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Messages - WillInNewHaven

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Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Dogs
« on: July 26, 2017, 01:06:12 am »
The topic of the usefulness of a dog or dogs on an adventure is probably as old as gaming. I can remember a Dungeon Master getting all bent out of shape because my friend wanted her character to bring a dog along on early OD&D adventure. He finally told her that she could but “I will kill it the first chance I get.” It turns out that he had nothing against dogs but he was afraid that he would not be able to handle the complication that would ensue. Like all of us in that game, he was a beginner and there were no rules for dogs that he knew of. I would like to start a discussion of the use of a dog in a fantasy RPG. I have been playing and running RPG since 1979 and trained dogs professionally. I trained and owned dogs that would have been very useful on the right sorts of adventures but the dogs I have now, Samantha Shi-Tzu and Sophie Iguana’s Bane would not be useful, unless chasing iguanas away from your mangoes is a big part of your campaign.
The primary advantage of having a dog along on an adventure lies in its senses, which can give warning when the characters suspect nothing. The problem with this advantage is that an untrained dog will tend to give warning when nothing more alarming than some deer browsing nearby or an iguana strolling near your camp is going on. This can lead to the loss of sleep and the loss of confidence in the dog’s ability to warn. The answer to this is training. Training dogs can be a skill in a skill-based system. If one of the characters has it, he or she can invest some time and effort into training the dog. Another way to wind up with a trained dog is for the character to be someone of a high enough social class that her or his family has a dog-trainer on their staff or have enough cash to hire someone to train the dog  or to buy a trained dog. The character will still need to pick up the skill to handle the trained dog. The training can be focused on giving the alarm only when certain specific menaces are detected or on not giving the alarm when a fairly large number of harmless beings are detected. The flaw in the former approach is that a menace other than what you trained the dog for may appear. The problem with the latter is that there will always be some harmless critter that the dog doesn’t know not to bark about. However, either of these methods will give you pretty reasonable alarm dog.
If it is well-trained, a little floof dog that can ride in a saddle-bag can be about as good at this job as a mighty boar-hound and a lot easier to conceal and feed.
Then there is the question of what you want the dog to do if and when it detects a menace. The default action is barking and that is what you will get if you don’t train for something else. A dog can be trained to make a little chuffing noise and make eye-contact with its handler if the handler is awake or to go to the sleeping handler and wake him or her up. Alternatively, the dog could be trained to get the attention of whoever is awake if the handler isn’t. This is extensive training but well worth it.
So how good is a dog at detecting a menace?  I want to keep this system-independent as far as possible so I will just say that a dog that is awake is a bit more likely to detect a menace than a sentry when it is light out and nearly half-again as likely if it is dark. And that is presuming an alert sentry. A sleeping dog is half as likely to detect a menace in daylight as a sentry who is awake and almost as likely if it is dark.
There are other uses for a dog on an adventure and I will be talking about them later.


The books that inspired me: Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, more than anything else. Later on, Steven Brust's Draegarian books, Howard's world-building for the Conan books. I liked Poul Anderson better than any of those but his influence on my gaming does not seem large. I was already gaming for quite awhile when Joel Rosenberg came out with the first book in the Guardians of the Flame series but there was cross-pollination there. His books influenced me but he played in my game too. The complicated thing is TLotR. I didn't read them until several years after I started gaming. However, their influence was all over D&D and not just in the published material. It was in the expectations of the players. My game world isn't all that much like Middle Earth except that there are all of the expected races. The game world got converted when I wrote my own system and there are rules for Elves, etc. in the system because some people are going to want them. I have run long campaigns without them but most of the time they are around, at least in the background.

Media: I don't think any films or TV shows influenced my gaming. I played in a Buffy campaign but I didn't run it. I like the show and the game.
Music: I don't think any of it inspired me. I love music from that era but it was a separate matter. Maybe Paul Kantner's lyrics. He might as well have been an SF writer.


About the wargaming angle: Before I ever played an RPG I knew several people who used the War Games Research Group rules for ancient and medieval miniatures. It could be a frustrating hobby because it was expensive to buy an army suitable for a battle and painting the figures was a pain. And the worst part was that you many of the players would not fight a "what if" battle. If your army had never met his army on the field of battle, you could not meet on a table. When we'd get together at a club, people who had multiple armies often brought one that had no one to fight and my 9th Century Danish army would have no one to fight. So, there would be one big table occupied with two battling armies and a few players and onlookers and the rest of us would play Diplomacy.

Then four of us formed a "what if battles" club within a club and we had a lot of fun. Two of those guys eventually got into RPG too. My biggest triumph was conquering Japan, by arming and training the Ainu and with the help of allied Daimyo.


I'd play in a game based on The Badger:

Cerebus the Aardvark would also be good:

Jon Sable Freelance is another one I'd play:

Superpowers are far from abundant in those comics, however,


I played the first time after the monthly meeting of FRED (The New Haven Science Fiction and Fantasy Club) Halloween night, 1979. Jon Leyland was a medievalist grad student at Yale and very involved in the SCA. I played weekly at his place after that first session. He ran different rules in different parts of his campaign world and we mostly didn't know the rules. You said what you were trying to do, rolled a D20 and Jon told you whether you had succeeded. He wrote his own adventures and had a large following of players. We spent a great deal of time talking in character and the game was all house rules, so that was what I was used to. When I encountered others who played differently, I was surprised.
A few months later, I got an incomplete copy (it must have been incomplete; the rules covered so little) of the OD&D rules and my friend Simon and I worked out how to play after bridge games at the bridge club. We made lots of house rules for those games, generally one of us played multiple characters and the other GMd. By the way, that is the only gaming group I was ever in with no women in it, because it was just the two of us. It didn't take long for a few other players to learn the game and join us, mostly from the SF club.
I got AD&D when it came out but made very few changes in the games I ran. Simon went to total AD&D. We played in one another's games and the rest of the crowd played in both games and the players were happy with both. Characters moved back and forth between the games.
Simon ran some modules, although the adventures he designed himself were brilliant. I ran one module, "Keep on the Borderlands," although I bought them and read them and mined them for ideas. We both read and used parts of "The Arduin Grimoire" and other Arduin material. A young fellow I met ran RuneQuest (his nickname became RQ) and I enjoyed playing it. I would have converted my campaign to (heavily modified) RuneQuest if I had not written my own system by then.
Everything after that is not quite "the old days" that were asked for. Simon and I still play together, although we have to use SKYPE these days.


I've always wanted to run a campaign based on the DARK BORDER books by Paul Edwin Zimmer. In fact, I have done some work on one. However, my peeps and I have a lot invested in my existing campaign world and the settings are too different to put the DB adventures in it. Now that I have retired and moved to Florida and left my gaming group behind, maybe I will do it.

Just before the aforementioned move, I had set up an adventure in my campaign world that involved a lengthy caravan trip on the Silk Road and we characters rolled up. However, the opportunity to buy this house came up and I jumped at it. The campaign I am running via Skype doesn't have enough player-characters for the ambitious caravan setting. So we are playing in the Black Mountain District.

Bill Reich

I find that some people think that a short campaign is a failure and I think that's a mistake. If everyone has been enjoying it and it ends because it has reached a logical stopping point, then that is fine. Reasons not to extend it (because one can always come up with reasons to extend it) are, someone else wants a turn to GM, the GM wants to run a different system, the GM wants to run in a different setting with different characters or, one that is rarely admitted, the GM does not to run for characters that have achieved some very high level. None of those is invalid.

Several of my campaigns have lasted a long time, several years in a couple of cases, but others began and ended in four to eight sessions. The characters still had places they could go because I run a big world but the campaign was over and we moved on.

Bill Reich

Quote from: flyingmice;973552
Good villains never see themselves as villains!  :D

"Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes." Lazarus Long in Heinlein's _Time Enough for Love_

Bill Reich

Quote from: RPGPundit;965450
So, my Wild West campaign is now well over a year of real time old (two years of game time so far, from 1876-1878).

Has anyone else run a western campaign (anything longer than a three sessions) that wasn't some kind of fantasy world or alternate-history?
Where did you set it? When? What did you do?

I ran one for a couple of years. The possibility of magic and/or the supernatural matters being involved was there but it never came up. The alternate history involved was that it was set in a made-up town, Clanton, Kansas, on the Kansas/Oklahoma border on the Chisholm Trail. The player-characters were townsfolk, not cowpokes, and the conflict was often with drunken cowboys but bank robbers, poker cheats, one Comanche raid and other villains abounded. As to when: I ran it in 2003-2005 but it was set in 1872.

The game rules we used were my homebrew Glory Road Roleplaying rules, minus the magic and with additional rules for the firearms of the period.

Bill Reich

Quote from: jahud;974564

I know one novelist GM. I haven't played in his campaigns, but those that have, have enjoyed them. Are novelists are better or worse GMs than other people? Are they micromanagers with their worlds (more often than not)?  

I think that James S. A. Corey's excellent "The Expanse" series is based on Ty Franck's  MMORPG (then table-top RPG) setting. IIRC Steven Erikson's Malazan series is based on his fantasy world (and he uses GURPS). I would have loved to play in their campaigns - although I don't much care for Malazan series.

I play every Wednesday night in C.J. Carella's game. He has written superhero novels, modern fantasy novels (starting with _Shadowfall Las Vegas_ and now has a very successful military SF series going. He's a great GM. Of course, he was very involved in roleplaying games before he was a novelist. He created the Unisystem, wrote tons of GURPS material, wrote for Palladium and created the Buffy game and All Flesh Must be Eaten. I've been playing in his games (and GMing with him in my games) since the late Eighties.

Bill Reich

Quote from: Gronan of Simmerya;974619
Unfortunately none of those systems seem to include TACTICS.  CHAINMAIL should be more than just line up troops and grind 'em together.  Terrain and maneuver is what win battles, not dice rolling.

Terrain, maneuver and morale. You (generally) break armies, you don't kill them, especially in the days before firearms. I don't think the OP wants something from wargaming but others interested in this subject might want to look at edition six of War Games Research Group's ancient and medieval wargame rules. Of course, they have to be modified. Adding in magic gives one many opportunities to break the opponent's troops.

Quote from: daniel_ream;974145
What, seriously?

The reason "orphaned sociopath with amnesia" is such a common character back story is that a very, very large portion of players are not interested in the slightest in playing a character - they want to kill things, or disturb shit, or just pfaff around in a fictional world without consequences.  A similar portion of players are so emotionally invested in their character that any attempt by the GM to motivate them by leveraging their character's relationships is tantamount to railroading.  This is a trope that goes back to the very beginnings of roleplaying.

People who want to play a character will do so without needing any further prompting.  People who don't, won't, and no amount of encouragement will get them to.  Know which you've got in your group and plan accordingly.

I think that almost everyone I have played with over the years has been a mix of those two attitudes and a group where most of the players lean toward roleplaying will get some roleplay out of the most hardened murder hobos.

Bill Reich

Quote from: Nexus;974132
The breadth of experiences found in gaming is truly amazing, no joke. In this thread I keep hearing about the "25-50 page" backstories and I have never, in 30+ yrs of gaming gotten anything that long. I think the longest background I can easily recall receiving was 8-10 pages from a player with a very ornate writing style. Someone more with a drier more concise style might have said the same thing in 3-4. I don't think I've ever gotten one of these infamous masturbatory fanfics disguised as a background which seem to plague so many others. But that might stem in part from a different outlook. I've rarely run "You're nobodies and don't matter." zero to hero games.

What is it with the "you're all no one from nowhere" attitude. Being someone from somewhere, even if neither is very important, is part of being a character and how can one play a  character without being one?


Quote from: Nexus;974135
I met most of gaming crew in high school and college then online. I never got much into the pick up game at the FLGS thing but it was healthy around here for awhile. Never had the gaming drunk/stoned issue come up but we were pretty straight arrow. Worst that happened was playing -way- to late and sometimes things got weird about 3-4 in the morning. :D

Gaming drunk? Once or twice. Gaming stoned? More often but the weirdest was gaming with the GM's two exes in the game.

Quote from: Dumarest;972814
If youre ever in the San Diego area let me know; I can show you how badly I run D&D games. I mean, I hardly even use hobbits, for the love o' Mike. :D

So what do you throw, run with and kick in your Rugby games?

"I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be — instead of the tawdry, lousy fouled-up mess it is.
I had had one chance — for ten minutes yesterday afternoon. Helen of Troy, whatever your true name may be — And I had known it ... and I had let it slip away.
Maybe one chance is all you ever get." Oscar Gordon

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