Friday, January 20, 2012

FourthCore Alphabet

FourthCore Alphabet
The concept of hard core, dark and deadly adventuring is only one aspect of doing it old school, but it is one of my favorites. This excellent work, ostensibly by Sersa Victory, provides an excellent overview of everything FourthCore stands for. This is Dungeon Crawl material par excellence. But far from simply being an introduction to the Fourthcore style of gaming it is a useful tool for dungeon and campaign creation sure to bring a Black Sabbath of gaming to your table. As described on Lulu,

Fourthcore Alphabet is a reference guide and inspirational tool aimed at Dungeon Masters who are building and running dark, deadly dungeons. Each chapter spotlights a different element of fourthcore design, beginning with a short essay that describes how the element fits into the fourthcore aesthetic. These essays are followed by a table with which you can generate hundreds of examples using only your twenty-sided die. While this book uses the 4th Edition rules, every effort has been made to present the material in a way that makes it easily adaptable to other systems. DMs running gothic deathtrap dungeons in games like OSRIC or Wrath will find much to enjoy in this book.
I've written numerous entries on how old school is a state of mind not a rule system. FourthCore is proving my point in spades. Designed for 4e, but just as comfortable in any of the older systems, it distills a style of gaming that any grognard worth his salt would be proud of. I myself am adapting the approach to my Pathfinder games with great success and a PC kill count that has now exceeds two dozen. Mwuuaa Haa HA HAAAAA!!!
It has also generated lively after game discussions, players who are truly proud of their PCs who do survive and advance, an ever-increasing membership in our gaming club, and players who know the game better than ever before. They are taking the time to read, absorb and actually use the rules. The level of PC development, backstory and personal investment in a player character's life arc is also fun to watch.
So it's not all about killer GMing. As Gary himself said “The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

1e is Back!

For a limited time only ... Check this out!

Yep! WoTC is offering reprints of the original PHB, DMG and MM to help support the Gary Memorial, and earn a few bucks besides.

And you can check out my thread started in the New Releases section responding to the move here. Predictably my thread is getting very little traffic though. Nonetheless I made my plea. They can't say I didn't speak up. I'd email the staff again, but I have found WoTC staff to be not very helpful in dialoguing with customers. Do I think it will stick--no not really. And not for all the predictable marketing reasons you might imagine, but simply because I've been let down one too many times by the industry, and no I'm not just talking about WoTC.

Ah well, it feels good just to support the Gary Memorial. And who knows--they may surprise me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why HackMaster?

So all this edition reviewing and system analysis has had me reconsidering my preferences but it didn't take long to come back to HackMaster. Now don't get me wrong, there are lots of good games out there. Games I admire in more ways than one. But I always come back to HackMaster. Now, I'm an AD&D man, always have been--like I mentioned in my last post. But as I've explained before it's kind of important for me to play a game that is actively in print and supported.  And if you've followed my blog at all you know I've been back and forth over various different games; so though I can't say my search has been exhaustive it has been extensive. I've read so many rule systems, I'm beginning to feel like I'm having deja vu with some of them. ... "Haven't I read this before?"

Anyway I'm perusing the web reading HackMaster discussions in between re-reading my HackMaster rules old and new when I happen upon a discussion over on That's when I catch a post by Tori Bergquist that sums up alot of how it feels to get into HackMaster. I once posted that reading HackMaster made me feel like I was rediscovering gaming all over again. But Tori captures the feel in a way I didn't quite manage. So without further ado, I quote:

"For what it's worth, I'll chime in that I really like Hackmaster so far ---a related thread on the Hacklopedia of Beasts rapidly turned into an exercise in finding my copy of HMB I had bought a year or two ago, digging it out, and finally reading it. Then I ordered the module. Now I am puzzling my way through making various characters and marvelling at how much I feel like I am learning to play a Mirror Universe edition of D&D.

I really like that it looks suspiciously familiar (D&D) yet it surprises me at every turn with new and unusual turf for How to Do Things. This is probably the only D&Desque game out there where I really feel like I've fallen through the looking glass."
Through the looking glass indeed. Thanks Tori. (Emphasis mine)

Monday, January 16, 2012

What D&D 5e Has Already Done For Me

So I've been keeping up with WizBro's 5e news and fora talk as well as Enworld's 5e update page and one thing has become relatively clear to me. It aint for me. In fact the news of the development of 5e has done something for me already--sent me back to my roots.

After talking to the Wizards on the forum, and rubbing digital shoulders with 4e blogsters and WoTC fans overall I'm tired. I'm also convinced that I don't think Wizards can do it. They have too many new age gaming fans with rabid intent and purpose to get back to their roots. Which is when it dawned on me, that WoTC can never get back to D&D's roots, because they have never made a game rooted in the old school. Their first child was 3.0--a distinctly non-D&D game.

Now don't get all pissy on me. I don't mean non D&D like it's not D&D, but it's not the game TSR made. For one it was changed to a d20 game. And for lots of other reasons I've run over more than once on this blog. I've read comments by true grognards on their fora and they are quickly shouted down by the "new and better" zealots, convinced that the old way of doing things held no merit whatsoever. Try and defend class level limits, racial ability or class restrictions, alignment or more esoteric rules of the old day and they simply can't even entertain that there may have been an inherent logic to these decisions.

Yeah, Wizards may be able to make a d20 rules light game based on the core four classes, but it's just gonna be the same flat Schlitz in a new fangled can. Myself--I've been GMing Pathfinder for going on 10 months now. A total of over 150 hours in our last two campaigns. It's not bad, and I'm not knocking it. I've even tried to get into "my own skin" within the construct of the game. But this past week talking game mechanics and changes I'd like to see in the new D&D has made me see once again that I'm not really happy in my gaming.

I've been spending some time again over on the DCC RPG forums and perusing some of my old school haunts. And I'm still just not sure. I really like the tone of some of the releases, especially Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. And others like Crypts & Things, Dark Fate RPG and the awesome dark metal of Lamentations of the Flame Princess--which has some awesome new Swords and Planets stuff going on lately. But, though I love the settings, the systems leave me a little pale.

They are all based roughly on Original D&D, usually as Swords and Wizardry offspring. Which in itself is cool, as I really like that systems assumptions. And I'm still in love with Matt Finch's A Quick Primer For Old School Gaming. And that makes me wonder a bit about myself. Am I really a crunchy gamer? Or am I a rules lite gamer? What is it about the minimalist approach that games like S&W, C&C, & L&L that turn me off? I'm not really sure as the only one I've ever even tried is C&C. I'm a 1e man, an AD&D gamer--and I never minded the addition of complexity, the crunch, the labyrinthine rules, the paradoxes and contradictions inherent in that version of the game.

And what is it that keeps me going off on my own? Of making my own dark, house ruled version of a fantasy campaign. After all that's what many of those mentioned above have done. Maybe it's because of the fear that I put in the energy and noone wants to play in "my" game. Maybe it's time to put my foot down and make a stand.
For further explication on the development of this line of thought see this
first ...
then, this
and if you're still with me, this.