Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A taste of old-school

Late last year, while everyone was in town for the holidays, I got together my old role playing group and did a bit of a "reunion game." This was a group in which we'd primarily played D&D 3.5 and 4th Edition D&D (that was the game I had GM'd). Our 4e game had ended when two of the members of the group moved away, but I wanted to revisit that world a little bit and everyone else seemed game.

This time we decided to switch things up and continue with the same characters and world, but we wanted to switch systems. I like a lot of things about 4th Edition both it can be very very slow, and I just wanted to try something different. We settled on Savage Worlds because several of us were pretty familiar with it and many of the other members of the group were at least passingly familiar.

We spent an hour or so making characters. It normally probably wouldn't have taken so long except that we had a couple people who were only passingly familiar with the system, and it just took a little while for folks to really think about what was essential about their characters and how to translate that into the new system. We also spent a lot of time on side conversations and just generally catching up. This was the first time we'd all been together  at the same time in a long time after all.

I had decided early on that I wanted to run things a little more old school (regardless of the system I wanted to approach things a bit differently) and do something less "plot" driven than what I'd done in the past. I wanted to move more in the direction of just setting up a location and letting the story be created from what the characters did.

I had originally started to plan out a rather complicated urban sandbox adventure with a number of different factions and such, but quickly realized in the days before we played that there was just no way we'd get through all that much of it in the short time we had to play. So I searched around a bit and found a one-page dungeon (The Ancient Academy, if any of the players are reading this... don't download that just yet!) that looked cool (and that I'd already downloaded before) modified it a bit to change it's history, put some things in there that would interest the characters, and just generally fit it into the world I had set up. We were off!

I also decided it might be interesting to have the players do some mapping and one of them volunteered to do so. I gave him some graph paper and started describing things. It was a bit tedious at first, but I think we fell into a rhythm reasonably quickly. We were all happy when a set of corridors that looped back to where they started lined up correctly. So obviously we were doing something right. I'd still like to watch some actual play videos of folks playing this way to see how others do it though.

The game went pretty smoothly. I probably need to up the difficulty of the creatures a bit and maybe add in some more traps, maybe even add in some wandering monsters, but even if the monsters they encountered were dispatched fairly easily it was still fun. This was my first time GMing Savage Worlds and it was just as easy to GM as it is to play. I continue to be super-impressed with the system.

The players moved around the dungeon a bit, explored a few things, and found some clues here and there to where the thing they were looking for might be and some hints as to how it might work. We had to stop with the dungeon only partially explored, but it was fun and I hope to get together with everyone some time soon over a Google+ hangout and finish things up!

I'm sure plenty of things we were doing were "wrong" in terms of how "old-school" they were, but we had a good time and I'm sure most would agree that's what matters. It was neat to run a game differently than the way I'd previously done it. I think I'd like to do some more of that.

One of these days I'll run an Adventurer Conquerer King game, and hopefully those of us who have been wanting to play more Dungeon Crawl Classics will be able to do so some time soon. I want to see how the systems themselves might facilitate (or not) a more old school style of play. Either way though, Savage Worlds will continue to be an option I'll consider very seriously for fantasy games in the future, regardless of what "school" I'm looking to play in, and I had a good time running a slightly different kind of game than I had previously.

Good gaming!

-The Duke of Brandonshire

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Online Gaming

If I'm going to keep to my resolution I'm going to have to get writing again!

In the past few months I've had my first few experiences with gaming online. Both using Google+ Hangouts and the app Roll20 (which integrates with Google+ Hangouts). Despite a few small technical issues (really, fewer than I would have expected for something like this) it's gone very well and I hope to continue to do it periodically in the future!

I really wasn't quite sure what to expect the first time. I had heard from many others that playing RPG's via video-chat (and specifically Google+ Hangouts) worked well, especially with the addition of apps like +Roll20 (and +Tabletop Forge, which will soon be merged into Roll20), but I still didn't quite know how well I'd actually like it, or how well it would work.

But a couple of friends of mine (used to be in my old role playing group, before they moved) wanted to give it a try and I thought it sounded like a fun thing to do. If nothing else I figured I'd get to spend some time talking to my buddies. Anyway, we decided to play in a campaign world that my friends had been playing in for a while since they'd moved (using a variety of systems from what I understand, including Pathfinder), but use Savage Worlds. (Savage Worlds continues to impress me with what it can do and how much it matches my interests) We quickly ran through character creation and a few technical details as we figured out exactly how all of this worked and then we were off!

And I have to say it was amazing how quickly we fell right back into our old rhythm as a group. I won't say the interface ever quite "melted away" or anything like that, but after just a short time it didn't feel all that strange to be sitting in front of a computer instead of around a table.

We just used the dice rolling features for most of the session but occasionally, like when we got into combat, the GM would draw a quick map and put some tokens out there for us to move around. It was a lot of fun and worked very well.

In fact, in some ways it feels like it might work better than sitting around a table. Perhaps it was just the novelty of the situation, or the particular mix of players, but I feel like in the two sessions that we've run once the game got going everyone paid more attention to the game and was more focused on the session. There was of course some table talk and jokes and the like (and I wouldn't have it any other way!) but it felt like there was less than there usually is at the tables I tend to play at, and it tended to derail things less often.

We had another session a little while later with a couple more players and that went equally as well (maybe even a bit better as for the most part we were slightly more familiar with the interface). It's hard to schedule a good time for such things between a bunch of people in different parts of the world, but I hope to do a lot more of this in the future. I look forward to seeing what adventures the crew of the Lucky Cormorant get into, and maybe to even start GMing some sessions this way myself. (Possibly to finish up the adventure that I ran for my old group the last time we were all in town at the same time this past December. I'll write a bit about that soon).

Have you tried online gaming? Have you liked it? Had any problems? Anything you'd like to know about it or about my experience with it? Let me know!

Good gaming!

-The Duke of Brandonshire