Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breath of Death VII and HP

Short post today, my time is being eaten up by job hunting and contract adjustments this week.
I started playing a fun little indie game this past Sunday as an effort to recharge my batteries as I was taking another crack at assembling the core rules.  If you enjoy RPG's of the 8bit and 16bit era this is entirely up your alley.  It is a homage but done with modern design intent so that you get to skip all the nonsensical and slow grinding (plus after enough random encounters you are considered to scare the rest off with your mighty prowess). 

There are also some fine twists on classic crpg fare, Boolean choice level ups being my favorite.  One thing that has been bothering me though is the way the HP system is handled.  Mostly because it is how I use to handle HP in my games before I ditched it for something else.

At the end of each battle the party is fully healed to maximum HP, and regains a number of MP depending on how quickly you end the battle.  You can blow MP to make the battle end very quickly and gain more MP, just be sure not to overdo it and conserve when you can.  Once you get to a point where you can't toss around MP all willy nilly you can expect to have a bad time with what were once simple encounters.  That's not my main concern, my concern is with constant refreshing of HP.

I get the impression this was a design goal meant to speed things up a bit, typically after a battle the player would waste time clicking through menus to heal up his party.  I can respect getting rid of that but doing it this way opens up some problems.  First of all, dungeons no longer test your endurance.  Without having to heal between battles (and using up resources) you no longer have to keep an eye on your MP, or total casts of heal left (depending on your system).  This means that you can fight almost indefinitely, your only limit being the aforementioned MP.  This is quite similar to 4e design, and while it works for 4e in some ways each battle is meant to be a massive set piece where success or failure is riding on the PC's (there's plenty more to that to be argued for or against but I'm not getting into either side).  Essentially, the battles are self contained, when you translate that an old game like Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy where each battle is meant to sap your strength rather than decide the fate of the temple/forest/world; it seems silly.  I found myself repeatedly stomping all over encounters and breezing through the game until the designated hard spot.

While I appreciate the design intent I'm afraid this isn't the right system for it.  Still a worthy game to try out and fantastic soundtrack to boot.  Before I post about an excerpt on how I handle HP I want to revisit Dark Souls for an HP and Adventuring post.

If you are in the mood for an excellent analysis on old school console game design I cannot recommend this article highly enough.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Temple of Elemental Evil Campaign Recap 2.4

Snake sightings in every session so far.  Time to pretend these random encounters was foreshadowing all along

One of my players was running a 5k to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, and had I not been injured at the time so would I.  Fortunately, that player's character was still a pile of ash so we were able to continue the adventure with no hand-waving required.  We picked back up in the water temple passageway, the players had just achieved 5th level and were deciding what to do.  They were sent to take care of two junior fire temple priests but the way back was filled with vengeful Salamanders that neither of them wished to tussle with. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Returning to the Temple of Elemental Evil (Campaign Recap # 2.3)

My final player made an appearance for the first time this session so we opened with his introductory scene.  Betrayed again by his one time friend Nigel, he was drowned and knocked unconscious and brought to the temple along with Bronan the Barbarian.  There they parted ways with Bronan moving to the Earth Temple and Drake moving to the Fire temple (this was based on their favored element chosen at character creation).

Drake awoke in a large entirely brass ornate goblet, big enough to fill a giant's thirst.  The chalice rested on a jet black alter in a well lit room, with saucers brimming with fire lining a red carpet walkway.  In between each pillar and flaming saucer were red robed and hooded fire cultists, their heads bowed in a slow rhythmic chant.  On either side of him were two fire archons, spirits of pure flame clad in black iron segmented armor wielding claymores poised to strike the poor sod stuck in the chalice.  Of course in front of him was none other than Nigel with a smug smile, hand crossbows at his belt as well as Drakes Whip and holding two staves.  One tipped with a blue gem that he had used previously to drown the two players, the other was the wind staff that Drake had found in his intro vignette and used to great effect on skeletons and gnolls alike throughout his career.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Remedying Action Hero Syndrome Part 3. Revelation

In this segment I'm going to talk about how I've been working with the party's Barbarian who takes great pride and pleasure in his continuing and intentional idiocy.  If you've been reading the Campaign Recaps for the Temple of Elemental Evil you may already be familiar with Bronan the Barbarian.  The surly Dwarf frequently gets himself in over his head (no pun intended) and has no expectation of getting himself pulled out of trouble.  It's not a death wish, just someone who wishes for a very comical series of hijinks.  A comedic guy myself I don't mind playing along but sometimes you need to reel them in.  I've accomplished this in two ways, a voice-of-reason scene recaps and in-game mechanics.  Disclaimer: This is and previous installments are not a one size-fits-all approach.  It merely works for me and you are welcome to use some of the philosophy behind this.
Reel em in, but don't pull so hard you break the line

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Remedying Action Hero Syndrome Part 2

Last time I looked at possible causes for why the newer crop of players have wildly different mindsets than the grey bearded crowd.  A lot of it conjecture and anecdotal but if you get a chance take a look and see if any of it rings true.  This time I'd like to take a look at what I call remedying action hero syndrome.  What I often read on other OSR blogs is that the best way to show someone the way to play and old school game is to let them fall, let them die and eventually they'll learn their lesson.  Sure we instruct them to read Matt Finch's Primer first but for the most part we're letting them jump out the nest before their feathers have even come in so its not surprising when they fail miserably and often quit with negative perceptions of that style of play.  I'd like to explain how I try to handle things, through a much more gradual acclimation.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Remedying Action Hero Syndrome

A lot of trouble I've run into with players whose first introduction to the game is with third or fourth edition, or those that have never played before but were raised on a steady diet of single hero action adventure and RPGs on their console of choice.  In these particular games, and in fourth edition in particular player characters have a certain level of expected invulnerability.  These expectation continue in game design where a common assumption is that encounters should be matched to the power level of the players, that things should be fair.  Anyone playing an Old school or OSR game will know that is almost always never the case.

There's actually a good thread over on ENworld talking about expectations between tactical and strategic.  Mainly whether you treat combat as war or combat as sport.  In an old school game your goal is to get as many advantages as you can using resources through the gameworld.  In a newer edition (sport) you are assembling advantages through the rules-set and less emphasis is placed on accruing in-game advantages.  It's a long and very well thought out thread I suggest you check it out and it's successor.