UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams

UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams: July 2013

Sunday, 28 July 2013


Having taken the decision to develop our house rules and write them up as UbiquitousFantasy, we've gone one step further and set up a development blog: ubiquitousrpg.blogspot.co.uk

The idea is that, with both Scott and I working on Serene Dawn and the guys enjoying the Mortenburg Chronicles campaign, we bring together the rules adaptations and home brew ideas in one place.

By giving the game an identity we also overcome the "do I really have to write this up?" psychological barrier that has killed past good ideas. I also feel that it'll help me separate my hobby musings from my games development ramblings.

Where does that leave this week's hobby? Surprisingly, it leaves me time to focus on my next personal bugbear: taming prep. Watch out for a post soon on my continuing struggle with prep, despite having raved over, "Never Unprepared" some months ago.

Game on!

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Sunday, 21 July 2013

More UbiquitousFantasy

+10% XP for wearing costume...
About a month ago I wrote about the decision I took to draft my own house rules modifications, which I entitled "UbiquitousFantasy". These were a mash-up of ideas derived largely from taking the existing Castles & Crusades rules we were playing and colliding them with some ideas in Monsters & Magic. The result had me feeling nervous... you can read why in the original article.

Friday night's game arrived with me feeling nervous. Although I had "published" my ideas to the group, and received some generally upbeat feedback, the group's attendance had stalled due to good British weather and holidays. With a month having elapsed since we last played, I was worried that the proposal of change would scare off my players.

I was, of course, wrong to worry.

What happened next?

The guys arrived, spent some time chatting and, eventually, settled down to convert their characters from C&C to UbiFantasy. The process involved altering Attribute bonuses, choosing some Traits from their new Role (aka Class), rolling up some Fatigue, and slotting into the new card-based Initiative. Within 30 minutes we were ready to play.

There was some annoyance from one player who, looking at things on paper, felt he wasn't as good as he was... and that my vision of his Role was contrary to his own. Things improved when I allowed a simple switch of two Attribute values. Giving clear reasons for the setting decisions he was uncertain of also seemed to help. Once we were playing, however, it was clear that his misgivings were unfounded: the heroes are all slightly more capable than before.

What surprised me was that many potentially far-reaching changes were just happily accepted - such as the need for the Cleric to roll when summoning Miracles (aka casting Clerical spells)... and things went fine when, first time out, he failed his roll. I was amazed that they didn't end up unhappy.

At the end of the session the feedback was generally positive. We had generated a raft of ideas and suggestions too... which I decided to accept on one condition: each suggestion needs to be typed up and sent in to me for consideration; this is to free me from the need to interrupt play with writing down random suggestions - I want those suggestions but I want them when they really matter to the players.

What did I learn?

Well... I learned a lot about the way UbiquitousFantasy will play and what I need to tweak from the GM's point of view. I need to adjust creature and GMC* Armour Class values (adding their Level) in the same way the heroes have been altered, for example. 

I also learned that there is real, powerful and genuine value in the stuff I wrote about last week. The level of player involvement generated on Friday was higher than anything I have ever experienced. Period.

My players suggested and talked about some ten to fifteen new Traits for their characters. How many of these ideas will make it to the game is not important: the point is that, playing in a game that suddenly places no outer limits to their imagination, the guys were inspired to make suggestions. 

Examples include the anti-magickal Witchhunter who wants to explore the idea of "sucking powers out of Mages" and "using their power against them"; we also talked about a kind of "Improved Initiative type Trait which opens up stepped-upgrades at higher Levels". Marvellous!

Right there, in game, when the Priest of the Lightbringer asked, "What is my Holy Weapon then?" and I answered, "Erm... you're the Priest of the Lightbringer... you tell me"... THAT was marvellous! When he said, "Right. It's a Lucerne Hammer then" we created a new detail for the setting. 

That's when I learned what player engagement means. Big grins all round!

What's next?

More details need writing up. I need to get my teeth into how Mages work, for example. We don't have one in the party but they are set-up to hunt and kill magickal GMCs*, so I need to sort that out for next session.

There are new rules to propose introducing. One example is Hargrave's take on Hit Points designed to stop the heroes having more HP than a Dragon. I like these rules... but then I need to tweak a few other things to make levelling up even more interesting.

Finally, there are tweaks to make to what I've already written. Little stuff, like a limit on how many Traits they can invoke in one test. Minor tweaks but important.

Oh... and I need to ride the wave of enthusiasm that their play and encouragement gave to me. Getting a full draft of UbiquitousFantasy written over the summer would feel really cool. 

Let me know if you want to join the party and take a look at what we're doing. It's all house rule stuff... but if peering under the hood will help your game, please feel free to ask.

Game on!

*GMC = Game Master Character

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Inspired by Hargrave

Don't judge a book by the cover... gems within!
"Well you can't please everyone, nor do I try to do so any longer." - David A. Hargrave, Arduin Trilogy (p12), on the topic of his new Hit Point system.
I really like this quotation. I discovered it just the other day while perusing the Arduin Trilogy from Emperor's Choice Games. It's one of many little gems that sit within the chaotic collection of suggestions that David A. Hargrave offered back in the 70's and 80's. 

The thing that I really like about that quotation is that it sums up the general attitude of this legendary GM towards the attitudes of others. He happily ran a very successful series of campaign set within his own created multiverse (note: not a single world, but a whole multiverse) which is now known as Arduin. His fans loved him... and he published his ideas in the spirit of sharing and recommendation. I am sure that, if he lived today, he'd have a cult following for any blog he wrote. Yet... he had detractors.

Hargrave doesn't seem to have allowed negative comments to phase him. He was running his own game, derived from D&D but very much customised to his own tastes... and those of his gaming group. He was supremely confident (at least in print) that his ideas were good. And, looking at them 30 years later, I am inclined to agree with him.

"Take a Troll To Lunch"

"As far as my multiverse is concerned..." - David A. Hargrave, Arduin Trilogy (p13), on the topic of languages.
I've long been aware that, as a GM, you are encouraged to customise your game. This is a given in roleplaying circles. Except that it's actually rather rare.

"In my Traveller universe..." has long been something that I have understood and dreamed of implementing fully. Hargrave's approach to fantasy gaming goes further - he utterly customised the game to suit his own style, evolving a new game to fit his own new setting.

A couple of weeks ago I also took the first step in this direction. When I drafted up UbiquitousFantasy, a derived but modified blend of OSR rules, I was initially trying to widen the scope of my own homebrew game. Yesterday, however, I read this:
"Don't be lonely, take a Troll to lunch. The world is a smaller place, but it is smaller still in relationship to the myriad worlds of the entire Alternity (alternative eternities). Do not be a small player from a small world. Embrace the whole Almanity, and give the different types [of character options] a chance. I think you will find that the world your game is in will become a lot more fun if you do." - David A. Hargrave, Arduin Trilogy (p10), on the topic of his new player character types (or classes).
Having spent time customising our campaign world in include, among other things, a Witchfinder based on the specific setting details that my players had suggested in-game... well, you can imagine how liberating that encouragement to try new things would feel.

It's your game. It's your rules. Even if it's not your world, it's still your version of that world.
Go play.
Take a Troll to lunch.

Heading Out Deeper

Have you ever considered how much your players would enjoy finding themselves playing in a truly unique and personalised game? Certainly we tend to like to use a recognisable set of rules when we first play... but, once a group forms, isn't there an argument that whatever happens at your table is really your business?

Think about it: once a group forms, you are under house rules from the get-go. Once a game is running, we tend to make small tweaks to even the slickest system. Why not be brave and go further, incrementally moulding not only the setting but also your rules to fit your own, unique group? I wonder if that might not be a more rewarding outcome for everyone.

Here's a thought:
"Please try some of the rules that you have doubts about in game situations and game play. Only through actual play testing can a rule or situation be fully explored. We have been doing that for years now. Anyone can pontificate on rules and worlds that they have never tried, and can never be proved wrong because the proof is only in the play." - David A. Hargrave, Arduin Trilogy (p35), on the topic of rules questions.
Can we be brave? Who's up for taking that Troll to lunch?

Game on!

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