Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Fate Worse than Character Death

If you play tabletop roleplaying games long enough, your character is going to die. If you're lucky, you'll have an awesome, memorable, fitting, or and even heroic death. If you're not lucky, the dice will shit on you till you choke on it and then leave your battered, stinking corpse for the carrion birds. 

But you know what? That's OK. It's part of the game. Most gamers figure that out pretty quickly and learn to roll with dice punches. Some players become rather irate at character death, even outright pissed off or angry at the DM/GM/Judge/Dude Behind the Screen. Those players are not often the most fun to game with and you probably want to avoid them.

But you know what's worse than death at the table? Hold Person. Sleep. Imprisonment.

I've never seen players get more frustrated at a table than the moment when their character (and by extension them) are removed from the action completely and utterly. They can't move. They can't speak. They can't use any of their class abilities. 

And you know what? That shit genuinely sucks and those players have a right to be a bit pissed off. Not "swearing at the DM and throwing a fit at the table" pissed off, but more "passive-aggressive sigh" pissed off.

Why do these things piss players off so much, often more so than character death?

It boils down to one thing: Agency.

Players want to play. If their character dies, they can still roll up someone new and jump back in the action. But if they're locked by a Hold Person spell they have to just sit their and do nothing. The ideas start flowing, and the player starts to think about what they would do if they could participate. But they can't. They can't play the game. They're reduced to being a spectator.

What's worse is they're a spectator who invested time, effort, and in most cases, money in participating in the game - in being part of the action. The job of the DM is to allow that, encourage that, to facilitate participation. If the player and their character can't participate, then what's the point? I think some modules and adventures forget that, as do some DMs and even some players.

I'm not saying to never throw a Hold Person at your players - I'm saying don't chronically shackle your players - literally or figuratively. This is the reason I'm not a fan of adventures like Scourge of the Slave Lords or Out of the Abyss. They limit agency right off the bad. Players might feel screwed from the get-go. Always, always, always, make sure your players are able to play their characters, feel awesome, and make use of their abilities.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Another Optional LL: Save or Die Poisons

So I'm not a fan of "Save or Die" poisons, for two reasons.

  1. Save or Die effects remove any player agency or chance to survive certain encounters and generally make a player feel arbitrarily hosed simply for one poor roll.
  2. The number of poisons in the real world that kill you in a minute or less are extraordinarily rare. Granted, getting bitten by a spider the size of a pony will likely inject someone with enough poison to kill them, it's just odd for them to just drop dead on the spot.

Debbie is a fan of Save or Die Poisons
So, here's my house rule:

Save or Die Poisons: If my players fail their save to resist a "Save or Die" poison, then they're definitely going to die - but not instantly. They've got a number of turns equal to their Constitution score before death. While poisoned, they suffer a -2 penalty to all attack rolls, and -2 to all ability checks related to Strength and Dexterity.

That way they have (hopefully) at least an hour to solve the problem - whether that's lopping a limb off or rushing to find a cure - well, that's up to them.

Class Options Musings for Labyrinth Lord

As I continue prepping for next week's Labyrinth Lord campaign, I'm considering allowing a pair of classes outside of the AEC, simply to round out the "First Edition meets B/X" feel of the Advanced Edition Companion. But my concern is overwhelming my players with options and extra rules.

I really, really love +Richard LeBlanc  B/X Cavalier and B/X Bard, but am hemming and hauling about including them as options. Thoughts? Insights? Opinions?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Spicing Up My Fighters

So one of the problems I've always had with B/X and Labyrinth Lord fighters is that they're a touch dull. Their special abilities lay in their high hit points and diverse choices for weapons and armor. They're an awesome, sold class and ease to play. However, these benefits aren't particularly engaging at the table. So I'm adding an optional rule for fighters. Based a bit on the Rules Cyclopedia and a bit on AD&D, here are my thoughts.

  • 1st Level: Fighters may select a single weapon as their specialized weapon. They recieve a +1 to all attack rolls and +2 to all damage rolls when wielding this weapon.
  • 5th Level: The fighter may make two attacks per round when wielding the weapon in which they've specialized.
  • 10th Level: The Fighter's bonus to hit with their specialized weapon increases to +3 and their damage bonus increases to +3 as well.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Creating the Geek Elite

I've always felt that there was this unspoken, yet universal, thing in geek and fanboy culture: Geek Cred. You don't just own a lightsaber toy - you own a $1000 replica of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber from The Empire Strikes Back. You don't just own a copy of Deities & Demigods, you own a first print copy with the Moorcock and Mythos stats in it - oh, and it's signed by Gary Gygax. It's like this weird race that somehow reflects one somehow being a "better" fan because they own rare or expensive products.

I get it. I've been caught up in it. I'm not judging it. If you're having fun chasing down rare collectibles or expensive replicas then rock on. But as "geek culture" becomes more and more mainstream, I've noticed something beginning to happen. Items typically associated with Geek Cred are being produced with more and more regularity. I think this is an intentional action on the part of the companies that produce these high end items. The products probably cost far, far less than their sometimes ridiculous price tags and this means that the producers only need to sell a fraction of such items (when compared to more standard items) to reap a profit.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice allowed movie-goers to buy an "Ultimate Ticket" for a mere $100. Monte Cook has successfully kickstarted Invisible Sun, an RPG with a minimum $200 buy in. New Line Cinema has just released an edition of the Extended Editions of both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy with a price tag a penny under $800. 
All this can be yours if you skip your mortgage payment this month.

And people will buy it. Maybe you won't. Maybe you will. But companies wouldn't sell these things if they didn't think it would turn a profit. I can't help but think that with so many traditionally geeky things going mainstream, that the market isn't tapping into that and trying to create a "geek elite" kind of subculture. As if the measure of how cool a geek you are is somehow measured in a price tag.

Or maybe I'm over analyzing things. Either way, I've got my limits and while some of these types of items are cool in and of themselves, I'm a man with responsibilities and financial obligations, so I don't have nearly a thousand dollars to drop on a set of movies with a few knick-knacks and extras included in the package. But, if you do, then more power to you. Have a blast and enjoy your high end purchases - just remember, it doesn't make you somehow cooler or a more dedicated fan of your hobby or interest simply because you've got more disposable income.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Half-Elves in Labyrinth Lord

Labyrinth Lord Revised does not include rules for half-elf player characters. I understand why, given the game's streamlined nature. However, I personally really like half-elves being a viable option at the gaming table and while I wrote a Half-Elf class for Labyrinth Lord years ago, I had an idea to change things up to help diversify things a touch. Half-elves are known for the their range of abilities and potential in many different professions, so I tried to capture that in a very simple fashion.  It's really simple. Want to play a half-elf? Awesome. Here's how it works:

  • Half-elves select a class at character creation. They may select Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, or Thief. They may only reach 15th level in their selected class.
  • Half-elves have infravision at a range of 30 feet.
  • Half-elves receive a +2 to all saving throws made to resist ghoul paralysis.
  • Half-elves can speak their alignment language, common, elvish, and orc.

That's it. Yes, it's a bit of race-and-class, but it's super simple and don't see it getting in the way of Labyrinth Lord's quick-and-easy style of play.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Brave the Labyrinth is Back!


Small Niche Games and Barrel Rider Games have joined forces to announce the return of Brave the Labyrinth, the Labyrinth Lord OSR magazine! We're looking for submissions!
Brave the Labyrinth is a magazine published by Small Niche Games for the Labyrinth Lord roleplaying game community. It consists of fan-created material designed to cover all types of Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Edition Companion gaming.
Submission Deadline
Brave the Labyrinth is now accepting submissions for its fourth issue. The submission period for Issue #6 ends on October 1st. Any material submitted after this date will be considered for Issue #7.
Submission Guidelines
The following are the submission guidelines for the Brave the Labyrinth fanzine. Please read these guidelines carefully. If you have any questions, email smallnichegames -AT- gmail -DOT- com.
What We Want
New Classes: At least one new class or race/class complete with special abilities (if any), saving throw table, weapon/armor restriction, and detailed description of how and where they fit into the typical fantasy campaign world.
New Races: At least one new playable character race, complete with special abilities (if any), saving throw table, weapon/armor restriction, and detailed description of how and where they fit into the typical fantasy campaign world. This submission should be compatible with the Advanced Edition Companion.
New Weapons and Equipment: At least five new weapons or pieces of equipment not found in any of the Labyrinth Lord core rulebooks. If exotic weapons (katanas, falchions, boomerangs) are submitted, we ask the author to stick a specific theme (Far Eastern, Middle Eastern, etc.).
New Magic Items: At least five new magic items not found in any of the Labyrinth Lord core rulebooks. Added background information on who and why the items were created is always a plus.
New Spells: At least five new spells not found in any of the Labyrinth Lord core rulebooks. Added background information on who and why the spells were created is always a plus.
New Monsters: At least three new monsters not found in any of the Labyrinth Lord core rulebooks. The monsters should be fully statted out and described using the same format found in the core rulebooks.
Optional Rules: Submit a house rule or two used in your game or a game that you've played. Tell us what the rule is, what rule it replaces, and the issues you had with the original rule that forced you to make the change.
Short Fiction: Brave the Labyrinth will occasionally publish fan-created short stories. These stories should be compatible with the medieval fantasy nature of Labyrinth Lord and comply with all Brave the Labyrinth submission guidelines.
Artwork and Maps: Any fantasy medieval artwork and any medieval-style maps (castles, dungeons, taverns, cave systems, etc.). Whether you're a professional artist or just like to doodle, show us what you can do.
Cartoons: 1-3 panel cartoons showcasing something amusing about the game we love. No serials at this time.
Locales: A shop, home, cave, ruin, or any other location that can be easily dropped into any settings. Submissions should contain a simple map, statted NPCs/monsters, and at least three adventure hooks.
Adventures: An adventure can be a dungeon, series or wilderness encounters, a trek through a city, or anything else the author desires. we're looking for 5 - 10 page adventures that can be easily dropped into any setting.
Anything Else: Did we miss something? If so, send us an email with your idea and if it's Labyrinth Lord related, we'll consider it!
What We Don’t Want
Brave the Labyrinth is a PG-13 publication so graphic depictions of sex and/or violence will not be accepted. Content that is felt to glorify or promote hatred against a specific (real world) gender, (real world) race, or (real world) culture will not be accepted. Pretty much anything else is open for submission, though.
Any content submitted to Brave the Labyrinth is assumed to be an original creation submitted by the sole author. Brave the Labyrinth accepts reprints for consideration, but prefers previously unpublished content. Small Niche Games retains the right to publish accepted content for any future issue of Brave the Labyrinth, including Best Of's and Anthologies. The author retains all copyright to his or her own work, but is asked not to publish submitted content (if applicable) until one month after that issue of Brave the Labyrinth is released.
Stat Blocks
The following stat blocks should be used for all monster and NPC entries. The first stat is a template; the second stat is an example of it in use.
Monster Name: AL ; MV (); AC ; HD ; hp ; ‪#‎AT‬ ; Dmg ; SA ; SV ; ML ; XP .
Giant Spider: AL N; MV 60' (20')/web 120' (40'); AC 6; HD 3; hp 16; #AT 1; Dmg 2d6 (mandible) + special; SA poison; SV F2; ML 8; XP 80.
NPC: AL ; MV (); AC ; Class/Level ; hp ; #AT ; Dmg ; S , D , C , I , W , Ch ; SV ; SA ; ML ; XP ; magic items (if any), equipment (if any), wealth (if any).
Drumas Long: AL N; MV 120' (40'); AC 7 or 6 (unarmored or leather armor); T5; hp 16; #AT 1; Dmg 1d6+1 (short sword + Str), 1d4+1 (dagger + Str); S 13, D 17, C 13, I 15, W 13, Ch 12; SV T5; SA backstab, thief skills; ML 8; XP 800; pick locks 35%, find/remove traps 33%, pick pockets 40%, move silently 40%, climb walls 91%, hide in shadows 30%, hear noise 1-3; potion of poison, potion of healing, thieves' tools, 27 gp, 34 sp, 13 cp.
Open Game Content (OGC)
Brave the Labyrinth will comply with the terms of the Open Game License. All stat blocks for any submission will be considered OGC. The individual author of each submission may designate which other items are OGC (if any) and which are Product Identity.
Brave the Labyrinth depends heavily on fan contributions. The PDF of Issue #6 will be offered as a free download. The author of accepted content receives a free print copy of the issue, to be delivered within one month of the issue's publication.
If you've never been published before, chances are you've been gaming for years, and you can't roleplay for that long without coming up with some cool ideas. So take some time, jot some of those ideas down, and send them in. Who knows? You might get a call from a big-time publisher. You gotta start somewhere! 
RPG publishers are encouraged to submit. Publishers whose content is accepted to Brave the Labyrinth may send one 1/2 page ad per issue to be placed in the back of the magazine. As the free fanzine will most likely be downloaded by hundreds, if not thousands of gamers, this is a great way to get some free publicity for your campaign setting, new products, and/or your company.
How to Submit
Submit content to smallnichegames -AT- gmail -DOT- com in the body of the email (preferred) or as a rich text document. Place [BtL Submission] followed by the title of your submission in the subject line of the email.
Issue #6Issue #6 is currently scheduled for publication in the fourth quarter of 2016. We look forward to seeing your submissions!