Friday, February 28, 2014

Tabletop RPGs Are A Poor Environment For Immersion

Immersion comes up a lot when discussing RPGs, typically in response to this style of game making it more difficult or easier for one person or the other to experience it.

The thing is, RPGs are a really poor choice for an immersive experience. I know that we've been told that this is something that's at least a byproduct of role playing, and it's desirable, and for a lot of people is a goal. And it's not a bad goal, either, and it's no reason that if your intent is immersion to not at least try. But at the very least, one has to recognize the odds are stacked against someone who wants to minimize breaking immersion.

Now, before people get out their pitchforks and torches, give me a chance to explain. Most immersive experiences that non-gamers are familiar with - say a movie or a book or a video game - are relatively solitary and internalized affairs. You get so wrapped up in the experience that you feel you're really there and forget about being yourself for a little bit. Sure, there might be things that bump you out of it - phone rings, the kids get too loud, the computer/console crashes - but overall the number of things that you have to interact with to sustain immersion are minimized.

Also, this is not a diatribe against immersion, nor in any way meant to invalidate, belittle, or otherwise tell people for whom its important that it's a pipe dream, doesn't exist, or anything else. It's just a short examination as to why rpgs actually wind up not being the perfect environment for it - in spite of most common thought that immersion is a natural outgrowth of playing rpgs. You have to work at it, in large part because of the activity's format. In some ways, perhaps more, this may be more commentary on why you can't get away from metagaming.

First, we have the game part. You need to interface with the rules in order to play the game. Granted,when  game systems "fade into the background" - often as much through familiarity as elegant design - it makes immersion easier. Some people can get immersed even when the system is front and center. But rules and game systems are still artificial, and require bringing an internal process (the immersion) out into an artificial framework. While mechanics can certainly help in certain ways, they can cause a disconnect much more often. I still strongly believe that you actually can't design a system to support immersion - you can accomplish any number of other goals that might help support it, but it's a corollary instead of the primary result. Compare this with, for example, a PC game. While you still have to wrangle with controls, they tend to get out of the way a lot faster than rpg mechanics do - and they're easier to manipulate if you have the money and inclination to go with nonstandard control schemes that can be reconfigured to support playing the game better (i.e., any number of input devices from Razer).

Next, you have the inherently social activity of RPGs. I think that this has a bigger impact on creating a flawed environment for immersion than the rules do. In order to interact with a group of people, you again have to externalize a purely internal process. So now we have two external filters - the rules and the expression of character - to deal with. Again, the social group can do a lot to build up immersion but there are just as many ways (if not more) that someone can do something that pulls you out of "the zone" (for whatever measure of "the zone" that there is for you).

Finally, we have the environment. You can turn down the lights and sit down with headphones for a movie or a video game or a book. You can get yourself in a comfortable and quiet place. Not so with a group activity like an rpg. I mean, everyone could be in really comfy spots in a space with lots of atmosphere to play an rpg (and this is totally a good idea), but the environment is still a shared one and not a private one. That's another ding against an rpg being an ideal place to bring the immersion.

Does that mean that immersion doesn't exist or isn't important? Nope on both counts. But those things that are working against it don't necessarily affect other elements of play. You can enjoy all of the other elements as they are even if the mechanics are wonky or the players or environment are distracting. The traditional structure and mode of playing RPGs simply wasn't designed with immersion in mind and this goes a long way toward explaining explains why it can be so difficult.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Well, I Can Find One Thing To Be Motivated About: Grouchiness!

There was a thread on that one forum asking if Evil Hat was having trouble printing things or publishing things or doing stuff. I got dressed down for my response being "rude", because my response was basically, "Two products that seem to have fallen by the wayside haven't had any recent There's all this other shit going on." After which, a few people chime in with wonderment about how anything gets written with all of +Fred Hicks' G+ posts, or that dice must be time consuming. I predict (given my last response to +Michael Moceri) that things will get silly quickly.

My grouchiness with the subject of the thread wasn't really the title ("What's Up With Evil Hat?") or the wording (having "trouble" putting out products), despite how I worded my own response. Of course the post was totally non-controversial and just an innocent question and apparently OP can't Google. My grouchiness is over the fact a lot of the time, gamers can't just accept that sometimes their favoritest most-bated-breath-waiting product will never see the light of day or isn't the biggest priority for the publisher.

Now, maybe I'm spoiled - I used to be a Palladium player, and do you know how long I waited for the Old Kingdom book to come out? For PFRP 1st-fucking-edition? So long that I hadn't even thought about it until just now. Waiting a couple extra months for Atomic Robo is a walk in the park by comparison. I can understand queries about the status of products. I can understand - given the Kickstarter failures out there - wanting to know how something is doing that is now five months late and the creator decided that they needed to clear their head by going to Nepal or something.

Maybe I'm overreacting as the nerd-rage in me builds and gives me a false sense of the motivation and energy I've been lacking lately (I bet it's going to be hell to come down from...I might wind up listening to The Smiths on repeat for maybe 15 whole minutes). For a moment though, let's suppose that Evil Hat just up and decided to drop both products the poster was inquiring about completely (it was the Paranet Papers and Atomic Robo, by the way). Not saying that this would happen, or this is what is happening (because honestly I don't know and I'm not going to ask). Now let's suppose that those two products were put into the pipeline at the time because they were the best choice, given the company's success at that time. Then all of a sudden, the company is catapulted into a new level of success by a super-successful Kickstarter and whole new avenues of potential product lines open up including new books, board games, dice sets, cards, etc. Then throw in some hiccups that would throw a project off its Gantt chart even without any of the the other stuff going on, and we have an understandable situation where a couple products could slip under the radar.

Not that nay of this is anybody's business but theirs, but given they're firing on all cylinders otherwise - it's certainly not an indication of "trouble." Come back and ask again when they've gone the route of DP9.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Complete An Utter Lack of Motivation

I have been struck with a lack of wanting to pretty much do anything. It's an unshakable ennui regarding virtually everything. It's infested pretty much everything, from work to other projects that I know I want to do or activities I enjoy. I started replaying Thief: Deadly Shadows after finishing the first two, and found that I really couldn't get into it. It crashes whenever I try to move into one of the areas I need to get into...and I have zero interest in trying to fix it. I have a Tribe 8 game that I'm trying to prepare for, and which I want to start regardless, but I can't bring myself to finish the prep work. There's a ton of personal matters I need to attend to, but I'm just not getting around to them. I already know some of those things are contributing to my listlessness. I'm kind of slouching toward a time in the near future that a lot of things hanging over my head will be resolved, and hopefully that will help me break out of this.

In the meantime, I'm not sure how exactly to shake it aside from forcing myself to work on various things - which knowing me will backfire. So, I figured I'd list the things that I really wanted to do but just can't give two shits about right now:
  • Fate Core (but possibly FAE) Thief-inspired fantasy world.  Seeing a lot of similarities between what I was planning in Will Hindmarch's excellent looking Project: Dark doesn't help motivate me, even though I know that it's not going to kill my project.
  • The science-fiction setting I pitched for ADX.
  • A Silhouette-like retroclone system, possibly for a re-imagining of a Solar System-based setting with mecha.
  • A Fate Core adaptation of The Laundry.
  • Coming up with something for Onyx Path's writer's submissions.
Maybe I just need to take a couple mental health days, sleep a lot, reinstall Dishonored, and find some inspiration somewhere.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Metric For Presenting In Character Or Out of Character Knowledge

I highly, highly dislike overly artificial "firewalls" as +Topher Gerkey put it between in character and out of character knowledge. Yes, I expect that for the most part players will refrain from blatantly using their own knowledge to the detriment of everyone's enjoyment of the game. But, conversely, I expect that they won't stubbornly refuse to use it when it adds to the game.

As an example, since I'm gearing up for Tribe 8, is how I've seen portrayals of characters in post-apocalyptic games finding relatively common objects like flashlights. Usually it goes down as the GM describing the object in vague details, like "It's a metal cylinder with a piece of glass set in the end." and sitting back while Twenty Questions ensues and the GM tries to lead them astray from the real answer as much as possible. If asked to draw it or show a picture, the GM hems and haws and doesn't want to because they know the players would immediately figure out it's a flashlight.

Look, just say it's a fucking flashlight. The players should be able to roleplay their characters figuring out how it works. The words, "What is this weird metal cylinder with glass set in the end?" should be coming from the players and not the GM trying to play some kind of lame game of Charades.

So, to that end here's a quick flow chart of how I make these kinds of decisions:

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Summarily Bad Idea

So I saw a post where someone suggested that the GM customize the way that something is described to the "intelligence" of the character. So if you were describing something to a player of a really dumb character, you'd use simple terms. If it was a very intelligent character, you'd load up the detail.

This is like reverse "firewalling", the act of putting up a strict barrier between in character and out of character knowledge. I think this is a bad idea on a number of levels. Setting aside the idea of tailoring information to a specific result, like for an awareness of knowledge roll (you roll poorly, you only get something vague - but if you roll well you get additional detail), the player should be the one deciding how they will parse the descriptions into what their character understands, and have their character react accordingly (and, incidentally, this is one of the reasons I believe it's impossible to completely separate IC and OOC knowledge, to the point where I don't even actively try).

Do really want the GM to talk to you like this?

I can foresee a multitude of misunderstandings and conflicts being caused around the table as a result of this. Plus, it simply seems like way too much work for too little gain. What do you leave out or include when the intelligence or whatever scores are very close to one another? Where's the cut off between talking to the player like they're a simpleton vs. just describing something normally vs. Niles Crane? What do you do when the game doesn't have a measure or attribute for intelligence?

So...tailoring the information given to a specific metric? Pretty much standard practice, I think. Tailoring how the information is given to the receiver based purely on in-game characteristics? Not really seeing how this is a good thing - unless someone can convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Not Quite A Proper Blog Post

I've rearranged things slightly. There is now a page called Documents, Conversions, Hacks, House Rules that contains links to all of the documents and whatnot that I have shared in Google Drive. A large part of it is for Fate Core/FAE and includes all three Fate Tribe 8 conversions (Fate Core, Strands of Fate, and Spirit of the Century) as well as an assortment of other hacks. I figured it wasn't clear that the links to these that lived at the top of the blog weren't actually labels, plus the page calls out some specific things rather than just linking to the Google Docs folder. As I add more, I'll update the page as well.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Started The D&D 40th Anniversay Bloghop Challenge...

But I just couldn't finish it. There were too many that would have wound up being, "See previous entry", "I don't know" or "Meh." So I'm going to turn this last post into a "What I've Learned From D&D" post.

I've never played anything other than BECMI in grade school and junior high, 1e in high school and a smattering of a few 3e sessions because my buddy needed another player. Never touched 2e, and I bought the Rules Cyclopedia but we never got a game going. I went through the nearly mandatory "D&D sucks so bad, play a real rpg" phase, but got over it. I went through the total nostalgia phase. As of right now I have no strong opinion  one way or the other about classes, hit points, armor class, saving throws or anything else. I really don't like alignments, but that's a personal preference and not anything against morality systems. If I were to play D&D again I'd likely pick Neutral and be done with it.

Looking back on my early play experiences with D&D, they're so far in the past that I really can't say how much different I play now. I was 10 years old when I started, so obviously my games were very sophisticated both in play and content. Certainly, with my love of games like Fate Core, I've transitioned to a more narrative focus - but from my perspective that's been a long-term tweaking of my play preferences and not any kind of transformation. Piecing together memories of various games, I can see that I took away from D&D an appreciation for figuring out the best way for the rules to serve what was going on within the game. Making rolls against ability scores and finding new uses for saving throws in lieu of having a skill system come to mind. The rules didn't cover every single situation, so we extended them as best as we could in a way that made sense.

Yet even those experiences, while interesting from an academic perspective, don't eclipse what D&D ultimately gave me: a common vernacular and cultural identity, and a whole hell of a lot of fun. In the end, I think the lifelong fun is the single biggest thing D&D has given me.

Friday, February 14, 2014

SilCore House Rules

As promised, I've uploaded a cleaned up document with some of my SilCore house rules. These got reasonably extensive play, and worked out pretty well for our group.

SilCore House Rules

I believe the complexity rules in this document are the prototype for one of the Complexity house rules that I wrote for Aurora.

What's interesting to me is how I latched on to a couple of concepts before really knowing what they entailed. I've talked about how I kind of halfway implemented "success at a cost" in Silhouette by having fumbles actually generate a result (instead of being treated as zero), just with the addition of a complication. For example, a character who fumbles a Firearms roll might still have a high enough roll plus modifiers to hit the target but their gun jams, they find out they're out of ammo, etc. The same thing happened conceptually with these house rules for Flaws - I saw that there should be some narrative currency attached to Flaws, rather than simply receiving character points for them. I just didn't have the context of something like the Fate Point economy to recognize the design pattern.

Also, the mechanism of sacrificing dice for effects is one that SilCore touched on only in terms of "deception attacks", but it's one that I had thought was a good axis beyond simple result modifiers even before that. It ties into my love of dice mechanics being used to "unpack" data about how something happened in addition to how well. Successes, margin of success or failure, the overall quality of the result, those are things that I like to see in dice mechanics. Justin Bacon has a good series called Dice of Destiny along those lines that I've mentioned before.

From the perspective of a 90's-ish, dice pool styled retroclone (which has been bouncing around my head a bit) I'd want something similar. It would just be a matter of doing it without counting successes, doing pairing of values, or any of the other dice pool tricks I've seen that I personally find distracting. I'd actually almost lean toward a "roll and keep and keep the highest" system, where you roll x dice and keep y based on some measures, and then take the highest from there. For extra detail, maybe there would be a small picklist of qualities that could be attributed to each die depending on the kind of roll. These wouldn't be fixed before the roll, the player would be able to choose after, "This die represents how fast I did this, this die represents damage done, this die represents knowledge gained". They also wouldn't be part of the base resolution mechanic - again, make the base die roll as quick to parse as possible.

This is definitely an avenue I'm going to be pursuing more in future posts.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

That '80s Game

So Google+ had some kind of '90s meme that started, and thinking back on all of this stuff made me realize that 30 years ago this year I entered high school. While the '90s were my golden age of coming into my own (and not remembering most of it), the '80s were for me every bit the formative period depicted in The Goldbergs.
The '90s: Dazed and confused doesn't even scratch the surface
Being born in 1970, my biological decades are perfectly bracketed by the calendar. For me, the '80s wasn't just about puberty and awkwardness and discovering music that to this day I insist is the pinnacle of human artistic achievement. It was a complete transformative period.

From a very early age, I was fascinated by mechanics and game play. When I was a lot younger, I used to make my own board games. When coin op arcade machines hit and became all the rage, like most kids I used to save up quarters (i.e., tip over my dad's recliner to claim the change that had fallen out of his pockets) and hit the Stop 'n Go every morning before school and the pizza place after. A lot of companies started publishing cheap little guidebooks for various games. I'd actually take the maps and diagrams from those books, grab some markers, poster board, and construction paper, and make board game versions of the arcade games.

So at the beginning of the 1980s when I started playing Basic D&D it launched a parabolic arc of gaming experiences peaking in and just after high school. I quickly branched out to Star Frontiers and Gamma World, followed by Traveller, then Chill, Star Ace, Call of Cthulhu, Elfquest, Runequest, James Bond, Top Secret, MERP, Villains and Vigilantes, you name it. These experiences led to some interesting contrasts. I played Mekton, but not Battletech. I played Cyberpunk, but not Shadowrun. I played GURPS, but not Champions. By the time I graduated high school in 1988 I was already buying games that I read but never had time to play.

I also started to go to conventions when I was 15 or 16 - at first supervised day trips, but once my dad realized that there was little chance of me getting in any serious trouble I was arranging to go for the entire weekend with a group of friends. I learned a ton about financial planning, budgeting, and overall restraint from going to those cons. At least once, by the last day of the con we had eaten all of the food we brought, spent our last cent, and were forced to eat pickles from the condiment bar and drink tiny cups of water while waiting for my dad to come pick us up

By the beginning of the '90s, I had started to slow down quite a bit. I was clubbing, going to shows, having overly complicated and dramatic relationships, hanging out in coffee houses philosophizing and smoking too much. I still bought games and read them, but in greatly reduced volume. My gaming settled around a few mainstays: CP2020, Mekton II (and then Zeta), the occasional game of V:tM. I started adapting and reusing rules a lot more. Interlock with parts of Dream Park grafted on for fantasy games, for example. But with BBSes starting to connect to USENet, along with the first presences of dedicated gaming forums on AOL and CompuServe, I was able tap into the wider gaming world and absorb more information on trends in rpgs, rules, theories, etc. But all of that had been built on a foundation that I laid down in the '80s.

So, while the '90s were a pretty cool time (my sons were born in the '90s), the '80s were definitely more my time, in terms of diversifying my gaming and personal growth.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If You Are A "AAA Pro-Video Game Developer", It Means You Write Code

This is a belated response, of a sorts, to a thread on ENWorld started by a poster named Gorgoroth in which he lambastes the idea of the "damage on a miss" mechanic in D&D Next (and I guess it appeared in 4e, I don't know).

This post is not about the "DOAM" mechanic. Rob Donoghue already did a breakdown that, from my AAA Database Developer eyes, looks good enough.

Instead, I want to highlight Gorgoroth's arguments that he is somehow especially qualified to be put on the pedestal of tabletop gaming design.

In particular, these quotes:

As a pro game developer with over a dozen AAA games to my credit (go ahead and ask me for my CV, and I will share it with you, Mike), I have identified, based on both your own design goals, and my general game design and debugging experience, as well as 25+ years of D&D on top of that (which qualifies me eminently better than 99% of your survey recipients) with GWF:
Read more:

The opinions about game rules by pro game developers should be taken more seriously. That's what expertise means.
When people start paying you six figures for your game dev skills, call me.
CRPG devs routinely make six figures, and the work we do is far, FAR more complicated, widely-scrutinized, analyzed, profitable, and generally pertinent to more people than D&D could ever hope to be. Keeping things simple is not merely a worthwhile design goal for us, it's an absolute necessity. Which is why I recognize Mearls as a pro, and see eye to eye with him in most ways.
First off, this guy needs to comprehend that the similarity between the implementation of video games and tabletop rpgs, from a nuts and bolts perspective, starts and ends with the word "game". Conceptually, there might be some cross-talk between the two fields (as evidenced by the folks who migrate to the video game industry to video games), but that doesn't really make his "game design and debugging experience" specifically something that makes him a guru that everyone must follow when it comes to tabletop game design. Again, there's some osmosis between the overall function of a developer of any stripe, but the game part of it isn't nearly as portable as he thinks.

Second, there's the "I makes the big money and my work is important" bit. Does this mean that game developers should listen to me about how wrong their tables are organized because I'm a highly paid database developer? Should I write an open-letter to R.Talsorian Games about how they need to normalize their tables (which, btw, the tables in Mekton Zeta are near impossible to place into a normalized database - I've tried). Because the analogy between database tables and reference tables is about as solid as the one between video game mechanics and tabletop rpg mechanics.

It shouldn't need to be said that, no Gorgoroth, I don't take you seriously.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Too Many Things To Write About

Work and home have conspired against me, and I haven't found time to blog about a few things that have cropped up.

The first is an interview with one of the people involved with FATAL, James Hausler, with a lively discussion posted on RPG.Net. I haven't had a chance to listen yet (apparently it's four hours worth) and some of the commenters on RPG.Net have been delving into the specific details of the interview. What's interesting to me is the guy's apparent off-loading of the "bad" parts of FATAL (not the parts you'd think) while taking credit for the "good" parts (also, not the parts that you think).

While digging around for some things (like a mention of a "secret" page on the former FATAL website that allegedly demeaned various either sexual conquests or people who had rejected sexual advances) I stumbled across this thread about what looks like a roleplaying forum for something called "Hot Wet Planet". I was pretty awestruck by the responses of the author to the criticism. I have some parallels to draw between Hausler, Arisama from the Hot Wet Planet thread, and Mykal Lakim from Dark Phoenix Publishing but haven't had a chance to fully gestate those thoughts.

Add Raven S. McCracken and we'll have a complete set!
Hopefully in the next few days I'll get a chance to play some catch-up and get some other gaming-related stuff done.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Treasure Chest Friday

I had a lot of gaming material that I developed in the early-to-mid-90s go up in smoke. I didn't have any kind of cohesive back-up scheme, basically jumping from failure-prone floppy disks - which were usually the primary copy - to a hand-me-down tape drive that took too long to write to and even longer to read from, to burning things on CD when I remembered. A bunch of my backup CDs eventually got written to a hard drive  and then tossed. Or rather a RAID array, which is what I decided I needed for a "real" backup strategy. That RAID array eventually had a failure and I wasn't able to recover anything off of it. Also when I had my own domain, I did regular backups of the content but what I neglected when I downloaded everything prior to cancelling my account was the database that had the CMS content. Between those two failures, I lost everything.

Needless to say, I am now a diversified backer-upper. Cloud and multiple redundant drives, mainly.

So imagine my surprise when I was going through folders looking for tidbits for my Tribe 8 game that I ran into a few fragments of my past gaming life. It's spotty - some house rules for SilCore, a write-up of Titan for Jovian Chronicles, some trade good cards for Tribe 8 that I'm not sure where they came from, and a few other things. I have some clean up to do (the house rules are in a mind-map and I no longer have the application that generated them), but I'm going to be posting things up as I process them (and find more).

For the time being, here are two of the gems:
  • Titan - A write-up of an alternate Titan for a Jovian Chronicles game that I was going to run. It was actually to be the beginning of alternate write-ups for the entire solar system, tweaking things out to take advantage of discoveries that occurred after JC was written.
  • Trade Good Cards for Tribe 8 - I have no idea where these came from.
  • Spirit of Vimary - My original Spirit of the Century hack for Tribe 8. I previously only had a partial, corrupted copy of this - this one is from what I can tell the final. I never had a chance to playtest it, but it completes my trifecta of Fate conversions for Tribe 8.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Day 5

I honestly have played very little D&D, I mostly ran it. That means that over the course of a couple years, the small group of players that I had got themselves up to whatever the maximum level was as we moved from Basic to Expert to Companion to Master (I'm not sure we ever did Immortal). However, I did play in an AD&D game where I played a Paladin named Felice who, after the class appeared in Dragon Magazine, became a cavalier. She was inspired by the iconic paladin picture, as well as another one that I can't find that I think had a fully armored female paladin on a horse (it was possibly Elmore or Caldwell).

You know the one
Felice made it I think up to 18th level or so. The DM wasn't nearly as much of a douchebag as a lot of DM's I've heard about regarding paladins. She strove to maintain her code, followed all of the rules, and stood up for what was actually right. We even had the "you find young evil creatures" dilemma, which if I remember right was dealt with by putting them in the care of the church. The debate that followed was along the lines that half-orcs could be good, so if the creatures we found - orcs I believe - were raised by the pious they could learn to control their chaotic tendencies and be good as well. Either way, Felice refused to hold them accountable for their parent's evil and insisted that she would slay anyone who hurt them (and, by that time armed with a holy avenger and probably at least +3 plate, the threat wasn't idle). For 14-15 year olds, this was pretty philosophical stuff.

The other factor about this character that probably stands out is that she was a woman, especially considering that I was a teenager. There was some disagreement about whether or not a woman could be a paladin, until I pointed out Joan of Arc (I was a moderately erudite kid). Ribbing ensued about wanting to play a girl, but the DM - who was older - okayed it. Felice was my first real encounter with "character concept". I had envisioned the character as a "her", I had inspiration from a book I was reading with a strong female character (it may have been one of the Julian May books, who did have a character named Felice, but I'm not sure), and my ability rolls had set me up for a paladin. I likely would have made a female whatever regardless. In the end, to me it didn't matter if the character was a he or a she, and I didn't see any issues with being male and portraying a female. Of course, it probably helped that she was a paladin - it allowed for me to sidestep any potentially (for my age and maturity level) squicky issues about romantic entanglements, and I'm sure that I mostly portrayed her as a dude with long hair and boobs. Miraculously, our group also dodged the bullet of any players or DM trying to introduce any problematic behaviors or situations as well - my experiences with perverted (or just plain sick) players wouldn't come until after high school.

Group Resources in Fate Core Tribe 8

This was a small addition I made to the Resources rules for Fate of Vimary that I felt was general enough to go here. Note that it uses another slight tweak, namely that characters have fluctuating Resources scores as they use and gain Resources. This Extra allows for the group to have a Larder that they can use to draw resources from.

Typically the group will have a community pool of resources, known as the Larder. These Resources can be used in place of personally rolling against resources when the Larder can be accessed, at the expense of depleting the group’s reserves. Having a Larder is slightly more bookkeeping, so it may not be desirable for all groups, but fortunately most interactions with it would be done either between sessions or during session startup, etc.

The Larder has a Resource rating equal to the median of the group’s Resource rank - in other words, the middle between the minimum and maximum. If the lowest Resources within the group is 0 and the highest is 4, the Larder is Resources 2. The Larder has a stress track with two stress boxes with an additional box added at Resources Average(+1) or Fair (+2), or two more at Good (+3) or greater. In addition, the Larder has three Consequence slots. On the chance that the Larder has Resources of Superb (+5) or higher, it gains an additional mild Consequence slot. The Larder’s Resources do not fluctuate when the individual group member’s Resources fluctuate, although it might increase if members of the group permanently increase their own.

The stress and Consequences for the Larder work slightly differently than a character’s stress and Consequences. Whenever a character needs something that would call for a Resources roll, and they have access to the Larder, they can use the Larder’s Resources instead. This can be used to directly take a specific needed item from the Larder, as well as to create advantages prior to an expedition or journey. The roll is made using the standard difficulty for obtaining the item or creating the advantage. If the roll succeeds, then an amount of stress equal to the value of the item is marked off the Larder’s stress track. Once the stress track is filled, the Larder’s Resource rank drops by 1 and all stress is cleared. If in a single “transaction” the stress would overfill the track, the Larder takes a Consequence equal to or greater than the overflow. Once Resources reaches zero, the Larder is depleted and has to be restocked. Stress can be “soaked” by instead taking a Consequence of equal or greater value than the stress. Consequences represent a specific shortage within the Larder, based on what the characters were trying to do. For example, preparing for a Joanite attack might result in the mild Consequence Running Low on Ammunition or Limited Food and Water.

Restocking the Larder must be done from the Resources of the individuals contributing to it. Typically this is done using teamwork, with the character with the highest Resources rolling and every other character with Resources of Average(+1) or higher contributing +1 to the result. The difficulty of the roll is Fair(+2), and each success restores one rank of Resources. All Larder Consequences must be cleared before the restock attempt can take place. If the roll is successful, each character reduces their Resources by 1 for the remainder of the session.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

If There Was A Little Dust, Please Pardon It

After some consideration, I have deprecated my Tribe 8-specific blog, Dreams of Flesh and Spirit, and imported all of the old posts here. I turned off the feed during this process, to eliminate the possibility that I would suddenly jam over a hundred posts into other people's feeds.

You know you miss these stupid things

All of the posts from DFS are tagged with "Dreams of Flesh and Spirit", as will all other Tribe 8-related posts that I post here.

I made the decision mostly because having to worry about which blog a post should go on, or feeling the need to duplicate posts between the two, just isn't going to work out. I do this because I enjoy it, and I want to continue to post whatever random thing comes to mind.

So, let's welcome the new DFS posts to Aggregate Cognizance. But don't make them too welcome - we don't want them to get complacent.

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Day 4

For this post, I'm supposed to tell the tale of the first dragon that was slain playing D&D.

The problem is, I can't freaking remember. It's been over 30 years, and there's just no way.

Piecing together memories of how our adventures played out, and the fact that I got the boxed sets kind of in pace with characters levelling, I'd have to say that officially the first dragon would have been while playing through X1, Isle of Dread. There might have been a white dragon before that, but the memories are just too damn fuzzy.

Looking at this (awesome) walkthrough map, it was most likely a green dragon because that's what's shown. But it might not have been.

I mostly remember dinosaurs, lots of dinosaurs
So, this one is going to have remain a mystery for the ages.

Monday, February 3, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Day 3

Going back to Keep on the Borderlands being part of my experience when I first starting playing D&D, the Caves of Chaos were the first dungeon that I ever ran anyone through.

This map brings back memories, but it's missing the pencil marks and crayon
The memories are pretty hazy about how it actually went down, but I do know that at the time we didn't have any real concept of "out of character" knowledge. Having run through the map so many times when we were playing D&D "wrong", my singular player knew everything pretty well - where the orcs were, where the treasure was, where the secret doors were. It was a total cake-walk, but the one thing that was different were the interactions with NPCs and monsters. I now had the notion that the other characters were supposed to be played....that they could take their own actions, that the PCs could talk to them. It wasn't Oscar-winning stuff, but it was something. This, combined with following examples from the rulebook, meant that not every monster was necessarily fought - some were tricked, some were avoided (because before we thought you had to go to every room in number order - true story!). Playing D&D right also meant that now characters were leveling up, and started us down the path of maintaining some kind of continuity. Since I was writing a lot at the time, I think this was the beginning of writing down our character's adventures as fiction, as well as taking various D&D modules and writing fictional accounts of other characters.

But the one thing that looking back at all of this has reminded me is that we really did play to have fun, rules-be-damned. There wasn't any kind of "Well, even when I was eight years old we role-played and we did everything right." Fuck no...we played using OOC knowledge, had totally stupid implausible things happen, fudged die rolls, and did damn near everything that most adults (even me) would consider "bad gaming." And we had a blast doing it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Day 2

So, as I said in the first challenge post, I was "introduced" to Basic D&D by the next door neighbor kid. In a way, he's the first one I introduced D&D to properly because he was who I played with once I actually figured out what the fuck was going on in that crazy game. We replayed through Keep on the Borderlands, properly, although I don't remember what his character was. I do remember that we eventually came to the conclusion that losing characters sucked, so once he rolled up his third or fourth - an Elf I believe - he was able to get that character through subsequent sets up to Immortal. By that time I had branched out into other roleplaying games - including AD&D and Traveller. Unfortunately, divergent paths once I got into high school (plus a number of other factors) meant that I started playing with other people.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge: Day 1

I haven't touched any flavor of D&D in a number of years, but I figured that I'd throw in for this one because it would be interesting to revisit some memories.

I was introduced to D&D - specifically the Basic set - by my next door neighbor and childhood best friend, Richie. He had gotten the boxed set for Christmas (I want to say 1979 or so), but he was a couple of years younger than me and couldn't make heads or tails of it. I had heard of the game, even seen it a couple of times in the used science fiction bookstore my dad used to take me to called The Magic Door. He had never been willing to shell out the cash for the game, but I did have some experience with a number of microgames that he had bought me. So when Richie asked me to help him figure out how to play, I figured (in my 8 or 9 year old way) that I had a handle on it.

We were pretty wrong, and it took until I got my own set when I was 10 or 11 to actually figure out how to play and what was going on. In the interim, we drew on the maps and tried to play it like a boardgame. We "played" through Keep on the Borderlands over and over again. I don't remember anything about what characters we used. In all, it was a pretty abortive attempt by a 9 and a 7 year old at trying to puzzle out Basic D&D on our own.