Friday, August 21, 2009

Post # 72, Just how would you go about making a product for multiple systems?

There's an awful lot of panty twisting going on out there over the Mentzer/Kask/Ward game company announcement. Guys who's opinions I respect seem to have come down on opposing sides and I'm not really sure why. The whole thing appears too vague at this point for me to have any feeling one way or the other. There is simply not enough information available yet for me to draw any conclusions.

I have to assume that this is another example of the internet super-highway retarding communications rather than enhancing them. I see that a lot.

I've observed gamers, whom I know think very nearly alike, blunder into keyboard confrontations at their first meeting in forums and comment threads over some tiny, ill chosen verbage.
Ladies and gentlemen, words on screen, in stark black and white, automaticlly appear hostile when they espouse a view point that is counter to your own. Human communication is mostly non-verbal. Inflection, facial expressions, body language make up the major part of how we convey thoughts. The internet eliminates all of this. With out these things to moderate the meanings of our words, every sentence that dos'nt support our own point of view is translated by our lizard brains as, "Everything you love, sucks!"

So, I'm not going to choose up sides and start flinging crap.

Personally, I would very much like to see the M/K/W project succeed. Not because the OSR needs a "big dog" to lead, but because those guys have done great work in the past, and I expect to see them do so again in the future.

Now to the question. Frank posted about how they were thinking of publishing adventures in a thread on Dragonsfoot. The idea was to make systemless modules that included a statistic booklet that would provide the information for many different systems, so that the module could be run with what ever game system you happen to prefer.

I like this idea, since my own personal OSR is a very broad domain, stretching all the way from the grim mountains of OD&D, to the black valley of AD&D, all the way to the frothy sea of 2e. And it also encompasses all the retro-clone outlands.

In order to make this work though, you'd have to be able to compress a lot of system information into a form that is very tight in presentation. Otherwise, you end up printing a lot of text that isn't of use to your buyer, and this is text and paper they still have to pay for even if it isn't usefull to them.

My first shot at this was the Multi-Edition Stat Column. I cross referenced the orc monster entry from OD&D, Basic D&D, AD&D, 2e, LL, S&W, BFRPG, and Hackmaster4e and sorted out a stat column that included all stats from all editions. I divided it into a top block for combat stats, and a bottom block for non-combat stats. I put the abreviations for each game across from the stats they appear in so that the DM could see at a glance, which stats applied to his game.

I had a helluva time making it look right on the blog until Max Davenport helped me with the html. I hate that crap. I was going to use it for all the monsters here on the blog, but the html is sort of a pain and I've reverted to standard AD&D stats since.

I think one thing I'd do differantly now would be to assign a symbol to each of the editions instead of using their abreviations. Or maybe not. I'll have to try it and see how it looks.

So, other than monster stats, what could be done to compress the presentation of the crunchy bits of the various editions into a form that would be understandable, and not require too much paper and deciphering?
Now that I really start to think about it, what else is there in an adventure module that requires statistics other than the monster entries?

Below is the original version of the Multi-Edition Stat column for the Giant Ground Stirge.

Whats the rest of the OSR braintrust have to say? Got any ideas?

All editions. Armor Class : 5
All editions. Hit Dice :4+4
All editions. Movement :8" (max when fleeing)
All editions. Number of Attacks :1
All editions. Damage/Attack :1-6
S&W, AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Special Attacks :blood drain
AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Special Defenses :natural camouflage, as elven cloak.
AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Magic Resistance :nil
S&W, LL, BFRGP. Save (as) : 4 hit die monster, or 4th level fighter
AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Frequency :rare
OD&D, LL, BFRPG, AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Number Appearing :1-3
OD&D, AD&D. % in lair :30%
AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Intelligence :animal
LL, BFRPG, 2E, HM4E. Morale :low
LL, AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Alignment :neutral
AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Size :M, six feet long
OD&D, LL, BFRPG, AD&D, 2E. Treasure Type :nil
S&W, BFRPG, AD&D, 2E, HM4E. Level/XP Value :4th/150+3 per hp
AD&D, HM4E. Psionic Ability :nil
2E, HM4E. Climate/Terrain :woods and scrub lands
2E, HM4E. Organization :solitary
2E, HM4E. Activity Cycle :nocturnal
2E, HM4E. Diet :living blood
2E. THACO :17
HM4E. AKA :Throat stabber


Robert said...

Impressive, but I’m not convinced something like this is the way to go.

I like the idea of having the stats separate, because then I can just ignore them all. ^_^ Considering the number of times that groups I’ve been in have used AD&D modules with any system by just ignoring the stats, I really think fully generic modules are a great idea.

Unfortunately, I get the feeling that systemless modules turn off a lot of buyers. I tend to think that people over-estimate the value of stat-blocks and underestimate their own ability to come up with something good enough ad hoc.

If I were going to provide stat-blocks, I’d just come up with a single compromise one for all pre-2000 editions of (A)D&D and their clones. The systems just aren’t different enough and the details not important enough.

BTW, it read to me like M/K/W are shooting for a wider target that D&D, AD&D, and clones thereof.

Timeshadows said...

That stat-block is too long, IMO, but I could live with it, but without the edition reference.

Back in the day, I remember, we would make conversions on the fly once we understood or guessed what the entries meant in 'real terms' rather than 'game terms'.
--From there we'd just roll the d20 and the best guestimate on damage.

Arduin, Gamma World, Runequest, Midkemia, you name it.
--That is part of the Olden Days that I miss the most. GM's using their brains and doing stuff on their own.

E.G.Palmer said...

Ha! See, I think the same way. I've always run things fast and loose. The only stats I've seen as indispensable were AC and Hit dice.

The thing is, what I've observed by trawling the forums and blogs is that lots of the 2e and later players really like all the added definition of big stat-blocks. As the point of a multi-edition product would be to draw in the largest possible audience, I thought covering all the bases might keep those people from the feeling of incompleteness they attach to Old School.

Now that I consider it, that might be a bit condescending of me, mighten't it?

Maybe the way to go would be to just use the stats that I've labled All Editions,(Armor Class, Hit Dice, Movement, No.of attacks, Damage/attack.), and fold the rest into the description text if necessary?

Ragnorakk said...

Yep - I think that's the way to go. Identify the key points that cross game or edition boundaries and give particulars in description if necessary.

Yesmar said...

Your stat block is not something I'd be interested in using, reading, etc. It's cumbersome and reminds me of stat blocks from later editions of D&D. Given that the earlier incarnations of D&D are all easy to convert between, I think sticking to the lingua franca of AD&D stats is perfectly acceptable.