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The Forum

Well, between Gary's AD&D rant in Issue 1 , and Andrew's lament in Issue 2, we managed to generate a lot of heated discussion out there. The Forum is our new section dedicated to printing just such discussion. Here we will publish whatever opinions, rants or wild insults you care to send us. Of course, our regular letters page will still be used for less expansive correspondences we receive.

We're hoping this can be a home to some really informed and intriguing discussions about the industry. But if The Forum is to be a success, it will depend on all of you out there keeping it going. So don't be shy! Tell us exactly what you think, about any aspect of RPGs or the RPG industry, or any part of the magazine. And thanks to all of you who already have.

Email us and tell us what you reckon...

Thanks for your input!

I enjoyed the comments your magazine made regarding D&D, I think your questions regarding why D&D was and remains so popular can in part be because for many gamers, it is the social (out-of-game) activities they seek rather than the opportunity to become another person or explore another world as discussed by Andrew Rilstone.

D&D is quick to set up and the BASE rules do not require gamers to invest much time in a character or game world. As such, more time is left to talks about pizza, girlfriends (or the lack thereof) and anything else which comes to mind. TSR I think well understood the nature of their base gamer as not wanting more and thus did not go out and adjust their systems to catch up with advances in RPG developement and design. Gamers who wished for more detailed worlds and systems had already long let TSR for others (Champs, Castle Falk, GURPS, etc.) when TSR started creating better product and thus the better TSR product just did not sell.
Hayden Dawson

I like your site, but in reference to the Andrew Rilstone's article: All The Boys, I have a minor point. While I like your article, and find many good points in it, I must disagree with your views on story telling not being a true part of roleplaying, for players this might be true, but no matter what you call him the GM is and always has been a story teller, he dictates the world around the characters and decides what is going to happen next and in the grand scale. The best GM's have the world carefully laid out in their heads and follow a continuity, they make up everything around and what goes on, they are story tellers and should be regarded as such.
Deric Bernier

Andrew Rilstone has made a serious mistake. He has assumed that the experience of roleplaying games is one thing for all people. It isn't.

He starts off well enough using the "I" word in describing a number of different gaming styles he does not appreciate himself, but this approach takes a sudden turn for the worse as He begins to extend his claims into broad-based, universal maxims.

He says that no one gets involved in roleplaying games in order to "tell a story". Bzzt. Wrong answer, but thanks for playing Andrew. I, myself, got involved in RPGs because I saw both the storytelling and roleplaying aspects of the games.

And if the question, as Andrew puts it, "when did 'role-playing' become subsidiary to 'story telling'?" my answer would probably have to be:

"Probably about the point when White Wolf released a very popular system referred to as a Storyteller Game."

This is Andrew's primary flaw (over-extending his personal preferences to infer that roleplaying games are useless at anything else). It is a tragic one because he has failed to realize what the true potential of roleplaying games is: The fact that they can be so many different things at different times and to different people. By limiting himself to just one narrow viewpoint of "what RPGs are" he has stopped himself from enjoying a broad range of possibilities and opportunities.

I am also slightly baffled by Andrew's abhorrence of "amateur dramatics" and his question of "In what particular sense is role-playing like theatre?" when he then goes on to say, "You role-played because you wanted to be a superhero, or a hobbit, or a vampire. You started to role-play at almost the exact same moment that you stopped 'playing' in the old, primary-school sense of the word."

Role-playing is like theatre in the sense that role-playing is acting, and acting is present in the theatre. Perhaps Andrew needs to remember that at the time of Shakespeare "actors" were known as "players".

Role-playing is an artform. And like all artforms it has many applications. Andrew wants to explore only one -- and that's fine, but I think he's missing out on the bigger picture.
Justin Bacon

Having been playing rpg's for a while, I have inevitably noticed that the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons system has many faults. I started off with D&D and AD&D and went through a good many other games in my time. I must admit, I have not seriously looked at any game system for the last 10 years, partly because of social and monetary commitments, but mostly because none of the systems I've glanced at really grabbed me.

I also tend to play with a cadre of the same players as well, with all the 'seasonal' change that happens in roleplaying (players moving or leaving, new players joining the cadre etc...) being the only real change. I must admit, that as a rule I prefer to play with a comfortable player whom I have played with before. Mainly because I still use as a base, AD&D first ed. and have taken the advice in the players handbook and DMG to heart. Take what you want, add what you want, leave the rest and be consistent! Because of this, my personal system is greatly different from the original system, modified, chopped, added to and tweaked, all in the directions and 'flavour' of my personal style. Because of this, it is usually experienced players in my cadre or totally inexperienced players that find it easiest to adapt to my 'rules'. Rules lawers are not welcome in my games, mainly because they don't know my rules that well. Because of this I feel a bit isolated from the gaming advances being made. But I have found that every so often I stick my head up and look around and find something I can use, or something on the market that is similar to additions and changes I have had in my system for years. Some are better or slicker than my changes, some are on the right track but,I feel, not the equal of my changes. Some hit me like a ton of bricks as an "why didn't I think of that!" idea.

I have had to develop organizational skills for the data and logistics of my campaign AND my personalised system. Yet, at it's heart it is still a variation of the AD&D system.

"Why is that?" you ask? Well it is not because I think AD&D is the best game/system, but because it is the one that allows me to become a storyteller. It is a framework I am comfortable with and which I know most of the limitations of. Which is why I modify it!

Some of my adventures are semi-rigid: A goal is given to the players, along with a guideline to the direction of the story I am telling, and the players know that this session is a bread and butter session, one that more closely follows my story thread than the usual adventures I run. I have had a few complaints, but when it is put to the players as a bread and butter session, and not too often, they play along with it.

By far the greatest moments I have had with my gaming is when my working the players through my occasional bread and butter adventures pays off. This is usually because I throw some fiendishly clever twists in and the players recognise something about them that I do not know, and then solve a problem/puzzle/kill the monster in a way I had not anticipated, or with knowledge I had carefully planted and fed during those bread and butter sessions. I find great joy in being occasionally outwitted by a CHARACTER because the player has learned more about my gameworld than I thought, and had the character act on that knowledge.

I suppose it is a bit like a teacher being surpassed by his student. A bit of pride in myself. And a great kick for the players who feel they have 'bested' me in an encounter. Because of this, I feel, my game world isn't static, ever changing to reflect the times and evolution of the world I have spent years creating.

AD&D tool of Satan - but what about White Wolf?

I really liked Gary Pellino's article about AD&D, and thought it was very to the point and insightful. I have often had the same thoughts as those in the article. But what really gets me mad is the White Wolf gaming company and all it's money making schemes. I'm not much of a writer but would be thoroughly pleased if you would publish an article about them and what they do, if you take a look, you might see that they are on the exact same path as TSR. I have a few pointers and things I would like to see in such an article.

  1. White Wolf (WW for short) have certainly created a unique system, but does it really work. Is it simple and realistic? No on both accounts! The system is not simple, I play Vampire and Werewolf and and I'm now using a separate system, I've tried some of the other games WW have and think I'm fairly qualified to talk about this. I'll illustrate the by some examples. Example 1: A shoots B with a gun. First A rolls several 10-sided die, to see how many sucsesses he gets. Say A gets 4. Now he rolls more ten sided die to see how much damage he does. Say he makes five. Then B rolls to see hom many he can soak. Now at the end of the line B will maybe have a damage of three. If he is some kind of supernatural being he'll also have to roll at the beginning of the next turn to see if he can heal while in action. If you add all this up, and you have a battle of five A's versus five B's you will before long have a very boring and time consuming battle. Definitely not simple.

  2. Realistic? I think not. To represent skill in certain areas you have dots, up to five, maybe more if you are a powerful individual. 5 dots is extremely good. If you're gonna shoot with a gun you would use the attribute Dexterity and the skill firearms.

    Example 2: Person A is an exceptional shot. He has dexterity 5 and firearms 5, which would give him all together 10 dice to roll when shooting. His gun a powerful and accurate gun has a difficulty of 7 (average difficulty for a gun).

    He shoots at a human target who can take 7 levels of damage without dying. When A rolls he needs to get a 7, 8, 9, or 10 to hit. A one is a botch and removes one of his hits. Seeing as A's target is human and A's a very good shot who wants to kill his target it would be fairly realistic to assume that he could kill it with one shot say, at a range of 20 feet in an open parking lot.

    He rolls - I won't tell you what he got, but on a percentage basis where you need 7 or above to hit and a one is a botch it's fair to assume he got three hits.

    Now he rolls his damage which could be 6, damage rolls always have a difficulty of 6. Again on a percentage chance rating it's fair to assume that if he needs 6 or above on 6 dice, he'll get 2 or 3 hits. Let's say he got 3. Then his target rolls to soak damage through stamina, he's an average guy with an average stamina. Which means 2. He rolls 2 dice with a difficulty of 6, and gets one success. He soaks one damage. He recieves 2 damage of his total 7 levels.

    Not very realistic if you ask me. Damage two would mean that he probably got hit in the arm and the bullet went straight through. A shot him at 20 feet range with a powerful gun, and he is as good a shot as any human could be, yet he only hurts the guy's arm. If you add all this together with the fact that the whole system is very time consuming, you have a lot of time wasted just in a minor scuffle between two opponents. And a battle between several persons take forever. Without explaining further, just imagine the fact that the beings in question are supernatural and can take more hits, can soak more, and some of them have a form of rapid healing. I am very tired of WW's so called "simple and realistic" system. You're probably bored just by hearing me explain it (which isn't easy in itself).

  3. I may have missed a few here, but as far as I know, White Wolf have the following games that take place in the same world and use the same system; Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Changeling, Wraith, and probably a few other smaller games I can't remember. I don't know if any of you there at Places to Go, People to Be have played many of these games, but I have, and if you've read the background and concept of a couple of these you'll soon understand that there are so many contradictions, legends of how the world became as it is, stories of who is the most powerful, tales of ancient war, and so on. One wonders where in the world do normal human beings fit in. There are mages, ghosts, werewolves, mummies, fairies, shapechangers, banes, wyrms, ancient vampire sects, camarilla vampires, and other supernatural beings, and they all have a separate version of what the world is. And WW would have us believe that this all takes place in the same world. How could that be possible, and how could normal human beings possibly not know, with all the battles of power that are constantly taking place? It just doesn't make sense. They can, of course, create all these games, but they should create backgrounds as if they were separate worlds and existences. If you play more than one of these games, you really lose perspective, cause of all the contradictions. It's no longer fun and believeable when you know that besides your cool Vampire there are so many other creatures that all have a claim to your world. Maybe Vampire and Werewolf could have existed in the same world, but if you include all the others it's just way to much.

  4. Accessories! Once apon a time A game called Vampire: the Masquerade appeared, it was a very imaginative and cool gaming world. People like it. So the company who made the game decided to make some accessories to widen the experience and make it more vivid for the players. Cool, more about this strange and cool world where we play fantasy lives of creatures of the night. Then came more accesories, and more. And then another game called Werewolf: the Apocalypse appeared and this was cool too, and was supposedly in the same world as Vampire. OK, a bit hard to believe, but I'll buy it. What I won't buy is all the other worlds that appeared. And even more accesories. And they keep coming, games with the same theme, and in the same world, but in a different time-frame, or a different part of the world. They keep shooting out accessories, and games, and it's just too much, nobody needs all that. It's just info about the same stuff you've read some other place. It's turned into a big money making machine. By all means, they should make money, after all, it's hard work, but they should make decent products. Like stories and adventures, which rarely appear along with some new unimportant product. Somewhere along the line things just got out of hand and they started exploting the people who enjoy the game.

  5. My final point for today is this, probably my pet peeve. What's with the "Black Dog" gaming company? Why not just say it out loud. "We're making some really gory stuff, and so the public won't react to our company White Wolf, we'll call it something else, and make a bundle on all the people who thing this new gory stuff is so cool" If you're gonna make something more adult, and on the edge of what is commonly accepted, at least have the guts to use you own name. The whole "Black Dog" thing is a PR stunt to attract people who don't care about wasting their money on pricey shit. And that's what it is, I've read the some of the books, and while it does contain some relevant information (not a lot), most of it is graphic pictures and stories about sex and violence. Both these are things I don't mind if they are important to and enhance the story, but this is just "B-movies" in roleplaying format. Believe me people, if you still wanna play the game after all the stuff I've said, you don't need the "Black Dog" books.

If you're still here and have read through my rantings and complaints, I have accomplished my task: to make someone out there listen. I hope you understand, and that someone out there who plays the games reads this and knows what I mean.
Nick Smith

Did any of these letters make your blood boil in rage? Or your heart leap with compassion? Or your soul sink with despair? Or your mind explode with the possibilities? If some part of your body did something interesting, why not tell us all about it.

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