Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Game Board of OD&D


"Off-hand adventures in the wilderness are made on the OUTDOOR SURVIVAL playing board (explained below). Exploratory journies, such as expeditions to find land suitable for a castle or in search of somelegendary treasure are handled in an entirely different manner.” Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, P. 15


“REFEREE'S MAP is a wilderness map unknown to the players. It should be for the territory around the dungeon location. When players venture into this area they should have a blank hexagon map, and as they move over each hex the referee will inform them as to what kind of terrain is in that hex. This form of exploring will eventually enable players to know the lay of the land in their immediate area and thus be able to select a site upon which to build their castles. (Castle building and its attendent requirements will be covered hereafter.) Exploratory adventures are likely to be the most exciting, and their incorporation into the campaign is most desirable.”
UWA, p 16

You might have to read that again, because 40 years of habit have all but obliterated the simple fact that in 1974 Gygax and Arneson expected Dungeons and Dragons, players to have a game board on the table.  That’s right D&D was designed as a board game!
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much. The "map board" game came onto the table after the dungeon, so it wasn’t meant to be present at every gaming session, but the statement that “exploratory adventures are likely to be the most exciting.” definitely encourages the hexcrawl exploration on a tabletop map and tells us that wilderness travel wasn't intended just to be hops between dungeons, but an exploratory expedition itself.
Champions of Zed takes this idea at face value.  Sure you don’t have to play this way, but having players fill out a hex map as they move from place to place is fun!
The underlying assumption throughout OD&D is that the” wilderness” will be created as the game progresses, dens and lairs will be fleshed out, castles and towns will appear, distant kingdoms will be named and so on, and there will always be more to see just over the horizon.  Sure, you can go buy MegaWorld and place your game in it – sometimes there’s a place for that – or you can design your own Megaworld – that can be fun too – but the old games – Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Khalibruhn, Fred’s World, even Magira – these were community projects where players and dungeon masters and dice collaborated, one hex, town, and dungeon at a time.
This is why CoZ starts off not with character creation, but world creation.  The emphasis is on the adventure, the exploration, not the explorer per se.   Just a few days ago, Michael Mornard, who played in both Greyhawk and Blackmoor before D&D was even published made this very interesting comment on Finarvyns ODD74 forum “…And that was the first year or so of how the game grew... "Hey, who wants to explore MY dungeon?" The game was centered around the referee, and the idea of the game was to explore the referee's world.  At some point this changed. The mindset became, "We want play being a bunch of heroes, who can we talk into refereeing?" The game became centered on the idea of the players' adventures rather than the referee's world.”
Next post I’ll go “under the hood” of CoZ and look at the sources for the section on Hex map creation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thinking about climbing the social ladder

This post isn't specifically about Champions of Zed, but is more about the Domain level of play in whatever version.
So, I’m going to jump ahead in the rules a bit and discuss something that’s long seemed a trouble spot in gaming rules – social capital and social power.  Here is what I mean specifically: suppose your character is a thief and you decide you want your character to join the local mafia and work your way up the hierarchy to become godfather.  Alternatively, maybe you want to have the character start their own mafia.  Or maybe your character is a wizard in a guild or a fighter in some fighting brotherhood – whatever.
In D&D, traditionally it just sort of happens.  Suddenly at level x you are king of the hill.  Okay, but there’s a chance for gaming being glossed over there.
Trouble is, trying to write rules for human social interaction and upward mobility can quickly descend into a complex morass, so it is not something I was eager to tackle.
The recent developments of Borderlands and Adventurer Conqueror Kings have inspired me to think about this some more though, so I pulled out a couple of the books I thought might provide some for thought Timothy Earl’s “How Chiefs Come to Power” and Raymond Firth’s “Elements of Social Organization”, and a few scattered papers on the rise of social power in small societies (mostly Brian Hayden’s) that I won’t bother you with.  
Then I thought about what is already in the 3LBB’s and the FFC – the Loyalty Trait (Men and Magic p13).  Loyalty – which for Arneson was synonymous with Ego - is essentially a seventh “ability score” meant primarily for NPC (although Arneson suggested that it could optionally apply to players too).  Its main use is to modify morale throws.  Here is the section I have prepared for CoZ:
“Loyalty Trait 
All Non-Player Characters (including monsters) in the service of Player Characters must be given a Loyalty Trait.  Loyalty Traits are a kind of Character Trait generated by rolling 3d6.  It primarily determines possible benefits or penalties to Morale Throws but can be used for other situations such as temptations to steal or attempts at bribery.  Adjustments to this score are made for the Player Character’s Charisma Trait and for other factors as determined by the Referee.  For example, hirelings continually exposed to extra-hazardous duty, poorly paid and so forth may receive a -1 or -2 to their Loyalty.  NPC’s kept in service may receive a +1 bonus for every year of time in game. If they are treated particularly well, given bonus pay, and participate in successful adventures, this bonus may be increased to +2 or +3 a year.  The players, of course, can not know the hirelings Loyalty Trait, shy of reading their minds.”

Okay; now here is what I’m thinking (and this goes beyond the CoZ rules and may appear in the expansion).  The loyalty trait lends itself to Domain Level play as a mechanism for playing out the power struggle in groups, because just as Morale can be applied to either an individual or a unit “loyalty” can be applied to a group too.  Winning friends and influencing (or coercing) people is how, broadly speaking, “chiefs” come to power, or as the line from Beowulf puts it “Behavior that’s admired is the path to power everywhere.”
There are three ways to wield power over others
1.       Inheritance
2.       Conquest
3.       Social mobility

These are not mutually exclusive.  Characters may wish to increase their social power within the game; fighters may wish to rule realms, mages may wish to lead magic guilds, preists may wish to head a religious order and so forth. 

Of the three, social mobility is essential, even when not a factor of gaining power, the rules of social mobility are necessary to maintain, and potentially increase it. (Just ask Ceasar)

To determine a characters ability to rise within an organization, or to found and grow an organization, or to maintain power from year to year, a  group loyalty trait known as a Power Index must be assigned.

The Power Index functions generally as individual Loyalty does except the Trait is assigned to the group the character wishes to exercise power in, and it usually starts off low – at 3 unless otherwise determined by the Referee. (or maybe it should just be 0)
To this figure are added or subtracted a number of factors, the value of which, positive or negative must be judged by the referee.

The factors affecting the Power Index are as follows:
Blood
Wealth
Fame
Favors
Trustworthiness
Suki Relationships (Exchange)
Coor Relationships (community)
Length of Association
Generosity
Intimidation
Oratory/Charisma
Adherence to Tradition
Honor Debt
Kin Ties
(all I've got so far)


“From each according to his status obligations in the social system, to each according to his rights in that system”  Raymond Firth, Elements of Social Organization;  p142 Third edition 1961

Any time there is a significant shift in circumstance the Referee should recalculate the character’s power index and make a Loyalty Throw.

Competition within a group is simply a matter of comparing the Power Index scores of each competitor – highest one wins. 


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Zero Edition Dungeoneering - a beginning

This first weblog entry is something of an experiment as I've never 'blogged before.  So we shall see how it goes.  I'll begin by reposting and expanding on a post I left on the ODD74 forum...


The cat is out of the bag. Those who have gotten the latest issue of Fight On! may have noticed an article by me describing a true to OD&D method of building the campaign world hex by hex from the ground up. The article introduces the Champions of ZED (Zero Edition Dungeoneering) role playing game. "What's this Boggs?" you say, "Have you written another game?" Well, yes I have. Building off of all the research that went into into Dragons at Dawn, and Holmes to Level 12, and concurrent with all the work on D@D Supplement I, and on my yet to be released study of what I argue is Dave Arnesons 1973 D&D draft, I prepared the manuscript for Champions of Zed. I realized that the only way for me to master and make use of all this material in a way that would be of real benefit to everyone was to create a retro clone that reconciles all the scattered OD&D threads.   Serious Work began last November and finished in June of this year.  Here is a little piece from the introduction to explain what I mean:


"A little story: In the late 1960’s a history major at the University of Minnesota began work on a naval wargame set in the Civil War. He shared his rules with a cobbler in Lake Geneva Wisconsin who was very interested in naval wargames and who had published various rules for wargames previously. The cobbler – Gary Gygax – and the undergrad - Dave Arneson – began to work together on the rules, which they agreed to switch from Civil War to the Napoleonic period. After a time, the two hired an editor/co author Mike Carr, to pull together their work into a single set of rules. The result was a game called “Don’t Give Up The Ship™” published in 1972 by Guidion Games. Meanwhile, Gygax published a set of medieval and fantasy wargames rules and Arneson began experimenting with fantasy roleplaying as an outgrowth of the historical character driven play he had been doing in Dave Wesely’s Braunstein games. Arneson and Gygax began collaborating again via phone and post. Being separated by hundreds of miles, each produced separate sets of notes and manuscripts. In January of 1974 Gygax published his manuscript and the world’s first fantasy role playing game became available for purchase in three, somewhat confusing, little brown booklets. Such is history, but, what if things had gone differently? What if, instead of publishing a manuscript that Arneson wasn’t at all satisfied with, Gygax had agreed to bring in an editor – much as they had done with Mike Carr previously – to take a look at all the material prepared by both men and put it all together in a better organized and edited fashion?


To the extent possible, that is what Champions of Zed is. Champions of ZED aims to be very, very close in fact and spirit to the original three game booklets published in 1974, related materials directly from the two authors, and relevant portions of the Medieval Miniatures rules of 1971. Nevertheless its purpose is not just to please a limited group of game Grognards. Rather Champions of Zed is designed to serve as a pathway to a different and neglected style of collective world building and gaming fun...."


The most important of those "related materials" of course are the old portions of the FFC, house rules and web posts from Gary and Dave, and Arnesons draft of the rules.


Here on the 'blog I will discuss various sections, both what has been published already and previews of what is to come.  It will be both a read through of the rules and an opportunity for kibbitzers to possibly influence thier final form.


The future of CoZ - what to expect:


Champions of Zed will be serialized in Fight On! magazine, probably somewhat abridged.  The rules are written, done.  But I choose sit on them and let them marinate, tease them out through Fight On and give everyone a chance to digest them bit by bit.  Why?


I have made every effort to make Champions of Zed a masterwork of OD&D and I'm not interested in rushing it or publishing early.  It's got to be perfect. 


When FO! is through with it I will put out the whole thing as a .pdf and POD, including a free no art version.


There will also be a delux illustrated game, and a follow on hardback expansion to an "all under one cover" rulebook.  My goal is simply to make this a "go to" product for fans of the Classic and Original game.