Gary Gygax & Role Playing Mastery


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Travelled this past weekend and finished up volume one of the Designers and Dragons kickstarter that I mentioned above.

There is just a staggering amount of information on the nascent years of role playing. And while that volume covers the seventies, it took the history of those companies into succeeding decades.

If you're at all interested in the development and early days of RPGing (which is mostly the story of D&D), you really should back this project.

For $15, I am getting pdfs of all four volumes (I've already downloaded #2, the Eighties). You can back at a lower level and get one of your choice, I think.

Just a fascinating look at things. I've already learned far more about Traveller than I ever thought I'd know.


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HolmesandWatson wrote:

Gary Gygax’s 17 Steps to Role Playing Mastery

Step Fifteen - Play In Tournaments

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

Gaming clubs exist and game conventions are held in most areas of the United States and in many locations in other countries, especially Canada and Great Britain. To achieve mastery as a player, you must eventually (if not immediately) become involved in RPG tournaments that are staged by clubs and convention organizers. These are special play sessions in which various groups of players take part in the same game adventure at different times (similar to the way a duplicate bridge tournament is run).

By comparing your performance to that of other players whose PCs were faced with the same problems and challenges, you can get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses in a way that is not available to you as long as your experience remains restricted to one or a few local campaigns.

Seems like a natural progression from Step 14 (Play Outside Your Group's Campaign Frequently).

Tournaments often spawned new modules (Ghost Tower of Inverness comes to mind and I know there were at least a couple Judges Guild tournament modules).

Of course, in Gygax' time there was no D&D Encounters, Pathfinder Society or even online play. So, you were a lot less likely to find gaming opportunities outside of your immediate group and tournaments played a larger role in steps toward Mastery as he viewed it.

Many (if not all) of the points made in Step 14 would seem to apply here. I don't know: do you think playing at Gen Con, or Origins or Paizocon will make you a better player as Gygax saw it? Do you need to compare your play to other tournament RPGers to identify your strengths and weaknesses?

Surely it doesn't hurt, but does this step really remain relevant today?

It's a bit different, I guess.

In a classic tournament setup, many groups would play the same adventure, at the same time. The only one I ever played, we had pregenerated characters.

It sounds like he's describing the value of the tournament as a science experiment. Hold as much equal as you can, changing the players at the table. Compare results. Then you will see what other groups of players did better or worse than you, learning from the experience of all N tables instead of just your own.

In my (also limited) experience with organized play... there's so much variety between GMs and parties that it's less viable to learn this way. Earlier this year, partly because a friend was suggesting we should all get PFS characters so he could play with us when we happened to be at cons, partly for something to do other than sit at a dead art table with my fiance, I played 4 games worth of PFS.

I think I had the same GM twice, and one time I had a player overlap, using a different character. Several of the players clearly knew each other due to being local. I learned some interesting things about odd builds (one of which I would have liked to have seen), but at no point did I encounter someone playing something similar enough to my own character to learn something directly about that build, or even style of playing the character type.

Organized play fits more into the general "play outside of your normal group" than into tournament, I think. There is value; you can meet new people, you can see concepts you might never see otherwise, and you can learn from all that. But it's more of a different group than a tournament lesson / experiment.


I never played in a tournament. From reading Designers and Dragons (seriously: if you are a fan of RPG history or companies that have come and gone; or even stuck around like Steve Jackson Games, this is a treasure chest) tournaments were a BIG deal in the early days.

Which makes sense I guess: packing up and heading out for a weekend of RPGing was an uncommon experience way back when.

And with Gygax' elevation of RP Mastery to almost PhD levels of respect and seriousness, tournaments were kind of the dissertation gravitas of role playing.

Thousands of people are at GenCon as I type this, playing the modern day version of tournaments. But I doubt any are viewing it in the vein that Gygax is writing about.


So, the Advanced Class Guide is out.

(Mostly due to me) we've discussed options bloat a fair bit in this thread.

So, PF has added 10 new classes and over 100 archetypes and class options. Cynically, this can be viewed as adding more 'stuff' just to sell more product.

Does anybody know if there's a race/class count for PF? We can easily determine how many of each there is in the Core Rulebook. But how many have officially been added through other core books; and even through the non-third party books, such as the Players Companion lines.

Just wondering: the longer an edition stays in play, the more options bloat (as opposed to rules bloat) can occur.


Yup, what also happen is that it becomes harder to decide what to include and what not to. Unless you just blanket ban the whole book/supplement, etc. but then there is invariably a player that just HAS to play the latest cheese build/dip combo.


@strayshift - Definitely becomes an issue for the GM, as we talked about earlier in the thread. I ran a game a PbP a couple years ago here and only allowed Core Rulebook.

The GM has to learn more and more as the options increase.


I didn't find it, but I thought that someone posted here in this thread that they created the thief class, or were part of the group that did so. Is that the case?

I got a Designers and Dragons KS update and it included the following about a bonus goal and it made me think about the thief reference here:

"While we're excited to approach Shannon's yearly updates, we're even more excited to close the gap to our $90k stretch goal, where our favorite RPG historian delves into the origin of the very first Thief class. Here's a taste...

It all began when a dwarven henchman wanted to pick locks with his dagger. The solution to this dilemma was a thief class, designed by Wagner and the rest of the Aurania gang. It was something that was rather shockingly missing from the original D&D game, which only included rules for clerics, wizards, and fighting men.

The Auranian class didn’t look quite like the one that would soon appear in OD&D and AD&D (1977-1979) because it laid its thief skills out like magic-user spells: a character got new skills with names like “pick locks”, “find traps”, and “disarm traps” as he went up in level. These skills weren’t rolled, but thieves did need higher-level versions to do more difficult things. Otherwise, the thief was built with the basic foundation of the cleric class.

It seems unlikely that an unofficial thief class created in Santa Monica, California could have influenced the creation of an official thief class in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but that seems to be exactly what happened. Sometime prior to May 10, 1974, Gary Switzer made a long-distance call from California to Wisconsin, to speak with Gary Gygax. This might seem a minor thing in the modern day, but in 1974 communication across the country was much more costly. If Switzer talked to Gygax for 10 minutes, he easily could have run up a bill of $20-40 ($100-200 in 2014 dollars). Nonetheless, Switzer was eager to talk to creator of this strange new Dungeons & Dragons game — and along the way he mentioned the thief class that the Aurania gang was working on."


HolmesandWatson wrote:

I didn't find it, but I thought that someone posted here in this thread that they created the thief class, or were part of the group that did so. Is that the case?

I got a Designers and Dragons KS update and it included the following about a bonus goal and it made me think about the thief reference here:

"While we're excited to approach Shannon's yearly updates, we're even more excited to close the gap to our $90k stretch goal, where our favorite RPG historian delves into the origin of the very first Thief class. Here's a taste...

It all began when a dwarven henchman wanted to pick locks with his dagger. The solution to this dilemma was a thief class, designed by Wagner and the rest of the Aurania gang. It was something that was rather shockingly missing from the original D&D game, which only included rules for clerics, wizards, and fighting men.

The Auranian class didn’t look quite like the one that would soon appear in OD&D and AD&D (1977-1979) because it laid its thief skills out like magic-user spells: a character got new skills with names like “pick locks”, “find traps”, and “disarm traps” as he went up in level. These skills weren’t rolled, but thieves did need higher-level versions to do more difficult things. Otherwise, the thief was built with the basic foundation of the cleric class.

It seems unlikely that an unofficial thief class created in Santa Monica, California could have influenced the creation of an official thief class in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but that seems to be exactly what happened. Sometime prior to May 10, 1974, Gary Switzer made a long-distance call from California to Wisconsin, to speak with Gary Gygax. This might seem a minor thing in the modern day, but in 1974 communication across the country was much more costly. If Switzer talked to Gygax for 10 minutes, he easily could have run up a bill of $20-40 ($100-200 in 2014 dollars). Nonetheless, Switzer was eager to talk to creator of this strange new Dungeons & Dragons game — and along the way he mentioned the thief...

Yep that's me. D.Daniel Wagner.

Had a long interview, mostly by email with Shannon.

I also exchanged emails with Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World.


Ah, cool. Thanks. The sheer amount of info in Shannon's books are amazing. I've skimmed over some stuff (like superhero RPG coverage), but there's so much on so many different companies.

I still call it 'thief' instead of rogue...


Ask and I shall receive. Since I just posted about a class count for PF, was interested to see this thread.

That's a lot of classes.


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There are a lot of classes out now, and that does raise the burden on both the GM and on any player who wants to build a character in a mechanically optimal fashion.

We're playing a Pathfinderized A Paladin in Hell now, and the GM didn't ban much, all told, but he did ban. He banned Arcanist, Gunslinger, and Summoner, and restricted us to Core Rulebook items (with stat enhancers banned).

Arcanist was banned because he feels it's overpowered (I may well agree).
Gunslinger because it's off-theme, which I'm sure is common.
Summoner was banned because he wasn't sufficiently familiar with the class to feel comfortable including it.

We also had some complaints about design decisions within the ACG, especially things like the feats and archetypes which seem designed to replace multiclassing. Though honestly, I'm not sure what I prefer; the flexibility of full 3e multiclassing is nice, but oftentimes it was frustrating to find you couldn't effectively play the concept you wanted to for X levels. Dedicated classes can provide the concept from level 1, and provide useful synergies that make a character feel complete.

For example, I like the Magus a lot because it's not just a guy who can swing a sword, and also cast arcane spells. It's a guy who can do both at once. It can feel very odd to play a hybrid who can only be one side of the hybridization on any given turn.

But we're definitely reaching the point, even in the hardcover rulebook line, where there's just too much stuff for me. I think if we stuck to the hardcovers, we'd be pretty good. It's the softcovers in the campaign setting & player companion lines which contribute a lot (and many players are sufficiently divorced from the setting that they don't actually note or comprehend the implicit restrictions on culture tied to some of those feats).

Of course, some people love that complexity. I like... some complexity. I do like being able to find synergies within the rules and make my characters more capable... but I don't like needing to search through thousands of pages of content to be able to create a character at the power level I feel is required for the game. (That requirement could be to not be chumped by the enemies, or to not be rendered irrelevant by characters built better; this latter part is exacerbated by how I tend to prefer concepts in the mid-range power level, while several friends prefer the full casters and play in games where resources are not tight.)


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Not part of the main continuity, but just reading this and the Braunstein stuff and the various other interesting tidbits from the Great Old Ones (in the RPG sense, not the Lovecraftian sense), and seeing how it fits together is interesting. It definitely is a 'Wheel of Time' effect where previous ages repeat, and all the things we see at the table now are things that have been seen before.

Stuff like this book is great, because it let's us realize this and step outside our own 'cycle' and learn some things we may have had to learn the hard way otherwise, as well as let us glimpse the next 'level' beyond the one we are achieving

But an interesting thing about this that amuses me even more is when I compare it to the classic 'alignment' D&D system and try to place these guys within it.

Gygax comes across as an EXTREMELY Lawful Neutral (with occasional Good tendencies) guy to me in his writing. It's all about 'the group' and the achievement of the whole as opposed to the individual, with the latter's achievements being a nice bonus but primarily existing to improve the former. Even the quest for "Mastery" is Monk-like in its devotion to achieve the highest self-perfection, but the purpose for doing so is to create more fun for everyone involved. I say 'Good tendencies' because, while he may list things for altruistic reasons, he's more than willing to make everyone pay some of the cost of individual enjoyment for the 'greater good', as it is not 'right' for a single person to 'win'.

But THEN you go and read about Arneson in the Braunstein bits, and there has never been a more Chaotic Neutral guy (with occasional Evil tendencies) at the table. He didn't allow the rules to constrain him, but he didn't try to 'break' them, either, he just found freedom outside their limits and thereby set an example for others. I say 'Evil tendencies' because it was mostly done for his own amusement and benefit within the game (ostensibly a selfish drive), and yet, by setting that example and raising the awareness of the other players, he was introducing them to a greater level of enjoyment than the game allowed--on purpose--while also allowing him to 'win' the listed encounter... and in the end, everyone 'won' later by how it helped lead to 'modern' RPG's.

And the best part? BOTH of these guys, with what appears to be opposite philosophies, are the ancestors of all this we enjoy now. Good times. It's no wonder they had a split, though.

---

As for all the rules bloat--that's why we have DM's. It's our job to sort out what does and does not go into the 'kitchen sink'. While 'bloat' may seem bad to most, I'm OK with all the options, just so long as the players know that not all the options will be available. On the flipside, though, I let them know specifically WHY said options aren't available.
Besides, if you think all the PF stuff is crazy bloated, try running a system that supports 3.5 and PF--AT THE SAME TIME. :p


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Rereading this thread. There is some FANTASTIC stuff in here. I am thinking of talking about some of Gygax's steps in a series of posts over at BlackGate.com.

I think I left two steps undone. I may add those in

Best discussion thread I've ever been in.


Gary Gygax’s 17 Steps to Role Playing Mastery

Step Sixteen - Make Yourself Aware of the Gaming Community and Contribute To It

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

To keep abreast of what other garners are thinking and doing, you should be a regular reader of at least one such periodical. To show evidence of your own expertise, you could prepare and submit article manuscripts to these magazines. If you are skilled enough and fortunate enough to have your writings accepted and published, then you will have accomplished something that only a few others among the millions of RPG enthusiasts can claim.

Obviously, it was a very different environment back then. The proliferation of the Internet, as well as self and small publishing options, makes contributing a lot easier. Of course, some folks start out volunteering, then freelancing, then becoming full time employees of the industry. Those have achieved a different kind of mastery. Creighton Broadhurst of Raging Swan Press is one example.

There are varying levels of activity, of course. I think my name is in the credits for Kobold's 'Dark Deeds in Freeport,' which I backed as a patron. But I stopped contributing to the development early on.

On the other hand, I've written several RPG/game-related posts over at BlackGate.com (my name is Bob Byrne) that have been read by more than just my friends. Some notable names in the fantasy field have commented or emailed me about them.

This two part series on Necromancer and Frog God Games did pretty well.

I was a subscriber to Pegasus magazine from Judges Guild, right until they folded. And I used to love looking at those old Dragon Magazines. Pathways is a good read for the Pathfinder fan. And of course, there are a slew of good blogs out there. You have several options to read about your system of choice. And to contribute to the writings of them.


One reason I came back to this thread is that I'm about to run a Swords & Wizardry Game for two members of my gaming group. One is a serious WoWer and the other has played PC/video games, with lots of Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Morrowind.

Neither has ever played a pen and paper RPG. They have played the Pathfinder Adventure Card game, and the D&D board games, with me. But this will be a new experience for them.

I've already seen elements of their electronic gaming background during character creation. And I'm sure there's going to be more, reflecting some of the stuff we talked about in this thread.

I went with a story-oriented, rules light system because I thought it would work better with them. The WoWer is playing a Druid and a Magic User in a dungeon crawl. I think they're going to have a tough time staying alive. Those classes level up to powerful pretty quickly in an MMO. Not so much in S&W.

I've got about a 2,000 word post, comparing the old style S&W aspect with a more modern game (mostly citing Pathfinder) to run over at BlackGate.com, where I blog for. It echoes some of the things we've discussed.

Should be an interesting game.


Arturius Fischer wrote:

But an interesting thing about this that amuses me even more is when I compare it to the classic 'alignment' D&D system and try to place these guys within it.

Gygax comes across as an EXTREMELY Lawful Neutral (with occasional Good tendencies) guy to me in his writing. It's all about 'the group' and the achievement of the whole as opposed to the individual...

But THEN you go and read about Arneson in the Braunstein bits...He didn't allow the rules to constrain him, but he didn't try to 'break' them, either, he just found freedom outside their limits and thereby set an example for others.

I read Kent David Kelly's 'Hawk and Moor' books. Absorbing and INCREDIBLY informative history of D&D. It's got more info on the original Gygax and Arneson sessions than anything I've seen elsewhere. And you can really see the different approach to rules and playing between the two men.

BTW, that series, which is cheap in ebook form (and free for KindleUnlimited) is almost required reading for a serious fan of D&D history.

And sorry that the thread died right when you joined. My bad.


It must have been a wild and heady time, people corresponding between groups via letters to each other and to the editors of magazines like Dragon.

These days it is easy for anyone to contribute but the quality filter is gone, we are left to fossick for our own gems in the rubble. I find myself picking up the odd Autoduel Quarterly from time to time and looking back through the years (25+) and appreciating how well the material stands up. You'd re-read an article in Dragon that was three decades old, but would you go read a forum attached to a Geocities site from 2003?

More of us can contribute, but how are we crafting?

Anyhow, I find it fascinating.


And the thread is really alive now - somebody else is back! :-)

The quality filter is certainly a salient point. A big part of the D20 bust was that anybody and everybody could put out a third party product. The market was glutted - and a lot of it was bad. And eventually the whole thing collapsed.

Likewise, I publish my own Sherlock Holmes e-newsletter. I think it's pretty good (and so do others). But what I want to put in it, goes in it. I'm the writer and the editor and the publisher. When I contributed a couple pieces to Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, it had to get past an editor. And one short story was rejected.

I find things like Paizo's RPG Superstar pretty cool. Anybody can enter, but only those deemed worthy by the judges advance. And eventually, somebody gets to design a Pathfinder module. That's a good mix of 'everybody can contribute, and a select few craft.'


Welcome back... :)

Two things that recent posts have me mulling over, bloat and the ease of introducing people to the table top with rules light (read: GM Fiat) systems.

Interestingly these two topics intersect/intertwine in a VERY weird way at my home table. Because of the remote nature of the midwest town where I live I play entirely with my sons ages 11 and 13. They love the wealth of character options that Pathfinder has available. Love it! My 11 year old is currently playing a goblin alchemist fire-bomber, and he can't get enough of blowing things up with fire. My 13 year old is currently playing a dragonborn (created using the Advanced Race Guide's race creation rules) fighter. So, like I said, they love the absolute wealth of available options in Pathfinder. Guess what they don't like? Yeah, you guessed it, the intricate complexity of how all those options affect rule interactions, and the ease (or lack there of) of running the game at the table.

Holmes, you mentioned running an S&W game for people coming to the table top from video games, this is the case with my boys as well. They played Zelda games, Runequest, Mystic Quest, and similar games. I actually introduced them to the table top at the ripe ages of 5 and 7 through an OLD board game called Dragon Strike. That is a VERY rules light game, but it has all the elements of classic D&D including the six attributes, rolling polyhedrals, gaining and using magic treasure, disabling traps, healing hit points, and magic spells. In recent months we've actually taken a hiatus from playing because the last time we ran, combat took forever because I had a LOT of rules interactions to try and keep track of, and the boys (being only 11 and 13) started to get bored. Even before the hiatus, I had spent a great deal of time looking through the new 5th edition Player's Handbook, and OH MAN! do I like what I see there. But I asked the boys if they wanted to switch systems, and they both (even though the 13 year old could still play a dragonborn fighter) agreed that they like the character options in Pathfinder more than they dislike the wonky rules interactions. However, that doesn't change the fact that I'm having trouble getting both of them back to the table to game, since the last time-sucking session.

So what's the point? Bloat is a double-edged sword, to use a bad analogy. While it is keen enough to cut to the heart of being able to build the exact character that a player wants, it also slices the rules up into so many small and disorganized segments, that it makes playing those characters much more difficult. I am heavily leaning toward starting my boys off afresh with the new 5th edition rules, (whether they like it or not) and teaching them that you can play a "goblin alchemist fire bomber," you just have to realize that the chassis of the that character is a gnome wizard that focuses on fire-damaging AoE spells.


Mended Wall - great to see you on the thread. I feel like you're the co-moderator with me!

We certainly talked about bloat previously in this thread (options and rules) - mostly because I strongly disliked it. I have softened over the past couple of years and am more along the lines of just ignoring what I don't like. And not playing or allowing whatever I don't want in the game - say, a gunslinger. Just because it's out there... But I still think the more crappy stuff that is produced, it does diminish the game system at least a bit. But that's not a big deal.

I think I could have started them with Pathfinder and it would have gone fine (though since they're each running two characters, that might have been tougher to keep straight).

But between those two and me, I know it would have been tougher to run the game than I expect Swords & Wizardry to be. And I was also attracted to the heavier story-telling element of S&W.

I've got a 2,000 word post lined up for BlackGate.com, looking at the different play styles between an old school game like S&W and a more modern one, like Pathfinder. I'll talk about some of those elements after the post runs.

Some of the gamers over at Black Gate have been very impressed with 5th Edition and its return to a more traditional D&D feel. I haven't looked at it myself. But compared to 4th Edition, the response has certainly been glowing.


I'll look forward to reading your post. :)

Grand Lodge

Since my last post to this thread (way back in December of 2013), I stopped playing Pathfinder/3.x altogether and went back to running 2nd Edition AD&D. And though dated, I adhere to many, if not most of the old play-style philosophies discussed in Role-Playing Mastery and Master of the Game (as well as other sources such as the older issues of Dragon Magazine).

It's been a wonderful experience having gone back, and I do not miss Pathfinder's/3.x's rules minutia, bloat, or the hours-long combats a single bit.


Mended - I was going to send you Word file, but I see that you can't message files here. Oh well - it will have a couple of nice pictures once it's posted...

I'll do another post here in the thread in a week or two (don't want to empty the pistol here on the first few days back) about a recent Black Gate post I did on Dungeon!.

I had it as a kid. And now I'm playing the latest version with my kid, some forty years later. I am really am impressed with the balancing and the accomplishment of a multi-level board game everyone can play at once.

And digging into the history, I found it went directly back to Dave Arneson's 'Blackmoor.'

Quite a nice little board game.


Hi Elf!

I started with a bit of 2nd Edition, but AD&D was the game I played the most and am still the most fond of.

Matt Finch (creator of Swords & Wizardry and the original Labyrinth Lord) wrote a pretty neat document called 'A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming' that does a nice job talking about the different approaches to the earlier RPG versions and the modern ones.

For example, "Rulings, not Rules" and "Player Skill, not Character (sheet) Abilities.'

It's the basis of my upcoming Swords & Wizardry post for BlackGate.com. It's a free download (can't get to the link here on this PC).

You might find it aligned with your feelings towards going back to AD&D.


I'm hoping some folks join the thread from newer circles I move in. Here's a summary of Gygax's 17 Steps, which formed the core of this thread:

1. Study the rules of your chosen role-playing game

2. Learn the goal(s) of the game

3. Discover the spirit of the game, and make it your credo in play

4. Know the genre in which the game is set, and study it often

5. Remember that the real you and your game persona are different.

6. Know your team’s PCs and those who play them.

7. Know the campaign in which you play.

8. Understand the role of the game master and assist its fulfillment.

9. Role-play your character fully and correctly.

10. Always seek to contribute the most to the team’s success.

11. Put forth your personal best during play.

12. Play as frequently as possible.

13. Play various characters as often as possible in as many different circumstances as possible.

14. Play outside your group’s campaign frequently.

15. Play in tournaments

16. Make yourself aware of the gaming community and contribute to it.

17. Continue to learn and grow even after you achieve mastery

Grand Lodge

HolmesandWatson wrote:
You might find it aligned with your feelings towards going back to AD&D.

Oh yes! I discovered that document around the time that the whole OSR "movement" was still relatively new. I make it required reading for my players. :-)

Here is the link to it on Lulu.com: A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming


Thanks Elf. I think that's the link I use in the upcoming Black Gate post. Matt Lynch provided some comments for the Frog God Games post I did. Nice guy. He wrote Hall of Bones, the S&W "intro" module I'm going to use to introduce my two gamer group friends to pen and paper RPGing.

Grand Lodge

HolmesandWatson wrote:
He wrote Hall of Bones, the S&W "intro" module I'm going to use to introduce my two gamer group friends to pen and paper RPGing.

If you're talking about the "Free RPG Day" Adventure of the same name (i.e. Hall of Bones), it was written by Bill Webb of Frog God Games, which also produced a more "complete" version of S&W.


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Placeholder "dot" / "tag" to remind me to finish reading one of the best threads I've come across in many a year... .


Elf - that is right. I was thinking of Matt's Grimmsgate, which I considered. But we are doing Bones.

And we are using S&W complete.

Grand Lodge

HolmesandWatson wrote:
we are using S&W complete.

Do you prefer OSR games (retro-clones as well as the originals) or newer games such as Pathfinder; or a mixture of the two?


Elf - Pathfinder is the only system I've had even a casual acquaintance with in the last decade or so. I do like the mechanics; I like Golarion quite a bit and I like Paizo. So, I'm a fan.

But the options bloat has just become too much for me, on top of the game's complexity. About a year ago, I started reading Swords & Wizardry stuff at the suggestion of Howard Andrew Jones, a fantasy author (including some Pathfinder titles).

I like it: it's much better organized than Original D&D. And it's got quite the focus on storytelling and verbal play. So, I'm looking forward to running a game. And also seeing how non-pen and paper PC players like it.

Grand Lodge

HolmesandWatson wrote:
And also seeing how non-pen and paper PC players like it.

When I introduced my wife to gaming, who had never played a ttrpg before, I was playing 3rd edition D&D... Having moved to 2nd edition, my wife actually prefers it over the more rules-heavy 3rd edition/Pathfinder.

As far as S&W is concerned...

I've never played it, though I have a lot of material for it; and I really like what I've read.

I look forward to reading about your experiences with it.


Digitalelf wrote:


I look forward to reading about your experiences with it.

Likewise! :)


We rolled up our characters at lunch earlier this week. Here's an excerpt from the upcoming Black Gate post:

So, I had to choose a method for rolling up a character. I’ve done that many different ways over the years. I considered a couple and went with letting the player roll three sets of six 3D6. They picked which set they wanted to use, then assigned the scores to the six attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma).

This gave them some flexibility, but still put some constraints on them. The Baldur’s Gate player grumbled he just wanted to reroll until he got a set he wanted, which is how PC games work. Then, you can add and subtract from the rolls to get the attribute scores you want. Nope.

He also downloaded a dice rolling app on his phone, but I disallowed it. I told him there’s something to the sound of those dice bouncing on the table (or off the table onto the floor…).

Since this is their first game and I want them to enjoy the experience, after they picked which set to use, I let them reroll the lowest value. That helped one player (to no real effect), while the other player rolled the same number.

Each player will be running two characters, with me running an NPC. The Baldur’s Gate player took a Fighter and a Thief. For going through the Hall of Bones, that is a pretty good combo, as they could see traps, and as you’ll agree in the next paragraph, a tank is going to be huge.

The MMOer chose a Druid and a Magic User. I think those reflect their gaming background. In an MMO, those are classes that can become powerful quickly. Especially if the Druid is some kind of shaman class that can shapeshift.

But they will both have only one spell at first level; have 1d4 hit points; and the Magic User can’t wear armor, while the Druid can only wear leather. In a dungeon. To get that outdoors feel, a Ranger would probably have been a better choice. I see a lot of “I ready my sling” from that player.

I'm really going to be keeping an eye on how their videogame backgrounds color their play. As we've previously discussed in this thread, I think there's something to it. And that it's interesting.

I try to write gender neutral. But reading this, it's going to make more sense to use 'he' and 'she.' Need to fix that.


Funny! When we roll up characters at my table I always use pick the best set from three sets of six from 4d6 drop the lowest number. This will create slightly bigger numbers for the attributes than a straight 3d6. I also, then, let them assign the numbers where they want. I was just reading about the Legend RPG the other day. You can download the full rulebook for free, which is quite nice. They have a set array for ALL characters, as their recommendation. The character can put the numbers from the array wherever they choose, but the developers strongly recommend everyone just uses the array. That idea intrigued me because of the absolute balance that it brings, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized a little "imbalance" in character creation isn't necessarily an evil. The world is full of people that are very complex in terms of physical and mental build, and, for me, I want my game world to reflect that. This creates almost a dilemma of conscience for me, because I've complained on these boards in various places about Patfinder's brokenness, and many times that brokenness comes in terms of balance of power between characters. Once I admitted to myself that I like a little imbalance, it forced me to question whether or not the game's inherent imbalance is necessarily a bad thing. What I came up with, eventually, is that there's a difference between a little imbalance of power between characters because of dice rolls, and player choice, and the level of imbalance that makes one class almost unplayable when compared to another at high levels.


4d6 and drop one - totally forgot about that. I think that's actually my favorite method.

Regarding character creation, I came across something in the S&W Rule Book I'll talk about more for the thread soon.

There are no minimum ability scores for a class: i.e., 17 Charisma for a Paladin. Instead, there are 1-3 'minimum targets' for each class. For example, for the Druid, it's a 13 Charisma and a 13 Wisdom. If you meet your target minimum, you get a 5% XP bonus. And they stack, so the Druid could get a 10% bonus (I think the Assassin is the only one with three targets).

So, you can play any class, regardless of your rolls (of course, you still want to have high scores in the key abilities), but you can get an XP bonus based on your choice and your rolls.

I think that's worthy of discussion.


MendedWall12 wrote:
Funny! When we roll up characters at my table I always use pick the best set from three sets of six from 4d6 drop the lowest number. This will create slightly bigger numbers for the attributes than a straight 3d6. I also, then, let them assign the numbers where they want. I was just reading about the Legend RPG the other day. You can download the full rulebook for free, which is quite nice.

I see that Legend seems to be the same as, or a revision to, Runequest II. Never checked out Runequest, though it's got a pretty admirable history of being an enduring RPG.


HolmesandWatson wrote:

4d6 and drop one - totally forgot about that. I think that's actually my favorite method.

Regarding character creation, I came across something in the S&W Rule Book I'll talk about more for the thread soon.

There are no minimum ability scores for a class: i.e., 17 Charisma for a Paladin. Instead, there are 1-3 'minimum targets' for each class. For example, for the Druid, it's a 13 Charisma and a 13 Wisdom. If you meet your target minimum, you get a 5% XP bonus. And they stack, so the Druid could get a 10% bonus (I think the Assassin is the only one with three targets).

So, you can play any class, regardless of your rolls (of course, you still want to have high scores in the key abilities), but you can get an XP bonus based on your choice and your rolls.

I think that's worthy of discussion.

That's the old prime requisite bonus from AD&D. I don't recall the numbers, but it was definitely there. Don't think they stacked - if there was more than one, you needed both to get anything.

I'm less fond of the idea than I was back then, but I've moved away from individual experience in general anyway. It's also another way to boost the power of characters with lucky rolls, making them even more powerful over time than the unlucky ones.

Edit: Actually, looking at the online S&W rules, I don't think they stack. You need all the prime attributes to be over the limit to get the 5%:

Druid wrote:
a druid character gains a +5% experience bonus only if both their Wisdom and Charisma are 13 or higher.

Which is what I remember from AD&D, though I don't think they were all 13 back then.


And AD&D had minimum ability scores for classes as well? I don't remember all the distinctions between versions.

I view the Prime Requisite as an alternative to minimum scores.

What do you mean by "moved away from individual experience?" What alternative do you use?

And welcome back!


HolmesandWatson wrote:

And AD&D had minimum ability scores for classes as well? I don't remember all the distinctions between versions.

I view the Prime Requisite as an alternative to minimum scores.

What do you mean by "moved away from individual experience?" What alternative do you use?

And welcome back!

AD&D had both. Every class had minimums, though some were absurdly low. Minimums as barriers to entry. Prime requisites gave bonuses for being exceptional. I believe that carried through to 2E. Don't think it was in basic.

Either just handing out experience to keep everyone at the same point or preferably fiat leveling. Fiat wouldn't work well in a system with different xp requirements for different classes obviously. Or in non-class/level based systems even more obviously.
I don't like to prioritize "I'm getting more powerful" as a goal, so I like to keep xp in the background.

I'm not exactly old school. :)


Looking back at the 16th Step (Make Yourself Aware of the Gaming Community and Contribute To It):

I subscribed to Pegasus Magazine, and I read my friend's copy of Dragon. And occasionally he would buy White Dwarf, though that seemed like an odd magazine to me. Probably because it had a UK sensibility.

But it never occurred to me to send in an article to one of those back then. Of course, at the time I had no aspirations of being a writer, either.

As Shifty said, it's easy to contribute to the field today. And there is no shortage of RPG blogs, whatever style of gaming you prefer.

I mentioned that I participated in Kobold's Patron campaign for Dark Deeds in Freeport. And Rite Publishing was doing a similar thing at the time. But it seems like those 'community participation' methods have petered out - perhaps replaced by Kickstarters. Might be worth asking Wolfgang Bauer about the shift Kobold made from patron projects to Kickstarters.

Anywhoo...During Dark Deeds, the project leader simply dropped out and Christina Stiles stepped up to take it over. And she has gone on to an active RPG design career. So, she put herself into the process and took advantage of opportunities.

Grand Lodge

thejeff wrote:
I believe that carried through to 2E.

Yeah, it carried over into 2e, and the numbers are pretty much the same as they were in 1e.

Grand Lodge

HolmesandWatson wrote:
it never occurred to me to send in an article to one of those back then.

The thought did occur to me back in the day, but I did not think that my writing was very good, so I never submitted anything... I regret never having done so. :-(

But like you, my name appears in several of those Kobold Press, Rite Publishing, and Frog God Games Patron Projects.

Dark Archive

Is videogaming and TTRPGs mutually exclusive from one another, or can I do both, I don't get it?

Grand Lodge

Of course you can do both.

But we're talking about a book about table-top gaming written in the mid 1980's by EGG himself. Video games were around back then, but they were certainly not like they are today; and so had very little effect on TTRPGs.

Many players likewise came to the game (back then) with different expectations and influences than many player do today (exactly because of those differing expectations and influences).


I was a rusted on 2nd Ed player, but stopped playing RPG's around 1996, drifting over to CRPGS and MMO's. I got back to the hobby when introduced to the Pathfinder beta just as the game was set to go live.

Interesting times, and I concur with some of the concerns above - there is just so much material in the softcovers that although 'bloat' allows you freedom to really build a character, the amount of books to shuffle through has become enormous. I no longer bother opening the PDF's or books anymore, I simply refer to online sources (PRD/D20PFSRD/Archives of Nethys) as I can look up what I need far quicker.

With that said, Pathfinder is starting to get somewhat 'newbie unfriendly', as there is just so many options in so many disparate locations it just confuses people.

Not like the good old days with a Players Handbook in one hand, and Unearthed Arcana in the other.

***

Back to the earlier point, there is no doubt a lot of different forums and places to contribute, but the (to me) lack of clear central repository for the collected wisdom which Dragon Magazine was is missing.

It just seems a lost era.

I miss re-discovering an old article in an ancient volume - an abandoned webpage witha million broken links just doesn't have the same x factor.


NenkotaMoon wrote:
Is videogaming and TTRPGs mutually exclusive from one another, or can I do both, I don't get it?

Hi Nenkota - welcome to the thread!

And no, they're not mutually exclusive.

The core of this thread is a look at Gary Gygax' thoughts on how to become a master role player, from a book he wrote. He had some interesting thoughts, and since he wrote the book in the eighties, some of it is quite different from what people think about RPGs today.

And the discussion has roamed into other thoughts on RPGs - now and then. One I've brought up is that there's a generation of gamers who did not play pen an paper RPGs. Or not until well after they'd been video (including PC) gamers.

And I think that, for the most part, video game RPGers view a lot of things differently than a pen and paper RPGer. Like death, leveling up, role playing interaction, whatever.

Not saying good or bad - just different. And something for discussion.

As I mentioned, I'm going to run two video/PC gamers through their first ever pen and paper RPG (we may be adding a third player, who is a D&D veteran of both pen and paper and PC). Thus, thoughts on what they view differently.

Your thoughts certainly welcome here.


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Shifty - I get it. While I don't find Pegasus (from Judges Guild) worth going back to, I still peruse some Dragon articles once in awhile. There was pretty high quality stuff in it.

I'm not the biggest WotC fan, and they don't strike me as the kind of company to put back issues, or a lot of articles from said issues, online for free. So, unless you've still got your copies...

I do have a pdf (somewhere) of the Dragon Compendium Vol 1. That's got some neat stuff.


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HolmesandWatson wrote:

4d6 and drop one - totally forgot about that. I think that's actually my favorite method.

4D6 drop one, re-roll ones.

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