Sunday, January 24, 2010

Somewhere out there a time traveller is embarrassed...

Nice food for the imagination...

Link to article.

AEC preview is out!

If you are a Labyrinth Lord Society member you should have the advanced preview no-art version of the Advanced Edition Companion in your email.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gygax quote, offered without comment

I offer this quote by Gary Gygax. This was written a short time before the 1e DM guide was released, but after the players guide and monster manual had already come out. There is a lot that could be said about this but I think I'll let each reader digest it for himself/herself.

From The Dragon #22, February 1979

An excerpt from “Dungeons & Dragons, What it is and Where it’s Going,” by Gary Gygax

Fanatical game hobbyists often express the opinion that DUNGEONS & DRAGONS will continue as an ever-expanding, always improving game system. TSR and I see it a bit differently. Currently D&D is moving in two directions. There is the “Original” game system and the new ADVANCED D&D® system. New participants can move from the “Basic Set” into either form without undue difficulty— especially as playing aid offerings become more numerous, and that is in process now. Americans have somehow come to equate change with improvement. Somehow the school of continuing evolution has conceived that D&D can go on in a state of flux, each new version “new and improved!” From a standpoint of sales, I beam broadly at the very thought of an unending string of new, improved, super, energized, versions of D&D being hyped to the loyal followers of the gaming hobby in general and role playing fantasy games in particular. As a game designer I do not agree, particularly as a gamer who began with chess. The original could benefit from a careful reorganization and expansion to clarify things, and this might be done at some future time. As all of the ADVANCED D&D system is not written yet, it is a bit early for prognostication, but I envision only minor expansions and some rules amending on a gradual, edition to edition, basis. When you have a fine product, it is time to let well enough alone. I do not believe that hobbyists and casual players should be continually barraged with new rules, new systems, and new drains on their purses. Certainly there will be changes, for the game is not perfect; but I do not believe the game is so imperfect as to require constant improvement.

Monday, January 18, 2010

AEC advanced access to LLS members!

I'm very close to being able to order a proof copy of the Advanced Edition Companion! Likely this week some time. Normally I would wait to release the free no-art pdf and the for pay electronic version until after the paperback is approved, but as soon as I get the proof ordered this time I plan to send the no-art version out via email to Society members so that you can get an extra week or two weeks jump on seeing what's inside!

So, if you are already a Society member, just sit back and you'll find it in your inbox before too long. If you're not yet a member...what are you waiting for? Don't make me send Orcus after you...

Information about the Labyrinth Lord Society can be found here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What is Labyrinth Lord really?

If you've read the foreword to Labyrinth Lord then you probably know where I'm coming from. In another post at some other time I may discuss what I think may be happening as we continue on emulating the old-school games, but right now I want to post a link that is a reminder of where it all started.

Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion that will come out shortly are an effort to bring old-school gaming back onto game stores and back onto the modern gamers' tables. But the thing I hope we never lose sight of is that Labyrinth Lord is a tribute.

(For those unfamiliar, you may have to investigate TD a bit to really get this. Nothing beats Stairway to Heaven. IMO old-school D&D is the Stairway to Heaven of RPGs)

Here's another version.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Riffing on Mike Mearls' post about game balance

Mike Mearls recently posted on his blog about issues of game balance, primarily in relation to 4e but also in relation to post-core 2e D&D. I just want to pull one small piece of that out to comment on here. He said:

If you do like combat, though, then game balance is very important. A DM needs the system to provide some framework for building encounters, or at least judging their difficulty. If each class has wildly different combat abilities and the game doesn't account for that, the system falls apart and the DM's judgment and experience have to take over. That probably means lots of trial, lots of error, and hopefully a patient enough group that a DM learns to balance the game using his own set of metrics. Of course, if a few PCs die and classes rotate in and out of the group, the balance act starts all over again.

There's some part of me that recoils at using the term "paradigm" when it comes to gaming, but in this case I think it fits. In earlier editions of D&D classes do have wildly different combat abilities. The default assumption is that different archtypes are better at different tasks, and it is absolutely assumed that combat will mostly be the job of fighter types and clerics secondarily. One of the things that is interesting about this quote is how the burden of balancing combat is entirely on the DM. There certainly are guidelines in earlier editions for balancing encounters, but this is relatively a loose balancing effort (since it is based mostly on raw HD and encounter numbers without much in the way of considering monster special abilities) and a lot of the time the players have to make the right choices and have a strategy because taking on a combat head-to-head will often result in character deaths. In later editions, or "new-school" D&D it is the burden of the DM to balance an encounter in a way that a party of multiple classes yet of equal fighting ability can attack head-to-head and have a reasonable chance of success.

The old-school approach can weather a fuzzy game balance issue because the duty is nearly as much on the players to decide what they can handle, when to fight, and when to run. Another interesting thing is how "DM judgment" seems to be mentioned as a bad thing to have to employ, as if the DM needs a concise formula for crafting encounters. Again, I think this illustrates a difference between new-school D&D and old-school D&D, but of course in older editions of D&D it is within the context of game balance being present but a fairly loose thing. As far as D&D is concerned it is a relatively new philosophy that "balance" means equal class abilities. In the past, balance was only approximate and across archetypes while acknowledging different class capabilities. This left room for player innovation in play. In the old-school there is a definite feeling that anything around the corner of the next dungeon hallway could spell doom, and thus style of play takes that into account by being cautious, asking lots of questions about the environment and what is seen, etc.

I'm not implying any sort of value judgment to this analysis, and the only reason I found it noteworthy to discuss was because it struck me as to how alien post-2e D&D is to me, especially 4th edition. For example, in old-school D&D if you choose to play a magic-user there are a host of weaknesses you enroll in, that you agree to undertake, which means you will have to adopt a certain play style that is different from fighters in the group. Not everyone liked to play magic-users because of their weaknesses, which is why multiclassing is probably so popular, but nonetheless when you choose to play a class that is not a fighter you find fun in the way that class is played. You may not get to stab at orcs in from of the line but you'll be doing other things to try to help the party when your spells run out. It's just a different mentality about how to "have fun" when playing the game. On some level I can appreciate the desire to have all characters be able to take about the same damage and deal about the same damage, and participate in the game in the same ways, but to me this new-school approach to characters takes a big chunk of the fun out of trying a different class that comes with different strategies to survival. But then old-school D&D is very much a game of adventure and survival, whereas new-school is in some ways superheroic, so there is more than just a paradigm of balance at issue here, there is an entire shift of genre.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Labyrinth Lord Facebook Page

It's long overdue that I point everyone to the Labyrinth Lords Facebook page. If you are a Facebook member, drop on by and join up! Thanks go to Moritz Mehlem for setting this up some time back.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mutant Future now at Noble Knight Games!

If you're looking for another retro-game to add to your next Noble Knight order, they now have Mutant Future in stock! I see they already sold the Labyrinth Lord revised edition books they had in stock, but I'm sure they'll get more soon!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Advanced Edition Companion Preview: Demon and Devil Art

Many people have already seen the cover preview from a thread on the Goblinoid Games forums. I wanted to share with you the art for the demons and devils. Sean Aaberg contacted me a while back about doing art for Goblinoid Games. He does underground comics among other funky projects, and I thought his style fit perfectly for this project.

He has the art posted on his flickr account here.

You'll need to look at the first three pages or so to see them all. Enjoy! I love all of them but I really like his take on Orcus. I've always felt (and this has been said elsewhere by others) that the old game books had a sort of underground comics feel from the art style, so I'm delighted to have Sean on board to inject that old-school love.