Sunday, January 26, 2020

So I've fallen in love again

…and this here is what my heart is beating for, right now.
Veil 2020 is Fraser Simons's simplified variant of his own pbtA game, The Veil. It blends the simplicity of Whitehack classes with an innovative mood mechanic that helps players to roleplay their characters. Plus, variable damage – in a pbtA game! Very cool, I like all of it.

And you know what? That's not the first pbtA game I really like – not by a long shot. Even though I call myself an old/ancient school roleplayer, it probably is more correct if I said a just like roleplaying a lot. I like reading rpgs, I like writing rpgs, I like refereeing rpgs, I like playing rpgs.

BUT. Almost every pbtA game I've ever read or played is packed with good ideas. Almost every game is a goldmine of inspirations and hints and possibilities. Of course, we also have true gems in the OSR, no doubt about that. I just think it's worth taking a look at those games, as well.

That said, last December I wrote my adaption of Apocalypse World for our Landshut rules. That's the beauty of pbtA games: You can hack them extremely easily to make them fit more traditional play styles. I know some hardcore purists don't like that, but I couldn't care less.

Really all you have to do is to simplify the "moves" of pbtA classes playbooks, slap your preferred dice mechanic on top, and you're good to go.

Let's create a Veil 2020 character, then.

Every V2020 character has six linked emotional states:
mad - peaceful
sad - joyful
scared - powerful.

Distribute -1, 0,0,+1,+1,+2 between these states. The higher a number, the more likely is success when the character acts.

I'd like to play a Zen-minded netrunner, so I go for this spread:

0 mad  +1 peaceful
-1 sad  0 joyful
0 scared +2 powerful

So, I have a peaceful, slightly sad, but enormously skilled netrunner. Every mood has a direct impact on my actions, so, when using the original rules, I roll 2d6+mood and hope to score at least 10 (for a clear, clean success; 7 to 9 is a mixed success, 6 is a fail).

Now, the class:
I'm playing a Pusher (netrunner). I have neural interface plugs all over my body, a cyberdeck, and I use my mind to navigate the endless sea of data. I can take 4 harm (that means, a good hit with a medium autopistol or sword will kill or at least K.O. me). I get to choose a specialty, and that is, I can manipulate people's cybereyes to make them see illusions.

I buy a light autopistol and keep the remaining 200 eurobucks in my pocket.

So this is my V2020 character:

Acid Shogun, a pusher
0 mad  +1 peaceful
-1 sad  0 joyful
0 scared +2 powerful
netrunner (specialty: cybereye manipulation/"illusions")
4 Harm
light autopistol (damage 2d4, take lower)

and translated into Landshut rules:

Acid Shogun, a pusher
peaceful, slightly sad, but enormously skilled netrunner (specialty: cybereye manipulation/"illusions")
4 Hits
light autopistol

It really doesn't get any easier than that!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Back to really simple roleplaying (repost from August 2019)

Professor MAR Barker started it. He started creating his world Tekumel in the 1940s and kept adding things and adventures to it till he died in 2012. That's A LOT. Probably there's no other work of imagination as developed as Mr. Barker's world.

When original D&D was published, Mr. Barker tried to adapt the game to Tekumel, so other peoplecould go on adventures in this fantastic world. It was a mediocre success. So he developed his own set of rules, which is still in use today, played by people like Chirine ba Kal and Bob Meyer, to name just two. Chirine has told us again and again that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson used these rules (or very similar ones) as well.

What you're about to see is NOT the cover of the rulebook. It IS the rulebook. These rules have been in use for at least 30 years.

Yep. That's it. 

The interest in the rpg community in super-simple, super-lite rules seems at an all-time high at the moment, and personally, I think that's good, very good indeed.

As you might have guessed, my favorite taste of rules-lite is Perfected, or to be more exact: opposed rolls. Using opposed rolls cut out two things that I don't like in rpgs: math. Checking stats to see if I rolled high or low enough.

Another rpg system using this method is the brilliant Sword&Backpack, written by Gabe Soria. Check it out here. The rules? Player character tries something, referee tells him what to roll with a d20, or rolls against them. Done.

Cecil Howe, he of Hex Kit fame, made a booklet version of Sword&Backpack, and it's a beauty to behold. The booklet version adds a rule: Whenever a character is trying something that is appropriate for their background or profession, add 5 to the d20 roll.

Cecil also published a zine for Sword&Backpack (unfortunately only one), called Peril, and yes, it's good! In Peril, Cecil also introduced a new concept he calls "Difficulty". To quote: "This is the number of combat rounds a monster can lose before it is defeated, think of the D as standing for difficulty. The number can be any number, not just one. Really tough monsters will have a high number, and really flimsy monsters will have a low number. "

Bob Alberti is the treasurer of the Tekumel Foundation. He played in Prof. Barker's game for over 20 years. His ruleset is, as you might have suspected, similarly simple. To quote: "You have dice to resolve any questions (01-10 good, 90-00 bad, use common sense). (…) All the other crap - character stats, encumbrances, combat rules, etc., are the tools of the rules-lawyer, and not worth the attention of dignified persons."

Today, Claytonian published his one-page rpg "The Party". And lo and behold, it uses opposed rolls to solve everything. Check it out here.

Sunday, January 19, 2020


Arty by the master himself, John Blanche. 

In Risus. The second edition of my game. No layout yet, but fully playable.
Download it and have fun.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Git y'all's Troika! ass in ar OD&D

I've sung the song of Troika! before, and I'll continue to sing it. Troika! is the rebel child of British roleplaying, a world away from the American forefathers as you can imagine.

Troika!'s rules feel old, but move fast. And that's where the original edition of Gary's game and the much younger sibling from the UK have something in common. OD&D IS old, but moves fast, too. So, naturally, I have to try and play Troika! with the rules of the little brown books. This will be easy, very easy. Let's see.

All I have to do is to pick or roll a Troika! background and treat the Advanced Skills as rough guidelines for saves. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of role-under stat saves; I like them to be more guesswork-y, if that makes sense. So, roll a Luck Die (d6), gauge the character's Advanced Skill and tell the player what number to roll on or over.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Little Brown Books Cyberpunk, or: OD&D 2020

OK. I'm innocent. Honestly. Wizard Lizard started it. His credo is "OD&D can do anything", or sometimes, "OD&D is the best game". And while I've sworn not to write OD&D any more (because of reasons), I'm breaking my promise now. The original D&D game is still one of the best games ever written. And while Wizard Lizard has used OD&D to power Zoopunk and Shadowrun, I'm using it to run Cyberpunk 2020. The cool thing is this: It takes about 15 minutes to re-skin the game to fit your genre. So cool.

So, this, then is Cyberpunk 2020 by way of The Little Brown Books:

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Static vs. dynamic: how old is your game?

One thing I notice again and again is the huge difference between old school and "ancient school" rpgs. As readers of this blog you probably know that I use the later categorization for roleplaying games that were played before Gary's version was published. Gary's game itself would be "old school".

Even if you

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Play worlds, not rules: characters in literature and how to translate them

In "ancient school" (pre-Gygax) rpg circles, you'll often hear "play worlds, not rules" and variants thereof. The reason is simple: before there were any rulebooks, all referees could refer to when they played was literature (books, movies and radio plays). So how do you translate a character from literature to rpg speak? The following example will hopefully help.

Let's take William Gibson's novel, Neuromancer. Luckily, I found an interesting synopsis of the characters in the book. I pick Case, the male protagonist:

d66 Landshut Rules mini classes

The kind soul behind the Meidos&Monsters blog has written a pretty interesting d66 table for fantasy classes you can use for the Landshut Rules. To give you a taste of what's going on there:

1x: Martial Classes

  1. Archer. Your arrows can penetrate targets and find their mark in unlikely circumstances.
  2. Ranger. You can commune with animals and find paths through the wilderness.

2x: Roguish classes 

  1. Locksmith. You can unlock, or lock, doors with ease. 
  2. Burglar. You can get in to places where you think there’s treasure without triggering traps and surprises.

3x: Wizards 

  1. Black Mage. Your magic is destructive and dangerous. 
  2. White Mage. Your magic is near-holy in nature. 

To see the table in all its glory, go there:

Monday, January 6, 2020

Landshut Rules and MoldHammer: Brothers in gaming

…okay, it doesn't get any cheesier than that title, I promise.
The reason why I like the MoldHammer rules so much is because they're so similar to my Landshut rules, and really, there is no way back for me now. Even Into the Odd seems to be fiddly, with all its crazy hit points counting :)

So why do I think these games are so similar?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

2020 is the Year of Blackmoor

If you're interested in the ancient times of roleplaying, in the roots of our beautiful hobby, then getting to know the work and legacy of Dave Arneson and Blackmoor should be on your bucket list. Better yet: play like Dave and the Twin City gamers did. We sure do, and I can only recommend it to every roleplayer (even and especially to folks new to the hobby who only know the modern incarnation of the game with the ampersand).

Halenar Frosthelm posted this on Mewe recently:

Friday, January 3, 2020

MoldHammer is like (lots of old games), only better

Rattlemayne used to write very interesting and cool Into the Odd hacks, but then he noticed that his later hacks didn't really look like Into the Odd any more. So he took a step back, started from scratch and built his own personal hack of Gary's original game.

And boyyyyy, what a beaut of a game it is.

In a nutshell: MoldHammer uses to-hit rolls with a d20, hits instead of hit points (get hit = lose one hit, just like my Landshut rules, and OF COURSE, early Twin Cities roleplaying), a flexible magic system, and one of the few good applications of active parries I know.

That said, I'll change only a couple of things:

Thursday, January 2, 2020

d10 Reasons why that skinny yogi over there is not afraid of our massively built warrior

…or: Why the OSR Discord is so, so, so good.

I've mentioned it several times before, but lest we forget: Discord is one of the best platforms for the exchange of creative ideas. Here's an invite for the OSR Discord.

The OSR Discord server has a channel called "#dice-democracy". What you can do there is you ask people to deliver content for a random table.

So I posted the name of my random table there: d10 Reasons why that skinny yogi over there is not afraid of our massively built warrior 

– and this is what the good folks over there brought me:

d10 Reasons Why that skinny yogi over there is not afraid of our massively built warrior