Amplifying the Blogosphere (v2021-06-09)

Old School Adventures and Maps

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

These are some posts that recently drew my attention.

Thoughts On Delving, Burning and In-Betweens

In Campaign: New Vistas in the Thel Sector, I’ve been facilitating a Stars without Number: Revised Edition 🔍 game. In Campaign: Burning Warhammer, we’ve been playing Burning Wheel Gold 🔍. I classify the former as an Old School Renaissance (OSR 🔍) game.

In Augury Ignored’s latest post, they delve into some of the presumptive differences of the two styles.

Burning Wheel is a highly character-centric game, and so rewards and obstacles tend to be structured around the emotional lives of the PC’s. They believe Thing A, which is at odds with their loyalty to Thing B, while they are instinctively driven to do Thing C, and so on. The inner struggle is often the most powerful in Burning Wheel. Burning Wheel is Luke and Vader in the lift before entering the Emperor’s throne room; it is Aragorn agonizing over his shame about his heritage.

OSR gaming tends to be more focused on the physical space and on physical rewards and obstacles. You delve for physical treasure, and while there is obvious psychological elements (and sometimes codified rules) to the whole affair, the drama of OSR stems from how spatial and physical problems are dealt with by the characters. OSR is Indiana Jones running from the rolling boulder; it is Conan attempting to infiltrate the orgiastic rituals of Thulsa Doom.

These two kinds of struggle could, and should, cross-pollinate and inform each other. They do so a bit by default, of course. But can they do so even more, without becoming an awkward attempt to hybridize two systems with very different design intents? No one wants to show up to play Old School Essentials 🔍 and then be told we’re actually playing Burning Wheel in disguise – and I strongly suspect the reverse to be true as well.

Role Playing Game (RPG 🔍) systems matter in so far as they inform and guide the designer’s assumption on how you’re table will play the game. Follow those assumptions, and the system should provide ample support. Deviate from those assumptions, and you may find far less system support.

And Thoughts On Delving, Burning and In-Betweens’s author understands this. Later in the post they provide some ideas for teasing out more of the character’s thoughts.

In an OSR game, it’s incumbent on the Game Master (GM 🔍) to listen to those answers, remember them, and create situations to further explore them.

In a Burning Wheel Gold game, players encode those answers in the Beliefs, Instincts, and Traits (BITs 🔍) portion of their character sheet. And playing to those answers is how the characters develop.

Classic Adventures Revisited: X2 Castle Amber

Years ago, when I first heard about X2 Castle Amber 🔍, I thought about Roger Zelazny 🔍’s The Chronicles of Amber 🔍. I highly recommend The Chronicles of Amber.

A hexagon-based regional map.  There are a few cities, roads, and rivers, but the majority of the region is forest.
The Province of Averoigne from Castle Amber. I appreciate an old school map; something in these old renderings leaves me anticipating the adventure.

But that’s not this adventure.

Tim Brannan’s shout out to the venerable X2 piqued my interest. More and more I’m loving adventure modules. They’re fertile grounds for inspiration and brief little excursions. They compliments the now ubiquitous adventure paths, providing options for connective tissue or a response to derailment.

Castle Amber is a fantastic adventure and I am a big fan if you can’t tell. What I enjoy the most about it is that by the nature of the adventure itself and how it is written it can easily be added to any world and slotted into any sort of campaign. For me it was a no-brainer for my Come Endless Darkness campaign. While that campaign is overtly a “Greyhawk” again the nature of it allowed a side trip to Mystara/The Known World. I would later use it as the “front door” to my Ravenloft adventure. It was something I have wanted to do for so long and it worked so well I want to do it more. A lot more. While I gladly mixed and matched Basic, AD&D, 3e and 5e in my games, it is now much easier now that everything I want speaks the same, 5e, language.

I’m a sucker for the old adventures. I have a copy of original X2 amongst my stash of originals. Maybe I’ll give it a read tonight; While I’m at it, I may as well read my copy of I6 Ravenloft 🔍.

My party chaotic, the kingdom neutral - comparing alignment polls

Over at Seed of Worlds the author posted results of a poll.

tl;dr: players like to be chaotic good, in neutral or lawful settings.

Over at the site, there’s some wonderful graphs highlighting these preferences. My observations of decades of playing RPGs are in alignment with their findings.

Monsters and Manuals: The Story is the Campaign, Not the PCs - Or, is D&D a Soap Opera?

At times like this, it helps to remind oneself that, while it is an OSR mantra that the ‘story’ emerges through play and not by design, it is probably more accurate to say that story operates at a different level of abstraction to modern RPGs. Ever since the ‘silver age’ of RPGs, the idea has been that the story is about what happens to the individual PCs. In an old school game, by contrast, the story is really the campaign. Individual PCs come and go, but they are not the focus - the narrative is about the events that take place (in which the PCs, of course, play a role). Pupli the Etruscan ‘Maru’ of Nortia died today, but his player slipped into the role of one of the disciples that he had gathered, and events will take their course next week in the aftermath of his death.

I’m reminded of Campaign: DCC Better World Gaming; the story was much more about the overall events of the campaign than any character.

I also think about the above Thoughts On Delving, Burning and In-Betweens. The OSR’s lethality mandates you look beyond the characters for the story.

1000 Months | The Indie Game Reading Club

Ready to go on a journey of existential dread with me? cw: middle aged thoughts, mortality.

Okay let’s goooo!

Always helpful to remember that we have finite time and how we choose to apply it reflects our priorities. I have a desire to run so many campaigns, but much like the author, I likely have about 23 summers of gaming.

The Joys and Woes of Fanzine Production

Fanzines were very much alive and well when I started roleplaying in late , but I had almost no contact with them. I’ve always felt that was a serious gap in my gaming “education,” because one might rightly argue that the hobby as we know it today was born and nurtured in the pages of ‘zines and APAs. Many influential game writers and designers first appeared on the scene in the pages of ‘zines.

I’m a bit too young to have encountered those early fanzines. I did subscribe to the full run of the Loviatar 🔍. I found those zines fantastic: a labour of love and craft.