s to a battle during the Wars of Dominion. Want a mixed genre sci-fi/fantasy campaign? Start during the interregnum and have the PC’s be Worim, Taranian or Jinteni characters with technology and interacting with the fantastical creatures of SW.

So many possibilities–anyone play around with Time Travel in their game?

Surgeons, Healers, Physicians in roleplaying.

Elisha Mancer mini.jpg

Hey, I’m on a roll with short blogs–mostly because we got hit with several FEET of snow and we are still not plowed out.

If you are not familiar with Charles Stross you should be. He’s a successful author and also writes about the intersection of technology and social issues. His BLOG is worth following and his readers offer some in depth commentary.

Occasionally Charlie will bring in a guest blogger to cover his site while he’s travelling. His most recent is E.C. Ambrose. I’m not familiar with his books, but he writes dark historical fantasy about medieval surgery–cool right?

I thought E.C.’s most recent POST about the differences between Physicians, Surgeons and Barbers was a great primer and road map for varying healing professions in RM and SW. Of course, fantasy RPG’s allow for magical healing which could usurp traditional healing methodologies, but that will depend on the ubiquity of magical healing in your game. Peter tends to rely on herbs (which while “magically” could be considered a more mundane process than spells), while others have easy access to healing spells.

My first SW Misc Material upload was a Healing Chart meant to combine magical healing, mundane healing and herbs into a simplified chart. This connects Surgeons (mundane and technical), Priests (spells but with access issues), Herbalists (witches, shamans and low tech communities) with the location of the PC’s: cities, towns, villages, remote.

Anyway, given that SW does have a past history of high tech, it makes sense that various cultures would have distinct professional paths for mundane and magical healing. E.C.’s blog post provides a historical model for your own RPG setting.

Anyone read E.C.’s books?

Buy it. “The Crimson Queen”

The Crimson Queen by [Hutson, Alec]

Hey, two blogs in one day. I meant to include this is a weekend roundup and forgot to include it in my earlier blog. Lots of standard tropes, many names are familiar, it edges up to LitRPG but it’s good. For self-published it deserves a boost. Check it out HERE.