Friday, March 29, 2013

Dwimmermount Thoughts and Developments

I haven't talked about it much here, but I'm a backer of the James Maliszewski's Dwimmermount Kickstarter. It's probably the Kickstarter project that I've watched with the most interest and as a result it's felt like the project I've backed with the most ups and downs.

The project has seen some delays, then seemed like it was on track, and then got severely delayed again. James has gone through some serious tragedies in his personal life and I don't begrudge him the delays at all, but it has really slowed things down with this project. The most recent delay and extended silence from James left some wondering if it would ever be completed.

The Kickstarter for the dungeon came along right around the time I became most interested in old-school style gaming, so it showed up at exactly the right time for me to get really excited about it. Despite the delays that excitement hasn't ever really waned (I also always try to keep Kickstarter projects in perspective. I view them as investments. Investments don't always work out). I very much like the draft I've seen and I can't wait to see it refined more and fully laid out and in print!

Today there was a fairly big announcement on how the project would move forward, you can read the announcement here.

While of course the best outcome for the project would be for James to be able to finish it himself I'm very happy with this as a "second best" outcome. I actually originally ordered my hardcopy of the dungeon in Adventurer Conquerer King System (ACKS) anyway so the project switching to that exclusively isn't really a problem for me (and there are some indications that there may end up being a Labyrinth Lord (LL) version anyway, the comments on that update indicate there may have been a misunderstanding on that). There are two things I really like about this outcome though and I think everyone else who's interested in the project should consider too.

1) By transferring rights (and funds) to Autarch, we can be reasonably sure a final product WILL be produced. This won't be Castle Greyhawk (it wouldn't have been anyway since we have a reasonably complete draft). Secondly this still means there might be a "final" or "directors cut" version of the dungeon some day from James. We get the best of both worlds. A solid product all but guaranteed, and the possibility of the "auteur" version further on down the road.

2) The other thing that I'm arguably even more excited about is that the dungeon and a lot of the surrounding texts and ideas are going to be opened up via the OGL. This small part of the project may actually be the best news. At least in this one way this outcome might actually be better than the original plan. We can see a lot more fully supported and legally safe "remixes" of Dwimmermount (like the "Devilmount" remix). I really think there's a lot in there that the community can play with and do interesting things with and now it'll all be totally legally safe! Sweet!

I've been very impressed with the products from Autarch that I already have, and I have no doubt at all that they'll do a great job completing things. I also hope we some day get an "auteur" version from James (and even more that James fully recovers from everything that he's been going through, even if he never puts out another product again), but in the meantime I'm very excited about the project getting back on track and really looking forward to what the final product ends up looking like.

I'll write part 2 to my savage worlds post soon, but I wanted to get some of my thoughts on Dwimmermount out first. Have a great weekend everyone!

Good gaming!
-The Duke of Brandonshire

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A little more on Savage Worlds (part 1)

I don't mean for this blog to be an advertisement for Savage Worlds, but I just really really like the system and it's the one I'm playing the most right now. So I'm going to do a couple more posts on the system itself and what I like so much about it. I had hoped to do this all as one post but our last session of character creation ended up taking the whole session (new players unfamiliar with the system/setting and some new rules we're adding/changing that everyone needed to go over before making choices) so we haven't had a chance to play with our new characters just yet. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Two weeks ago in our weekly game one of the player characters died. This is the first time that's happened in this game (though we've come close several times!), but it's good to be reminded that it's a real possibility, and sometimes from unexpected sources! His character was killed by the last remaining enemy robot, and it wasn't even one of the more powerful ones. Injuries had stacked up in the battle already and the robot rolled really well. Poof! There goes one of the characters.

So we all knew he was going to roll up a new character. However, as we discussed things over e-mail several other players also decided to roll up new characters, and we added another player to the group. I've decided to stick with my character for a little while longer because I like him and I think he'll be especially good for the newer characters (he's got a lot of leadership abilities that'll help keep them alive) but otherwise, at least among the regular players, it'll be a new crew of characters.

I think this'll be good for both the game and the players. When we started using SW we started out with characters about midway through the normal character progression to represent everything the characters had already been through (even if that was in two other systems!). This worked out ok, but I think it'll be good, especially for those who weren't/aren't already familiar with the system to start out with novice characters. There's less to keep track of and there are fewer choices to make all at once. It'll be easier to grow them organically going forward from a place of greater familiarity with their capabilities.

Anyway, watching folks make new characters (and helping them with it a bit), and thinking about what sort of character I might want to make whenever I decide to, or need to, replace Captain  (soon to be Commodore!) Blackwell has reminded me of several specific things I really like about Savage Worlds.

I don't have a ton of experience with genre and setting agnostic systems, but most of the more "universal" systems I've read and played around with haven't really excited me. But Savage Worlds has. I've really been impressed with its' ability to work in a number of different settings I've played in, from Ancient Greece, to fairly standard Fantasy gaming, to our current Hard Sci-Fi / Cyberpunk game. It really does work pretty well in all of these situations, with only a little bit of tinkering (mostly just deciding which edges and/or skills don't apply, and maybe adding a few). The system is really tolerant to hacking and customizing without breaking, but at the same time doesn't require it. Nearly everything you'd need for most genre's of adventure is already in the core book. You can add new subsystems and more detailed stuff for the things you're interested in (like say computer hacking), but you don't have to. You can go as deep or shallow as you want and it'll still all work.

The other thing I love about the game is how open things are for characters. You can be hyper specialized if you want, or you can be a jack of all trades type character, and neither is likely to feel "broken," either in terms of being over-powered or under-powered. You have several different choices you can make at every "level" from raising your attributes (this one you can only do once per tier, but that's not a big deal), buying new skills, getting better at the skills you already have, or buying edges (a lot like feats if you're familiar with d20 based games). All of these are valid choices! There really isn't a bad choice for you to make! You can make a character who focuses almost exclusively on getting new skills, or one who just focuses on a few and mostly buys edges, and they'll both feel useful and fun. Heck, you could probably pretty easily get away with never, or almost never, raising any of your attributes and still have a very effective character. The system is well balanced internally and you'll rarely feel like you made a bad choice when you're working on a character. The more I look at how all of this stuff works the more impressed I am with the system.

I'm also a big fan of the hindrance system. You can take hindrances in order to gain more points to spend at character creation. The thing I like about this system is that as a rule these are actually interesting character hooks. They don't just feel like a punishment you have to take in order to get the things you want, but things that might actually be fun to play around with. They might make things a big more complicated, but they'll also be some of the things that make the game fun and interesting. They're basically ready built adventure seeds, and hooks for the GM to pull on whenever she wants to.

I had hoped we'd get a chance to play a bit last week so I give some examples of how much I like the low power-curve in SW and how that lets characters of different level play well together. But I'll wait to write about that until later this week when we get a chance to actually play the characters. My previous experience with the system tells me that having different leveled characters isn't going to be a big problem, but I'll talk about that more soon!

Good gaming!

-The Duke of Brandonshire