Full Circle

Posted: 11 May 2016 in Reflections

About a year ago now, Charles Blakely made this comment on the post about Witness Protection RPGs: “Which games that you have GM’d before would you like to dig into deeper? That is, which ones could you go back and do more with due to whatever factors – more time, more resources, more inspiration, etc.”?

I’ve been musing on that comment ever since, so this post is a belated reply to it. As you’ll see, Charles, it takes me full circle; I’ve run a lot of games over the last 40 years, but most of them are not things I’d want to go back to, and of the few that I did consider, only one really seems viable.

The Runners-Up

Classic Traveller. I’m not sure this counts as digging deeper, because it would be so heavily modded; I’d replace Book 1 with Savage Worlds Deluxe, I’d only use the iconic ships from Book 2 (probably with the deck plans from Moon Toad Publishing), and I’d apply stucco from Stars Without Number to Book 3. I still think that given enough time and thought, I could make the Dark Nebula boardgame a nice little setting, with worlds dual-statted for CT and SWN; but there wouldn’t be much actual Traveller left by the time I’d finished.

2300AD and Empire of the Petal Throne: Nice backgrounds in both cases; again I’d Savage them, because I prefer the SW rules; but EPT’s setting is both unique and complex, and I’ve run 2300AD for the better part of 20 years already – I’ve told all the stories I want to tell in that setting. I could recycle the old adventures for a new generation, but my experience is that doesn’t work too well – once I’ve run a particular adventure, it’s normally best to move on to something fresh.

We Have A Winner: Original Dungeons & Dragons

I could run a kick-ass game of OD&D now. I’d build it with these:

  • The house rules from Delta’s D&D Hotspot.
  • The map from SPI’s Demons boardgame as the wilderness map (and the premise of that game, sorcerors using demons to hunt for treasure while being pursued by secular powers, as the main plotline). I’d blow it up to 25 miles per hex to make it country-sized, and put the megadungeon in the mountain just south of Murad, which would be the PCs’ base town.
  • The sandbox creation rules in Sine Nomine Publishing’s Labyrinth Lord sourcebooks, Red Tide and An Echo, Resounding. If and when the PCs ventured off-map, I’d also use some elements of Spears of the Dawn to create the other regions around the borders of the main map.
  • Maps from Black Hand Source; Ancient Cities 2 for Murad, Ancient Cities Special Edition for the megadungeon.
  • Bits of Zak S’ Vornheim city kit.
  • A variant of the Peril rules from Moria for Decipher’s Lord of the Rings RPG; this would make it possible to run a megadungeon without stocking it first, which I find very boring.
  • At least some of the Icons from 13th Age; all 13 might be a bit much.
  • A more nuanced understanding of history and politics than I had in the 1970s.

I could probably set this up so that it could be played using OD&D, 5th Edition, or Savage Worlds; and maybe someday I will. You’ll notice it’s closely related to where the Irongrave campaign ended up, just before Beasts & Barbarians killed it and took its stuff.

What’s Stopping You?

Not a lot, actually – a little time, a little effort, a few players; but I already have the Pawns of Destiny and the Collateral Damage in flight, so let’s park it a while longer.

  1. I ported the 13th Age icons into the recent Savage Worlds game, and I have played quite a bit of 13th Age. What I have found is that in any such campaign only 4-6 icons tend to have a rôle depending on which ones the players pick. However one cannot predict which ones, and having some in reserve gives the campaign growth room, once relationships with one icon have reached a comfortable end.
    I simply added negative/postive relationships as a Savage skill, d4/d6/d8 etc.. and then followed the 13th Age process.

    • andyslack says:

      Yeah, makes sense. Do you use any other 13th Age elements in Savage Worlds, such as the escalation die or One Unique Thing?

      • Ooh just seen this. Yes I use the One Unique thing but not the escalation die since it’s a very big modifier for Savage. I use the montages a lot.

  2. I’d adopt many of your other ideas, and again I’d use Savage Worlds or The Black Hack, which has a lovely light feel and yet sits close enough to D&D to reuse all the OSR materials.

  3. Charles F. Blakely says:

    Thanks for replying to my query, Andy. I find that I would choose similar games – Traveller, EPT, and 2300AD, but I wouldn’t use Savage Worlds – my preference. I created a small subsector using GURPS Space and still port worlds from that period into my current Mongoose Traveller project. I’ve been “borrowing” some of the maps from Star Wars and the material in the Edge of Empire relating to smugglers, since Traveller hasn’t given much material for such a campaign.

    I have been curious about using some of the D&D supplemental ideas for generating fantasy adventures. Vornheim and variations are intriguing. Once my Traveller campaign reaches critical mass, I’ll be able to look into a fantasy campaign.

    Have you ever used TSR’s The Dungeon Master’s Design Kit for designing campaigns? It has lots of tables to help expand the adventure and keep it organized for the DM. The late Curtis Scott recommended it to me for use with EPT decades ago and I’ve been using it ever since. I need to re-skin it for a Traveller/Space Opera focus, though.

    One thought keeps coming to mind. Andy likes D&D and likes Stars Without Number. Why not run Stars Without Number as is – OD&D?

    Thanks for replying to my comments, Andy!

    • andyslack says:

      I’ve never used the Dungeon Master’s Design Kit – thanks for the tip, I’ll check that out. I do sometimes think about running SWN as-is, but for some reason I don’t picture class-and-level games and SF settings together. Maybe I should try that though!

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