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Not dead, but definitely have been absent. I am a government agency Fiscal Officer and had to cut about $10 million out of our budget request this year, on top of the rest of the job. I did it. Am now turning my attention back to actual outside life.

Earlier this year, I had a post over at BlackGate.com on Dungeon Delving tips. It contained a dozen, with another thirteen to follow. Six months later, Part Two will go online shortly. The 25 tips are very much old school pen and paper and contain a lot of Gygaxian principles.

Hopefully I'll get caught up on this thread shortly.

The game experience is definitely better on a monitor than an ipad screen. Everything is much easier to read and the visuals are better "spread out."

It was definitely worth buying again on the PC.

'Tales From the Yawning Portal' is out for 5th Edition. It includes several of the classic modules, like Tomb of Horrors, Against the Giants and Hidden Shrine of Tamoachen.

I haven't read/played those since I was young, but from what I recalled, I was thinking about how you could employ Gygax' tactical approach to them.

I seem to remember just trying to stay alive from room to room in ToH, though. No planning involved.

Character goals and missions and party ones can be the same, different, complementary or contrasting. I didn't think about the distinctions while looking at Tactics.

Of course, Gygax emphasizes party and team throughout the book. I don't have Role Playing Mastery with me at work today (forgot my backpack), but I think he was talking about party tactics.

Worth further delving into.

I was thinking the Mission might be more specific. This one seems too general to me.

Mission - Find a treasure horde to make lots of money

Goal - Recover Durgeddin's swords from the halls of Khundrakar

- Enter the halls
- Locate the swords
- Defeat any guardian
- Escape the halls

Though Mission and Goal aren't very different in that example.

When I was thinking of the Forge of Fury example, I was having a bit of a tough time distinguishing mission from goal. Still am.

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Last month over at BlackGate.com, I put up the first of a two-part essay that includes 25 tips on Dungeon delving.

Creighton Broadhurst of Raging Swan Press came up with the list and I added some thoughts about the first dozen. Part two is coming soon. Comments on the items welcome.

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Tactical Mastery Tip #2 - Define the Objectives. The mission and goal, once defined and analyzed, will contain distinct places where progress can be measured.

As step one was 'Know the Goal,' defining the objectives seems like a reasonable second step. What are the steps to achieve the goal.

A party is going to play Forge of Fury (just about my favorite 3rd Edition module). The mission is to find forged by Durgeddin in the monster-infested dwarven hall of Khundrakar.

The goal is to recover the weapons and escape the hall alive.

The first objective is to gain entrance to the hall.

There are a couple different ways - none easy. We'll say the party managed to get in through the front door (yeah, sure). The next objective is probably to get across the chasm that no longer has a rope bridge across it, the Orcs having destroyed it in retreat.

If the party manages to get across, a new objective is set.

Each such objective should take you one step closer to attainment.

It's not exactly paint by numbers, but the objective should generally be stepping stones to the goal - maybe with the order jumbled a bit.

Next up is 'Make, and Follow, a Plan.'

Tactical Mastery Tip #1 - Know the goal. The mission should have a set goal.

Gygax states that when the goal is successfully achieved, the mission is complete and the adventure should conclude at that point. That's pretty direct.

He acknowledges they can overlap, but to differentiate mission from goal, he says that the mission is a description of what must be done to achieve success. The goal is an enumeration of the conditions that will prevail when the mission is complete.

For an example, he talks about the mission being to catch a criminal. The goal of the mission is accomplished when the criminal is behind bars.

I know I've played in groups where our goal for a session or the task in front of us was never defined. We basically moved ahead and looked for monsters and treasure. That's certainly not tactics. Not much of a strategy either, for that matter.

Knowing the mission and defining the goal leads into his next tactic, which relates to objectives.

If anybody here is a fan of T1 - Hommlet and the Temple of Elemental Evil, I did a two-part series about them, including recounting some of Gygax' play sessions in developing them. Just thought I'd mention that.


Chapter 7 of Role Playing Mastery is titled 'Tactical Mastery.' As with other parts of the book, you get a look inside Gygax' head.

Knowing the game system and its specific rules gives the master player insight into the strategy of the game. This knowledge also allows the player to devise a grand tactical plan for the success and advancement of his character.

I never thought of a tactical plan for my character. Within a group and in specific situations, we discuss tactics (ad nauseum sometimes), but that's about it for me.

He talks about how difficult it is to generalize tactics due to campaigns and scenarios being different, group composition varying, etc. However, he does come up with some Tactical Mastery Tips. We covered all 17 Steps to Role Playing Mastery, so I'm going to do the Tactical Tips one by one.

Before enumerating the tips, Gygax says:

This specific general knowledge will enable the serious player to become a master of the tactics of his chosen RPG system, providing he assiduously applies his knowledge in a thoughtful and reasoned way.

As we've mentioned several times before, he certainly is taking these topics seriously. Which is both understandable and proper, since presumably someone paid money to buy this book.

Recently read through the 5th Edition Dungeon Masters Guide. There was some interesting stuff in there about different genres of fantasy RGP, how to apply rules, etc.

Deciding if its worth buying the Player's Handbook as well.

Pathfinder has spoiled me in having both those tomes together in one volume. I think that should be a standard for RPGs.

Also proofing the Conan 2d20 handbook. I still haven't wrapped my head around how that one works. I'm very d20ish.

In other forums, I've discussed how Robert E. Howard's The Scarlet Citadel reads like a dungeon crawl - decades before Gygax invented D&D. The Tower of the Elephant as well.

It's all but impossible to deny that Tolkien heavily influenced Gygax, despite his minimizing of the impact (which I do believe is primarily related to the legal issues). And people who know better than I say agree that the magic system is Vanceian.

The flip side would be to look at how D&D has clearly influenced fantasy authors. Raymond E. Feist and Scott Erickson's popular series are based on their own RPG worlds.

So, for D&D 5th Edition, 'Classic Modules Today' are conversions of old D&D modules to the current system. People sign up to 'claim" a module, then update it. Kinda neat.

I downloaded the very short, two page conversion guide (not much in it, actually), but I found this analysis an interesting read:

The CMT conversions also adhere to the original adventure module's content, in the spirit of Old School Roleplaying. For those unfamiliar with the core concepts of Old School Roleplaying, here are the most important points.

1. OSR adventures were as much as, if not more of, a test of the players' abilities as their characters. Many adventures had scenarios that required the players to think of solutions themselves, rather than rely on the abilities of their characters.

2. The rules for early edition games were often simpler or heavily customized for ease of play. The DM was granted absolute power to make rule decisions on the fly, with the understanding that fair arbitration would be upheld. This is often simplified to the phrase "Rulings, not rules".

3. The OSR games were based on sword and sorcery literature. In these stories, happy endings were uncommon, strange and vicious creatures flourished, weird magic was the norm, and protagonists were less hero and more mercenary in bent.

4. The mortality rate of characters in OSR games was much higher than it is in modern RPGs. Characters were better than normal folk, but not super heroic. They were expected to hire additional people to accompany them on dungeon forays due to the danger level. Strange magic could help a character or slay him instantly, sometimes without even a saving throw allowed to help him avoid that fate. The characters were not guaranteed level appropriate fights - they could easily wander into the wrong dungeon and be summarily wiped out by an annoyed dragon or angry undead. Running away when faced with a too-powerful foe was an acceptable tactic.

5. OSR character advancement required a lot of experience points. The gold piece value of treasure acquired was added to the pool of experience from killing monsters before dividing amongst the characters. Because of this, adventures give out of lot of monetary treasure. The DM will want to reduce the amount of monetary treasure
awarded to the characters to be in line with D&D 5th edition.

We've been talking about some of these very points in this thread.

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I came across this today:

Clerical spells, including the druidic, are bestowed by the gods, so that the cleric need but pray for a few hours and the desired verbal and somatic spell components will be placed properly in his or her mind. First, second, third and even fourth level spells are granted to the cleric through meditation and devout prayer. This spell giving is accomplished by the lesser servants of the cleric’s deity.

Fifth, sixth and seventh level spells can be given to the cleric ONLY by the cleric’s deity himself, not through some intermediate source. Note that the cleric might well be judged by this or her deity at such time, as the cleric must supplicate the deity for the granting of these spells. While the deity may grant such spells full willingly a deed, or sacrifice, atonement or abasement may be required. The deity might also ignore a specific spell request and give the cleric some other spell (or none at all).”

It's from a version of the Player's Handbook - not sure which edition. I enjoy running across stuff I'd either never noticed or didn't remember from previous D&D iterations.

The idea of a quest to gain an upper level spell is great! Necromancer Games' 'Raise the Dead' supplement had some adventures related to raising a dead character - instead of just paying some gold and moving along with all the same gravity involved in buying a horse. It made it an event.

I like Gygax' idea of having the character some how "earn" the spell, rather than it just being a flat reward for leveling up.

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The amount of product for just $15 is amazing. Freeport alone makes this a deal. There's a lot of cool stuff in this offer: much of which I already had. But it was still a great purchase for the rest. Highly recommended.

GrayWolf - Though as a beginning GM, I don't think I was very good at improvising at all. That was something that I got better at as I got more experienced.

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Creighton Broadhurst of Raging Swan Press had another good post. He listed 8 Tips for Beginning GMs.

1 - Everyone at your table is there (hopefully) to have fun.
2 - At the table, you are the ultimate arbiter about how the game is run.
3 - For your first adventure, keep it simple.
4 - Accept You’ll Get Stuff “Wrong.”
5 - Prepare: Be as ready as you can for the game.
6 - Delegate: You don’t need to do everything.
7 - If You Need Help, Ask.
8 - Relax and enjoy the game.

You can click on the link to see his comments on each item. What do folks think? And what would you add to the list?

MendedWall12 wrote:
HolmesandWatson wrote:
Similarly, I felt that Drizz't Do'Urden, through his abilities, was overpowered compared to the rest of the Legend of Drizz't game cast. It's an imbalance.

Holmes, we've established a pretty decent friendship over the years, so I think I can say this and you'll understand the tone in which it is meant.

The name of the game is The Legend of Drizz't, and you really thought Drizz't's power level would be on par with the rest of the cast?!

Come on man.

I know... But as I recall, he can have two attacks every turn. He's the only character out of 20 heroes in the series (not 100% sure on Ravenloft, though) that has that ability. That seems a wee bit excessive.

I was out getting lunch today with the guy who always played Drizz't. And he said, "Who cares about game balance? As long as it leads me to have more fun, I'm all for it. And Drizz't killing more monsters is more fun."

So he'd ascribe to your thought!

I did think of playing a ToEE using the four main Drizz't characters and writing up a short story of Drizz't and company adventuring in the Temple.

We've been playing the Temple of Elemental Evil board game at lunch for the past week. I find the "Advantaged/Disadvantaged" rule from 5th Edition interesting.

If you're not familiar with it: if your character has the Advantaged condition, they roll two dice (instead of one) and take the high roll. Likewise, for Disadvantaged, your roll two and take the lower one.

Normally, the condition only applies for one turn. Some of the Utility and Daily powers (I think) allow your character or someone else to gain Advantage for that one turn. That can be a big help at a key moment.

However, the Rogue has an automatic power choice: Every turn, it can automatically reveal and disable a trap (there are a LOT of traps) on its tile, or have Advantage. Our Rogue has kept the Advantage condition about 90% of the time. And it's made a HUGE difference, with several failed rolls actually being successful.

By making a powerful condition essentially be a bonus at will power, it has, I think, over powered the Rogue compared to the other characters and the monsters.

A gamer at a stats website did some analysis and wrote "The effect is huge. There’s less than a 9% chance of rolling 15 or higher with disadvantage, whereas there’s a 30% chance normally and a 51% chance with advantage."

As a variation from the conditions used in prior D&D board games, I find the Advantage/Disadvantage a neat idea, but I think it has been abused regarding the Rogue character.

I'm not certain it applies, but stuff like this always makes me think of a Gygax sentence from 'Role Playing Mastery':

"Too often, new material purporting to add to a game system is nothing more than a veiled attempt to dominate the game milieu through power, not skill."

Similarly, I felt that Drizz't Do'Urden, through his abilities, was overpowered compared to the rest of the Legend of Drizz't game cast. It's an imbalance.

I belong to an Evangelical Christian church. And we believe that if you are a Christian, you need to attend services. You can study scripture (which I do, being a voracious reader) and try to figure things out on your own, but entering into community is a part of the New Testament's instructions to us.

I think Step 17 is similar. I've read far more 3rd Edition and Pathfinder products than I can keep track of. But I didn't play for several years. So I enjoyed reading things, and consciously or not, I was trying to learn, but without the practical experience of playing: Of being around the table, or even a PbP on the boards (which is how I got back into RPGing), it's clear to me that my game skill wasn't increasing. And I wasn't advancing any mastery (not that I was even thinking about that).

Even playing PC games during that time kept me "in the genre" to an extent, but it wasn't a substitute for actual RPG playing. Something I'm becoming more aware of as I spend some time playing the Neverwinter Nights MMO. It's enjoyable, but for RPG skill development, it's like popcorn vs. a steak; no substance.

All of Gygax' prior 16 Steps are related to achieving his definition of mastery. But I agree, even if you get really good at RPGing, you need to keep learning and getting better to not see a decline.

Which is one reason you see owners and execs at the 3rd Party companies playing and running games at Cons.

Gary Gygax’s 17 Steps to Role Playing Mastery

Note: Italics are quotes by Gygax, contained in the book, Role Playing Mastery.

Step Seventeen - Continue to learn and grow even after you achieve mastery.

Mastery is like any other acquired skill. If you do not continually use and exercise it, the skill will atrophy. But if you remain actively involved in the hobby at the highest level you can attain, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that your level of expertise keeps rising
all the time. The sky is not the limit to mastery, for - as any science fiction enthusiast can tell you - there are infinite worlds left to explore once the sky is left behind.

That last bit seems a little cheesy, but it's actually a neat way for Gygax to end his 17 Steps. He was barely a quarter of the way through the book, but still, it's a nice RPG type of closure.

I agree completely with Gygax here. I used to play Ultimate (Frisbee), competing at the Nationals and Worlds levels. Practice and skill repetition was crucial to excelling. And when I stopped playing competitively and practicing, my game wasn't as sharp out there on the summer league fields.

I'm currently shaking the rust off of my GMing skills after several years of not running (or playing) any campaigns.

The more you play (and run) RPG games, the better you can expect to be at them. Step 12 was Play as Frequently as Possible, which certainly feeds into this Step.

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Was digging into the history of T1 - The Village of Hommlet over the weekend. That was some interesting reading. I'm going to posit (in another Black Gate post) that there were two reasons (one business, one gaming) that The Temple of Elemental Evil was delayed so long.

Step 17 coming this week. Then we'll explore some other parts of the book. I've also been reading Gygax' book on GMing, but it's not as smooth.

My post on S&W vs. Pathfinder has turned out to be the second most read post of the entire year over at Black Gate. I've started putting together a similar post looking at reasons to make the opposite choice (personally, I LOVE character creation and all the options).

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Skeld wrote:

I've never heard of Matt Finch or his four zen whatevers, so I have no opinion on it other than it sounds like more gaming-related naval gazing.

I attribute the resurgence of Old School Gaming and retroclones to the fact that Old Guysnwere nostalgic for that thing they played when they first started gaming, the fact that the thing they were nostalgic for is long out of print, and that the OGL can be interpreted in such a way to allow enterprising individuals to recreate that thing (with maybe a couple "improvements").

When I talked about people turning this into a wedge issue, I didn't necessarily mean you. This topic comes up a lot. Old School and "modern" gaming are still fundamentally the same. Only the mechanics (and rules codification) are different. PF has so many nods and callbacks to OD&D that it's humorous. People playing Old School games and Pathfinder are still doing basically the same thing. The differences are (mechanical and) small. Laborious discussion amounts to making mountains out of mole hills.

I don't agree Old school games and Pathfinder differences are small. Compare it to watching a college football team, running a wishbone, play a team running a run and shoot - they're both football, but they're sure as heck not similar.

You could at least read the Black Gate post that is the basis of this whole thread. Matt Finch's distinctions are the core of it. You aren't going to change your mind, but you may end up acknowledging some of the points.

Steve Geddes wrote:

In 4th edition, one of the design features was gaining high hit points at first level and then a more gradual increase from there. From memory, even kobolds had 20 or 30 hit points. A party of five first level 4E characters would probably find fighting two 88 hp monsters tough, but not as much as you would expect.

There were other changes as well, of course - so it was generally much easier to hit things (that had much more hit points than earlier editions). The end result being that combats often lasted eight or nine rounds (with lots of hits chipping away at the enemy's hit points).

It's tricky to eyeball a 4E monster's stats and convert it easily. Another change was 4E's 1-30 level range rather than 1-20, so even character level doesn't translate very well. In my opinion, 4E characters are considerably tougher than other edition PCs early on, but considerably weaker at higher levels.

Wow. That is certainly a difference in scaling. Certainly as far as conversion goes. I guess, to the extent it didn't mess with the theme, I'd ignore what the monster was and look for something more in the CR-appropriate range. So, undead Ogres would probably be out. Though maybe something tough if there is an alternate mode of entry. Force the party to choose how to get in.


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Skeld wrote:
Are you getting paid for clicks? If you want to have a discussion here, why don't you post the substance your article here instead of pimping some third party website?

No, I don't get paid a cent. It's a really long post to put up here (well over a thousand words), and I can't incorporate graphics here. So, I refer to the OP.

Skeld wrote:

I don't get why people try to drive a wedge between "old school gamers" and "modern gamers." I started gaming in 1985 and I run games basically the same as I did then. The mechanics are different, but we had different games with different mechanics back then, too.

The things that have changed for me are:
Time - I have a lot less of it, so I leverage published adventures/campaigns instead of creating my own stuff;
Money - I have a lot more of it and I can afford to buy gaming books, miniatures, maps, tools, etc.;
Technology - I have a tablet that I can store all my books on and access the internet.

Beyond that, I still use pens/pencils, paper, dice, and imagination. That's like 95% of it.


Talking about something isn't 'driving a wedge' unless you take a tone that makes it that way. I don't think I did that.

The game isn't played the same as it was. There wouldn't have been the movement for retroclones if the two styles were the same. Do you disagree with Matt Finch's four 'Zen Moments'?

I'm not saying either S&W or Pathfinder is better. But I'm working on a follow-up post that looks at a more modern approach in light of the OP. Running a S&W game and at the same time re-reading the PF rules for the next campaign, beginning at character creation ,there is a difference in approach and play. Just as there's a difference between playing an MMO RPG and a pen and paper RPG.

Football and baseball and basketball are different than they used to be. Stuff changes. I play Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry. You can like different approaches and even try to merge them, like Creighton Broadhust talks about in his blog.

But the distinction is there and I find it interesting enough to write about.

Have no fear - I'm not taking a break from the thread again.

I'm going to be contributing to a new RPG column for BlackGate.com (I already write a mystery-themed one there) and I'm getting some stuff together before launch in a couple months. Today I was working on a post related to game balance/level appropriate challenges. I'm both for and against it.

Though I use Goodman Games' 4th Edition module, Forges of the Mountain King as an example of ridiculous unbalance at the beginning.

I didn't look into 4th Edition. Are characters overpowered at 1st level? One of the first encounters is with two undead Ogres with 88 hp (or so) each.

The first time they are killed, they rise again at half hit points. That seems like a heck of a way to start things off. Shortly thereafter, there is a live Ogre, with 112 hp.

That's awfully extreme, isn't it?

HolmesandWatson wrote:

Have no fear - I'm not taking a break from the thread again.

I'm going to be contributing to a new RPG column for BlackGate.com (I already write a mystery-themed one there) and I'm getting some stuff together before launch in a couple months. Today I was working on a post related to game balance/level appropriate challenges. I'm both for and against it.

Though I use Goodman Games' 4th Edition module, Forges of the Mountain King as an example of ridiculous unbalance at the beginning.

I meant to post this on the 'Role Playing Mastery' thread I'm running, not here. Sorry about that.

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Have no fear - I'm not taking a break from the thread again.

I'm going to be contributing to a new RPG column for BlackGate.com (I already write a mystery-themed one there) and I'm getting some stuff together before launch in a couple months. Today I was working on a post related to game balance/level appropriate challenges. I'm both for and against it.

Though I use Goodman Games' 4th Edition module, Forges of the Mountain King as an example of ridiculous unbalance at the beginning.

Several stretch goals have been added - they've already unlocked the first one (reproduction of the new cover).

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Terquem - gamers at my S&W table act like they're 12 years old some time. I think that's as close as we'll get!

Here's a post on the Kickstarter which I wrote for BlackGate.com.

Shipping (and stretch goals) isn't up yet. My current Complete Rules is 144 pages. I can't imagine this reprinting, even with two additional adventures, is going to be too much longer. This thing shouldn't be half the size of Bard's Gate.

BTW, instead of using the Sleep spell, I had the shaman use Charm Person on the fighter instead. It failed and the shaman was chopped down immediately thereafter.

Steve Geddes wrote:
I meant the cover. The regular version's cover is changing. Does anyone know if the leather version will be different?

I was just commenting on the kickstarter itself. But Bill Webb wrote in reply to a comment:

"Leather book comes with a regular copy, but no, it is silver foil stamped."

I think that means it will have a reproduction of the new art cover.

Thanks for the comments on the Sleep spell. Since everybody is 1st level, they were pretty much out of luck no matter what. I do like the "Not kill them" idea, at least. Maybe some Goblin torturing going on.

The party tried to kill the one awake Goblin with the Rogue and Ranger shooting at him with bows. If they had an instant kill, I was going to let them try to sneak up on the others and see how things went.

The Rogue had one of the worst-rolling sessions I have been a part of. He only had two successes, and he had somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 incidences. He missed both bow shots at the sentry, which resulted in a full blown fight - including that shaman.

Yesterday, a new Kickstarter for a third printing of the Swords & Wizardry rules funded in about 15 hours. Last month, I wrote a post over at BlackGate.com on why I chose Swords & Wizardry and old school gaming over Pathfinder and a more modern approach for running my latest game.

There will be a follow-up post, talking about the merits of Pathfinder over old school as well. Thought folks might find it interesting, as it did well at BlackGate.

Same text with minor changes to game play examples. But there will be two new adventures included.

I'm looking forward to the stretch goals, as this thing funded in less than a day.

We had our second session in my S&W game last night. The party was undamaged, though the dwarf fighter marched up to a door covered with purple moss, yanked it open and was immediately rendered unconscious. The thief grabbed him with a grappling hook on the second try and the party dragged him out of the room.

The World of Warcrafter (playing a Ranger) again commented that she is still thinking like an MMO player and hasn't re-oriented herself to the pen and paper style. That's something I'm watching in the decision making processes.

I need to dig into the S&W rules. The Goblin Shaman had a Sleep spell, with no save. It can't just put the whole party to sleep, ending the adventure...

Glory Hole Dwarven Mine was a Judges Guild delve for AD&D.

Axe of the Dwarvish Lords was a TSR module for AD&D.

Erik Mona has said several times he dislikes dwarves. A dwarven AP seems unlikely, sad to say.

Terquem - I had players explaining stuff to me when I ran a couple of PlayByPost games here on the Pathfinder forums. And I had limited options to just the Core Rulebook!

I just ran a Swords & Wizardry session today at lunch for 3 players with a total of two sessions experience between them. I was trying to figure out the AC table (I'd been using the descending system, and this adventure used ascending). Nobody was an expert in this game. But the Cleric rolled a 1 and lost her mace while fighting a zombie. Everybody laughed!

I would just find the system/rule set you like and go with it, whether you're GMing or playing. And let the chips fall where they may. I plan on taking the S&W group over to Pathfinder after we finish Grimmsgate. Then I'll see which system they liked more - the older, rules-light one, or the weighty, complex Pathfinder one.

I try to reference things by Gygax' book because that was the idea behind this thread. But you need a sense of context for some of it. Like the ridiculous requirements in his Outline of Mastery.

I didn't work that hard on my Master's Thesis!

Welcome to Terquem and Rannik. And also to John Robey. I hope you'll have a shorter time span between posts this time around!

Seriously, it's great to see more folks engage in the conversations around this topic. We're near the end of Gygax' steps, so the conversation has drifted a bit, but I think the posts are still germane to those interested in the original posts about Gygax' steps to role playing mastery. And I think they're still interesting.

And I'll try to work in some other material from that book that wasn't part of the 17 steps.

Was browsing through Pathfinder's Strategy Guide, written by head Kobold Wolfgang Bauer. The book, which is pretty neat, is designed to help those new to RPGs (it's still got useful stuff for experienced players). I came across this sidebar:

The purpose of all the rules in the Pathfinder RPG is to help you
breathe life into your characters and the world they explore. There’s
no “right” or “wrong” balance of combat and narrative modes in a
Pathfinder game session. The right balance is the one most enjoyable
to your particular players and Game Master. The rules are your toolset, and you can adapt them to suit the type of play you most enjoy. Above all, have fun!

Specifically mentioning "combat and narrative modes,' it directly addresses balance in what we've been talking about as old school vs. modern approaches to RPGing. And it specifically incorporates that balance into the purpose of Pathfinder rules.

And it specifically supports Rannik's last sentence!

MendedWall12 wrote:

Roll 2 twenties and hope for low numbers!!!! UGH! That goes against every fiber of my gamer being. NOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! Make it stop.

Yeah, it was a strange read. That, and using a d6 for damage, with 1-2 and 6 resulting in damage...

The "Zones" idea was interesting and struck me as a bit more old schoolish than modern movement.

Doom Pool, Momentum, I figure there must be other alternative systems somewhat like this out there, but I've never seen one.

Once I get a handle on it and the Conan core rulebook comes out, I'll write a Black Gate post on the system. Definitely nothing like my RPG upbringing.

On an unrelated note, I backed the new Conan RPG, coming from Modiphius. It uses the 2d20 system, which I was totally unfamiliar with. I downloaded the quickstart quide from RPG Drive thru for free.

This is a very different way to play from D&D/Pathfinder. For me, at least. I didn't get most of it on the first try and am going to read it a few more times. Combat seems to be handled quite differently from old and new school.

I will say that I expect the Conan content aspect to be phenomenal.

Was reading the Conan RPG rules (1st Edition) and came across this:

The first and most important rule of Conan the Roleplaying Game is that if you do not like it, change it. Games Masters and players should work together to create involving, exciting and, above all, fun stories. As such, you do not have to memorise every rule in this book in order to enjoy playing Conan the Roleplaying Game.

BTW, if you're a Conan fan (and I think REH is still the best fantasy author we've seen yet), Mongoose's Conan (both editions), which uses the d20 OGL, is fantastic reading.

Digitalelf wrote:
I'm a stickler for the rules myself. And in general, I tend to dislike seeing things like what Frog God Games did in the example above.

This aspect of rules discussion is more GM-oriented. I'll swing it the other way and mention that the very first of Gygax' Steps to Role Playing Mastery is to Know the Rules (as a player). The following is from one of the very first posts in this thread:

1 Study the rules of your chosen role-playing game. Being intimately familiar with the rules structure is essential to understanding what you are doing, and understanding is the foundation of mastery.

He makes the point that simply memorizing a bunch of passages is not sufficient. Memorizing does not mean understanding (I like that phrase). It is not enough to know what is in the rules, but how the components all work together with each other. He discusses the problems faced by the rules writers, such as taking the make believe of dragons and spaceships and making them seem real. Quantification and mechanics must translate into an experience that brings to life the game environment.

As a player, whether the rules are inadequate or overwhelming, you must understand both the rules and the spirit of the game (Step #3). It is this accepted combination that leads to such exasperation with rules lawyers who focus solely on Step 1 and have no use for Step 3.

An adept GM can help overcome player shortcomings in the area of rules knowledge. But if the player consistently makes mistakes with movement or feats during combat rounds, the gameplay will be impacted negatively. Likewise, forgetting that a paladin has smite evil available can be the difference between success and failure. Two players understanding the rules for flanking is going to be much more effective than if only one does. Hard to flank by yourself!

There's certainly some merit in a point of view that says, 'If I take the effort as a player to learn the rules and how to make them work in the game, the GM shouldn't be changing them at a whim!'

Elf - I'm guessing that, because the module was written for 3rd Edition, then updated for Pathfinder, they kept the half-races in for S&W out of ease of conversion.

I'm mostly a 'follow the rules' for the foundation, but as with most things, there's middle ground. If I change the flying rules mid-game, that's probably not fair to the player. But if I decide that I need an Elven Cleric for something, I'll go with it.

Tim Kask, who was (I think) the second person hired by Gary Gygax (after Rob Kuntz) at TSR and one of the first players and contributors to D&D, says the following in the introduction to the S&W Complete Rules:

For thirty-five years, I have been telling role-playing gamers to ignore rules that they do not like. The essence of RPGing is in the story, not the accomplishment of arbitrary goals and benchmarks. We all take part in creating the story; the GM writes an outline, tots up a list of “plot elements,” and then sets the players loose to fill in the details. This has never changed.

What you hold in your hand are guidelines; this is one set of “rules” that has an internal integrity that makes it work. Is it the only way to
play? Certainly not; from the very beginning of role-playing GMs have
been encouraged to extrapolate and interpret, to make the game their
own. If a given rule does not seem “right” to you, then ignore it!

Or, better still, change it! Make your game or campaign your own. All
GMs need to worry about is keeping a “logical reality” active in their
campaigns; the players rely on that logic to find their way through the
perils and puzzles of the adventure.

The truest test of whether or not you are doing it right has always been
two-fold: are you having fun, and do your players keep showing up every
session? If you can answer yes to either, you’re on the right path. If you can answer in the affirmative to both, you have the “right” of it. From the very conception of RPGing, the whole idea was to have fun. We showed the world a new way to do it, but we never said there was only one way.

I don't go as far as Tim (it's too loosey-goosey for me), but it's certainly very much out of the Dave Arneson/Dave Hargrave approach to the game. And that's pretty much at the roots.

I was looking through Frog God Games' 'The Lost City of Barakus,' as I hold out hope that the Swords & Wizardry group will want to roam around that mini-campaign after the current adventure wraps up. The following was in a sidebar:

Frog Gods, why can’t you stick to the rules?

Yes, we break the rules (again) in this book. We are assuming (and you know what that does) that you are using the Swords & Wizardry Complete ruleset with this product. Now, there are certainly other OSR rules that can be used to enjoy this adventure, but we like the think we have a pretty good set to take care of your needs.

However, with that said, we break the rules as set down in the Complete rulebook. In this adventure, you will find half-drow, half-orcs, halfling monks, etc. We are strong proponents that story should trump rules. As long as it makes sense! So, we play a little fast and loose with racial restrictions.

If this causes a problem for the Referee, simply use a similar
race to emulate the NPCs found within this adventure.

Now, the S&W rules set is theirs. And Barakus (which was a 3rd Edition classic from Necromancer Games) is theirs. So, they can do anything they want with it, willy-nilly. But I think they approach it exactly the right way.

'Story should trump rules. As long as it makes sense!' Yes. And they offer a simple, self-contained solution for the GM if they don't want to step outside the rules.

It's a little thing, but I think it's deftly done.

For coverage of actual early games and sheer amount of information (including some speculation), Kent David Kelly's 'Hawk and Moor' series is tough to beat. Five lengthy volumes, plus another book on the Steam Tunnel incident.

These books deserve more attention than they've received.

Designers & Dragons is a great reference.

In another Creighton Broadhust post I liked so much I'm going to do a Black Gate post around it, he talked about what 'old school' meant to him. I think he's got a pretty solid approach in wanting to run games with that story-telling, early style of play, with the plethora of customer characterization options and deep combat mechanics of Pathfinder. That hybrid, that merging, is an approach that works to incorporate what some people think is the best of both gaming systems.

"The rules in Old School games are often much lighter and play is quicker than later editions. For me, I like the rich depth and complexity of systems such as 3.5 and Pathfinder.

I like the customisability of players’ characters (and their enemies) and the tactical options available for combat. I don’t necessarily see this as incompatible with an Old School style of play – it’s just a challenge to marry the two"

Now, if you think options and rules bloat is out of control in Pathfinder (I've commented on that throughout the life of this thread), you aren't necessarily viewing it the same way he is. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Most of us have acknowledged there are merits in both approaches. They can be manipulated (I think it's easier to run a Pathfinder game with old school principles than the other way around).

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