April 11, 2011

Pro-death play style

Underneath all of the old school vs. new school animosity, and the bickering over which edition of which game system is best, lies a difference of opinion about how much of the game should be planned out vs. rolled randomly.

I lean "rolled randomly" now, but I did not always.  With my first gaming group I was always looking out for the PC's, even occasionally fudging rolls because I did not want to kill them.  They were part of a great plot, and I had a story to tell.  Some people would say that I should have just written a novel, but the PC's did take the story to unexpected places.  Most importantly, we all had fun, and that is what it's all about right?

I realize now that my old style was partially based upon the old Saturday morning Dungeon and Dragons cartoon, and how friendly the DM there was to the PC's.   Since then, I've learned a little about the older editions of the game, the earliest groups, and how they played.  I knew that D&D was based upon war-gaming, but I was surprised to realize that there were so many chances for Instant Death in those early games.  I had a knee-jerk aversion to "old-school" because my first thoughts were of how upset my players would be if their character was killed after all the time we had invested into those PC's.  I failed to consider the question "What if my group had always played like this from the beginning?".

Now, years later, I've decided to run a new game with a different outlook.  PC's will die.  Not because I am actively trying to kill them, but because I have decided to let the dice land where they fall.  Before we begin our first game I will warn them that the world is a dangerous place (especially for dungeon delvers), and their characters will be lucky to survive more than a few game sessions... and boom, it is suddenly a whole new game.

I think the games will be more exciting for the players and especially for me, when death lurks behind every corner, every wandering monster, and every leap across the magma pool.  If someone dies they just take control of a henchman, or roll up a new first level character.  When the cast of characters changes a bit nearly every game session, it becomes much easier to accommodate for new players and absent ones.  It will also save me a lot of time.  Instead of spending all day plotting and planning every detail, I can just rely more heavily on the random charts and go see a movie or mow the yard.  I'll still be making dungeons and telling stories, but these new stories will also hold unexpected lessons from the school of hard knocks.

April 6, 2011

The Die Bag of Fate

Dungeons are always described by locals as dangerous, spooky, and unlucky places.  On Ezzin, sometimes all three are literally true.  Some say that the Underworld is the resting place of the dreaming gods, and that all dungeons are connected through their dreams.  In these places sometimes the normal rules for reality just don't apply.

To make one dungeon particularly "unlucky", I've decided to use the Die Bag of Fate rather than impose a penalty to die rolls.  Anytime someone (including myself) was making an attack or rolling a saving throw they would not roll as usual, but instead they would be passed a die bag and told not to look inside, take out only one, and roll it.

Success is determined by the color of the object chosen.

First Color = Fully successful (Use crit chart)
Second color = Successful (Roll damage like a normal hit)
Third color = Minimal Success (glancing blow, only 0-1 damage)
Forth color = Miss
Fifth color = Fumble (Use fumble chart)

Stones and tokens are stuck at their color, but dice can move up to the next best outcome.  The die is rolled and any applicable bonuses are added.  If the total is equal or greater than the number of sides on the die then the outcome has improved by one step.  For example, a PC attacks a monster, pulls a Red d4 and rolls a 3.  The red means that the attack missed, but if the PC was determined to have a bonus to attack (magic weapon, dex bonus to thrown weapon, ect.) a bonus of +1 or more would make the roll equal the number of sides on the die (4) and the attack would be moved up to "Minimal Success".

At each level of the dungeon, any number of dice in the bag could be changed to represent the ebb and flow of the tides of luck. Special tokens or unique stones can also be added to represent random events, wandering monsters, traps, and more.

April 4, 2011

Ezzin in a nutshell

The surface world in my Dreaming Gods campaign will be known as Ezzin.  The planet is very Earth-like with many races, cultures, and religions.  It will be rather similar to a lot of fantasy settings, but I'll list a few of it's more unique quirks.

Because of the "portals" any character or creature might suddenly find themselves in a strange new land, but thankfully it is rare on the surface.  They return with strange tales, and sometimes strange items.  Some of these items have been given special religious meaning. Imagine a priest interpreting an Ipod with earbuds as a magical communication device full of "teachings" from Dio, the Lord of Metal.

The Dreaming Gods.  Almost every religion on Ezzin incorporates the idea of dreaming gods in some form.  This is used to explain the portals and reality shifts, they are the dreams of gods, or perhaps Ezzin is the dream.  The details will be wildly different, but the basic concept will likely be present.  It might be a single dreaming god, or many.  There might also be a single, or pantheon of other (normal) deities.  These deities might interact with the dreaming gods and mortals, or not.  The important thing for me to keep in mind while DMing is that these deities will never physically appear, or provide more than circumstantial proof of their existence.  The Azhuloughmahni (or whatever the locals call them) provide more tangible evidence for their existence, but they are also impossible to pin down physically.  There are also whispered rumors of strange creatures or people appearing, birthed not of egg or mother but from the mind of the dreamers into the very air.

The creation story.  Delve far enough back into any culture, and you'll find their story of how the world came to be.  On Ezzin, these stories are all strikingly similar.  Before time (500-2000years ago), Ezzin was ruled by beings (demons/angels/alien creatures) who call themselves the Azhuloughmahni.  God(s) arrive and cause an event (the mutant apocalypse) that reshapes all the lands and creatures.  The Azhuloughmahni were pulled from their bodies and forced to live as shadows within the bowels of the underworld.  Most deep caves, and underground dungeons are thought to be the ruined cites and domains of the Azhuloughmahni.  Some people are brave or desperate enough to seek the coins and treasures of this ruined civilization.  The surface world was reshaped by "the Breath of God" or "The Waters of Change", and no trace of the Azhuloughmahni remains unless it is dug up or brought to the surface.

The Dreaming Gods

I've been searching for a long while for a particular game.  You know, that perfect game that hits all the buttons and has something for everyone.  Alas, no one game is perfect for everyone, and convincing a group of players to try a new game system is not as easy as it sounds.  Leaving old characters to wither, learning a new game system, and difficulties in reaching a consensus about the setting are all reasons to stay within the old familiar game system, campaign, and characters.

It occurred to me recently, can I design a campaign storyline that can incorporate multiple game systems?

The Dreaming Gods will be my first attempt. The basic idea here is to use Labyrinth Lord when the characters are on the surface world, then certain places/events will be portals to other gamesystems.

Some "portals" will always cause the same results.  Anytime the PC's steal a spaceship or get kidnapped by aliens I'll probably use traveler without even trying to convert the characters...  because the thought of a wizard, a thief, and a fighter all trying to pilot a spacecraft amuses me.  Some dungeons will just be borrowed from other d20 systems and attached to the surface world.  Some will be a magical wardrobe that acts as an entrance to another world.  Despite these changes in setting the characters (and character sheets) will remain the same, and on the fly the players and I will have to agree upon the likelyhood of  their characters to accomplish a given task.

Other portals will change the characters and setting.  For example, I think that certain songs or magical effects will transport the characters into a new world.  I will randomly hand out some premade character sheets, and we'll suddenly be playing Shadow Run, or Mutant Future, Monopoly, or whatever until they figure out a way to get back home.  Very likely I will have each of them roll to see if their new character remembers that they used to be a wizard, remembers the background of their new character only, remembers both lives (and makes a sanity check?), or remembers neither but has the abilities of the new character (Jason Bourne style).

Once they return to the surface world their Labyrinth Lord characters will be able to remember what happened while they were in the other world, but it will seem hazy and dreamlike.   Instead of XP I might award +% to some skill that they used in the other game system (like computer hacking, telekinesis, or driving) so that their LL character can now use it a little.  I might also have some "artifact" return with them, some tangible proof that they were really there.  Perhaps a laser pistol, diamond ring, Klingon to English dictionary, or a bag of chips.

April 2, 2011



I'm not likely to mention it elsewhere, but my name is Nick Peterson.  This is more experiment than blog, testing myself to see if I can make a new post each day.  Perhaps this is an effort to make me a better writer, or to improve the games that I run...  or just to waste time.  Very likely, it will do all three.

It should probably be noted that I have never been officially diagnosed with any mental oddity or impairment.  However it is true that my main reason for making this blog is to collect the gaming notes of my various altered conscies into one convenient location.  Thus my more planny self might cobble together some form of game wherein others find some amount of amusement.

If you find that these notes are of some use to you... well, I'm not sure whether to be pleased about my creative imagination or worried for your sanity.  Either way, it's nice to meet a fellow.