Monday, January 8, 2024

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

My family holiday was full to brimming with gaming, and gaming-adjacent activities, and I hope yours was, too.

I took my children to Medieval Times to watch some falconry, jousting, and games of horsemanship. We had an amazing time The show this year was a lot more theatrical than the one I saw 15 years ago - it felt just a little too put on to me. But certainly good entertainment that inspired my son to run back to his Basic Fantasy RPG books.

We run a hybrid game quite often where we handle actual action dicelessly using Square Dungeon, but keep track of stats, XP, etc. using Basic Fantasy in order to help him learn the ropes of planning and running a good game. His last two sessions have done me proud, as they involved a lot more back-story, and let me solve my problems using wit, tactics, and negotiation rather than just being slug-fests.

(Although the last time we played full Basic Fantasy just before the holiday, he roasted my 4th level Mag-User to fine ash with a Red Dragon, which he still gloats about.)

I am still running my CSV Natani campaign in White Star. Tonight my PCs have to make a handoff of ancient alien Psionic Amplifiers to a cult that worships the consciousness of a supermassive black hole. After sessions of bounty hunting and rocking out in a backwater space station. Should be fun.

I have also played about 20 hours of Fabula Ultima with my Wife in a one-to-one game, and I picked up that game's first supplement Fabula Ultima Atlas High Fantasy. Which is a pretty amazing book, and I will have a review out of it early next week. This included using the abstract, clock-based dungeon I planned out loud last week. I have some thoughts on clock-based games like Fabula Ultima and Blades in the Dark to share, now that I have played a lot more of them.

The short version is that it is a mixed bag. If story-telling and wonder is your goal, you can run massive set pieces, wicked puzzles, and frightening pursuits with them with relatively little prep (aside form the fact that designing custom monsters for Fabula Ultima is a pain in the ass.) And there are ways to keep it tense and tight. But it is just not the same kind of tension you get when every arrow, every coin of weight, and how much water is in your waterskin draw a line between life and death, like it does when you play TSR-era Dungeons & Dragons or a relatively faithful OSR clone RAW.

I will parse it all out for you later this week.

It is definitely different strokes for different folks, but for my wife, who loves D&D, and loves role-playing, but finds dungeon crawling itself a snore it let me run a massive, perilous complex full of crumbling machinery, labyrinthine paths, and swarms of cannibal mutants without her losing the thread. We both got things we wanted, so it was a definite win.

Interestingly, the combat in Fabula Ultima is tense and frightening enough that her PCs spend more time running for their lives in it than they do in D&D. It looks, at first blush, like battle should feel a lot like a Final Fantasy game, where combat is a tactical puzzle that only gets you when you slip up... but in actual practice, characters spend a lot of time bleeding and broken. It is kind of like low-level D&D3e before they piled on all the splat.

My thirst for horrific dungeon crawls continues to be satisfied by my weekly Blueholme game, but I am also feeding it with a tentative Dungeon 24 project. Last year I stayed with Dungeon 23 for about two months before falling very ill and suddenly having to move house (the bank was threatening to foreclose on my landlady, apparently). By the time I was well enough to dive back in, the task of catching up seemed overwhelming.

This time, I won't be nearly as ambitious with the scope. I am just making a creepy dungeon. And I won't be making a big deal out of it. If I finish it, I finish it. But mostly I will be using it as a tool to show my son how to plan a game in that 90 minutes in the mornings between when my wife leaves for work and takes the younger one with him, and when I have to walk him to school.

I also got a copy of Jason Sholtis' The Dungeon Dozen volume 2, which I absolutely adore, and will be putting in my next "In Case You Missed It."

I look forward to trying to do more with this blog as I move forward in the year, and I have found more effective ways to manage the pain that I experience when typing. Which is some of the best news I could have to share.

I appreciate you all, and I hope yours is as exciting and full of play as mine.

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