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From the prow of your ship you see the island come into view. At first it is nothing but a glint on the horizon, then a shining sphere.. a ...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Looking at old games with new eyes.

So it snows in winter..whodathunkit?

Shoveling is not my thing, it's going to be a snow blower Christmas this year I sear it. My driveway dealt me a crushing defeat with our first storm this year and although I rallied and won the field of battle the night of our second storm, my back is feeling it.

 Onto the  good stuff... Looking at the old with new eyes:

    One of my friends is going to run an AD&D second edition game, via Roll 20 and I am going to jump in and play. It's cool because I have not been on the player side of an AD&D game in quite some time (years).

I have to make an AD&D second edition character and level it up a few times (3 or 4 Gm's call) so that he can run with the rest of the party. I have chosen to make a straight ahead fighter. I am not going to make any thing more or less complicated than that mostly because the guy who is GM-ing normally plays the fighter, so the party will be down that role for the night.

 Looking at AD&D 2nd's character creation system , it is striking how little they talk about character when you are creating a character. I just never really noticed before. The game is to be honest still a war game at this point. The player is not creating a character the player is creating a stat block. Everything else, relationships to the party, place in the world, aspirations, or anything that might round out a personality is all done in a meta gaming way, during play or as chatter among the players and GM.

 The introduction talks about creating a personality and bringing life to a character. Which I think is great, the leading introduction text in the 2nd ed books is really good in my opinion. It's not the spirit of the character creation that falls down, but it's in how the system never buoys the idea that the payers are creating a being, not a set of combat stats.

 I could mention Alignment as giving the character a world view and an anchor for the characters personality. Alignment however has never in my opinion been given any really use or support in the system. I know a paladin can loose his powers if he is not strictly lawful good, but even that can be kind of gray. Why can your paladin travel with? What did he see the party thief do or what did he not see? In the game the teeth alignment has in the system is really up to the GM.

To take that further the treatment of alignment is traditionally seen as a limiter (You can't steal that, you're lawful good!), and never sported in the system as something useful.

GM: 
“Hey Paladin, that was a generous and lawful decision you just made! Your god is going to grant you a +1 Damage and -1 armor class bonus blessing for the rest of the session!”
 Player: 
“Awesome! Studly Angelworthy bows at the altar and praises his patrons blessing!” 
 That would be cool right? 
You bet it would. 

 To my knowledge alignment never receives that kind of support in the rules, and anything like that would have to be a dm's creation.

 This is not an indictment of the game, it's a classic. Just by today's standards the character creation is very fiddly, and sterile. Perhaps newer games are holding our hands a bit. Can I just say my guy is intimidating? No it needs to be an aspect. At least you can DO SOMETHING with an aspect.
 (best old man voice: Back in my day we didn't have aspects we had imagination!)

 I'm not going to try and play both sides of this fence. I clearly prefer character creation tied to systems that mechanically support the character concept in play. By support I mean by more than how hard your character can swing a sword, or to edition jump, that humans get an extra feat.
 Now that I have finished all my apparent kicking of an old dead horse.

 It brings me to how amazing it is that AD&D2ed (or the players using it) produced most of the most memorable characters I have ever been at a table with.
 Robot Roll call:
 Cyormach (However you spell it Russ. A decade + of me getting it wrong,) Aldron, Crank Swanson, Alihra, Lur, Helmar Hammerstrom, Shea, Treegan, Teaolis the bard, Boris Hardtoe, Rhino Rhun, Lancelot Goodthrust, Lothar, Grendel, Wang Fu Dong (lasted one game) Wormy (lasted less than one game) Osean Suran, Mel Teactor, Zeena Zwieble...

It woudl be wrong form em to leave out our current crop of characters: Thallis the Elf archer extraordinaire, The Master druid, Cyrus Magnus the assassin, Wilhelm the former dwarf footballer turned fighter, and Guthgar WulfGar the priest of Thodin.

The list goes on and on and on. I have left out literally thirty or so characters from over the years.

 Based on experience I can't knock the game blindly because I've had and have great times with it. I will say that revisiting it as a player brings into focus how far our hobby has come in the past few years, due in large part to the creative efforts of the indy / small print community.

 Have any of you gone back to revisit an older game recently and been struck by things that felt perfectly normal then, which have evolved over the years?

 What do you think of Older games methods of character creation compared to newer more story based games?

 As usual thank you for reading, Questions, comments and shenanigans welcome.