Monday, August 10, 2020

Heroquest rankings

 Advanced Heroquest > Warhammer Quest > Heroquest

Advanced Heroquest actually adds a whole lot of cool new rules that add depth to the combat, loot and trap content of the game. Advanced Heroquest also has rules for generating content procedurally, ensuring that the game remains dynamic for repeated play. Compared to Advanced Heroquest, the base game is a little too simple and lacking depth. Regular Heroquest also requires a dungeon master to play and every scenario is pre-programmed, so there's no system for creating your own adventures beyond the GM's discretion. It also doesn't have as much content. Warhammer Quest is like a streamlined version of Advanced Heroquest. It removes certain complexities of Advanced Heroquest rules and simplifies some of the dice rolls. The Roleplay book adds expansive content, and this adds breadth to the game.  However, Advanced Heroquest has the deepest rules for dungeon crawling of the three.

Perusing these boardgame rulebooks really highlights that D&D has pretty bad rules for handling traps and loot. There's a couple of random tables, but for placing and showing them to players the rules basically state "it's up to the DM". As such, when it comes to traps and treasure the only information is about what types are available, not how to use them. The nature of a board game like Heroquest allows for more solid rules on placing and using traps and finding treasure.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

cool blog posts

city stocking tables:


Historical Europe inspired campaign

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The dice are not your friend

 The dice only exist to give players a chance to fail at something. The dice do not allow you to do things, you do that yourself when you declare your action. Rolling dice only gives a chance of hindering the players, not helping.

D&D is at its core, a dice game in which you declare your action and then roll dice to see if you fail.  If you don't, then you continue onward to gain power and glory.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

How to play solo D&D

The introduction of the 5th edition rules describe the basic gameplay loop of D&D:

1. The DM describes the environment.
2. The players describe what they want to do.
3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions.

We can rephrase this into technical jargon as:
1. Content generation
2. Player action
3. Action resolution

To determine how to play solo, we can examine all 3 steps individually and take into account the special considerations of each.

1. Content Generation

In a traditional live game this is the purview of the Dungeon Master, who creates the content of the campaign and expresses it to the players. Conveying the right amount of information is crucial, because if the players know too much then they will not be surprised or challenged, and if they know too little then they will be confused and unable to engage with the game properly. In a solo game, the player and the DM are the same person, so this makes separating the content of the game tricky.

The "Master of Adventures" section of the Dungeon Master's Guide is presented as a toolkit for creating adventures. Many of the options for creating an adventure are presented as tables, and those tables can be used to randomly generate content through the use of dice rolls. 

Randomly generating content through the use of dice rolls and table lookups is a natural method for OSR gamers. The AD&D 1e Dungeon Masters Guide provides three appendices devoted to the random generation of dungeons and wilderness terrain, random determination of monster encounters, and a chapter on random determination of treasure. 

Randomly generating content provides an exciting level of the uncertainty for the solo gamer.

2. Player Action

This is where the actual fun of the game is. This is where the DM asks "What do you do?" Given the world elements, the NPCs, the environment and location your characters are in, your player characters can take their actions. Sometimes the elements of your scene are not clear, and that requires interpretation through a question and answer oracle, or through some guided inspiration like a Tarot deck, but this is where the solitaire gamer can put on their player hat and indulge in the fun.

3. Action Resolution

The 5e system provides a universal mechanic for action resolution, using a d20:
       1. Roll the die and add a modifier
       2. Apply circumstantial bonuses and penalties
       3. Compare the total to a target number

The thresholds for the target number (called Difficulty Classes or DC) are described in plain English, so this system can be used as-is for most in-game task resolution. For the solo gamer, simply determine what you think the DC of an action is, then roll the d20 and add modifiers to see if you succeed.

Most of the action resolution rules in 5e are split between player facing and DM facing rules. The chapters devoted to "Using Ability Scores", "Adventuring", and "Combat" are all technically player facing, while the DMG chapter "Running the game" is for the DM. Simple dice mechanics can be used to cover almost all types of results, and for the rest of the unknown results it is advisable to use some kind of oracle, such as the Mythic GME.

Most solo oracles are devoted to the Action Resolution stage of gameplay. The Mythic GME uses the Fate chart, while other oracles use simple yes or no resolution. A simple d20 roll can also be used as a "yes or no" oracle as well.

Once all success or failure results have been determined, the solitaire player can return to the Content Generation or Player Action stages of the game, to keep playing and continuing the loop.

These three steps cover the "how to play" section of solitaire role-playing, and to know "what to do", the player must adapt the "Three Pillars of Adventure" to solo play, which I discuss further in depth here:

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

My wilderness travel rules

OD&D and AD&D use a default wilderness scale of 1 hex = 5 miles. B/X and BECMI use a default scale of 1 hex = 6 miles.

In my personal game, I don't let my players see the hexes. Instead I let them choose a compass direction and a length (distance or time) in which they want to travel, and I then describe what they see and experience on the way. This roots them firmly in the perspective of their own character, instead of breaking immersion into a top-down map view, and they never see the changes in scale. Ideally, the experience for the players would be identical whether they are traveling across the overworld or through a dungeon.

On the DM side, I use hexes as handy boundaries for a collection of stuff. As the players' party enters a hex, I'll describe the features within the hex that they can see. This is similar to a videogame like Skyrim or GTA where, as the player avatar nears a location, the compass fills with icons of interesting things to do. In practice, this means telling the players something like "You see a stone tower off in the distance" or "You can see smoke rising from a firepit between a camp of tents", or "you can see a band of goblins down the path".

I never force my players to stick within the bounds of the hex. The PC party travels according to their own judgement and I simply describe what's nearby, even though they would actually be "between" two hexes.

A wilderness travel scale in terms of hours is useful for certain situations and types of terrain, but sometimes days is a more wieldly scale.

I haven't yet tested the mapping procedure for cities by individual streets that I described in this post, but I intend to subject some poor party to it anyway.

Monday, August 3, 2020

% in lair

What does this mean? Does it give a chance for the wilderness encounter monster to be in its lair? Does it mean that if I find a lair, a monster may have a chance of being in it, or leave it empty? Does it mean that, should I encounter a monster in the wilderness, a certain percentage of them would be in a lair and the rest without? If I do find monsters in the lair, do I have to construct an entire dungeon, populated with the number of monsters rolled? The wording is unclear and no explanation is given.

I'm reminded of the chapter in The Hobbit where the dwarves ambush/are ambushed by some Trolls, and upon surviving the encounter find the trolls' lair and their booty of magic swords. The trolls' lair was actually just a cave with a simple bag buried under the dirt, not an elaborate dungeon.

I think it's easy to convert that into AD&D terms, if we treat the wilderness as the dungeon. As players encounter monsters, the % in lair could mean that the monsters are within the lair, that they have a lair, that a lair exists without monsters, that a certain percentage of the monsters are in the lair and the rest wandering around, or all of the above. The "lair" can be a simple abode - a tent camp for semi-civilized races or bandits, small caves or holes in the ground for creatures that naturally live in the wild, or whatever.

The purpose of a lair is to hold treasure - the only relation it has to the rest of the game, and the only gain of passing the percent check, is that it allows you to roll on the "lair treasure" table for the monster. In short, its more rewarding to find the monster's lair as it will have more treasure. Turning the lair into a dungeon just adds too many steps to finding the treasure. A simple lair, populated by a band of monsters, that the players can clear out and spend a day searching to recover the treasure, is probably the most expedient way of handling it.

Creating simple wilderness lairs is also much easier and much more natural than dotting the landscape with dungeons. Unless a major part of the fiction of the game is that dungeons simply exist all over the world for no reason, much like an Elder Scrolls game.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

My Mystara Campaign

So I bit the bullet and created a campaign on Roll20, in the Mystara campaign setting using the BECMI rules. I've billed it as an ongoing, open world sandbox styled campaign, and that's what it would be for the first session or so, but really I want to run through the modules B11 King's Festival and B12 Queen's Harvest, leading eventually to B10 Night's Dark Terror. Those three modules all occur in the same area of Karameikos and can fit more or less seamlessly together. The first two are basically just dungeon crawls with some story dressing, so I can fit them in whenever.

That area in Karameikos specifically has a lot of pre-made content written for it. Threshold and the surrounding areas are given plenty of detail in the Expert set, which is expanded upon in the Gazetteers and several modules, so finding material to fill in a game session shouldn't be too hard.

As a VTT software platform, I find Roll20 lacking in many ways but its LFG tool is heads above any other method of finding players, so I had to succumb and put it there.  Every other VTT on the market is taking the wrong approach, I think, by trying to be free and open source and making more features for automation, but providing no new way of finding or connecting players together. Fantasy Grounds requires you to do 90's style port forwarding and direct IP connection.  Roll20 simply wins the VTT competition, and will continue to do so for some time, I think, simply due to its ease of use.

I tried to get spur-of-the-moment pick up games running, but that met with mixed success so I figure the only way to really get consistent games is to keep an ongoing campaign running with a large pool of players involved.

Ironically, when I was looking at other games I noticed that quite a few were set in Mystara, and were playing the same modules that I wanted to use.

I want to run a similar game, set in the World of Greyhawk in the AD&D 1e system. Greyhawk itself is a very empty campaign setting, and all the modules nominally set within it are disjointed from one another. The TAGDQ series is a popular adventure path to play through for Greyhawk, but I was thinking of lowering the scope, and actually introducing the namesake City.  The City and Dungeon of Greyhawk itself were never released to the public, but a faux version of them appeared for the 2e system. Which is fine by me, I wouldn't want to play in Gygax's personal campaign any more than he would want to play in mine. 

For my campaign, I was planning on starting with T1: Hommlet, touching ToEE for a bit (because it is a really involved, cumbersome dungeon that players would get bored of sooner or later) and then routing them to the City of Greyhawk and Greyhawk Ruins. It would be a smaller campaign that wouldn't get very far out of the mid levels, but in case the players get bored there is the whole World of Greyhawk to explore, which I intend to fill in with content from the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Heroquest rankings

 Advanced Heroquest > Warhammer Quest > Heroquest Advanced Heroquest actually adds a whole lot of cool new rules that add depth to the...