On RPG Theory: Z

This is the last word, some more analysis in May. And what a good word to end the game on.

Zilchplay: A style of play that doesn't prioritize any creative agenda. Walt Freitag defines it as having an agenda: "being told a story while engaging in manipulation of some arcana that makes it appear and feel that you're doing something of greater import than that."

I'm not exactly clear how to get to the bottom of this, so I'll just quote Walt, and what he says about it.

Zilchplay is Exploration without perceivable Creative Agenda.

Zilchplay IS Exploration.

Exploration without perceivable Creative Agenda is possible (and observable, most often on the part of individual participants rather than a whole group).

Zilchplay is or is not role playing depending on whether your definition of role playing has Creative Agenda as a requirement.
In the thread Zilchplay is disscussed, Ron makes an interesting comment, which I think elucidates much of what I've been saying. . .
I think this whole debate suffers slightly from a tendency to interpret any single proposed idea during a complex dialogue as a concrete position. I've noted this tendency on the parts of a lot of people who arrive at the Forge from a scholarly background - accustomed to reading texts as representatives of identified points of view, they aren't used to dealing with texts as "thickets of debate" in which everyone understands that the point of view is expected to emerge eventually.
Really Ron?

Frankly, I think that's exactly what you're doing when you post on a forum - proposing an idea as a concrete position.

When you write a forum post, you are explicitly writing a text that is representative of an identified point of view - yours.

I guess it's all that book learning, rational thinking, and following the scientific method that's got everyone all confused.

Well, that's it for April folks. I'll try to write up some summary posts over some of the useful bits next month!

On I've Made a Terrible Mistake

I was going to save this for Monday to let it stew some more, but Mythmere's post crystallized the issue. I'm just reporting facts below - my posting volume and continued contributions should indicate that the below is just a observation, that is only a smidgeon rantish.

I've released everything I've done for free, and it was a terrible terrible mistake that drastically undervalued the time and effort I put into it.

I released it for free, not out of a lack of ego investment or self-motivation, but because I wanted to contribute to the community. I do not 'need' the money, what I desired was communication, interaction, and community.

The community's response, nearly 1000 downloads of *each* of my documents and little more then a dozen comments. Barring James (of the Underdark Gazette who I've talked to over e-mail about this) and Simon and Andreas there was no one who commented on the .pdf's I released under the Alexandrian license who's only requirement is that you comment. (Locks & Keys was released under this license, and had 131 downloads. And 3 comments not by me - after I pointed it out in a different post over a week later.)

The psionics document, was a group effort, and has art, was designed by a professional layout designer, was playtested extensively, and provides a cohesive psionics system for old school games. It took hundreds of hours to create, has a class, four kits, over 60+ psionic powers, is totally compatible with 1st edition psionics, adds quick reference for easy use - we even made magic items, encounter tables, and background training tables. It's indexed and well organized. A 44 page professional document. It was my first work, and it has its flaws, but it's good work.

The general consensus? Psionics are stupid and I wasted my time. This for a system that works with Hackmaster perfectly (which is missing psionic rules) LL, OSRIC, and S&W (none of which have them) and streamlines the tables from anyone running an actual first edition game. (In spite of the lack of any feedback psionics had 93 downloads in March and 41 in April)

Note that this didn't stop me, I made treasure and tricks after that. I figured I was making them for me - why not release them to the public.

So, I am not receiving the one thing I'm seeking, partially because I am not charging money for my work - which makes other people devalue it. It's not a mistake I plan on continuing to make. This way, if they want it they can pay, and since they are using money to overcome their social obligation, I won't care if they comment or not. I would just think they would rather comment, but apparently not. This is an extension of the general gestalt of the community - art and resource posts don't draw comments and navel gazing does. Some people have figured this out long ago (Uh, all the big ones) I'm apparently just realizing now how silly it was to expect people to want to comment instead of pay.

Now before my tone is wildly misconstrued, I will point out that I continue to release quality works for free.

I know that text doesn't communicate this, but I'm not really bothered by the above. I'll leave everything I've released free forever, but when I redo things and release them in the future, I'll take money instead of thanks.

The weird thing is, I think that's really the way people prefer it.

P.S. I've already paid the Joskey tax 100 times over. :-)

Edit: I can say now, from 2014 that it goes both ways! Not only was On the Non-Player Character super successful, but there's a ton of big-hearted people out there making my Patreon Campaign an astounding success!

On RPG Theory: Y

No Y words either.

I have some opinions and comments over all this noise.

Games where you compete against another person and one of you wins and one of you loses are awesome and fun.

People don't do things they don't enjoy, so even if everything isn't perfect if they are showing up every week, they're enjoying it - incoherent or not.

If they aren't doing it the way you would do it, but they keep getting together to play, they are still having fun!

Thanks all for reading!

On The Thursday Trick, Water Shock & Collapsing Floor Description

Water Shock (Restraints/Hazards)
Trigger: Mechanical: Pressure Plate  Effects: Multiple Targets
Onset Delay
Save: None Duration: Varies
Resets: Automatic Bypass: Avoid

Description: While traversing the dungeon, a well or some sort of portal in the floor is spotted. A quick inspection shows that it leads down some distance before ending in what appears to be water. Anyone looking down in the hole does indeed see not only water, but the glint of something reflective in it. A per-existing rope or chain (chain being the preferred choice for reasons that become obvious shortly) that leads down into the room are optional, though helpful.

The room may be filled with treasure (not a bad idea considering the circumstances, along with the bones of at least a dozen bodies and their very waterlogged gear. At the bottom, the room is filled with perhaps 2 feet of water, certainly enough to let the party members, even the shortest of them, stand while they loot the room.

However, when the water is displaced, it triggers a gate that opens beneath the water a short number of rounds after the party enters the room (1 + the number of members of the party rounds later, to give them all time to get into the room). A number of very hungry electric eels then enter the room. Due to the high conductivity of this water, their electrical pulse will strike every party member within 10' of any eel that uses it. Since the room is a compact 20' x 20' it should leave the party a well cooked dinner for eels.

If anyone attempts to escape and a chain has been provided, remember that metal conducts electricity.

Detection: Investigation (clairvoyance, lowering a lantern) will indicate the pretense of lots of treasure, rusting metal and iron weapons and armor, and about a dozen corpses. The rope or chain appears stable and in good condition. (if the chain is of a base metal type, have the bottom bit be rusted).

The party may be wary about mucking around in several feet of water, and for good reason. Anyone who descends the chain and does not step on the floor will not trigger the eels, so that should allow them to receive a quick item or two. The floor contains approximately 800 cubic feet of water, so eliminating that (using either alchemy or perhaps divine magic) can also save the party from any threat of the eels.

Of course bypassing the room (and the treasure) is the safest option.

A bonus for missing last week:

The Collapsing Floor (Restraints/Hazards)
Trigger: Mechanical: Pressure Plate  Effects: Multiple Targets
Never Miss
Save: None Duration: Instantaneous
Resets: Never Bypass: None  (Avoid)

Description: This is your standard unstable floor. It requires only that there be open space below it. This could be the next dungeon level (or further) but this will indicate the distance the party member will fall. This is not a constructed trap, but a hazard of a decaying structure.

Detection: A dwarf should automatically get his check to detect this if it is in a dungeon or any sort of stone environment. Don't forget however that this occurs on roofs, ships, and upper floors of houses also. For those groups that fail their roll, or do not have a dwarf in the party (MADNESS!), the following are some signs and descriptions of collapsing floors. You can use these to insure the players have agency, without giving the trap away. Some description options to be inserted in with other detritus in the room are listed.
  • Bulges or warps in the floor. ("The slightly rounded floor holds. . . " "The concave surface of the room is. . . " "The dresser across the room leans oddly against the wall" etc.)
  • Cracks in the floor. ("trails of smoke (or dust) waft up through the floor" "The tile is patterned with ancient cracks.")
  • Extremes of temperature may cause a floor to collapse. ("a bitter chill, cold enough to freeze water emanates from the floor of this room.")
  • Sagging in the floors indicates collapse. ("Several pools of water (sand, dust) have collected on the floor of this room" or, if you're nice, ". . . have collected in depressions on the floor of this room")
Water shock is a trap originally in  Grimtooth's traps, a trademark of Flying Buffalo Inc. games.

On RPG Theory: X

X marks the spot.

There are of course no X words.

However, you should know that I do this, because I love role playing, and I love role playing theory.

I've been pretty hard on Ron Edwards, but here's a man who's been talking about what I love for over 10 years.

Some of the things I've said have been pointed, but I'd much rather have him stirring things up and getting people talking about it, then having tabletop gaming just die in a corner.

On RPG Theory: W

Ah, W. Only 3 more letters after today and then I'll be free.

Wargamer: or Tactician. One of the Blacow/Robin Laws player types. Someone who likes tactical problems, or likes to play Wargames.

Just an aside that defining these terms carries with it the unfortunate consequence of assumption that someone who, say, enjoys tactical problems, must not be the type of person that enjoys talking in character. A false assumption if there ever was one.

Wheedler: Again with the harping on 'power gamers'. This is one of 'the two types' of power gamers - the other being a "Rules-Lawyer". This means someone who attempts to manipulate the people at the table, instead of the rules.

Whiff Factor: A word to describe failure rate that is incongruous with the expected competence of the PC's in the setting. 

Wimpiness: A term meaning sore loser. No, really! "A dysfunctional form of Gamism characterized by poor sportsman ship, i.e. the unwillingness to accept a loss"

On Art in Alchemy

I've been doing up little drawings for the margins, and some homages to the judge's guild work for my forthcoming book on Alchemy & Poisons in old school games. I just thought I'd share.

Please please comment and let me know what you think.

On RPG Theory: V

Ahh, we are very near the finish line now.

Today is the letter V.

Vanilla: This is part of the obsolete term usage opposite pervy having to do with how often system interacts with events at the table.

Vanilla Narrativism: Holy moley, this is weird. Here is a definition of a style of play that assumes that people who are playing it, don't recognize themselves as being contained within this definition of play. (Seems useful, doesn't it). I'm going to break it down. Here's the statement.

Narrativist play without notable use of the following techniques: Director Stance, atypical distribution of GM tasks, verbalizing the Premise in abstract terms, overt rules concerning narration, and improvised additions to the setting or situations
So, not having the player make meta-game decision, or take on the GM workload, or stating the moral or ethical conflict 'abstractly' (out loud? outside of a specific implimentation?), without rules about who can talk when, or improvising new setting features that is still narrativist play.

Apparently this is where we find the definition of what narrativist play is 'supposed' to contain.

Ron has this to say, defining vanilla narrativism. (I quote it because is is one of his more palpable statements, i.e. one that is possible to parse)

The first point is that we're not talking about any kind of hybrid - not some sort of overlap with Simulationist play, for instance. Vanilla Narrativism is merely a sub-set of Narrativism, no overlapping.

The second point is the defining one: the conduct of play (which also includes the rules, if we talk about design for a moment) does not jar the player who tends to be used to more traditional modes of play, but it does encourage Narrativist play. The specifically Narrativist-facilitating moments, expressed either by a rule or by the encouragements of others at the table, are perceived mainly as nifty opportunities and not as some overwhelming responsibility. One does not worry, in this mode of play, about "doing it right."

 Remember, all narrative is defined as is addressing a moral or ethical question through play.

Not worrying about if I'm doing it right?

Worrying about if I'm doing it right?

He's kidding. . . Isn't he?

On RPG Theory: U

Here we are with U.

Isn't U what is important?

Number 8.

Underbelly: I hadn't heard of this term, defined by Ron, used explicitly. I was aware of it through secondary supplementary material for large settings however.

The basic idea is that you're playing in a setting (World War II, Star Wars, Babylon 5) where everyone playing knows all the events of the setting 'metaplot' and yet, possibly none of the characters do.

The underbelly is where the characters take part in a plot, that although independent from the major storyline of the setting and focusing on the individual interactions, in some way is related or affects the major meta-plot (most commonly by allowing it to happen - Why if we hadn't done this adventure the millennium falcon might have run out of fuel, etc.) A very useful term for games that take place in already established settings.

Universal: An RPG system designed to be used in multiple settings. i.e. FUDGE or GURPS

On the Balance of the Negative

Soo, how do we as a community say something negative?

I'm sort of awestruck by the consistency of the output and the unabashed positivity of the 'community' of bloggers. Some of that seems like a natural outgrowth of a decentralized posting area - obviously in a forum people of wildly differing opinions will congregate and post, whereas in a blog, you will only typically acquire followers who approve of your message. In the short run, this creates like a positive, can-do type of environment, subject to high duplication of creative output and a poor indexing method. Some of which is being addressed.

However, the longer I am part of the community, the more issues that are contentious and possibly may reflect certain people or products in a negative light rear their head. What is an appropriately positive way to discuss these issues?

I've already encountered a major issue in this regard, due to my A-Z posts. I had never really read any of the Forge theory before I started and discovered numerous issues with both the methodology and some of the core points.

But where do I stand critiquing the thousand+ hours that man has spent thinking about and codifying his theory? How do I provide criticism or critique that is both effective and constructive, (a difficult challenge for me, being my default conversational stance is "inflammatory")? How do you say something on a blog that's critical and yet does not dampen the enthusiasm of the poster?

More importantly, how do we, as a community, have a discussion about something complicated, like charging for .pdf's versus free .pdfs, or duplication of work and intellectual property rights vs. not being a dick without being negative?

On it Being Too Late for the Stones to Vote

Here's a list of feats from d20, WotC.

ALL the feats.

3304 results.

On a Locks & Keys PDF

I don't even like you all this much, but I did it anyway!

Thankless I say!

PDF, with NOT ONLY the rules and roll all the dice tables for both keys and locks, but also two new tables that allow you to generate locks using the spatial relationship of the dice, a roll on the table, um, table.

Can be found here. Get it while it's hot.

Locks and Keys.pdf

On RPG Theory: T

Oh how they dwindle! Here we come around the bend, and we've seen many horses fall out of this race.

This stupid stupid race.

Can we as a movement (THE OSR or whatever) agree not to do this again next year?

Onto the Letter T.

Task Resolution: This is how you determine what happens from within the rules of the game, in game time, in terms of the character's skills and competencies. Not determining success from a broader perspective of the actual conflict in play.

Threefold Model: A concept from rec.games.frp.advocay from 1997, suggesting the three way split of dramatism, simulationism and gamism.

Trailblazing: Something we're all familiar with in our sandboxes and such. M.J. Young coined the term meaning where the DM makes something awesome (potential storyline, interesting subplot) and the players can ignore it or follow it if they wish.

Transcript: An account of play. Also the most fun to read.

Transition: According to Ron, it's when you change from one "Creative Agenda" to another in play - different from drift, in that transition between the modes of play is supported by the rules. Impossible to provide an explicit concise example of because there are no definitions of creative agendas in the context of the rules.

Transparency: Rules that you don't notice when you use them!

Turku role-playing: *sigh* I swear I'm not making this up.

So there are these awesome Finnish people (Is there anything nords can't do?) and they say "in character thinking and feeling is the best in life! It is to be given the highest priority! Even communicating the experience to others (in or out of play) is secondary."

How is this defined within Forge terminology?
Simulationism, Character Exploration, mainly Drama or low Points-of-Contact Fortune mechanics, highly reinforced through an explicit Social Contract.
So, it requires no less than seven complex poorly defined entire concepts to describe this one thing.

To translate into the actual meanings of the words they use; the forge definition is:
The strict adherence to in-game cause for the outcomes that occur during play, highly-internalized, character-experiential play, resolving actions using either, what makes the best story or defined character abilities or difficulty, with rules that are bundled into a few conceptual steps, reinforced through the relationships of everyone at the table.
One does not seem to describe the other accurately to me.

Turnin': A term for PC infighting! Coined by Ron.

Typhoid Mary: Another excellent definition by Ron, for DM's who railroad players in the name of a better story.

On Masterwork Plate Mail

Just thought everyone might want to see what a suit of Masterwork Plate Mail looks like.

Found at the Labyrinth! Another great gaming blog, known for his extensive use of audio/visual media and great maps.

On RPG Theory: S

Long letter S: Such a popular letter. Today's a long one!

Brought to you by the number, oh god, why won't you end already April. . .

Scene Framing: Three weeks later aaaaaaaaand you're there!

Screen Time: Otherwise known as spotlight time. Giving each character their moment in the sun. Notice that the opposite design (floodlight time) means everyone plays the same character.

 Setting: "I invoke the spell shard an-"
"Dude, we're in Forgotten Realms"
"Oh, Uh, Spellfire then?"

Shared Imaginary Space: Coined by Fang Langford for the events that take place during the game - the space in everyone's head where the adventure takes place.

Simulationism: Here's another big one. There's always been sort of a snide slant in discussions about this, and it is certainly one of the three pillars that is hardest to define.

The short definition of Simulationism is, comes from the Threefold Model FAQ (which predates the essays). It says "Values resolving in-game events are based solely on game-world considerations, without allowing any meta-game concerns to affect the decision."

This is totally a definition I can live with - it means when someone comes up with the great idea of hiring a hundred dudes to go clear out the dungeon, instead of addressing it using rules, you take their cue and the game becomes not about the dungeon, but the consequence of trying to hire 100 men in town.

The definition in the essay is less clear.  It starts with a a discussion of some of Gygax's words that shows an astounding misinterpretation of the design goals and ethics of his work. Then moves over to a long and difficult to parse discussion of what basic "simulationist practice" is. In order to keep the length of these concise, I will avoid a point by point response.

In a discussion on resolution mechanics, he says:
"Two games may be equally Simulationist even if one concerns coping with childhood trauma and the other concerns blasting villains with lightning bolts. What makes them Simulationist is the strict adherence to in-game (i.e. pre-established) cause for the outcomes that occur during play."
Ok, so how does that not apply to every role-playing game again?

I know that what I'm doing here may seem cheap - but that quote isn't out of context. The essay is long, confusing, full of statements that are self-contradictory, unclear, and filled with unproven assertions.

Situation: "What's going on again?"

Social Context: Man, you just cannot bring up D&D at a bar and expect to get laid!

Social Contract: Not worth the paper it's not written on. Sorry. Old habit. Defined as "The sum of all interactions and relationships among members of the role playing group. Weird, because, how is that a contract? I think this has more to do with expectations.

Specialist: One of Robin's seven player types

Stakes: Another useful term. What is up to be gained or lost from a conflict! This phrase has a lot to do with why Dogs in the Vineyard is such a good game - even if, you know, mormons.

Stance: Tied up in all these complex definition wars, the word basically means how you are currently playing the game. Are you thinking 'in-character'? trying to steer where the game is going? metagaming?

Step On Up: The Ron Edwards catchphrase for gameism.

Story: Defined as a 'tricky term' meaning no one will clearly define it and everyone is using it to mean a different thing.

Story Now: The Ron Edwards catchphrase for Narrativism.

Storyteller: The White Wolf DM, also, a Blacow Player type.

Synecdoche: Oh, it's a 10 cent word smart people like to use, meaning using a part of something to represent the whole (hand for sailor) or the whole thing for a part of something (Law for police)

System: Another word defined as "Broadly used term with multiple meanings". I am not being thinking anyone has been published in many scientific journals, no?

On RPG Theory: R

Are you Ready to Rumble.


Railroading: CHOO-CHOO!  All aboard the train which will take you where I'm going!

Relationship Map: Something I thought was fairly original turned out to already have a name. I like to call this power structure.

Resource: A pool which the game draws upon. The reduction of this results in harm to the character.

Reward System: Gooooold, I like Gooooold.

RFGA; Once upon a moon, I posted here, long ago.

Role Levels: Levels of player involvement - the social role of the character, the thematic role, the in-character role, and the effectiveness of the character.

That last is certainly something that deserves further study.

On Numenhalla: Gods: Tethys

On the separation of Tethys:

She was born to Typhon & Hera, sister of the nine who were eleven, and in the ancient days she became the sea, and therefore mother to Typhon & Hera.

But the nature of the sea is vast and terrible and hidden. Out of fear she hid precious things from her father and in time he was furious, for he could not find the items she hid.

Hera became fascinated by the sea and was the first to bathe in her daughter/mother's waters. She said:
Since I go now to beyond the ends of the generous earth to where the gods have risen and Tethys our mother who we brought up kindly in our own house, who cared for me and took me from the storm that drove the measure of life underneath the earth and the barren water; I shall go to visit these gods and resolve their division of discord. For a long time have they stood apart, distant, breathing the land and all things, rancor beating within their divided breast. Could I win over with persuasion the dear heart within them and bring them back to bed to be merged in love with each other and again be of one heart and mind? Should I, I would be forever honored by then, and live through them, and be loved.
And so Hera entered the sea.

In her absence, Typhon found the betrayal of Tethys and he shook the sea of his daughter/mother in anger. He took from Tethys her sword and hid it deep within the waters and thus was Tethys separated from the nine who were eleven, and lost.

On RPG Theory: Q, A reprieve

Since there are no Q terms, a short note.

During research I found discussions I took part in on rpg.advocacy, the old newsgroup, back in 1995 or thereabouts. I've been a proponent of the theory of RPG for a long time. I considered majoring in communication for the sole purpose of doing research into RPG play. They are an interesting and unique subset of human interaction that deserves further study.

So you could say I've been a proponent of the Forge, since as communities go, it's been the only theory focused place I've found yet.

But upon research, and a closer look, this stuff is a nightmare. I haven't finished my analysis yet, and I'm sure there is stuff to be salvaged from it, but this is not the way theory should be, not the way science should be, not the way research should be.

I'm sure Ron is a decent guy - someone who cares, and has put in hundreds of hours attempting to deconstruct and examine what role-playing is. Someone who set to this task with a purpose and actual physical results, including a game. He is a person who does things, and the value of that cannot be overstated.

But. . .

My honest assessment and opinion is the theory is written by a narcissist who's angry that other people are having fun in a way he disapproves of, and uses intellectualization and word obfuscation to create a situation where he can never be proven wrong. He doesn't use the scientific method, and in fact, seems to have a fairly explicit agenda.

  • I believe this because no clear, concise, quantitative definitions are given in the essays for many of his terms.

  • I believe this because his basic thesis is that the players of the most popular and successful role-playing game of all time are not having fun in spite of self-reports of enjoyment.

  • I believe this because no definitive examples are ever made regarding his assertions.(i.e. That the Storyteller Rules-set(tm) does not facilitate the examination of a moral or ethical question concerning human interaction)

This does not mean that Ron Edwards hasn't contributed greatly by starting the discussion. This does not mean this isn't a first step towards an actual discussion and knowledge base of what's going on in a role playing game. I still believe it's best for any game designer to be familiar with the work.

I know my opinion above is a strong statement, but it is how I characterize Ron Edward's writing when I read it. I get the sense that I'm listening to someone who's mad and isn't able or willing to put into words why they feel the way they do.

If this is our best resource for theory, I think we need to do better.

The good news is, I think we are. Between the forums, the Forge, blogs, and various other entities around on the web I think the games I'm playing now are better designed and more fun then the ones I played as a younger man. There are some drawbacks (massive duplication of effort) but those are being addressed also.

Thanks for reading. Happy 4/20.

On Numenhalla: Men

These are the blessed men of the Numen. Known as men, they are craftsmen, wizards, priests, nobles, deceivers, experts, and laborers. They were given the grace of living in the cities of the land - the gods caring for their every need. The men are served by slaves; servants of the Numen, commanded to be servants of men. The first are the Augatic a race of immortal golems maintained by the Bindi. The second are the Gortha a race of slave men with cream or olive colored skin. Men average 5' in height and have a wide variety of features, skin ranging from red brown to yellow. They live an average of 65 years.

On Numenhalla: Halflings

These are the blessed men of the Pithavin - known as the Gretidoten. They are the cultivators with a bond to the life and living. They were given the grace of dwelling in the Myrkrfell, close to the heard of the earth. They Gretidoten average 4' in height, and live among and part of the land for all of their days. They always go barefoot, and are known for being silent. They live an average of 130 years.

On Numenhalla: Elves (grey)

These are the blessed men of the Auspindar, known as the Bindi. They are the sentinels of knowledge and the lost arts. Responsible for the safekeeping of lore, they were given the grace of dwelling in the Bokgnaefa, spires that rise up out of the cities that dot the land. They are rarely seen, the only Bindi known are those that are on their Karesh, where they leave and gain knowledge of the land before returning to their tower. They average 4' 6" in height and have narrow features with think gold to white hair and ashen skin. Their eyes are often gold or violet (or sometimes more strange) and their lifespan is unknown.

On Numenhalla: Sylvan Elves

These are the blessed men of the Veraloth, known as the Sidartha. They are the caretakers of all life. Responsible for the preservation of flora and fauna they were given the grace of dwelling in the Obygo (ausbee'-gue) (Wilderness), the realms between the cities consisting of all homes of life as a reward for their labor. The Sidartha average 6' in height, and are of lithe build. Their senses are sharp with eyes and ears larger than those of other races. They live an average of 70 years.

On Numenhalla: Dwarves

These are the blessed men of Mardoren, known as the Westrador. Selected by Typhon to be his hands - they worked from the ground itself the very vessels of Numenhalla. Responsible for the creation of the realm below, they were given the grace of dwelling in the Holdstyri (Earthhelm), the realms at the end of the lance of the sun, created for them as a reward for their sacrifice. The Westrador average just short of 5' in height, often wear beards to counter the hill of their stone homesteads, and show great knowledge and foresight when underground. Their hard labors have given them good constitutions, and the live for an average of 110 years.

On Numenhalla: Races of Men

Men, Dwarves, Elves hobbits - these are the archtypical names. Categorizations, slurs, racial epitaphs one and all. The image of tradition does not match reality.

This is a short series of posts on the races of Numenhalla. There is a lot of talk about the typical fantasy campaign, and it is my belief that there should never be a typical fantasy campaign. No DM anywhere should say "The room contains a dozen orcs".

This is common advice, propagated commonly.

If if the stats are the same, and we use the term 'dwarf' to simplify class - it should never be portrayed that way at the table.

Don't be a boring person telling about boring things.

Without further ado, the races of Numenhalla

On RPG Theory: P


Not really. It's just a picture.

Today we have a long post, backed by tomorrow's light post (like anyone is going to have a good Q day).

As an aside, it's a long post today, but a major point is made in my analysis of Premise, so you might make sure to gander at that.

I really like the whole gestalt of OH HAY CAUZ TODAY IS I AND THAT IS A HARD LETTER, OH I WRTOE SOME CRAP BECAUSE IT'S A CHALLNEGE! So much fun to know how this little 'feature' is wasting out time navel gazing. :-) At least our post counts are up, right?
On with the Letter P, brought to you by the letter resigned acceptance.

Participationism: Near as I can tell, this is a word that means, the DM fudges dice rolls, and the player's know it. Just typing that leaves a dirty taste in my mouth. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean this. In true Forge Theory style, here's a quote from one of the relevant threads.
Wow--we're still having trouble with [defining]  illusionism versus participationism versus trailblazing.
What it really means, is that under illusionism, the referee makes a choice that makes player agency irrelevant. Under Participationism, the referee makes it explicit that the players have no control over the outcome of the story. 


On the other hand, I think I might have done this once, long ago.

Pawn Stance: A stance, not mentioned in our earlier review of Author, Actor, audience, and in-character. This indicates a situation in which the character is taking an action and no motivation is given to the character. Basically means using your character as a game piece, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Pervy: The jargon gets pretty thick in here - especially for a term noted as obsolete. It has to do with 'the degree that "system" is explored'. Of course there is no objective metric for 'degree'. 

The essay Pervy is from defines it as:
upping the Exploration of System which in coherent play means reinforcing elements of the Premise at hand, or making such reinforcement possible, through the logistics of play. If this sounds familiar, it should: "System Does Matter" is only stating, "Coherent Pervy design helps focus play into group-understood goals."
So, translated, supporting moral or ethical questions concerning human interactions through the logistics of play.

I think I'm beginning to understand why Mr. Edwards doesn't like D&D. More on that later.

Points of Contact: Simply put, this is where the rules intersect play. A high point of contact event is grappling in 3.5. Low points of contact are conceptual steps, that may still be very strict. Then the statement is made that this is somehow different then 'rules-heavy' and 'rules-lite'.

I can't really provide any analysis of this because the terms 'system' and 'rules-heavy/lite' remain undefined. (in fact the definition of System in this glossary is 'a broadly used term with multiple meanings'.)

Postmodern: Self-awareness in RPG's? Hackmaster anyone?

Power Gamer: Another term that means a variety of things. Note that traditionally this is a detriment to clear logical rational discussion. Variously, people who make 'powerful PC's', one of the Barclow/Robin Laws player types, and Ron's definition "a potentially dysfunctional technique of Hard Core Gamist play, characterized by maximizing character impact on the game-world or player impact on the dialogue of play by whatever means available."

Premise: And this is really where we get to the first major point of discovery for me when reviewing these rules.

Premise is the focus of "Narrativist" play. All it basically means is examining a moral or ethical question concerning human interactions, obstinately (though not defined) through the rules of the game

The problem I have with this - is that it is unrelated to the A) play of a game, and B) game you are playing. This is simply a thing that can happen, during D&D (Should I kill the orc/wyvern young?) Vampire (Do I commit little evils now to not commit a great one later?) Shadowrun (Do I do da job, even if I don't trust the corp?) or any RPG of your choosing. So how is it useful in a discussion of gaming styles?

The thing is, these categories feel like a false choice - you could frame a 4e encounter with innocents at risk, and through gamest play force a moral question. You could include moral and ethical character motivators on a Megadungeon Motivation chart for exploring setting.  He says this doesn't apply because "these are all trappings of the genre. So, their inclusion in the game, part and parcel as they are to the Dream, isn't Narrativist because no one is creating a theme that isn't already there." What does this mean? That I'm not examining these issue because they are in theme? That I can't examine an issue unless it is out side of my genera?

I could see it useful for discussion on what focus you'd like the game you're about to play to have, but that is not how it is used. From the essay "Frankly, un-structured Drama turns out to be ill-suited to Narrativist play." !?!

What is Narrativist play!?

See, there's a hidden definition here - some specific description of how specifically you're supposed to address those moral or ethical human concerns- apparently alignment or nature and demeanor somehow prevent us from doing so, and in fact, because they are incoherent, make us not have fun when we play - in spite of what we claim.

The problem is, there's no sentence in the essay that tells us what that is - just vague assertions. I could go point by point through his essay and deconstruct all the straw men and false dilemma's. The point is this, he states that "Story Now" is one thing (specifically, establishing the issue in the game world, developing the issue as a source of conflict, and resolving the issue through the decisions of the players) and then says that neither Vampire, nor D&D can do this because their rules get in the way, without ever explaining why.

Read that list of what Narrativism/Story Now is and ask yourself if that's something the game you're playing can do? oh, it is - I'm not surprised, since it describes the very process of role-playing.

Prima Donna: A spotlight time hog.

Protaganism: Another word with two meanings - the character of main characters in stories, or power given to the character during role-playing.

On RPG Theory: O

Oh crap, it's an octopus, get in the sub!

The tedium continues, brought to you by the letter O, and the number F'THAGN!

The letter O of Forge RPG theory.

Open Play: This is us here. It's a type of play that is player directed, that is responded to by the GM by 'what would logically happen' without prepared adventures. Soooo, this sounds a bit like a sandbox, no? And by a bit, I mean the very exact mostest definition possible of the very thing we all do.

They say, "It is unclear or undetermined what this corresponds to within GNS terms". I'll say. D&D is Incoherent my left nut!

Ouija-board role-playing: He says in his essay, "the deluded notion is that Simulationist play will yield Story Now play without any specific attention on anyone's part to do so. . . The participants must be devoted to the notion that stories don't need authors; they emerge from some ineffable confluence of Exploration per se. It's kind of a weird Illusionism perpetrated on one another, with everyone putting enormous value on maintaining the Black Curtain between them and everyone else."

Only, how is this possible. Are the DM's in this game not characterizing any of the NPC's they generate? Are their not places and people of interest in the world? Do you not come up with reasons why the elves are also climbing the mountain?

The entire category is a strawman, because there is not a single actual real world instantiation of his example. People aren't sitting around tables, and rolling them, waiting for an interesting occurrence, they are playing a game, and characters, and it's those interactions that create something special.

Out-of-Character: The opposite of in character, talking, thinking or acting as yourself instead of your PC.

On A Roll All the Dice Table: Locks

Hello, hello!
Per the question, how does the thief open locks, initiated at Rather Gamey, then covered by Telecanter, Zak S, and Roger, I've written a table for locks, and have another idea for a way to make it more like a game.

I've created a "roll all the dice table" for locks, to go along with my "roll all the dice table" for keys.

I really liked the discussion regarding BURP & guessing, but dislike the whole thieves only get one card that once they use is gone forever idea. Rogers comment got me thinking about lock mini-games and what would be fun for a thief, but was something any player could do.

An Example from the table! Rolls were d4:4, d6:4, d8:7, d10:9, d100:80, d12:6, d20:19

You find a Storm Arch Steelpin lock made from Bronze with six Tumbler Pins
Hidden DM Info, The lock has 10 guesses, and the pins are
T1: Probe
T2: Rake
T3: Probe
T4: Probe
T5: Probe
T6: Probe

Roll all the dice!
Describe the lock name!
Determine each tumbler pin's action required to open ("set"). Write this down and keep it hidden. Any player may attempt to disarm the lock. Have the player make his guess for the first tumbler. Let him  know the status of the first pin. It's set if the player guessed correctly, it's stiff if the player missed the correction option by one, and it's jammed if they missed the correct option by more than one. The player can retry if the lock is stiff, and can try to guess the next tumbler pin if the current tumbler pin is set.

Thieves: A thief can unjam tumbler pins. A thief can unjam a number of pins in a lock equal to the thief's level. Lockpicks allow the thief one extra unjammed pin. Masterwork lockpicks allow two extra unjammed pins. After this limit is reached, the thief may attempt to unjam pins by rolling his open locks percentage.
Action Required Jams When
Bump Rake or Probe
Undulate Probe
Rake Bump
Probe Undulate or Bump
If you choose an option more than 1 space away, You jam the lock.

Guess limit: After the number of guesses reaches the guess limit (i.e. if the limit is 4, after the fourth guess) all pins in the lock (including any already set) jam. If every pin is then unjammed by a thief, the whole lock resets and the guess limit starts over.

Each guess and each pin that is unjammed takes 1 round.

Once the tumbler pin is jammed, if the thief is out of auto-unjams, and fails his open locks roll to unjam a lock, the lock is Joskeyed and can no longer be opened.

Traps: Roll the D4, D6 and D100. Traps work *just* like locks, except in reverse. Jamming a pin allows you to move onto the next, and setting a pin requires you to 'unset' the pin (which works like unjamming the lock). If you hit the guess limit, the trap is triggered.

Modifying: Certain high level traps and locks will have 8 options, using the BURP actions above, each with a hard and soft technique. If the wrong technique is used on the tumbler pin, the pin jams. (i.e. the pin requires a soft undulate in order to set the pin. A hard rake is tried. Even though rake would normally make the lock stiff, it jams because any hard technique jams the pin.)

You may also make the table circular, this makes Bump and Probe less extreme options. Circular means that probe is next to bump and rake  and  bump is next to undulate and probe in the listing, meaning each option is jammed by only one other option.

And now the table! Remember, roll the dice only once - read the die multiple times for each table! Read the d8+d10 table, by finding the number shown on the D8 and then finding the number on the d10. The name of the lock is made by reading table Name 1 and Name 2, using data from Name Fill to fill in the second name. They 8 d10 options in name 1 table are arranged by theme, so if you have a specific theme, you can ignore the d8 result and just pick the one you want.

D4 D6
This is the number of tumblers This is the guess limit, set to the number of tumblers + this roll.

Name 1:d8+d10 Material Constructed From: d6+d8

  1. goblin
  2. kobold
  3. orc
  4. gnoll
  5. hobbit
  6. elven
  7. dwarven
  8. gnomish
  9. hobgoblin
  10. ogre
  1. Heckler
  2. Kerr
  3. Samson
  4. Kruger
  5. Massey
  6. Phillips
  7. Morgan
  8. Knoppix
  9. Carlsbad
  10. Stark
  1. drow
  2. duergar
  3. ettin
  4. eagle
  5. bear
  6. turtle
  7. gazelle
  8. giant
  9. guard dog
  10. lion
  1. mage
  2. wizard
  3. thiefstopper
  4. elemental
  5. sentinel
  6. gate
  7. defender
  8. trueguard
  9. tripleguard
  10. sureguard
  1. fort
  2. house
  3. tower
  4. castle
  5. chest
  6. safe
  7. vault
  8. forge
  9. trench
  10. outpost
  1. gatekeeper
  2. rose
  3. blackthorn
  4. ivy
  5. oak
  6. timber
  7. frost
  8. ice
  9. storm
  10. firebreak
  1. square
  2. triangle
  3. sphere
  4. arrow
  5. heft
  6. sword
  7. shield
  8. armor
  9. divine
  10. arcane
  1. spellbreaker
  2. keyless
  3. astral
  4. etherial
  5. jewel
  6. vigilant
  7. solitude
  8. shadow
  9. fortress
  10. spire

1. (No Entry)
2. Wood
3. Ivory
4. Glass
5. Marble
6. Steel
7. Silver
8. Copper
9. Iron
10. Bronze
11. Bronze
12. Brass
13. Nickel
14. Gold

Name 2 D20 Name Fill D12
  1. (W) Ward
  2. (W) Ball
  3. (W) bolt
  4. Mark (#)
  5. (L) Ring
  6. Number (#)
  7. (W) Lock
  8. (L) series
  9. (W) Pin
  10. (W) Wheel
  11. Catch/Clip/Claw (pick 1) -2 tumblers
  12. (W) gripper (-1 tumbler)
  13. (L)-(#) Plate
  14. Demon (+ Reread table using d10) +1 Tumbler Pin
  15. Mighty (+ Reread table using d10) +1 Tumbler Pin
  16. Solid (+ Reread table using d10) +1 Tumbler Pin
  17. Nested (+ Reread table using d10) +1 Tumbler Pin
  18. Grated (+ Reread table using d10) +1 Tumbler Pin
  19. Arch (+ Reread table using d10) +2 Tumbler Pins
  20. Dragon (+ Reread table using d10) +2 Tumbler Pins
Read the name fill as either the number on the die (#), the word (W) or the letter (L)
  1. Dead / A
  2. Rim / C
  3. Hold / G
  4. Iron / J
  5. Odd / H
  6. Steel / K
  7. Turn / L
  8. Draw / M
  9. Smooth / S
  10. Double / O
  11. Triple / T
  12. Stone / X

Tumbler Type: D100

Bump Undulate Rake Probe High Level
Tumbler Pin 1 01-25 26-50 51-75 76-00 Even = Soft
Odd = Hard
Tumbler Pin 2 Both Dice Even 10's die odd 10's die even Both Dice Odd Soft = <50
Hard = >50
Tumbler Pin 3 Total of both dice less than or equal to six Total of both dice less than or equal to 10 Total of both dice less than or equal to 14 Total of both dice less than or equal to 18 Total of both dice is even = soft, else hard
Tumbler Pin 4 Read dice backwards, with ones die first. Assign as Tumbler Pin 1 Even = Hard
Odd = Soft
Tumbler Pin 5 Read the d4 die, calculate this Tumbler Pin as the number on this table that is shown on the D4. Use the opposite result of the calculation selected (i.e.if a 2 is shown on a d4, Hard is <50)
Tumbler Pin 6 Read the d8 die. Divide by 2 and round up. Calculate this tumbler as the # shown. Use the opposite result of the calculation selected (i.e.if an 8 is shown on a d8, 8/2 is 4 so, if the reversed number is even, soft is choosen)

Notes: Tumblers and guesses cannot be reduced below 1, and tumblers cannot be increased beyond six.

On RPG Theory: N

Over the hump, we continue with the letter N.

Narrative Stance Model: Somewhat useful, describes four stances to play, In Character, where your mindset is that of your character within the game world; Audience, where you're watching other players; Actor stance, where you consider what your character might do and attempt to portray him as he is defined; and Director/Author stance, where you spend time thinking about how to effectively alter the development of the game, either through your character or other factors.

Not sure how to use the above to improve play, though.

Narrativism: Instead of talking about it, I'm just going to paste the definition, and the definitions of all words it uses, to see if anyone can make any sense out of it.

One of the three modes (or Creative Agendas) of the GNS Model, defined as play "in which Premise is addressed through play". It's defining phrase is Story Now.
Creative Agenda: "aesthetic priorities and any matters of imaginative interest regarding role-playing"
Premise: Within GNS Narrativist play, a moral or ethical question concerning human interactions -- adapted by Ron Edwards from the writings of Lajos Egri. Within fiction writing, this starts as an ideological challenge or question. The course of the plot then answers this challenge with a message or theme -- a judgmental statement about how to act, behave, or believe.
Within the GNS model, the characteristic phrase of Narrativism.
So Narrativism is when a moral or ethical question concerning human interaction is addressed through play?

That's what they mean? Because I'm pretty sure we address that shit in Dungeons and Dragons all the damn time! (I'm looking in your direction Paladin).

It sure seems like there's some confused people out there based off what I've read on the internet about narrativism.

No Myth of Reality: This is where anything not necessary for play is left undescribed. A pretty cool way to play, from my experience.

On RPG Theory: M

Only half-way through this Mess? My goodness, by science this is taking a long time.


Metagame: This is a word with, you know, an already established meaning (stuff involving the game that isn't the actual game), that Ron Edwards has co-oped and overloaded with new meanings.
In GNS this means "all positioning and behavioral statements about the character, as well as player rights to override the existing Effectiveness rules", 'effectiveness rules' meaning how the stuff written on your character sheet affects play.
And within the big model, things like Creative Agenda and Social Contract are considered part of the metagame, which if you'll notice is the pre-existing definition of the term.
Can someone tell me what is gained by the jargonistic sub-definitions?

Metagame Mechanics: Something simple and useful with a bizzare comment by Ron. These are rules and mechanics which are outside of the reality of the game. i.e. you earned a hero point for gaining a level, and you can use it to re-roll a die.  I fully believe that every reader of this blog can identify these with a high degree of accuracy.
How does Ron define it? Mechanics "where System and Social Contract meet, without Exploration as the medium". Yes, we agree that the players are heroes and so we give them mechanical tools to affect gameplay. Is anything gained from phrasing his definition that way? Clarity and specificity are certainly lost.

Metaplot: A feature of more modern RPG's where there are overarching events in published materials that the character may participate in. Exactly how is left up to the referee.

Method Actor: A term meaning one who plays his character by attempting to feel what the character feels. In role playing corresponds to the "roleplayer" of the Barclow types, and termed as such by Robin Laws in his seven player types.

Munchkin: A derogatory term for a disruptive power hungry player.

Now there's a thing to think about - the glossary defines it as someone who is into power gaming, gamism, or hard core play. Power Gaming is defined by Ron as a player trying to maximize their impact on play. Gamism is for fans of competitive play, and Hard Core is used to refer to especially dedicated players.

So I guess we should call a chess grandmaster a munchkin?

Personally, I think the term applies to people who feel dis-empowered in their own lives, and due to a modicum of social skill in traditional environs, they attempt to exert their control over a group of people within a set of rules - rules which, unlike people, can be understood and mastered. They lack awareness that they might be impinging on someone else's fun.

As I read further,Ron's theories make me think he's a scrub, in the David Sirlin's Playing to Win sense of the term. A person who sits down to play a game, and instead of playing the game, comes up with an imaginary set of rules. Then says that anyone who doesn't follow how he thinks  the game should be played, as opposed to the way it actually is played, is cheap or a cheater, or unfair.*

Why do I think this?

He defines Munchkin as someone who is interested in winning a competitive game.

This is not how I define the term, but it is explicitly how it is defined in the glossary.

I think that might be why it's so hard to pin him down on what any of this means - because if it actually had any meaning or real-world value, he might lose an argument. He takes a word with a strong negative connotation and redefines it to mean anyone who is interested in winning a competitive game. The last time you played chess did you play to lose? No surprise though, this is a person who says that Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: the Masquerade are incoherent  (i.e.the rules systems work against each other) and therefore that anyone who plays is is not having fun. **

Oh, you mean the two largest, most popular, gaming systems on the market?

Clearly, everyone role-playing must be wrong.

* When I started this, I was actually excited about learning more about role playing theory. As I dig into the work that's come out of the Forge in particular, I find very specific definitive things that are complete non-sense. I had expected to be fairly positive and in favor of the forge stuff, because I honestly didn't understand why everyone disliked it so. I didn't understand that, because I hadn't ever really read it and thought about it. I still think theory and scientific analysis is crucial to our hobby, and plan on investigating other aspects of this in the future, such as RPG design patterns, and continuing my work on adventure design.

** Just so you know I'm not putting words into his mouth, the following is from Chapter 6 of Ron's book.
Incoherent design
Unfortunately, functional or nearly-functional hybrids are far less common than simply incoherent RPG designs.

The "lesser," although still common, dysfunctional trend is found among the imitators of the late-1970s release of AD&D, composed of vague and scattered Simulationism mixed with vague and scattered Gamism. Warhammer is the most successful of these. Small-press publishers pump out these games constantly, offering little new besides ever-more baroque mechanics and a highly-customized Setting (Hahlmabrea, Pelicar, Legendary Lives, Of Gods and Men, Fifth Cycle, Darkurthe: Legends, and more). Another, similar trend is the never-ending stream of GURPS imitators.

The "dominant" dysfunctional system is immediately recognizable, to the extent of being considered by many to be what role-playing is: a vaguely Gamist combat and reward system, Simulationist resolution in general (usually derived from GURPS, Cyberpunk, or Champions 4th edition), a Simulationist context for play (Situation in the form of published metaplot), deceptive Narrativist Color, and incoherent Simulationist/Narrativist Character creation rules. This combination has been represented by some of the major players in role-playing marketing, and has its representative for every period of role-playing since the early 1980s.
  • AD&D2 pioneered the approach in the middle 1980s, particularly the addition of metaplot with the Dragonlance series.
  • Champions, through its 3rd edition, exemplified a mix of Gamist and Narrativist "driftable" design, but with its 4th edition in the very late 1980s, the system lost all Metagame content and became the indigestible mix outlined above.
  • Vampire, in the early 1990s, offered a mix of Simulationism and Gamism in combat resolution, but a mix of Narrativism and Simulationism out of combat, as well as bringing in Character Exploration.

On The Thursday Trick, Poison Pit Surprise

This is a favorite of mine, culled I think originally from Grimtooth's oh so long ago. Players should not read this.

Posion Pit, SURPRISE! (Pit)
Trigger: None  Effects: N/A
Save:Poison/AC Duration: Instant
Resets: Automatic Bypass: None

Description: Right there in the middle of the hallway sits a 20' deep pit. It's mouth yawns open, perhaps six feet across. At the bottom a number of rusty iron spikes, covered in a viscous slime that threatens all who fall in. (3d6 falling damage, 2d4 spikes, THAC0 12/BAB+8, 1d8 damage each, Save vs. Poison/Fort or die) However the hallway is quiet and there aren't any threats. Anyone looking in the pit, see that the sides have serrated edges covered in the same goop, making it somewhat unsafe looking to crawl down in the pit.

It seems a trivial task to just jump across the pit, and for all but the most heavy laden or clumsy it is. A short run and a hop will help anyone clear the pit. However, there is wall three-quarters of the way across the pit, hanging down to almost floor level. A wall that is invisible. The first person to attempt to cross the pit will smack right into this wall, and in shock fall down into the pit.


Detection: The easiest way to detect this this trap is to attempt to toss something across the pit before trying the jump. Anyone closely inspecting the terrain above the pit will see some visual distortion from the invisibility spell, but when have players ever inspected the air above a pit?

On RPG Theory: L

Welcome to the lovely letter L!

LARP: Uh, no thanks.

Lazersharking: 4th edition anyone? I don't just attack, I use THRUST OF THE WIND, and attack. Every round.

Layering: The relationship between created numbers, and the derived numbers that are used in play. The more levels of these there are the more the system is said to be layered. Maybe it's just my frustration with the man, but I feel layered doesn't carry the correct connotation. I'm not sure that this is the right term for this kind of thing.

The Lumpley Principle: "System (including but not limited to 'the rules') is defined as the means by which the group agrees to imagined events during play." It's interesting because of what we can give that metric to (dice, books, tables, the GM etc.) , though I find the use on the Forge somewhat inconsistant.

WWI: Dungeon Raid

I see it when I close my eyes!

The Elements: This is a match 3 iphone game.

The Crux: In this game you link together 3 or more items. The items include potions which heal you, shields which repair your armor and upgrade your equipment, coins which allow you to purchase upgraded equipment and swords and skulls. Swords do nothing but damage skulls, and skulls attack you every round. As you play the enemies get tougher and tougher.

The Countenance:When I first purchased this game, I regretted my decision. As you play the enemies get tougher and tougher until eventually you lose. There is no way to 'win' or escape the 'dungeon' that is represented by the tiles.

But then the released the update. The update added unlockable and upgradeable classes. So now when you play, you're actually accomplishing things before you die.

I have several times accidentally burned food because I was busy playing this game.

The Genre: Being a turn based match 3 strategy game, it is pretty clearly SC.

The Detritus: Like most match 3 games (a game series defined by games like bejeweled) bolting on an advancement motif is an exercise in addiction. It takes a long time to unlock new classes, but that just makes it all the more rewarding when it does occur.

The Final Counsel: We're all sort of obsessively playing it around here, so. . . yeah.

This game is available for the iphone and. . . hold on. . . I'll finish typing after this game.

On RPG Theory: K

Welcome to the letter K!

After our nice break yesterday, Let's get right to it, shall we?

Karma: This is part of the Drama/Karma/Fortune resolution triptych. It essentially means resolving actions based off of character ability or decisions. As stated earlier, there are some issues with this sort of division, such as the fact that there's a lot of bleed over (d20 skill checks are karma+fortune rolls, and if the DC is adjusted by fiat, it could be considered a concession to drama) and it isn't very useful, in that it doesn't really help us come up with new or more interesting ways of resolving conflict.

Kicker: I'm used to the Hackmaster usage of this term. Ron uses it in his game Sorcerer as the origin story - the event that catapults the character into play. It's basically pre-game motivations, Vampire does it with the prelude, Old school hack with it's table, I even have a mega-dungeon motivation table which provides the same impetus. What I don't understand is that this is essentially a term for character motivation, but is in fact more limited, because it refers to a specific event - why do we need a word for it at all. This is similar to my complaint about bangs.

On Strong & Weak Henchmen Forces

A house rule, to speed up play involving entourage or henchmen heavy play.

The Weak Henchmen Force

Each henchmen in combat with a player character raises that characters armor class by 1. When ever the player hits an opponent, the player does an extra point of damage for each henchmen involved in the melee.

The Strong Henchmen Force

As above, but the bonus is 1d4 damage when the player hits.

Note that this only applies to the player's henchmen in melee with the player. If your henchmen have ranged weapons, even if they are not the henchmen of the PC using ranged weapons, the ranged weapon using PC gains the benefit of the ranged henchmen for the duration of the missile fire. If no PC's are using ranged weapons, then the henchmen will not either due to fear of hitting their bosses.

This provides a reason for the monsters to go after henchmen (they have become ablative armor and damage bonuses).

If your loyalty is high enough (Fanatical) , you may also use henchmen as shields as in 'All Shields Must be Splintered!"

On RPG Theory: J

There are no letter J words in the Ron Edwards RPG Theory dictionary!

Can anyone suggest any J words for us to define?

On Numenhalla: Gods of "Chaos"

The ancient enemy - Toad lords of chaos

JAEXY, "Jax" - Lord of things that lurk between shadows
Darkness, Madness, Fear

UUQUU, "Oo-q" -Lord of the sea of rust and blood
Blood, Violence, Decay

IOZOY, "Ioz" - Lord of the amber plague
Plague, Change, Poison

YAZYA, "Yaz" - Lord from beyond the final pale
Entropy, Death, Suffering, Famine

apologies to Jeff Rients

On Numenhalla: Gods of "Law"

The Gods:
Typhon Symbol: Helm Weapon: Club, Spiked Club
Domain: Law, Sun, Strength, Leadership
Appearance: (M) Giant Two Headed Man
Personality: Stern, Manipulative

Hera Symbol: Infinity Symbol/Peacock Weapon: Knife
Domain: Marriage, Motherhood, Anger, Fertility, Jealousy
Appearance: (F) Beautiful Middle-aged Woman
Personality: Nurturing, Treacherous

Hastur Symbol: Stylized Coin Weapon: Scythe, Shepard's Hook
Domain: Wealth, Mystery, Underworld, Shepherds
Appearance: (M) Cloaked Figure
Personality: Slient, Enigmatic, Inscrutable

Baldur Symbol: Abstract Plow Weapon: Staff
Domain: Agriculture, Husbandry, Bravery, Cleanliness and Light
Appearance: (M) Middle-aged Man
Personality: Pleasant

Tethys Symbol: Sword Weapon: Sword
Domain: Ocean, Violence, Revenge
Appearance: (F) Armored Form, Ancient Woman
Personality: Souless

Theia Symbol: ? Weapon: ?
Domain: Direction, Travel
Appearance: (F)Small Girl
Personality: Childlike

Selene Symbol: Moon Weapon: Sickle
Domain: Moon, Love
Appearance: (F)Beautiful young woman with long dark hair
Personality: Sensual

Hemidall Symbol: Eye Weapon: Bow, Sword
Domain: Wisdom, Vision
Appearance: (M) Hawk, Bearded Man
Personality: Boisterous

Freya Symbol: Sun Weapon: Cat o' nine tails
Domain: Dawn, Gold, Laughter, Madness, the Wild, War, Death, Sorcery
Appearance: (F)Wild Looking Naked Woman
Personality: Crazy

Tyr Symbol: Hammer Weapon: Hammer
Domain: Order, Defense, Fire, Judgment
Appearance: (M)Short Hairless Stocky Man with one hand
Personality: Stoic

Huginn & Muninn Symbol: Bird Weapon: Javelin
Domain: Knowledge, Memory, Magic
Appearance: (M/F) Crows, or Cojoined Twins
Personality: Smug, Self-amused, Arrogant

Ratatoskr Symbol: Tree Weapon: ?
Domain: Nature, Dreams
Appearance: Small Rodent
Personality: Mischievous, Wise

On Numenhalla: Setting

Numenhalla lies beneath all cities, all mounts and valleys, and all lands. All men know this because Lord Typhon made it so more than three centum ago when he reformed the sun.
A great war against daemons and chaos had been fought and the land ruined, but the mighty gods provided for Their children. The land was remade and the sun was reformed, from a disc to a lance, burning across the sky with his promise; That men would again know peace. Once man had learned to live in peace, the promised land would be the reward.

And mankind did live in peace. They basked in the holy warmth of the gods who provided guidance and service. But the promise was not upheld.

It has been many years since the gods have spoken to man, their ancient altars long shadowed from their glorious radience, only the oldest of the long lived races (humans, dwarves, elves) still remember when the gods would speak. Now the hour grows long and the future uncertain. More than three centum have passed, and the crops are fallow, people are growing ill, and strange things are said to roam at night. Men seek answers by turning to dark powers, perhaps awaking the very daemons that humanity struggled so long to kill.

It is said that Typhon and the Gods below wander the Numenhalla, for that is their home. Perhaps they have fallen asleep, perhaps they are imprisoned by demons, perhaps you have been abandoned. Whatever the reason, something must be done. The answer must lie below, somewhere in the deep, in the Numenhalla where the gods are said to walk.

On RPG Theory: I

9 Letters in, it's time to spice it up a bit. Brought to you by the naked letter I. BLURRY LOW RES NUDITY OMG 1994 ALL OVER AGAIN!

My degree may be in the visual arts, but I come from a strong scientific background. I had never really looked at what the Forge was doing - I just heard a bit about the three modes of play and thought, "Hey that sounds useful." Taking a close look at it it turns out that it has to do with defining agendas, explicit creative agendas, stated by the Mr. Ron Edwards himself.

Anyone with the most rudimentary background in science knows that the agenda is the major bad guy of science.

What I find bothersome about this, is that Ron isn't saying "Hey, I think we should all play like this." or "Here's a way that I have fun." He's telling us, somewhat explicitly in his book, that "This is the true right way (tm) that role playing games work, and because you don't understand this, you aren't having fun." Only, the true right way isn't defined, and is less useful. And if you tell him that you are having fun, the response is that you're actually not, you just don't know any better.

If you believe that, I've got some land in Florida to sell you.

Without further adieu, the letter I:

IIEE: A rather useful tool obsured by difficult to remember jargon. It stands for Intention (announcing the action), Initiation (starting the action), Execution (completing the action) and Effect (consequences of the action). This is in reference to the meaning of statements in game.

"I'm going to jump across the cliff!" (Player intending)
"You fall to your death!" (Dm reading it as executing)
"Hey! I didn't actually do it yet!" (Player whineing because he's a terrible communicator)
"Too late you're dead!" (DM being a d*ck)

Normally this is something that is probably handled as social norms for your group. (I'm sure Alexis of the The Tao of D&D when playing in library mode assumes every statement is designed as execution) But having it be clear and explicit what the expectations are seems like a useful tool. On the other hand, IIEE is jargonriffic! Perhaps there's a better solution.

Illusionism: Already discussed at length in the OSR, including by me.

Immersion: Another ooze like definition. Meaning you're into the game, or perhaps in character.

The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast: Literally, "The GM is the author of the story, and the players direct the actions of the protagonists."  Interesting because it's a physical manifestation of Ron Edwards rage at the very thing he does with his GNS definitions. His frustration essentially stems from the words 'the story' and 'the actions' being poorly defined. Since they mean so many things to so many different people, how can this statement communicate anything of meaning to the reader? RIIIING, RIIIIIIIING. Hold on.
Yes? Hm?
Oh, Pot, Kettle is on the phone for you.

In Character: speaking, thinking or acting as your character. Also, I could define dice for you.

In Character Stance: One of the narrative stances from Kevin Hardwick's Narrative Stance model. Hint: it's the one where you are playing your character.

Incoherence: When I hear Ron Edwards say this word, it sounds racist. What's incoherent? What he decides is incoherent. He uses it to mean any play with incompatible priorities, either between players or within the game system itself.

I'm sure we've all ran into this, when all Tom wants to do is kill orcs and Sally wants to follow the prince. Tom is bored with the talking, and Sally isn't so jazzed by the fighting - but why shouldn't you give everyone a bit of what they enjoy. It's not like they are all the time miserable when they aren't doing the thing they enjoy most.

The idea is that a game like vampire is incoherent because they are interested in generating drama and somehow the mechanics are (supposedly) working against that. As you can tell, there might be a complete lack of factual statements and data proving this one single time ever anywhere.

But whatever, the forge says it, so it must be so, right?

Intuitive Continuity: Another term that's useful a bit. It's where you sit down a bit blind, and use player interest and actions to retroactively craft the story as you respond to their play. Just a note - this is exactly the advice given for the running of megadungeons, often quoted as, don't sit down and try to do it all at once, let it develop in play in response to your players.

We're making some headway, and at this point, I'm feeling pretty positive that we're actually going to get something useful out of this!
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