Thursday, February 24, 2011

A thought about GURPS

As you might now, soem people have tried to assemble lists of what kind of games are "old school" or not. I have no idea if GURPS ever was on one of those lists, but it was mentioned in the comments on Grognardia (you know the way there, right?) and it got me thinking.

Steve Jackson have, for a few years now, posted a "Stakeholder's Report". In this he keeps us all in the loop of what's going on at SJG HQ. Steve is indeed a very interesting fellow in this business. Anyway. One thing that has become clear is how utterly dependant SJG is on Munchkin, and how totally insignificant GURPS have become. I am, after all, primarily a rpg player and am thus mosre interested in the GURPS part of that equation.

Why on earth have GURPS shrunken so in the market place?

What are all the former GURPS fans playing today? GURPS 3rd ed. still, and buying nothing new for the shiny 4th ed.?

Frankly, it puzzles me.

Anyone have a theory?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ronnies, again. And a short rant about forums

This so clearly demonstrates what's wrong with webforums. Even when they are not censoring you, and feel like a place where the level of the conversation is enjoyable, you still have the problem of keeping up. There have been another round of The Ronnies, and I totally missed it. When somebody posts something to a emailing list, I get it sent to my inbox. When somebody post something to their blog, and I've picked up the existence of the blog, it get sent to my feed reader. everything comes to me, and I check in one place and only have to remember one password. Forums I have to go to each and every one and check for news. So apart from the fools and other nonsense they are a hassle to keep up with. Who the hell invented that lousy technology?

Vistiting Kingsport

I just recently found out that you can actually visit Kingsport! Well, it's called Marblehead, MA, but it is the town that inspired Lovecraft to invent Kingsport. Now I really would like to go there. Look at that picture. It sure looks like a place to inspire stories.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

House rule - leveling in T&T by combining editions

I have been thinking about T&T again, in the midst of all CoC I have been preoccupied with.

Some people seem to have an issue with the 7th ed definition of level as something tied to your stats, and some other people really don't like the idea that level have nothing to do with your abilities and only is a measure of XP gained. Never the twain shall meet, eh?

Then there's this idea about humans. In T&T every race except humans have stat multipliers. Not just a small addition, multiplier. That means that a dwarf often start with a STR of 30! How do you make humans viable as a playable character race, again? Don't bother?

I think I have an idea about both these issues.

How about you roll up your character like usual, using the 7th ed rule that the dwarf with a STR of 30 is level three. Rolling 3d6, in order, I assume. That way you will get a party with some difference in levels, it's ok. You are using the "character stable" rule to even it out anyway, aren't you?

Next is what happens in play. After character generation, you pencil in the amount of Adventure Points needed for next level. What do I mean? Well, take a look at your 5th ed rulebook. That dwarf needs 7000 points for level 4, and like every other starting character he has nil. Compare that to the puny human companion he has, who probably start as level 1, but only needs 1000 points to level up.

In this setup you kind of eats your cake while still keeping it. I'm liking the idea of it, but somebody with maths skill might have to tell me it's broken. I'll play test it at first opportunity.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More houseruling Call of Cthulhu

Listening to the Innsmouth House Players roll up characters for Shadows by Gaslight (a YSDC patron only recording, hint! hint!), I spotted another candidate for CoC house rules.

Even though I have been looking through the editions I own, I haven't found any trace of the rule they used, that you can't start with a skill higher than 80% or two at 75%. I am grabbing those numbers from memory, so they might be slightly off. I like that idea, since it leaves some room for growth even for the "experts".

Related to that, I am personally not that fond of the idea of gaining 1d10 percentiles when increasing a skill. Way back it used to be 1d6 and I think I prefer that. Like in Traveller, "real world" characters should start competent and then grow slowly. It just makes more sense.

Finally, in Unknown Armies all characters have one thing called the "trigger event", which is what made that character aware of the Unnatural. Tied into the Drive, I think it would make excellent sense for CoC PCs to define such a thing. I noted that the Keeper of Arcane Lore for Shadows by Gaslight, Helen Maclean, used such an idea to provide some initial Cthulhu Mythos skill to the Investigators. Me like.

Now I not only have to collect these and other ideas in a document, I really should get a group together to play CoC!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Ron Edwards taught me about Call of Cthulhu

In the comments I got on my post from yesterday I could see that the idea of house ruling CoC might not be the most immediate idea for some, and also what you focus on to be worth focusing on. Basically, my interest in the idea of a Drive and Pillars of Sanity is to codify the System. Let me expand a bit upon that last point, it's important.

A while back I listened to an interview with Ron Edwards, on the Walking Eye podcast, I think. He talked about what constitutes a System. I remember thinking I should post something about it, but don't remember if I got around to it. Anyway, the idea is that one reason the early games look so sketchy is that there were a lot of common experiences which everyone could be counted upon knowing. Thus, there are procedures and "rules" which never end up in the book, since they are just "how you do things". Ron calls the whole of that the System. One of the great achievements of the Forge is to codify, and analyze how those invisible rules enhance and influence play, and then use that for deliberate effects.

So, why would a CoC Investigator go down into that crypt again? Why would that Investigator looks for clues to a disappearance just after getting a letter from a NPC relative? There are no System for it, yet everyone does it and expects it to be part of the game.

Now, the idea of having rules about Drives supplying reasons to go investigating, or Pillars of Sanity as reason to go on fighting, is just such a System - codified.

The conclusion is of course that even though I still think it shoddy game mastering to make a game falter because of a failed but vital die roll, I have changed my mind and think that the "autoclue" rule together with Drives and Pillars of Sanity would make a lot of sense in a Call of Cthulhu game. Finally, all of the System is written down.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Houseruling Call of Cthulhu

Like I recently posted about, I have been listening to the recorded sessions of Horror on the Orient Express campaign for Call of Cthulhu. It have kind of rekindled my old love for the game. I became a patron of just the other day to show my support, and to get hold of the recordings of the latest recordings, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth - by gaslight.

So, naturally I have now gotten the urge to play CoC. The fact that I still haven't managed to get my other planned game off the ground don't stop me from dreaming.

Ever since the read Trail of Cthulhu I have been thinking that some of the inventions of that game would work excellently if brought over to CoC. I still think the BRP system superior to Gumshoe, but some aspects are interesting.

  • Drives - frankly, having a specified reason to go peeking into things that make you go mad is a good idea. Having some mechanic that brings it out into play wouldn't hurt either. 
  • Pillars of Sanity - I never really felt comfortable with the idea of gaining sanity after the adventure for defeating monsters. It works in Chill, but personally I think it feels cheap in CoC. Having some abstract beliefs and principles as the grounding of your world view opens up interesting possibilities. If something happens and the Investigator can somehow argue that he will stand it by seeking comfort in one of his beliefs, that is a cool idea. Also imagine someone having experienced something that shows his world view to be a noble lie. Instead of going insane, he could have the pillar "crumble" from within, and now have a more fragile hold on his sanity.
I'm pretty sure I could think of more. The idea of not having to roll if the clue is important is less of revolution for me. I never saw the big need for that Gumshoe invention. Letting the game grind to a halt because of a failed roll is shoddy game mastering, whatever the rules set.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When not playing, listen!

I have not posted much lately, but it comes down to me not being able to involve myself much in gaming. Long hours at work and I still haven't been able to get a regular game going since before Christmas! From a gaming point of view, holidays suck!

What I have done while not playing anything is listening to other people playing. A while ago I bought a fine copy of Chaosium's marvellous campaign Horror on the Orient Express (HotOE). I wanted to play it, and almost got the chance last year before that attempt to find a new group fizzled. So, I decided to buy it, and to listen to the Bradford Players playing it.

Listening to other people play sounds strange, but it can actually be quite fun. It can also teach you a thing or two about table manners, how to handle troublesome players or just neat GM tricks.

HotOE is, since it's for CoC, a horror adventure. So, how would you expect it to play then? Grim and dark? Well, I have listened to a few different people running Call of Cthulhu, and I can say that American gun nuts are the most boring ones to listen to. Sound tactics and "effective" play. They might have fun, but it sure isn't fun to listen to. The thing is, the game must be engaging in some way, and one of the best way to make that happen is for it to be fun!

I'd really recommend anyone to listen to the recorded sessions of HotOE by the Bradford gang. Some of these sessions I laughed so hard it hurt when listening! The contrast between the grisly and quite horrific event the characters suffer and the jolly interaction between the players are excellent for contrast and effect. Also, listen to Paul when running the game. He is a Keeper (GM in CoC speak) of some skill indeed.

A friend of mine in the local game club ran his AD&D campaign a few days back, and summarized the event as "the players did what they should, entertained their DM". It made me think of Paul and his friends in Bradford. We do this for fun, right?
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