Wednesday, November 24, 2010

X2 Castle Amber

I picked this module up probably 6 months ago. I'd like to try running for a group before starting a campaign using B/X rules to see how my players like it (all these guys have been playing 2nd, 3rd edition, and even a little 3.5 and 4th edition in the mix). So B/X DnD with its race as class, no feats, etc... might be a little bit of a surprise for them. However, I think Castle Amber will be a great adventure to show off the attributes of the B/X system.

There is one thing that bugs me about the adventure that I am thinking about changing. It is part 8 - Steven's tomb. This part of the adventure becomes a linear set of rooms with guardian creatures in them. It is repetitious open door, oh look, monster! The rest of the adventure is really well crafted and this final tomb section just seems lazy or constrained by page count. I'll have to figure something out to spice this section out and make it just as interesting as the rest of the adventure. I'll post up what I come up with if I can figure out a way to link files - I'm not very trained in HTML-fu.

Also, I'm really interested in fleshing out Averoigne - I'm a big fan of C.A.S. stories and I think I will probably re-read them in order to get more of the tone and feel that I'm looking to convey. Anyway, hopefully this works out - I'm pumped!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Aloof Gods and Vancian Clerics

My first high level character that survived past level 10 was a cleric. I realized early on that clerics were a very powerful class. They have the ability to manage their HP better than any other class. They can wear any armor, fight with decent weapons, turn undead, and cast spells! In fact, it is my personal belief that in most editions of the game the cleric is way overpowered relative to the other classes.

One thing that a lot of other GM's have done over the years is give their PC clerics the ability to cast spells without praying for them ahead of time. One excuse for this is that clerics should not have to pray for their spells - instead the diety will grant the magic as the player needs the spells. Another excuse is that if clerics are forces to prepare their spell list ahead of the game they will be forced to choose all healing spells and therefore robbing them of using "the fun spells" during the game. I say bull crap.

I think this viewpoint is tainted by the influence of Christianity on the game. I am a Christian gamer and believe in God. However, I think the typical views of Christianity - that we have a personal god who interacts and listens to us - has begun to seep into the DnD game. In the DnD world I like to think of the gods as being more aloof than our Christian god. This poly-theistic world forces the gods to look down at men as pawns in a battle as they vie with the other deities for the souls and prayers of humanity. They play by certain rules.

In order to perform miracles, clerics must recite ancient prayers and rituals instilled with power over the ages of mankind merely by belief and repitition. These prayers and rituals bind the magics of the fantastical realm and allow clerics to cast this "spell" or "miracle" at any later time by finishing the prayer. The gods are bound by these rules that have been created by the beliefs of humankind. It is this same belief that supports their very existence.

A god can choose not to answer a ritual or prayer, but if his cleric fails to perform the ritual the god cannot just "give the magic" to his cleric. If you want to have "channeling clerics" than why don't you just adapt the rules of Rolemaster or some other channeling based clerical magic system to the DnD game or perhaps a spell point system? In addition, the DnD gods are not personal, they aren't right by your side as you are adventuring. Instead, I see the DnD gods as aloof, proud, and terrible! They watch your cleric and make sure his deeds, actions, and maybe sacrifices please him/her - if they do, then that cleric's prayers will be answered. As a cleric advances in levels he unlocks the secrets of more powerful prayers and rituals - calling on more fearsome miracles.

Anyway, even if you don't buy my fantasy world metaphysical argument about why clerics should use vancian type magic - I think vancian clerical magic in DnD just works better than spell point, channelling, or just letting clerics use their spell slots according to the chart on any spell of that level. I also think it improves player creativity and skill to have to choose out their spells ahead of time and also brings a measure of balance to what I think is already an overpowered class.

Related to this post, I've been thinking quite a bit about greatly altering the cosmology/planar system of Forgotten Realms (which used the standard multiverse system of AD&D). My next post will likely cover that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BX-FR Alignment Dilemma

I think I have finally decided what to do for the alignment system in my new game. Initially I had been leaning toward using the AD&D alignment system since all my books have the dieties and NPC's and magic item alignments in terms of the 9 pt alignment system from 1st ed AD&D.

However, I have never been a fan of the interaction of know alignment, and detect evil type spells and abilities with alignment systems that contain "good" and "evil". I really like the concept of Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic as three buckets for grouping the world generally into "teams". You have the forces of order (generally thought of as the good guys) the neutral rogues who are mostly unaligned and are looking out for themselves, and finally the forces of chaos. However, even a character with a chaotic alignment isn't necessarily "evil".

I read a really good post from Robertson games blog here which describes their use of the three point alignment system. I don't really agree 100% with the concept of making chaotic characters be evil and then turned over to the DM as NPC's - instead I'm planning on playing it more like the Moldvay core rule (essentially with a lot of room for interpretation). However, I think I will be borrowing the Robertson games post's idea of having a Lawful tongue, a neutral alignment language, and finally - the Black Tongue which I really like both in name and in spirit.

I've also been tossing around the idea of a "taint" system but not played out the same way as the Unearthed Arcana version. If I can pull something together around that I think it could be a good roleplay aid.