Category Archives: Legacy D&D

More Thoughts On The Index Card RPG

Last Saturday I finally had the chance to give the Index Card RPG by Runehammer Games a try. My players were interested in a space opera/space fantasy game, so I thought Warp Shell – which is one of the included settings – would be a perfect fit. So I sat down and wrote an introductory adventure including an ambushed bonding ceremony on Xevos 1, a damaged warp shell, the search for a piece of  “Plotonium”, weird NPCs, strange locations, a labyrinthine mine, and a fight against the player characters’ evil doppelgangers from a different timeline.

Character creation was extremely quick but also showed a problem with the games’ classes. The Alfheim classes are pretty much modeled after common fantasy tropes. Unfortunately the Warp Shell classes are not that easily recognizable. What exactly is the difference between a Blip and a Shadow? How’s a Zubrin like? We eventually just made stuff up as we went along, but some more hints would have been nice.

The effort mechanic worked fine, especially when the characters were pressed for time or in a combat. If they had all the time they want, it was pretty pointless to roll for effort, since it was basically unavoidable that they eventually succeeded. At its best, the effort system (especially in combination with timers) can be very effective – but often it falls flat and feels like pointless dice rolling. The trick is to keep the player characters on edge all the time.

Combats were fast and always felt dangerous, but I should have put more preparation into both the opponents and the combat areas, since combat ended up being not that mechanically interesting. But that’s basically my fault and not the game’s. Overall I got the impression that the game works best if you keep a high pace at all times. There has to be action and excitement at any moment, because when the action comes to a halt, some mechanics just don’t work their magic anymore.

Personally I am a bit torn after my first session. On the one hand I appreciate a lot of what the Index Card RPG does. It’s fast, furious, simple, fun. On the other hand, I feel as if I have to drive the players from scene to scene at a break-neck speed to get most out of the mechanics. Sometimes I prefer a more relaxed pace which other systems might support better. I’ll definitely run the Index Card RPG another time, or at least reuse some of its ideas in other games BUT it probably won’t become my go-to game.

Thoughts on the Index Card RPG

I don’t actually remember how I stumbled upon the Index Card RPG CORE by Runehammer Games. It could be someone mentioned it in a chat, or I just saw it on sale at RPGNow. Eventually I picked it up, since it looked as if I could like it. And in fact, I do love it. It’s one of those games I wished I came up with.

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At its core the Index Card RPG CORE (no pun intended) is an ultra-light variant of D&D. It uses the same attributes, but in form of their bonuses instead of the regular 3 to 18 attribute scores. There are no levels, advancement is fully equipment based. Characters’ and monsters’ hitpoints are rated in “hearts” with each heart being 10hp. Difficulties for rolls are not set on a per case basis, but there’s a common threat level for each scene, which the GM can adjust as they see fit.

One of the coolest changes to regular D&D is Effort. In cases a simple check on whether you succeed or not is not enough, you roll first if you succeed on your task (d20 + attribute vs. threat), and then – if successful – you roll effort. It’s a d4 if you use your raw wits or bare hands, d6 for weapons, d8 for magic, and d12 is your Ultimate which comes in play when your action check was a natural 20. Some items may also allow you to use your Ultimate effort. In this system things you have to overcome (a cliff to climb, a trap to disarm, a chest to open) also have hearts. Cracking that lock open is mechanically more like attacking it with a lockpick. you could even use this for social conflicts.

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In a way the Index Card RPG CORE reminds me of Into The Odd, another ultra-light D&D clone. It strips away a lot of what people usually consider sacred cows but retains what makes the game exciting to people. By the way, I forgot to mention why it’s called Index Card RPG. The game doesn’t rely on the use of index cards at all. But the creator of the game is a fan of the “Index Card Method”. I’ve included a video about said method below.

So the game more or less was created with said method in mind, but you actually don’t need to employ it. Overall the Index Card RPG is full of great ideas for the busy game master with a full-time job and a family. Everything is kept as simple as possible while feeling awesome at the same time. The book is full of creative ideas and just makes me want to run it ASAP.

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The Index Card RPG comes with a bestiary, a lot of examples for obstacles to overcome, two settings (a fantasy and a space opera one), and paper miniatures for monsters and characters. It even includes materials to use with online services like Roll20.

Even if you don’t want to make use of the rules included the Index Card RPG is well worth it. Its advice on how to run exciting games and the print-out-and-play material alone is worth its price of $16.50. POD options are also available. And did I mention that I adore the artwork in this book? It’s awesome! I could go on and on about how much I adore this little game, but I think it’s way better if you check it out!

Ravenloft and Retro Clones

Halloween is definitely not as popular over here as it is in the US, but I just had the thought running a horror-themed roleplaying game in the days around the end of October could be a fun thing to do. Last weekend I installed Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession on my PC and played it for a couple of hours basking in nostalgia while cursing the wonky controls and way too fast combat. So it’s only natural that the idea to run a Ravenloft game slowly formed in my brain.

I own both the original Ravenloft module for 1E as well as two of the boxed sets TSR relased for 2E: Ravenloft – Realm of Terror and Ravenloft Campaign Setting. I also faintly remember that I picked up the Ravenloft Campaign Setting for D&D 3rd Edition, but I couldn’t find it on my shelf yesterday. So it’s probably easier to rely on the AD&D 1E and 2E material I have in digital form.

There’s only one problem: I don’t like AD&D 2nd Edition that much, and I don’t think I have a copy of the AD&D 1st Edition rules. Since it’s 2017 I could probably use one of the many available retro-clones from Swords & Wizardy to Lamentations of the Flame Princess to run a Ravenloft game, but I am actually not sure how easily I could pull this off. From what I understand most of the D&D simulacra I’ve played in the past are based on Basic D&D and older editions.

I am pretty sure there are people much more familiar with D&D in all its iterations among my readers, so I hope you can help me out a bit. How hard would it be to run Ravenloft with – let’s say – Swords & Wizardry, or are there any other retro-clone better suited for the task? Any advice in this matter is highly appreciated!