Fria Ligan Interview with Tomas Härenstam

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Fria Ligan (or Free League Publishing) has quickly become one of my favorite game publishers/design teams. But even though I totally love what they are doing I actually don’t know that much about them, their current and future projects. So I thought it would be cool to do an interview with them. Luckily Tomas Härenstam agreed and without further ado, let’s delve right in.

Stargazer: Thanks again for taking your time to answer some questions. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you and what is your position within Fria Ligan (aka Free League)? Can you tell us about how you got introduced to roleplaying games in general and how you came to be working in the RPG industry yourself?

Tomas: Hi and thank you for having me! I’m one of the four founders of Free League Publishing, and these days I tend to manage most of our projects. I’ve been a roleplayer since the mid-80’s, and been writing my own RPGs for almost as long. In the mid-2000s, I self-published an alternate ruleset for the then existing edition of Mutant, and that led to the publisher Järnringen asking me to write the rules for their upcoming title. Later during that project, Järnringen went out of business and they asked me if me if I would like to take it over. That led to me and another couple of hobby writers founding Free League Publishing as a company. The rest is, as they say, history. 🙂 Continue reading Fria Ligan Interview with Tomas Härenstam

Skill Resolution or playing the hand you are dealt

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Someone used a phrase the other day and I quite like it. The phrase was “Going tactical”. In most RPGs if your character wants to do some thing and it is not life or death or time dependent then we don’t bother rolling the dice, it is just accepted that given enough time and effort then the character will succeed. The possible exception may be research tasks where the outcome really is not known. Picking the lock at your leisure is somewhat different to picking a lock with guards about to walk around the corner, sweaty palms don’t help.

This time I am going to look at skill resolution in my wild west game, sticking with the deck of playing cards theme.

Each character has an endurance stat on a scale of 1 to 10. When things ‘go tactical’ the GM deals each character a card for each point of endurance.

At this point there are two possible mechanics. My first thought was that this hand of cards would remain face down in front of the player until they need to ‘make a roll’. At that point they get a random number just like rolling a d10 but with the odds stacked towards the 10s (there are 13 cards in a suit and 4 of them are worth 10 if you include the jack, queen and king).

The second option is that the players take up their hand of cards and they play a card. If you want to succeed then you would play a 10, or a picture card. If you intentionally wanted to fail then you could play a lower value card. This gives the player much more control and it takes away the randomness. The cards they are dealt are still random but how they are played is within the players control.

An important factor would be how often the hand is replenished. I am thinking along the lines of taking a short breather in a combat or high stress situation would see the GM deal out one additional card to a player that has used some of their endurance cards. At the end of the scene or once the action is no longer tactical then the players would throw in their hands, good cards and bad.

As soon as the story goes tactical again then a fresh had of cards will be dealt to the players.

So if the players can see and choose which cards to play then they have to decide whether to play all their best cards first and hope that the scene ends and they can discard the crap cards back to the GM or face their characters having a lousy run of bad luck. That round spent taking a recovery could be really important if all you have left are a bunch of 2s and 3s, especially if the GM deals you a Jack!

The player choice option also takes care of another idea. Occasionally a player will ‘aim to miss’. I still make players roll their attack to check for fumbles or extremely bad rolls. Things can go wrong even if you do not mean for anyone to get hurt. We can now handle that situation by the player just choosing a really bad card for the attack. The intention being that the poor attack will miss.

I think the player choice option has a far greater scope for fun than the face down pile of cards version.

So the card we have drawn is part of the equation. We already have stats (see my last post for stats) and we have skills based upon ‘job descriptions’.

This is how I see skills working out

Pass or Fail Tests

The GM decides on a target number. The character throws down a card and adds the full value of an appropriate stat if they are skilled or half their stat value (rounded in the players favour) if they are unskilled. If they meet or exceed the target number then the test is passed.

Progressive Tests

These are tests where each attempts makes progress towards a goal such as climbing or a larger research task. The GM assigns a larger total value for the task. At each attempt the player draws a card and adds either their full stat or half stat depending on skill. After the first attempt additional cards can be drawn and the value added to the total. The total accumulates until the target number is reached.

Opposed tasks

This is a test where two parties are involved. Think of it as ‘hide and seek’. One person may be trying to sneak past while a guard may be trying to spot intruders. In another example you could be arm wrestling or a tub of war. In an opposed task just making the skill test is not enough, you need to beat the other person. Resolving this is done by adding your stat or half stat to a drawn card. The target number to beat is the opposing party’s stat (or half stat) plus drawn card.

Group Tasks

Several characters may act as a team. Teams work well as a search party, research group or even as at a tug of war. To resolve a team task the dominant stat (or half stat) of everyone in the team is added and then the team leader draws a card to add to the total.

Does that seem simple enough?

Ravenloft and Retro Clones

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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!

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