Old School

Old School Renaissance This page collects the my latest posts on the topic of old school D&D gaming.

Halberds & Helmets is my house rules document.

I follow the Old School Revisited and Why OD&D line of thought presented by Sham’s Grog ’n Blog:

  1. Decision of the referee is final – no rules lawyers
  2. A game of making the most of what you get
  3. Not about the power of the character
  4. Sandbox gaming (players decide how the campaign develops)

2018-11-09 Blog Post Of Note

What do you call this feeling when you want to leave small comments on multiple blogs but you don’t just want to do it on social media and every single comment is too small for a blog post? As I said a few days ago when I introduced the blog Planets: if we want to break out of the silos, we need to start doing what social media has been doing for us. We need to pick up on topics mentioned elsewhere. We need to link to those conversations. We need to recommend other bloggers.

So here’s some stuff I recently noticed:

Luka Rejec writes about Natural Language Roleplaying Games. When I wrote the Halberds and Helmets referee guide, I was somehow aiming for a more conversational style but I fear I failed. I was also trying to have two voices in the text: the main text with the rules and a more conversational style in the sidebar. I don’t think worked very well and my editor also flaged a lot of shifts in time and person (singular, plural, first person, third person, past, present). It was a mess. Perhaps natural language is a mess and if that is so, I’m not sure natural language is a good fit for rules. I do agree with the wish to avoid jargon and legalese, so there’s some sort of equilibrium I’m still looking for.

Courtney Campbell writes Don't look at this trap! and points out that there’s no harm in letting players use player knowledge at the table, if that’s what they want, because we’re friends playing a game. And I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve started telling my players: if you know it, then tour character knows it, if you want to. It cuts both ways: most remember red dragons breathe fire but when the meet trolls they might remember they have a special ability but if they ask, I’ll tell them: if you don’t know, then your character does not know either. I haven’t had any players memorize monster manuals at my table in decades, and even if players remember some of the details, what’s the harm? I also don’t enjoy reskinning monsters just to prolong the guessing game. What’s the point of trolls that look like some other monster? Players are more afraid because they don’t know what they’re facing. But what if they are facing trolls and some of them remember how to fight trolls? There’s joy and happy faces all around! As a referee, it’s good to have a bunch of monster books for the occasional surprise, but at the same time it’s good to have some opposition so players can focus on other things: remembering some lore, or diplomacy, or some other strategy. After all, the real world is super exciting even though practically all the monsters are humans and we all know their special abilities.

Aaron Griffin writes about the sandbox in his blogpost What is a Sandbox?. He mentions the term “railroad” and that reminds me of the whole discussion about player agency we had in 2011. Good times. Aaron also links to another blog by atxredbeard, I’m Crawling, but am I in a Sandbox? which ends with a question: “What does sandbox mean to you?” And that in turn reminded me of all the sandbox posts I wrote, years ago. I collected some of them in a post from 2014, Best of Sandbox Posts. There’s also a post of mine from 2016 I’d like to recommend, Rescuing the Sandbox, where I talk about the factors that help keep a sandbox from deteriorating:

  1. Clearly establish which plot elements belong to which character.
  2. Explicitly list open plots and ask for preferences concerning the next session.
  3. Provide enough information.
  4. Make sure there are consequences and announce them.

Anyway, food for thought, and I’m once again reminded of why I don’t blog so much about role-playing games these days. All too often I get the feeling that I’ve already said what I wanted to say, years ago. I need to focus on the things that changed, if any. And that makes me wonder about all the bloggers that have written good stuff that is not actually lost but simply forgotten because they no longer blog and thus their old stuff doesn’t get boosted every now and then. Let me do my part, then, and point you to this post of mine, Ode to Black Dougal, where I link to some of the best posts by P. Armstrong from 2009. Good times indeed!

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2018-11-04 Traveller Starship Geopmorphs

Wow. This free PDF with Traveller geomorphs is amazing. All your station mapping needs are taken care off, I’d say! 🙇

Linked from this blog post: The Starship Geomorphs book is finally complete!.

I always assumed that one day we’d be able to use Gridmapper to create such maps. But not with this level of detail. Such curves, structures, and more details.

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Comments on 2018-11-04 Traveller Starship Geopmorphs

Definitely one for Uplinked Intelligence, the wiki that collects cool OSR Science Fiction house rules.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-11-04 19:21 UTC

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2018-11-04 New Faces for the Face Generator

Here’s how to create a new collection for the face generator.

First, print some templates.

Second, get a pen and start drawing a sheet of eyes, of eyebrows, of noses, of mouths, of ears, of hair, of chins.

Drawing face elements

Scan them. I use Gimp and there the FileCreateXSaneDevice dialog... menu opens the scanner application. There, I pick Gray and 300 DPI. Then I scan all the stuff I drew.

Scanning

Next, in Gimp, the processing begins. The first problem is that either the printer or the scanner don’t really get straight lines.

I like to work at 50% zoom...

Use the rotate tool to rotate the image until it looks as straight as possible (shortcut Shift+R). Move the window edges around until you have the opportunity to check whether the lines are in fact straight. In the screenshot below I’m looking at the left edge to verify that the rotation is good.

Rotating the template

Use the crop tool to cut off anything outside the template (shortcut Shift+C).

Got to ImageScale Image.... Scale it to 2250×3000, breaking the link between width and height.

Got to ColorsLevels. In the top bar, move the tiny white triangle to the left until the template is no longer visible in the image. Click the black pipette and then click onto a line that you have drawn such that all your lines are now pitch black.

Using levels to clean up the image

Export your image (shortcut Ctrl+Shift+E).

Cut the image into elements using cutter.pl. It cuts the scan into 5 × 5 images of 450 × 600 pixels each and labels them by row. You’d invoke it as follows: perl helpers/cutter.pl source1.png alex eyes_all nose_all mouth_all hair_all chin_all or perl helpers/cutter.pl source2.png alex eyes_all nose_all mouth_all hair_all ears_all.

In other words: First is the source image, then the artist name, and then you provide the element for every row. If the remaining rows are all the same element, you don’t need to repeat it. Thus, if you’ve drawn a sheet full of eyes, just use perl helpers/cutter.pl source4.png alex eyes_all and you’re good. Make sure you use _all in the filename. That’s how the system knows the face element can be used for all types of faces.

In my case:

perl helpers/cutter.pl alex3-chin-man-2.png alex3 chin_man
perl helpers/cutter.pl alex3-ears-2.png alex3 ears_all
perl helpers/cutter.pl alex3-eyebrows-2.png alex3 face_all
perl helpers/cutter.pl alex3-eyes-2.png alex3 eyes_all
perl helpers/cutter.pl alex3-hair-2.png alex3 hair_man
perl helpers/cutter.pl alex3-mouths-2.png alex3 mouth_all
perl helpers/cutter.pl alex3-noses-2.png alex3 nose_all

And then to write a license file, the README, we should be ready to go, more or less. Let’s see...

Generated Faces

Check it out!

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Comments on 2018-11-04 New Faces for the Face Generator

Todo:

  1. Cleanup images that have some transparency left in them
  2. Draw more!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-11-04 15:59 UTC

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2018-10-27 Names in Traveller

I keep wanting to go back and run a Traveller game. But this seems to be my curse: writing software for games I don’t play. Like other people reading rules for games they don’t play, or buying materials they don’t use. Well, in case you want to run a Traveller game, check out this Traveller map generator. Please note that generating the map for a whole sector takes a few moments. Subsectors are much faster.

I just added something new to it: languages. For a long time, the map generator would pick a “language” and generate names that belonged to this “language”. The name generator is also available as a separate tool. I felt that over the centuries, there must be settlements and growth, decay, something like migration. And thus the names should stick around.

Here’s what I’m doing now:

  1. After all the systems on the map are named (using the language of the ancients, I guess), I go through all the systems again.
  2. Every system has a 5% chance of having developed a dynamic culture with it’s own language and names.
  3. For every culture that’s thus generated, I determine whether it has access to Jump-1 or Jump-2 drives (50% each).
  4. And I decide for how many jumps they will spread: one to three jumps.
  5. If they arrive at a system where another culture has already taken root, there’s a 50% chance that they won’t settle and expansion stops.
  6. This expansion also renames the systems using the new “language”.
  7. When I’m done, it’s time to pick colours. Sadly, I know very little about colours and so I just have seven colours prepared and each culture gets one of them. That also means that sometimes regions with the same colour will touch and appear to form a single area. Well, I guess these are multi-lingual empires.
  8. System not touched by these expansions keep their names and the white background.

It looks quite appealing!

Sector Map

There are still unresolved questions, though: is the red area in the lower left really a merger of several larger cultures that all happened to end up red?

Here’s some debugging output. What you see is a line showing where the expansion started, the colour picked, the jump drive quality (1 or 2), and the expansion (1 to 3, going down by one with every step). I filtered the entire output for the area of interest: x coordinates from 01 to 09 and y coordinates from 30 to 49. Every line is prefixed with it’s line number, which should make it easier to spot gaps.

50 matches for "0.[34]. " in buffer: *scratch*
    127:0735 005 1 1
    128: added 0635 1 1
    129: added 0734 1 1
    130: added 0835 1 1
    131: added 0536 1 0
    132: added 0633 1 0
    133: added 0935 1 0
    134: added 0936 1 0
    182:0840 009 2 2
    183: added 0740 2 2
    184: added 0838 2 2
    185: added 0940 2 2
    188: added 0638 2 1
    189: added 0438 2 0
    190: added 0537 2 0
    191: added 0538 2 0
    192: added 0737 2 0
    195: added 0936 2 0
    414:0935 023 2 3
    415: added 0735 2 3
    416: added 0835 2 3
    419: added 0534 2 2
    420: added 0536 2 2
    421: added 0635 2 2
    422: added 0936 2 2
    423: added 0334 2 1
    424: added 0335 2 1
    425: added 0435 2 1
    426: added 0633 2 1
    427: added 0734 2 1
    428: added 0134 2 0
    429: added 0135 2 0
    430: added 0232 2 0
    431: added 0234 2 0
    432: added 0332 2 0
    433: added 0336 2 0
    434: added 0136 2 0
    435: added 0337 2 0
    436: added 0538 2 1
    437: added 0737 2 1
    438: added 0338 2 0
    439: added 0339 2 0
    440: added 0438 2 0
    441: added 0638 2 0
    442: added 0537 2 1
    452: added 0931 2 1
    453: added 0932 2 1
    459: added 0730 2 0
    460: added 0731 2 0
    461: added 0830 2 0

As you can see, there was a culture that started in 0840 and grew into 9 more systems (with some growth outside the bounds that we’re looking at) but the culture which started in 0935 gobbled half of it up. A Jump-2 drive and a drive to expand up to three jumps makes a massive difference. Just to make sure that the remaining lines did not hide anything important, I went back to the file: 63 systems!

0935 023 2 3
 added 0735 2 3
 added 0835 2 3
 added 1034 2 3
 added 1134 2 3
 added 0534 2 2
 added 0536 2 2
 added 0635 2 2
 added 0936 2 2
 added 0334 2 1
 added 0335 2 1
 added 0435 2 1
 added 0633 2 1
 added 0734 2 1
 added 0134 2 0
 added 0135 2 0
 added 0232 2 0
 added 0234 2 0
 added 0332 2 0
 added 0336 2 0
 added 0136 2 0
 added 0337 2 0
 added 0538 2 1
 added 0737 2 1
 added 0338 2 0
 added 0339 2 0
 added 0438 2 0
 added 0638 2 0
 added 0537 2 1
 added 1037 2 1
 added 1038 2 0
 added 1039 2 0
 added 1137 2 0
 added 1237 2 0
 added 1032 2 2
 added 1133 2 2
 added 1234 2 2
 added 1235 2 2
 added 0931 2 1
 added 0932 2 1
 added 1030 2 1
 added 1031 2 1
 added 1131 2 1
 added 1132 2 1
 added 1232 2 1
 added 0730 2 0
 added 0731 2 0
 added 0830 2 0
 added 1229 2 0
 added 1230 2 0
 added 1331 2 0
 added 1332 2 0
 added 1333 2 0
 added 1334 2 0
 added 1432 2 0
 added 1433 2 0
 added 1434 2 1
 added 1435 2 1
 added 1535 2 0
 added 1536 2 0
 added 1634 2 0
 added 1337 2 0
 added 1537 2 0

This culture did not “fuse” with neighbours. They reached from 01 to 16 in width and from 29 to 39 in height all by themselves. But going back to the map, a quick check shows that 1240 is also red and not in the list. How come? It belonged to another large region:

0840 009 2 2
 added 0740 2 2
 added 0838 2 2
 added 0940 2 2
 added 1039 2 2
 added 1040 2 2
 added 0638 2 1
 added 0438 2 0
 added 0537 2 0
 added 0538 2 0
 added 0737 2 0
 added 1037 2 1
 added 1038 2 1
 added 0936 2 0
 added 1137 2 0
 added 1139 2 0
 added 1237 2 0
 added 1140 2 0
 added 1240 2 1
 added 1439 2 0
 added 1440 2 0

And now we come to the colouring. This is culture 009 and 023. The CSS class is computed by taking this number mod 7 + 1, resulting in 3 for both, and the class culture3 uses the background #fff0ff (some sort of plum, I guess).

I’d say the next improvement would be adding some more colours before fiddling with the algorithm too much.

Do you think languages should spread along trade and communication lines? Or should they spread out based on how close systems are? For example: if a civilisation had mastered jump-1 but not jump-2, the language would have spread to neighbouring systems that can be reached with their ships, independently of whether the economics later warrant trade and communications?

Words for certain products like tea in our world have spread far and wide. Thus, is trade the most important aspect? It’s a good point. As a counter point I can only offer that languages often seem to be contiguous areas in the world, both rich and poor, and that the major trading centres of the world don’t all speak the same language (even if the merchant class would speak Roman, or English, or Portuguese). So the names of new products might travel with products, but language itself seems to spread organically, from family to family, as people slowly move from place to place.

I guess it also depends on whether you think that the sophonts present are there due to local evolution or due to settlement from nearby systems. If nearby systems, then the first language group to arrive is simply going to dominate, even if trade later fails, I’d assume? So, I’d argue that easy of travel is irrelevant as long as somebody did the actual travelling. Perhaps isolated worlds should simply get their own languages.

I think I need to avoid diving into this rabbit hole! No overthinking! Just focus on making a nice map that serves to inspire a referee.

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Comments on 2018-10-27 Names in Traveller

New features:

  • Named the cultures in the UWP instead of simply numbering them.
  • Added more colours.
  • Colours are used in random order.

Example: subsector 1285109285.

Ruquo            0101  C546512-6     SRP   Ag Ga NI
Luphijo          0102  D363437-4       S   Lt NI
Thepru           0104  C3508A9-7     SCG   De Po A            [Kudruje]
Drufidro         0106  D544666-3      SG   Ag Ga Lt NI        [Kudruje]
Ngipe            0109  B34268C-10    SCG   NI Po A            [Kudruje]
Kudro            0110  A697435-8    SRTG   Ga NI              [Kudruje]
Lujedro          0203  C7A0887-10      S   De A               [Kudruje]
Peku             0204  E628969-7       G   Hi In A            [Kudruje]
Drupha           0205  E555367-2       G   Ga Lo Lt           [Kudruje]
Phathe           0206  B768344-6      NC   Ga Lo              [Kudruje]
Drongi           0207  C775000-0    STCG   Ba Ga              [Kudruje]
Zafi             0208  D354333-5       S   Lo Lt              [Kudruje]
Ngipha           0210  A77576B-9      TG   Ag Ga A            [Kudruje]
Zhaghe           0301  A3439EF-8    RTCG   Hi In Po A
Shewhi           0303  D659411-5           Lt NI              [Whih]
Zatheqo          0305  E864233-2       G   Ga Lo Lt           [Kudruje]
Drupe            0307  B76778A-8      NT   Ag Ga Ri A         [Kudruje]
Phaza            0308  C759664-4     SCG   Lt NI              [Kudruje]
Zaspoi           0310  D577100-7      SG   Ga Lo A            [Kudruje]
Shepru           0402  B400368-12     NT   Ht Lo Va           [Whih]
Shidu            0403  C482851-9      SC   Ri                 [Whih]
Kuiku            0406  C537510-6       G   NI A               [Kudruje]
Zazafi           0408  C644652-8      RG   Ag Ga NI           [Kudruje]
Kuiza            0409  C548510-8      TG   Ag Ga NI A         [Kudruje]
Drolu            0410  D676555-3      SG   Ag Ga Lt NI        [Kudruje]
Stili            0501  E020774-10      G   De Na Po A
Sheshe           0503  B524115-11    TCG   Lo                 [Whih]
Drodro           0505  E750788-2       G   De Lt Po           [Kudruje]
Zadrungi         0507  C656000-0       G   Ba Ga              [Kudruje]
Pruku            0510  AAA6ABC-11    RTC   Fl Hi In A         [Kudruje]
Ngicha           0604  E666210-2       G   Ga Lo Lt A         [Kudruje]
Chadru           0607  C558778-7      CG   Ag Ga A            [Kudruje]
Wraghe           0701  X94A414-5       G   Lt NI Wa           [Quughe]
Zaspo            0704  D331355-10     SG   Lo Po              [Kudruje]
Qopha            0705  C436754-11     RG                      [Kudruje]
Kujelu           0706  C100536-9      SG   NI Va              [Kudruje]
Phangi           0708  B9A0220-8      NS   De Lo A            [Kudruje]
Whoghe           0801  C000645-12      G   As Ht Na NI Va     [Quughe]
Quutra           0802  B440544-13   STCG   De Ht NI Po        [Quughe]
Ghetho           0803  D446553-6       G   Ag NI              [Quughe]
Mostughe         0805  E86A355-8       G   Lo Wa
Deprui           0807  D758102-8      SG   Ga Lo A            [Kudruje]
Druza            0809  B242453-13   NSTG   Ht NI Po           [Kudruje]
                       ||||||| |
Ag Agricultural        ||||||| |            In Industrial
As Asteroid            ||||||| +- Tech      Lo Low Population
Ba Barren              ||||||+- Law         Lt Low Technology
De Desert              |||||+- Government   Na Non-Agricultural
Fl Fluid Oceans        ||||+- Population    NI Non-Industrial
Ga Garden              |||+- Hydro          Po Poor
Hi High Population     ||+- Atmosphere      Ri Rich
Ht High Technology     |+- Size             Wa Water World
IC Ice-Capped          +- Starport          Va Vacuum

Bases: Naval – Scout – Research – TAS – Consulate – Pirate – Gas Giant

Subsector 1285109285

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-28 22:04 UTC


And a Mastodon bot: @traveller!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-29 09:15 UTC


The thing I like about this is that it provides a sort of backstory inspiration. “After the fall, the Kudruje resettled most of the subsector. Their superior ships allowed them to spread far and wide. Towards the core, their progress was checked, however. The Whih cluster proved hard to penetrate and the frequent uprisings of the Quughe and their spiritualism have made any attempts at a take-over too costly. Their systems continue to languish in poverty.”

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-29 15:50 UTC


Hm, need to think about the Trader Format. This doesn’t seem to work.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-29 20:22 UTC

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2018-10-25 Death & Betrayal

Recently, Brad was writing about killing. He said, “morality aside, it’s the best tactical solution since you don’t need to revisit the problem.”

I enjoy combat for other reasons: as the character is an investment of time and effort, the risk of losing that is real, it makes everything more relevant. Independent of that, however: Brad says that killing is expedient because enemies will not come back, but I take inspiration from ancient history. Caesar was magnanimous. He was not often betrayed. And if he was, it was a political situation which he was able to exploit. What I try to do as I run my campaigns is offer similar situations.

  • If people surrender, they will surrender and not attack as soon as you turn your back.
  • If people promise things in exchange for their lives, they keep these promises.
  • I provide an honest assessment: if I think these bandits will continue thieving even though they just promised to join the rebel army, I tell the players: “these bandits will surely join the rebels, but who knows how long they’ll stay there; they don’t look like they like getting up early and marching for days on end.”

I think these small changes were enough for players to trust that most people they let go will stay gone, or if they are revisited, they’ll never wish that they had been killed instead.

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2018-10-24 Many Characters

The screenshot shows that the four players at the table yesterday were running a total of 12 characters, which is typical for my table. Each player has a main character and most have at least one or two henchmen. In fact, our newest player just naturally got a new henchman this very session, so if the same players show up next time, there will be an extra dwarf. At the same time, another henchman lost his second eye in a fight and will now retire, blind. 😔

These are the notes I made for tonight’s session. That took me maybe half an hour. About half of it got used in three hours of play, the rest was older notes, maps, tables and a whole lot of improv.

Prep notes

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Comments on 2018-10-24 Many Characters

Glad to see you have another group going, Alex!

– At PresGas at freeradical dot zone 2018-10-25 21:07 UTC


That’s the last one! Down from thirteen sessions per month in various campaigns to just two...

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-25 21:36 UTC

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2018-10-22 Indie or not?

Blogosphere Power Engage!

If you have a RPG blog, either for the OSR or for Indie games, please submit your blog by leaving a comment. These are the two Planets I run right now:

A Planet is a website which collects posts from member blogs and display them on a single page. Thus, these two pages are ideal for people looking for new blogs to follow, people who aren’t subscribed to 200 blogs or more in their feed reader, people who are curious. And it’s a low cost way to get your blog in front of more eyes.

It does raise the question, however: what’s the difference?

What’s independent and indie in this context? As all RPG companies are very small, one could argue that the term is meaningless. I can just say what I was thinking of: things like Powered by the Apocalypse, Mountain Witch, Mouse Guard, Fate, Lady Blackbird and the like. But really, where do we draw the line? I have no idea. Is D&D 5E already Old School? Is Shadowrun small enough to be indie? Is Pathfinder the only one that’s mainstream? I truly don’t know and hope that people will self-sort and as if by magic we will all be happy.

What are our alternatives: story games, narrative games? For me, indie is what started at The Forge, right at the time when print-on-demand via Lulu became viable, when selling PDFs via RPG Now became viable, when more people started looking for alternatives to the d20 system.

Conversely, I like to think that starting with 6 abilities to define a character, saving throws to avoid mishaps, hit points, to-hit rolls using a d20, damage rolls using smaller dice, xp for gold and levels is 100% OSR. There are things that are close in execution, or close in spirit, or just define themselves to be close (thinking of Into the Odd). So that’s the OSR.

On Google+, Brendan said it best: “just click on the planets, skim the list of site names, and decide which crowd you want to hang with.”

In either case: please help spread the word such that more RPG bloggers join up. Rebuilding the blogosphere is a community effort:

  • read blogs
  • comment on these blogs
  • write your own blog posts
  • pick up on topics mentioned elsewhere
  • link to conversations happening elsewhere
  • recommend other bloggers (remember blogrolls!)

Basically we will have to do manually what Google+, Facebook and all the other social media companies are doing for us:

  • linking
  • sharing
  • commenting
  • recommending

Then again. It’s not hard. It’s a blog. You write text. It does what it says it does. It has links. It’s yours. It’s perfect! 🙂

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Comments on 2018-10-22 Indie or not?

Hey, please add

https://spellsandsteel.blogspot.com/

To the OSR list.

Charles 2018-10-23 03:32 UTC


Done!

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-23 07:13 UTC


For a different perspective, see Brad J Murray’s post on categorization. I think I understand where he is coming from since I would not label myself as a this or that gamer. I like them all. But that doesn’t mean that all games are equal, or that all cliques or design sensibilities are equal, and just because the edges are fuzzy doesn’t mean that the categories themselves are useless.

In my blog post I wrote about the connotations the terms have for me, and as such, I find them to be useful shorthands. I find them to be useful terms for people to self-categorize.

  • You like or dislike Zak S.? There’s a strong indicator.
  • What about the Grognardia blog?
  • Do you follow the Story Games forum?
  • Did you like the Forge?
  • Do you think story emerges from the apparently random events, do you appreciate the idea of the game as a piquaresque?
  • Is the story as directed by the player’s hopes and wishes more important than the consequences of the characters’ actions?

If your response is a simple “it’s all good” then there’s no point in having this discussion, of course. But if you think one or the other is important to you, then having more words — labels! — is a benefit. Labels invoke context and associations and they make our vocabulary richer. Just don’t let them dictate your thinking.

So, to come back to Brad’s point about categories being needlessly divisive: as I find myself in both camps, I don’t experience it as a us vs. them dividing line but rather as a shorthand when talking about games. But yeah, it can be (mis-) used for us vs. them, too.

As for tags to describe games, I sort of liked the system of referee and player badges that some people talked about in 2011.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-11-02 23:22 UTC


I find it a little disturbing that the top item for categorizing games there is how one feels about a particular person. That disjunct is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about: it’s impossible to keep it about the games.

Brad J Murray 2018-11-02 23:51 UTC


That’s true. All I can say is that we’re talking about people, there will always be groups of people. They share some values but not others, and they need words to describe themselves. I agree: it’s impossible to keep it about the games.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-11-03 08:14 UTC


Unrelated to the discussion about the benefits or drawbacks of categorization, I was recently reminded of this series of blog posts by Zak S.:

How Much Do You Want To Be A Wizard?: “in the most interesting and original indie games I’ve seen, the players are all put on the spot at one point or another to come up with some interesting and creative story elements.”

And in the same post: “In other words, D&D supports several playing styles simultaneously (assuming the DM’s any good). In a good game, everybody’s playing the game they want to play, even if it’s eight different games.”

– Alex Schroeder 2018-11-06 14:20 UTC

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2018-10-19 Multiverse Problems

I liked reading @Halfjack’s blog post on how to publish for a crazy multiverse/intergalactic game. What he said about Soft Horizon resonated with my Planescape experience in a previous campaign. The idea is great. The background fantastic. But the execution needs details, and art, and inspiration. I like his idea of writing follow-up stand-alone thematically linked games.

I think I could get into the idea for my map and description generator. I’m thinking of Skyrim. There, you walk the landscape and occasionally you find castles, towers, dungeons, camps with giants, mountain peaks with dragons, troll lairs, and when I go there, I always feel as if there is an actual story there to be found, if only I’d take the time. The bandit boss has a name and goals; the elven sorcerer residing in their dungeon has a plan, and you can involve them in your quest against the giants of this or that mountain pass.

So, I think I’d like to expand on the fractal nature of adventure. Zak said something like that when I got started on Hex Describe. I understood it as him wanting a generator that would generate details at every level from the wilderness down to the dungeon, from then political parties down to the individual hermits.

I believe there is a way to translate a vision of these adventures into building blocks which can them be codified. Yes, at first the output of these generators is formulaic and boring. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t come for free, that’s for sure. But a generator implemented in software, or better yet, implemented in random tables like Hex Describe, could be used by others and could survive the software using those very tables.

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2018-10-18 Print on Demand

I’ve added my blog to both The Old School RPG Planet and The Indie RPG Planet, and if I think a blog post ought to be on both planets, I need to add all the tags. Not sure if that makes sense, though. Perhaps this blog post should have none of the tags?

Anyway, what I wanted to note is that Brad wrote a nice blog post about the benefits of Print on Demand (PoD) and the drawbacks of running a Kickstarter campaign in order to print a “nice” book: who’s stealing my eyes?

The conclusion?

You will probably sell more books with Kickstarter. You might make more money. There is space for the books to be much prettier.
With POD you’ll just remain free.

Well said!

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Thinking more about the difference between OSR and Indie RPG games, prompted by a comment on Google+: isn’t the OSR indie?

Indeed! Do you want to call it story games, then? Narrative games? Personally, I like to think that starting with 6 abilities to define a character, saving throws to avoid mishaps, hit points, to-hit rolls using a d20, damage rolls using smaller dice, xp for gold and levels is 100% OSR. There are things that are close in execution, or close in spirit, or just define themselves to be close (thinking of Into the Odd). So that’s the OSR.

For me, Indie is what started at the Forge, right at the time when print on demand (PoD) via Lulu became viable, when selling PDFs via RPG Now became viable, when more people started looking for alternatives to the d20 system.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-22 13:41 UTC

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2018-10-16 Uplinked Intelligence Wiki

@seanmccoy started the Uplinked Intelligence Wiki. It aims to be a repository of links to blog posts for running OSR style games in Sci-Fi systems: Stars Without Number, Mothership, Traveller, Rogue Trader, etc.

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