Thursday, May 16, 2013

Basic Fantasy: The Players

One of the main reasons that I wanted to run an Old School D&D game was because of my friends, Jess and Darryl. I met them through a mutual friend and played a lot of Magic: the Gathering with them. Darryl had played AD&D and a bunch of the Palladium games (Rifts, TMNT, Robotech) as a teenager and wanted to start playing again. Jess had never played D&D or any RPGs before. They both played World of Warcraft a lot, so they were already fans of the fantasy genre. Jess's daughter Erica also expressed interest in D&D, probably from hearing Darryl's stories of his 'glory days.'

My fiancee Jessica was also very new to role-playing. Since we'd met, I introduced her to Magic and she played in our weekly D&D 3.5 game, as well a very short lived Pathfinder game. However, she didn't really have any of the "raid-the-dungeon, kill-the-goblins, steal-the-treasure, fight-the-dragon" experiences and I wanted to make sure she had some of those early on, to make sure she was hooked on gaming.

So, I had three inexperienced players and one veteran who hadn't played in a while. I wanted to try to make sure the girls had a good first experience with role-playing. All too often, I've found that some gamers make it too difficult for new players to get into games. They might have the best intentions, but sometimes they go overboard on character optimization or trying to explain ALL of the rules at once and end up driving people away. I wanted to avoid that here.

(*Sidenote* One of my biggest peeves about teaching Magic: the Gathering to new players was how many people told me "Well, my friend/boyfriend/brother taught me how to play once, but they used a really good deck and killed me right away, so I thought the game as dumb." As someone who is teaching a game, you have to try to emphasize the positive aspects, rather than use it as an ego boost. I always felt that I had "won" when new players actually wanted to play Magic again. *End sidenote*)

I thought really hard about what game to run. I had the most experience (and the most books) for D&D 3.5, but I felt that the complexity might scare away Jess and Erica. It's one thing to add a new player to an existing gaming group (I we did with Jessica), but to try to teach a complicated system like that to four players at the same time didn't seem like a do-able goal. Darryl had mentioned Rifts or TMNT, but I felt again that those might be too complex for new players.

When I came upon Basic Fantasy, I thought "This is it! This is the game!" It had all the fantasy tropes that they were already familiar with from WoW and Lord of the Rings. The system was relatively simple, especially with ascending AC and attack bonuses, but it would definitely provide the feel and style that I was going for. I proposed it to everyone and they were all for it. We set up a time to get together, create characters and play our first session.

I was pretty excited. Some of my first glimpses of D&D where from the Basic Set and Keep on the Borderlands. That style of gaming will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. Here was a way to FINALLY be able to play and to give a group of friends a good first role-playing experience at the same time. I was psyched! 

Basic Fantasy: Choosing Basic Fantasy

So, the main reason that I started this blog was to talk about the Basic Fantasy game that I'm currently running and to detail some of the house rules and other content that I've created for it. In this post, I'll talk a little about how I chose BF.

I originally learned about the Old School Renaissance on the Role-playing Games Stack Exchange site. (This is a blatant plug to that amazing gaming resource.) Because I had always loved the feel of Original D&D and AD&D, but hadn't had many chances to play it, I decided to check out some of the different systems that were out there. The fact that most of the rules sets were completely free helped a lot!

After going on a downloading binge, I started paging through the PDFs. Right away, I got really excited. These products had that Old School feel that I was looking for. I loved the simple layouts and evocative, if sometimes cringe-worthy artwork. As I looked through more, I came to the realization that I NEEDED to play one of these and experience the stuff that I had missed out on.

There were a few things that I wanted in my game going into it. One, I wanted a game that was relatively simple. While I love D&D 3.5, there is simply too much content and the game gets too complicated at certain points. Part of the Old School appeal, in my opinion, was working from a much simpler base.

Two, I wanted to retain parts of the system that I felt D&D 3.0/3.5 improved on from AD&D 2nd Edition, the edition I started on. Ascending Armor Class was a must-have. While the older, descending AC is certainly classic, I felt that ascending AC to calculate and for people to understand. I also wanted to retain Base Attack Bonus. It's so much simpler than THAC0, and, while I love random tables, the Attack Matrices of D&D just rub me the wrong way.

Third, I wanted a system that separated out race and class. With the creation of so many MMORPGs, I felt that saying to a player "You're just a dwarf. You have no other profession." was undesirable. IMHO, a race and class combination just makes more senses than racial character classes.

After looking through several games, Basic Fantasy fit the bill the best. It had the features I wanted combined with the Old School feel.  I fell in love with the PDF of the rulebook and soon ordered a hard copy of it. I was also very impressed with the additional content that they had on their page, in the form of character and race supplements, along with some adventures.

So far, I've been very happy with the system. It provides the right amount of structure without adding too many complications. I'm sure those will come with time, but right now it's consistently providing a framework for some pretty awesome gaming experiences.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My History of Gaming: The Big 2

It's hard to remember exactly how I became a huge fan of fantasy literature and Dungeons and Dragons. There are two events that stick out in my mind, but I'm not sure of the exact chronology of them.

1) An Unexpected Present

Gollum is way damn creepy!

One Christmas, probably around 1989, my Grandma got me the boxed set of the Lord of the Rings books, including the Hobbit. Since I was already a big reader, this was pretty awesome. I think that at the time, I was a little disappointed, mostly because I hadn't heard of these books before and didn't know what I was getting into. Also, the cover to the Hobbit was super creepy and it kind of scared me a bit.

My mom started reading these to me before bed, and I was hooked. The Hobbit is an amazing book for a young kid, mainly because it's so easy to identify with Bilbo. He's used to having a good life and several square meals, just like (most) kids are used to. Then he gets thrust into a world of adventure, with dwarves, trolls, elves, goblins, skinchangers, spiders, more elves, dragons and treasure. To my young brain, this stuff was the bomb!

She eventually finished reading me the series and I'd revisit it a lot over the years. I managed to find an older copy of the Hobbit in our grade school library, which I proceeded to read myself. Since then, I lost track of how many times I've re-read it. To keep the tradition going, I'm going to read it aloud to my own son, who's now 4 and a half. (He's already seen the movie, but I'm going to read it to him anyway.)

The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings was a huge influence on my tastes at the time. I'd later move on the Terry Brooks and the Shannara series as well as the Dragonlance Chronicles, but Tolkien shaped what I liked. It's not very often that you can trace what's now a huge part of your life back to a single point, but getting those books was definitely a turning point. Thanks Grandma!

2) Here There Be Dragons
D&D Basic Set, baby!

One day while I was at my friend Alec's house, we found some old Dungeons and Dragons stuff that his dad had. I didn't know it at the time, but this would have a huge effect on my life as well. I remember the flimsy cardboard box that it was in and the strange, baby blue dice that were with it. Trying to decipher the rulebooks was like reading a foreign language. If I remember correctly, some of the pamphlets in the box were missing, so we only had a piece of this strange puzzle.

However, the box included The Keep on the Borderlands which is one of the most awesome things ever written for D&D. (Your Mileage May Vary.) I really sunk my teeth into the description of the Keep and the nearby monster lairs. I remember pouring over the descriptions of the buildings and their inhabitants and their secret caches of treasure. I remember thinking "Why does it give stats for the Jeweler? Would you fight him? And how would you know to search for the loose stone in the fireplace to find his treasure?"

I really wish that I could say that we talked to his Dad at this point and played our first game. That was not to be though. I was way more interested in the game than Alec was and I don't think that we asked his Dad about it at all. However, he did give me some of the minatures that went with it and he'd later trade the dice to my friend David, who was my first DM.

These two events would give me my first glimpse into the world of fantasy literature and role-playing, but it would take some time before I was able to jump feet first into it. Most of that was facilitated through a board game known as Hero Quest....


Introduction to Me

Greetings and salutations! My name is Discord. (Well, not really, but that's the name I'm going to use here.) I'm in my early 30s and I've been playing and running RPGs since I was about 10. I've recently discovered (re-discovered?) my love for old school Dungeons & Dragons and thought I'd start a blog to chronicle my experiments with the system. I'll talk about the games I'm running and playing in, as well as some campaign development stuff. And whatever else I happen to come up with.

Right now, I'm playing in a weekly D&D 3.5 game. (Which is nice, because I'm normally the Dungeon Master.) It's a home brew world that our DM has created. It's the same world that we played in for a previous campaign, but several thousand years after the fact. I play a Warforged Artificer with the Adamantine Body feat. So far, the Artificer class seems to be pretty good, but I'm a little bored with it. There's not really a lot of downtime to craft, and several of the other party members haven't taken advantage of my crafting, so the class feels like it doesn't have a lot to offer.

I've been playing with this group for about five or six years and we have a lot of fun. I've run several classic World of Darkness games for them in the past and a very short New World of Darkness game. In addition to RPGs, we play Small World, Fluxx (Monty Python and Space), Illuminati and Cards Against Humanity. I actually got them to try out Fiasco twice, which is nice because they tend to be more 'traditional' gamers.

We're mostly guys in our late 20s and early 30s. We had two girl gamers, but they moved away. Right now, my fiancee, Jessica, has joined us. She's new to RPGs, but has caught on really well so far, even if we do get pretty boring sometimes on rules disputes.

We also started a Star Wars D20 (Revised Core) game that meets biweekly. It's mostly the same group of guys. We've only played a couple of times, but it's been fun so far. Our ragtag group of misfits are involved in a lot of morally gray business transactions, usually involving the Hutts. I play a Rodian Scoundrel who is well on his way to becoming a bounty hunter, even if he's not very good at it.

The last game I'm running is a biweekly Basic Fantasy game. I want to talk about that one separately, so it will have it's own series of posts detailing the game and some house rules that we are using.

Thanks for reading this and I hope you stick around for more.