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Spear+Shield is probably the most common armament in pre-modern history.


Classical ‘Ellenic hoplites?

Spear in the right hand, hoplon in the left.

Classical Roman triarii?

Often hasta in the right hand, scutum in the left, though they probably eventually switched to swords.

Late Roman pedites?

Probably usually spear in the right hand, scutum in the left, though there’s some debate and there were more specialist pedites including sagittarii and ballistarii.

Zulu warriors?

Generally spear in one hand, shield in the other.

Typical militia forces?

Often spear in one hand, because it requires less iron-working than swords, shield in the other.


Spear+Shield is also banned in many roleplaying games, because they define spears as two-handed weapons.

Pathfinder includes shortspears, spears, and lances. It’s *possible* that they count 8+ foot spears as one-handed shortspears and 16+ foot pikes as two-handed spears.

Basic Roleplaying includes short spears, long spears, lances, and pikes. It’s clearly stated that 3-meter spears are long spears and two-handed.

Savage Worlds defines spears as two-handed.

Entropic Gaming System defines spears as two-handed.

marjaerwin: (Default)
Eclipse Phase is a roleplaying game of life in the solar system after a singularity-gone-wrong has devastated the earth and many other settlements. It is close, in spirit, to some of Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution novels. It is designed to focus on characters from different backgrounds and factions joining together to try to stop threats to the survival of sapient life in the solar system. I haven't had the chance to play it yet, but have tried creating characters in it. I am working on two fall evacuees, one an alpha fork of the other, to begin with.

Read more... )

Character Creation

The three different character creation systems aren't all compatible. The packages seem more internally coherent than the original rules, but they seem more trouble to add up. The three different character creation systems could each benefit from step-by-step worksheets, to keep track of accumulated aptitude increases, skill points, etc., but there are none.

The original character backgrounds, unlike the original character factions and the package-based adaptations are unbalanced. The lost are unplayable without the errata, but are playable with the errata. The isolates, fall evacuees, and re-instantiated are a few points behind the other backgrounds. The moxie bonuses for these backgrounds don't make sense to me. The skill selections for these backgrounds don't make sense for every character, but some adjustments would fix that. The original character backgrounds include advantages and disadvantages which the package-based adaptations lack, and vice-versa.

The skill purchase system has problems. The character sheet doesn't provide columns to use it properly, and the game system doesn't provide language to describe it, so I will invent my own. The skill percentage is based on the sum of the ego's aptitude rating, the morph's aptitude bonuses, and the ego's training/experience, which I'll call the skill training/experience. The character sheet combines the ego's aptitude rating and training/experience into the skill base. The customization points can be used to buy skill training/experience. The customization point costs increase as the skill increases. The customization point costs double, not when the skill training/experience exceeds 40 points, which would make sense to me and which would make aptitudes especially important, but when the skill base exceeds 60 points, which doesn't make sense to me.

Character Sheets

The basic character sheets are badly organized. The character sheets are not usable during character creation. The three different character creation systems could each benefit from step-by-step worksheets, to supplement the sheets during character creation. There is nowhere to list the specific fields of hardware, medicine, networking, academics, etc. characters have unless we repurpose the specialization column. There is nowhere to list the customization points added to each skill. There is not enough space to list traits. There is not enough space to list muse skills. The all-important reputation and traits are on the back of the sheet.
marjaerwin: (Default)
For example:

1. A roleplaying game set in the revolt, with the player-characters as paricipants. Of course, it'll run into the usual problems of historical campaigns and of armed campaigns. First the characters would be a few amid tens of thousands [amid one hundred and fifty thousand, if we can trust the Roman sources]. If there is something a few people can do to change history, why would it be something the characters are trusted and able to do? Second, the characters could get killed and shouldn't reasonably have plot armor.

2. A battle game covering the battles of the war. Unfortunately, we don't know where most of the recorded battles took place, though Barry Strauss has suggested some in his The Spartacus War.

3. A campaign game covering the whole conflict in Italy, with an expansion or another game covering a possible escape into the Balkans.
marjaerwin: (Default)
Last December, I tried testing a roleplaying campaign for my brother. I had to stop partway through, because of some unresolved story issues, because of sickness, and because of the massive frustration of using an adventure designed for the Pathfinder system, which I don’t like, and don’t have the required supplements for, with the core rules for the Basic Roleplaying system, which I kinda like.


I hope to restart sometime if and when I recover from this sickness. I hope to be able to get a bit farther with this adventure, though it’s not my preferred style of adventure, and try to run some other Pathfinder-conversion adventures which might be. I don’t know what to do though.

I think that trying to convert things from one detailed old-school-updated system to another detailed old-school-updated system has been more trouble than it’s worth.

I wrote up several pages of house rules and conversion rules and was always running into gaps.

I managed to convert over the non-player characters, but I have way too much trouble trying to convert over the accursed bestiary. I don’t have the required Pathfinder bestiaries, multiple volumes including third-party volumes, I can’t use the appropriate Pathfinder websites, and I have to convert everything before I can use anything.

I also ran into Basic Roleplaying rules issues. Like poison and healing and first aid.

I also had to deal with some campaign-specific rules, figuring them out, debugging them, clarifying them, and then converting them.
marjaerwin: (Default)
I will be trying to playtest a Pathfinder adventure shortly. I am not familiar with the Pathfinder system, find character classes an obstacle to roleplaying, and do not have the full rules. So I am not in the best position to test the balance, but at least I can try to test the plotting. I talked with the designer and will be using the Basic Roleplaying rules.

Anyway, here are some of the house rules I'm using to try to fit these together.

Character Creation

Pathfinder uses levels to differentiate character abilities, but does not define these levels. Basic Roleplaying does not. Character creation requires adjustments to ensure that (1) different-level characters can be included, as appropriate (2) Basic Roleplaying characters are not too vulnerable for the Pathfinder adventure and (3) some but not all characters can use magic, or sorcery, as the case may be.

The main player characters start at 5th level in Pathfinder. They should probably start with 24 points for attributes, potentially 6 spells, and 310+INTx14 points for skills, modified for age in Basic Roleplaying. They should get the total hit points option, where they have twice as many as the default, and the skill category bonuses option, where attributes affect skills. They should require the literacy skill to read or write; if they can take language (other) as a professional skill, then they may take literacy as one.

Basic Roleplaying Pathfinder Equivalent Character Creation Stuff
Normal 1st Level 24 points for attributes; 4 spells; 250+INTx10 points for skills
Heroic 6th Level 24 for attributes; 6 spells; 325+INTx15 for skills
Epic 11th Level 24 for attributes; 8 spells; 400+INTx20 for skills.
Superhuman >16th Level 24 for attributes; 10 spells; 500+INTx25 for skills.

The magic rules do not specify who can or cannot use magic, and do not impose any special restrictions on magic users. I will restrict magic to characters with POW≥14, and the points required should balance things between magic users and non-magic users.

The allegiance rules assume random allegiance values, but I will allow the players to distribute up to 10 points between good and evil, setting aside chaotic and lawful.

Difficulty Multipliers

Pathfinder uses difficulty numbers, but does not define these numbers. Basic Roleplaying uses difficulty multipliers. In some cases, it also makes sense to apply difficulty additions.

Basic Roleplaying Pathfinder Equivalent
Easy x2 Difficulty Class 5
Normal x1 Difficulty Class 10
Hard x1/2 Difficulty Class 15
Very Hard x1/4 Difficulty Class 20
Impossible Difficulty Class 30

There are certain exceptions to these difficulty numbers.

Optional Rules

The following optional rules are in play:

Point-Based Character Creation, p. 19. This replaces rolling for attributes.
Total Hit Points, p. 30. This gives the characters a better chance of survival.
Increased Personal Skill Points, p. 24. This gives higher-level characters extra personal skill points, as well as professional ones.
Skill Category Bonuses, pp. 20, 31, 48. This applies attribute modifies to the skills.
Freeform Professions, p. 41. Because.
Literacy, p. 67. Because Medieval.
Distinctive Features, pp. 34, 35. Because.
Allegiance, p. 315. Alignment.
Power Use in the Action Phase, p. 189. I'm not sure how to do Initiative, but this seems appropriate.
marjaerwin: (Default)
The player-characters are all Amazons. The campaign is set in the legendary near east, corresponding to the end of the Bronze Age in the historical near east. The campaign is somewhat linear, I'm not sure how to work around that.

An Amazon oracle has had warnings of some great disaster, and believes that the Amazons must prepare and protect themselves, their land, and their sisters in other lands from this disaster. So the player-characters are sent out on several missions. First, they are to travel to neighboring communities, warn them, trade, and collect certain sacred relics. Second, as Amazon priestesses prepare a ritual to create illusions to conceal their land from the eyes of men, and create barriers, they are also to retrieve certain magical items to help create this barrier. Third, as it becomes clear that wars are about to break out, they are to warn neighboring communities, again. This time their neighboring communities would challenge them: why do the Amazons offer refuge to only the womyn, and those freaks [who they don't consider womyn], not the men? Finally, as the wars break out, they have to protect refugees and the neighboring communities, for example, they have to defend Mytilene from raiders.
marjaerwin: (Default)
I have two character concepts, but I don't know how to create either character in Pathfinder. I have the core rulebook, but not with me, so I have been trying to use the system reference guide.

At this point I think:

1. The character classes are way way way too restrictive. The game either needs new classes to cover the gaps or it needs to rewrite the classes so there's some flexibility.

2. The system reference guide is horribly disorganized and is misleading when creating a character, because earlier steps often depend on later steps.
marjaerwin: (Default)
Okay, so you arrive at the game. You've spent a lot of time coming up with your character, her backstory, and eventually her game stats. You've been looking forward to the game. So you talk with the other players, and start playing. Something turns sour, or even creepy, and the game isn't fun any more. You don't want to give up quite yet. You don't want to leave and disrupt the story. So you keep playing and keep talking with the other players as if nothing had happened. And the guys might not realize that anything had happened.

The worst is when one of the male players starts making sexual advances. If they are doing this out of game, this is just creepy. If they are doing this in-game, it could be because the character is creepy, rather than the player, but they should be careful not to make the other players uncomfortable.

Another problem is when one of the male players stares at your boobs for the entire game. I have had this happen as much as most female gamers.

Another problem is when one of the male players decides to sexualize female characters, or to create his own female character and sexualize her. I'm all for male gamers playing female characters and female gamers playing male characters, especially because it gives people another perspective on the gender system. I know that some male players can play female characters whose sexuality is an important part of their character without sexualizing their character.

But few men realize how threatening the male gaze is. How many of them have been subject to the male gaze? How many of them have to deal with men shouting obscene sexual demands? How many of them have been sexually assaulted? bashed or raped? How many of them have helped their friends through the trauma? Maybe if some of these men knew how threatening the male gaze is, they would know better than to sexualize their characters, and be more aware of other issues that may be triggering to other players. Maybe.
marjaerwin: (Default)

Well, it's not always the same. I'd geek out because I wanted to set things right, I'd geek out partly because I wanted to know what was wrong and how and what could be right and how, but also, because I wanted to know for its own sake. I delight in stories. I delight in exploration. I tend to back away from judgement.

I designed a game of protest tactics in the Battle of Seattle, but the situation has changed, and the lessons seem out-of-date. And I never figured out how to cover practical day-to-day activism, pre-protest organizing, street theater, except abstractly, getting food and shelter and enough bike locks, street medicine, or coping with police harassment and/or post-traumatic stress, each of which is just as important.

I want to design a roleplaying game, tentatively titled 'Every Empire Creates its own Resistance,' on trying to make do as people find themselves on the edges of a steadily-narrowing society in a self-destructive Empire.

But it's pretty dark, and I'm coping with other stuff.

Once my hands heal I'll finish some of my historical games.

I doubt I'll design a hard-core activist roleplaying game in the next few years. I am more likely to try to create an escapist fantasy where, for example, certain parties have slipped lesbian concentrate into the water supply, with more dramatic effects than they had dared to expect. It wouldn't be about our-world activism, it would be about escape, but in such an escape, I hope to create a healing space, and heal, and regain the strength to help heal the world.
marjaerwin: (Default)
I am a pacifist, but I rarely play pacifists. It's complicated. I feel like I'd be spoiling the game and passing burdens onto the gamemaster and the other players. But I want to visualize nonviolence.

Honestly, I don't think games necessarily put too much time/effort into combat rules. I think sometimes they put too little time/effort into helping resolve negotiation, matters of trust, ambition, and so on. *Call of Cthulhu* has rules for combat, rules for studying the Cthulhu Mythos, and so on, but these things are liable to kill characters, or leave them insane. I think most players avoid these things.

I'm a bit iffy about whether we should use game mechanics to discourage violence, such as [even temporarily] reducing presence/charisma/empathy scores if someone dies due to the characters' actions. But it may help.


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