All posts by Peter R.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

Somewhat Disconnected

I realised today that all the adventures I have run in the past five years have been set above ground. One was on a snowy mountain top in the treeline in the dead of winter, one was in a fictitious Google office block in Mexico City, another in a Colombian jungle against a drug cartel, yet another was in the Spiderhaunt forest in the Forgotten Realms. No dungeons!

All the adventures I have played in the past five years have been the underground headquarters of an evil magician in Shadow World with a mix of old tech and fantasy, an underground undead infested cave system, and orchold and a hobgoblin cave system.

The last adventures I have published have been a  cave system used by an evil magician but behind it was a lovecraftian old gods site and a cave system filled with (avatar inspired) cat people ruled by an assassin were-tiger queen.

I haven’t published an above ground adventure in 3 months.

So I wonder why I don’t run dungeons?

I suspect there is an element of GM-snobbery going on. I tend to look down my nose at dungeons and bring up all those arguments about who built them and how do the inhabitants survive if this place was abandoned for centuries or how do all these chaotic evil races coexist so happily in this closed environment. I also don’t like dungeons because there is no one to talk to. There is no reason not to put intelligent beings in a dungeon but then you need to be able to justify why they are there and be prepared for your players to ‘charm’ and extract huge amounts of information about the dungeon and its workings, how to avoid traps and guards etc.

I think I am in a minority as the megadungeon seems really popular part of the whole retro gaming scene as does doing/clearing old style dungeons.

One of my failings as a GM is that my descriptions tend to fade away. I may start an adventure giving vivid and rich descriptions of the locations to set the scene, like “The corridor is heavy with the stench of burning pitch and the blocks of stone that make the ceiling are blackened with soot, the yellow light of the torches reveal the passage way to be disused and filled with standing puddles of water. The stones of the walls are slick with green algae and rivulets of water run down the mortar joins. Drips from the ceiling fall into the wide puddles that ripple with with every drop and the sound echoes along the corridor. ” but by the third dungeon corridor this is starting to slip towards “it is a 20m corridor, lit by pitch torches, there is a ironbound door at the far end with a burning torch either side of it.

By the fifth corridor I have described the same stone working techniques, the walls are still wet and the torches are still burning, the players are either imagining it or they are aren’t.

Interestingly, I don’t have this problem with my PBP game. I think as there could be a day or so between describing one room to the next, laying on extra atmosphere feels less like banging the same drum.

So how many of you enjoy clearing dungeons? Am I unusual in avoiding that as a location or backdrop for adventures?

Raising Azazel (a FUDGE game)

So you may remember that I wrote at the start of November that I was going to do the NaGaDeMon challenge this year.

I managed to write and publish my game, going by the name of Raising Azazel. It is a PWYW on Drivethrurpg.

The challenge I signed up for was a FUDGE specific one. There are lots of different challenges in the NaGaDeMon community and the FUDGE one suited me and was  technically a bit easier in that the core mechanics are already tried and tested. It then became more about creating the setting and the story background and then customising FUDGE to bring it all together.

A month is surprisingly short when you set a deadline at the end of it!

The game I released was virtually unedited, had only been played once and in hindsight has some rather important omissions such as there is space of the character sheet for experience but absolutely no rules for experience in the game.

I did create lots of bespoke art for the finished, and I use the word finished lightly, game but every single piece is in exactly the same size and format. If I were to do the page layout again I would recreate most of the art.

I wanted the rule book to be almost a graphic novel with all the background and game setting depicted that way. As it is you get one page of the graphic novel and then a few odd panels dotted through the book. Graphic novels are hard to write if you are rather talentless as a writer!

Still talking about layout there is one example explaining a rule that is separated off into a boxout but none of the others are. I think they all should be so they are easier to find.

Something that I had seen in Terry Amthor’s Shadow World books that people seem to love are his vignette scenes at the top of each chapter. I had wanted to recreate that but the problem is that these require artistic talent as a writer. I did come up with something rather cool. I grabbed a couple of public domain books, one on devil worship in the 19th century and one on astrology. I then changed the odd word here, inserted my characters names for historical figures and such like and used these as extracts from fictitious books. I think they were quite cool but I think I need one at the top of every chapter so that the layout is consistent.

On the topic of chapters. I thought that it would be cool to have the chapter names and headings in Latin as there is a church conspiracy running through the game. This was a bad idea! Did you know that Chapter Six in Latin is Caput Sex? That is neither scary or cool.

So I have a choice now. I can confine Raising Azazel to the depths of OBS, never to be mentioned again or I can revise, edit, fix and improve the game. As I enjoyed the work I have done on it so far I rather fancy the second option.

So I am planning to try out Indiegogo. In the new year, I am stacked out right now with projects, I am going to launch a campaign and try and get some funding to do the bits I cannot do well done properly. It will also teach me something about how Indiegogo works and how to run a campaign.

If you are still reading this and you haven’t already seen the link to Raising Azazel on the Stargazer’s World MeWe group then could I ask you to have a look and give me some critical feedback in the comments? I can then evaluate it and build a todo list that will become part of the Indygogo campaign.

Here is that link again http://bit.ly/RaisingAzazelSGW

No OSR for me!

I have never really paid much attention to the OSR movement. Firstly, I didn’t really understand if it was Old School Revival or Old School Renaissance. Then I didn’t know what counted as old school. I mistakenly thought that it was a move back to the style of gaming that we all discovered in the 70s and early 80s. It then appeared that that isn’t the case and OSR is a just limited to D&D retro clones.

I think within 12 months of owning the D&D basic set, red box, I was writing house rules even if I didn’t know that the phrase ‘house rule’ meant or even existed. We were modding our games on a monthly basis. We absorbed every new spell, character class, monster, magic item and rule suggestion when ever we saw them. Initially there was loads of D&D material in White Dwarf magazine and that was easier to buy than Dragon magazine.

As soon as you saw how other people were modifying the game then we all started doing it. I can remember the first time my character got hold of a musket. I quickly went from D&D to Boothill to Traveller and then Runequest. Boothill was a brief liaison and I can put Gamma World in that group as well.

As soon as I discovered RuleQuest and Traveller with its on target combat system I had to have hit locations in D&D. Once you have hit locations then armour by the piece is a natural extension.

Once we had Gamma World we basically had D&D compatible high tech equipment. I think it was 1979 or maybe 1980 that I discovered Gamma World and I only ran one adventure and that had mutant chickens called Gallus Gallus513. That name has stuck in my memory ever since. One day I will manage to slot a mutant chicken into a game with that name.

It must have been 1981 that I discovered Rolemaster. This is back in the day or the rules being sold as drop in house rules for D&D and we could drop lots of our own house rules and use these awesome books instead.

Once I had all of rolemaster I house ruled that to make it a bit more like RuneQuest, which I think came out first, possibly 1979?

The point of that little jog down memory lane is that is RuneQuest old school? Is rolemaster old school? Rolemaster Classic is a basic rerelease of Rolemaster 2nd Edition and the 2nd edition was pretty much just a tidying up of those piecemeal D&D house rules. There is still a huge amount of Dungeons and Dragons DNA in Rolemaster Classic right down to magic users not wearing armour for absolutely no good reason at all and everyone taking Sleep as their most useful 1st level spell.

I suspect that if I published a Rolemaster adventure and stuck the OSR labels all over it there would be howls of protest.

Even given that OSR really means the resurrection of old D&D rules in infinite variety I don’t really understand the appeal. I understand that no one is forced to play OSR or D&D the reason we stopped playing it surely is because it really wasn’t very good.

Other games flourished and we had the proliferation of so many different games because those games could do what they did better.

I cannot even see it as a desire for simpler games. D&D was never simple. The DMG was basically 300 pages of exceptions to the basic mechanics. Rolemaster was labelled chartmaster because of the visual onslaught of and entire book of charts, Arms Law, but D&D had more charts and tables but scattered far and wide.

I am sure it is a case of if you ‘get’ the whole OSR thing then it makes perfect sense. What started me thinking about this today was that I was asked to do a review for an OSR game. As is my habit I looked up any other games that the publisher had produced and as this was an indie developer I ended up looking at his MeWe profile as well.

One of the things about OSR seems to be that it has attracted a lot of what I would consider unpleasant people, that is what the reaction to the logo was all about in Michael’s recent post. Well this game was written by one of those people. There was no way on earth I was even going to read the game based upon the personal posts by the author.

I have had some tense discussions with people on forums especially in rolemaster circles where I strive for ever greater simplicity in my play and they revel in the micromanaging of every detail. In the Rolemaster community we are discussing the idea of a competition to create spin off mini RPGs ‘powered by’ a core of the Rolemaster rules. I am all in favour of this sort of thing and bringing Rolemaster to genres and audiences it has never appealed to before. Those with opposing views are saying that you cannot go outside of fantasy or sci fi as any realistic simulation of wounds would mean that the PCs would die from infections if there were no magical or high tech healing. I don’t agree with them but I can understand their point of view, this would be a fun competition and not compulsory homework, their gaming table, their rules.

That is nothing like sort of argument I am seeing in even my brief encounter with the OSR, I cringe to use the word, community. I can now understand why the logo’s owner would not want it associated with some of these games. I honestly had no idea. It is obviously not D&D’s fault, nor the OSR concept that breeds hate speech and intolerance. I don’t really understand why it has coalesced around OSR. If OSR went away they would not all suddenly become liberal pluralists. They would hold the same views if they were playing any game or not gaming at all.

Where did all this come from?

I was doing a bit of digging and I came across this. It is from White Dwarf magazine issue 2, August 1977.

Look at the italic text. It looks like the dark side of role players had been there right from the start. I guess I was just too young at the time to see it. Maybe, the OSR community in moving back into old style D&D gaming has stepping into an area of gaming that has already been there quite happily for decades without drawing attention to itself.

I don’t know and I don’t really care. All I know is that any ideas I had of trying to suggest that Rolemaster was a perfectly valid OSR system is now firmly in the ‘bad idea’ pile. I won’t be doing that any time soon.