Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Worlds of Wonder from Chaosium

I just got my Worlds of Wonder box set from Noble Knight. It was published by Chaosium in 1982, and consists of 4 pamphlets — Basic Role-Playing, Magic World, Super World, and Future World, each under 20 pages — and some supporting game aids. It was very interesting to see Chaosium's house system be stripped down so much in Basic Role-Playing, and then built up again slightly in each of the genre specific pamphlets. There are some interesting design decisions there. I'm not sure that all of those same decisions were exactly included in the Big Gold Book version of Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying book published in 2010, which collected rules from most of Chaosium's games into one generic roleplaying game. I'll have to compare them to see. I should also compare it to the BRP Quickstart. I do have Chaosium's 2002 publication of the Basic Roleplaying pamphlet. It was better typeset but was otherwise functionally identical to the pamphlet from Worlds of Wonder.

I'd love to see a PDF version of Worlds of Wonder, even if it was just a scanned version. Even better if it was release as an SRD, like their BRP SRD.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy Renaissance and Troika! and Warlock!

With the release of Advanced Fighting Fantasy, second edition, by Arion Games (website, DriveThruRPG) in 2011 it seemed a renaissance for Advanced Fighting Fantasy had arrived. This has been born out by Arion Games release one or more books for AFF2E every year since then except 2015, and by their release of bunches more small products in PDF since then. And most of their larger AFF2E products are available in POD at DriveThruRPG now, as well as in PDF. They also have a science fiction game that uses the AFF2E rules, Stellar Adventures, which is good and has several supplements.

I have enjoyed all the the AFF2E products and playing AFF and have just gotten two more, Creatures of Mishna and The Warlock Returns Issue #01, both of which look very good to my cursory glance.

And I also just got Troika! Numinous Edition science fantasy RPG from the Melsonian Arts Council and oh does it look pretty, both from a graphical design standpoint and a rules design standpoint! It has a website devoted to it. It was apparently released in 2019 (though the book says the copyright is 2015–2018), and I really wish I had gotten it earlier. It uses rules obviously inspired by AFF with Skill, Stamina, Luck, and Advanced Skills (similar to AFF's Special Skills), and has a neat and quirky random “backgrounds” system for character creation that provides you with Skills, Possessions, and other Special benefits. (One of the backgrounds has a “Small but vicious dog”, in a neat nod to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.) I've read it except for the backgrounds, which I've skimmed, and the bestiary. It is an excellent rules light RPG. My one criticism so far is that there doesn't seem to be a table or index of all the backgrounds, so it is hard to find a specific background if you want to read a particular one, as once rules example in the book requires to understand completely. There is a free version as well, and it contains a license allowing you to publish free or commercial material based on or compatible with with Troika!.

I also got Fronds of Benevolence, which looks good too, on a more cursory glace. I'm probably going to have to look for more Troika! products, too; I've seen that there are more out there.

Getting Troika! vaguely reminded me that there was another new RPG broadly inspired by AFF. Investigating revealed Warlock! from Fire Ruby Design (some of whose games I've greatly enjoyed - Exilim, Summerlands 2E, Esoterica, all of which have supplements I need to get), and that convinced me so I bought it. It too is obviously inspired by the AFF rules, though it does away with the all-in-one Skill of AFF in favor of starting the equivalent of AFF's Special Skills at higher values. It also drops the 2d6 rolls for d20s, and damage appears to by a simple dice roll, rather than AFF's 1d6+mod indexing a different table for each type of weapon, which could have its advantages… It also has a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay style careers. I haven't read much of it, but I'm definitely going to. It has several supplements too.

All in all, I think the AFF renaissance is growing!

D&D Dungeon Masters Guide, Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading

(This was originally on my site as a static page, but those don't get added the tags page, so I moved it here as a post.)

From the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979), by Gary Gygax.

APPENDIX N: INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING

Inspiration for all of the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a tad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old me who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerors and dauntless swordsmen. Then too, countless Hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young, from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples. Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950. The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommand all their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as just about any other imaginative writing or screenplay you will be able to pluck kernels from which grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

Inspirational Reading:

  • Anderson, Poul. THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD

  • Bellairs, John. THE FACE IN THE FROST

  • Brackett, Leigh.

  • Brown, Fredric.

  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice. “Pellucidar” Serries; Mars Series; Venus Series

  • Carter, Lin: “World's End” Series

  • de Camp, L. Sprague. LEST DARKNESS FALL; FALLIBLE FIEND; et al.

  • de Camp & Prat. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE

  • Derleth, August.

  • Dunsany, Lord.

  • Farmer, P. J. “The World of the Tiers” Series; et al.

  • Fox, Gardner. “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.

  • Howard, R. E. “Conan” Series.

  • Lanier, Sterling. HIERO'S JOURNEY

  • Leiber, Fritz. “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.

  • Lovecraft, H. P.

  • Merrit, A. CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al.

  • Moorcock, Michael. STORMBRINGER, STEALER OF SOULS, “Hawkmoon” Series (esp. the first three books)

  • Norton, Andre.

  • Offutt, Andrew J., editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III.

  • Pratt, Fletcher, BLUE STAR; et al.

  • Saberhagen, Fred. CHANGELING EARTH; et al.

  • St. Clair, Margaret. THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS

  • Tolkien, J. R. R. THE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy”

  • Vance, Jack. THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al.

  • Weinbaum, Stanley.

  • Wellman, Manly Wade.

  • Williamson, Jack.

  • Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, and A. Merrit; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you.


RuneQuest 2E also had an Appendix N, apparently earlier.

Looking at the Mini Six RPG and related games

I'm looking at the Mini Six RPG because I’m planing on running a couple of one shots while my regular online D&D game is on hiatus between campaigns. I’m going to run a Star Wars one shot and a Breachworld RPG (post apocalypse with rifts into space and time with invaders pouring through) one shot, probably using the light Virtual Table Top Owlbear Rodeo with Discord for voice and text chat and dice rolling using a dice bot and maybe image sharing, with character sheets as Google Doc documents.

Mini Six Described

Mini Six: Bare Bones Edition was published in 2010 by AntiPaladin Games. It is available as a PDF for free or POD at a small price at DriveThruRPG.

Organization and Breakdown

Here's how the Mini Six rules are organized, with page numbers for each section. It has 38 pages, counting the front and back covers.

  1. Front Cover (color) — 1 page

  2. Copyright page — 1 page

  3. Table of Contents, Definitions of Common Game Terms, About this Book — 1 page

  4. Dice Basics, How to Make a Character (including Skills, Perks, Esoteric Perks, Complications, and Gear) — 2 pages

  5. Game Mechanics (including General (non-combat Challenges), Order of Actions in a Round, Multiple Actions, Movement, Experience, Hero Points, Scaling, and Healing) — 1 page

  6. Combat (including two variants of combat — Fast Static Combat vs Traditional OpenD6 Combat — and Wound Levels and Wound Level Effects) — 1 page

  7. Vehicles (including vehicle rules and sample vehicles) — 2 pages

  8. The Simple Magic System (including magic rules and about 34 spells, and enchanted items) - 4 pages

  9. Sample Characters by Genre (including All Genres, Modern Stock Characters, Sci-Fi Stock Characters, Pulp Stock Characters, Fantasy Stock Characters, and Fantasy Beastiary) — 4 pages

  10. Optional Rules — 2 pages

  11. Making the Game Your Own — 1 page

  12. Campaigning the TV Way and Converting Between Mini Six & Traditional OpenD6 — 1 page

  13. Sample Settings — 10 pages total

    1. The “Perdition” setting (inspired by series Firefly and the movie Serenity; 9 archetypes, 1 vehicle) — 2 pages

    2. The “Rust Moon of Castia” setting (inspired by the movie Willow; 1 map, 4 archetypes, 3 creatures) — 2 pages

    3. Farnsley's Phantasm Investigators, Freelance Metaphysics Constables setting (Victorian horror, with a occasionally lighthearted, action-oriented, twist; 4 archetypes, 5 creatures) — 2 pages

    4. The “Precinct ‘77” setting (Big collars, bitchin’ cars, side burns, Fog Hat, and Police Detectives; 4 archetypes, 1 vehicle) — 2 pages

    5. The “Imperium in Revolt” setting (inspired by Star Wars, harking back to the D6 system's origins in the Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game of 1987; 11 archetypes, 7 vehicles) — 4 pages

  14. Character Sheet — 1 page

  15. Useful Reference Charts (Difficulty levels, Range Modifiers, How to Calculate Static Defenses, Scale, Sample Gear List, Skill List, Healing, Wound Level, Wound Level Effects) — 1 page

  16. Open Game License Version 1.0a — 1 page

  17. Back Cover (color) — 1 page

It really packs a lot into a small package, although it is generally light on detail.

Thoughts on Mini Six

Mini Six is a stripped down version of the OpenD6 RPG. I like it for many reasons:

  • The base mechanics are easy to learn, and only take up a few pages.

  • Only D6s are used.1

  • Characters are easy to create.

  • Characters are relatively terse.2

  • Characters start out reasonably competent.

  • It has a metacurrency3, Hero Points.

  • It includes enough as is to run Historical, Modern, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy games, including a simple Magic/Power system.

  • Attributes, Skills, and Damage are rated by the number of D6s one rolls to use them, which makes using them easy.

  • Attributes and Skills are connected. Skills default to the dice rating of their associated Attribute, so you can always use a skill, except for a very few skills.

  • Attributes and Skills are used by rolling them against set target numbers or opposing die rolls.

  • The rules for multiple actions in a round are particularly easy to use, suitable for games where the characters are competent.

  • Since the rules are short and the game mechanics relatively light it is easy to customize.

  • It can be easily customized for a particular game or genre.

  • Since the rules (but not the settings) are Open Content you can easily base a new game on it and release it for free or sell it. There are several Mini Six-based games on DriveThruRPG.com.4

  • There is a royalty-free Mini Six Trademark License that allows you to indicate that products you make are compatible with Mini Six.5

I think that several of those reason make it idea for one shots and pickup games.


1

This is especially useful if some of your players haven't ever played RPGs before and are unfamiliar with polyhedral dice.

2

Here's an example character:

Havan Zul — Smuggler

Might 3D — Brawling 4D
Agility 3D+2 — Dodge 5D+1, Piloting 5D+2, Pistol 5D+2, Stealth 4D+2
Wit 3D+1 — Navigation 5D, Repair 4D, Gunnery 5D+1, Shields 3D+2
Charm 2D — Streetwise 3D
Static: Dodge 12, Block 12, Parry 14, Soak 9+6=15
Complications: Large debt (=ship)
Gear: tool kit, flight suit (+2), 2 blaster pistols (5D), macro binoculars, body armor (+6)
Hero Points: 1
WL: S:1–3 □ W:4–8 □ SW:4–8 □ I:9–12 □ MW:13–16 □
3

I use metacurrency to mean something like a renewable resource that a player can spend to do something they otherwise couldn't do, like reroll something or convert a damage strike into a flesh wound or buying a clue or increase a die roll before or after the fact. Other examples are Bennies in Savage Worlds or Inspiration in D&D 5E.

4

Some published games based on Mini Six are:

  • Exilium Core Rules (a game of science fiction adventure and intrigue set against a backdrop of post-human loss and redemption; the description at DriveThruRPG says it is based on OpenD6, which is true, but the credit page of the book specifically mentions Mini Six),

  • Summerland Second Edition (a game about desolation and redemption in a post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a vast supernatural forest),

  • Breachworld RPG (a global catastrophe made rips in space and time through which unwanted monsters, aliens, and otherworldly environments continue to pour),

  • Heaven's Shadow (a game of faith and assassination of the evil Nephilim in the service of God, set in the modern world),

  • The Mighty Six (superheros),

  • Twilight Fall (a post apocalypse world created by the arrival on Earth of billions of alien refuges from space and other dimensions), and

  • Mutagen RPG (Beta/Playtest) (MiraiCorp's Project Mutagen unleashes mutant uplifted animals on the world who escaped their abused lives as test subjects and who want to be left alone, or help other mutants or the persecuted, or take the flight to MiraiCorp).

† marks games I find particularly interesting, either for the setting or for how a game adapts Mini Six.‡

‡ Footnotes in footnotes are such fun! (:-)

5

Some Mini Six compatible adventures are:

I wish there were more.

Last edited: 2020-11-29 15:54:28 EST

SRFI-159 Supersedes Alix Shinn's fmt package

This is a note to help me remember to use SRFI-159 instead of fmt when I can.

The scheme SRFI-159 is similar to the Chicken Scheme fmt egg and is written by Alex Shinn and references his original fmt - Combinator Formating code on which the egg is based but it doesn’t seem to be implemented for Chicken Scheme. It does explain why there isn’t a version of fmt for Chibi Scheme, since Chibi Scheme includes an implementation of SRFI-159 already. There doesn't seem to be a Snow version either.

Why D&D is so successful?

I once quoted Ken Hite's description of D&D

The original D&D seems, quite obviously, to be a pastiche of Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard adventure stories, set in a Tolkeinian world of Moorcockian morality, using Jack Vance's magic system, redacted for multiple protagonists. No wonder things are confused.

to a friend, and they were a little offended, considering it a criticism of D&D. I guess it is a criticism, but I think it is a valid description of D&D. However, I advance the theory that this “confused” nature of D&D is what makes it successful, because it provides so many different (and sometimes conflicting) elements that you can come up with about anything in D&D, and it will be fun. Each gaming group selects those things from D&D that they find interesting, customizing their play to their taste. This is something that is sometimes much harder in more focused games.

What do you think?

Having Emacs time-stamps at the end of files

Do you ever use Emacs time stamp functionality (type C-h f time-stamp in Emacs to learn about that) to insert the current date time stamp into your file when you save it? I use this frequently in documents I write, for my blog or standalone. For the longest time I thought you had to have the time stamp at the beginning of the file. But I wanted it at the end of blog posts because it’s really an afterthought to most readers. (Sometimes I go back and edit posts some time after first posting them — perhaps they were incomplete, or they had errors that needed correcting, etc.) It turns out that you can do that — if you set the variable time-stamp-line-limit to a negative number it will look backwards from the end of the file for the timestamp. I often set the time stamp variables in a Local Variables: comment at the end of the file.

Here's the reST fragment I insert into my blog posts that uses time-stamp:

.. role:: app
.. role:: file
.. role:: command
.. role:: key

.. *Last edited: 2020-08-05 17:03:37 EDT*

..
   Local Variables:
   time-stamp-format: "%04y-%02m-%02d %02H:%02M:%02S %Z"
   time-stamp-start: "Last edited:[ \t]+\\\\?"
   time-stamp-end: "\\*\\\\?\n"
   time-stamp-line-limit: -20
   End: