Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Old School Gaming


I experienced a bit of the "Old School Revival" this weekend at Pacificon Game Expo​ last weekend. The first was "Swords & Wizardry", which was pretty much a retro-clone of original D&D. The second was "Dungeon Crawl Classics", which took certain aspects of original D&D and embraced the hardcore dungeon-crawling aspects of it.

In both cases, they lovingly embraced the old-school role-playing game art. Both are filled with black-and-white fantasy line drawings of hapless adventurers taking on horrible monsters. I appreciated that, if only for its camp/nostalgia value.

From there, the experiences diverged. As I said, Swords & Wizardry was retro-clone of original D&D, to the point where all of the original ability scores, classes, abilities, etc. were duplicated here. And as much respect as I have for the grand-pappy of RPGs, I've got to say: role-playing games have evolved for a reason. Casting one spell as a low-level magic-user before being effectively being rendered useless, having only one effective available action in combat ("I hit it with my weapon!"), XP book-keeping from monsters and treasure after every encounter - all of these factors do not point towards a fun gaming experience. The saving grace of it was at least the world has some slightly interesting twists to (example: hobgoblins are invaders from a parallel world and are anchored through portals) it that made it more than your typical European fantasy setting. Most of the time I was thinking: "This would be ten times more enjoyable using Savage Worlds..."

Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) was a bit more interesting, mainly because it embraced some of the more aggravating aspects of old school RPGS and turned them on their ear. Case in point: survivability of low-level characters. In typical old-school D&D, surviving past first level was a bit of a trial by fire, and often that was accomplished through a combination of luck and sometimes cowardice. DCC actually makes you create FOUR ZERO-level characters who have only a few hit points, little equipment, and no appreciable adventuring skills. Combined with the other players' characters, you have an adventuring mob who attempts to wear down the opposition through sheer numbers. While this does encourage "death by numbers" tactics against enemies, there are times where you realize body count isn't enough and need to come up with clever plans in order to distract dangerous monsters and reach your goals. There is also a bit of cheering for the underdog, and those characters who emerged through that crucible of death had great war stories to tell!  DCC introduces some more modern rules innovations that get rid of annoying old-school conventions: spells require skill rolls instead of one-time fire-and-forget, and skill rolls are based on your attributes and what's reasonable for your character's background. In the end, I'd still rather play a Savage Worlds game with gritty setting rules for something like this, but I wouldn't say no to my zero-level tax collector returning as a mighty first-level warrior either!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Assassinorum Gathers...

I just picked up Assassinorum: Execution Force from my FLGS the other day. A bit pricey, but it does come with some beautiful models. Some assembly is required though, so kicking off (hopefully) regular “Miniatures Monday” I assembled the four assassins that come with the set. Painting will come next, but after I assemble the forces of Chaos first…

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Empire of Bone at GenCon!

Long time no update! Here’s a brief one: lots of work done on Empire of Bone, including a demo game for Gen Con and Pacificon.

Here’s a pic of the demo kit – fun stuff!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Empire of Bone: The Empire Expands

Just an FYI, I’ve been busy with two things:
1) Work – My full-time job has been extremely busy, but things should (hopefully) even out pretty quickly.
2) Writing Empire of Bone – I got a big chunk of work done over the holidays, and am hoping to keep the momentum going once I put my regular work on a more even keel.
So, as I don’t have a lot of time to write about writing EoB, I thought the time would be better spent actually just writing EoB. So… don’t expect to see me writing much more here until I get more EoB stuff written.
Progress forward!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Empire of Bone: The Dismal Saints

skeletal_throneThe Dismal Saints venerated by the Black Church are Netherworld beings of considerable power, some say rivaling the Bone King who brought about the Empire as we know it. How these creatures came about is unknown to all except perhaps the Hierophant of the Black Church himself, and he does not share the secret.

The Black Church and its faithful speak of the Dismal Saints with fear and reverence. Clergy of the Black Church invoke the Dismal Saints with some degree of trepidation, for these beings severely punish those who earn their enmity. Many a powerful clergy has been laid low by Grims sent by an angered Saint, and a few unfortunate clergy have had the terrible privilege of being visited by one of the Dismal Saints.

Still, the Black Church holds sway in the Empire because of the power of the Dismal Saints, and few are willing to challenge their claim and risk the wrath of these Netherworld beings.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Empire of Bone: Cult of Dismal Saints

The Black Church is a powerful and omnipresent authority in the Empire, overseen by the enigmatic Hierophant. Their dogma runs as follows: undeath is a gift granted by the unknowable beings from the Netherworld. By paying proper homage to these beings, undead can continue their existence untainted by malevolent spirits, increase the likelihood of being resurrected again in case of an untimely destruction, or failing that ensure a peaceful place in the Netherworld.
Whether or not the beliefs of the Black Church are real, the power of their clergy cannot be denied. Calling upon the power of the Cult of Dismal Saints through haunting dirges, chaplains of the Black Church can enact seemingly miraculous powers unseen among other undead.  These invocations of the Dismal Saints allow them to bring deaders back from the brink of destruction or banish evil spirits back to the darkest parts of the Netherworld.
Some say the Black Church and their Cult of Dismal Saints is not too be trusted, that they have an agenda greater than the sanctity of the souls of the Empire. But few are willing to speak openly against them for fear of excommunication.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Empire of Bone: Ectoplasmic Machinations

I’ve always been a sucker for “weird science”. Conceptually, the idea of a crazy guy spending untold hours locked in the lab, challenging accepted notions, and emerging with a wondrous creation (optionally while screaming, “SCIENCE!”) struck a chord with me.  People who push the boundaries of conventional wisdom and create something new and exciting are just plain cool in my books.


That’s why I wanted to include the concept of ectoplasmists in Empire of Bone. Crazy guys refining soul energy to make all kinds of weird – and highly unstable – devices. In a soul-based economy, making efficient use of soul energies is fairly important to the goals of the Empire, and ectoplasmic research provides exactly that.

Of course, what can possibly go wrong with high concentrations of soul energy and highly unstable technology?  Absolutely nothing…