The Best In Old School Roleplaying

Friday, May 27, 2016

On What Referees/GMs and Players Owe To Eachother and Their Games

Note the conversation I write about below and the start of this post initially happened over three weeks ago. Life and business at work got in the way of getting this complete! As this update to the post, it has been over a month since I've had a chance to get anything up here!

During a break at work, I had a text conversation with +Reece PC that sparked some thoughts and ideas for this post. I'm not really sure that I've read anything like the advice that I'm going to propose here, though I think that there are some gamers out there who already believe in exactly what I'm about to write. For the record, where examples are given, I am writing from the standpoint of D&D (especially early D&D,) clones and near clones. Examples given will be based upon the tropes of OD&D, AD&D, Classic D&D and the inspirations for these. However, the points made should be clear to those running/playing other RPGs.
 
Everyone knows that Referees put in prep time. The prep time might be physical, writing up cities, NPCs, map making etc, IF that is the type of prep that the ref feels they personally need. I am of a more minimal PHYSICAL prep mentality. I'm in the other camp of Refs. Thinkers that prefer a more freeform game. Often min prep Refs are looked at as if they do nothing because of the sandboxiness of their campaigns. This isn't true at all. While not as much is written in a hard format, minimal notes to spark thought process, tons of reading (modules, fiction and historical texts) and thinking about the possible ways the players can move the game consumes, likely, just as much time as the heavy physical prep does. Ref prep is time consuming, whatever the method.



Likewise, players have a level of prep, albeit at a far lower level than that of a Referee. Players have a buy in to play, just a as a referee does. That buy in, however, varies depending upon the game being played, and possibly the style of campaign being run, whereas the Ref's prep will be somewhat similar regardless of system (though some systems require heavier lifting.)

What the Referee Owes the Players and the Game:

Referee's of RPGs have their work cut out for them regarding what they owe to buy in to the game. Referee's need more background knowledge than the player's going in and they need to establish a setting and a general plot to kick off the campaign. Regarding the general knowledge, this referees to the setting or implied setting and it's resources. For the purposes of this post, we'll presume that we are using a retro-clone rule set, Swords & Wizardry Complete, but utilizing "early genre D&D tropes and the OD&D/AD&D implied setting.

 
 
So, what does a Referee running this sort of campaign owe to the players and the overall game being played? First off, the Ref needs to establish what the biggest influences of the campaign will be. We've already established that the system will be Swords & Wizardry Complete. We also know that the setting will utilize fiction taken straight from early D&D rules. This meaning tropes presented in the early D&D writings. Meaning that the resources for the fictional setting can easily be found in the OD&D books and AD&D books (as the AD&D books present much of this information more cleanly, most especially the Monster Manual for racial and creature information.) The Referee should look over these sources again to make certain that they are familiar. Following this, the referee should look at other fantasy fiction that is influencing the campaign. Since this is a D&D based game, Appendix N literature is already influential, as much of it is found directly in the rules. A cursory scan of Appendix N should be able to tell the Ref which works have been most influential on their own view of fantasy and world/adventure creation. The Ref might make note that since a three axis alignment system is in use, a cursory look at Michael Moorcock or Poul Anderson's writing is a good idea for the players. The Ref might also look online for any articles or blog posts that give this link and a better explanation to what alignment really is in these works. The books (rulebooks and fiction) and online articles should be made available to players who may not be familiar with them. This will likely be more important for newer players. Additionally influences from fantasy, horror or science fiction films (and non Appendix N books) might be addressed.
 
Strictly for this example, we will say that the Referee in question decides that this "genre D&D" styled game is going to be influenced by the OD&D and AD&D rulebooks, Michael Moorcock's "Elric" series, Jack Vance's "The Dying Earth" (primarily for it's take on magic) and a sense of adventure taken from Fritz Leiber's "Lankhmar" series. Additionally the Ref notes that for racial information for demi-humans, the works of Tolkien with provide a reasonable basis. These are all direct influences on D&D taken from Appendix N. The referee also Realizes that the world that the PCs will exist in is also influenced by the films "The Beastmaster" and "Dragon Slayer." All of this information should be presented to the players and, where possible, made accessible to those that lack the background, even if it might mean cliff notes variations. The Referee should also decide upon which "random" generators they will use to "fill in the blanks" when such a need arises. Such works as New Big Dragon's D30 Sandbox Companion and Judge's Guild's classic Ready Ref Sheets are excellent resources for Ref's who need to act on the fly. 
 
Having all of this information in hand is great preparation, and having it available for players to prep as well can result in a very rewarding role playing experience. As a note, especially for Referees with a "heavy prep" mentality, no matter how much you prep and write out your own notes and references to your source material, if the players are unfamiliar with the source material or world of your choosing, they will not easily become immersed in the game.
 
So, here is a short list of what the GM is responsible for, note a few items that are self explanatory, and not discussed in the preceding section:
  • Make sure you are familiar with your rule set! This means the mechanics, implied setting and fiction you have chosen as the rules you and your group will play by. When regarding the mechanics, ensure you know the major points inside and out. Regarding the fiction, be familiar. Specific to D&D and it's simulacra, you should be familiar with at least some of what is listed in Appendix N. This is the literature that inspired the game. When you have a background in this literature the "whys" and "hows" of many of the game's rules and mechanics become much clearer.
  • Make certain that any house rules being used are known to your players. It is their fault if they forget, but you must make them known and available when you begin using them. I ensure that written versions are available to my players online as well as making an announcement at the time we will begin using the, live before game time.
  • Make certain that you have copies of all rules and fiction that you will utilize in your campaign. Players should be aware that this is what is being used, and you should be able to provide rule books and fiction that you are using for your players to read/watch to prepare. It is unlikely that your players will be able to role play well, if they do not truly understand what to expect, and what exists, or does not, in the world. Providing the inspirational fiction and any implied setting information will be helpful, especially within a low prep campaign. If a you do not lend out material due to past issues, make a time available for players to come read your material, if they cannot afford their own. Also, link to any public domain material, or articles/posts that you have found to be helpful for play. I keep all of my inspirational text on hand and it is available to my players. Additionally I keep a Facebook group up for my players and consistently link to articles and post files that the players should have access to.
  • Additionally it is your job to establish who is to provide what tools are needed for a game. Meaning you need to know if are you expected to provided minis (if these are used) for each PC, character sheets, pencils and so on.
  • Ensure that you have any of your random generators and rulebooks handy and readily available at the table when it is time to play. Random generators can be both helpful and provide you with the same element of surprise that you are giving to your players.
  • Additionally, be prepared in regard to the campaign itself. Outside of mechanical rules, fiction based rules you need to know where the campaign is headed. Not in the realm of railroading, but you should know what lies in different regions in the defined setting so that you are ready for whatever it is the players want to do. The aforementioned random generators can help do some of the lifting where this is concerned. It is unfortunate when a game has to end early because the referee doesn't have anything for the players to do. This is also a tell tale sign that you might be railroading your players. Also, if you are running modules, they should have been read prior to the session they are being used in. Yes, you will likely have to look at them during the session, but you should at least have a passing familiarity with what you are playing.
 

What the Players Owe the Referee and the Game:
 
 
Player prep is just as important as Referee prep when it comes to game time. If you aren't prepared for your game, then you can't place blame elsewhere for any issues you might have. You owe as much to the game and it's story as your referee does. Everyone at the table is accountable.
 
I will tell you that first and foremost a read through of Appendix N literature will greatly improve your game. It will get you more involved in the reasons that your character's abilities function as they do. It will help you with the "in game" meta-reasons that everything works the way it does. Remember, if you are playing D&D or it's simulacra, you are playing a game that was designed to emulate that list of fiction! Knowing the fiction can only aid you. I literally just had a conversation with one of my players about this very subject. Thanks Dave. It helped to put what I wanted to say here into perspective. Additionally you need to know the rules of the game you are playing, to a degree, and the house rules that your Referee is implementing.
 
If you know the inspirational material for the game and the inspirations for your Referee's world, you will have a far better time, and be able to create a far better character, than if you do not. Additionally a basic understanding of history and pre-modern era combat can be beneficial, especially if playing an old school style game, more so if you play combat oriented characters.
 
If you really want your character to shine, implementing roleplaying elements appropriate to the type of character you are is one of the best things to do. These can be draw from both literature and history. I will cite Clerics and other "holy types" as being a major issue here. Far too often I see players playing clerics as combat healers only. The majority of role playing that happens regarding faith is "I go to the temple and pray." It's both boring and lazy. If you're going to be boring and lazy about your character, you should expect the same out of your Ref's game! Much better if you find mythological deity and look up the rituals associate with them.
 
So, if you have a Cleric that worships Athena, look up the rituals they ancients performed to the goddess and role play them! If you play a Fighter, look at Fritz Leiber novels or Robert E. Howard stories and do some research into historical combat and western martial arts! If you're playing a Thief, read up on actual lock picking and espionage and pick up Leiber's Lankhmar stories, the man literally invented Thieves Guilds in them. If you're playing a Magic-User read "The Dying Earth" by Jack Vance. That book is where D&D's entire magic system comes from and explains the actual metaphysics of how spells of the Vancian type operate! Playing a demi-human? Do another scan of Tolkien's works, unless the Ref tells you that their demi-humans are based on something else.
 
Now, I've had players tell me that adult life doesn't allow for the time to do these things. That is B.S. If the referee has time to prep in their life, so do the players. It really doesn't take long. 5 - 10 minutes a day or 10 minutes every couple days can make a huge difference! What's more, in this day and age, there is a ton of material available right in front of you on the internet. It will cost nothing more than what you are already paying for that service to learn a bit about folklore, mythology, ancient combat etc. Even the races and classes and their inspiration can be found online. Hell, many games even have SRDs available or free versions that can be downloaded, to learn the mechanical side of things without having to shell out the cash. 
 
We all, Referees and Players owe it to our games to make game time better and more immersive for everyone at the table. Ask  yourself, if you don't have a little time every week to devote to making your game better, how do you have the time to play it?
 
 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Drawing Winners

It is long past time for me to list the winners of the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Drawing! Below you will find the list of all of the donated prizes. I have listed the names of the winners following the product that you have won. If you are on G+, I have added your name with your G+ handle. If your name is below, contact me at luxfaust@gmail.com. If you have won a digital product, let me know the email address that the company donating it should forward your pdf to. If you have won a physical product, forward your address so that the company donating can send you your product. Please enter "S&W Drawing Winner" in the subject line so that the email does not get lost.



Frog God Games Winners

5 PDF Copies of "Borderland Princes" For Swords & Wizardry  --- +John Miskimen, +Ben Trautman, +James Smith, +Denis McCarthy and +Jose Zamora


AND

3 Physical Copies of "Bill Webb's Book of Dirty Tricks"  --- +Paul Go, +Appalachian Elf, +Joshua Nichols



Pacesetter Games & Simulations physical modules

"Q3: Death On Signal Island"  --- +Brad Black

and

"The Secret of Redscar"  --- +Jason Blalock

1 copy of each available

Dave Johnson Games will be giving away:

A PDF copy of "Grimoires of OSRIC" - a spell creation system for OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry and other OSR games.  --- +Steve Gilman

Tony A. Thompson will be donating:

1 softcover copy of "Swords & Wizardry Whitebox" --- +Adam Hutcheson

Gamers & Grognards Studios will be giving away:

2 Softcover Copies of "Petty Gods" with my own submissions autographed  ---
+D.j. Chadwick, +Scott Dexter

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Giveaway Drawings!

Alright Folks, we have our Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Giveaways ready! Now is your chance to win some free stuff! Here are the giveaway items:


Frog God Games, is generously donating:

5 PDF Copies of "Borderland Princes" For Swords & Wizardry

AND

3 Physical Copies of "Bill Webb's Book of Dirty Tricks"

Many thanks to +Matt Finch and +Bill Webb for these.

Pacesetter Games & Simulations are donating two of their Swords & Wizardry Modules, both physical copies:

"Q3: Death On Signal Island"

and

"The Secret of Redscar"

1 copy of each available

Dave Johnson Games will be giving away:

A PDF copy of "Grimoires of OSRIC" - a spell creation system for OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry and other OSR games.

Tony A. Thompson will be donating:

1 softcover copy of "Swords & Wizardry Whitebox"

Gamers & Grognards Studios will be giving away:

2 Softcover Copies of "Petty Gods" with my own submissions autographed


TO ENTER IN THE DRAWING:


Comment on this post through G+ by 7:00PM EST. Better yet if you say why you love S&W in the comment!

Listen in on the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Live Broadcast tonight on Drink Spin Run, where I will be drawing names live! 

In the next few days I will get a post up with all winners listed and instructions for contacting me to arrange for shipment of your winnings!

It's as simple as that!

Power: A New Attribute For Swords & Wizardry!

The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming booklet that I've been working on for Swords & Wizardry. The book, "Gateway to Adventure: Sorcery Supplement," focuses on my Sorcerer class explicitly, but the attribute can be used by anyone in any S&W or OSR game!

Optional Attribute
Power

My Optional Rules contain several optional attributes that have been created or harvested from various sources and honed to fit the game. Power was chosen to be presented for this work as it is directly related to the nature of magic.

Power

Roll 3d6 for your character's Power score. A high Power level means that your character is in tune with the subtle forces of magic, ley lines, power source and the barriers and veils between the many planes of existence. As an optional attribute it is not the prime attribute of any class. The Power score might also measure the power of the character's mystical aura.

There are several ways in which the Power attribute can be applied in the game. The first of these is as a modifier to Saving Throws vs. Magic, per the Power Table below. This may be because the aura of the character is strong and deflects the magic being used upon her or because the sixth sense of the character picks up on the magic being used, causing other defenses to begin working.

Second, since power measures a character's sensitivity to magic, the referee might rule that an attribute check might be able to be made to determine magical auras, as per the Detect Magic spell. This might only apply to those with a high power score, or it may merely require a check. The way in which such a check is made is up to the referee. It may entail rolling lower than the character's ability score using 3d6 or 1d20. Furthermore, as a house rule in the creation of this attribute, the power of the magic in question is taken into account. The “level” of power of the magic is deducted from the score of the detector and this creates the target number to roll in order to perceive the magic. For example a character with 15 Power has a chance to detect an assassin that has been rendered invisible. Mind you that the character will not innately know that there is an invisible assassin, but will know that something magical is afoot. We will presume that the spell Invisibility was used on the assassin. Invisibility is a 2nd Level Magic-User spell. Thus the referee subtracts 2 from the character's score of 15. The target number to beat will be 13. The player is told to throw 1d20, but not told why. 13 is rolled on the nose. The character realizes that something magical is afoot, and that roughly where it is, but not exactly what it is.

In the same example we can make things more interesting. The referee might rule that more information is gleaned, via the character's Power for each number below the target number that is rolled. Let us assume that that a 9 is rolled instead of a 13. The referee might now rule that the character is also aware of roughly how powerful the magic at hand is. Presuming that character roles lower, let's go all the way to a natural 1 on the roll, the referee might even give insight as to what spell is afoot!

A referee might also rule that highly sensitive characters, that is to say those with a high Power score, might also suffer in the presence of very powerful magic, if they are not used to it's presence. If this is the case a saving throw might be required when such a character is exposed to magic equivalent to spells above 6th level. Ill effects for failing such a save may result in anything from being momentarily stunned and unable to act for a round to seizures that might result in the loss of multiple rounds and potential damage.

The third function that Power can be used for is to retrieve a spell that is cast. As is known, arcane magic functions by trapping a spell in the brain of the magic-user. The spell WANTS to be released. When the spell is cast it's effects take place and it is gone from the magic-user's mind. It is possible, using one's power, to retain a spell as it is being cast, allowing it's effects to take place, but effectively pulling it back into the mind of the magic-user.

A spellcaster may attempt to retain a number of spell levels per day equal to her caster level. At the time of the casting the magician must make a Power check less the spell level. If the check is made the spell is retained and may be cast again that day. If the check is failed the spell is lost as normal. If the check is failed the attempt still counts against the casters retaining attempts for that day. To give an example: a 3rd level sorcerer may attempt to retain three 1st level spells or one 1st level spell and one 2nd level spell.

Table: Power
Score
Save vs. Magic Modifier
3 - 8
-1
9 -12
0
13 - 18
+1

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2016 - Contribution Index - Sales! Blog Posts! Product Releases! Podcasts!

Happy Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day!  Updates will be made a couple times throughout the day as some folks will be working through the day to get several posts up.  Also, remember to tune in to the Livecast tonight on Drink Spin Run! A link can be found below, along with program information. Keep checking back!  The Index will be updated throughout the day! Don't forget to click the link below in the "Giveaway" section to register for tonight's drawings to win some free S&W goodness! Updates will be made throughout the day as more posts and sales go up!

Appreciate the Games! Download All Three Swords & Wizardry Rule Sets Free!




Download Swords & Wizardry: Whitebox


Download Swords & Wizardry: Core


Download Swords & Wizardry: Complete

Don't forget about the
Swords & Wizardry SRD












Smoldering Wizard Swords & Wizardry Forums


Appreciate the Giveaways!

Want free Swords & Wizardry Stuff? Check out today's Giveway Post to enter to win some SWAD Swag!

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Giveaway Drawings!


Frog God Games S&W Kickstarter:


If you weren't aware, Frog God Games has a new Kickstarter going right now. "Quests of Doom 3" is a series of 6 adventure modules, hardbound, for Swords & Wizardry & 5E. That's right, six adventures for S&W on KS right now! Did I mention that it's only $32.00 U.S. to get in on this? Did I also mention that it ends tonight, on S&W Appreciation Day? Now's your chance to get in and show the Frogs how many of us love S&W! Click the link below!


Appreciate Sales and Products:

Swords & Wizardry Compatibility Logo - Free
By Gamers & Grognards Studios

 
 
Barrel Rider Games:
 

Cut to the Chase Games:
 
50% Off All Swords & Wizardry Products Through April 18th!

Lotheras Gaiden

Swords & Wizardry Adepts, Quests, and Relics [BUNDLE]

Mythmere Games:

Eldritch Weirdness Compilation - $2.99 for S&W Appreciation Day! - By the creator of Swords & Wizardry!

Okumarts Games:

Retro Space Paper Miniatures For White Star - 50% Off All Sets!

Dread Gazebo Paper Miniature and Statistics - PWYW

Old School Quarterly:

In honor of today being Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2016, and the OSQ Patreon funding previously unlocking the first goal, THE UNTRAINED INITIATE has been released to all backers of the OSQ PATREON. This variant class is only available to backers of the Patreon right now, until the first issue of the magazine is published in Fall 2016.

Find out more about becoming a backer for $6 or more  - OSQ Patreon Page


Small Niche Games:

WBO02: Return of the Mad Hermit - For Swords & Wizardry White Box - PWYW


Stellagama Publishing

Cheating Death, For White Star & Swords & Wizardry - New release

Sundered Blade Games:

Betrayal At Lucir Sword & Wizardry Module - On Sale for $0.99 Today!

Dungeons of Fel'Valashar for Swords & Wizardry - PWYW - A New Release Featuring 4 Mini Dungeons, 3 New Monsters and 1 New Spell!


Appreciate the Blogfest:
Halfling's Luck:

Beyond the Wizardry

Mythmere's Blog: Words From the Game's Creator!

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day - Plus as Sale on "Eldritch Weirdness Compilation" on Table Top Library

Northport:

Things I am grateful for about S&W

Northwind:

Northwind Download - "Northwind" is free house ruled Swords & Wizardry variant with many uncredited rules, thus is a free download.

+Olde House Rules:

 The Filth Eater















Quasar Knight's Fantasy Blog:
 
Appreciate the Broadcast:

Drink, Spin, Run Official Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Podast, Live Recording  -- Click on this link to watch the Livecast and be the first in the know about what is happening with new NEW Swords & Wizardry Complete. We will also be drawing the winners of any of the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Giveaways live! With hosts: +Adam Muszkiewicz, +Donn Stroud,special co-host +R.J. Thompson and guests +James Spahn, +Stacy Dellorfano and the creator of Swords & Wizardry +Matt Finch. We will be bringing you the first official question & answer session regarding the new Kickstarter. Join us for the second annual broadcast at 8:15 PM EST, Sunday April 17th!

Links will be provided to the recordings of these shows for those who cannot listen live!

 





I would like to thank everyone that participated in this event!  I hope you can all return next year to carry on the tradition!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Extension For Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Posts, Giveaways and Sales!

I have had a few requests to extend the deadline for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day posts. To help out anyone who needs a little more time, I am extending the deadline! The new deadline to get posts and sales to me will be 12:00 PM EST on April 17th (TOMORROW.) This will ensure that you get posted in the Blog & Sales index. Likewise 12:00 PM EST will be the deadline to let me know about any products that you would like to offer up as promotional giveaways to be announced on the S&W App. day livecast tomorrow night! You can send me posts and sales after 12:00 PM, and I will get them listed, but you will miss out on the initial posting.



So, if you are participating:

BLOG POSTS, SALES and PRODUCT RELEASES:
- Write a post, article, free pdf etc. related to any version of S&W  OR, get a sale going with product you already have OR release a new S&W Compatible product.
-Email me with a link to you blog, website etc. By 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, April 17th. Email both your link and title/sale. 
-Make the subject of your email: "Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Post (or sale)" and the blog/site title. Send email to: luxfaust@gmail.com

 -Make sure to have the actual post/sale by 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on April 17th.
-I will have all links and titles posted here on the blog around 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on April 17th.


GIVEAWAYS/PROMOTIONAL DRAWING

If you or your company would like to contribute and get some attention on Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, figure out what product you would like to donate (pdf, print or both) and email me your list at luxfaust@gmail.com. Make sure that your subject line is "Swords & Wizardry Giveaways." Make sure you get this to me by 12:00 P.M EST on Sunday April 17th. 
April 17th I will make a post for those wishing to enter the drawings, featuring all products, companies, rules and eligibility.




Friday, April 15, 2016

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Livecast!

BROADCAST ANNOUNCEMENT!

Click on the link below to watch the Livecast Sunday night and be the first in the know about what is happening with new NEW Swords & Wizardry Complete. We will also be drawing the winners of any of the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Giveaways live! With hosts: +Adam Muszkiewicz, +Donn Stroud,special co-host +R.J. Thompson and guests +James Spahn, +Stacy Dellorfano and the creator of Swords & Wizardry +Matt Finch. We will be bringing you the first official question & answer session regarding the new Kickstarter! Join us for the second annual broadcast at 8:15 PM EST, Sunday April 17th!

Drink, Spin, Run Official Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Podast, Live Recording



And don't forget if you want to participate, here is what you need to do:
 
- Write a post, article, free pdf etc. related to any version of S&W  OR, get a sale going with product you already have.
 
-Email me with a link to you blog, website etc. By 8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, April 16th. Email both your link and title/sale. 
 
-Make the subject of your email: "Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day Post (or sale) and the blog/site title. Send email to: luxfaust@gmail.com
 
-Make sure to have the actual post/sale by 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on April 17th.
 
-I will have all links and titles posted here on the blog around 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on April 17th. 
 
If you need inspiration, here is a link to last year's SWAD festivities, Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2015