Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Solo Hex Crawl Percolates

Something, some memetic brainworm has got me thinking and the caffeine makes my fingers itch.  I got Lathan's Gold - TSR's XSOLO 9082 a few weeks back and it opened a whole can of nostalgia.  I read about somebody's sandbox hex-crawl (west crawl?) campaign.  I found my standby solo game of long-ago, Barbarian Prince, here. (and doubtless I will take up Cal Arath's sword again nigh the end of the day).  For a guy like your humble author, out in the woods with little bandwidth and few social contacts that game, solo adventuring reminds me of the early 1980's.  At that time, I had Telengard and The Temple of Apshai.  When I grew weary of those, I turned to Choose Your Own Adventure (hideously unplayable) and the Lone Wolf series, later.

The rise of computer gaming and the internet has brought thousands of gamers and role-players together instantly and without distance as a consideration, and I kind of dig the whole OSR that has spurted up.  Frankly, I don't much like the 3.5 version of AD&D that is very popular where I live.  My first "sort of" invite to a gaming group in about 20 years occurred yesterday in the front end of a Staples and although my heart hammered when the guy started talking Call of Cthulhu he said the group's standard fare is 3.5 D&D and my mouth went dry.  I can't afford new books after this DCC purchase - the reason I got out of RPGs in first place was the way my group got into powergaming and feats.  I dunno.  We'll see if beggars are choosers and how the thing plays out.

Where was I going with this?  Oh yeah, I have been thinking about using Twine as a way to cook up a solo PnP gaming diversion in the style of Lathan's Gold and Barbarian Prince.  Sort of a pre-IBM micromanager's dungeon quest.  I envision a caravan of Rothe guarded by grim soldiers who quiver at the sounds of the mushroom forests that circle the city of the deep gnomes with whom they trade.  Pretty nebulous at the moment, but I drew inspiration from the Lathan's Gold cover (IIRC was prone to almost instant destruction when erased by a pencil).  I can offer THIS hideous concoction to the gaming world, on which you may tally and check-mark to your heart's content, should you aim your caravan into the depths of the underdark or across vast sandy wastes.

Cherrios - they count as standard rations, if you're wondering.

Next up: a slithering, ghoulish patron for DCC.  Possibly another persistent horror.  Both in the style of the Old Ones that haunt Aereth.

Further down the line:  A campaign-setting using a mix of Clark Ashton Smith's France, and the Darklands RPG of the early 1990s.  Saints as patrons?  Of course!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics - Woe Be to The Wizards

"Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes." - H.P. Lovecraft, "The Festival"
I have bitten the bullet, and finally (after much heartsickness) bought a digital version of Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics.  Why the pangs?  Well, I should have just borne the cost and purchased a hardbound version so that I can lay awake at night in bed giggling like a 12-year old.  It is strange to see what I remember about 1st ed. D&D and the Red Box set (I always add "pre-Unearthed Arcana") lovingly captured and improved upon with mechanics that add to rather than subtract from the spirit of the thing.  I think this is the D&D that I have carried around in my head for 25 years, given form.  It's not the same as the 1st ed., obviously - I think Labyrinth Lord is awesome in that regard.  But it allows a knowledgeable DM with experienced players a wide amount of leeway to play a game that is what AD&D tried to capture, I think.  Without all the damn 18/00-25 baloney.  It leaves rules out to avoid MinMax builds and rules-lawyering and all the stuff that wearied me about role-playing in the late 90's after I grew to love D&D and gaming in the mid 80s.

I love the Luck mechanic, and the burning of it to add spice to the statistics and chance.  And the Warrior and Thief rules are great.  The Halfling and Dwarf classes are included, of course, for historical accuracy.  Each class has a niche that has something to commend it.  Except maybe the Elf - I could always do without elves, but hey, YMMV of course.  The cleric rules (and to a lesser extent the alignments of all characters) draw you in to the machinations of the gods and demons that run the show.  However, I think the game really shines in the vast amount of material that is included for the Wizard.

I mean, you can't read through the book without understanding that the magic system is intended to be mysterious and baleful and dangerous.  The fate of the magician is sealed almost from the start.  That being, harnessing the power of magic is bad news and should be avoided at almost all costs and can only end in tragedy.  The patron system and spell duels are nice touch that I can't wait to see unfold in an actual game - something that's often portrayed vividly in fantasy fiction but not always done well in gaming.

Anyway, once I've read through it again, I will post a few hooks and a patron daemon or two.  I have already progressed a funnel group of 4 hapless peasants through their adventuring careers to end with a benighted Chaotic Necromancer, vainly struggling to undo the damage his tinkering with awful powers has done his body and soul.  He is accompanied by a foul-mouthed and cantankerous Neutral dwarf sidekick (started as a apothecarist) who has a nose for gold and rare herbs that keep his benefactor preserved and on just this side of the brink of liquifaction.  They move from place to place one step ahead of a former colleague and friend, a witch-hunting monomaniac bent on vengeance.  Their patrons constantly put them at cross-purposes in the manner of the old Elric of Melnibone stories that I loved so much.  Maybe they both loved a fair-haired elven lass who saw her fate in the stars before either of these figures was born - who knows?  Did she set the whole tragicomedy in motion with her studies long ago?  When they meet now, the air around them boils with mutual hatred and the figures of their patron gods and demons clash in the air around them and they leave waste and ruin behind

It's a well thought out system, and I like it.  Now I need to meet up with some like-minded folks and let some d7's and d16's fly.  Or not - the thing is worth reading and thinking about on its own merits as a stimulus to cloud my brain about reality.  I am choking on the air around this election, for Vecna's sake.

I just thought of a "Vecna for President 2012" T-shirt that I should have thought of months and months ago.  Dammit.


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