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 Post subject: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:47 am 
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Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery

Or, Brought to You by Appendix N


For those of you who have been closely following the development of DCC RPG, the term “Appendix N” will come as no surprise. But to others, that term may be a mystery. What is this “Appendix N” and how is it related to the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game?

If you look back at the origins of D&D, you find that Gygax and Arneson put together an evolving game whose goal was to enable fantastic adventures. The creators themselves were inspired by fantasy literature, as well as other sources such as movies and mythology. The specific literary works that most inspired them were codified most prominently in Gygax’s Appendix N, the now-legendary final entry in the AD&D DMG, in which Gygax enumerated the works that “certainly helped to shape the form of the game,” as he put it. One way to think of D&D is not as an entirely new creation, but an evolution of literary convention. After all, many elements of the early D&D rules were explicitly intended to provide rules for playing characters from classic literature: the “fighting man” inspired by Burroughs’ John Carter; the thief from Leiber’s Gray Mouser and Vance’s Cugel (with a dash of R.E.H.’s Conan); the paladin from Poul Anderson’s Holger Carlsen, and the barbarian from his Valgard; and so on.

Whether evolution or innovation, D&D was a cataclysmic event that defined a new hobby for millions of gamers. Now, 35 years later, nostalgia has led many gamers back to their earliest experiences of the game. The OSR, or old school renaissance, has generated renewed interest in Appendix N, and the works of the OSR have generated more content for the original version of the game than TSR ever published (by an order of magnitude). When I commissioned Erol Otus’s cover for Dungeon Crawl Classics #3 way back in 2003, interest in the origins of D&D was just beginning to blossom; now, eight years later, the OSR has multiplied into a host of high-quality product lines and thriving communities.

Several years ago, I set a personal goal of reading every book in Appendix N. This is a long-term endeavor, certainly not the kind of thing you can accomplish in a few months, but as I’ve worked my way through Howard, Burroughs, Lovecraft, Vance, Leiber, Carter, Moorcock, and others, my understanding of D&D itself has grown. As I read Leiber I understood where the thief class came from, and as I read Vance I understood an important part of the origin of the D&D magic system (and witnessed the first published references to many D&D spells – published 25 years before D&D itself). As I grasped that D&D’s alignment system was directly inspired by Moorcock (who in turn adapted it from Anderson), and as many other pieces of the D&D puzzle dropped into place, I came to understand something about my own preferences. My favorite part of old-school role playing wasn’t the D&D rules. It was the fantastic adventures that D&D enabled – and those adventures themselves are very much independent of the D&D rules, given that they can be conveyed in literary form with no rules whatsoever. And that led to a question: What if I could re-create the sense of adventure that 1974 D&D promised – with a different rules set?

This, then, is the ultimate goal of the Dungeon Crawl Classics role playing game. It is not a retro-clone (in the OSR sense); even though the aesthetic is very much old-school, it makes no effort to re-create the 1974 rules. Nor is it a d20 clone (in the OGL sense); even though the rules are grounded in the d20 era, it makes no effort to re-create the 3E rules. Rather, DCC RPG is, as Harley has called it, “pre-D&D swords & sorcery.” It is an explicit attempt to create an RPG of old-school style and aesthetic, that captures the spirit of adventure not as presented in 1974, but instead as presented in the decades prior, when Gygax and Arneson were reading the literature that would later inspire D&D. The Dungeon Crawl Classics role playing game is sword & sorcery role playing as it could have been, based on the primary sources that inspired the original game. It is grounded in a modern, streamlined rules set, but allows your players to easily simulate the heroes and adventures of Appendix N: all of them, not a specific author or character, but the unified sense of adventure that later defined the earliest editions of D&D. DCC RPG is, perhaps, what D&D could have been, if the direct inspiration of Appendix N had taken a different course.

There’s a reason the DCC RPG cover design is based on fantasy novels of the 1960s and 1970s, not D&D cover conventions. Over the coming months, as more of the art direction becomes public, the “pre-D&D swords & sorcery” aesthetic will become visually more obvious. The DCC RPG line looks like a product that was published before D&D ever came into existence. An entirely new line of Dungeon Crawl Classics modules will be launched, featuring a graphic design that instantly sets them apart from the 3E and 4E modules – as well as from the myriad “TSR-clone” modules that now populate the OSR marketplace. I hope that the DCC RPG modules will be easily confused for the covers of Appendix N books published in the mid to late twentieth century. If, in five years, a used book store manager is uncertain where to shelve these adventure modules, then the graphic design will be successful: “Are these pulp fantasy novels or RPG adventures?”

The Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game: Brought to you by Appendix N.

Next time: more on how magic works in DCC RPG.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:55 am 
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I can't wait to see some more of the art for this. I was surprised that you didn't go with an Otus cover though. Of course, maybe that would make it look too D&Dish.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:04 pm 
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mshensley wrote:
I can't wait to see some more of the art for this.


Ditto. Art definitely influences the feel of a game.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:14 pm 
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I initially had no intention of buying DCC: RPG. Last year I sold almost my entire RPG collection. All I have on my game shelf now are:

1. Empire of the Petal Throne/Tekumel stuff, which I love to study

2. home-made print-outs of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG and the Random Esoteric Creature Generator (which are the books I typically use to game)

3. home-made print-outs of the 1974 rules and the 1975 GREYHAWK supplement (which I use when we play "Gygaxian-style D&D" for a change of pace)

But nearly everything I read about DCC: RPG makes me think that it could become my new default set of rules. This latest designer's blog continues with the good stuff. Except those occasions when we are consciously playing "D&D the way Gary played it in 1975", I don't like my D&D games to be "D&Dish". I don't like for D&D to be about D&D. I like for D&D to be about the type of books found in Appendix N. I want my games to feel like Leiber and/or Howard and/or CAS and/or Homer and/or Jason and the Argonauts, etc. I've generally had enough of games that feel like the Keep on the Borderlands.

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Last edited by Geoffrey on Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:18 pm 
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I'm pleased and excited about this concept as outlined here.


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 3:20 pm 
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this is good, the DCC rpg will have great freedom

can't wait for the playtest :)

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 4:43 pm 
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Geoffrey wrote:
I don't like my D&D games to be "D&Dish". I don't like for D&D to be about D&D. I like for D&D to be about the type of books found in Appendix N. I want my games to feel like Leiber and/or Howard and/or CAS and/or Homer and/or Jason and the Argonauts, etc.


This is exactly where I am at the moment. I've ended up feeling that the only genre that old school D&D does well is D&D - the resource management grind, the 1st level MU's throwing daggers and oil flasks, the same-old spell choices - crop up time after time. Even variants like Mazes & Minotaurs that do break away from the pack have to specialise in one era or genre.

Sinbad searching for R'lyeh, Kull and Cugel stepping thru a portal to Barsoom - that's what I'm after!

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 6:51 pm 
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geordie racer wrote:
Sinbad searching for R'lyeh, Kull and Cugel stepping thru a portal to Barsoom - that's what I'm after!

*brain explodes*

[in a good way...]

Also, the idea that a used bookstore owner wouldn't know where to shelve DCCs for DCC RPG has me very curious about the format for those books... :shock:

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Here Be DCC Monsters...

General Yoros, Warrior, Str 13, Agl 8 (10), Stm 17, Per 13, Int 11, Lck 8; Law, HP 39, AC 17, R+2, F+4, W+2, band/shld, warhammer, longsword, longbow, pitchfork

Han Dee, (Weaver) Neutral Thief, Str 10, Agi 13, Stm 11, Per 11, Int 15, Lck 14, AC 13 (Leather), HP 25, Luck Die d6, Backstab 3, Sneak Silently 10, Hide In Shadows 9, Pick Pocket 10, Climb Sheer 10, Pick Lock 9, Find Trap 9, Disable Trap 9, Forge Doc 10, Disguise 3, Read Lang 5, Handle Poison 3, Cast Scroll d14+2, birth augur (Born under the loom) +1 to all skill checks (including thief skills), Banepicks (auto pick lock/disable trap, but lose 1d3 random ability loss, if a 3 then 1 pt is perm)


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 9:30 pm 
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geordie racer wrote:
Sinbad searching for R'lyeh, Kull and Cugel stepping thru a portal to Barsoom - that's what I'm after!


Very well put!

Consider that Abdul Alhazred completed the Necronomicon (in Arabic!) in Damascus shortly before his death in A. D. 738. Further consider that the stories of the 1,001 Nights (including the stories of Sinbad) are associated with the Caliphate of Haroun al-Rashid (ruled from A. D. 786-809). Only about 60 years separate the Necronomicon and the adventures of Sinbad!

What a great idea for a scenario. Special effects by Ray Harryhausen, of course. 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:40 am 
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GnomeBoy wrote:
Also, the idea that a used bookstore owner wouldn't know where to shelve DCCs for DCC RPG has me very curious about the format for those books... :shock:


Yeah, that is a curious thing to say. Will the books be novel sized paperbacks?

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2011 8:12 am 
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mshensley wrote:
Yeah, that is a curious thing to say. Will the books be novel sized paperbacks?


Format will be "normal" 8.5x11 RPG products. But when readers see the graphic design, I hope they think back to sci-fi/fantasy novels of the 1950's-1970's. I guess it depends on what you've read. Some people who aren't familiar with retro novels may just think, "What's up with this cover design?" :)

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 3:50 am 
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geordie racer wrote:
Geoffrey wrote:
I don't like my D&D games to be "D&Dish". I don't like for D&D to be about D&D. I like for D&D to be about the type of books found in Appendix N. I want my games to feel like Leiber and/or Howard and/or CAS and/or Homer and/or Jason and the Argonauts, etc.


This is exactly where I am at the moment. I've ended up feeling that the only genre that old school D&D does well is D&D - the resource management grind, the 1st level MU's throwing daggers and oil flasks, the same-old spell choices - crop up time after time. Even variants like Mazes & Minotaurs that do break away from the pack have to specialise in one era or genre.

Sinbad searching for R'lyeh, Kull and Cugel stepping thru a portal to Barsoom - that's what I'm after!

+1. The last few years I have found myself attracted more and more towards the literary roots of D&D, mostly Howard, Lovecraft and Leiber. And looking for ways to adapt the game to these genres.
My current "game of choice" is Labyrinth Lord, plus Advanced Edition Companion and Realms of Crawling Chaos supplements. With these tools I have been able to "build" a setting which doesn't feel much like "usual" D&D.
My current group is composed by newbies to RPGs in general, and newbies to old-school D&D, and GMing for them in this setting is proving me how much this different style can be fun in his own way.


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:51 am 
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I find it hard to refer to myself as an old school gamer as my elementary school friends and I were too impatient to learn the AD&D or even Red Box rules. Instead we just read about all the amazing monsters, drew up graph paper dungeons with rooms full of kobolds, displacer beasts and demogorgons before rolling dice randomly and divining the out come (always in our favor). It wasn't until college that I actually learned some real 3e D&D rules, as well as Cyberpunk 2020, Paranoia and TONS of LFR 2e with everyone's favorite GM, Mr Stroh. Now years later again I find myself playing 4e with a regular group. I always have fun because it's friends, but I always feel like I'm grinding through 5 hours of minutia management and rule details and never getting to the heart of what I've always loved about gaming - high adventure and excitement!

I had a chance to play test DCC RPG last year at SaurusCon and I have to say I am excited for more. I'm already buttering up some in my group to consider a change away from 4e when the time comes. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:11 am 
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spackle wrote:
...but I always feel like I'm grinding through 5 hours of minutia management and rule details and never getting to the heart of what I've always loved about gaming - high adventure and excitement!

I had a chance to play test DCC RPG last year at SaurusCon and I have to say I am excited for more. I'm already buttering up some in my group to consider a change away from 4e when the time comes. :)


Amen!

When my group plays 4e, we make it through 2 fights in a 4 hour session. We enjoy ourselves mostly because we're all decent people with agreeable personalities looking to have fun. But MAN is it a slog! Here's how I play 4e.

1. When it's my initiative, I roll dice.
2. If I hit, I roll damage and add up all the bonuses on the character sheet and various powers cards.
3. I double-check because, you know, I probably forgot a +1 somewhere.
4. I tell the DM how much damage I did. He futzes with a calculator for a little bit.
5. I go get a beer and shoot the breeze with the other inactive players.
6. By the time I get back the guy next to me is wrapping up his turn.
7. By the time I finish my beer, it's my turn again...

We do NO roleplaying in 4e. It's always combat, draw a map, combat, draw a map. It's extremely frustrating for those of us who remember when combats lasted 10-15 minutes.

Anything else you'd like to share re: your playtest? What did you play? Was it fun?


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:30 pm 
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smathis wrote:
We do NO roleplaying in 4e. It's always combat, draw a map, combat, draw a map. It's extremely frustrating for those of us who remember when combats lasted 10-15 minutes.

Anything else you'd like to share re: your playtest? What did you play? Was it fun?


What are you talking about, we usually have 2 skill challenges that take about 5 minutes of token effort too. That's roleplaying, isn't it? ;)

But in more seriousness.. we were playing things pretty fast and loose, with what I understand were a reasonably early form of the rules. We were playing level 0 PCs (three at a time to begin with!) running through a test of a DCC I think will be called "Sailors on the Starless Sea". We didn't really get a chance to get into the classes or magic for the most part, but it was a great romp with players of various RPG experience all hootin' and hollerin' having some characters bite the dust while trying to protect the ones we felt closer to. It was a good time and we're all looking forward to some more at the next SaurusCon. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:41 pm 
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spackle wrote:
What are you talking about, we usually have 2 skill challenges that take about 5 minutes of token effort too. That's roleplaying, isn't it? ;)

But in more seriousness.. we were playing things pretty fast and loose, with what I understand were a reasonably early form of the rules. We were playing level 0 PCs (three at a time to begin with!) running through a test of a DCC I think will be called "Sailors on the Starless Sea". We didn't really get a chance to get into the classes or magic for the most part, but it was a great romp with players of various RPG experience all hootin' and hollerin' having some characters bite the dust while trying to protect the ones we felt closer to. It was a good time and we're all looking forward to some more at the next SaurusCon. :)


Ah, yes. The skill challenge. The "Do I Really Need to Be Here?" moment of the evening. The DM goes from player to player and asks -- not "What do you do?" -- but "What do you ROLL?".

Oh, imagine that. I'm going to roll MY HIGHEST SKILL again. Oh, silly me. One day, I should try to use that Religion skill at -1. NOT! Haha! I rolled a 3! With my +10, that's good enough!

Skill challenges had such... promise. I weep like the Native American chief on the old '70s commercial when I think of it.

Man, great to hear about the playtest. It sounds like the game is a lot of fun. I can't wait to get a chance to try it out.


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:31 pm 
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Given that D&D's traditional playable Demihuman races are primarily found in Tolkien (and not the vast majority of the Appendix N titles), what sort of treatment will they receive in the DCC RPG? I know that things like race and class will likely be covered in future design blogs, so forgive me if I'm getting ahead of myself.

Personally, I'd love to see a humans-only S&S assumption in an RPG. I realize that that is probably not a sound business move though, since the vast majority of gamers associate D&D with Elves and Dwarves and whatnot. On the other hand, Swords & Sorcery is usually humanocentric. Over the years, D&D has become a genre unto itself, but I'm wondering how tightly the DCC RPG will cling to the roots (or at least the perceived intentions) of Gygax and Arneson?

Joseph, has your reading of Appendix N influenced the way you view Demihuman PCs, and if so, how?


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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:03 pm 
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spackle wrote:
a test of a DCC I think will be called "Sailors on the Starless Sea"


That's a pretty good title.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:43 pm 
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Geoffrey wrote:
spackle wrote:
a test of a DCC I think will be called "Sailors on the Starless Sea"


That's a pretty good title.


We have spent a lot of time thinking about module titles. Have you ever noticed just how many D&D modules follow the format of, "[Place] of the [Monster Name]"? Or some slight variation thereof, substituting another noun for "[Place]"?

It's a standard D&D convention but it's not an Appendix N / pre-D&D swords & sorcery convention.

All of the published modules will break with tradition insofar as titles are concerned - but they will still feel very much like classic fantasy stories. More to come on this.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:44 pm 
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Booberry wrote:
Given that D&D's traditional playable Demihuman races are primarily found in Tolkien (and not the vast majority of the Appendix N titles), what sort of treatment will they receive in the DCC RPG? I know that things like race and class will likely be covered in future design blogs, so forgive me if I'm getting ahead of myself.

Personally, I'd love to see a humans-only S&S assumption in an RPG. I realize that that is probably not a sound business move though, since the vast majority of gamers associate D&D with Elves and Dwarves and whatnot. On the other hand, Swords & Sorcery is usually humanocentric. Over the years, D&D has become a genre unto itself, but I'm wondering how tightly the DCC RPG will cling to the roots (or at least the perceived intentions) of Gygax and Arneson?

Joseph, has your reading of Appendix N influenced the way you view Demihuman PCs, and if so, how?


Great point and great question - there's another thread tackling this subject; check it out and see if it helps:

viewtopic.php?f=60&t=7687

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:32 pm 
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goodmangames wrote:
Geoffrey wrote:
spackle wrote:
a test of a DCC I think will be called "Sailors on the Starless Sea"


That's a pretty good title.


We have spent a lot of time thinking about module titles. Have you ever noticed just how many D&D modules follow the format of, "[Place] of the [Monster Name]"? Or some slight variation thereof, substituting another noun for "[Place]"?

It's a standard D&D convention but it's not an Appendix N / pre-D&D swords & sorcery convention.

All of the published modules will break with tradition insofar as titles are concerned - but they will still feel very much like classic fantasy stories. More to come on this.


Ha! I never noticed that before. My own module, Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer exactly fits the format of "[Place] of the [Monster Name]". <<laughing at myself>>

:D

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:02 pm 
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Geoffrey wrote:
Ha! I never noticed that before. My own module, Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer exactly fits the format of "[Place] of the [Monster Name]".


Don't worry, you're in good company. It really is from Appendix N. How about Conan in The Tower of the Elephant or The Pool of the Black One?

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:35 pm 
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Booberry wrote:
Personally, I'd love to see a humans-only S&S assumption in an RPG. I realize that that is probably not a sound business move though, since the vast majority of gamers associate D&D with Elves and Dwarves and whatnot.
We'd have quite a split in my gaming group. Some of us are fine with human-centric games, but a couple of my players are "elves or nothing" types. Interesting to see what they think of this possible slant on things.

And I agree, the human-centric model is clearly what old school Swords & Sorcery fiction is all about. Most of the stories not only center around human protagonists, but the sidekicks and most of the NPCs are often human as well.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 9:22 pm 
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finarvyn wrote:
a couple of my players are "elves or nothing" types.


I'm almost a "human or nothing" type when I'm a player. I NEVER choose to play a non-human. I haven't played a non-human for probably 15 years, ever since the one-shot in which everyone had to be a dwarf or a gnome. I enjoy playing all classes (even monks, bards, and thief-acrobats). I even like humans with Barsoomian skin colors. But my PC has to be human, or I feel silly.

That's only me, of course.

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 Post subject: Re: Designer's Blog #2: Pre-D&D Swords & Sorcery
PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:29 am 
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Geoffrey wrote:
finarvyn wrote:
a couple of my players are "elves or nothing" types.
I'm almost a "human or nothing" type when I'm a player. I NEVER choose to play a non-human.
Strangely enough, I have gone through several phases. My first several years of OD&D I wanted to play only Dwarves, then humans only for a few years, then Noldor-style Elves. No idea why I ran in such streaks.

Now I play almost anything. When I actually play, that is, since I'm DM 99% of the time. :)

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