OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionaire

Goblin

I still, for life of me, don’t understand why Zak Smith has taken a dislike to me, it seems to be purely for political purposes, but these questionnaire things and ‘article a day’ things help keep me motivated and productive. So what the criminey-heck.

‘OSR’ stands for ‘Old School Renaissance’, it’s a back-to-basics approach to roleplaying with a focus on homebrew and just-above-homebrew implementations of rules which, mostly, stem from ‘Red Box D&D’ and other early editions.

The capability to create all these ‘forks’ from the old D&D rules in part stems from the peculiarity that you can’t copyright rules, and in part from the Open Game Licence that came along with 3rd edition.

‘OSR’ is less a specific set of rules, though, and more an attitude. ‘Old school’ in that regard is more of a punk rock, heavy metal, unreconstructed, undeconstructed, in your face ‘pulp’ attitude to the way you game, rather than what dice you roll.

D&D has no nostalgia factor for me. I didn’t start with D&D, I started with MERP, Dragon Warriors, Fighting Fantasy and other games that were far more popular in my little corner of England. I’m also neither entirely a narrative, nor a crunchy system fan. I like different things for different reasons, the right tool for the right job. Still, the OSR shouldn’t really appeal to me, and I don’t really play much in the way of old school games (Dragon Warriors stream notwithstanding). Still, this ‘Here’s three dice, now make a game’ attitude is appealing, as is the ‘fuck you if you don’t like it’ approach found in things like Carcosa and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:

This old article from back when The Escapist had some balls provided me with a basic grounding in what was going on, back in the day. Still with a shufti via the ol’ Wayback Machine.

2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:

“I find myself with insufficient time and desire to write about games but I also have the sense that the ‘OSR’ scene this blog is devoted to has become a rather disgusting place where crass commercialization is strangling a formerly creative amateur community, and where destructive ‘alt-right’ views are becoming increasingly prevalent, even among some of the more significant publishers in the community.”

This from this blog.

I mean, it’s just so absurd a thing to say, but why this is my favourite thing is that it got virtually no currency within that community. It was rebuffed for its absurdity and ridiculousness without getting the same kind of traction it has in other RPG communities.

That’s one of the biggest and best selling points such a community can have to me.

3. Best OSR module/supplement:

I’m not a ‘supplements’ sort of guy, which is why I hardly ever purchase them and why I try to write into any adventures that I create some kind of added value (GM advice, random tables, that sort of thing). So this is a tough one, however I’d go with Vornheim. Predictable, I know, but it did demonstrate there were other ways to lay out, write, organise and use supplements that has – modestly – informed some changes I’ve been making.

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else):

Using tokens to reward player attention and roleplay moments, and to penalise player distractions, inattention and mood-breaking.

5. How I found out about the OSR:

I have no idea. It seemed to just sort of… arrive by osmosis.

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:

This medieval town/city generator.

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:

TheRPGSite

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:

Minds

Steemit

Facebook, and here

Youtube and here

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:

Vomit it out, then clean it up.

10. My favorite non-OSR RPG:

I hate these kinds of questions. Who can ever pick just one? Enjoying Iron Kingdoms, FATE, Eclipse Phase and the games I’m working on at the moment.

11. Why I like OSR stuff:

The punk aesthetic, the IDGAF community, the ‘try anything’ freedom that the narrative game community aspires to, but gets too hung up on politics and wokeness.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:

My Machinations of the Space Princess RPG.

My house-rule that you can try any combat move you like, but at a basic penalty of -5 (gives fighters something they REALLY excel at, swashbuckling).

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be:

Tenkar’s Tavern.

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:

All of them.

15. I’m currently running/playing:

The Iron Kingdoms RPG (the non-d20 one). Our heroes are a band of morally questionable mercenaries, working for a secret society of wives/widows of the powerful tjqmG1539440448men of the city as their enforcers and investigators. It’s all ascending towards some sort of confrontation with the current, established powers that be.

16. I don’t care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:

So long as everyone at the table agrees, why the cock should it matter?

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:

Is at the top of the page.

#RPG – #My30DayWorld – How Common are Adventurers and Heroes in Your World?

1507769028_darkest-dungeon

It is, I think, a good idea to separate the role of ‘adventurer’ and ‘hero’. Adventurers all too often turn out to be little more than sell-swords and the ‘wandering murderhobo’ is an aesthetic I definitely want to tap into. They might turn out to be heroes through certain actions, but your usual adventurer is driven by the pursuit of loot and powerful items. Heroes tend to be more driven by what is right or moral (lawful describes a devotion to ethics, good describes a devotion to morals) rather than the pursuit of treasure…

Read the rest, other entries, follow the development process and get discounts at Patreon and Makersupport

#RPG – Post Apocalypse World – Salvage

Salvage-Crew-Removes-USS-Guardians-Bow-Section*Smashes Apocalypse World to pieces*
*Rummages through the bits*

OK, how can we retool this into a halfway enjoyable, workable game…

OK, we need more scale to finesse things, so let’s double the scale from 2d6+bonuses to 2D12+bonuses.

You could whack together any stats you wanted, but for sake of argument let’s go with…

  • Will
  • Body
  • Sexy
  • Mind
  • Soul

In AW stats are normally -2 to +2 normally, -3 to +3 later than character generation. This would normally be doubled here, but here’s an opportunity to do better.

Let’s bring in a more traditional Stat+Skill organisation structure, since Moves suck balls, so we can have stats and then skills, which combined give you your totals. So Stats run -6 to +2 and skills run from zero to +2, with 3 possible later on and certain exceptions.

Stats start at zero and can be bought up to +2 at character creation with the four points you have to spend.

Skills start not being had at all, but again you have four points and spending a single point gives you a skill at +0.

You can drop stats for extra points to spend on stats and skills, but no lower than -6 and buy no higher than +2 at character creation.

You have six health, at zero you’ve snuffed it. You can choose to take a permanent penalty of -1 to a stat in place of damage at any point.

You get two spare points you can chuck into anything, like extra health, extra in a stat or skill (still within limits) or for weird abilities not unlike FATE stunts.

You can develop relationships with players and NPCs or communities in games from -6 to +2(3)

Every session gives you 1xp which can be used to buy stuff by paying 1 or its existing, current level, whichever is highest. That could also limit the maximum amount that helping people is good for.

Doing stuff?

Roll 2d12+Stat+Skill

1-2. Fail and six bad things happen.
3-4. Fail and five bad things happen.
5-6. Fail and four bad things happen.
7-8. Fail and three bad things happen.
9-10. Fail and two bad things happen.
11-12. Fail and a bad thing happens.
13-14. Succeed, BUT a bad thing happens too.
15-16. Succeed and a good thing happens.
17-18. Succeed and a two good thing happens.
19-20. Succeed and three good things happen.
21-22. Succeed and four good things happen.
23-24. Succed and five good things happen.

Every two more higher or lower cause more bad or good things to happen. Those things can be more damage, knocking a weapon flying and so on. Maybe you could also spend multiple good things to do special effects (I did something like this in Kagai! where you spend your successes to do damage).

Armour reduces damage 1-6.

Weapons do base damage, modified 1, 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12 and maybe descriptions of special stuff they can do.

Baddies have a difficulty rank from +6 (like an asthmatic goblin) to -6 (an imperial dragon), health points, armour, some tactics they can use and some ‘bad things’ that they can do.

You get the idea.

So a character might look like…

Sir Fighty McFighterson – Knight of the Realm

Will +1
Body +2
Sexy +1
Mind -2
Soul -2

Stabbing Monsters +2
Riding Horsies +2
Bellowing Scarily +1

Two handed sword for jobbing monsters 1d10 damage, bleeding.
Plate Armour: 6
Shield: +1 Armour (7).

Sir Fighty is clobbering an orc, an Orc warrior is difficulty -2 and carries a dirty cleaver, that does 1d6 damage. The Orc can also take 6 damage.

The orc lunges for him with its dirty sword and Sir Fighty decides the best response is to clobber the motherfucker.

He rolls 2d12+Body+Stabbing Monsters for a total of 17, -2 for the orc challenge level for a total of 15. The sword does 6 damage +1 for a ‘good things’ making 7. That’s a dead orc.

A new challenger appears, another nasty orc. In closing with this wee bastard Sir Fighty ballses it up only rolling a total of 6, which with the -2 is reduced to 4. That’s a fail and five bad things. The orc rolls 4 for damage, which is all soaked up by the armour, spending all the extra ‘bad things’ brings that up high enough to do two damage. Huzzah for orcs!

You get the point, there’d be a lot more to do but stripped bare and reconstructed there’s a more workable (if still somewhat clumsy) RPG in there.

Dungeon World does it better, but doesn’t solve all the issues.

If you’re after a Post Apocalyptic game of worth, Barbarians of the Aftermath is good, retooling Cyberpunk 2020 with the Maximum Metal book works well too.

Munchkin: They Killed Me & Took My Stuff

cover_lgApparently Munchkin is going onto Xbox and maybe other computery game platforms too.

I have tried for a long time to be sanguine about what happened with Munchkin. Me and Steve Mortimer wrote The Munchkin’s Guide to Powergaming and from that came the d20 stuff and, eventually, the card game. Both the d20 material and the original card game contain a huge amount of material taken from or inspired by the book – but just not quite enough to trip the clause in the contract where they’d need to give us more money.

By and large my relationship with SJG is pretty good. They pay up on time and e23 does well for me – second only to RPGNOW – but at this point, with Munchkin seemingly keeping the company afloat and making them money hand-over-fist it seems… ungrateful not to have involved us again or even acknowledged us, let alone cut us in for any amount of the fortune ensuing from our humour.

Furthermore it has become clear to us recently, via another slap in the face, that our role in this gaming phenomenon is not only being ignored but actively being written out.

SJG gave us our first break in writing and essentially launched my career as a gaming professional. Perhaps it is churlish of me to feel this way but I do feel that our contribution is worth greater acknowledgement and that, perhaps, it might have been nice to do a tenth anniversary recap or to have brought us back to do a supplement.

It was even me that wanted John Kovalic to illustrate the original book, though he couldn’t do much then due to other commitments.

I’m torn on this. I feel ungrateful to be so bloody angry about this but every time we’re left out, another add on comes out or it conquers another medium its a stab in the gut and a sharp reminder of being cut out.

I don’t know what to do with how I feel about this any more. I use to just joke about it, but it’s no longer funny.

Please Stop Selling Bad Art

Wait. I’m the bad guy?

You’re not good enough yet.

Really, you’re not.

I know that people are always out for cheap art to illustrate their RPG projects and that not everybody’s presentation is professional or even semi-professional. I tend to go for fairly simple, minimalist layouts for that reason but please…

Stop selling your bad art.

Any schmuck can put together wooden looking poser dolls and anyone can trace an outline. You’ll get better with practice but that horrible scratching you’re selling for a buck a throw? It’s doing everyone harm, including you.

How is it doing harm?

1. You’re giving yourself a bad reputation – Get a rep for shitty art and people will stop looking and checking.

2. You’re pushing product off the front page of sites like RPGNOW – If you’re throwing up shitty sketches twice a day you’re contributing to product churn and pushing worthy product off the front page. The front page is important advertising for people with new product. Books that take months to put together are being knocked out of view by your napkin doodles. Stop it.

3. You’re depressing the acceptable price of stock art and flooding the market with crud. – That makes it hard to search through and find the good stuff and the price of stock art is already low, very low, compared to direct commissioning.

Now, what constitutes crap art is very subjective. I’m not saying everything has to be perfect and the ‘dodgy doodle’ can even be a stylistic choice for some games trying to capture to old-skool feel. There’s a few things you can do though, even if you can’t stop:

Being Less Crap:

1. Find honest people to give you honest, critical feedback.

2. Consolidate your releases. Don’t release ten, individual, shitty pieces of art for a buck each. Put them together in a collection and sell them. The good pieces will stand out, you won’t flood the front page so much and you’re providing value and giving yourself space to practice.

3. Do spot illustrations. Spot illustrations don’t have to be as good, typically and if they’re a little rough they just recall classics like Fighting Fantasy books or old adventure modules.

4. If you can’t do spot illustrations, do graphical elements, textures, things like that are always useful and you don’t need to be OMFGBRILLIANT to make something useful.

Now, I’ve also become aware of rumours about a disturbing trend amongst other small RPG companies. Reselling artist’s work as stock art.

This is a ‘Dick Move'(tm). Don’t do it. Let’s be honest here, most of us cannot afford what the work of these artists is worth. Allowing them to retain right of resale and reuse of their art or allowing the rights to revert after 3/6/12 months is a way we can help compensate for being cheapskates.

The stock art that I sell is commissioned AS stock art from the artists involved and includes highly detailed and highly stylised art depending on the artist. If I’m selling stock art money is going to the artists and I’m providing a central clearing house with, what I hope, is a good reputation for decent art. I’m not taking advantage as I fear some companies and individuals may be.

Don’t treat artists like crap and if you are an RPG artist I think you should be asking for these rights and finding places to sell your art – after rights revert – to help you squeeze a living out of a tough business. At this point, honestly, this should be standard procedure for small press.

TLDR: Don’t sell shit, don’t be a dick, re-sell your art yourself.

Putting Skyrim into a Tabletop RPG

I’ve been playing and enjoying Skyrim a great deal, as a great many people have. One thing that I particularly like is the near total irrelevance of the levels (they’re really unnecessary, you could work stamina and health upgrades into the perks system) and the ability to customise your character simply by DOING.

I found myself wondering how you could recreate this feel on the tabletop and a couple of obvious inspirations leapt to mind. Dragon Warriors uses fixed damage in a way that would work quite well but the most obvious system to recreate a Skyrim experience on the tabletop is BRP/RuneQuest/Legend/OpenQuest and all its ilk.

You would need to change a few bits and pieces and you would need to expand the basic rules to an heroic scope by introducing a perk equivalent (Legend/RuneQuest already did this to an extent) but what I would suggest is using a skill threshold of 50% with every five points above that skill level granting a Perk point and with perks spent to provide specific bonuses and heroic qualities.

It would take a lot of work to produce Perk trees for every relevant BRP skill, but as a vague sort of thought along those lines, here’s my Skyrim character rendered into BRPesque system, though with some alterations along my own lines towards a system change I’ve also been considering. Two birds, one stone and all that…

Corwin

Race: Breton
Gender: Male
Handedness: Right
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 155 lbs.
Age: 35

STR: 10, CON: 12, SIZ: 11, DEX: 12, APP: 14, INT: 13, POW: 10, EDU: 14

Hits: 3 (NB: This is the other change I was on about, all combat becomes single roll, Crit = Dead, Special = Out, Hit = Hit, Miss = Miss. Tougher characters can take multiple hits before upgrading to ‘Out’).
Toughness: 10% (35%) (NB: The single roll is a combination of hit/wound chance based on the resistance table. A character’s toughness helps protect them from harm).
Wound: 5% (NB: Weapons have a ‘wound’ value, that is their chance of scoring a ‘Hit’ as a wound. Stronger characters get a bonus).

INNATE SKILLS
Effort 50%
Stamina 60%
Idea 65%
Luck: 50%
Agility: 60%
Charisma: 70%
Know: 70%
(NB: Derived stats experimentally become skills, like any other) 

GENERAL SKILLS
Bargain: 20 (45)
Etiquette: 10
Fast Talk: 20
Persuade: 30
Status: 10
Craft (Armourer): 30
Craft (Weaponsmith): 30
Craft (Enchantment): 10
Craft (Alchemy): 30 (50)
Fine Manipulation: 30 (50)
Sleight of Hand: 10
Appraise: 10
First Aid: 10
Gaming: 5
Literacy: 20
Insight: 5
Listen: 20
Research: 5
Sense: 20
Spot: 20
Track: 20
Climb: 20
Dodge: 20
Hide: 30
Jump: 20
Stealth: 30
Swim: 10

WEAPON SKILLS
Brawl: 10
1H Weapons: 30
2H Weapons: 5
Thrown: 10
Bows: 40 (60)
Shields: 5
Light Armour: 25 (NB: Armour skills are used for putting them on under duress, and to govern armour perks).
Heavy Armour: 0

PERKS
OOOOO Fortune’s Favour – Luck Reroll x5
OOOOO Charmer’s Bargain – +25% Bargain bonus
O Bow Kill +1% crit chance.
OOOO Bonus Bow Damage +20%

FIST – Wound 20%
HEADBUTT – Wound 20%
KICK – Wound 20%
SHORTSWORD – Wound 40% Iceblade: +5 wound chance, target loses an action next turn if hit, Shockblade +5 wound chance, target loses 1 magic point if hit.
Dwarven Longbow – Wound 45% (65%, Crit +1), Soul Draining – On a kill drains magic points into Soul Gems.

Mask of Krosis – Armour 10% Halve perception skills, +20% Fine Manipulation, Craft (Alchemy), Bows.
Fine Hard Leather Armour – Armour 15% -5% Physical Skill penalty.

Other Tips for Skyrimming Your BRP

  1. Average damage on hits, only circumstances (surprise/backstab) or criticals/special hits increase damage. Standard hit – average damage, Special hit damage +1, Critical hit double damage. EG: Longbow – 6/7/12 – Perks can increase this)
  2. Magic Points regenerate at one per turn, specific spells in specific fields draw hit and damage from skill, specific effects to specific skills.
  3. If you wanted you could introduce Stamina Points (from Con) that could be used to power more powerful physical/attack Perks. Also regenerating one per turn.
  4. Let people increase their HP/MP using Perks as well as by increasing stats.
  5. Don’t forget blessing bonuses, magic item bonuses etc, though these tend to be basic and workmanlike unless attached to epic and legendary items.

Cosmic Encounter Alien: Healer

Rapid geological activity forced extreme biological diversifications on the Healer home world. Possessing vast knowledge of herbal and mutant lore, Healers are now prized by other beings for their life-sustaining skills. Amidst loud rejoicing over new health, who could deny their modest fee?

 

Traveller

Notable Education +1

Healing Touch: Healer’s gain +1 to Animals (veterinary), Medic & Science (Biology) at the end of character generation.

Social standing is replaced by ‘Wisdom’.

Homeworld: Oosshanaa B988889-A Ga Ri

Starport B, 14.4k km, dense atmosphere, 80% water, hundreds of millions population, civil service bureaucracy, law level 9, tech level 10.

Starblazer

Healers have the following traits:

  • Life giver [Stunt] – With a touch a healer can remove stress from a target and place it upon themselves.
  • Supermind [Stunt] – Medical applications only.
  1. Bad eyesight: -2
  2. Weak to heat.

General

The swampy world of the Healers has its water distributed over its surface in many lakes, swamps and aquifers. The air is humid and everything is soft and wet. The atmosphere, thick with moisture and CO2 is perfect for growing plants and the whole planet is covered in thick and persistent growths from a multitude of highly evolved, highly specialised plant life that is very resilient and contains much in the way of complex chemistry. The Healers (Ullanoo) are part plant themselves and have a deep and innate understanding of the flows and complexities of life force and the chemistry of medicines.