Recently I decided I should finally give BECMI a chance. I asked a couple of friends if they were interested in creating characters to which they agreed. We initially planned to meet two weeks later to start playing, but we had to reschedule. At the moment the game is still in limbo.
In the meantime I worked on a simple adventure to get started while also thinking about the bigger picture. Since the first planned meeting fell through I thought I might have enough time to start working on a campaign world of my own. Since previous attempts have often ended up in flames, I decided to follow Michael Shorten’s example and start with just three hexes.
During my two-week vacation I planned to sit down and do some prep work, but I ended up playing Elder Scrolls Online with my wife. That was a lot of fun, but I didn’t come any nearer to my goal of creating an interesting campaign setting to play in.
In the meantime I was also invited into Michael’s Ultima-based PbP game which borrows mechanics from Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, which is among my favorite retro clones. It’s simple, elegant, easily hackable, and I can pretty much run it without having to look up rules all the time. Reading these rules again made me question my decision to play using BECMI rules. There’s a certain charm to these rules, but I just feel much more comfortable with White Box. *sigh*
At the moment I am torn between sticking to BECMI and changing to White Box. I guess I could probably use S&W Whitebox as a base and borrow concepts from BECMI if needed. My players probably don’t mind either way. Sure, we might have to reroll characters but that’s probably done in something like 10 minutes. While I am trying to make up my mind, my anxiety also comes knocking. My fear of failing as a GM is so high that it totally paralyses me sometimes.
My gut feeling is to switch to Whitebox since it’s the easier system of the two. I am also quite familiar with it, while I haven’t really run or played BECMI yet. Last but not least there are the issues with the descending armor classes, THAC0 etc., which I find a bit cumbersome. It’s no real deal breaker but just something which may cause stumbles. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
I have many fond memories of playing RuneQuest back in the day and amusing discussions about if elves don’t see by reflected light, but see the intrinsic object can they see through windows? Or maybe that was just our group that got caught up in this quandary.
The point is that OpenQuest is a very easily hackable variation on the RuneQuest theme that has spawned half a dozen new games based upon the open ruleset from Clockwork to Pirates to the Renaissance.
For me I have not really touched much upon except then I was comparing starting characters from a wide range of starting characters in d100 systems to see just how competent characters are comparatively from one system to another. (it turns out that you can very easily take a starting PC from any d100 game and play then in any other d100 game with no significant modifications.)
The adventure module in the title The Mirror Tells Her Lies is a fully funded Kickstarter for the OpenQuest rule system. It is also the writers first foray into digital publishing. I think the whole thing, kickstarting an adventure module, was a pretty brave thing to do. Modules are notoriously hard to sell as most experienced GMs pride themselves on writing all their own adventures and OpenQuest is pretty niche as a game system.
The writer is very open about the risks involved in completing the project but despite that the project is well on its way to doubling its funding goal. That is no mean feat.
Reading the kickstarter campaign it is obvious that the writer, Michael Hopcroft, has many more plans for the future and the fact that this first one funded bodes well for those future adventures. If you enjoy OpenQuest in any of its variations, BRP or RuneQuest then you may want to check out this writer.
If you are even remotely interested in the Ultima series of computer roleplaying games and D&D you owe it to yourself to check out Michael Shorten’s excellent “The Siege Perilous” rules.
Back in 2009 he took Swords & Wizardry Whitebox to create his vision of a Ultima pen & paper roleplaying game loosely based on the first three games in the series. The Siege Perilous consists of a 46-paged core rulebook, a 54-paged GM’s guide, and a 10-paged gazetteer which unfortunately he never finished.
One thing that makes The Siege Perilous special is its interesting approach to classes. At character creation you can pick between the classes of Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric and Thief – quite standard so far. But at level three you can either stick to one of the base classes or switch to one of the advanced classes like the Alchemist, the Lark, or the Paladin. Sure, advanced classes like this are nothing new to D&D in general, but I haven’t seen the concept in OD&D-based games before.
The playable races in The Siege Perilous are pretty standard as well, which is no surprise since the Ultima series was originally based on the creator’s own D&D campaign, but how they work mechanically is quite different. Humans for example do get an Intelligence bonus in the early Ultima games and so is the case in Michael’s tabletop game.
Another change from D&D is that The Siege Perilous throws out Vancian magic and replaces it by a spell-point based magic system complete with Ultima-inspired spells. The deeper I delve into this game the more excited I am about it. The Siege Perilous combines two of my favorite things into a perfect blend.
Oh, by the way, did I mention that the rules also include space combat? No? The early Ultima games like many other CRPGs of that era often combined fantasy settings with SF elements. Ultima 2’s story for example heavily relied on time travel. In Ultima 1 you eventually got access to Scifi equipment like blaster weapons, aircars and even space shuttles. From how I understand things these artifacts are left-overs from an ancient civilization. Perhaps Sosaria is actually a post-apocalyptic setting.
Overall I think The Siege Perilous is a great example for a White Box-based game which tries to do something different. While it’s still D&D at its core, it’s also a totally different beast. I also think that some of the ideas of early computer roleplaying games can still be exciting to explore even today. So do yourself a favor, and check out The Siege Perilous!