Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Great Kingdom Trailer

The Great Kingdom is a documentary chronicling the history of TSR and D&D. This is a trailer and it looks pretty damned good. As an added bonus, parts of the trailer feature "Ten Years Gone", one of my absolute favorite songs of all time. Vastly underappreciated by the masses, it is easily one of Led Zeppelin's best, and that is saying a lot.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ranging Far Afield

It occasionally happens that I become hyperfocused on OSR. My attention zeroes in on D&D and all of its direct descendants. The term is vague enough to encompass anything the person using it should desire. Does it refer to games with a particular progenitor? Uh-huh. Does it refer to a specific play-style? Sometimes. Can it refer to a specific period of time? Sure, why not.

Even in the face of bouts of being hyperfocused, it has never been my aim with this blog to limit myself to any narrow definition of OSR. This post is a direct result of looking beyond where I had previously focused my attentions.

Who remembers this? I can't recall exactly when I became aware of this. It wasn't in the form pictured here. It was an advert for Arms Law as a stand-alone product. It was billed as a drop-in replacement for the combat system of whatever RPG one happened to be playing. In all honesty, at that point in the hobby, it was aimed squarely at D&D. RQ and D&D were the only two with serious crunch and market presence, and RQ already had a crunchy percentile combat system. It promised a combat system that resolved all attacks in melee with no more than two rolls.

It achieved this by having the attack roll also indicate damage. The system's take on armor was quite interesting, and still very solid in its conception. Simply put, heavier armor actually makes you easier to strike, but much harder to critically injure. You'll take more "exhausting" damage as you get knocked around inside the armor, but your squishy bits are more protected.

The second roll (if required) was the critical roll. It was based on the type of damage a weapon caused (slashing, piercing, or krushing), and a letter value based on the severity of the hit. There were separate tables for the damage types.

This isn't really intended to be about Arms Law, despite the amount of time I've spent describing it.

I had a very serious flirtation with Rolemaster, the unification of all the "Laws" into a single system. During my first great break with D&D, I loved RM's supposed realism, its ability to model a wide variety of character concepts, and the "nerd" value of using such a chart and math intensive system. I had some friends that were into it, too, and we played some. Not much, nor regularly, as we lived a few hours apart. Eventually RM fell into my regular ADD rotation and would get some attention every few months. Even that waned once I lost all my old ICE products. I never really worried about replacing the materials due to my preferences moving toward "lighter" systems.

One of the things I always loved about RM was the house setting for it: Kulthea, the Shadow World. There are a number of concepts I still love in this setting. The geography for one. I mean, look at that map. It makes me want to be there. The peoples of the world are often times isolated and cut off from one another by powerful flows of magical energies, as well as forbidding geography. There are world-spanning organizations, such as the Navigators, who have learned to travel using these magical energy currents. There are the Loremasters, dedicated to recovering and recording knowledge from across the breadth of Kulthea.

If you've read much of my ramblings, you know it is a sad fact of my life that I don't have any second-hand stores that make a point of catering to gamers. There is one used book store in Huntsville that is of any real use to me. There are actually a fair number of used book stores, but all save the aforementioned one cater mainly to used romance paperbacks. I sporadically drop into the Booklegger because they do have a very small game section (populated primarily with World of Darkness titles). Hope springs eternal, and I did actually find a softback copy of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay there.

You can imagine where this is going, and you're (mostly) right. I found a copy of High Adventure Role Playing, HARP, in there for $10. It is the older ICE edition, not the newer one published by the Guild Companion. I don't have a clue what the differences are. I believe the GC edition has a slightly larger page count.

HARP is its own game. It borrows from RM, even to the point of using it as foundation. It is not a "lite" version. I guess in a way it is to RM what Castles & Crusades is to AD&D (HARP is in no way OGL, though). It is a streamlining and re-imagining, not a replacement nor is it some sort of quick-start.

I still haven't read it all the way through. It claims to be complete. It contains stats for over 40 creatures. It contains six individual spell lists for the spell using classes, but there are some spells that appear on more than one list. There is a very serviceable treasure section, including mundane treasures.

Characters are a combination of class/level and skill based. Skills are all-important, and any character has the ability to learn any skill. Class and level govern the development costs of individual skills and when development points are gained, respectively. Thus, it is easier for a fighter to learn weapon skills (lower development point cost) than for him to learn a spell. He can learn the spell, but it will greatly impact his development in his chosen profession.

The skill list isn't particularly burdensome. Skills are divided up into 10 categories, with between 3-9 skills per category. The categories are important as they inform the types of things a given class is naturally predisposed to.

There are nine classes, five have spell lists, and thus use magic in some capacity. The class descriptions are very brief and setting agnostic.

The usual races are present, along with a unique system for mixed-race characters.

Ok, so I didn't intend to go into this kind of depth with this post. I just wanted to ramble about another game from my past and a younger cousin of it I recently found. If anyone wants to know more about the game I'll be glad to share, but for now, I think I'm going to get back to reading.