Blog of a new RPGer

What’s wrong with a good ole Dungeon delve?

Posted in RPG General by misterecho on January 6, 2010


I’m getting ready to run my first pathfinder game with my two players. As I’ve been preparing for the game I realise how unfamiliar I am with the whole system. Pathfinder/D&D 3.5 is NOT “rules-lite”. As an inexperienced role-player a 500-odd page rule book like pathfinder is intimidating, especially considering I only have until Sunday to learn it and get an adventure ready.

Ok, time to admit defeat. It’s freaking impossible, the game will be piss-poor and I’ll embarrass myself.

Until I hit a realisation. You don’t need to build an entire world, with cultures, factions, intrigue, political tensions and allegiances. Not yet anyway. If I can get a vague familiarity with the combat mechanic and the skill check resolution system I can run a dungeon crawl. Reference obscure or unfamiliar rules as I go.

100% old school hack and slash

Ok that’s not going to be fun long term. For me anyway. I can add complexity as my knowledge and understanding of the rules gets better. The setting and world can just evolve through play. Don’t get me wrong I love the creative challenge a cohesive setting will present. I just can’t take it on right now.

Perhaps little baby steps, just to start off with.

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12 Responses

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  1. Rob Lang said, on January 7, 2010 at 8:43 am

    I once had a discussion where we came up with a new way of laying out an RPG. Less like a manual and more like a step-by-step guide. Chapter 1 would be just enough information to get through the first night of Character building and a bit of play. Chapter 2 would build on those foundations – as would each further game. I would have been ideal for beginners because you would only be in a position of reading 20 pages at first.

    However, we decided there were two problems:
    1. It does then work as a reference manual. There would be mechanics and setting introduced piecemeal. Gah.
    2. Most RPGs are played by people who play RPGs, so they would be expecting a manual format.

    Still, you post brought this back to mind, so I thought I’d mention it!

  2. Captain Beaky said, on January 7, 2010 at 10:39 am

    The structure mentioned by Rob seems like a good idea to me – was the intention to make the whole rulebook like a single campaign, so that each chapter was another stage in the adventure, with the rules cropping up as events wore on? Perhaps a really ninja index might keep it useful as a reference? Mind you, I only look at the pictures anyway!

  3. misterecho said, on January 7, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Trust me Rob’s indexes are always Ninja! He’s obsessed with indexes, appendices etc!

    I think this step by step RPG would be a good academic exercise. This game would be very interesting to make and to read, although it would only play once probably.

  4. Stuart said, on January 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve always treated rules more like guidelines than actual rules, and I think it has served me well. Whether playing D&D, Vampire, MERP, Star Frontiers, James Bond or Call of Cthulhu, when it comes down to basics, it’s all about the experience and hinging everything on rules is a sure-fire way to bog-down, if not destroy, the experience and the ‘moment’.

    Fluidity and creativity are key for me. So much of GMing for me is about letting the playings run things and being the ‘system’ behind it all. It’s not about ‘ruling’ things, but more about ‘facilitating’ things. So whether it’s a dungeon crawl or a months-long campaign, it all more or less comes down to maintaining a high quality experience.

    Well, that’s my thought for the day!

    • misterecho said, on January 7, 2010 at 8:49 pm

      I’m trying to grab the deslicate balance between Superlight and Megacrunch. I don’t mind winging it in Starwars, thats all about doing the impossible and having fun.

      With Pathfinder I wanted to run with a little more realism and consistancy. I also want to avoid calculators and abacus’s at the game table!

      At the end of the day we do this for fun, if it’s not fun you’re doing it wrong.
      Thats my take 🙂

  5. Rob Lang said, on January 7, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I agree with Stuart – I think most GMs run that way. However, you can’t set a game out with that in mind. If you do, you end up with a very lite game that relies entirely on winging it. The game must take itself seriously, otherwise there won’t be enough for any GM to get their teeth into.

    • misterecho said, on January 7, 2010 at 8:50 pm

      I think you have inside information. “Winging it” is exactly how I would describe my Starwars games 🙂 They are fun though.

  6. Rob Lang said, on January 7, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I think misterecho has hit the nail on the head. It’s a good academic exercise. I am not sure it would be that useful in play. I imagine the first time you run the game – it would be handy to have it in this format but all subsequent plays might be a pain to find things.

    For example. You have ‘shooting things’ rules in Chapter 2. However, you do not introduce rules for modifiers there, they are introduced in Chapter 3. If you wanted to read all the rules about having a gun fight together, you’d be constantly skipping forward.

    Thinking out loud here (sorry to do this on your blog, MrE) you could have TWO versions – one that is for beginners and then one that is organised like a normal RPG. Oh dear, more work! I suppose Quick Start rule sets do that for you. I’ll shut up now.

    • misterecho said, on January 7, 2010 at 9:02 pm

      Quick start rules are totally different. They’re an advertising medium disguised as a free RPG.

      The constant flipping would be tiresome. Although I still think the idea has merit. Simply for the sake of introducing youngsters to the hobby. If you had a step by step harry potter rules and campaign mashed together, I guarantee you’ll get a lot of kids trying to give it a go. Assisting them in overcoming the first hurdle of a no-GM situation. You train one of them 🙂

      It’s easy to get into the hobby if you can find a great GM who already has encyclopaedic knowledge of the rules/system.

      “Thinking” I don’t usually encourage this, but you’re more than welcome to perform that trick again any time. Especially here, where no one will recognise it.

  7. Endy said, on January 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I haven’t run Pathfinder, nor do I know the ruleset well. I played some of d20 D&D before moving onward to different games – ones which make more sense to me. But I would suggest something small as a start for any ruleset. Be it a gang fight, a dungeon crawl, what have you. It’s something that gets you and your players up for a game and keeps everyone interested. You might find something great in this video, from John Wick’s V-Log, “Play Dirty”.

    The Dirty Dungeon is a great idea.

    • Misterecho said, on January 13, 2010 at 1:38 pm

      Thanks for the heads up on that video. It’s a neat idea from Mr Wick.

      • Endy said, on January 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm

        I certainly agree. To be honest, it seems like a Forgite thinking here, but anything that allows the players a degree of narrative control – that is, the idea that this is their story as much as the GM’s – is a great thing. Especially when you turn it around and make it worthwhile.

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