Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Saturday, November 28, 2015

In Defense of Race as Class...Again.

Recently, we've seen several blogs and/or postings about race as class; some coming out against it.  So here, we offer up the other side of the coin and share why we LIKE race as class and how it actually ENHANCES the role-playing experience.  But first, here's our official (and honest) position on the matter:

"Each game offers a distinct gameplay experience, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Indeed, players should freely experiment with games to satisfy their wishes at any given time, noting that variety is a good thing!" 

But on the matter of race as class, we're not entirely convinced that it's as limiting as some would make it out to be...

You can read our (much older) post on the subject here, but to paraphrase: in the absence of divine and/or magical abilities, the only way to adventure is to directly confront enemies or employ stealth, i.e., fighters or thieves.  As dwarves and elves can wear armor and fight with a variety of weapons, all are fighters in a very broad sense.  Dwarves CANNOT cast spells, while elves will do so NATURALLY, so these limitations work.

Otherwise, non-human clerics don't proselytize outside their particular race, and as long as characters have some opportunity to attempt feats of stealth, thieving is covered.

Often, people cite race as class as being boring and limiting, a position we ACTIVELY disagree with.  To the contrary, this approach is LIBERATING and SUPPORTS unique characters - and for all the reasons that follow below:   

1) When everyone in the party can wear armor and cast spells, a 
bland "sameness" takes over.  Sure, these characters are still distinguished by the people actually running them.  However, games that allow such customization easily devolve into achieving an optimal build, and (human) personalities often fall to the wayside, much to the detriment of the game itself...

AD&D had separate classes and races, but
upon closer examination, races had DISTINCT abilities in
addition to multi-classing, which really goes
back to OD&D's original race as class design scheme. 

2) The "uniqueness" of non-human races becomes similarly blunted with this kind of overlap.  True, such races enjoy specific modifiers that may or may not predispose them to certain profession or skill choices.  But when ANYONE can choose ANY skill, what's special about playing an elf?  Pointy ears maybe?        

Racial modifiers are easily buried beneath all the feats and perks that anyone can take.  But when non-humans have significant and unique abilities on such a scale as to represent a distinctive type of adventurer, they really begin to stand out!  

Dwarves are hardy folk and the elves, alone, can wear armor and cast spells.  And humans are resourceful and may choose from a variety of carefully balanced classes.  Human uniqueness is found in the variety of professions they can choose from, making everyone special and unique as well as co-dependent. 

3) Rules are a constant, while player/GM/referee skill varies, meaning that while cultural distinctions might weigh heavily in a good campaign, not everyone has the ability (or experience) to successfully pull it off.  Encoding racial distinctiveness into the gameplay mechanic ensures that choosing a non-human race means choosing a unique gaming experience...

4) When characters possess broadly overlapping abilities, cooperation is important mainly because there's safety in numbers, and not because there's only one spell caster in the party or a single character who can steal, etc.  The interdependence promoted by race as class (and classes in general) ensures that players absolutely MUST compensate for their friend's various class-imposed weaknesses, which adds a new level of challenge.      

Everyone stands out and, more importantly, everyone depends on the abilities of others, which is pretty much the same thing!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

No Pits & Perils Second Edition?

Recently, there's been some loose talk of a Pits & Perils second edition in hardcover form.  Talk from us, actually.  But upon considerable examination, we've ruled against this and are declaring now that there will be NO SECOND EDITION GAME.

At the same time, we LOVE this system and want to release a final, definitive version for posterity.  Something nice to put on the bookshelf.  So here's what we're doing to make this happen, and what it means for the fans and the future...

First, Pits & Perils was always conceived as an amateur rulebook straight from the early 70s.  This is its entire identity, and transforming it into a well-produced format takes all of that away, with serious repercussions for how the game is played.

Furthermore, combining the supplements into a single volume makes the game both more complex and more canonical, which actively interferes with the referee's own freedom to house-rule.  We prefer that the extra rules remain purely optional.

We aren't Wizards of the Coast, and
don't want to release a new edition of the
game every few years that people feel
obligated to buy.  P&P is (mostly) a done deal! 

Finally, it just didn't FEEL right, so that's that.  But what are we doing instead, and what does it mean?

First of all, we're undertaking a MAJOR EDIT of the rulebooks and culling any errata (we're almost done here).  If you've already purchased the digital books, you'll get an UPDATE in your libraries, with an announcement from us when it finally goes down.

Next, we'll be discontinuing the softcover books, so if you've already purchased them, CONGRATULATIONS, you now own an out-of-print version of the game.  This HAS NOT happened yet, and we'll make an announcement when the time comes... 

We'll see (we're open to feedback), which leads to...

THE COLLECTED PITS & PERILS, which is literally a hardcover compilation of the original (better edited) rulebooks, complete with glossy pages and full-color interior covers.  This is something attractive (not to mention sturdy) for your bookshelves!

Otherwise, we'll finish Basement Adventures #2-4 to round out the series and provide some higher-level scenarios, although this probably won't conclude until late 2016.  As always, you can expect an announcement when new stuff becomes available.

That's it, the updates/hardcover are planned for February 2016!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Turning the Hat Over...

It's been a rather busy week at Olde House Rules, and not just because of Fallout 4, either!  But thinking about games has really gotten us mulling over all those recurring themes...

You know the drill; rescue the princess, etc.  Fun stuff, but I always liked to turn the hat upside down and switch things out from time to time.  Here's a few examples:

BREAKING IN: Once, I had a thief hired to break INTO a prison to assassinate an inmate before the city could do the job!

BREAKING UP: Another time, an agent of a powerful dragon approached the characters to remove a captured princess who had become unbearable and REFUSED TO LEAVE!  She was a demi-goddess, so our intrepid party had to proceed with due caution!

Turning the hat on its head can
result in varied and interesting adventures!

HELPING THE DEAD: Finally, the servants of a lich, known for being generally solitary and reclusive, approached the characters to enlist their aid in beating a RIVAL PARTY trying to take him down and loot his wealth!  This one had an "interesting" ending.

In all of the above, the players found themselves either entering situations they normally try to avoid/escape or helping enemies against people they would normally support!  Doing this introduces a degree of moral ambiguity (no shortage of that), but also expands the campaign, as the characters must work with traditional foes who make strange bedfellows at best.  Interesting stuff!

If you haven't done this yet, give it a try.  Somehow, we suspect you already have, so feel free to share your experiences...

At least until Fallout 4 sucks us all into its inescapable trap!