Monday, 26 August 2013

AD&D I love you

In 1987 I had been playing RPGs for less than a year when I met AD&D. At that time it was just the Dungeon Masters Guide, and though I had to spend the best part of my savings to have it, I still don’t know what made me do it. I mean: I had been mostly playing Das Schwarze Auge/The Dark Eye (in its very good Italian translation) and BECMI (actually just B or maybe BE, since the remaining boxes had not yet made their appearance on the Italian market, and I hadn’t yet resolved to get the original English edition), and I considered AD&D a kind of upgrade of Basic D&D; still, I was a bit awed by the all-compassing and complicated rules, which fascinated me but, due to my still lacking knowledge of the English language, were a bit more than I could chew.

So I kept on playing BECMI (which eventually became BECM, since I never got the Immortal box), left DSA for MERP and bought both AD&D Players Handbook and Monster Manual; I still had had no chance to test the game in an actual play but I was more and more resolved to correct the situation, and when I eventually managed to convince my friends to have a try, I was already madly in love with the system. In the following years I played many campaigns and, though AD&D wasn’t the only system I used, I managed to burn myself out. At that time my AD&D had got mixed with rules taken from the 2nd edition, and my campaigns were definitely more of the storytelling than the sandbox sort. I was growing uncomfortable with the system and my own playing style, and eventually in the late 90s I quitted playing.
My comeback to the world of roleplaying games is due to D&D 3.0; I played it quite a bit without ever experiencing the same thrill I had felt for AD&D 1st, but I’m not going to indulge in any edition war: after 3.0 came 3.5, and after that Pathfinder (not counting a quick dive into D&D 4). My uneasiness, however, kept growing as the rules became more complicated, and I found myself yearning for a simpler system, but not just that. I still wasn’t happy with my own DMing style. I wanted to give my players more freedom, but I couldn’t: I kept on writing campaigns where the main story had already been decided (by me), and I got frustrated at my inability to have the players freely choose their own course of actions. I tried The Burning Wheel too, and that’s an astounding game, but the rules are not simple enough for my taste and they require very committed players. And then I discovered the Old School Renaissance.

It was a true eye-opener for me. Reading Grognardia or The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope (just to name two of the blogs I am currently following) I suddenly understood what I wanted for my campaigns: old school play. So here I am, back to AD&D 1st, to sandboxes and to players’ freedom, and I’m going to stick to the lesson I learned. Storytelling is not for me, though I enjoy playing almost every game system if that means spending an evening with my friends, and whether I’m DMing AD&D, Rolemaster or Runequest (the two latter possibly in their earlier editions) I really can’t conceive anymore playing in a style that is not old school.

AD&D is not by far a perfect system: there are many useful rules and many useless ones, but I still prefer it to even simpler games like OD&D, D&D Basic, Labyrinth Lord (even though I’m prepared to adopt any of these if such is the inclination of my players; and, I must confess, LL does exert a kind of fascination over me). If none other, the great D&D family has got one big plus side: you can convert adventures and campaigns (and modules, if you prefer) from one system to another with relative ease. My Fortress campaign, written and insofar played with the AD&D 1st rules, could be very quickly translated for any of the systems above mentioned. This flexibility is a priceless issue for a DM without players, such as I am at the moment!

In my next posts I’m going to delve a bit deeper into AD&D 1st rules and to expose my humble thoughts about their usefulness (or lack thereof).

Until then, gentle readers, may your steeds be swift and your blades always sharp!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Dice are blind

And, being blind, they just cannot be partial.
This post was inspired by this thread; the question is very simple: should you abide by the rolled results or should you fudge the dice? Tricky question, and one which easily escalates in a bitter war between supporters of different playing styles.
In my opinion, a rolled die should  never be fudged. It’s not just a matter of OSR: it’s a matter of fairness and freedom of choice. Dice are a sort of earthly agents of chance, and chance, that great (and much reviled) equalizer, is the foundation of the contract between DM and players. You need reciprocal trust, of course, and honesty and the desire to have fun together, but chance is what makes people on both sides of the screen equal. Even if the players have just their characters and the DM the rest of the world, a d20 unsurprisingly has the same number of sides for everyone, and the same odds to roll 1 or 20.
There is, of course, the matter of helping an unlucky player whose character is about to die, and I know this is one of the main reasons for fudging the dice (that, and saving the time required for creating a new character), but a good DM knows how to be lenient without fudging, if leniency be the appropriate solution (it could sound a bit ruthless, but I have my doubts about this: maybe the unlucky player should just have a good laugh and get ready to roll a new set of characteristics. After all, freedom of choice is also freedom to make “wrong” decisions).
Am I too strict? Insensitive? I hope not. I grieve with my players when one of their characters meets an untimely death, and rejoice with them when their adventurers triumph against all odds. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I could have saved the deceased character by fudging the dice, or if the triumph had been marred by my “benign” intervention.

And now, gentle readers, I take my leave. Let me thank you for visiting my blog, and please feel free to confute my opinion (or agree with it, if you prefer).


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Looking for Adventure

New blog, new adventure.
I’ve been thinking about a blog in English for a while, and now I feel that the time is ripe.
Like my other blog, Rexque Futurus, this one is about roleplaying games. Pen&Paper roleplaying games. Old School roleplaying games, mostly.
I’m a veteran player, having started in 1986 with the Italian edition of the excellent Das Schwarze Auge, and discovering then Dungeons&Dragons, Advanced D&D (first edition!), Rolemaster, Runequest and Greg Stafford’s unforgettable Pendragon. And that was just the start!
Long story short: I’ve been playing for a long time, but since I learned about the Old School Renaissance I started exhuming my old games, and liking them more and more.

So here I am, Looking for Adventure, ready to ride toward new quests and new dangers, the sword in the scabbard, the lance in my hand... and my bag full of coloured dice!