18 July 2014

The cinematic anti-death spiral (RPG rule)

(This is something of a Joesky Tax, since I haven’t posted any usable game stuff in a while.)

I have ranted before about “death spirals” in RPGs, where a character accrues penalties as they take damage. They tend to not be fun and are arguably less realistic too. (Although realism is the usual justification.)

In many movies and other fiction, you will observe the opposite. The hero becomes more effective as they take damage. In this spirit, I offer the cinematic anti-death spiral for D&D-style games. For every 5 points of damage a character takes, they gain a +1 to all rolls. And let’s give their opponents an equivalent penalty to their saving throws versus the characters spells and such.

This applies mainly to player characters, but the referee might also use it for “big name” NPCs.

(I should probably mention the “escalation die” that some game—13th Age?—uses, but I don’t really have anything to say about it.)

17 July 2014

On RPG clones, retro and otherwise

Taxodermic Owlbear has assembled an impressive list of retroclones. (Though I might nitpick that only a few are technically retroclones.)

It is periodically asked if we need another clone or D&D knock-off. Rhetorically, since you only ask that if you think the answer is “no, we already have too many”.

But consider the passion and imagination that that list reflects. Very few of those games made anyone a living, and even people who write RPGs for a living don’t do it because it is anything close to lucrative. That list is proof to me that the traditional RPG hobby can have a life beyond the RPG industry.

And I think it is great that all those games can leverage a time-tested core while adding just a few or a lot of unique spins.

Some may say that that passion and imagination would be better channeled into other things. e.g. adventures or games with more originality. I say that telling someone what they should do with their passion and imagination is the quickest way to kill it.

Do we need another clone? Yes, I think we do. We need people to follow their individual muses and inspire us with the results.

16 July 2014

Thoughts occasioned upon watching Maleficent

...featuring spoilers.

If you’re going to make a “from the villain’s point-of-view” retelling of a story, it seems to me that you should aim for something more nuanced than simply making someone else the villain.

If you’re going to make “from the villain’s point-of-view” and simply make someone else the villain, you should make that villain at least as believable as the original villain in the original story. (Honestly, I haven’t seen the Disney Sleeping Beauty in ages—if at all, but I thought the dark fairy in the original tale was a perfectly believable villain. You know...as far as fairies go.)

I hate it when the villain accidentally dies. Let the hero either decide to kill them or decide to let them live and deal with that. An accidental death is a storytelling cop-out.

(That said, I really enjoyed Maleficent. I wouldn’t criticize if I didn’t care. I especially like the twist on “true love’s kiss”.)

12 June 2014

Swift

If you had told me before WWDC 2014 that Apple would introduce a new programming language, I would sadly shake my head. So many programming languages are created without leveraging any of the lessons of languages that have been around for decades. My general attitude is that there is little reason to create a new language instead of building off an existing one.

So far, however, Swift has impressed me. I can’t really find much to complain about.†

You could argue that in many ways Swift does build off Objective-C rather than being a new language, but that argument sells Swift short. This is a very impressive design.

†OK...here’s a...observation: It seems like having some kind of cycle-detection to augment ARC ought to be there.

27 May 2014

Basic D&D 5e

About Basic Dungeons & Dragons 5e

The Basic version of the next edition of D&D, which we’ll call 5e whether Wizards does or not, will be a free PDF.

This isn’t big news to those of us who know there are lots of really good free RPGs out there—including clones of older editions of D&D.

But, the D&D brand is the most likely first encounter that potential new players will have with the hobby. Will this be a good introduction to the hobby for them? Let’s hope so.

11 May 2014

NTRPGCon 2014 schedule

I finally registered for this years North Texas RPG Con. I was worried, but there were still plenty of interesting games open.

  • Thursday PM: Terekaptra, Lejendary Adventures, Chris Clark
  • Friday AM: The Mines of Valdhum, Labyrinth Lord, Matt Evens (odinist)
  • Friday PM: Oil Rights and Midnight Fights!, Twilight 2000, Karl Pajak
  • Saturday AM: The Circle of Columns, Bethorm, Jeff Dee
  • Saturday PM: Dark Colony, Lance RPG, Jim Ward
  • Sunday AM: Night Run, AD&D2e, Zeb Cook

08 May 2014

Star Wars comics

I recently bought the Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago..., Volume 1, which has the first 26 issues of the 1970s Marvel comics.

I had a giant version of the original six issues that covered the original movie, as well as normal-sized copies of a few of the following issues.

Looking through it, it occurs to me that—in the days before we had a VCR—this was as much Star Wars to me as the movie itself. I only saw the movie once (until years later), but I read these comics over-and-over.

They even had deleted scenes...