Category Archives: Legacy D&D

First Impressions: Beyond The Wall

hodgson-coverYesterday evening I had the chance to create my first character for Beyond The Wall by Flatland Games. I have a digital copy of this fine game on my harddrive but alas I haven’t had the time to give it a closer look. So I was glad about being given the opportunity to actually play it.

Beyond The Wall is a very interesting D&D retro-clone which combines elements of old-school gaming with a couple of more recent ideas. The rules mechanics are clearly based on D&D, while character and setting creation reminded me of what I’ve seen in games like Apocalypse World or various Fate games.

You start creating characters by picking one of the available playbooks. I chose the Self-Taught Mage, which turned out to be a pretty cool choice. But the other playbooks are definitely as interesting. After that you can note down your starting stats. In my case, my character had an intelligence of 12 and all other attributes started at 8.

The next step is rolling on a table from the playbook which tells you something about your childhood. In my case I found out that my father was a stern but fair watchman. This also raised a couple of my character’s attributes. This step was done by every player at the table. The important part is that everyone in the group knows the story of the other players since the members of the group are meant to be childhood friends.

During character creation we slowly revealed more information about our characters’ backgrounds. Each step provided each character with more story details, improved their stats and provided them with skills, items, and spells. During several steps the players were allowed to add a place to the town map or write down an important person. All these information is later used by the GM to generate an adventure.

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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!