Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Paranoia

So Sunday I used a quote from Orcbusters, one of the best adventures ever written (in my opinion). If you're unfamiliar with the adventure your life has no meaning because it also means you don't know anything about Paranoia, a tour de force of awesomeness. Anyway, Orcbusters is essentially D&D in Alpha Complex (it even takes place in the DND Sector). Wizards, dragons, monsters, magic, all sorts of shit. Troubleshooters are sent to take care of the problem and crack a bunch of skulls. I've played the adventure exactly once, and went through all six clones in around 20 minutes. Fantastic.

Without a doubt, Paranoia is a great game which doesn't lend itself to long-term play. Being successful is actually antithetical to having fun in the game, to be perfectly honest. It was always much more fun to see how many ways you could fuck up, bumbling through obstacles and getting killed. Humor rpgs aren't that popular, but they definitely have a place every so often. Paranoia is probably the best humor rpg ever written, bar none. I have no experience with the "5th edition", nor Paranoia XP nor even the Mongoose version, so cannot comment on those systems. 2nd edition, however, is the pinnacle of badass. Buy it and play it.

Alternate Alignment Systems

I talked about one-axis alignment before, and like the concept quite a bit as it makes it easier to pursue a major goal of D&D: men vs. monsters. Some people hate alignments and very few games use them anymore. That kinda sucks. Oddly, most of the online computer rpgs out there have some sort of alignment or faction system, which demonstrates its usefulness in a game. Just another way the "performance art" people have tried to appropriate rpgs, I guess...anyway, here are some alignment systems from other games that I think might be worth porting over to D&D and are worth taking a look at.

Warhammer FRP

This is a natural outgrowth from AD&D, but distills two axes into one:

Chaos - Evil - Neutral - Good - Law

I think this is one of the better possible alignment systems, and I prefer it over the AD&D system for a number of reasons. Evil characters aren't all psychopaths and maniacs, good characters aren't instantly religious zealots. The far ends of the graph are forces of nature, at odds with humanity. My guess is that this is really what Moorcock had in mind when he wrote about Law vs. Chaos; the AD&D system sort of destroyed that concept when it added good and evil to the mix. Most monsters will be Chaotic: outside of human morality, they have no real goals other than wanton destruction. On the other side, a lot of gods will be Lawful: they care only of order and strive to shape the world to their views. This transcends human morality (once again), and is most likely an alien concept to the vast majority of people. Neutrality is essentially apathy, and neutrals just want to be left alone to live their lives. This is dissimilar to AD&D in that it has nothing to do with balance, but a general disregard for the foibles of others. Overall, good stuff.



Palladium FRP

Another AD&D-inspired system with the concept of neutrality removed entirely. Siembieda almost always includes a paragraph about not allowing neutrals in his games, this being the only "unalterable rule". Don't tell me what to do! Still, he has a good point: people are not neutral. Even in AD&D, neutrality really has nothing to do with individuals, and instead signifies "outside human morality". Forces of nature, animals, faeries, druids, etc. Above I said AD&D uses neutral to denote balance, and that's true if you read the PHB and DMG, but again, extrapolating from the MM and D&DG, it's pretty obvious neutrality isn't meant to be that. My head hurts...

Good
  Principled
  Scrupulous
Selfish
  Unprincipled
  Anarchist
Evil
  Aberrant
  Miscreant
  Diabolic

Again, I really like this system. Principled individuals uphold moral codes and always follow the law, unlike Scrupulous ones who are more akin to Charles Bronson. Still good guys, but can use shady tactics. Evil includes the psychopaths and low-lifes, but also the Aberrant characters, the ones who are evil but with twisted moral code of sorts. Dr. Doom is the perfect example: he never breaks his word of honor, follows through with what he says, won't kill innocent people, but is still hell-bent on taking over the universe. A maniac to be sure, but a trustworthy one. The selfish alignments, that's the best part. Two opposite sides of the spectrum, Unprincipled people are generally good but still self-serving, Anarchists are essentially crazy and commit random acts of mayhem but strive to be moral.


DC Heroes

My favorite superhero game, the alignment here is super simple: you pick a motivation appropriate to character goals. If he's a hero, you pick a heroic motivation, villains select from the villainous motivations.

Heroic
  Upholding the good
  Responsibility of power
  Seeking justice
  Thrill of adventure
  Unwanted power
Villainous
  Mercenary
  Thrill seeker
  Psychopath
  Power lust
  Nihilist

It's not hard to figure out what these mean, or how they're played. Batman is seeking justice, Dr. Doom would have power lust. Thrill of adventure is available to both heroes and villains, which is sort of interesting. Not everyone who commits crimes is doing it for nefarious reasons, I suppose. This is definitely a great alignment system for superheroes, but I'm unsure how well it'd work in a fantasy game.


Star Wars (WEG D6)

One of the most straightforward, all PCs are good. That's it. You oppose the Empire and value freedom. However, you can gain Dark Side points for doing evil acts; when you have enough Dark Side points, you become evil and therefore a non-player character. Mechanically, it was advantageous for Jedi to have one Dark Side point as you could never become evil with only one and it gave you an extra die to roll for Force powers. In-game, though, it was a bad idea, like playing with fire. True to the genre, I think for a fantasy game this would work pretty well if you decided to play a game without any fringe characters.


Amber RPG

All characters have Stuff, which is essentially a sort of karmic rating system. Characters with a lot of Good Stuff give off an affable air, are luckier, nicer, etc. Bad Stuff characters are rotten, unlucky, menacing, whatever. Zero Stuff was just that: neither. The best part of this system is that Stuff is essentially unlimited, either way. Bad Stuff gives you more points to buy powers, so it's an attractive option. However, Stuff has no relevance to morality per humanity considering Amberites are god-like compared to shadow dwellers. This system would most likely work in a game where character outlook was more important than an overshadowing moral conflict, i.e., probably wouldn't fly in AD&D. If the characters are all deities, though, sure.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Latent Abilities for AD&D Game That Will Probably Never Materialize

Per #23, characters will begin manifesting latent abilities at some random time. Here's what I have so far, but want to expand this is greatly. I'm not sure using the psionic disciplines from the PHB is a good idea or not; maybe I'll go with Mutant Future (which is what I intend to do for #2 below). The inherent spell casting seems cool, but open to abuse...might need to make a chart for that as well. I'm ripping off #7 from here almost completely. There are already randomization tables and everything. #9 seems awesome and I really hope someone is dumb enough to want it. Heh. #10 could be exceeding fantastic in all ways if played right. If you've ever read the plot idea Self-Referential Awareness from Over The Edge 2nd edition, that's sort of the plan I had. As I already stated, game balance is bullshit anyway, might as well go full retard.

Latent Abilities
Manifestation at level d3+1

Roll d10, or player may choose three possibilities (d3)

  1. Psionics, gain psi disciplines per pg. 111 of PHB (+25 to roll)
  2. Mutant power, roll randomly (beneficial only)
  3. Add d10+2 to prime requisite. Cannot exceed 25, but this stat is considered supernatural
  4. Pick any three spells of level 1-3 (druid, MU, illusionist) OR 1 spell of level 4-6. These can be used at-will 2x day each (caster level is overall character level)
  5. Minor invulnerability to normal weapons, can only be affected by +1 magic weapons or better
  6. Intuitive ability to use all weapons and armor even if in violation of class restrictions
  7. Blood of _____ (dragons), slowly gain ______ (draconic) traits
  8. Demon Favor, can summon and control demons
  9. Immunity to mortal magic
  10. Illuminated
Oh, and yeah, I decided to add warlocks as an available character class. Why not?

Call of Cthulhu: The Game

Yep, they finally made one.

No idea how it'll play, but currently downloading now.

Also, shut up. Jesus Christ...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New AD&D Campaign Ideas III

20) Kitchen sink approach...D&D has always been more about pulp than straight fantasy, so I think throwing a lot of that in would be cool. (I'm getting enough eldritch horror from Chris' game, so probably no Cthulhu...) After the characters hit around 3rd or 4th level, there will be a major shift in the campaign to a sci-fi tone, with all sorts of random crap. When that happens, I'll allow humans to switch classes appropriate to the setting (yes, this is the secret benefit humans get...non-humans will be stuck with the fantasy classes).

21) Monster races will be open to play, going with #20. I have a good idea of how to handle these and make them viable but not ridiculously overpowered.

22) "Game balance" will go out the window. Some characters will just be better than others, at least mechanically. I have fond memories of various beggars, vagabonds and marginally skilled characters performing world-alterting tasks so this doesn't bother me a bit.
"I mean, if a pair of scruffy hobbits can dump a ring in the Crack of Doom in defiance of the most awesome heavies in Middle Earth, then this should be a snap." -- Orcbusters
23) All characters will have latent abilities, another classic pulp trope. These abilities will manifest after a random amount of time. Players will have some choice for these abilities, or they can roll on a table. Rolling is fun.

24) All characters will start with a family heirloom, generally a permanent magic item of some sort.

25) Toying with the idea of making CON the character's starting hit points. Hit points are gained normally at 2nd level. This has the advantage of making the characters a bit more durable to start, but won't really impact play after around 4th level.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Getting Sick of Blanket Idiocy

From this thread: "Obviously there is no way I will play with the original rules now". WHY? No reason is given. None. Well, this thread talks about the system at length, pointing out the problems. And essentially the same old shit comes up: older game systems suck because they are older. That's it. This is exactly the same knock on D&D and AD&D. Newer games are newer and therefore better because they have rules that "make sense". The GM shouldn't have to make a rules-system work. No way. The rules need to be perfect.

As I have stated countless times already, if you are so fucking lazy that you cannot make alterations to a set of rules to suit your needs (within reason), don't run a game. Yes, the Palladium system has issues, no doubt about it. But are they really as bad as rpg.net would have you believe? Not even fucking close. In fact, to be perfectly honest, half the systems touted as being superior actually suck balls. Further, I find it hilarious that a major knock on the Palladium system is that it has levels AND skills! Isn't that exactly the same as D&D 3.X and 4? No, see, they use open-ended rolls instead of percentile! TOTALLY DIFFERENT! There are only so many possible ways to quantify things using numbers that make any sort of sense, and all these "better" game system still resemble D&D enough that they're not any different.

This post is probably the worst of the bunch for obvious reason. Obvious meaning I won't explain myself whatsoever.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New AD&D Campaign Ideas II

Follow-up to previous post.

13) After some introspection, Summoners and Diabolists from Palladium Fantasy RPG will be made available to play. These classes are really cool and unlike anything in AD&D.

14) Pure clerics (not multi-classed) will be able to "spontaneously cast" healing spells a la 3.X D&D.

15) As I don't foresee using undead much (if at all) in this game, clerics can select a different power, appropriate to their worship/god. Vampires and liches make great plot devices or villains, but kinda suck as just "another monster" to kill.

16) Magic will be extremely rare except where the PCs are concerned. The PCs will probably be the only individuals with any experience in magic. Normal rubes witnessing magic use will either think the PC is demon-possessed or a divine being, depending on the situation. More enlightened individuals will treat magic like my grandmother treats computers.

17) ALL magic items, with the exception of potions and scrolls (i.e. expendable/one-shot), will be special. There are no generic +1 swords. Selling magic items will probably be close to impossible.

18) I'm a fan of lycanthropes, and they will be in the game, but treated differently than the normal AD&D rules.

19) In line with #s 16 and 17, very very few creatures will require magic weapons to hurt. There will always be a "mundane" solution that can be discovered with some effort.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

D&D 5th Edition Will Suck

Referencing this:
Second—and this sounds so crazy that you probably won't believe it right now—we're designing the game so that not every player has to choose from the same set of options. Again, imagine a game where one player has a simple character sheet that has just a few things noted on it, and the player next to him has all sorts of skills, feats, and special abilities. And yet they can still play the game together and everything remains relatively balanced. Your 1E-loving friend can play in your 3E-style game and not have to deal with all the options he or she doesn't want or need. Or vice versa. It's all up to you to decide.
That's really fucking stupid. Seriously. I realize what Monte Cook is saying, and it *sounds* fantastic: everyone can play their preferred version of D&D at the same time! But that's idiotic...when you play a game, everyone follows the same rules. That's sort of the point. If you don't particularly care for the rules, you can change them, but all the players must adhere to the same rules-set. Having a ton of options for Player A (power attack and cleave or whatever) and none for Player B (1st level fighter!) isn't using the same rules, even if player B would never use those options. The fact that they don't exist means the two players aren't playing the same game, regardless of what the fuck Monte says. Either Player A's options are a simple charade or Player B is getting fucked.

WotC is doing the worst thing imaginable: trying to please everyone. This is impossible. 4th edition pissed me off, but a lot of people like it. I like 1st, 2nd, 3.X, B/X, Mentzer, etc, all for various reasons. Each of these games offers something subtly different and is worth playing for those traits. Trying to shoehorn everything into one unified game will not only strip out any of the reason for playing those games but also create a game that has no identity. Instead of another game some people like and some don't, we're going to get the equivalent of plain oatmeal: yeah, you can add whatever flavors you want, but in the end it's still fucking oatmeal. That is awful tripe.

I honestly looked forward to D&D 3 when it came out and was actually pleasantly surprised. I preordered 4th and hated it, gave away the books. But I *did* read them. I have no idea if I'll even bother with 5th because I ALREADY HAVE the versions of the game I like. Why the fuck do I want to waste money on something that attempts to duplicate what I already have? That's stupid. So goddamn stupid.

Also, Wizards is re-releasing AD&D, so that's cool. I mean, I already have 15 copies of the PHB, but hey, I'll buy a new printing. Why not? If you support OSR games whatsoever and do not purchase the new printing of AD&D you are in fact full of shit and a cheap bastard. All the complaining over the years about WotC just sitting on the D&D IP and doing nothing...well, those arguments are long gone. Buy it and shut up.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Some Stupid Meme Crap

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

Some weird undead generator that I totally ripped off from Gauntlet. The players never did figure out how to turn it off, mostly due to extreme hubris.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

Last October; MERP game. That campaign is dead, unfortunately.

3. When was the last time you played?

Few weeks ago, which is far too long. Beggar King of the Sighing Steppes, destroyer of evil.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

Using this environment, the characters arrive without remembering anything about their past and must thwart an evil wizard. Or something.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Drink beer, mostly. Or keep asking wtf they want to do.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

Nothing, usually, unless it's alcohol-related.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

Not at all. We're sitting in chairs and talking; how the fuck could that possibly be physically exhausting?

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Head-butting an undead minotaur thing...

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

Are you kidding? I don't run serious settings, so this question is impossible to answer.

10. What do you do with goblins?

I really like goblins a lot. They're generally a major protagonist for low-level characters, but I have goblin shamans and mages leading so they're not typical cannon-foder.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

Something stupid I saw on Judge Mathis turned into a meta-plot.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

Going to Chris' place to play a one-shot with a bunch of friends. After about an hour everyone was so drunk it turned into a self-inflicted TPK.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

Rifts Game Master's Guide. See previous post.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

JASON BRAUN!

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

Haha, no way.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

In Search of the Unknown, hands down.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

Two cafeteria tables, covered with felt. Tons of minis and terrain, dungeon tiles, etc. Close proximity to my kitchen, refrigerator full of beer.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

Toon and Call of Cthulhu. Opposite ends of the spectrum in just about every respect, both are a lot of fun to play.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

Tolkien and Road Warrior. High fantasy and post-apocalyptic settings are my favorites, which might be why I like Rifts. Even with the shit rules.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Someone who likes to drink, doesn't think roleplaying necessarily involves funny voices, can take the game seriously, but not too seriously.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

Spending a large part of my early youth in Europe shaped how I envision pseudo-medieval life.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

Gygax AD&D 2nd edition. I would truly enjoy seeing a version of the game that duplicates how they actually played the fucking thing.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

Hah, no way. I don't think they'd understand anyway. I usually just tell people I'm going to play poker.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cool Used Book Find

Over the past week my obsession with Palladium games, specifically Rifts, is at an all-time high and has possibly reached pre-college levels. Per my previous post, this is quite high. Getting all those new/used books to add to the collection didn't help. I'm at the point in my life where I refuse to pay retail, for anything, especially books that have been out of print for a number of years. If something is 10 years old, I figure I can get it for at least half off, unless it's a collector's item. Hence, I peruse Abebooks, Amazon, Half, etc. when I want to buy rpg stuff online. Unfortunately, the ratings from some of these used book companies is pretty fucking ridiculous. Near Mint doesn't mean a bent cover, nor missing pages. Sometimes I get stuff that doesn't match the description at all (hardcover Battletech Master Rules? Nahh, it's actually a softcover Battletech Compendium, what's the difference). But generally, deals are had. Every so often I get a book that has a cool bonus I never expected, and that happened today after opening the mail:


I obviously didn't expect a signed copy of the Rifts Game Master Guide, especially not for $12, but that's definitely something neat I can appreciate. Although, I wonder why the guy decided he'd rather ditch the book, obviously signed for him, than keep it. Perhaps sentimental value has no worth when dealing with Siembieda...


Completely unrelated, I found my new tattoo in a tat book:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New AD&D Campaign Ideas

AD&D is not D&D. That might sound trite and/or stupid, but it's true. A D&D character (B/X, Mentzer, Labyrinth Lord) with "low" stats, say all 9s, is extremely viable. The same character in AD&D barely qualifies for any class, has no bonuses of any sort and can't cast spells with any sort of proficiency. Oddly enough, anything over 14 is generally required to get a bonus. Hence high stats in AD&D != high stats in D&D. This is simply justification for the "high powered" stat rolling system I'm going to use. Yep.

1) Roll For Stats: 6D6, 5D6, 5D6, 4D6, 4D6, 4D6, 3D6, 3D6, 3D6

Keep the best six rolls, arrange as desired. This should result in at least three stats getting bonuses (if my math is correct), and qualification for nearly all classes.

2) Gnomes receive a +1 INT, -1 WIS (this is right out of 2nd edition and I like it)

3) Half-orc fighters who roll an 18 for STR receive an 18/00 w/their +1. This is over the racial maximum. So what.

4) No demi-human level limits. None!

5) Humans receive a secret bonus...

6) No weapon proficiencies; characters are proficient in all allowed weapons per their class.

7) Fighters (no rangers) may specialize per Unearthed Arcana, only at 1st level. They get to pick one weapon for the bonus. At 7th level they are considered "double specialized".

8) Available classes: Fighter, Cleric, Thief, Magic-User, Paladin (PHB version), Ranger, Barbarian, Assassin (may be neutral), Druid, Illusionist, Monk, Bard (both 1st and 2nd edition versions). 2nd edition Bards can cast Druid, MU AND Illusionist spells, but as these must all be learned (no automatic gain) I don't think this will be overpowering.

9) Pure Magic-Users (not multi-classed) can Detect Magic at will, just like the spell. As they gain levels, this ability will become more refined. Somewhere around 10th - 12th level, they will essentially be able to Identify magic items without a spell.

10) Initiative, yeah...2nd edition has the right idea, so here's how it'll work: D10 rolled every round for every character. Modified by weapon speed(!), spell casting time (segments), DEX. Multiple attack routines (high level fighters) will go first/last, regardless of initiative (per 1st edition). All actions must be declared at the beginning of the round. Spell interruption should be a lot easier to figure out. All magic items (wands, rods, whatever) will have a "weapon speed" of 0, with no interruption possible. This should make such items much more appealing.

11) For character levels 1-3, experience points for treasure and monsters is gained at 10X the normal rate. E.g., 100gp = 1000XP. This will allow accelerated level gain without a glut of treasure. After level 3, normal XP will be gained. In the case of multi-class characters with levels that fall into both categories (2/3 Fighter/Thief for instance), XP will be divided normally, then applied using the above rules, i.e. 100XP = 500XP for Fighter, 50 XP for Thief.

12) Clerics must pick a god from Deities and Demigods (or wherever) and may use the preferred weapon of their god without penalty. Clerics who do not proselytize properly will lose their abilities as I see fit.

Also this. I'm going to "be a rebel" and not answer. Not yet, at least.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blogger is the New Facebook

Or Myspace or whatever the fuck social networking thing people used before. Look, I subscribe to rpg blogs specifically to read about rpgs. I don't give one fuck about your political beliefs or religious beliefs, so unless your post is about those subjects within the confines of an rpg, please STFU. Seriously, using your gaming blog as a political platform is a disservice to the readers, even if they agree with you.

Time to purge ye olde blogroll, some of the repeat offenders have pissed me off one too many times.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sometimes Rules Are Overrated

Over the past week I was looking through my bookshelves, trying to figure out what I could sell in an effort to make room for more stupid crap I don't need. Unfortunately, I am far too much of a packrat to ever sell a book, even those I'll never ever read again. Chemistry textbook from 1992? I might need that after the Apocalypse. One whole shelf is devoted to Palladium rpgs, and I had nearly forgotten about them. Which is a shame as TMNT was not only a great comic, cartoon and video game, it was also a rather fun rpg. Transdimensional TMNT is probably the one rpg book I wanted more than anything else simply due to the picture of a "devolved" human; it looks like a giant floating fetus and that's alright. I'm not ashamed to admit that TMNT was the second rpg I ever owned, nor that I played it quite a bit. I must have rolled up a few hundred characters over the course of the summer when I lived in Ohio as a kid, nearly all of them used in some crazy Palladium Fantasy RPG game I was running. That was another good game, Palladium Fantasy. Sort of a high-powered D&D with all sorts of cool crap that truly could be called disturbing. Perhaps Pat Pulling was onto something...was there any need to actually have several pages of summoning circles? As a gamer, of course, but it didn't do much to placate my mother who insisted D&D and other roleplaying games were evil. The second edition of Palladium Fantasy took a game I actually like and turned it into a festering turd. So much for upgrades. Beyond the Supernatural was interesting, and I played it only once, mostly because horror is not really that appealing to me. Plus, I had around three editions of Call of Cthulhu which is vastly better. Still, as a modern horror game, it's pretty good. Robotech...holy crap. Nearly all of 9th grade biology was spent goofing off and playing Robotech in the back of the classroom with a couple other guys. I'd write up new characters and adventures in French, then we'd play during last period. We also played a Heroes Unlimited game for a while, which turned really weird after I got Ninjas and Superspies. Suddenly everyone had a martial arts-using character and the game morphed from super-heroics to a modern film noir replete with every single Bogart cliche I could think of. Did you know that Malta isn't the only country with a gold falcon? I think mine was from Morocco, or maybe Rhodes. Possibly both.

The most popular and well-known (perhaps infamous) Palladium game is of course Rifts, and yes, I definitely have a copy. It was a banner day when I received the main rulebook for Christmas in 1990, having looked at it for over two months, sitting alone on the shelf at the local gaming store. I bought every release after, finally giving up at World Book 5. Yesterday, however, I got a good deal on a stack of Rifts at the used bookstore and my collection doubled overnight. So much for clearing the shelves.

My first impressions of Rifts were 1) There is A LOT of cool shit in this book, and 2) Oh I see they didn't revise the system. The system I speak of is of course the clunky POS Palladium "megaversal" system, which is simply AD&D extrapolated into a fantasy game then converted for use to every other genre imaginable. I never had a problem with it when we ran combats in TMNT or Robotech, and was already familiar with "megadamage" due to the latter game. Still, I wasn't impressed the system hadn't been updated nor thrown out completely for something better. Instead of doing the game justice with an actual rewrite of an old set of rules, the Rifts setting was instead simply tacked onto the existing with a few additions. Kitchen sink does not begin to describe Rifts. You want cyborgs? (Fine) Wizards? (Yep) Soldiers and ninjas and aliens. (Definitely) Psionic-using dragon ninjas? (Yeah, we can do that) How about dolphin mercenaries with bionic eyes? (Give me something hard) Okay, a centaur from another dimension whose bottom half has been replaced by an anti-grav tank chassis, rides a robot donkey, can cast demon magic, wears a suit of armor made from bark, shoots laser beams from his hands and is invulnerable to fire. (No problem) Most of that stuff was added in subsequent books; the main rulebook is quite conservative when compared to later supplements. None of that crazy shit makes Rifts a bad game, however. The biggest knock, of course, is the system itself.

But is the system THAT bad? Honestly, no. It's not great by any means, sort of a weird skills-based/leveling amalgam with some contradictory combat rules thrown in. I wouldn't call it terrible, though. We never had any problem with it for many years, and while I wish it was cleaned up, Rifts is extremely playable as-is, contrary to numerous blog posts and messageboards. AD&D is far more arcane and difficult to understand, which I suppose is like saying quantum mechanics is more difficult than calculus: to someone with no experience both are as incomprehensible. In the end, Rifts succeeds as a fun game in spite of moldy mechanics. I've seen a few conversions of Rifts to GURPS...yuck. Somehow all the flavor gets ripped out and becomes much more mundane. Quantifying things with points demonstrates the disparity between character power (city rat vs. dragon?), but so what? Game balance is nonsense anyway. My most fondly remembered character of all-time was a Rifts vagabond adventuring with a bunch of high-powered PCs. One had superpowers, another was a wizard, etc. During part of the campaign we had to go into a Coalition city and find a contact. The players were trying to figure out how they'd get past the psi-stalkers and guards and whatever else. The Coalition hates non-humans and meta-humans with a passion. I suggested that I simply walk in and talk to the guy. They had forgotten that my mundane background was in fact a huge asset in this situation. Game balance? How many points is "mundane" worth? No idea, but GURPS: Rifts just wouldn't work. Yes, the system kinda sucks, but no, it doesn't impede fun whatsoever.

I suppose the whole point of this post is to demonstrate that a huge part of my gaming past was using a system of mechanics derided by many people, yet I never had a problem with it. It's easy to read a set of rules and say they don't work, but in application many things are tolerable, even enjoyable, when used properly. Spell-casting and psionics use in Rifts (and other Palladium rpgs) is actually one of the better aspects of the game, easier to understand and employ than a lot of other games. The combat system is fun and fast, even if it shows signs of old age. There are virtually unlimited character options available to players which means even the hardest to please can find something appealing. So, yes, I don't think Rifts or any of the other games are necessarily well-written or sophisticated, but they're a lot of fun to play. There are many rpgs with elegant rules that while interesting just aren't that great when played (Burning Wheel...I really like the rules but find it boring during play). Rules are important, but often overrated. If you're having fun, the rules are doing their job.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Done With OSR Games

This will be concise and to the point: I am done with OSR games. Completely. I see absolutely no reason to play an OSR rpg (which is really just a thinly disguised term for D&D) over the real thing. Sure, there are a lot of things I dislike about AD&D and B/X, but that's what house rules are for. And honestly, nearly every fucking OSR game is nothing more than D&D with a few house rules typically pulled from other editions of the game or various resources on the internet. Which is exactly what we should be doing. The whole idea that these are new games, though, is getting on my nerves.

The original intent of Labyrinth Lord was to make available B/X for new gamers. B/X is out of print, and thus LL fills the void nicely. LL isn't an OSR game, though. It's a way to play B/X without having to find a copy somewhere. I dislike OSRIC, but it attempts to fill the absence of AD&D in the same way. It's also not an OSR game. Neither of these games attempts to pass itself off as something new. OSR games take what is essentially B/X or AD&D and add some stupid shit then call themselves a new game. It's absolutely asinine. The OSR is nothing more than a bunch of dudes who decided their house rules were so important they needed to be published, generally for money. And they can go fuck themselves. I don't care how original you think your OSR game is, if it has armor class and hit points and character classes you can suck a dick. That's not a new game whatsoever. I have yet to see one OSR game that innovated one thing at all. Oh I see, you added your own version of bards. Cool. I've personally made twenty versions in the past month, trying to figure out a happy medium between 1st and 2nd edition bards for my own AD&D game. Should I publish Bard: The Roleplaying Game? Might as well.

Fuck you, OSR.