Monday, November 30, 2009

MyD20 Lite Player's Guide - Rough Draft, Version 0.2...

Good Afternoon, All:

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that the latest version (v0.2) of the MyD20 Lite Player's Guide is now available at:

Many of the most recent changes have been implemented based on feedback from the friendly forumites of Dragonsfoot. Please feel free to review the latest version and post your comments if you feel so inclined.

With Regards,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Some Thoughts On The OSR...

Good Afternoon, All:

On the OD&D Guild yahoogroup mailing list, the last week or so has focused a discussion/debate between a number of grognards, some of which appear to be degrading the OSR (Old School Renaissance) and the retro-clones, while others cheering the retro-clones and their creators on. Since I never played OD&D back in the day, and the only reason I've been playing around with OD&D-inspired systems in the first place is because of the retro-clones, I can honestly say that following the exclusionary stance of the more negative grognards would not have been good for me. I might not have ever considered a D&D-like system again until D&D 5th Edition is released, and I certainly wouldn't be contributing to the future of retro-clones with MyD20 Lite (which is admittedly a rules-light hybrid of OD&D and later D20 innovations) if it were not for Swords & Wizardry. Sadly, many people feel the very human need to tear things down that they don't like or don't approve of, and seem unaware that their actions have unintended side effects with the messages that they send to others through their actions.

Putting that aside, however, there were some great comments on the possible future gaming innovations that retro-clones may open up. People are currently producing and releasing new adventures and new variant rules systems, new classes and new monsters, new campaign settings and new ways of doing things. I honestly feel that the sandbox gaming style espoused by the OSR is very much in line with my personal GMing style, and the spirit of that style has allowed things like the One Page Manifesto to emerge, which I think has revolutionized how some people, myself included, have come to think about gaming material. I feel that the more I dig into the OSR, the more I learn about how I can improve myself as a GM and as a gamer in general. While any gaming movement could do that, the OSR currently embodies the direction that I and obviously many others are going. Otherwise, it wouldn't be as popular as it has become. For those of us that never knew much about this gaming style, the OSR has been a godsend with the opportunities it presents us for improving our gaming experiences on both sides of the screen.

Of course, there are those that say the retro-clone work is simply more of the same old thing, repackaged under the OGL, and that there has been very little true innovation to arise out of the retro-clones, just an effort to capture the past. However, I am sure that MyD20 Lite is not such, but perhaps what one might consider to be a part of the second generation of retro-inspired systems. The synthesis of some D20 elements into an OD&D framework probably takes it outside of some people's comfort zones, though. This stands to reason, as I have noticed that the addition of the Thief class from Supplement I: Greyhawk takes OD&D outside of some people's comfort zones. Until I've played my "Frankenstein" system a bit and tweaked it somewhat, it may even fall outside my own comfort zone, but it's definitely the direction I want to take my gaming when it comes to D&D. Of course, Savage Worlds has won my heart, but it is admittedly easier to find D&D players than it is to find Savage Worlds players. Given my "Gamer ADD" these last few years, I often bounce back and forth between gaming systems, and I'd like to have an alternative to both Traveller and Savage Worlds, since gamers are hard to find in my area for both systems.

At any rate, as I said in the beginning of this post, the discussions on the mailing list sparked this collection of random thoughts, and so I figured I would capture them here. It's as good a place to do so as any other, and if it resonates with someone, then at least they'll know they aren't alone in their thoughts.

With Regards,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Morning, All:

This is just a quick note to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! If you happen to come from somewhere other than America, I still want to say that I'm thankful for you visiting this blog. :)

Enjoy The Holiday,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Shot Adventure Creation: The Hook...

Good Afternoon, All:

The first big scene of any adventure, particularly a One Shot, is the Hook. This is the scene that draws the players into the scenario, and gives them a chance to decide whether they want to pursue the rest of the adventure or not. If you don't have a good Hook, they will move on, and you'll never have the chance to run the rest of the adventure.

Of course, at Cons, many Game Masters assume that you've already accepted the mission, but I prefer to RP it when I can. However, for those situations where we assume the characters have already accepted the mission, this is the first scene they play out in the mission itself, and represents your chance to settle them into your game and your gaming style.

It's my preference to use the Hook scene to introduce the plot to the characters. Here's where they learn specifically what the task is that lies before them. If the plot is to retrieve an item from the ruins of an ancient stronghold, then here's the scene where they enter the stronghold. If the plot involves rescuing the cheerleader from a supervillain, then here's where we present the players with the fact that the cheerleader is not at home, but instead snuck out and went to the big Homecoming game. If the plot requires the party to take a local noble to the subsector capital to appeal for Imperial aid, then here's where the patron offers the party a job. I'm sure you get the picture.

For most non-tactical scenarios, I tend to make the Hook the scene that leads to the party getting hired. I look at the plot I've created for the adventure (or generated), and figure out all the basic parts I'll need for it: the patron, the target, the opposition, the authority figure, etc. I don't have long to cover my bases, so my general rule of thumb here is to introduce these elements as quickly as possible. How many of these elements can I introduce by the end of the first scene, the Hook for the adventure? Depending on the plot, I may be able to do all of them, but I am okay if I only introduce two plot-based elements. The rest can come up in the second or third scene (but definitely before we get to the half-way mark).

One of those elements, almost always, is the Patron, the guy that hires the party to perform the task required by the plot. I can do this in a number of ways: The party may witness the Patron having a problem with the Opposition I've selected for the adventure, and feel compelled to intervene or at least help the guy out afterward. The Patron may not be having luck with an authority figure, and so turns to the nearest competent heroes, the PCs, for assistance. Maybe the Opposition picks on the player-characters, and the Patron approaches the party after the altercation to make his offer. However I do this, I want to end the Hook scene with the players actively in pursuit of the plot itself. This is where I insure their buy-in, and that's important if I want the adventure to be successful.

Also, some players (okay, many players) prefer to be given large neon signs from their Game Master in regards to what direction their next adventure lies. Your Hook scene should give them that insight, so there's no doubt as to where to go and what to do next. Even if the ultimate goal of the adventure is to get a clue for another adventure, you should leave the players with a strong idea of what they need to do next in order to get the clue they're looking for. You won't have to do that after this scene, if you lay the adventure out reasonably well, but in the beginning, if your players have no clue what to do, then you are wasting valuable game time watching them get frustrated. As we all know as players, that is simply not cool.

Of course, as a GM, we should only point the way. It's up to the players to decide whether they are going to take it or not. This early in the game, if they choose to take another course of action, you still have time to introduce a new adventure. The only exception I see to this is if you are running a specific scenario at a Convention, in which case, you can be a little more heavy-handed here, but it's always better if they choose to go along of their own free will.

In closing, I would strongly suggest that you look at the adventures you've enjoyed playing through in the past as a player, or your favorite books, movies or TV shows that approximate the plot of your adventure. Look at how those plots started in terms of involving the main characters, and borrow from there. You may have to change some names or make a few modifications, but there's nothing wrong with stealing good ideas if it helps improve the enjoyment of the adventure for your players and yourself. Remember, in the long run, it needs to be fun, for you and for them.

With Regards,

MyD20 Lite Player's Guide - Rough Draft...

Good Morning, All:

Yesterday evening, I created a simple Google site to host the rough draft of the MyD20 Lite Player's Guide. It can be found here:

I'm definitely interested in seeing what kind of feedback I get, and improving its play experience. Unlike other games I've worked on, I think I will follow the Swords & Wizardry model here. I will provide a basic PDF version for free, and a nice, low-cost Print-On-Demand version through Samardan Press when it is finalized. If I decide to do more work with MyD20 Lite after that, I'll continue to follow the lead of Mythmere Games in these regards.

I look forward to your thoughts.

With Regards,

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MyD20 Lite: A Recent Distraction...

Good Morning:

In and amidst my other RPG writing projects, I've recently been working on a new Player's Guide for a system inspired by Swords & Wizardry, which I call MyD20 Lite. The story of MyD20 Lite is long and arduous, but I'll see if I can boil it down into a simple paragraph.

After eight years and 400+ sessions of D20 System-based games, I was burned out. About two years ago, I started playing Savage Worlds, and I rediscovered a joy for rules-light gaming with an "Old School Renaissance" flavor. Earlier this year, I started reading about the retro-clones, and discovered Swords & Wizardry, by Mythmere Games. Here was, at its core, a very simple D20-based fantasy game. In the weeks that followed, I became more and more interested in it and, given that I am a rules tweeker by nature, in possibly modifying it a little to incorporate some of the things I enjoy from more advanced D&D systems. MyD20 Lite is the synthesis of that thought experiment.

The design goals for MyD20 Lite are fairly simple:

1. I want to be able to create a character with some diversity, even a high level character, in less than 15 minutes.

2. I want to keep combat relatively simple, and definitely fast. I don't want a combat that takes longer than 30 minutes to resolve, if I can help it.

3. I want to keep prepwork down to a minimum, if at all possible.

4. I want to maintain the ability to use retro-clone adventures with minimal adjustments.

5. Using S&W as my baseline, I want to add only those elements from 3E/4E/SW Saga that appeal to me, so long as it doesn't conflict with the first four goals.

Along the way, I've done the usual stuff, separating race from class, adding a few new spells here and there, that kind of thing. I've also added the more streamlined BAB and the three saves from 3E, bonus hitpoints at first level from Star Wars Saga Edition (although not as many), a simple skill system ala 4E (with far fewer skills, inspired by the Simple 20 OGL system), multiclassing per my old 2E house rules, and the Standard/Move/Swift combat action types from 3E/4E. There are other changes, but I'm trying to keep it all simple and streamlined.

When the first draft is ready for Prime Time, I'll make it available for those that wish to check it out. Hopefully, their comments will help clean it up some, so that I can have a D&D-inspired system to run for when I need something a little different from Savage Worlds for my fantasy gaming needs.

With Regards,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Random Chart: 36 Dramatic Situations-Inspired Random Plot Generator

Good Morning, All:

As a companion to my post entitled One Shot Adventure Creation: The Plot..., I mentioned the possibility of using a random chart inspired by Ploti's 36 Dramatic Situations to help inspire a plot for a One Shot Adventure. Here's a quick random chart I whipped together that fits the bill. To use this chart, roll 2d6 and treat them as percentile dice: one die is the tens place, and one die is the ones place. In Traveller, this is called a D66 roll. Consult the table to determine what that result means.

Table: 36 Dramatic Situations-Inspired Random Plot Generator
D66 RollBasic Plot
11present a request for assistance before an authority figure against the schemes of a rival, enemy or other opposing force
12rescue a victim or target from the cruel maneuvers of a rival, enemy or other opposing force
13exact revenge upon a rival, enemy or other opposing force for crimes against a victim or target
14assist a victim or target, who is fleeing punishment from a rival, enemy or other opposing force
15hunt down a victim or target for punishment by an authority figure
16aid a victim or target, who has fallen on hard times
21provide disaster relief/humanitarian aid to a victim or target, despite interference from a rival, enemy or other opposing force
22aid a victim or target in rebellion against an authority figure
23assist a victim or target in a daring enterprise, despite the efforts of a rival, enemy or other opposing force
24abduct a victim or target from a rival, enemy or other opposing force
25secretly consult with a victim or target on a delicate matter, while avoiding the attentions of a rival, enemy or other opposing force
26retrieve an item of importance from a remote location, in competition with a rival, enemy or other opposing force
31intervene in a family squabble between a victim or target and a rival, enemy or other opposing force
32become involved in a love triangle involving a victim or target, a rival, enemy or other opposing force and the possibility of murder
33protect a victim or target against an insane a rival, enemy or other opposing force
34recover an item of importance lost through the naivete of a victim or target to a conniving rival, enemy or other opposing force
35hinder a courtship between a victim or target and a rival, enemy or other opposing force, who are unknowingly related
36seek out a rival, enemy or other opposing force, who unknowingly killed a relative
41aid a victim or target in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his ideals
42aid a victim or target in performing an act of self-sacrifice for his family
43aid a victim or target in giving up everything for his beloved
44help a victim or target, who is being forced by a rival, enemy or other opposing force to choose between two loved ones
45become involved in a love triangle involving a victim or target and a rival, enemy or other opposing force
46protect a victim or target from the actions of a rival, enemy or other opposing force, who is motivated by love
51reveal the dishonor performed by a rival, enemy or other opposing force against a victim or target
52help two lovers overcome interference created by a rival, enemy or other opposing force
53help a victim or target locate an item of importance to further his ambition against a rival, enemy or other opposing force
54aid a victim or target who has, out of jealousy, falsely accused a rival, enemy or other opposing force of actions against a loved one
55help a victim or target who has been falsely accused by a rival, enemy or other opposing force of illicit or immoral actions
56help a rival, enemy or other opposing force atone to a victim or target for illicit or immoral past actions
61help a victim or target track down a long-lost love
62protect a victim or target as they request assistance from an authority figure for actions against loved one by a rival, enemy or other opposing force
63deliver an item of importance to a victim or target, despite interference from a rival, enemy or other opposing force
64deliver a victim or target to an authority figure, despite interference from a rival, enemy or other opposing force
65map an unexplored area, despite interference from a rival, enemy or other opposing force
66retrieve a victim or target, or an item of importance, despite interference from an ongoing military action or natural disaster

If you have any feedback or constructive comments, please feel free to leave a comment to this post.


Friday, November 13, 2009

One Shot Adventure Creation: The Plot...

The Plot of an adventure provides the creative skeleton around which all the action takes place. Without a plot, the One Shot Adventure simply becomes a series of unrelated scenes, and it is very difficult to get player buy-in and enjoyment from such. This is also a symptom of a weak plot, which simply goes to show that having a bad plot is just as bad as having no plot at all. My goal as a Game Master is simple: create a fun and compelling gaming session for all those involved. The first step in that process is have a good plot.

Good plots, as stated in the first article in the One Shot Adventure Creation series, comes in the form of a single sentence that captures the task the adventurers must pursue, the target of that task, and the opposition that creates the challenge. You can get ideas from movies or TV shows you like to watch, books you like to read, other campaigns you've played in, and other obscure resources (like what's going on with that talkative cubemate in the office, or tales lifted from ancient mythology). If that works well for you, great! Sometimes, though, some of us need a jump start.

When I am looking for inspiration and I just can't find it, or when I want to challenge myself, I turn to Random Charts and Tables. Those are a lot of fun for me, because I have to either find a way to make sense of the results I get, or I find inspiration as I go along and that becomes the seed I use to develop the actual plot. It helps to develop your own charts for this, but I can show you an example of the kind of thing I use.

For the inspiration for my main plot chart, I turn to The 36 Dramatic Situations by Ploti, based on an RPG article I read that introduced the concept to me. While not entirely comprehensive, the 36 Plots works very well for creating a wide range of stories. We all know stories that follow these basic plots, and we can easily turn those into the source of our inspiration for an adventure. Besides, 36 is a a great number for a D66 table (from Traveller, wherein you role 2d6 in a manner similar to percentile dice, where the first die being your tens place and the second die being your ones place, to create 36 different results.)

Alternately, I can create a simple list of goals for an adventure, such as Steal Item, Explore Ruins, Save Princess, etc. and turn that into a quick Plot Task generator. The advantage here is that you can create more focused and specific plots very quickly using that as your inspiration. The 36 Plots method is very generic and can admittedly take more effort to create in terms of a specific plot, but given a wider range of plot choices, I get a wider range of adventuring possibilities as a result. However you create your Random Plot Task generator, feel free to choose the approach that seems to inspire you the best. That's what it's there for.

I will follow up on this article with some random charts later on today, to provide some examples of what I'm talking about here. For now, though, think about what kind of plots you like to run for your adventures, or the kind of plots you like to play in when you are on the other side of the GM Screen. That's the best source of plot ideas you've got, right there.

With Regards,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One Shot Adventure Creation: The Basics...

I've always enjoyed running short adventures and One Shots at gaming conventions, D&D Meetups, and those nights when some of the gamers do not show up and those that do elect not to pursue an adventure in the regular campaign. I find them entertaining to create and run and, in the case of the occasional emergency pick-up game, a challenge to my ability to run an improvised game that is both engaging and complete within a span of three to four hours.

There are some that may say it's an art, and there is some truth to that. However, as a somewhat analytic GM, I find that having an understanding of basic story or adventure structure can help ease my efforts tremendously.

In essence, like any story, I know that an adventure needs to have a Plot. For me, the Plot is a simple summary of the adventure in hopefully one sentence. A plot should include a task that needs to be accomplished, and it should involve a target for this task and a challenge of some form that opposes the party as they attempt to perform this task. Optionally, a plot may identify a patron, who sponsors the actions the charactgers must undertake to achieve this task.

Basic Structure
A simple adventure of this kind tends to follow a simple structure, almost like a formula. I tend to break One Shots down into five parts, or thereabouts. There's the Hook, the scene that gets the characters involved in the storyline; the Challenge, a non-combat challenge that empowers either a roleplaying or skills-based resolution instead of a combat resolution; the Confrontation, a combat encounter that is most easily resolved through combat and warskill; the Complication, an encounter that embodies a plot complication that must be overcome; and the Climax, the final encounter that should represent the biggest and most dangerous encounter of the adventure. While the Climax does not have to be a combat encounter, I've found that players in general tend to prefer that it involves at least some combat as an aspect of the scenario.

While the Hook needs to come first, and the Climax should come at the end of the adventure, the remaining three parts (the Challenge, the Confrontation and the Complication) can be presented in whatever order makes the most sense for the adventure at hand. This middle section should help the characters stretch themselves a little bit, and perhaps expend some resources, but the big challenge should be saved to the end. The reason behind this is simple: no one wants to play the first half hour of a One Shot and then sit out the rest while his friends have fun without him. By keeping that thought firmly in mind during your adventure creation, you are insuring that the entire group is more likely to have fun.

Okay, that sounds like a good place to wrap up the first article here. Next time, I'll start discussing each segment of the basic adventure structure individually.

With Regards,

A Fresh Start...

Greetings and Salutations!

Today, I decided to restart my gaming blog. With that, I deleted the old blog I hadn't touched in over two years, and created this one in its place. I intend to use this as a sounding board location for various gaming ideas, as well as a place to announce and discuss the latest and greatest product development and release for my online publishing imprint, Samardan Press. Since I enjoy many different types of games, as well as gaming in general, be prepared to see posts on all kinds of gaming-related topics.

I'm also a big proponent of mentoring, and so I'll be posting a number of articles aimed at sharing my knowledge as a DM with those who are interested as we go along.

Like all things, I'm sure the blog will start off slowly, and build momentum as it goes along. If you like what you read here, please feel free to comment. That's the best way to encourage me to continue to post to this blog.

More Later,