Friday, 23 October 2009

Dm interpreted magical items

One of the biggest problems with roleplaying games and magical items is that they are not really magical. They are more like appliances of science (e.g. technology) where the science behind the device is not known. Sort of like Arthur C Clark does magic items.

Magic really needs mystery to feel right. A wand of lightning bolts, for example, is infinitely cool and does provide some roleplaying possibilities, but it is too predictable and known to ever feel magical. In fact, its more like a sort of cannon that a wizard carries around with him.

Numerous attempts have been made in the past to address these issues, like for example nerfing the identify spell so it doesn't identify the mechanical attribtues of magical items. This is quite good, as the players do not necessarily know everything about an item; although knowing an item is a wand of lightning is pretty much all they need to know to figure out everything about it because they already understand the lightning bolt spell.

I'm wondering if the problem is not the players, but the source material. The item flows out of the pages of the rulebook to the adventure, the DM and finally the player. But what if the item text was very different?

Instead of saying a wand of lightning, what if it simply said a wand that hums with static? What does that mean? The onus would be on the DM then to create something new and unique. Does it throw lightning bolts, electrocute people, create loud noises like thunder, power devices ... or something else? The DM would be forced to make decisions, appropriate for the players, as to what the item does, what it is called and how much information identify can give about it.

Magical items might just feel magical and unique.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A year of Labyrinth Lord

So it's been a year since I starting playing Labyrinth Lord now, woohoo. I've been DM'ing for it ever since with a fairly steady gamer group, and have been running it every sunday evening, give or take a couple over the whole year.

What a blast it has been too!

I've run adventures against the white skinned Morlocks, tempted the party into a den of carrion crawlers and into old ruins populated by ghouls. The party have been snowed in and forced to take refuge in a haunted monastery, have ventured inside a nest of giant ants, have explored ancient elven ruins, have freed a village from a curse that turned them into lycanthropes, have journeyed across crystal fields deep underground and accidentally freed ancient evils, have cleared out the city of spiders, have entered the tower of the Ghoul King and reduced half his reserve army to dust, have stormed the city of serpents and finally, have adventured within a dream realm to try and pull a powerful artifact back into real life. Phew!

There have been casualties along the way. Many brave heroes (and foolish ones) have died. We even had one total party kill against goblin spider riders in the wilderness once. We've had many, many near death experiences where one more die roll would have ended a heroes life... and yet it didn't. Perhaps fate does smile on these heroes after all (I roll my dice out in the open and do not fudge them)... a fate which is more powerful than the DM!

The heroes are now 6th-7th level and well capable, in their own right, of defending themselves. It's been a terrific journey to this point... when the party decided to save the world from a potential orc tribal alliance was one of my highlights as a DM and led to a terrific battle to play out, too.

I'll leave you with one of the scenes from last night as a parting thought. The heroes hear a scratching noise in a room as they approach it, but as soon as they open the door, the noise stops. They never hear it again, nor can they find any sign of its source. It bugs them so much that, after they have explored the whole level and the one above it, they come back to investigate once more. Still finding nothing, they decide to douse the walls of the room in oil to burn the green moss that covers all the surfaces in the dungeon and reveal what it is underneath. Four flasks of oil later, they find the charred stone under the moss... and still they do not find the source of the sound. Still, it made me laugh, imagining the mighty heroes attacking some humble moss with burning oil, discussing how much they might need and then working out if they needed to somehow cover the ceiling too... all because they heard a little noise... ;-)

Thursday, 15 October 2009


While I was off work last week I made a little card game in flash because my girlfriend couldn't get the time off work at the same time. It's a fantasy themed card game where you play a wizard and must defeat the enemy player who is also a wizard, by playing heroes against him. He then plays monsters, traps and spells to try and get rid of your hero; then he tries to play a hero on you and you do the same back.
Anyway, here it is if anyone wants to take a look and see how many victories over the computer player they can rack up:
Best played with sound to hear some of the amusing voices!