I played around with a rules hack for White Box last week. I’m still playing around with it. No idea where I’m going to end up on it. Let’s see where my craziness takes me. But I started thinking about classes.
Sure you can have plenty of fun with the basic four classes. I’ve even advocated that you really don’t need a class for every possible variant of the basic four because that’s what they end up being. One of the basic classes plus some special other ability and sometimes they have some sort of limitation.
But it’s still nice to have a way to customized that a character just a little bit more without an overpowering or burdensome system. Right now, I’m running franken-game and it’s going pretty well. I’ve stitched together a whole bunch of stuff and I’ve kicked in a couple other ideas that crawled out of my head. So as I was thinking about extra classes and customization for a White Box game, I realized that I had the start of an idea in my own house rules. You want those extra little tricks or benefits. It will cost you. XP.
Right now, I’m using a simplified XP system. Characters get 3 to 5 XP per session. It’s quite arbitrary based on how much they got done, how much fun was had, how many challenges they faced, etc. It takes 15 XP to level up. But if you want something special it costs you 7 XP or about half a level. So why don’t players just stack up on special abilities? They lose those XP and it will take the character longer to level up and that means fewer HP.
Right now, I’m just kicking around ideas to throw into my White Box hack. I also need to come up some sort of cool name for it.
I had mentioned this idea many years ago. Heck, I don’t even think it was on this blog but an old one. But here’s my elevator pitch. White Box gaming is really easy on the players. So why shouldn’t also be easy on the DM?
The campaign starts out with a pseudo-Keep on the Borderlands type area. Make the Keep. Make about 4 to 5 Bullet points for it. Make 4 to 5 interesting things in the area then start playing. Add any extra details that you may need based on the player characters but everything just roll it. And I’ve got the tools in my good old DM toolbox.
That’s right Rory’s Story Cubes plus some random dungeon style dice. Sure I could use a bunch of the many random charts that are sitting on my harddrive plus there’s many more out there on the internet. But I figured this could be the easiest and the most fun. And who knows where the dice may lead.
I know there are some DM’s who absolutely hate improv. They want to plan as much as possible in advance. Sure I do planning but I really love the improv and making stuff up on the fly. As a DM sometimes I like to be surprised by what happens too.
Yes, I know I said this about White Box. So let me go into why this is perfect for White Box play. It lies with the simplicity and power level of the characters. It keeps things at a level that’s it’s easy for the DM to keep all the character’s abilities in mind when making things up. Monster stat blocks aren’t complicated and can be digested in a glance. Heck, the whole rule book can almost fit in your pocket.
So yes. I love White Box. But, unfortunately, I haven’t as much opportunity to run it as I would like. But this is one idea that I’ve stuck in my back pocket for future use. Just in case. Besides. I think that it’d be fun as hell.
This is going to be a real ranty rant. First, let me get the disclaimer out of the way. This nothing against any publisher or anybody else. Nor is it an attempt to “gate keep” or growl about new folks to the hobby. You can play the game however you want to. So just relax a bit.
Alright, so I see this often enough that it started sticking in my head, mostly on Facebook. “What else is compatible with…?” Sigh. Lot’s of stuff. “But it doesn’t say that it’s compatible..” I know there are lots of games that are unique that this doesn’t apply. Here, I ‘m talking about the d20 base retro-clones. I see this mostly in Old School Essentials groups. I’m glad that a lot of folks are picking it up and diving into the old school style of play. That’s a good thing. And yes, I do see it in other groups too like Basic Fantasy. Both of OSE and Basic Fantasy are cool games.
I think one the things thing that new folks to old school gaming don’t quite realize the quantity of material that is out there. One of the things that I’m going to go into here is that how compatible means a slightly different thing when it comes to much of the old school material. One of the maxims of old school play that doesn’t get enough air time is that player characters and monsters/NPC’s don’t have to follow the same rules. IMHO, compatibility when talking about old-school games is it mainly applies on the DM side of the screen. So it’s perfectly fine that the player characters are using one rules set and the monsters are using another that’s pretty close. Remember, there ain’t no perfectly balanced encounters in old school play.
Since Old School Essentials is the popular clone right now, I’m going to use this one as base. So as a DM running OSE where can you go. Lots of places. Anything written of Labyrinth Lord, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, OSRIC, and anything saying “Basic Era Game”. Yes, I know there are even more retro-clones out there. This is with virtually no conversion or work on the DM’s part. You can take Swords & Wizardry stuff and do minor conversions in your head or just run as is. No problem. And don’t forget the actual TSR adventures. When it comes to tools and random tables for the DM to use. The field grows even larger. To put bluntly, I don’t think I could possibly list all things that are out there and good. I will admit that some would take more work than others. Dungeon Crawl Classics has great adventures. But if want to convert, it would take a little more work but it could easily be done.
I welcome new folks to the old school games. It’s makes my little grognard heart happy. But what I do think is that the new folks just don’t understand the volume of material and options that they have available. Just takes a little research and understanding of the basics of the intent of the game design.
Roll dice. Kill monsters. Take their stuff. Level up.
I like reviewing things that have been out a while. Cool products that have fallen off the radar but are still out there and just maybe some folks missed it the first time around. This leads us to the Nocturnal Table.
Like so many folks, I’m sucker for random tables. In general, they are some of the most useful and inspirational things you get your hands on. Nocturnal Table is just that. It’s sixty pages of mostly system-neutral urban inspiration. There’s a simple city encounter system which is something we all need more of. Let’s face it there’s tons of wilderness and dungeon encounter random tables but for cities, not so much. There’s also a very inspiring bazaar of the bizarre table because more likely than player characters will just look for something “interesting” rather than come out and just say what they want. There’s also the great “Local Color” random table to get those creative DM juices flowing and a “What’ in the Warehouse?” random table. And a neat little system for setting up a conspiracy.
The heart of the book is the “Nocturnal Table”. This is pages of random encounters, interesting events and NPC’s. For those times when the DM prep time just didn’t happen and the party is in the big city. Just a roll or two here will get things started for the evening.
This was really a good buy. The material colors a bit outside the normal lines but doesn’t go all crazy. It’s refreshing and different and most importantly it’s useful and inspirational. I like that.