Category Archives: Legacy D&D

NaGaDeMon: It’s Full Of Stars!

One thing which makes NaGaDeMon so hard for me is that I tend to read a lot of roleplaying games especially the ones I like while I should be focusing on writing stuff myself. There are a couple of systems I love, and everything I write tends to slowly transforms into a bad copy of those systems. Instead of hanging my head in shame, I decided to share some of these games with you.

The main reason I started to work on WR&M Pocket Edition was that I wanted to create something as simple and elegant as Chris McDowall’s Into The Odd. Chris took D&D, stripped away almost everything and combined it with a very unique and awesome setting. The free version is still available on his blog, while a new version (which will also be available in print) is being worked on right now. Into The Odd has all the weirdness of a game like Numenera while being extremely simple to run and play. If you haven’t checked it out, you definitely should do so.

Apropos Numenera, Monte Cook’s Cypher system is another rules system I recently fell in love with. It’s fully player-facing, very easy to run, and has a couple of very intriguing mechanics I wish I came up with. One thing I love about the system is the Effort system. The players can lower the difficulty of tasks by spending points from their attribute pools.

This also reminded me of the way General skills in Robin D. Laws’ Gumshoe System work. Like the attribute pools in the Cypher system, the skill ratings in Esoterrorists, Trail of Cthulhu, etc. are resources to spend. Skill checks are done with a d6 and you can add points from your skills to improve your chances. I always wanted to write a system which uses skills/attributes in such a way, so it was no surprise that my updated version of Galaxy Core started to look a bit like a Frankensteinian creation – one part Galaxy Core and one part Gumshoe or Chyper. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you.
By the way, Gumshoe is now available under not one but two open licenses (CC and OGL). If you haven’t done so, you definitely should check out the SRD.

By the way, I also found the perfect magic system to be included in WR&M Pocket Edition or a WRM 2nd Edition.  R.E. Davis recently told me about his fantasy “rule manifesto” Patchwork Fantasy which is partly based on WR&M. It features an awesome spell system, which basically allows players to design their own spells by assigning 3 to 4 tags. Brilliant! You can check it out here.

At the moment I am not sure how I should proceed with my NaGaDeMon projects. I am tempted to put the two projects I wrote about earlier this week in favor of a simplified version of the Gumshoe system. It might even be possible to turn it into a system suited for fantasy games. And since it’s now licensed under CC it’s even perfectly legal now. It’s very tempting to mess with a system written by my favorite game designer, it really is.

Note: The image above was created by Pauline Moss and has been used under the terms of the CC-BY-NC 3.0 license. Check out her DeviantArt site!

A new Edition is always a good Thing, isn’t it?

Everyone is talking about the new edition of D&D right now. But as usual not everyone is happy about a new edition. But isn’t a new edition a good thing? It shows that there’s still interest in the game and the company behind it is driving things actively forward. Often clunky rules are fixed and things are streamlined, in other cases new options for players and GMs are made available.  But alas it’s not always all sunshine and flowers.

More often than not, new editions come with a slew of problems. In some cases the old material becomes obsolete and you have to make the hard decision whether to stick to the old edition and stick with a system which is not supported anymore or you can embrace the new one, which usually means buying a lot of books again, just to get the updated versions of material you already have.

And the longer you wait, the more severe the problems become. In most cases old editions go out-of-print as soon as the new edition is announced. Some books quickly become pretty rare and people are paying ridiculous prices on eBay to get their hands on a copy. And if even the PDF version are removed from stores you either need to make the switch or grudingly pay vast sums just to get that one book you still needed.

Since I enjoyed the Shadowrun 3rd edition game a friend run for me recently, I decided to get a couple of 3rd Edition books for myself. But alas that’s easier said than done. I was able to track down used copy of the core rules (I decided to go with the German version this time, since that is what my friend uses), but most of the supplements are either extremely expensive or not to find anywhere. It’s even worse with the Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition, which is supposed by many to be the best version of Shadowrun available. I already own a PDF copy, but I also would love to have a print copy as well. Alas I had no luck tracking one down. For some people this is no big deal, especially when they picked up everything they wanted when the older edition was still widely available.

This is just an example what issues you could face if you decide to play an older edition of a game. So I can understand the concern of people who love D&D 4th Edition, or who prefer other games who were made obsolete by new editions. Of course it’s unreasonable to ask publishers to keep old editions in print indefinitely. In most cases at least being able to purchase old games as digital editions is a great help. So, what’s your stance on this subject? Please share your thoughts below!

Lamentations of the Flame Princess–A few thoughts

Recently I picked up the new hardcover version of Lamentation of the Flame Princess’ Rules and Magic book. Even though I have read the rules several times over the last few years, I took the opportunity to give it another look. I have stated several times before that LotFP is one of my favorite D&D retro clones, and today I want to share my reasons with you.

Weird Fantasy
LotFP is advertised as “weird fantasy”. But what the heck is weird fantasy about? Basically it’s fantasy combined with elements of horror. If you ever read one of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane stories you get a good idea of what to expect from LotFP, especially if you set your game into an early modern age. The hardcover edition actually includes rules for early firearms and armor used in that period. LotFP gives me a similar vibe as the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition.

Low or rather less flashy magic
The magic in LotFP feels a bit different from vanilla D&D. A lot of the spells are less flashy and overall magic feels more like a dark art performed by a few instead of something which is present on every corner. Summoning is a dangerous affair. If you mess up, the thing you just summoned into the world, rips of your arms and legs and returns to hell with your soul in tow. Ouch! In LotFP magic is dangerous and mysterious. If you’re fed up with standard high fantasy settings this is a very welcome change.

Skill system
Most D&D retro clones (and early editions of D&D for that matter) use skills for the Thief class only and use a percentile-based system which doesn’t really fit in with the other mechanics (at least in my opinion). James Raggi IV has taken the system, turned it into a d6-based one and applied it to all the classes. Now every character has a certain chance to Tinker, Climb, find secret doors, etc. but only the Specialist class may improve these skills. This makes a lot of sense to me and it seems to work quite well.

No superpowered heroes
In vanilla D&D characters become extremely powerful over time. And to counter that the GM has to come up with more and more powerful enemies every time. The high availability of magic weapons and armor only makes things worse. In LotFP characters don’t improve that fast. The fighter is the only class which improves its base attack bonus over time and magic items are extremely rare and always come with a cost. But this also means that monsters don’t need to have ridiculous stats in order to be any challenge. The way LotFP is designed, even a high level character is in danger when confronted with too many enemies – even low level ones.

Different but still familiar
Even though LotFP feels different from other D&D retro clones it’s still familiar. If you have played any D&D-based game you can easily pick up and play LotFP. Adventures designed for other D&D variants can easily be modified to be run with it.

Conclusion
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is perfectly suited for any game set into a pseudo-European early modern age game with low magic and horror elements. Would I run a Forgotten Realms game with it? No way! What about Ravenloft? Hell yeah! I’ve also considered using LotFP for a game set into the Warhammer world. Or you could probably just as easily use it for a game set into the aftermath of the Thirty Years War. In my opinion LotFP is more than “just” a D&D clone, but a game which harkens back to the days of yore while taking things into a fresh and new direction!