Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Computer games - Dragon Court

Dragon Court is a nice fantasy RPG that I came across in 2000.  The original game has not changed much (although there is now a Dragon Court 2) but it is still quite addictive and fun to play.  

You start the game by deciding on your character's guts (hit points), wits and charm scores and also deciding if they are trained as a fighter, trader (more like a rogue or wizard (you may choose not to train them in anything and put more points into your stats)

There is no story for the game.  You are given locations to explore where you will come across various creatures and people and you need to deal with them in some way.  Most of them you will either have to fight or run away from.  You can trade or help a few people.  If you train in wizard, trader or fighter skills, you can get more options (fighters can beserk, traders can swindle and backstab and wizards can hypnotize.)

After each encounter, you may get experience, money, items and a possible increase to guts, wits or charm.  Once you have gone up a few levels, more locations open up to you - a forest, mountains, goblin warrens, the Queen's castle, a couple of far off lands - where you can take on greater challenges and do some interaction with nobles and go up the royal ranks.

There is no real aim to the game, either.  You wander around and try to do as well as possible.  You have a limited number of 'quests' (actions) per day so you cannot go on forever.  However, once you have gone up a few levels and obtained more quests, playing a game for the day takes up a good amount of time.  

There is plenty of variety to the game.  It reminds me of Fabled Lands without the quests.  It is good to see your character improve over time.  The game also has a very nice community where you can talk to the other players and swap items with them.  If you are looking to model a simple system for your gamebooks or ideas for locations and encounters, the Dragon Quest is a good place to find inspiration.

You can play Dragon Quest here.

You can play Dragon Quest 2 here 

I obtained the screenshots from here where you can see more.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Some things to read over Easter

Hello all. In between sending off interviews for the April A to Z, I've been looking at a few RPG based blogs to chillax. First of all, the fine Roger G-S at the Rolls, Rules and Roles blog has released an updated version of his 52 page rules. I love the way he uses space to portray his information with an imaginative use of silhuettes and tables to make a whole RPG system for level 1-3 adventurers in a small number of pages (I can't remember how many). So give it a look.

There's also a new blog of gamebook playthroughs from Timothy Byrne - this one is for the Way of the Tiger series and he has currently finished Avenger!

So there you go. Something to sink your teeth into!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Magic items based on their owners

Something I read in Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk got me thinking about Magic items. In this game, there are magical artefacts that you have to recover, but they don't actually do anything magical. Instead, they have latent powers that only sorcerers can access by studying them and taking them apart.

This got me thinking about magic. The only way that magic can manifest is from people who make it happen. There are no inanimate objects with magic in them. You need a person to do it and they have to make a sacrifice in terms of years of study and then possibly getting fatigued or other effects. Some other magic is like that. In the Game of Thrones world, magic only seems to work based on some kind of sacrifice in terms of someone's life energy. The Red Priests require blood. The Warlocks across the Narrow Sea wanted to keep dragons captive to power their magic.

This got me thinking that magic items should just not be thought of as reproducible factory items, made to demand with predictable effects, but rather created because of the things they have done and the reputation and skills of their owners.

I was thinking about this in terms of Advanced Figthing Fantasy 2nd edition. This system does already have an approach like this in the sense that you need special components to make a specific magic item, but it still seems to factory-like and predictable. If I have this special metal and this workshop and have enough points in my Magic - Enchanting skill, the sword I make will give a +1 bonus to damage rolls.

For example, a magic sword that gives a bonus to damage rolls might do that because it was in the possession of a mighty warrior known for his great strength who used the sword to decapitate a giant in one blow. This happened in the first Knightmare novella. Treguard's sword became special after he slew a dragon with it.

A magic shield might have been the shield of a brave paladin and so it could confer immunity to fear magic.

Also, this approach does not have to be restricted to adventuring items. The hammer of a skilled blacksmith could confer bonuses to smithing rolls. The pot of a famous cook could create food and the ring of a famous merchant could confer bonuses to barganing.

This approach incorporates a bit of world building. Instead of just creating a sword +1, you have to create a character who used the sword, what they did and what they had a reputation for. You might also need to create some famous events that they were involved in. Instead of magic items being "+1 swords", they now have names such as "The sword of Braxis Giantsbane".

Basically it's like artifacts from Dungeons and Dragons but for items of all power levels.

This could also be part of the player's game. In AFF2 terms, I came up with a character who has at least 1 special skill with 5 or more points and who uses a particular item for 10 years or more has the potential to get it enchanted. It then needs to be taken to someone with a Magic - Enchanting skill of 5 or more or taken on a special quest. Once it is enchanted, the power it confers is not to order, but rather based on the character's highest abilities and their deeds. I would only do this once per character.

If the person who used the item for 10 years also uses it after it is enchanted, they could also get an extra bonus as they are "bonded" to it. Also, if a special item is passed through the generations, it might pick up more powers. Also, the item could get a more powerful ability but also a drawback related to a flaw of its owner. I also decided to include 10 years and not "after their death" so that characters could do this and you could meet the owner of the item. That would be interesting.

So that's how to create some more interesting magic items whilst incorporating some world building. And to also find a way of justifying that bow of shark slaying.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Alexis Smolensk is selling an adventure and also things related to his new novel

Good day to you gamebookers! Today, I want to make you aware of an opportunity available to you. Alexis Smolensk on the Tao of DnD blog

I have written about the Tao of DnD before and the blog has only got better for me since I found it. Alexis produces very detailed and thoughtful posts on all aspects of roleplaying, DMing and world building and I have found them extremely useful. He has also made a wiki of his work which you can search to help you with your roleplaying experience and he has produced the first episode of a podcast.
I have bought all of his books on roleplaying and I have also found them very helpful, especially for when I was running a scanario for the first time when I went to Fighting Fantasy Fest. Alexis has also written a novel and has one on the way.

Speaking of novels and adventures, Alexis currently has a jumpstart proposal where 10 CAD (about 5.40 GBP or 7.60 USD)  gets you his latest adventure, Ternketh Keep. More money gets you rewards related to his latest novel which will be out about June.

Here is the breakdown of his rewards:
  • For $10, I will provide an online copy of my latest gaming adventure, Ternketh Keep.
  • For $15, Added to the above, I will also provide plans to the Airship I've created.
  • For $25, Added to the above, I will also give as a bonus an 80-page preview to my book, no less than two weeks prior to the official publishing date of the novel.
  • For $50, Added to the above, I will handle the purchasing and sending of the book as soon as the book is published.
  • For $75, Added to the above, the copy received by the reader will be personally signed by me, along with a gamer girl t-shirt (as long as supplies and sizes last).
  • For $100, Added to the above, I am prepared to work the reader's name into the novel, promising at least one story significant line (as long as unused characters remain).
To be honest, the value that he provides for free on his blog was enough for me to make a donation (and if you want somewhere to start, check out his most popular posts on the right hand side), but this just adds more goodness to the mix.

So go and check out his blog and make a donation for all the useful material he provides.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Limiting magic items that are too awesome

It looks fun now
but wait until
book 11.
This is for those of you who want to give people cool items but who don't want any 'Sommerswerd problems'.

This is what I mean.  A recap...

In Lone Wolf 2, you get the uber Kai weapon the Sommerswerd.  This weapon gives you +8 to combat skill, absorbs all hostile magic used against you and deals double damage against undead creatures.  It means that you go from a the scared prey of the helghasts who spent all their time up until now skulking in the countryside, running from overwhelming opposition and having people sacrifice themselves for you to a super warrior who kicks major butt in the final battle and then obliterates a darklord, one of the most powerful creatures on Magnamund.

However, since you don't have to do book 2 to do the other books, in every book after that, you may or may not have the Sommerswerd and its huge bonus.  This led to balance problems.

'Joe Dever has said that the sword's bonus made it difficult to create balanced statstics for enemies that would challenge someone with the blade but would not make the book too difficult for someone without it.
Some attempt was made at balance. Beginning in the Magnakai series, some battles turn out to be more difficult if the Sommerswerd is used, which is reasoned either by its divine presence alerting Lone Wolf's foes, or having them use high-powered weapons which cancel out the advantages the sword offers.'
Everyone likes cool stuff, but it is important that it does not completely unbalance the game either by making it too easy or by making it impossible for the player who isn't lucky enough to get the item (and if you can't do that, just do the decent thing and kill them off early as to not waste their time).
The magic items in Advanced Fighting Fantasy are pretty good at not being too powerful, so you could have a look at that.  Other ways of making cool magic items that aren't too powerful:
A ring of fire would
go down well here too.
Give them one specific use in the gamebook (one of Ian Livingstone's favourites) - such as the Ring of Fire in City of Thieves, the cyclop's eye in Warlock of Firetop Mountain or any item that Yaztromo sells in Forest of Doom.
Make them versatile but not very powerful - the pocket myriad in Citadel of Chaos is a good version of this.  You can use it in several situations but it is rarely the best option.  You can do this one of two ways - either it has a lesser effect than a better item or it has the same effect but only on a certain die roll.
Limit their uses - give an item charges or make it one use.  The ring of communication in Keep of the Lich Lord has only 3 uses.
Put a cost on the use of the item - similar to limiting their uses.  You can use the item as many times as you like but it will drain one of your stats such as crushing the herbs and using the sleep and invisibility spells in Daggers of Darkness.
The item only works on a certain die roll - either the roll is completely random or you need to succeed in an ability check to use it.  There's a scene in Fabled Lands where you try to resurrect someone but the spell requires two ability checks.
The item comes with a penalty - the ring of confusion in Island of the Lizard king comes with a -2 skill penalty which balances out its ability to let you see through illusions.
The item could have beneficial or baneful effects - either you roll a die each time or the situation does not match the item, sometimes it works like a charm and sometimes it spells destruction.  The deck of many things is a classic example.
The item can only be used by certain people - There's some restriction based on race, alignment, ability score or pretty much anything that means that it can only be used by certain people.  The Singing Death in Sword of the Samurai gets more awesome if your honour is high.