Or, “why bother writing an article like my A tuneable method for placing treasure in BX?”.
In response to the article linked above, /u/deejax313 said:
“Alot of work to go through for a game.
Cant DMs just give treasure, get a sense of how fast the players are advancing, and then give more or less treasure based on how fast they like the players to advance?
You may as well just not play with XP and just say characters advance a level every three adventures.
You’re crunching numbers and working backwards to create a system to make a totally subjective choice happen.”
A good question. I have answers.
Continue reading “Why bother having prep procedures?”
There doesn’t seem to be clear agreement on how fast BX/Moldvay PCs should advance, but it’s clear that many people are unhappy with the rate of advancement that results. It tends to be far too slow, at least for busy adults who manage a three-hour session maybe twice a month. (See e.g. Becker’s general critique here and here, and a recent Reddit post on the meagre spoils of In Search of the Unknown).
I’m working on some adventures that I plan to publish, and I plan to stat them for BX because (as Patrick Stuart recently argued) BX seems to be the most-used system in the parts of the OSR I care about. There are often complaints about adventures supposedly statted for BX that they are far too light on treasure (see many of Bryce Lynch’s reviews).
I don’t want to use the standard treasure tables because (a) I’m using mostly custom creatures, (b) there’s controversy about how good they are, and in any case (c) I want to make a tool that we can all use to tune the rate of PC advancement without giving up on xp-for-gold as an incentive.
So, I have made a spreadsheet (Google Sheets version, Excel version), and explained how it works below. Unless noted, I’m getting any specific numbers from the Old School Essentials Rules Tome.
Continue reading “A tuneable method for placing treasure in BX”
I have made a checklist for session prep (Word version). I haven’t used it much yet, but my hope it is that will do two things for me:
- Remind me to check things I tend to do badly. E.g. I am bad at giving out any treasure at all, even in games that need it and have guidance about it
- Give me ideas to try when I’m happy with my basic prep but want to improve it more
Because there is so much of the latter, I’ve split it into two parts (levels 2 and 3), with the second part containing things that are less important, more advanced. They’re the kind of thing I’d spend time on for a published adventure, but usually wouldn’t for a single session.
This checklist is explicitly for me, and only contains things that I have problems with and things I don’t always think to do. You’ll notice level 1 is missing a lot of basic activities. This is because I find them easy and natural (or don’t give a fuck about them, so don’t do them).
This list is not meant to help a rank beginner do this well. They would probably want something different, something more basic. And, as usual for checklists and processes, it’s no substitute for expertise — it just gives you reminders to use the expertise you have.
Question for the crowd — Does anyone else have an analogous list, in that it’s specific to you, that it only includes things you don’t instinctively do? What’s on it? How do you organise it?
Related question — What do you tend to miss when doing session prep? What do you do to remind yourself?
Landmark, hidden, secret — a classification scheme for information in game situations that might help us better decide what to tell players, and when — https://diyanddragons.blogspot.com/2019/10/landmark-hidden-secret.html
Michael Prescott explains why you probably don’t need to use the OGL, and probably would be unwise to use the DM’s Guild or similar DriveThruRPG programs. “… That last one is so mind-bendingly overreaching that it’s comical. You’re giving them permission to negotiate for you, with themselves. It’s like the devil wrote it.” — http://blog.trilemma.com/2019/10/compatible-with-dungeons-dragons.html
It looks like real-world archery is much harder at range than typical rpg archery. Given that long-range missile fire is hard to make fun, it might be worth trying some harsher range modifiers — https://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2011/03/basic-d-on-archery.html
Justin Alexander has a good article on why GMs shouldn’t fudge rules and die rolls — https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/43708/roleplaying-games/gm-dont-list-9-fudging. He doesn’t mention that fudging subtly corrupts you, giving you a sordid aura and making you more likely to do murders, but I presume we all know that by now.
Alexander also has a has a plausible conjecture for why most realm/business/tavern management etc subsystems fail — because they tend to be closed systems, rather than integrating naturally with the main loop of the game — https://twitter.com/hexcrawl/status/1185260871062183936?s=09
Finally, Patrick Stuart has been looking at the OSR-space and has concluded that BX/Moldvay D&D is the common language that makes most of it work — http://falsemachine.blogspot.com/2019/11/the-bx-commons.html. This aligns with my experience — I see reddit and blog posts by people playing OD&D, but they’re rarely the people who are writing things I’m interested in. And I don’t see much about Holmes, Mentzer or AD&D at all.
I am writing some OSR-type D&D adventures that I intend to publish, so I have gone looking for advice on doing that. Below, I have collected links. I have also included some summaries, but honestly in the eyes of posterity they are more for my benefit in writing them than for you in reading them.
How I Write an Adventure, by Arnold K
That’s prosaic, principled, but realistic — I can believe he actually works like that. My summary:
- Write ten adventures at once, gathering and filing ideas as they come to you
- Run them early — that will give you ideas and show you problems
- Have a (short) list of themes, be strict about cutting stuff that doesn’t fit
- Don’t commit to anything until late on, especially not to a specific map
- Focus on making interesting snippets – you can integrate them later
- Iterate your design, culling weak (or unthematic) bits ruthlessly
How I Make an Adventure by Patrick Stuart
Continue reading “Collected advice on adventure design”
People have asked me how I GM. People have asked me how to play in my games. By a kind of ontological fusion, this document answers the questions of both groups. It’s amazing.
There is no “plot”, and we are intense
The heart of my method is improvising — I am making this shit up as we go along. That’s my default position. My default model of “run a game session” is that I have no plan or knowledge of what will happen. The players could do anything and it might seem reasonable for anything to happen. That is where I start from, and any prep work I do to is to support that. This is probably the key to my success.
There is thus no “plot”, ever. You are free. But that comes with responsibility — as a player you must make the game work. Good drama has ongoing themes, good drama goes somewhere. So you need to have direction, to be going somewhere, and to stick with that at least some of the time. You need to try to change the world, or at least try to change your position in it.
Example If you start out looking for your brother, you should keep looking for him until you have good reason to give up.
Side-jaunts are not a problem, just so long as you get back on track eventually. But my runs are usually short — 10–12 sessions is typical — so “eventually” is quite soon.
Continue reading “How I GM and how to play in my games”