Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weird Adventures: List of Adventurer Templates

One of the many excellent illustrations in the
book Weird Adventures.
The thought-provoking idea of mashing up old school D&D tropes with the pulp genre made me rethink how to group together the various types of adventurers. I wanted to adhere somewhat closely to the Fighter / Mage / Cleric / Thief approach, but there are certain pulp tropes that break out of those archetypes. I figure that Fighters are Muscle, that Clerics and Mages are Arcanists of different flavors, that Thieves can be broadened into different types of Expertise. Last but not least, there's the folks who have different types of Smarts and are quite useful in the modern idiom.

Along these lines, I began organizing a starting list of package deals (the standard HERO way of doing things), but looked at tweaking them more as templates ala the classic d6 Star Wars RPG, for faster character generation.

Here's my first pass on the list of customizable templates I'll be building for my attempt at Weird Adventures in the HERO System:

Famous Athlete
Crusading Cop
Tough Gangster
Great White Hunter
Hulking Sailor
Sharp-eyed Soldier
Two-fisted hero
Wild Man

Eccentric Archeologist
Amateur Detective
Bookish Professor
Nosy Reporter
Curious Scientist
Sultry Spy

Reckless Aviator
Suave Dilettante
Grizzled Explorer
Eager Gadgeteer
Grease Monkey
Jazz Musician
Thrillseeking Criminal

Traveling Priest
Haunted Missionary
Gifted Innocent
Craven Wizard
Exotic Sorceress

I'm going back to the book to find out if I've missed some more setting-appropriate terminology for the templates.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fantasy Philippines: Nosfecatu & Hari Ragat posts

One of the GSL release of Nosfecatu.
This post is mostly for my own reference, but I do follow two blogs on fantasy games set in the Philippine milieu:
  • Nosfecatu Publishing's blog; and
  • Dariel Quiogue's Hari Ragat blog.

I also visit various jungle-related posts on Fire in the Jungle.

Here are several posts that have caught my eye:


Amaya Post: Rate the Armor Class

photo by: dencio isungga

Armor Class questions pop up from some promotional pics for the series ender of Amaya showcasing the attire of the lead character Amaya (played by Marian Rivera) and a visiting Magellan (played by Marian's real life beau, Dingdong Dantes).

Spaniard attire

No shoes, no skirt, no service.
(photo by: dencio isungga)
This is supposed to be Magellan, in armor, holding a sword strangely, and looking off into the distance pensively.

He's got some armor on the upper half of his body, primarily covering the torso area.

The rest of it seems to be just unreasonably warm and fashion-oriented for our tropical country, and may not offer much protection.

I know that the attire of the show is meant to be historically accurate (within budget constraints), and I wish that the promotional material would cover that aspect. Alas, most watchers of the show don't really care and follow it for the fantasy and dramatic elements -- and the popularity of the celebrities of course -- making such efforts a wasted marketing exercise, really.

I think this thing's out in DVD, and may try to see if a copy is available... somewhere. I hope to actually watch the entire thing to mine it of period elements.

The lovely Amaya

(photo by: dencio isungga)
The armor is not your typical female fantasy armor outfit. Covers up far too much skin.

Again, only the torso seems to provide any protection -- but I love the just-below the knee leg coverings, especially the native woven patterns (the Philippines had a strong weaving and complex weaving craft at the time). It really speaks to the 'fighting on a treacherous beach' vibe of the outfit.

I also like the scabbard and the way the grips on the dagger and the sword are done, though I wish there pic of them drawn.

I wonder what the torso armor is supposed to be -- some kind of leather mail? Perhaps some folks out there in D&D land can hazard an educated guess.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

About Sourcebooks: Some Initial Thoughts on Types

The Event Strategy of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying -- a series of sourcebooks centered around comic book events -- makes sense for comic books. While comic books like Astro City are obviously centered around a specific location, a majority of the ongoing series are centered around storylines.

It made me start thinking about the common types of sourcebooks that have come out for RPGs.

Location Sourcebooks

The most common type of sourcebook, aside from the rules expansions, tends to be tied to a location. In fact, if you think about the earliest non-rules RPG books, they were mostly locations: dungeons. And I've been fascinated by them -- now that I think about it, the very first RPG book that I bought (a module) was a location-centered module: T1 - The Village of Hommlet. Locations then expanded to the setting boxed sets and books that dominated TSR & WOTC lines.

Character Option Sourcebooks

Another common sourcebook is one that gives character options. White Wolf really milked this one with the clan books (I think that they're called splatbooks -- dunno why). I think it was an important strategy for them, especially with Vampire: the Masquerade not only trying to break the older stereotypes of vampires (castles, counts, and the Carpathians), but also the more modern stereotype kicked off by the juggernaut series of novels from Anne Rice -- to show what kinds of vamp characters are open for play in a modern setting.

Storyline Sourcebooks

I don't know exactly when the storyline sourcebook can be considered to have started. Some might point to Ravenloft and of course the Dragonlance series of modules, some might cite Paizo's Adventure Paths, others might cite the influence of the Storyteller folks at White Wolf. Or we might go back to some of the earliest D&D modules and revisit them as disguised storylines. In any case, I always looked for some kind of our adventure support in an RPG.

When I think of this type of sourcebook, I think of popular choices like Call of Cthulhu's Masks of Nyarlathotep, Warhammer Fantasy's The Enemy Within, and Shadowrun's epic Universal Brotherhood. But I also think of the Fading Suns shards, the Cyberpunk collection of adventures titled Tales from the Forlorn Hope, and the Over The Edge adventures.

NPC Sourcebooks

Normally tied into one of the other sourcebooks, sometimes they come out with these: sources of NPCs. Sometimes they're combinations of allies, enemies, and neutrals. Over the Edge had a killer collection of characters -- all with interesting names -- not only in one sourcebook, but also in their CCG!

But sometimes they're all enemies like WOTC's excellent 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms sourcebook Champions of Darkness, or the series of Enemies sourcebooks from Hero Games.

I don't really see that many of these, but it's hard to actually come up with interesting characters in this situation. Super-villains tend to try to cover all bases, but definitely end up with some that will never be used. Is it the same for other genres?


So far, the non-rules expansion sourcebooks essentially break down into
  • character
  • plot and metaplot
  • setting and milieu
where are all very much story-related, but they can be considered as ways of bolstering certain aspects of an adventure or story that a GM needs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Weis Strategy? Events for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

The news article on the Margaret Weis website regarding future releases for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying reports something interesting:
Each MARVEL HEROES Event builds on the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game and best-selling Marvel publishing events to provide a complete open-ended super hero game experience. The Event Book is the central product, with Event Supplements adding characters and expanding play.

Essential Editions are full color casebound hardcovers priced at 29.99 and include a full MARVEL HEROES campaign, with character rosters, locations, and expanded rules. Best value for those who already have the Operations Manual from the MARVEL HEROES Basic Game.

Premium Editions are full color prestige hardcovers priced at 39.99 and include all the Essentials Edition content plus the Operations Manual and additional resources.

If I understand this correctly, Premium Editions essentially reprint the entire Operations Manual from the Basic Game in addition to the full 'campaign' material for the Event in question.

In contrast, Essential Editions do not include the Operations Manual -- which is great for all the people who got it with the Basic Game.

What does this mean?
  • Premium Editions are essentially 'complete RPGs' with core rules + additional rules + setting + timelines + characters.
  • Essential Editions are the equivalent of a standard RPG sourcebook, with additional rules + setting + timeline + characters.
Interesting strategy to tackle the non-RPG market of Marvel Super-hero fans. Let's see if it works.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Enigmundia: Pagan Spells -- Light, Continual Light, Magic Missile, and Protection from Evil

Here are four spells that have one god in common -- one god with different epithets.

The god is known as Apollo Phoebus, who is interesting because he is one of the few gods who had no direct equivalent during the transition from the Parthenian Age to the Imperian Age. His Parthenian name was Apollo; his Imperian names included Apollo Phoebus (in his aspect as god of light) and Apollo Helius (in his aspect as god of the sun.

There are other reputed invocations that call upon Helios and Sol as sole names, not as epithets of Apollo -- most of them deal with aspects of the power of the sun.

For now, let's take a look at how Light & Magic Missile are handled as part of the Imperian magical tradition.

Light (1) and Continual Light (2)

Invocations to the spells for Light and Continual Light are to Apollo Phoebus, which is a source of surprise to many. As god of light, it would seem that granting Continual Light would be an easier spell to cast, but it is theorized that all gods are concerned about granted permanence to their spells being to easy. Another theory is that the prison that binds the old gods makes such permanent boons difficult, hence the presence of the easier to cast Light spell.

Magic Missile (1)

There are many distance spells open to mages, but one of the most dangerous and accurate spells is magic missile. The signifier of light-kissed arrows flying unerringly to their target is a sure sign of Apollo Aphetor -- his aspect as god of archery.

Protection from Evil (1)

As Apollo Alexicacus, his aspect as protector and warder against evil, comes to the fore. Mages with a number of spells already from his portfolio tend to call upon him for this spell, as they have already formed a familiarity with his particular brand of power.

However, most mages seem to prefer to spread their invocations across several sources -- there are rumors of benefits and banes to spellcasters that tend to favor a single source.

My Fiction Online: Triskaidekaturions

I guess that running a modern horror game, but with a slightly more light-hearted touch, has been with me for a while.

My prior posts on The Laundry RPG reminded me about a short story I'd written a while back and was published just last September 2011: Triskaidekaturions.

I used the (slightly misspelled) name I'd come up with for an even older post on Campaign Premises.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On the Radar: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying available in PDF

Close on the heels of several releases for their Leverage RPG, Margaret Weis Productions has come out with their RPG for the Marvel Universe built using the Cortex System.

It's called Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Basic Game, and I hope to tell you all more about it when I finish reading it.

Fine, I'll say it: Excelsior!

Monday, February 20, 2012

On the Radar: Seeker the RPG

When I used to frequent Game Stores, there were RPGs that would catch my eye, ones that -- based on cover and backcover blurbs -- were totally not my thing to run, but would be interested in trying out once with a good GM; ones that, if it wasn't wrapped in plastic, I'd be intrigued enough to pick up and leaf through to see if the text would convince me to buy it.

Seeker would've been one of those RPGs. Check out the blurb:
Seeker is a role-playing game of wandering mystics and philosophers on the back roads of the rural US.
  • A complete role playing game. No other products needed to play.
  • Uses ORC-L, the lite version of Organic Rule Components, designed for quick character creation and light or live action play.
  • Play PCs from any background, tradition or philosophical viewpoint.
  • Each character approaches enlightenment, self-improvement or wisdom in their own unique way, and each gains unique abilities from it.
  • Contains “Weaponized Honeybees,” a complete introductory adventure.
  • Although Seekers’ adventures may take them anywhere, extensive information is given on small-town America and the secrets and dangers one may find there.
And there's a game system too! I'd be curious about it. It comes across as potentially very touchy-feely, but I get the feeling that trouble on the backroads of America isn't all going to be hugs and kisses.

Seems like a good resource to meld with Weird Adventures, primarily for the urban legends and telling details of road travel in North America. Of course, I wouldn't know since I can't say anything about what's actually inside the book.

And it seems like Vajra Enterprises (Vajra? Not to show my complete cultural ignorance, but wasn't that the Tibetan name of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt?) has several other games and sourcebooks out as well, and they seem intriguing. In the old days, they'd never get shelf space -- now they have to contend with being drowned in the huge catalogs of online stores. And honestly, what genre is this going to be filed under?

If it were fiction, we'd say contemporary fantasy (not urban, given the road-based theme), but where do you find that on DriveThruRPG? Tear through the huge number of items under the Fantasy category?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Want a $10 gift certificate? Identify these quotes

The first person to correctly identify the movies that the following quotes appear in -- and post their answers in the comments -- gets a $10 gift certificate to DriveThruRPG. When I declare the winner, I'll need to ask for your e-mail address so the folks at DriveThruRPG can e-mail you their gift certificate.

1. "'Tis but a scratch."
2. "When someone asks you if you're a god, you say: yes!"
3. "If it bleeds, we can kill it."
4. "What is steel, compared to the hand that wields it?"
5. "Lo, there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning."
6. "Stay frosty."
7. "Who is this? What is your operating number?"
8. "This is my boomstick!"
9. "Target that explosion, and fire."
10. "One shall stand; one shall fall."

How is this related to gaming? Well, these are semi-common to pretty common movie quotes that I've heard at gaming conventions and with my old gaming group. It's true that some of these films have more commonly quoted quotes, but hey, didn't want it to be a cakewalk.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My OGG's House Rules for HERO 5th Edition

Yes, I know HERO System is now on 6th Edition.

But my old gaming group (OGG) is still on 5th Edition, with a few tweaks as listed below, for reasons listed below as well.

Why am I reviewing them? I'm building some NPCs for them, and sending them some of my old PCs rebuilt. For the heck of it. What the heck, I'm diving into it already for Weird Adventures.

House Rule 1

No Megascale.

I assume that this is because it's too cheap, and my buddies are classic rules, uh, lawyers.

House Rule 2

+1 stun multiplier is 1/2 advantage not 1/4.
"The new 5th edition rules make +1/4 advantage for +1 stun but most of us agree that its a ridiculous thing to do. Imagine 30 points 1d6 RKA +4 STUN. It makes for a very unbalancing campaign. It really needs to stay at +1/2 advantage."

"Imagine the following 105 Active Point power:

1d6 ReKA NND Autofire AE (1 Hex), 0 End, +10 STUN multiple

That will average, if you have an 11 OCV and get 44 STUN per hit, with 5 hits (average roll hits the hex 5 times) doing 220 STUN or 110 STUN if you have 1/2 Reduction.

Same cost as a 7d6 Killing Attack, which averages 24.5 BODY and 74 STUN against which defenses are applied.

If you look at the same Active Points (105) with the same Advantages, except no extra STUN multiple, you get almost a 1 1/2d6 or 2d6-1 Killing Attack (this would actually cost 112 points), averaging 16 STUN per hit for 80 STUN total or 40 vs 1/2 Reduction.

Even less reasonable, in a low powered game (60-70 Active Points max), you could buy the first power at 1d6-1 and hit 70 Active Points averaging 32 STUN per hit or 160 STUN total for the 5 hits - destructive in the extreme in a low powered game."

House Rule 3

Old school multipower rules: the Active Points of a power can never exceed the Active Points of a reserve, and you can have as many Real Points active as you have points in your reserve.

For example, for a 60 point reserve you could have two 60 point slots each with a one limitation on at the same time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Things we don't handle in RPGs (usuallly)

In the past (and in the present, and I'm sure, in the future), there have been many discussions on realism / plausibility in RPG systems.

Which is fine -- we do shoot for some kind of internal consistency and some kind of congruence to the reality we're trying to emulate (real world physics, TV physics, movie physics, fiction physics).

There are some things that we don't tackle because, really, part of the game is an escape from reality. You can talk about how (like other media) RPG holds up a mirror to our reality, helps us realize truths, and so on and so forth, but you can't get away from the fact that we're selective about what truths we try to tackle. For example:
  • how often do your PCs have to answer the call of nature?
  • how often do they suffer from colds or the flu?
  • how often do they catch an unforeseen mundane disease and die from it?
  • how often do PCs deal with things like cancer, heart problems, gout, and so on -- unless they get points from it in a point-buy system?
RPGs are a selective reality, and I'm comfortable ignoring certain things from 'real life' because -- the dignity and wonder of the human condition aside -- sometimes it can be a real drag.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

D&D 5E designers check out Trail of Cthulhu, D&D 0E to 4E, and Pathfinder

Looks like he used Non-Euclidean dice
for his saving throw. Rookie mistake.
According to a thread on Yog-Sothoth.com, which was apparently based on some "questions from the audience" session that the D&D 5E game designers held, the D&D 5E game designers have played a variety of games as part of their research work.

Those games include:
  • video games - Call of Duty, Skyrim
  • boardgames - Lord of the Rings confrontation
  • D&D editions - "every edition of D&D and Pathfinder"
  • RPGs - Pathfinder, Trail of Cthulhu

In response, Robin D. Laws held forth on his blog regarding his input on the investigation mechanic and something called the "Whiff factor" as an insight into the Trail of Cthulhu investigation mechanic and as cautionary advice on utilizing it for something like combat.

For folks uninterested in the discussions at those sites, here are some choice quotes and re-quotes:

D&D seminar Q&A

What are you guys playing that's not D&D?

Call of Duty, Skyrim, Trail of Cthulhu, Lord of the Rings Confrontation.
In the run-up to D&D Next we played every edition of D&D and Pathfinder.

Monte Cook

A couple of days ago I talked a little bit about how we want the core mechanic of the game to be the interaction between the DM and the player. And one of the great tools for that is the ability score. So what we want is to empower DMs and players so that if you want to attempt to do something "I want to open the door" then the DM doesn' t have to even have you roll, he can just look, see you have a 17 strength and says "Yeah, you burst through that door". We want to get past some of the mundane rolls and not tie up a lot of table time with that and move on to the more interesting stuff and the table narrative.

Bruce Cordell

An example I saw yesterday was a rogue going into a room and looking for traps. You can describe what you're doing and roleplay what you're doing. If he says I look in the jar and I know there's a gem in the jar, I'm not going to have him roll. However, if something is more hidden, like a secret compartment on the shelf I would look at their intelligence and see if he can just automatically find it or if he's looking in the exact right place. However, if he's doing that check in the middle of some other stressor like fighting, then I'd have him roll.  

Rob Schwalb

Earlier this week I had some players fighting some kobolds in the room. One of the guys wanted to jump over a pit, he had a 15 strength so I let him just do it - it wasn't that big of a jump and it sped up combat. It's very liberating to be able to do that kind of thing and just keep the flow going.

Robin D. Laws

The pacing of roleplaying sessions improves when the GM follows a simple principle: never ask for a roll if failure would lead to a dead end or other uninteresting result. This principle appears in various guises in GUMSHOE, HeroQuest, and the 4e Dungeon Master’s Guide 2. Sometimes though... it becomes important to distinguish between an uninteresting result and a setback that makes the player unhappy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Modern Era Classes -- Having Weird Adventures

Not as clumsy or random
as a pistol or a barrel-fed
tommy gun.
I've been thinking about this for a while -- what kind of classes or character templates does the Weird Adventures setting call for?

As a mash-up of traditional fantasy RPGs and a more modern pulpy feel, it makes sense that the classes would have a little of both. So I racked my brain for the very basic types of classes or templates on both sides.

For fantasy, it would seem that you'd have the basic fighter, mage, cleric, thief contingent along with their respective variants. For pulp, it's a little bit less defined; the modern world is rife with strange backgrounds and combinations of talents and skills and professions.

Since I decided to use the Hero System anyway for this exercise, the wide variety of possible classes isn't a problem. It's finding those sets of archetypes that are appropriate for the genre. And that starts with the basic campaign frame or the types of adventures you're looking at having. Let's start with the classic types of D&D adventures and see what Weird mash-ups we can inject into them.

Dungeon Adventures

For dungeons set in the wilderness, these could be your basic criminal overlord lairs, your strange tribes of creatures preying on nearby settlements, your awakening evil stirring, your portal to a strange underground world, your journey to the center of the earth (or hollow world)!

This was an awesome series of Tintin meets Cthulhu
Mythos faux covers. Maybe hecan do Tintin in
classic D&D modules as well?
For dungeons set in the cities, sewers and subways immediately come to mind. In addition to any of the options above, you can have underground communities that run by different rules from the surface world, and perhaps some strange remnants of a wondrous, long-forgotten era in the city's past that has found new uses by less than scrupulous inheritors.

Wilderness Adventures

Weird Adventures has a lot of interesting options for these. Monster hunting springs to mind, as does extending the reach of civilization into wild areas. Investigating strange rumors for wealth, power, knowledge or science are more than sufficient motivators for expeditions -- and expeditions to other lands or lost civilizations are a staple of both FRPGs and Pulp RPGs!

City Adventures

There's no shortage of story hooks for this (you've read Weird Adventures, right?), but the types of non-dungeon adventures I'd run would include the monster-loose-in-the-city trope, the city-predators-in-disguise trope, the series-of-strange-crimes trope, the find-the-macguffin trope, the murder-mystery trope, the break-the-curse trope, the race-to-get-all-the-pieces trope, the stranger-dies-and-passes-on-the-mystery trope, the dude/damsel-in-distress trope, it just goes on.

Okay, I think I've got a better handle on it. Next step is to come up with a campaign frame or two and start listing classes / templates.

Enigmundia: Pagan Spells -- Charm Person, Protection from Evil, Sleep

My prior post on mage spells powered by pagan gods tackled three 1st level spells and one 2nd level spell. Here are three more by different gods.

Charm Person (1)

It should come as no surprise that Venus is the primary source of sudden charm. Given her powers, her past, and her nature, the only surprise seems to be that the spell is so subtle in its effects. Those who've endured its effects in the name of mystical inquiry have stated that the caster seemed to have suddenly become more attractive and worthy of friendship, and that romantic or sexual thoughts were only at the very edges of consciousness. Her patronage is often signified by the scent of rosewater and myrtle.

This effect is similar to another favorite patron for this spell: Bacchus. Victims of this flavor of the spell have mentioned experiencing a strong but ultimately fleeting bond of friendship with the caster, much like one who has shared a round of strong drink with a group of strangers and have become fast friends. The feeling of friendship evaporates in the same way that the prior night's drunken memories fade and are gone. His patronage is signified by the faint scent of wine that grows stronger as the spell nears its end.

Protection from Evil (1)

Terminus, god of boundaries, is often called upon to define the limits of property and location. Though fairly focused, his power and authority afford an easily tapped set of spells -- such as this one -- for mages.

No visible signs are shown, though ghostly boundary markers appear briefly when the protection is triggered by need.

As an aside, Terminus is also often called upon when inscribing certain magic circles or sacred geometry.

Sleep (1)

Because the name of the god is synonymous (in ancient Imperian) with the common name of the spell, many mages are unaware of the patron of this spell: Somnus.

Somnus is the god of sleep, and ruler of a vast land of dreams, chimeras, and nightmares in the Underworld. He belongs to a set of gods (known in the Parthenian tongue as the Demos Oneiroi) of that place not directly related to death or hell, and raises the eyes of many scholars and mystics regarding our understanding of those vast unknown depths. They have been mentioned elsewhere in this blog as Hypnos, Morpheus, Phobetor and Phantasus.

For this spell, in the caster's shadow, appear to wings briefly stretch and move, arising from the caster's shoulder or brow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Enigmundia: Wands, Rods, and Staves revisited

In an earlier post on mage culture, I talked about wands, rods, and staves.

That philosophy tends to be the case for the male mages in particular. Many female mages follow a different tradition. Wands tend to be wielded for purposes of creation, Rods tend to be wielded for purposes of detection, measurement, management, or control. Staves tend to be used for destruction.

This is because these women look to the Parcae -- the Fates -- for their inspiration and resonant sources of power.

The wands tend to evoke the look of a stylized spindle, reminiscent of Nona, who spins the thread of life. As per her name, there tend to be nine of something in the patterns of the wands.

The rods tend to evoke the look of a measuring rod, reminiscent of Decima, who measures the length of each thread of life. As per her name, there tend to be ten of something in the pattern of the rods.

The staves are the most distinctive, because they are stylized to look like long, closed sets of scissors sheathed in a scabbard of sorts. This is reminiscent of Morta, who cuts the threads of life. Patterns of skulls tend to adorn these staves.

Their light weight tends to suggest a lighter material transformed into wood or metal.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Armchair Reviews: The Laundry RPG

The Laundry RPG is based on the series of novels, novellas, and short stories by Charles Stross that detail the adventures of "Bob Howard" in a setting that mixes espionage, office bureaucracy, math, computer theory, geek culture, and unspeakable gods.

Now, since I like the series, it stands to reason that I'd be predisposed to an RPG set in its milieu.

However, I have to say that I also like the RPG on its own merits. Here are the reasons why.


The book / PDF document has a great feel to it, as the layout has the look of a dossier of material. While most of the fonts are the same, there are 'paper-clipped' photos and annotations in different paper types and fonts to reinforce that feeling.


The style of writing is clear and clean, with a mixture of exposition and explanation and just enough of the humor and informality to be The Laundry. It doesn't dip into Stross's tendency to throw sink-or-swim bits of espionage telling detail or mathematical esoterica that work so well in the fiction, but would leave gamers screaming bloody murder.

Updated Character Creation

It looks similar to the fast character creation rules in Call of Cthulhu, and it should -- The Laundry RPG uses the same Basic Role-Playing system. However, there are some modifications and additions to that process.

Characteristic Rolls -- back in the day, there were only Knowledge Rolls, Idea Rolls, and Luck rolls that were all percentile chances based on a STATx5 formula. Now there are Effort Rolls, Endurance Rolls, Agility Rolls and Influence Rolls, also based on the same formula. I like it, because it makes attributes faster than the old method of referring to the Resistance Table (which still exists, but only for instances with opposing difficulties).

Personality Types and Assignment & Training -- in COC, your Profession determined your primary skill set. Now you have Personality Types and Assignment & Training which do the same thing, but with different rationale. This fits in with the Laundry getting people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and then shoehorning them into the org because they know too damn much about the wrong things.

Possessions -- you get some default equipment based on your work in the Laundry and your various skillsets.

Great Setting Resources

Chapters Nine, Twelve, and Thirteen give great starting background material for folks unfamiliar with U.K. government intelligence institutions and their international counterparts, and the Laundry itself, of course.

Chapters Nineteen and Twenty-One define some pretty important code words in the Laundry setting: BLUE HADES, DEEP SEVEN, GORGONS, and of course, CODE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Chapters Ten, Eleven, and Fifteen share some of the gear and flavor of working in an occult espionage agency plagued by modern views of bureaucratic best practice.

Chapter Fourteen is a welcome chapter, as it deals with magic. Devotees of the series know that magic isn't as per traditional Cthulhu spellcrafting goes -- there's a layer of mind-straining electromagnetic and mathematical theory on it. Here's where we get to differentiate between mathematical sorcery, traditional sorcery, and the enigmatically named true sorcery. Also, some spells that are mentioned in the books make an appearance here.

Chapter Eighteen has the statted-out characters that appear in the series, as is tradition for many IP-related sourcebooks. What is great is the inclusion of stats for generic support personnel (Plumbers, Cleaners, Baggers, and Toshers) -- unlike the more maverick and isolated cell-structures of the American-based Delta Green RPG / sourcebook, the Laundry is an organization that supports its personnel as much as it tortures them.

Overall, a great book! I just wish that the PDF had a better set of bookmarks.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pagan Magic-users: Pythagorian Mathemagicians

Unlike the clerics of the Pio Familia, the Magic-Users of Enigmundia do not worship the gods of the lost Imperium -- nor do they view them as such. Most of them were inculcated into the mysteries of magic in a very rigorous manner similar to the Pythagorian Mystery Cult.

They are taught the secrets of mystic geometry, drilled in the domains and limits of the various entities and intelligences that were known as Gods of the Imperium, and learn the formulae that allow them to tap those sources of power and influence for their own use. When casting spells, their words and thoughts consist of petitions to the Gods of the Imperium, numbers, equations, geometric patterns, ideal geometric solids, harmonic theory, resonance, pitch progression, and octaves.

Minerva is one of the primary entities that is called upon with regularity, due to her influence over magic, her preference for calculated offensives over brute force, as well as the legendary shield that she owned and wielded. 

Janus is another primary entity whose power is tapped, primarily as an Opener of Doors -- most spells ask for mystical portals to be opened to the primary entity and allow their influence to be felt in the world. 

Terminus is another primary entity called upon. His affinity over boundaries synergizes with the mystic geometry and keeps the powers of tapped entities bounded within acceptable parameters -- ones that do not risk the ire of the dominant Gods; ones that do not accidentally leave unwanted resonances on the places and people affected by the powers called upon; ones that do not seek to rouse the sleeping Gods of the Imperium from their stygian prisons. Of course, less scrupulous magic-users look for ways to replace Terminus in their modified spellcraft -- but only the most intelligent and learned tend to survive this risky tinkering with age-old mathemagical formulae.

Many Magic-Users subscribe to the belief in souls; it is certainly part of their official training. Some are driven to learn the secrets that will allow them control over these souls and memories once their mortal shells pass on; others seek to extend the durability of their bodies beyond natural lifespans; still others seek to bind their souls to other things that don't wear away.

Enigmundia: Pagan Spells -- Detect & Read Magic, Hold Portal and Knock

As I mentioned in my post regarding Wizards and their pagan sources of power, I decided to embark on a series of spells and my suggested patron pagan gods.

In Enigmundia, the equivalent of the Roman Empire -- the Imperium -- had a policy of integrating the portfolio of the gods from their conquered lands into their pantheon. To that end, all my suggested patron pagan gods per spell will be Roman.

Detect Magic (1) & Read Magic (1)

It stands to reason that a spell granting the ability to detect magic would derive power from a deity that has magic in her portfolio. In the Imperium pantheon, that would be Minerva.

Analogous to the Greek Pallas Athena, Minerva is a virgin goddess whose aspects include the portfolios of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts and magic. She can therefore be the entity tapped for any magic spell, but given that magic is one of her portfolios, she is most often the one called upon by ancient rote rituals for these spells.

A signifier tends to be present when spells are called upon for this effect. I suggest the ghostly image of an owl hovering near the wizards when the spell is cast.

Hold Portal (1) & Knock (2)

Because Janus is set over doorways, doors, gates, beginnings, endings, and transitions -- he can be tapped for the ability to hold a given portal.

For each spell, the spell caster calls upon a specific aspect of Janus.

  • Hold Portal calls upon Janus Clusius (Janus as the Guardian of Closed Doors)
  • Knock calls upon Janus Patulcius (Janus as the Guardian of Open Doors)

For signifiers of Janus, normally the door is sufficient -- but at higher levels, a ghostly spinning coin is sometimes visible during the casting, showing the two faces of Janus on either side. It stops on the aspect of Clusius or Patulcius depending on the spell cast.

NOTE: I updated this post because I woke up this morning and noticed that it kind of trailed off. Never post under the influence of pain medication, I say.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Armchair Reviews: NeoExodus -- A House Divided Campaign Setting

Here's my review for this surprising document from LPJ Design: NeoExodus -- A House Divided Campaign Setting.
You should pick up NeoExodus. It should matter to me that it's written for Pathfinder -- a game system I don't follow. But in the modern RPG era of D&D retroclones, neoclones, alterclones and the multiplicity of game systems that evolved from the D20 explosion, it shouldn't really matter. It's a setting that is both packed with history and detail in almost every corner of its universe, but has been constructed to allow minor additions and major game changers to its setting.

Quite possibly the first thing that should be read is not the history, but Page 24: Unique Elements of NeoExodus. It gives the broadstrokes approach that was taken for the creation of the setting, and it feels like they kept referring to it as they lovingly created every bit of it. Here they are in condensed form:

NeoExodus is...

... a world full of magic.
... a world built on epic adventures, heroic quests, and valiant expeditions into the unknown.
... is a setting of unique empires and nations with their own sovereign rights, powers, and issues.
... is a world that is rarely a peace for long.
... mixes traditional fantasy, horror, magic, modern politics, and science fiction.
... is full of all new unique races.
... is a world built on conspiracies, deception, and intrigue.

Everything has a place in NeoExodus.

In terms of production values, I compare it favorably to the Forgotten Realms 3E setting book and the Forgotten Realms supplement Lords of Darkness combined, but infused with the subversive fantasy settings like Talislanta, the over-the-top high magic terror of Arduin, the epic feel of the early Exalted line, and the anything-can-show-up vibe of Rifts.

The art is fantastic and yet labors to give a real sense of an alternative fantasy world without straying too much from what you look for in the genre. The stat blocks and data tables for character classes, races, nations, and other information necessary for making this setting your own are nicely laid out and are very readable.

This isn't something you skim over. This is a book you read from cover to cover -- though I obviously have opinions as to the best sequence to read the chapters -- to identify the things you want to emphasize, and craft your campaign around those elements, leaving the rest of extraneous campaign flavor.

I want to go on longer about specific races that I find cool, about the nations that really speak to me in terms of campaign potential, about historical elements that would have a wealth of plot devices to kick off any number of adventures -- but I think I'd go on too long.

This is one of my favorite type of kitchen sink settings (a term I tend to in my blog -- armchairgamer.blogspot.com -- to refer to settings that have been crafted to allow almost any type of element into it from its genre, or even from other genres). It is a kitchen sink setting that can manage to retain its own identity when other non-native elements are shoved in; any number of rationales -- from the Gates to the high magic running through the setting -- can be brought to bear.

And even if the setting isn't for you, you can mine it for monsters, races, and campaign ideas for years.

I do love the art, despite the tendency to become too cartoony anime-ish at times (I prefer the anime styles in fantasy that approach, but don't necessarily hit, photorealistic), because of the way it drives home the cross-genre, pseudo-gonzo feel of the setting. I like the stat blocks for the political entities, I like Cyneans (crystalline scholars), Dalreans (sentient, mobile plants that can apparently use bows and arrows -- sort of like humans attacking with primate bones, I guess), I like the succinct 5-level progression prestige classes in general. I'm not a fan of too many feats in a D20 / 3E game, but I did like the spells and the monsters in this book.

A link between Orcs and Orcus

According to the Wikipedia page on Orcus, the name for Orcs seems to have come from Orcus. I'm sure someone else out there in bloglandia already made this discovery, but it's news to me!

Here are the relevant passages (as of today, anyway) from the Orcus article:

From Orcus' association with death and the underworld, his name came to be used for demons and other underworld monsters, particularly in Italian where orco refers to a kind of monster found in fairy-tales that feeds on human flesh. The French word ogre (appearing first in Charles Perrault's fairy-tales) may have come from variant forms of this word, orgo or ogro; in any case, the French ogre and the Italian orco are exactly the same sort of creature. An early example of an orco appears in Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, as a bestial, blind, tusk-faced monster inspired by the Cyclops of the Odyssey; this orco should not be confused with the orca, a sea-monster also appearing in Ariosto.
This orco was the inspiration to J. R. R. Tolkien's orcs in his The Lord of the Rings. In a text published in The War of the Jewels, Tolkien stated:
Note. The word used in translation of Q[uenya] urko, S[indarin] orch, is Orc. But that is because of the similarity of the ancient English word orc, 'evil spirit or bogey', to the Elvish words. There is possibly no connexion between them. The English word is now generally supposed to be derived from Latin Orcus.
Also, in an unpublished letter sent to Gene Wolfe, Tolkien also made this comment:[2]
Orc I derived from Anglo-Saxon, a word meaning demon, usually supposed to be derived from the Latin Orcus—Hell. But I doubt this, though the matter is too involved to set out here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Enigmundia: Clerics are Believers, Wizards are Pagans

As I was reading the latest post from Blood of Prokopius tangentially related to the Civilization vs. Wilderness concept, I returned to an old idea that I'd forgotten.

Assuming a centralized, established, hierarchical church, Clerics have divine rituals that grant boons and supernatural effects, while Mages have systematized pagan rituals that draw on fallen, yet bound gods (or demons, if you will) for their preternatural effects. In Enigmundia, I was planning on having the fallen gods represent spirits and angels and laws that were set over aspects of Creation by the One God, and when they rebelled and were replaced, their innate ability to bend the rules of Creation became accessible by supplicants who know the old ways.

Introducing this concept into a campaign will naturally drive a wedge between cleric PCs and wizard PCs, though perhaps not so much in the early levels. This can lead to a nice "we were friends once, but even then he'd already started down the wrong path" vibe for the cleric, and a similar reaction from the wizard once they hit name level.

Another twist that this can add is the extra layer of complexity to the cosmology of deities and devils: who is the established god or pantheon? who are the fallen pagan gods that still grant power through spells (answering through specific, jealously-guarded formulas that have survived the religious purges)? who are the demons and devils that may have one or two spells mixed into the wizardly body of work?

It can also explain why there are certain new spells or spell variants -- it's from a different fallen god, it's a different sect worshiping the same god, it's a new version that allows the fallen god to break the bonds that imprison it, etc.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Congratulations to Adventurer Conqueror King!

Well, hello!

According to both RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, Adventurer Conqueror King has placed 2nd and 3rd respectively on their Hottest Items charts.

Congratulations! For more info, check out the Autarch website. But here's the product blurb:

Your Journey from Adventurer to King Begins Now!

Enter a world where empires totter on the brink of war, and terrible monsters tear at the fragile borderlands of men; where decaying cities teem with chaos and corruption, nubile maidens are sacrificed to chthonic cults and nobles live in decadent pleasure on the toil of slaves; where heroes, wizards, and rogues risk everything in pursuit of glory, fortune, and power. This is a world where adventurers can become conquerors – and conquerors can become kings.
Will you survive the perils of war and dark magic to claim a throne? Or will you meet your fate in a forgotten ruin beyond the ken of men?
The Adventurer Conqueror King System™ (ACKS) is a new fantasy role-playing game that provides the framework for epic fantasy campaigns with a sweeping scope. With the Adventurer Conqueror King System™ you can:
  • Play 12 different classes, including the fighter, mage, thief, cleric, assassin, bard, bladedancer, explorer, dwarven craftpriest, dwarven vaultguard, elven nightblade, and elven spellsword.
  • Easily customize your character using a unique, optional proficiency system. Make your fighter a berserker or your mage a necromancer!
  • Buy, sell, and trade common merchandise, precious silks and spices, and even monster parts and magic items in a balanced and integrated game economy.
  • Construct strongholds, establish kingdoms, and carve out a realm for your character.
  • Run a thieves' guild and send your minions to carouse, smuggle, steal, and commit other hijinks.
  • Establish a wizard's sanctum and explore the forbidden arts. Crossbreed horrific monsters in an underground laboratory, enact powerful magical rituals, build golems, craft magic items, or even transform yourself and your followers into undead monsters.
  • Build and run a living world for adventure on a grand scale. With game mechanics built to support emergent play, ACKS is the ultimate RPG for sandbox campaigns.
Whether you want to crawl through dungeons, trade with merchant caravans, run a merchant emporium, conquer an empire, or even raise an undead legion, ACKS supports your playstyle with simple, fast-playing game mechanics.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fun with Acronyms -- February Edition

Do you know what the following acronyms stand for in their respective RPGs?
  1. AD&D - AC - Armor Class
  2. Marvel Super-Heroes - FEATs - Function of Exceptional Ability or Talent
  3. Hero System - OCV - Offensive Combat Value
  4. Rifts - MDC - Mega-Damage Capacity
  5. Cyberpunk - SP - Stopping Power
  6. D&D - hp - hit points
  7. Top Secret - AOK - Areas of Knowledge
  8. Action System - TN - Target Number
  9. Silhouette System - MoS - Margin of Success
  10. Palladium - PP - either Power Points or Physical Prowess
UPDATE (07 Feb 2012)
Added the answers above, in a hard to read font -- just select 'em for the answers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Civilization vs. Borderlands; Village vs. Wilderness

In an earlier post on fun in D&D, I mentioned touched on the adolescent power fantasy and the ability to explore different personas as one of the fun things in the game.

One of the dangers here is, of course, reinforcing certain behaviors that are supposedly not acceptable in normal society. This includes being rewarded for following tenets like "might makes right" and "if no one else sees it, it didn't happen".

Well, yes, as adults we know that these tenets have some truth to them; as kids -- in much the same way that we devour rulebooks on the 'right way' to play the D&D game -- we are looking for instruction. As kids, we want black and white answers, clear black lines that divide one thing from another; as adults we're hard-pressed sometimes to say, when we're in a certain shade of grey, 'this far, no further'.

This is one of the great things about two of the classic modules of D&D -- B2: Keep On The Borderlands and T1: The Village of Hommlet -- that makes for an interesting comparison between civilization and the borderlands, between the village and the wilderness.

It can be very liberating to adventure in the wilderness -- there are no rules other than outfight, outwit, outlast. The party (and sometimes the individual PCs) are only answerable to themselves. Unless the GM is strict about the cleric's doctrine, there is no higher power other than the PCs and their opposition. Alignments may define what's right and what's wrong for some, but ultimately there is no god, there is no law, there is no 3rd party saying "you done wrong, bud; you gotta pay".

Heading back to civilization -- the village, the town, the city -- is a return to a society that we're somewhat familiar with. It may not have CCTV cameras, but it does have a neighborhood watch; it may not have a fully-funded police force, but it does have a militia or city guard; it may not have overworked judges in criminal courts, but it does have local laws and customs that are enforced by the community. Sometimes this fact is skipped over; the village is just a place to rest, eat, buy food, replenish supplies and improve weapons, and head back out again.

In B2, it's a bastion of order against the chaotic hordes at the border of the realm. You can bet that the rule of law and the maintenance of order is important there -- misbehaving or unruly visitors may find that the community there, regardless of alignment, doesn't like a party of adventurers throwing their weight around. In T1, not all of the residents are obsessed with keeping the peace or the status quo, but are protected by the civil nature of the village, by their reputations, and by an unspoken 'we know him and her, we don't know you' view of the outsider PCs who might start slinging accusations without proof.

This contrast can really be played up to great effect for players. It helps place into stark relief why civilization is sometimes beneficial and sometimes a bane to the individual.

It will also help players come to grips with moral questions and quandries, without necessarily giving black & white answers. And it may teach us something about human nature -- about a sense of identity separate from what other people tell us we are or should be.

As Lord Whorfin said in the cult movie Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension, "Character is what you are in the dark."

In the dark dungeons of D&D, sometimes it is the bright light of personal identity and personal choice that shines the brightest during gameplay.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Isle Imperium: Episode 1.20 -- The Coming of Chaos

Let the Numbers fall where they may when
they are sent on missions.
As the party is swarmed and nearly overcome by the avenging horde of bluetongues, things go from bad to even worse with the sudden arrival of Chaos’s LADY BLIGHT and her troop, comprising TISIPHONE, Carnifex Black; ARIADNE, Beloved of Spiders; and CARESS of the Pallid. The bluetongues are decimated and various terrible effects are visited upon the party by dint of the quartet’s mere presence, and one of them coolly disintegrates ALECTO’S left leg, as she realizes she has been singled out because this particular group once held Sanomagus prisoner for 300 to 30,000 years. Fortunately, MANTIUS is able to draw upon his abilities as Renegade Warder to get himself, CATALINA, and VARIAN (who has realized with dismay that “All Saints is already theirs”) out of the area, which is rapidly being altered to suit the preferences of the blue.

The trio arrives in a gray between-space, in which Mantius promptly goes into a sort of trance in order to resolve a matter of karmic debt. In response to the army-wide alert and mission abort heard by both Cat and Mantius earlier, a rescue team of warders soon appears, comprising TOLIRUS, AENEAS, ELINORA, TERENTIUS, ALOYSIUS, and ORANA, the Copper Tear Helm Warder of the Seventh. After some debate—during which Orana attempts to coerce shards out of Catalina and is soundly rebuffed and eventually slapped by Elinora—the team, now including Cat, resolves to rescue the party members left behind in Charexes, leaving Aeneas in the between-space to serve as a kind of home base, along with Varian.

The Tearstained Warder goes into a trance state as well, leaving Varian on his own to deal with the scout sent by Tisiphone, a spiky-carapaced creature that is just on the verge of reporting the two warders’ vulnerability to its mistress when it is assaulted by Varian, concealed and protected both by the Saint of Shadows and his own clever use of salt. Sacrificing one of the silence stones to keep the creature speechless, Varian manages to defeat it, rendering it helpless by turning it over on its shell.

Despite Tolirus falling en route and Orana nearly breaking and running, Catalina is able to use her abilities as Unconquered Warder to support the rescue effort, stubbornly denying the very real probabilities of the team’s death, defeat, or even partial failure. When Mantius awakens and sends the Diamond Azure Cloak Warder shard from the between-space to mount Aly, the team is finally able to transport ALINA, ARCTURUS, and DUMAS, as well as all warders—alive if far from well—out.

Spotting Varian’s captive, Mantius realizes that they are still not safe, even in the gray area, and worse, that he will not be able to convey the entire group to the designated extraction point. He is wrestling with the necessity of leaving four behind when he hits upon a practical but unsavory solution—destroying the Geometer shard to enable the number that he needs. With the shard’s unhesitating consent, this is done and the party and warders flee, leaving the Geometer behind, where it makes the most of its sacrifice by detonating Tisiphone’s hapless scout creature.

At the extraction point, Mantius collapses alongside the other warders, leaving Varian once more on his own in the face of the Chaos troop’s rapid pursuit. After some moments of extreme panic, he uses a god-touched leaf to awaken Mantius so that the latter is able to confirm the extraction; and the group escapes at last to safety.

Nearly a month later at Temple Mount, Varian remains unscathed—having thoroughly if worriedly enjoyed the run of the Citadel hospice in his guise as ‘Clemens’-- Aly’s leg has been regrown, and Cat has been restored to human form from her traumatizing but temporary transformation into a shapeless mass of flesh. However, Alina is being held at a separate facility; Dumas remains physically well but unspeaking and unresponsive; Mantius continues to lapse into bouts of frantic shouting about some debt that he promises to pay; and Arc, although recovered from the transmutation of his legs into a mass of tentacles, is in danger of being recommended for removal from service by the Essence Lancer AMIA, on the grounds that stress may cause him to revert.

All but the first of these are instantly resolved, however, when Mantius emerges from his room in apparent full possession of his facilities, thanks the physician while blithely disregarding her reservations, and sweeps his number out of the hospice (including Dumas who, as it turns out, was simply keeping silent by choice). Their warder then makes contact with the Diamond Blood Cloak Warder (since Varian learned that Alina is under the latter’s supervision), whereupon he turns over the Diamond Azure Cloak Warder shard, is granted the opportunity to see Alina in the near future, and learns that:
  • Tolirus is dead, and a cerement will be held in his honor
  • Four unique missions were compromised; those of the Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Numbers, the Tenth having been decimated.
  • Other numbers—particularly their warders—are also in convalescence at Sigil, Water, and Garden Mounts.
  • Diamond Blood Cloak is the assignator of missions.
Having scheduled their visit to Alina, the party hastens to the Emerald Mask Warder to receive their mission rewards, and proceeds to their assigned living quarters to rest and make preparations to attend the cerement.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fun in D&D and AD&D

ZakS and his blog posts on Playing D&D With Porn Stars [sometimes NSFW] usually get me thinking about RPG adventures and scenarios. Occasionally, however, he does post on what I like to call gaming philosophy (because game theory is already an official mathematical term) and RPG theory is short to type but hard to say.

His recent post on Playing D&D With Porn Stars does bring up a lot of long unexamined thoughts on gaming philosophy in my head, but the most important thing that was triggered was an anecdote about someone else's anecdotal evidence that no one had fun playing D&D / AD&D. Please note that this is not the main point of his post, but one of the many bits of story, evidence, and arguments that sum up his thesis.

Anyway, it got me thinking about D&D and the things I found fun about it.

1. Building A Character
It would not surprise people who know my fondness for the Hero System that one of the things I enjoy about AD&D and RPGs in general is the process of building a character. Whether it's character generation (mostly random) or character creation (point-based or priority-driven) or character customization (pick a template, modify it a bit), it's always a fun experience having the physical appearance, mental persona, and personality quirks take shape in your head.

Character generation's randomness is often an exercise in gradually rationalizing good and bad rolls, and slowly building up a mental backstory on how the character came to be represented by these combined stats and these traits.

Character creation often requires that a general character concept is the starting point, often being refined as player runs out of points or resources to make the character as awesome as he/she/it is in the player's imagination.

Character customization, if the template selection is broad enough and the customization is easy but granular enough, can be the fastest route to a defined character. It's akin to being give a broad stroke characterization of the character to start with in fiction, and then being allowed to tweak and add surprises here and there.

The various editions of AD&D have afforded all of these options, and I must admit that I have my preferences per edition. Basic D&D and Advanced D&D is a character generation must for me -- there's no choice, though iron man AD&D may be a bit too much. I remember folks who rolled up hundreds of characters and just played the once with the best stats so things were 'fair'. 3rd Edition is both character creation and character generation for me as a matter of taste -- a lot of your time is already spent optimizing Feats and Skills, so having someone gripe about bad rolls for their character isn't really my thing.

2. Exploration: a journey into fear and wonder
The dungeon crawl is a big part of my enjoyment of the game. I enjoy being presented with scenes like closed doors, darkened hallways, cobweb-covered chambers, shadowy caverns, and twisting passageways. I enjoy trying stuff out -- kicking in doors, grabbing the rusty sword with strange runes, cautiously tapping every other tile to see if it triggers a trap. I enjoy wondering if that really interesting statue is going to be a boon or a bane.

It's nicer if there's some logic, some underlying rationale that you're meant to figure out. Especially if it adds to the wonder -- and the fear that there's something nasty that you have to fight.

3. Combat: killing things
Yeah, so combat gets a bum rap sometimes. Well, a lot of the time. Probably because a lot of the early games centered so much on it -- new monsters to kill, new spells to kill with, new places to kill things in.

But you can only Indiana Jones it for so long, with the traps and the strange artifacts, and dark underground corridors that you're desperately trying to map.

Sometimes you don't want to reason with something, you're just there to kill something -- and doing it by being the smartest, fastest, toughest, and luckiest sumbitch in the dungeon.

It's possible that if the first really popular RPG had been primarily centered around social challenges, political struggles, and mindgames, someone would have invented a combat-heavy "indie RPG" just to for a change of pace.

4. Looting: taking stuff
This gets a bum rap too. But it adds another layer to character progression beyond leveling up.

You get powerful stuff that can be useful in or out of combat. You get more tactical options. You get a free "I'm not going to die just now, thank you" card. You get something with a backstory that you can brag about to players who were there with you, and to players who are hearing it for the first time.

5. Being Awesome. Sometimes. Sorta.
The adolescent power fantasy gets a bit embarrassing, especially if the person enjoying it doesn't seem to appreciate the fact that this awesome hobby is both "really important" and "just a game", the same way that you can be really awesome at your job, but it's just a job.

And yet it's fun when they do appreciate that strange truth. AD&D lets you escape from the world that you live in, lets you become someone who can change the world (eventually), lets you do away with your preferred choice of morality in real life, lets you try out things that you'd never try and see what other players or GMs believe should happen to you.

You could be a thief who always, always steals from the party. You could be a ridiculously straight arrow paladin who imposes his beliefs on others, or a mysterious mage who taunts others with their lack of knowledge about the true nature of things. You could also get the girl, save the town, kill the Evil Overlord, or burn the Emperor's Palace to the ground (or die horribly trying). You say "screw this, I'm running away."

All the things that you don't get to do in real life because you can't, because others won't let you, or because you wont.

AD&D, D&D, and RPGs are awesome.