World Door Chapter 4 – Lien

Lien

I walked back to where I had left the hunters. As I went I wondered what the sisters would want with this world door and why they needed me. Did they want me to transfer Melsa to this creature they were afraid of? Were they there when my brother died? My Father never mentioned them being there. Were they watching from the shadows?

Melsa flew from tree to tree as I trudged through the woods. I couldn’t figure out how Ashlyn was able to walk without stepping on a twig or kicking a root. I made so much noise as I walked, the hunting party knew I was coming long before I arrived. Not only that she moved faster than I could.

“Ho, Mr. Hill!” Hane called.

I waved and continued my approach. Lien met me as I got closer, he had used my delay to set traps.

“Mechal,” He began “This is bad business, the sisters. I don’t even know what you talked about, but I know they’re baiting you. And this business with the bird is at the heart of it.”

Continue reading “World Door Chapter 4 – Lien”

A Jump Temp Song

“Born Under A Wandering Star” Lyrics
Lee Marvin

https://youtu.be/NTymtAbaG08

Now for a more Jump Temp version

I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star
Drives are made for boiling, holds are made to pack
I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back
I was born under a wandrin’ star

Grav can make you prisoner and the flares can bake you dry
Stars can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry
Home is made for coming from, for dreams of going to
Which with any luck will never come true
I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star

Do I know where hell is, hell is in hello
Heaven is goodbye forever, its time for me to go
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin’ wandrin’ star

(Mud can make you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry)
(Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry)
(Home is made for coming from, for dreams of going to)
(Which with any luck will never come true)
(I was born under a wandrin’ star)
(I was born under a wandrin’ star)

When I get to heaven, tie me to a tree
For I’ll begin to roam and soon you’ll know where I will be
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin’ wandrin’ star

I left the chorus in the original lyrics because I like the contrast.

Actually, I always think of Jump Temp when I hear the album “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling and especially “Take Flight

Jump Temp Book

I got my first hard copy of Jump Temp! Woooo!

Getting a hard copy always helps with figuring out what the finished product should look like. For example, some of my image placements need to be moved to the other side of the page so they’re not in the crease of the book. At least one picture needs to be moved to another page.

Another thing that becomes obvious is that since a color print is needed for the star maps and most of the art is black and white, there needs to be a lot more color on the pages from layout elements.

So far I haven’t run into typos yet, but it would be a rare thing to have caught them all by this stage.

Playtesting Jump Temp

Jump Temp is nearing completion. It’s illustrated and has a cover. Now I’m cleaning up typos and trying to clarify text. I originally thought to keep Jump Temp and Protector together but there’s been a lot more interest in Jump Temp from elevator pitches and the book is getting big all on it’s own (80 pages). The thing that pushed it forward while Protector languished is I found a style that I liked for the book. I haven’t figured that out for Protector yet. The art is kinda mis-mashed.

I’m putting the book out for playtesting and we’ll see what comes of it.

World Door Chapter 3 – Janna and Ashlyn

Chapter 3

Janna and Ashlyn

We packed up and got moving. Melsa would fly from tree to tree as we traveled. Lien set up snares as we went.

The sisters had gotten impatient waiting for us and doubled back. By midday they approached us from behind, Thain was the first to spot them approaching.

“Ho there!” He called.

We came to a halt and allowed them to approach. They moved silently through the trees like they were part of the woods.

“Where is Jash?” Janna demanded.

“Jash is dead.” I answered.

Janna stopped in her tracks. Ashlyn turned and started to circle around us.

“How?” Janna asked.

“My father killed him.” I said.

“Tow killed him? Why?” She asked.

Continue reading “World Door Chapter 3 – Janna and Ashlyn”

OSR?

I’ve been following around the OSR (Old School Renaissance or Revival depending on who you ask) community for a little bit now. At first, the movement in the RPG community seems like a rejection of anything modern and it is to some extent. It’s easy to be against things, what’s more interesting to me is what the OSR works toward. That’s why I liked Matt Finch’s booklet “A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming” it summarizes some reasons why people enjoy an OSR title in what he calls Four Zen Moments. He then explains four Taos for the Game Master.

Some of these Zen moments I like some I don’t, some I think are better achieved through different means. I’d like to approach them here and attempt to discuss them objectively from a design perspective.

Zen Moment 1: Rulings not Rules

I’m not going to rehash the whole text that Mr. Finch wrote, the booklet is free. Briefly though, the idea here is that the referee (or GM) uses the rules and the players use descriptions to interact with the referee. The referee is like a judge that must rule based only on a constitution and the arguments that are presented and possibly a few tests (that’s how it sounded to me anyway).

Observations
  • Players are totally at the mercy of the ref. A good ref can run an enjoyable game, a poor ref is maddening.
  • The mental load on the ref is shifted from memorization to making spot judgements. This is good if your ref is very imaginative and has a poor memory.
  • The mental load on the players is moved from memorization to imagining the environment they’re in. This benefits people with good spacial memory but hurts those who have trouble imagining a three dimensional space.
  • This approach is highly dependent on good communication skills in both directions. I think we’ll all agree that it’s always nice to have a good communicator but we don’t always get one.
  • When philosophies clash, the player will lose.
  • Players have no “legal” legs to stand on. When there is a rule, a player can point to it and show why they should be allowed to do something a ref says no to.[1]
  • I have personally seen a ref follow the example that Mr. Finch gives for the “Ninja Jump” in a modern game so he’s not wrong.

Zen Moment 2: Player Skill, not Character Abilities

This one seems a little less focused to me but I understand the grouping. The main idea is that you are your character’s mind. You’re able to do whatever you could with common knowledge in that situation. Usually that doesn’t include knowledge that would be situationally inappropriate like how to build an airplane in a medieval fantasy. However, if the player is clever with their use of knowledge, it’s ok for them to do things that would seem inappropriate for their character, like a big dumb barbarian that keeps coming up with brilliant plans.

It also includes the idea that the game doesn’t revolve around the PC’s stats. There are monsters that the players just can’t take on and it’s their job to be able to tell that.

This Zen moment is the most revealing that OSR is a specific flavor of RPG. Mr. Finch explains that OSR games are about taking an average person and building them into a hero.

Observations
  • Players that are good at something will always be good at that in game.
  • Players that are bad at something cannot effectively play characters that should be good at it.[2]
  • This type of play is better looked at through the lens that the character is inexperienced at first and as the player learns how the world works, the character is also. A game that uses more character abilities assumes the character has knowledge that they are bringing to the situation.[3]
  • Inexperience can be deadly.[4]
  • Clues that should be obvious and relevant might be missed because the ref didn’t offer and players didn’t ask for it.

Zen Moment 3: Heroic, not Superhero

I’m not sure where the Zen moment is here. This point is just framing the scope of the game. Players start out as average people and you try and build them into heroes. They never become untouchable or immortal, it’s just not in the scope of the game. Maybe the Zen is that this can be enjoyable?

Again, this is pointing to the OSR being a specific flavor of RPG. If you like that scale of progression, then you might like an OSR game. If you’re looking for something different, OSR might let you down.

Observations
  • Obviously superhero games might not fit well with OSR concepts but it could be done for low level superpowers.[5]
  • Spy games don’t really jibe with this moment.
  • One kind of experience (zero to hero) might not be what players want.[6]

Zen Moment 4: Forget Game Balance

This was partly covered in moment 2 but is elaborated on. The game doesn’t care what the character’s level or stats are, it’s the player’s job to figure out what they can and can’t fight through.

Mr. Finch also emphasizes moment 1 here, that the players have no right to depend on a rule book[1]. It may have been better to call this moment “You don’t have the right” because that’s what is repeated. It’s brought out that a ref never has the right to tell a player what their character does. More accurately, the ref can never make a choice for the player. In earlier examples given, the ref is repeatedly telling the players what their character does as a result of their choice and rolls.

Observations
  • Inexperience is deadly.[4]
  • Taken too far, the ref could build an adventure that is simply impossible for the PCs. This has to be tempered with the ref working to make an enjoyable game. The general difficulty of the game still needs to be controlled.[7]

Tao 1: The Way of the Ming Vase

Basically, find ways to have secondary effects happen in the game. Be imaginative with the player’s choices having consequences. Critical successes and critical failures are intrinsic to these consequences.

Observations
  • This is probably good advice for any RPG, although the mechanism for unintended consequences and secondary effects isn’t always explicitly stated.[8]
  • This is going to be difficult for a starting ref to always have novel unintended consequences. I’ve been GMing for twenty five years and it’d be hard to do this perfectly.

Tao 2: The Way of the Moose Head

This is a way of handling exploration that relies on the characters asking the right questions and knowing what to do with the answers.[9]

Observations
  • This is a matter of preference more than solid gaming advice.
  • Tired players are going to have a hard time asking the right questions.
  • Players are going  to miss out on a lot of details that you’ve prepared.[4]

Tao 3: Your Abstract Combat-Fu Must be Strong

This is the idea that it’s the GM’s job to fill in the results of combat creatively or quickly.

Observations
  • This Tao’s description relies heavily on critical successes and failures for permission to be creative.
  • This really should be part of any RPG, I know it’s not always but that’s just people getting lazy.
  • This is putting all the load of creativity load on the GM.
  • This could be a source of contention with the players since the GM is dictating what their character does as a result of their choice.[8]

Tao 4: Way of the Donner Party

This Tao is about resource management. The most useful part of this advice is that the GM should keep a tight grip on how much time has passed in order to handle depleting resources. The big takeaway is that OSR games are heavy in resource management[4] take a step back and own that and you’ll get the results the designers intended.

Observations
  • I’ll say it again, lose track of time and you lose track of resource use when doing it this way.
  • A lot of players actively try and game resource and time management (cheat), this puts a heavier load on the GM.
  • There are some tools that handle resource management without having to mentally track all the elements that could cause a party to be in trouble.
  • This is good practice in a lot of RPGs, not a lot of people do it though or even want to which says something.
  • Time management might get squishy when the characters are wandering around poking 10 ft poles at things. No rules no structure.[8]

In the end, OSR games are a type or RPG, they’re not my thing judging from the descriptions given. “Modern” games are often designed to avoid problems that players of old school games had at their tables. I don’t think playing an OSR game would result in table flipping in my current group but it would have when I was a teen.

I was hoping to find some essential core truths about RPGs or why the OSR has such a strong following. I don’t think I see a lot of universal tools here other than “be creative and tell a story” which is mostly the Story Games crowd’s thing. Certainly the OSR group gets there differently. I’ve always played without worrying about game balance. Story Games would have a hard time inducing that kind of experience so there’s lessons to be learned for sure. Neither group have a monopoly on RPG insights.

If anything, seeing that large numbers of people like this kind of experience confuses me. Either there are a lot of really good GMs out there, people are masochistic or they prefer GM control because it’s easer for them. RPGs largely rejected all controlling GMs in the 80’s and keep moving away from them. Then the OSR shows up and goes right back to it. Is the OSR made possible by the older, wiser, more experienced GMs out there? Is it possibly driven by them, their desire to play games like they did when they were young? Is it simple nostalgia? I know all the OSR adherents are screaming at your computers right now.

Games have to talk to your experience in life for them to be really enjoyed. In some ways I’ve experienced the ideas described and in others I’ve experienced the opposite making them difficult to try and enjoy. GM control can simplify play fun can turn into a game of Mother May I. It strongly depends on the GM, their experience level and even their mood. Thats why a lot here is mercurial. It can be good or it can get really bad.

There are some good concepts to be explored here though. I think they have their upsides and downsides. A lot of the ideas put a heavy load on the GM which could lead to burn out if a GM isn’t careful. Each trade off may be better or worse for specific players. Some will find the methods here liberating. Others will find them frustrating and limiting.

Continue reading “OSR?”

World Door Chapter 2 – TOW

Chapter 2

TOW

I sat in the middle of the great hall, watching the glimmers in the fog. Great beasts appeared all around me, some valued for the food they would provide, some had to be caught alive so they could be trained as beasts of burden, others like the Alk were valued for the metal in their bones and their antlers.

I wondered for a moment, what would we find on our journey? There were many animals that I’d heard of, but never seen.

“Show me a Cephrog!” I called out.

The glimmers faded and then a creature seemed to emerge from a body of water. It’s many arms like coils folded over each other to pull it’s great bulbus body out onto land. At the last moment two of it’s arms shot out with amazing speed towards me. I leapt back in fear but found the glimmer had faded when I looked back. In a few moments the random glimmers returned.

I was reluctant after that to call out another animal. In time though my curiosity got the better of me and I tried again.

“Show me a Gleff!” I called.

The glimmers faded again and at first a tiny object appeared in the fog circling again and again, growing larger each time. Then the great bird came into view as it circled down and finally landed in one of the branches of the tree as if it were in the hall with me. Its talons were the length of my forearms and it stood as tall as two men. The glimmer faded before I could get a good look at its features.

Continue reading “World Door Chapter 2 – TOW”

World Door Chapter 1

Glyph

“There is an error.” The Glyph stated.

I froze in place and glanced around. The warnings had become rare in the last few years, it’s just my luck that I’d be right in front of the Glyph as it announced the error.

In my grandfather’s time, the town would have immediately assumed that I had caused the error. I would have been killed at the foot of the Glyph to atone for it. Thankfully we knew that didn’t always work. Even after killing the person suspected to be the source of the error, there would be a plague. Now I would have to go through a trial but I’d be spared the sword, for a time.

“There is an error.” The Glyph repeated.

A crowd began to form. Jash Malcrom walked up quickly, “Stay where you are boy, running will just make them hunt you.”

Continue reading “World Door Chapter 1”

One Rule

It would be interesting to make an RPG out of only words, no math, no charts, just words. Maybe it would be simple and refreshing.

A game like that could easily become just as or even more complex than any normal RPG though. In order to build a world engine that only used descriptions, could end up taking up a huge amount of time to convey.

To circumvent that eventuality, it may be useful to give the engine a direction so that things stay simple. This is what I thought of.

One Rule

Every story worthy element has One Rule. The GM gives the world a rule. Players give their characters a rule. Important (special) equipment gets a rule. An important NPC or maybe a group of NPCs get a rule. Weather can get a rule. A maze can have a rule.

There are a few conditions that make things clearer.

No two elements can have the same rule. This is important so that two unstoppable forces don’t collide and annihilate everything.

A more specific rule supersedes a more general rule. If one player has a character that is “The greatest fighter in the world” and another has the rule that they are “The greatest swordsman in the world” as long as the fighting is being done with swords, the swordsman wins out.

That’s very Amber like in it’s certainty however. A character can always win in a specific contest, a randomizer could be employed, but that doesn’t seem interesting. I’ll have to play with the idea and see if it I can make something of it.

Artwork

I’m feeling good, I have my new art tablet, a Monoprice 14481 and I’m really enjoying it. Setting it up wasn’t easy because there’s very little documentation to go on, but I eventually found enough little snippets of information on message boards to get it working properly.

I’ve done some pictures for Eat the Meappets as  a warm up and I’m working on pictures for Protector right now. I’m thinking that I want to go in a different direction with the art in Jump Temp. I’d like to try a different style that I’m not really sure I know how to pull off. It’ll be interesting to try though.

I’ve already finished around ten pieces and I’ve been trying to get in one every two days. Jump Temp and Protector are both around 80 pages, so they both need around 20 pictures minimum.

After that, I’ll start working on the last sourcebook for The Artifact. This is going to be a busy year.

On the non-artwork front, I’ve halfway put together my beginner friendly RPG that doesn’t use character sheets and tracks things on a board (or one sheet of paper). I have something of a story to build to, but I’m looking for that little something, a twist or other element that makes the setting come alive.