Friday, June 19, 2009

Start of Play

I have been working on recruiting players for a campaign. Several of these have no experience with roleplaying whatever. When I asked one if he'd ever played roleplaying games he said "You mean like "Settlers of Catan?"

Because of this, and probably because I'm nervous and obsessing the details to try to compensate, I have been putting much effort into what I'll actually show new players when we start. (On writing this, it seems very teacherly-- preparing for class-- which I suppose is fitting, since I've done that and super prepare because I'm nervous).

I've mentioned before how I worked on a streamlined equipment list you can get here. But even that seemed more than a beginner needs to know, and could be streamlined. So, the result of my post on starting equipment is this much slimmer document.

This assumes players will pack up and head out and already takes into account encumbrance. What I realized was there is still the choice of weapons for my players. So I looked at the weapon list in Swords & Wizardry core. As clean as it is, I don't like the way weapons are listed. Why are arrows always listed separately? You can only use them with a bow. Also, no need to list lance, as my starting characters will be heading underground.

Another thing I was doing by looking closely over the list, was getting a feel for the parts of this sweet vehicle. More and more with Swords & Wizardry it feels like the briefness of some rule sections and the open invitation to customize has lead me to take it apart and put it back together exactly how I like. This seems different than just pasting on a homebrew bandage, this is like a review and revision and I really like it. The system is sparse enough where it is still possible!

So, for example, I notice the weapon, warhammer. Why would anyone pick this weapon? It does the same damage as a light mace, but is heavier. Why would I ever pick it over a light mace? I think there must be a rule of game design that says if the only way something will be used in your system is if players roleplay a disadvantage to their characters, you need to go back to the drawing board.

So, I cut warhammer and added flail, which I think can be distinguished by an ability to ignore an opponent's shield. I think it adds some period flavor, with a reason to use it without being to crunchy.

I also rearranged the listing of the weapons more by family. Except the top are all blunts. If the player asks which are blunts it's very easy to say: "The first four."

I like what I ended up with, but, backing up I realized that after rolling stats there is a decision of what class to take. For me that decision would be partially determined by the differences between the classes. And if you told me "These guys can cast spells", I'd be thinking "what kind?" So, I fit first level Magic-user spells on one page. I think the only difference here from core is I left out read magic, which I don't plan to use (reading and understanding a spell are two different things. In my campaign anyone can learn to read the arcane languages spells are written in, and even get the gist of what they do, but that doesn't mean they can cast them).

I've included second level spells on both, so a player will have an idea of what this class can do, but for Clerics I'm also planning to allow first level characters a small chance to successfully petition for higher level spells. Thus the need to really let them see the second level spells.

I hope to gather these documents into a pdf to ease players into Swords & Wizardry. So far I have:
What else will I need?
  • I'm still deciding on thieves, if I'll have them, and if so, what form they'll take.
  • I'm trying to decide how much, if any, I need to say about my campaign world. Maybe just a paragraph to set the flavor.
  • I'm thinking of excerpting the class explanation from Swords & Wizardry (cut the charts).
  • Maybe a brief note on mapping (keep it simple, like a flow chart)
But, I know from experience that what will help me revise this Ease into play-pack is, well, getting the opportunity to ease into play. So, here's crossing my fingers and off to make some more scheduling phone calls to those potential players.

Update 6/20/09: I added a missing link to my streamlined weapons list mentioned in the text.

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