Resets Within the System #RPG #DnD #ADnD

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

As I’m continuing my data entry of 1e monsters into my database, I relearned a rule I don’t ever recall from my 1e days: Magic resistance isn’t a constant. A monster’s magic resistance is calculated based on an 11th-level caster, adding/subtracting 5% for each caster level below/above 11th. For example, if a monster’s magic resistance is 50%, then a 10th-level caster has only a 45% chance of piercing it, whereas a 12th-level caster has a 55% chance of piercing it. Once again, this sent me down a rabbit hole, though a shallow one.

First, some obvious context. There are a lot of conditions or effects you can place on an enemy creature. These effects become available at various character levels throughout the game, getting progressively more problematic (interesting) as one progresses in level. If you give a low-level character too powerful of an arsenal, it makes the game boring because 1) it’s too easy at lower levels, or 2) if the monsters also get that same arsenal, you run out of effects to earn, and the game becomes the same for far too long during the adventuring life of your characters. Put another way, your 20-level system could have a sweet spot from levels 1-5, with levels 6-20 being identical. I’m sure this is obvious to everyone. Basic stuff.

Here’s where all of this took me. Going beyond 1e, other editions made it a lot easier, for example, to make saves. Save bonuses continued to go up, but certain abilities screwed with that system. For example, in 4e characters might eventually gain the ability to save at the start of their turn rather than the end. One response that undid the value of that ability was that some high-level characters couldn’t be hit by low-level characters no matter the attacker’s to hit modifier, weapon, or d20 roll. That was simply a feature of the NPC.

Magic resistance is a simple, open, uniform, and thus elegant way to implement this. It was a way of resetting the system when characters got to be a certain level. Monster’s still got saves, but a lot of high level spells didn’t grant saves. No worries. The monsters remained a challenge because they didn’t need a save. Magic resistance gave them a secondary sort of save. Another example that wasn’t developed this way, but should have been, was the hellfire created by 3.5e’s Mestopholes. It was fire that penetrated fire resistance, and it was said to worry Asmodeus greatly (see Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells). Something like that could have, again, more elegantly been used to reset the bloated system of resistances while still keeping things interesting. Granted, this would require a subtle touch, but 1e magic resistance didn’t piss off the masses, did it? The tiers of 4e (i.e., heroic, paragon, and epic corresponding to 10-level ranges) were perfect for such periodic adjustments. Unfortunately, the desire of game designers to hide their mechanics prevents such elegant mechanics, resulting in unnecessary bloat and math at the table.

Game designers should focus on their characters, campaign settings, and adventures. Mechanics should be streamlined.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Grading Customer Support at the DMs Guild @ChrisSSims @dms_guild @DriveThruRPG #ADnD #DnD #RPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

I’ve been prattling on for weeks as to how I’m relearning 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (“1e”) and posting images of my recent purchases from the DMs Guild. On Tuesday (8/24), I received my last shipment for the time being: The print-on-demand reprints of the 1e Players Handbook, 1e Monster Manual, and 1e Fiend Folio. This happened.

Because people have asked about the quality of the materials (addressed in this post), I think a longer story is in order. The reprinted Fiend Folio is available only in soft cover, and that apparently allowed the cover to get caught up in the glue that binds the packaging. Moreover, the ends of the packaging were open. I’m genuinely surprised that nothing fell out during shipping, but it’s clear that the books were able to move around far too much. That movement almost certainly contributed to the damage.

Here’s the thing: The product is technically usable. The only damage is to the back cover, so while that makes it “ugly,” all the substance is there. But I don’t want ugly. I’ve already arranged to purchase an original, hard copy of the Fiend Folio from a friend. As with all my 40+ year-old original copies, that will go on the shelf not taking any further abuse. Buying the reprint is about having a clean copy for my daily use, so the starting point needs to be new/mint condition. In other words, I’m being high maintenance, and perhaps unreasonably so. However, the DMs Guild is accommodating that. They sent three emails at various stages of analysis and shipped a replacement by the next morning.

I received a response from Chris Sims.

For the record, the DMs Guild uses the same engine as Drive Thru RPG. If I log into one, I can see my purchases with the other. Accordingly, Drive Thru RPG deserves the credit as well, so it’s important to mention that here. In fact, the response to my complaint was from them.

The only open question is this: Do I have to return the damaged copy? In my complaint form, I mentioned that I’d be happy to do so if they sent a return label from FedEx, UPS, or whomever. They didn’t mention that. I may be able to keep it, but I don’t want to abuse the system. If they don’t want it back, then I’ll probably give it away to someone who doesn’t mind the damage. Spread the wealth, and all that.

DMs Guild customer service is yet another reason to buy from them.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Chris S. Sims @ChrisSSims
Follow the DMs Guild @dms_guild
Follow the Drive Thru RPG @DriveThruRPG

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Musings on Game Design and Revisiting AD&D 1st Edition: Campaign Settings and Pantheons @Luddite_Vic #DnD #RPG #ADnD #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Introduction to Each Post in This Series

On Friday (July 23, 2021), I mentioned that I was relearning AD&D 1st Edition (“1e“) with the intention of running it. As I read through the Player’s Handbook (“PHB“), certain mechanics or text will strike me as odd or surprising, but in either case worthy of discussion. In fact, the most surprising thing I’m experiencing is that I’m finding a lot more great ideas in 1e that we’ve since abandoned. I find myself asking, “Why?” As a result, I’ll be writing several posts over the next few weeks. I’m sure everything I’m thinking has been discussed before — sometimes be me — so perhaps my questions have been answered, and my concerns resolved, years ago. My experience with RPGs is relatively limited in scope, having played a small number of games, so I’m sure a lot of what I’m going to say has been incorporated into games I’ve never even heard of. (Some have certainly been addressed by future editions of D&D themselves.) Nevertheless, bringing this directed conversation to the public is new to me, so here it goes.

Posts in this series: | My Playlist | Campaign Settings and Pantheons | Languages | Level | “Dead Levels” | Division of Labor, Distance, and Time | Initiative | Combat Subsystems | Armor Class Ratings | Alignment and Reputation | The Feel of a School of Magic | Boring Magic Items | Ability Score Bonuses and Skill Rolls | The Problem with Democracies | Hitting More Frequently | Encounter Balance and Shooting Yourselves in the Feet |

As with my prior post, this post was written yesterday (7/25). That makes it the eighth post I’ve written in the series. It’s out of order because Mondays are for mythology, and writing something relevant to both topics is easy. So, here comes session 0.5.

A friend (Vic) and I are designing an RPG system. Our design sessions are months apart, so don’t expect this system to ever see the commercial light of day. It’s a fun exercise, so if nothing ever comes of it, I won’t feel I’ve wasted my time. As I was doing my homework on the campaign setting, a memory came to mind. In the original 1e Deities & Demigods, the chief god of the Egyptian pantheon was Ra. By 3rd Edition, it was Re-Horakhty (f/k/a, Horus). This switch mirrors the real-world switch of ancient Egypt. What we call the Egyptian empire lasted almost 3,000 years, and during those 30 centuries different dynasties held control. These dynasties were devoted to different temples, so as the dynasties rose and fell, so did the influence of the temples. Thus, the god seen as chief among the pantheon changed.

A Controversial Opinion?

As broad a view as that is, let’s go even broader and tie this to campaign setting design. First, I want to say that I believe campaign settings should be system agnostic, and game systems should be campaign setting agnostic. That is, if I want to run a campaign in the Forgotten Realms using Dragon Age RPG‘s AGE system, there’s no reason I can’t do it. Maybe I need to do a little tweaking to run Legend of the Five Rings using the Savage Worlds system, but if I can’t, the fault is on the system. Systems can and should be flexible enough to accommodate whatever story elements are needed. GMs, or at least the game designers themselves, could write a patch that addresses the needs of another setting. 1e is open-ended enough that you might think it was suited to this task, but I’m not certain that’s true. In any event, this opinion may or may not be well-received by game designers, but that’s not the point of this post; it’s just stated to give you context for my point.

A Long, Long Time Ago . . . .

Going back to my design efforts, I thought, “What if players wanted to play my game in a low-magic setting? That would certainly work in a more primitive campaign setting.” If we were inclined to create such a setting, why start from scratch? Why not just take the high-magic setting and make it more primitive? For example, the gods of the moon, sun, and sky would be the same god in a simplified pantheon. Not only would this save us a lot of work, but one setting would represent the natural evolution of the previous one, as that hypothetical god would be split into three different gods as mortals became more civilized and sophisticated. Oddly enough, that sounds like science, which branches out into an ever-increasing number of specialties the more we learn.

But wait! There’s more! A gold mine in a “wild west” setting could uncover archeological sites tied to the fantasy setting that came before it. The same could be said of a World War II setting where an occult-obsessed dictator could be looking for artifacts of great power. Depending on what type of game a DM wants to run, those artifacts could be nothing more than trinkets, or they could actually hold some form of supernatural or scientifically advanced power. Also consider that even in a high-fantasy setting, traveling the “astral plane” can take a character to space. The same setting could be adapted for the far future for a campaign resembling either Star Wars or Star Trek, and similar connections could be made.

What I’m saying is that all the campaign settings could exist as part of the same planet and universe in general. In a sense, it’s an ambitious plan, but in another sense, future efforts would be made easier by taking advantage of the ones that came before them. A large gaming company could easily do that, even one like WotC that’s already established. I suspect many people assume Theros, Faerun, and other planets all exist in the same universe, and the gods just have different names from planet to planet. In fact, I once read (can’t currently prove) that the Olman people from Greyhawk weren’t “like Aztecs,” but rather were Aztecs. Earth and Oerth were linked for some time by an interdimensional portal, so they were the same people. This might have been a fan theory, but clearly these connections are easy to make.

In an ideal world in which Vic or I win the lottery, maybe we’d commit to our efforts full time. If we did, this is definitely an idea I’d want to pursue.

Have any game designers connected campaign settings in this way?

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Vic @Luddite_Vic

If you’re on Twitter, please consider voting in my two Twitter polls.


Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Musings on Game Design and Revisiting AD&D 1st Edition: My AD&D Playlist #DnD #RPG #ADnD #music

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Introduction to Each Post in This Series

On Friday (July 23, 2021), I mentioned that I was relearning AD&D 1st Edition (“1e“) with the intention of running it. As I read through the Player’s Handbook (“PHB“), certain mechanics or text will strike me as odd or surprising, but in either case worthy of discussion. In fact, the most surprising thing I’m experiencing is that I’m finding a lot more great ideas in 1e that we’ve since abandoned. I find myself asking, “Why?” As a result, I’ll be writing several posts over the next few weeks. I’m sure everything I’m thinking has been discussed before — sometimes be me — so perhaps my questions have been answered, and my concerns resolved, years ago. My experience with RPGs is relatively limited in scope, having played a small number of games, so I’m sure a lot of what I’m going to say has been incorporated into games I’ve never even heard of. (Some have certainly been addressed by future editions of D&D themselves.) Nevertheless, bringing this directed conversation to the public is new to me, so here it goes.

Posts in this series: | My Playlist | Campaign Settings and Pantheons | Languages | Level | “Dead Levels” | Division of Labor, Distance, and Time | Initiative | Combat Subsystems | Armor Class Ratings | Alignment and Reputation | The Feel of a School of Magic | Boring Magic Items | Ability Score Bonuses and Skill Rolls | The Problem with Democracies | Hitting More Frequently | Encounter Balance and Shooting Yourselves in the Feet |

That was a big build up. I hope this doesn’t disappoint. This post was written today (7/25), which means it’s actually the seventh post I wrote in the series. Why am I front-loading it? Because Sundays are always reserved for posts that celebrate other people’s thoughts, deeds, or work; something silly; some of the above; or all of the above. That, and not game theory, is what this post is about. You should expect the same tomorrow, as Mondays are reserved for mythology. So, consider the next two days sessions 0 and 0.5 if you will.

Like all of you, when I hear a song, it takes me back to the time I first heard it and/or listened to it the most. As a result, there are a lot of songs that bring me back to 1e that wouldn’t necessarily put high fantasy into your brain. Nevertheless, if I’m at the gaming table, I don’t want to hear the 1812 Overture, the Anvil of Crom, or even Sisters of the Moon (a later-discovered song) by one of my two favorite bands, Fleetwood Mac. No, these specific versions of these songs are what I want to hear. While gaming. Seriously.

  1. Limelight, Spirit of the Radio, and Closer to the Heart by Rush;
  2. Sweet Dreams and The One That You Love by Air Supply;
  3. While You See a Chance by Stevie Winwood;
  4. Sara, Monday Morning, and Say You Love Me, Not That Funny, Rhiannon (one of the strongest vocal performances I’ve ever heard), and Landslide by Fleetwood Mac;
  5. Literally anything off of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album;
  6. Turn Your Love Around and Give Me the Night by George Benson;
  7. Goodbye Stranger, Take the Long Way Home, Fool’s Overture, and Babaji by Supertramp;
  8. Just Between You and Me and Sign of the Gypsy Queen by April Wine;
  9. Almost any song I can name by Triumph, but especially Magic Power and Fight the Good Fight;
  10. The Voice and Gemini Dream by the Moody Blues;
  11. Find Your Way Back and Jane by Jefferson Starship
  12. Ebony Eyes by Bob Welch;
  13. Don’t Fear the Reaper and Burning for You by Blue Oyster Cult;
  14. Babe and Best of Times by Styx;
  15. Lady by the Little River Band;
  16. Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen;
  17. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 by Pink Floyd;
  18. Games People Play by the Alan Parsons Project;
  19. Refugee by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers;
  20. Almost every song from Foreigner’s album, Four;
  21. Almost every song from the Police’s album, Ghost in the Machine;
  22. Almost every song from Asia’s debut album, Asia;
  23. Point of No Return by Kansas;
  24. Hold on Loosely and Caught up in You by .38 Special;
  25. I’m Winning by Santana;
  26. Don’t Let Him Know by Prism;
  27. Switching to Glide/This Beat Goes On by the Kings;
  28. No Time to Lose by the Tarney/Spencer Band;
  29. On the Loose by SAGA;
  30. A Life of Illusion by Joe Walsh;
  31. My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone) by Chilliwack;
  32. Take It on the Run by REO Speedwagon;
  33. American Pie by Don McLean;
  34. Blinded by the Light and For You by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band; and
  35. Tragedy by the Bee Gees

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few big ones. I’ll add them as I think of them.

There’s a surprising number of songs on this list released in 1981/1982, which is the last year I played until 2005. I wonder what it says about me that I have the strongest association with songs that were there at the very end before the Satanic Panic kicked my ass. Probably that I’m a sociopath. That would check out.

Just order some pizza and put that shit on continuous loop, and I’ll keep playing the entire weekend nonstop.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Here’s a Conspiracy Theory I Can Get Behind @weeklyworldnews #gaming #ttrpg #rpg

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Going forward, Sundays are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, I give you a conspiracy theory that’s right up my alley care of the most trusted name in news media.

You must admit that this would explain the coexistence of Ohio and the Appalachian Mountains in such close proximity.

I want it to be true, so it is.

Follow me on Twitter at @gsllc
Follow the Weekly World News @weeklyworldnews

In case the tweet is deleted, here’s a screenshot.