Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wizards and some other stuff

Wizards are intended to be the counterpart to Sorcerers, but rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided to simply steal Chris' White Wizard and be done with it. Essentially, they are arcane casters who use Cleric and Druid spell lists. I was writing up the Enchanter class, then decided there wasn't enough of a difference between them and regular Magic-Users who cast Charm Person a lot to justify a whole class, thus they are scrapped. I considered implementing some sort of "singing magic", but honestly I sort of hate that whole idea simply because Vancian Magic = D&D; you can always play Ars Magica or something if you think otherwise. Granted, I like Ars Magica quite a bit, but it's an entirely different game with an entirely different feel. So, anyway, no Enchanters. I already have a couple more magic classes to write up anyway, this isn't a huge loss.

I've been working on an adventure for a while now, but it sorta sucked and I junked it. Just how DO you come up with good published adventures, anyway? It's not exactly an easy task. Keep on the Borderlands seems to be a favorite of everyone in the OSR community, and yeah, I like it a lot, but there's an adventure I prefer above all others:

So, why does someone like me, who actually despises later TSR releases, enjoy this particular adventure? Well, it's not really an adventure whatsoever, first of all. Essentially, it's a bigass boxed set of a dungeon with a key of all the encounters. That's it. Endless fucking encounters, enough to keep any party of delvers busy until the end of time. And that's pretty Old School, if you ask me. There seems to be a lot of focus on "story" in the roleplaying community, but that's just nonsense. Stories are what you tell people after you've had experiences. Take, for instance, some of the war stories my father told me. I don't suppose he thought much of getting shot at when it was going on, wasn't thinking to himself, gee, this is such a great story to be a part of! No, he was ducking behind trees and hills to avoid getting killed. Upon reflection, that whole experience now becomes a story, told to someone else. So, too, is roleplaying, if it's to be meaningful in any sense of the word. Having some fatbeard put your characters into contrived situations so he can have his NPCs play out a shitty version of Hamlet for your amusement (yes, it has happened to me) isn't roleplaying, it's simply being a captive audience for a nerd. That's how I feel about most of the published adventures out there, that they're nothing more than an attempt at amateur theater by someone who couldn't sell their screenplay.

Let me clarify something: yes, UnderMountain has "adventures" included in it, but really these are nothing more than, "retrieve this item from the dungeon for me", or crap like that. Hand-wave stuff that every DM has used since the golden age of roleplaying. What's wrong with meeting at a tavern and then deciding to slay goblins? Isn't that sort of the point? It's inexplicable that a wizard, a priest and a thief would even leave the confines of a town in the first place, but there they go, traipsing off into a dark, dank cavern, seeking gold and sex from the attractive barmaid. Or something. Honestly, do you need any real justification? Part of me wants to say, yeah, because it'll make the inevitable story better. But another part just wants to say, look, we don't talk about how much the characters eat, take dumps or shave, why worry about other stupid details like why they left their comfortable homes to chase orcs across the countryside. "GET ME THE BAUBLE AND I SHALL REWARD YOU HANDSOMELY!" Okay, shady dude in a village, I shall get the bauble. Off, gents! Our fortunes we seek! That's it, we don't need anything else.

Okay, so how do you make an interesting adventure...is it mostly just coming up with locations and NPCs who have reasons for being there, letting the DM decide how things play out? I'm unsure, but this does seem the way to go. Sounds way too much like sandbox gaming, whatever the hell that means. I don't really buy into the idea that sandbox gaming is anything other than roleplaying in the sense everyone used it in Ye Olde Dayes, before people tried to attach a meaning other than "it's a fun game we play". The DM makes the framework of a world, the players flesh it out and then stories are written about the activities that took place. So, should my adventure be just that? How can you publish sketchy crap? Most of the time, individual DMs edit everything anyway, adding or discarding things to make the adventure more suitable to their own vision...I'm still on the fence about this. You can't expect to crank out crap and have people use it, but you also can't expect to distribute a 3 page write up that is nothing more than a crudely drawn map and some obvious tropes about goblins invading town. This isn't easy.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad to see that I have one you over to the Dark Side (Light Side?) when it comes to the White Wizard. I have yet to get someone to play one though, so I am wondering if I still need to sweeten the deal on the character some more.

    I never saw Ruins of Undermountain back in the day, but I picked up a cheap copy a few months ago. Unless I am missing something it may be the first (and one of the few) mega-dungeon published and since it was a product lifted straight from Greenwood's much older home campaign I think it has a lot more old school life in than many of its FR cousins.