Thursday, June 12, 2008

[Article] Orcs' Nest

The idea for this was originally suggested by Robert Fisher. Essentially it was to produce a Fast Play document for OSRIC that could be freely disseminated as a pdf, downloaded, printed, and distributed locally to promote the game and build awareness. It struck me as an excellent idea and worth taking as far as possible. It was also noted that there was increasing interest from all quarters in traditional adventure role-play games, a revaluation of the past which was thought to be a combined result of the respective deaths of Gary Gygax and Robert Bledsaw in March and April of this year. With the impending (and now actual) release of a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons and the rapid approach of Free RPG Day, I decided it would be opportune to suggest the idea at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse, which received a favourable response. Robert and others put forward some ideas, and I started writing...

So, here we are a few brief weeks later with a finished and disseminated product. A few hours before writing this, I dropped twenty four copies of the beta version off at my local game shops in Newcastle (yes we have two of them), twelve at the Forbidden Planet and twelve at the Travelling Man. They are being given away at those stores for free, probably to those customers making purchases of other products, but essentially at the discretion of the staff. I finished writing the alpha version of the module almost a week ago, and started threads about it at a number of RPG internet forums with a link to a free download of the pdf. I received mainly positive feedback, and was glad of some constructive criticism that I incorporated into the beta version.

What I want to discuss here is where, why and how the fast play rules for OSRIC differ from the ordinary rules. There are not many differences, but there are some. For the most part they were conscious changes or simplifications, but there are one or two that started as accidental errors on my part. What follows is basically exposition on the design of the fast play rules for Orcs' Nest.

Time: In OSRIC, a turn is defined as ten minutes, a round as one minute, and a segment as six seconds. I purposefully left these strict definitions of time out of the fast play document because the units are abstracted, and new players can find one minute long rounds a bit offputting and difficult to imagine. It doesn't really matter whether you consider a round to be one minute, thirty seconds, ten seconds or, indeed, six seconds, so long as you are aware how it interacts with segments and turns. Personally, I prefer six second rounds on the whole.

Surprise: The way surprise segments are handled is more detailed in the OSRIC core rules. For the sake of simplicity, the fast play rules went with one segment as being always the result of surprise, but in the full game it is possible to surprise or be surprised for more segments, depending on the roll of the die and the initial probability of surprise.

Inititative: The rules in the source material for OSRIC have been the cause of much confusion and disputation. In OSRIC, each party determines which segment the other will strike blows on, usually hoping to roll high so their enemies will act late. In the fast play rules, each side rolls its own initiative, hoping to roll low so they will act early. It makes little difference which way it is resolved, so long as everyone is clear on what they are rolling for beforehand.

Charging: In the full rules for OSRIC characters may only charge once per turn. Furthermore, their armour class either worsens by one point during a charge or they lose all dexterity bonus to armour class, whichever has the worst effect. For the purposes of the fast play rules, this last did not matter, because no character's dexterity improved their armour class by more than one point.

Closing: An option left out of the fast play rules is to approach the enemy more cautiously, which is to say at a normal rate of movement. In this case neither the advancing character nor his opponent may strike blows during the advance.

Attack Roll: Thieves and Magic Users normally use a slightly worse chart than Fighters and Clerics at first level. The chart the Human Slaves are listed with in the Monster section is the one they use in OSRIC. This was originally an oversight in the fast play rules, but it was later decided to leave it as it was for the sake of simplicity (and space!).

Ranged Weapons: In the normal rules for OSRIC, bows may be employed twice per round; it was decided to ignore the complications of staggered multiple attacks for the purposes of the fast play document.

Hit Points: When reduced to 0 hit points in OSRIC, a character loses one hit point per round until they die at -10 or the bleeding is stopped. The recovery rules are also slightly more complicated.

Spell Casting: Some groups prefer to have all spell casting begin on segment 0 and the segment they occur being governed by their casting time. Personally, I like to use whichever is worse, the casting time or the initiative roll.

Withdrawing and Fleeing: The current OSRIC rules do not define at what rate of movement characters may withdraw or flee. A close reading of the source text would allow fleeing to occur at twice the rate of a withdrawal.

Other Combat Rules: There are a number of other options in OSRIC not discussed in the fast play rules.

Thief Abilities

General Note: In order to successfully use a Thief Ability, the game master rolls a die to model the probability of success based on the number next to the ability in the character description, with the number expressing the percentage of success. So Sunara, for instance, has a 25% chance (1 in 4) of successfully picking a lock. Some game masters allow the character a chance to succeed once per turn, some allow only one chance, and others consider grades of failure to sometimes represent a delayed success.

Thieves and Bows: Going strictly by the core OSRIC rules, Thieves are not allowed to employ bows as weapons. However, the source material does allow for it as an optional rule, and that was assumed to be in play for the Orcs' Nest module.

Editing Error 1: During editing area 16 acquired two 'b' labels; the first 'b' was intended to read as 'a'.