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!

Review: FrontierSpace Player’s Handbook

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imageIt’s a great time for fans of science-fiction roleplaying games. Kevin Crawford has just successfully kickstarted a revised edition of Stars Without Number, Green Ronin recently accounced a roleplaying game based on the “The Expanse” franchise, and DwD Studios finally released the long-awaited Player’s Handbook to FrontierSpace .

Before I start my review I have to make a confession. I know that the people behind FrontierSpace are huge fans of TSR’s Star Frontiers, and I was told that some of the mechanics are at least inspired by this classic RPG, but I can neither deny nor confirm this. I have actually never played Star Frontiers. Having said that, let’s get this review started…

This review is based on the digitally version of the FrontierSpace PHB which has graciously been  provided by DwD Studios’ Bill Logan. The 248-paged PDF is currently available on RPGNow/DriveThruRPG and a POD version should be available soon as well. DwD Studios will also release a Referee’s Handbook in the next couple of weeks. While FrontierSpace is fully playable with just the PHB, the RHB will contain a lot of material to make the GM’s life easier and which also expands the game. There will be rules for Psionic abilities, Referee advice, Alien creatures and species generation, star system generation and more.

imageFrontierSpace is powered by DwD Studios’ d00-Lite System which they already used in both Barebones Fantasy and Covert Ops. It’s at its core a d%-roll-under system. But instead of most games where a result of 00 means 100, it’s zero in d00-Lite. Something I especially like about the d00-Lite System is that the Skills are basically archetypal roles like Academic, Commander, Medic, and the like. So if you are trying to perform an action a marksman might be good at, you use the Marksman skill, while everything medicine-related is covered by the Medic skill. Sounds easy, right? This also solves a common problem with SF roleplaying games: skill creep.

Continue reading Review: FrontierSpace Player’s Handbook

Character Creation, Poker Style

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So I have been thinking about this wild west RPG based around a pack of playing cards.

Characteristics

I like the idea of five basic stats. Strength, Speed, Endurance, Empathy and Logic. I am not a big fan of Charisma or Appearance type stats or characteristics. Charisma and leadership qualities we can roleplay, we don’t really need a stat for that in a light weight game. Appearance I think should be player choice. Why force someone to play a character that is butt ugly or drop dead gorgeous if that is not the character they had in mind?

So how about this? The GM deals you a hand of 5 cards. You take up your cards and you either keep them or discard any or all of them. The GM then deals replacement cards. You can then assign the face value of the card to the five stats. All picture cards count as a 10.

I think Jokers need to be something a bit special. If you are dealt a Joker then you should keep a note of it and then it goes to the bottom of the pack and you get a replacement.

Jokers can then be used as a sort of currency within the game. I am thinking that you can spend a joker to avoid death or get a second chance?

Getting back to the stats that is a pretty quick method of getting the character stats. It is also reminiscent of Cowboys playing poker.

Skills

Next up we need some skills.

A few game systems these days allow you to spontaneously generate skills. We could use that here. So a skill is any clearly defined task or role that the character may have experience of. What I mean by this is ‘Prospector’ implies a bundle of skills relating to being able to pan for gold, dig shafts and brace them, work with pulleys and ropes and so on. Tracker is another role and implies a certain self sufficiency along with being able to identify and follow tracks.

Most characters will want some kind of combat skills and these will fall into a few broad families ranged combat such as guns and bows, melee combat that will also include thrown weapons and unarmed combat including martial arts and brawling. The sort of roles a character can use to describe these may be gunslinger, street fighter, cavalry officer.

Some GMs and players like a really granular game with hundreds of skills while others like broad ‘meta skills’ that encompass many individual specific skills under a single heading. I personally prefer this few broad skills approach.

One of the core skills in just about every game is that of Observation or Perception. The ability to spot clues, identify hidden doors, switches and so on and spot a hidden enemy or ambush. I cannot see any point in forcing players to spend a ‘skill slot’ or option to buy a skill that everyone is going to take anyway. So Observation will be a default skill that everyone gets.

So right now we have five stats and a Joker tally, one default skill and I think 3 meta skills that describe the characters back story.

Backstory

If we then give the character a one paragraph backstory, that is in sync with the skills chosen, gives the motivation for adventuring and brings the character to the starting point of the game; I think we are ready to play. (I do like a character sheet that fits on a large post-it note!)

Next time I think we will look at skill resolution unless I have any more thoughts on character creation.

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