Sunday, November 25, 2012

Solo Adventuring and the Magician Archetype

I've grown quite enamored of my solo play experience over the last few weeks. I haven't posted much about it online, as I have been keeping it as a primarily luddite experience, but I've made a few discoveries about the 'best' solo character.

I've long felt that either a defender or thief would be the best solo character, followed by a fighter and then a magician. As a defender, you can heal yourself, and you have some combat capabilities that would keep your vertical or allow you to hold your own in a fight. This seemed the best for solo play.

As a thief, you trade the healing and some spell power for versatility; you are stealthy, and you can deal awesome damage with your backstab. You can move about dungeons with aplomb, as your abilities align well with many of the challenges you will face in the underdark. Pick up a few healing potions, and you should be good to go.

As a warrior, you don't have much variety - doors will have to be broken down, and traps will have to be survived, but you are tough, and you can stand up to pretty much anything.

I assumed magicians were too squishy - get surprised or hit a trap, and you're done in one shot. Come across a creature that resists your big spell? The party's over.

However, my little half-goblin magician has been a pleasant surprise. At first, I was somewhat annoyed at the spells that I kept ending up with (I am honoring the dice results, no matter how much I don't like them, and I'm allowing them to tell the story). I was hoping for something that would make my character more valuable in combat. It didn't pan out that way...

The first roll was that he had repair as the only spell in his spell book. At first, that sucked - then I realized that this allowed him to basically rummage through the entirety of the dungeon beneath his cruel master's tower with abandon - break down a door, knock over a table, or set off a trap? No problem. Drop a repair spell on it, and it's good as new - the boss will probably never even notice that anything happened.

Next, I randomly rolled summon, and then randomly rolled for the creature type - a shadeling. Ick. Except of course for his immateriality, that allows him to move through doors and scout ahead, effectively becoming a wizard eye and a little thief all in one.

During play testing, I kept feeling like I must be allocating points for magicians poorly, because they always ended up as mediocre damage dealers in the actual plays. Nope. I just didn't understand the class I had written. They (not thieves) are the ultimate jacks of all trades. In addition, I undervalued the importance of being able to identify magic items when you find them, and of being able to dig through books you find for bits of useful information. My cleric would still be praying for guidance about how to get to level 2 of the dungeon, my thief would be trying to figure out how to sneak by the stone colossus; my fighter would have died throwing himself at the colossus; my magician, however, used his shadeling to check the walls and floors until he found a chamber underneath another one, and hired some goblins to come in and dig a new passage to level 2. Problem solved!

My magician just found a scroll with burglary on it (woohoo), and he's been thinking about giving his shadeling a little bit of toughness, stealth, and maybe even reflective armor as it gets more powerful. None of these are the big hitter spells or effects that I imagine when I discuss magicians (no fireballs here), but - slowly and surely - he's becoming a formidable character.

I haven't run across a challenge yet that the little guy wasn't up for. He's only earned his way from 10 CPs to 14 CPs (so still level 1), but he's managed to work his way out of some hairy situations, and he's on the verge of recovering an amulet that will bump up his Lore considerably, and maybe not only make him versatile, but help him deal some real damage to boot.

As far as solo play goes, I have to say magician FTW.

Monday, November 12, 2012

On Being A RPG Luddite

In the most recent Sandy's soapbox at, Sandy discusses the resurgence of love for 'classic' approaches to RPG playing. Go ahead and read the column. I'll wait.


Back? Good.

Anyway, I've approached my most recent round of play testing in this way. I created a character, created all of the game material, drew my maps, and took all of my notes using pencil and paper. Instead of using an online dice roller (as I had been for the last few playtests I'd done), I cracked out my dice and started rolling. It's been an interesting experience- the visceral sensation of rolling dice vs. using an online roller is substantially different. The sound of the die bouncing, the physical sensation of rolling, the click of dice hitting each other - these are integral to the drama of play. With the online roller, you get an instantaneous result as soon as you click the button. The die can roll, letting fate linger for an extra fraction of a second. Those fractions of a second add up, each one adding to the value of the experience.

Also, there's something more concrete, more real, and more permanent when using pen (or even pencil, as in my case) and paper. I find myself debating decisions more fully before committing myself to writing something down. I'm building the character, the campaign, the dungeon (which is starting to spill outside of the dungeon into the larger environment as well), and each creature or item one piece at a time. Each of these is a greater commitment with pencil and paper: partly because it's harder to just delete and do it again; partly because I type more quickly than I write; and partly because the process of writing it down brings with it a sense of craftsmanship. When I'm typing, the letters always look the same, the blocks of dungeon background appear identical whether I took my time or whether I clicked away like crazy. On the naked page, with pencil in hand, the attention to detail and care that went into the creation of that page show through.

I have folders full of hand-written notes from RPG sessions that I've kept for years, and which every few months I'll peruse in search of an old idea that I'd almost forgotten about. I'm looking forward to adding the notes I create today to the stack. Maybe I'll look back on them in 20 years, too.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Brief Update

After a hiatus of several months, I'm 'between shows' at school (we just posted the cast list for our spring musical, but we'll be amping up to that slowly over the next few weeks), so I've been doing some play testing... I am going back through the draft I had going for the first Mythweaver Chronicles, and I'd like to actually wrap that up some time soon. Again, no promises, but things look much better for getting some Mythweaver stuff done than they did a few months ago when I last posted!