Monday, February 13, 2012

An Embarrassment of Riches, or, Who Blogged About A Lock-Picking System Using Playing Cards?

Okay, this is driving me nuts.

One of the mixed blessings of the OSR movement is that there are SO FRACKING MANY good gameblogs churning out interesting and useable information that a) reading them can seriously eat up my time much in the same way that Wikipedia can spark a Wiki-Walk or TVTropes can devour an entire afternoon; and b) if I don't immediately copy-paste said good information into a Works document and actually close one of the twenty-some tabs on one of my many web-pages, I'll completely forget which of the hundred or so blogs out there posted the article I was keen on.

Case in point: within the last week I read a post someone made about how to represent a D&D thief's Pick Locks skill (the old percentile-based version, not the 3.+ skill mod version) by using playing cards. It was something like this: the thief can choose one of four ways to move his pick (something like push, pull, jiggle and, I don't know, twist?), and each of the cards' suits represents one of those maneuvers. The DM picks a card, and the thief's player says which of those maneuvers he wants to try; if he chooses the maneuver that the DM is holding the card for, the pick breaks. The thief's skill rating is connected to how many times he does this, or something. I can't remember, but it struck me as a really fun way to represent what would otherwise be just another skill roll. And after playing Skyrim, this notion currently has extra appeal to me.

But I can't find which blog this article was posted on. I went through my browser history and can't seem to find it. Trying to do a Google search only yields website after website about real-world lock-picking, even though I put the words "D&D thief" in there.

Anybody know where that was?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Game Settings

Cool beans - Russ Nicholson has a blog!

I still intend to get down some more of that background information on the Thyatic Empire. Preferably before I try to run the first RuneQuest game set in it. I've just had other stuff going on lately, some of it gaming-related and some of it not.

However, something that Zak S. posted a while ago caused me to stop and think for a moment about how in-game information is conveyed to the players in your game. We GM-types will often go on and on about the details of the world we're creating (or modifying, in this case), but oftentimes I must stop and remind myself that the players may not really care about all that; at least not to the degree that I do. World creation is, to my mind, one of the best parts of being a GM. And, though Zak may not care for it, I actually do dig reading that setting stuff (though I'm increasingly willing to alter it to my own tastes, as I mentioned in my last post). My love for that aspect of the game is probably a big part of why I don't work on my other creative projects nearly as much as I should - I shunt all of that time and energy into that game-world instead of my comic book, and hey, since it's just for a game, I don't have to worry about how original it is. I can afford to be lazy when I want to, or swipe an element that I like from another game setting. This is an issue I'm still really struggling with.

Anyway, when it comes to reading about other people's gameworlds, I don't think that what's drawing me is necessarily the quality of the author's writing, nor even necessarily the originality of their creation. They may be rehashing Tolkien or Howard for the umpteenth time - or including yet another homage to Lovecraft - while writing at the skill level of, say, Stephanie Meyers or Dan Brown, but if they've got fodder that I can riff off of, I'm happy. After all, it's a lot harder to start creating from scratch than it is when you're working within established parameters; at least, it is for me.

But I think Zak nailed the reason why my eyes glaze over whenever I'm confronted with game fiction in a rulebook.

Now I want to create some random encounter tables for the Soderfjord Jarldoms. I need to find that page in the AD&D 2e Monstrous Compendium (I think that's where it was...) that shows how to make a d20 table, listing encounters by their relative rarity...