Sunday, October 30, 2016

Reading List (and why)

A couple of comments and emails from all you folks have pushed me to put out my reading list.  Lots of folks will tell you their list of great books to read or shows to watch, but I’m going to tell you why I think they’re good and what you can learn from them.

Tarzan - Originally published as a serial, Burroughs can teach you both how to handle small scale (limited people) action as well as pacing and how cliff hangers can really bring the drama to your game.

Allan Quatermain - For those of you not familiar, this is the hero of King Solomon’s Mines.  H. Rider Haggard penned about two dozen novels about the character that too many of you only known from Sean Connery’s portrayal in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  The actual stories are a fountain of knowledge about how to put action and adventure into a story without needing to result to combat.  Oh, there’s a ton of fighting action as well, but the best of it is in the man against nature aspects.  And just in case you think Haggard made it all up, understand that he was friends with Fred Burnham.  If you haven’t heard of Fred Burnham, you may want to learn about the real man in addition to the fictional one.  On a truly crazy note - Quatermain often had to go on side quests in order to accomplish his tasks or get helop along the way, and they made sense!

John Carter - Another of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ heroes.  Forget the movie.  Probably good advice with any of these.  The plots are actually far too formulaic for me, but here Burroughs really shows you how to develop a world that isn’t “normal”.  Looking at the various races of Martians and the creatures of the world, this man was truly gifted.  These entirely crazy creatures actually seem to make sense in the world he created.  You won’t find a better inventor of crazy worlds.

HP Lovecraft - Following up on crazy worlds!  HPL wove a world of crazy that was our own.  HPL never felt that he really had to follow the rules.  First off, I read HPL on a crowded train at 8:00 in the morning (full sunshine), and it still scared the crap out of me!  I think he really builds the basis for how I try to look at gods and other super powers in games.  They don’t have to follow some set of rules.  The worst thing I ever saw was when some jackass started assigning hit points to Cthulhu.  One of the few game designers I admire once said while he and I were on a panel discussion together that he was jealous of the novelist also on the panel, because he didn’t have to follow the game rules, like we game designers did.  He could have things happen “behind the curtain” that people wouldn’t know the mechanics of - Lovecraft will teach you that too.

Arabian Nights - I have been reading a Richard Burton translation.  Honestly, my son had to switch to a different translation/version because of the constant discussions of black slaves having sex with the wives of the Arabs.  In any case, you get a completely different culture than most of us are used to in our fantasy.  This isn’t your father’s Sinbad movie.  You get an enormous number of ideas on missions, as most of the stories were about people who found themselves in strange circumstances, sometimes due to magic, sometimes just due to freakiness.  But you also get a lot of cultural references, reminders of what the feasts looked like, weddings, caravans.  Honestly, to me this is just a brand new point of view that just brings a wealth of ideas to build on.

Watch List:

Burn Notice - If you’re looking for advice on new missions, the ways that adventurers might actually live/survive, and that type of thing, I think Burn Notice is the only hope.  I’m prepping another post about this, but very quickly, if you think about TV especially, there are no shows where the heroes simply fight their way through the bad guys, unless you count pro-wrestling.  Everything else is investigative.  Assuming you want something a little more violent, Burn Notice has some good ideas.  Also - looking only at the first three or four seasons, they do a really good job of running different missions every week while still having a strong arc behind the scenes.

Hawaii 5-0 - If there is another TV show that can work, Hawaii 5-0 sort of works because (as I have complained about before) they are constantly shooting each other and doing incredibly high risk / non-law enforcement things.  I mean, they had a pirate treasure episode - that’s got to be worth something!

Castles - The book and the TV show/cartoon by David Macaulay.  I first saw this as a kid, and it has stuck with me ever since.  Not only do you get a decent understanding, or at least an introduction to one, of feudal culture, but they explain the hows and whys of building a castle.  What was the reason for the wall, the murder holes, the portcullis, etc.

Medieval Lives (with Terry Jones) and Worst Jobs (with Tony Robinson) - These aren’t going to help you figure out battles or missions or magic, but if you’re building your cities and your world, these will remind you of a whole bunch of things you forgot (or never knew).  I have to admit, I find these incredibly entertaining.

I could give you a huge list of other books and probably some anime, but I think keeping this short actually helps make it of value.  Give these a go.  They’re nearly all gems that you should have already known about.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Omnibus and You Guys

Thank you folks for the response to Legend Quest Omnibus!  It’s selling far better than we had hoped, and we thank you!  We are currently working on supporting it, so stay tuned.  

If you haven’t checked it out, please do at either RPG Now or Warehouse 23.  and thank you again.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Death Magic Investigator

In Legend Quest, the spell casters that can learn the most via magic are the necromancers.  With Book of Wishes, they have spells like séance, clairvoyance, past vision, spirit call, and spirit sense.  These allow them to question the dead or see things that the caster never could have seen.  But these types of spells should have their limits.

Take the past vision spell - It allows the necromancer to see through the dead person’s eyes in order to figure out the last thing(s) they saw as they were dying.  Well, if you’re an assassin in this world, you should be aware that the “police” have spell casters who can do this, and you should assassinate your targets from behind.  Simple, right?

But it begs the question:  How much do the dead really know?  If you spirit called the same person who was killed from behind, would his ghost have seen the scene as it floated up and out of his body?  Could a spirit of the dead identify their killer, even if that killer was behind them?  I say no.

I think that spirits should only be able to know what they knew in life.  I have all these complicated reasons and theories, but basically in my game world, the soul has a bunch of parts.  The part that the necromancer is talking to is not your “immortal soul” that goes on to heaven (or hell).  It is more of a shadow of your life.  In my world (at least) death magic doesn’t have the range to reach the heavens, but only the “shadow” part.  So no divine intervention simply by casting spirit call.

This rule works pretty well in restricting the amount of information you can get from the dead.  If they didn’t know it in life, they don’t know it in death.  Also, if they wouldn’t tell you in life, why would they tell you in death?  There are some pretty good reasons for that including desecration of the body, threatening living family, etc.  But simply killing someone should not make them open up to you about everything.  One would think the spirit might hate its attacker.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Legend Quest Silver Anniversary Omnibus Rules

With an enormous sigh of relief and feel of accomplishment, Board Enterprises would like to announce that we have released the Legend Quest Silver Anniversary Omnibus Rules, aka The LQ Omnibus Edition.

So what is it?  We’ve had several blog posts (here, here and here) but this one is going to be the most straight forward - facts, not a sales job:

The Legend Quest Rules - The Omnibus contains the core rules, nearly exactly how they were laid out 25 years ago.  Only very minor tweaks have been made to fix issues that have annoyed the game designers for years.

Book of Wishes - The largest expansion of the magic system has been out for years, but here it is fully integrated with the core rules for easy use.

Optional Rules - The Omnibus includes every optional rule ever published up to this point, including the Optional Weaponry supplement that came out some time ago.  In addition, it includes most of the optional rules used by our play-testers as we’ve worked them out over the last 25 years.  Some of the highlights include the critical charts (both combat and magic), the fumble charts (again, both combat and magic), how to apply criticals and fumbles to other skills, talents and special skills, sweep attacks, accuracy due to size, and a huge amount more!

Modern Rules - The Omnibus rules do not include the full game The Forgotten Hunt, but they do contain all the extra rules for running LQ Modern including things like automatic weapon fire, grenades and explosions, and modern skills.

Clarifications and Game Designer’s Notes - In addition to all those optional rules, there are clarifications where we felt the original rules might not have been as clear as we wanted them to be.  Plus there are notes throughout the book from John Josten, the original designer, giving advice and guidance on what was intended or what might be the best usage of the rules.  Short of having John over to your house to game master, this is the best way to learn the game from the creator.

Prices - We’ve tweaked the price guides in the book so they now conform to the guidelines established with Grain Into Gold, so the rules and GIG are now in line.

So how much is this?  Well, the LQ rule book was about 100 pages.  BoW was about 100 pages.  The Omnibus book is about 300 pages, so this is basically equivalent to an additional rule book in size.  Plus, this is a Board Enterprises book.  We have some artwork in there to break it all up, but there are no full page art pieces wasting space that could better be taken by content.  (Well, OK, the two front covers from LQ and BoW are there as well as the original back cover art, so there are a couple of pages “wasted” to artwork”)

So what do we want you to do?  Well, we’d love for you to buy the book.  We do honestly believe it is the best fantasy (and now modern) role-playing game on the market.  Dragon Magazine agreed (“A real gem of a game.  One of the best systems I’ve ever seen.”).  Further, even if you play a different game, we think you’ll find something you love about Legend Quest.  Maybe it’s some of the spells, some of the enchantments, some of the creatures, some of the skills, some of the combat variations, or some of the optional rules - you’re going to find something that you will want to incorporate into your game.  You can check it out here at RPG Now or here at Warehouse 23.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Resurrection, resuscitation and the raising of the dead

Welcome to our ghoulish October!

Most FRPGs have some way to bring the dead back to life.  I think this is a vital part of most games, because nobody wants to lose a character they’ve been building for years.  But clearly there are times when it just goes too far.

It has been a VERY long time since I played under other game rules, so I am going to focus mainly on Legend Quest.  That doesn’t mean that what we’re discussing here doesn’t work for other games, in fact I think it works quite well for most of them!

Without getting into the metaphysics of the soul (that’s like a three page paper that I haven’t bothered to publish yet), raising the dead effectively places the soul of the deceased back into their own body, thus returning that body to life.  Let’s talk first about the body.  In LQ, you cannot return life to a body (resuscitate) if that body is incapable of life.  For example, if the head was cut off, then the body is incapable of supporting life and you cannot resuscitate it.  So if you want to prevent your enemies from being raised, you chop off their heads - right?  Well, a restore spell (at Power level 6) can restore a head to a body and then you could resuscitate it, but these are pretty rare spells, so you should be OK.

So what stops the body from supporting life?  Well, rotting.  A rotted body cannot be resuscitated.  Stop, actually it can, but then the newly revived character has a disease similar to leprosy, most commonly called “the rots”.  So what does work?  Well, acids or disintegrate spells quite often work.  Even destroying a portion of the body should be enough to prevent life returning (we’re thinking chest or head), though powerful enough magics ought to work.

You know what method of body destruction seems to work and no magic I have thought of can reverse?  Consumption.  There is a character in one of my games who has a habit of dropping bodies (or parts of bodies) into pig pens in order to destroy the evidence as well as prevent returns.  I haven’t come up with any way that a body that has been consumed can be restored. (I guess wishes in that other game would work.)

So does that make it too hard on the players?  I don’t think so.  None of us have the time to try and get into all the possible things you could do in hopes of preserving the body and then restoring life into it to avoid the rotting, but basically it means if you die and someone with you has a resuscitate spell, you’ll be OK.  If they can get you back to civilization in a couple of days, probably fine, especially if it’s cold or they took some measures.  Otherwise, you’re staying dead.

What else can work?  Bodies that cannot be recovered.  Falling happens a lot with these - especially into lava pits.  But simply having the body fall into the ocean during a storm, and the others being prevented from going after it.  Or off a bridge.  Or dragged away by animals (though that probably leads to consumed).  No body, no resuscitation.

What about the soul?  This is trickier!  Would there be characters who’s souls were so desired by the divine entities that they wouldn’t let them go?  Yes!  You sell your soul to the devil and then die, he might try to do something that would prevent your friends from dragging you back to life.  In my game world, most people die and then they go to stand in line to be judged.  Therefore, they haven’t been shuttled away to their final destination just yet, so typically they avoid the whole devil-holding-onto-their-ankles thing.

Would you want to come back?  Some innocent kid might prefer heaven to life!  Maybe some virtuous folks would too, though there are not many virtuous folks in my campaigns.  Can you imagine how much it would suck if you were brought back to life as a kid, ripped out of heaven, then during your life you “were forced to” make choices that eventually damned you to somewhere else?  Yeah, that would suck!  Do they learn anything in heaven?  Are they returning with any messages?  Maybe a clue about the mission at hand?  I mean, if you die, go to heaven, are greeted by angels and/or people you loved in life, wouldn’t they say, Hey there’s a huge dragon behind the next door!

Maybe it’s easier to not think about some of these things.  Maybe the GM just follows the rule book and says the spell returns people to life, done.  But knowing more about your game world, including its afterlife, can make things a whole lot more fun!