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1 +-+ +-+ +-+ +-+--+-+--+-+ VOLUME FIVE NUMBER ONE | | ========================================== +___________+ FFFFF SSS FFFFF N N EEEEE TTTTT | ++ | F S F NN N E T | ++ | FFF SSS FFF N N N EEE T | | F S F N NN E T |_________| F SSS F N N EEEEE T /___________\ ========================================== | | BITNET Fantasy-Science Fiction Fanzine ___|___________|___ X-Edited by 'Orny' Liscomb <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> CONTENTS X-Editorial Orny Complete Game Design Orny Origin of a "PBM" Game Stephen Tihor Nuclear Autumn Joseph Curwen ELFQUEST Supplement Review Richard Jervis A National Gaming Organization Mike Barbre Date: 072086 Dist: 157 <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> X-Editorial Well, hello, and welcome to the roleplaying game and other assorted miscellany issue of FSFnet! Included in this issue you will find some interesting gaming-related articles, including an article by a gentleman who has designed a rather extensive PBM game. There are also a few odd tidbits, including an extra story by Joseph Curwen. Issue VOL5N02 will be out very soon after you receive this issue, and will return to the Dargon project with some more excellent fantasy fiction by BITNET authors. I'd also like to mention that we might be losing some of our Dargon authors, and would like to encourage readers who dabble in writing to try their hand at writing a Dargon story. It is, after all, a writing project for the authors, and an excellent writing exercise. As for news, there is some. New books are appearing left and right, as well as reprints, so I would suggest that people check several bookstores for their favorite authors, and perhaps some new ones. Also, I highly recommend the Bowie/Henson movie "Labyrinth". Although the plot is a little bit contrived, the remainder of the film is well worth the admission price. Bowie was highly bearable in his role as Goblin King, and Henson created some effects that really shake you up. I would go see the movie twice or three times simply to appreciate the action. Excellent film. But on to the meat of the matter, an issue dedicated to the fine art of roleplaying gaming. Enjoy, and we'll see you in Dargon in a couple weeks! -Orny <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> Complete Game Design There are four aspects of every roleplaying game that must be properly coordinated and supervised by the gamemaster to result in a successful game or campaign. In this short article I shall attempt to share some of what I have learned in my gamemastering experiences. The first and most basic step in any game is choosing what game rules system to use. There are virtually countless rules systems available commercially, and most gamemasters feel that they are sufficient for their purposes. Some gamemasters decide that the rules are acceptable with minor modifications. A few gamemasters eventually undertake to create their own rule systems. All gamemasters, however must choose between these options, and I have developed some criteria by which gamemasters may choose the systems they use. Firstly, the gamemaster should know what he wants from the system, weighing elements he desires to incorporate and elements he wishes to avoid. Special attention should be given to the tradeoff between realism and playability. Finally, the best way to understand the shortcomings and strengths of a game is to playtest it. Playtesting is one of the strongest tools of the game designer, and is the proving grounds for the system. Overall, an intelligent choice of game systems, be they commercially available or self-designed, is a critical point in game design. The second aspect of a game which must be addressed is the game locality and environment. THis includes the layout of the land, geographical features, maps, towns, NPCs, and so forth. The best policy to create an environment is to start small. Often gamemasters start out by drawing entire continents, and run into trouble when play concentrates on a smaller scale. Detailed maps are excellent tools, and accomplish the dual purposes of arousing player interest and avoiding the creation of generic "areas" that lack in detail. Thirdly is scenario design; the adventure. When designing an adventure, keep the players interest in mind. Bring the party together in a logical and believable manner. As soon as is convenient, grab their interest by giving them a major event to think over. For example, they find out that several people have disappeared from their town. This will give the players something to think about and a purpose to unite them. As the major plot builds up, throw in minor subplots (ie they find out that the trusted sheriff is a werewolf), leading up to the climax of the major plot. For each adventure, there is a time to think and a time to act, and your players should not be confused as to which is which. A balance of "think'n'sweat" and "hack'n'slash" will keep everyone happy. During each session your players should feel a sense of achievement or gain, as well as some doubt at the mess they've gotten themselves into. The purpose of the game is to make your players feel some of the emotions of their characters, and to suspend their disbelief just enough. A well designed scenario is a major factor in this. The final point is not an aspect of the game, but of the gamemaster. As gamemaster, you must carefully implement the game system, the environment, and the scenario to have a successful game. Your performance in actually running the game can make a badly-designed game exciting, or a well-designed game a flop. THe first thing to remember is to know the game system. Having to constantly page through rules detracts from the players enjoyment of the game, and is rather unprofessional. Keeping things moving is very important. Waiting for the players to stumble upon a key clue is futile and aggravating for the players. It is also important to not be predictable in what you do. Players who know what you will do are bored players. Finally, make the players play the roles of their characters. That's what roleplaying is all about. A careful management of the game system, the campaign, the scenario, and your gamemastering style will result in successful all-around game design. Each aspect has its pitfalls, which must be learned to be avoided. I hope that sharing my gamemastering experiences are of use to you in yours. -Orny <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> Origin of a "PBM" game I have been involved in fantasy gaming and, to a lesser extent, wargaming since the late 60s when I started dropping by the old SPI offices in New York for their Friday night playtest sessions. A number of my friends also playtested for SPI and some of them, such as Greg Costikyan, went on to become professional game designers. It is only natural to want to design one's own game after seeing so much happen in this environment, but I always found the heavily competitive style and the WW II orientation of traditional wargaming uncomfortable. With the arrival of D&D in late 1974 I found a medium in which I was comfortable working, and have been involved in running various rolegames ever since. Edi Birsan, another NY area gamer with a more wargaming bias, changed his campaign from face to face to a fantasy wargame/miniatures campaign (reversing the evolutionary path of D&D) which many NY area players found interesting. Unfortunately it had a strong flavor of gamesmaster intervention which was generally felt to be a "bad thing." Most of my effort (and that of our group) went into evolving our local rules systems first from D&D and the later our own design in a project for SPI, part of which was eventually degenerated into their RPG, Dragonquest. The idea of a "play by mail" style game in a fantasy envrionment continued to intrigue me. Last summer a couple of my friends who were playing in a number of commercial PBM games suggested that it would be interesting to do our own game. The idea immediately appealed to me but I felt that it had to be designed for computer moderation from the begining. After a couple of brainstorming sessions we agreed on a number of game principles: Each player would BE a single character in the world Every character or unit could only control up to FIVE other characters, units, or provinces, but those characters or units could control up to FIVE other characters, or units, or provinces, etc No control would be perfect and permanent but we are playing a fantasy game, not Computer Illuminati, so it would not be easy to seize control of a fifth of player's entire hierarchy of control While a unit remained loyal then command and control would be perfect (telepathy is a wonderful spell) Each character would have skills which could be improved over time and new skills could be learned The game would be set in an Earth-like world where the technology was that of the middle ages, magic worked, and intelligent species other than humanity existed. The basic turn would be one month A person, unit, stack of units, or province could execute one order per month A lone rider on horse back could cover four provinces in one month if not attacked The game would be entirely computer moderatable with no human intervention in the adjudication of individual orders needed (i.e. no special orders; if it's worth doing it's worth making a part of the program) There is limited information about the world, the actions of other players, and the exact values of the various skills More information could be discovered in the course of play The multi-player diplomatic aspects and limited information would provide the major initial challenges A player need not fight for "world domination" to enjoy playing; movement and combat should be credible for both armies and small parties of adventurers The wargaming aspects would be done first since they would draw more people into the game New rules modules and thus activities and playing styles will be added transparently New players can join at any time People and places are basically the same things and many of the same options apply to both, thus you can control a city directly and it in turn may have mercenary units working for it. It turned out that I was the only one of the designers in a position to code extensively so I ended up writing the entire 12k lines of C. I chose "portably written" C rather than LISP as the implementation language to insure that the game would be very portable, there would be adequate fast implementations available for the top of the line microcomputers on which the game would eventually have to live if it worked well enough to move it beyond a hobby project. My general goal would be for it to expand to the point that it can be run be a NY area game company as a "for-profit" project and I can stop having to run the turns myself and concentrate on development. This winter I felt the program was solid enough that I started collecting local playtesters. The first six turns were run weekly but as people gradually came to want longer turn deadlines we moved to biweekly turns. Then people wanted more actions so I moved the basic action from units of a month with four weekly movement/combat phases to units of a week, with some actions taking more than one unit. The underlying implementation of time was designed to to handle very small quantums of action since I felt uncomfortable with large turns containing many smaller phases and more comfortable with actions taking place in continuous time. Breaking the monolithic month required only changing a couple of constants. With the move to a longer turnaround it became possible to have players not within shouting distance and I solicited some additional playtesters using the Usenet newsgroup net.games.frp. We currently have 21 active playerships and perhaps 14 semi-active ones. Many of the more active players are network players since they have faster communications than even some of the "face-to-face" players do. It has been interesting watching the flow of message from player to player as initally everyone took advantage of the anonymity of messages sent though the gamesmaster and the newsletter rather than simply exchanging phone numbers and addresses. In the last few turns the communications rate has climbed steadily as one player seized the capitol and others began aligning themselves against his position. As I send this off the Game is turning the year counter over. People are now writing orders for the first "lune" of the second year of play. One effect of the continuing nature of the playtest is that players continue to join the game as time goes on. To adjust for the inital position effect the starting resources a player was given increased steadily over the first seven turns to compensate for not being able to submit moves for the earlier turns. Some players are also being placed on a second land mass to separate them from then rather messy war starting on the mainland until they get their sea legs, as it were. (Most players take a couple of turns to get the feel for how things are done.) Lately my efforts have been divided fairly evenly between expanding the world by adding additional places and NPCs; adding documentation such as lore sheets on provinces, players, and skills; and, expanding the basic game options by adding additional uses for skills, enhancing the underlying economic model and sections of the game that are only now being used (the first player ship on the high seas prompted me to finish the "Storms at Sea module", and add new major modules. The current big project is the Heroic Adventures, random encounter sequences which present options for actions and support for attacking Dragons with one Hero rather than one Legion. We lost a few players when the spring term ended at several schools. It is time to add a some additional players with stable network access. If anyone wants to contact me I can be reached at: UUCPnet: {ihnp4,seismo,...}!cmcl2!tihor ARPAnet: TIHOR@NYU-ACF1 or TIHOR@NYU BITnet: TIHOR@NYUACF Copies of the setup package are available on request but are fairly lengthy to send over UUCP links. They can be picked up via anonymous FTP from NYU.ARPA (or NYU.EDU) as ~ftp/pub/tihor/rules. The current newsletter is .../tihor/newsletter and is included with setups. The costs for network turns are negligable so there is no charge for people getting their turns in person or by e-mail but it is recommended that most network players send me a couple of SASEs for hand written responses if they include an ad in the T'NYC Times (the newsletter) which solicit responses since some players will be giving me handwritten replies. -Stephen Tihor <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> Nuclear Autumn In the last days of a decadent race, the eternal children sought what tawdry pleasures they could, well knowing but never realizing that their time was nearly at an end. These were the Glorious Days, filled with all the myth and wonder of Man's devising. And myth and wonder there were. So much so that a man might live out his entire life, which could no longer be adequately measured in years, without perceiving even the slightest hint of the cold realities which had faced their historical predecessors. No pleasure palace of Kubla Khan could compare with the vast panorama of delusion in which Man had enfolded himself. In truth, the commonalities of such an existence would have caused even the most tainted of Sultanates to blush. But of course, the act of blushing itself had grown to be only the vaguest of myths, half-heartedly sought by countless numbers of pleasure seekers who were incapable of conceiving of any emotion leading to its expression. Life had reached the bounds of Man's finite imagination, but still the populace desired more. It was inevitable. The sensual pleasures had been exploited to their fullest. The intellectual pleasures had long since been abandoned as requiring such great an effort for such small returns. Looking back across those final years, one recognizes the odious progression of those dissatisfied with the ability to define one's own existence with such precision. One sees a steady growth in the numbers of those who desired hardships and death, and those who wished to savor the things that the society constructed by their forefathers had forbidden them. Perhaps it all arose naturally from the destructive instinct in Man, which while carefully channeled by society into acceptable forms could only achieve the palest of expressions. Society had done its best to compromise with this force, providing more and more outlets of outre expression which would have shocked any sane individual of another age. But the attractions of the forbidden were felt in much greater proportions by those unused to any form of self-discipline. There could be no compromise. Small sects of discontents arose and grew in number until they encompassed the greater part of the entire population. They were dissatisfied with mechanized life and sought refuge in artificial wildernesses, harkening back onto the mythical days of their ancestors when Man vied directly with Nature in continuous combat. But it was not enough, as as they knew that they were in an instant's communication with great mechanized forces capable of easily overcoming any task, there could be no full appreciation of the struggle to survive. As long as any man had access to such devices, their day to day victories in the "Wilderness" shown shallow. And so after a long period of fruitless pursuit, an unspoken resolution formed in the minds of each and every man. Man must be freed from his devices, freed to struggle once more in a world where the combat was meaningful, a world with obstacles worthy of challenging Man once again. But turning off the machines would not be enough, not so long as they could be reactivated. To free Man would require that society and its machines were totally and irrevocably destroyed. This presented Man's first real challenge in centuries for the devices of Man's society had been constructed to withstand any mishap unscathed. They could not be averted from their continuous and ever present functioning. Man puzzled long over this dilemma without solution, until one day a very unfashionable elder, who had chosen to seek pleasure in the lost knowledge of Man's history, struck upon a forgotten record. It seemed that in the days long before civilization, Man had done violence unto himself in massive numbers. The very concept was at once unbelievable and exciting to these souls trapped into passivity by their societial machine. But even more than this, it presented hope. In some forgotten era of the race, Man had constructed engines capable of destruction well beyond even their own comprehension. Man's fear had caused these engines to go unused and unremembered but not untended. As was the practice of all the Great Builders, these engines of violence were perpetually maintenanced by machines which would last until Armageddon. Here at last was a solution. There was no discussion. They were driven by their desperation, knowing there was nothing to lose. Resolutely, the masses uncovered the engines of destruction and set them about their inevitable course. They awaited hopeful of their outcome, hopeful of escape. And Man looked upon a new day....a new beginning. -Joseph Curwen <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> ELFQUEST the Roleplaying Game (tm) Companion I and The Sea Elves Review This was intended to be a short review of the new gaming aids for Elfquest players by Chaosium, but in discussion with others I found that the one thing all of us seem to miss was an extended table of Contents or an index of sorts. Personally I lean too heavily on such things when learning a new game, from lack of familiarity or laziness or just for some semblance of speed when trying to involve others in my scenario. When the Companion came out in August I had hoped for a compendium of sorts, or perhaps a gamemasters guide to tables and a quick reference outline for character generation. While it was full of information both expected and desired, there was no index. So I made my own. At the end of this article I'll list the list of "Poor Richard's Index". This is by no means exhaustive or complete, as I was only attempting to narrow down the areas of info. A complete listing would include the Two manuals, the Companion, the Sea Elves, references to the Quest , the Fanclub, and anything else one might find useful. That is a tall order when the original idea was to shorten reference time, not expand it. Podium aside, I'll get onto the review at hand. Firstly the Elfquest Companion opens with some updates to the game made necessary by issues 19 and 20 of Elfquest in an errata section. For example, the modification of the rule about shaping dead wood made necessary by Redlance's actions, and information about the gas bombs used by Ol' Maggotty. Also, the stats for 17 more characters from the quest are included, but 'Rotsap and splinters in me hand! No new soul-names!' The section on Finding an Elfname is useful... my basic rule is if you don' t pick one, One will be given.... "Help with Elf design" is interesting, I nicknamed it "How to draw elves the Pini way." It gives some filling out for NPC's as well as being a good guide-line for undecided characters. "Wolf Ecology" is a comparative study of the wolves on "The World of Two-moons" and those of Terrestrial ilk. I think this should be "must" reading for players and Gamemasters alike to help with role-playing and to help dispel some misconceptions about wolves. The Wolfhaven Holt, a divergent branch of wolfriders, gives some good ideas for Holt development in your game. A pseudo-history is included, and the module; "The Dying River" is meant to be played by a branch of Wolfhaven elves. (This doesn't preclude others, it's merely a suggestion.) The Second Module, "Fire Flight" is for several Plains elves. "The Sea Elves" is a complete culture supplement for Elfquest based on the concept that some High ones fled from the humans only to run into the ocean. They colonized several islands with the help of dolphin like creatures known as wave-dancers. The supplement is divided into sections on history, the islands and the creatures who inhabit them. We are given five new powers and three excellent modules. "Stormcoming Hunt" is a race against time and tide, "Littlesmoke Island" provides a backdrop for exploration of heretofore undiscovered islands, and "Assault of Smalltower Island" presents a different view of elves, in the role of pirates! I'll not say a lot more about the modules so as not to spoil the surprises, except that they look real nice and that there's more to them than their names imply. The Elfquest Companion I and The Sea Elves are available from Chaosium, INC. Box 6302-eqc, Albany CA 94706-0302 for about $6.00. -Richard Jervis POOR RICHARD'S ELF INDEX FOR Elfquest (tm) (Sections are caps, tables are marked with a dash, and Characters are in quotes. Numbers suffixed with an 's' represent selections in The Sea Elves.) A- Age 18 -Age Factor Table 21 Animal Bonding 42 Animal Lore 21,51 Antidotes 8 Anti-Healing 39 Armour 62 Astral Projection 42 ATTACKING 49 Automatic Success 24 B- -Beginning skills table 2s Birth Rate 9 Blue Mountain Folk 10,66-67 Bond Animals 24 Bone-shaping 8s C- Characteristics 19 " Increasing 29 "Clearbrook" 20 Climb 21,34 COMBAT 45-63 -Combat Jargon Table 46-47 - " Modifiers Table 57 " results 54-55 Communication 21,34,4s Covered Targets 56 CREATING AN ELF 16 Critical Attacks 49 " Parry 51 " Success 25 Climb 21,31 D- DAMAGE 30-32 " Bonus 20 Darkness 56 Derived Characteristics 20 Desert Elves 12,69 Dexterity 47 Dodge 21,34,52 E- -Earthquake Severity table 7s -Encounter table 17s ELFQUEST EXPRESSIONS 73 Elf Lore 21,34 Experience Bonus 20 F- Finding 44 Firestarting 40 Fish-finding 8s Fishing and Hunting 4-5s Fist and Kick 58 Fleshshaping 41 Fumble 25 -Fumble Tables 52 G- Game day 32 GAME SYSTEM 24 Gobacks 10,67-69 Grappling 59 Great Waves 7s - " " table " H- Healing 32,41 " Lore 21,34 -Height and Weight Table 19 High Ground 56 High Ones 12 Hit Points 20 Hit Point Location 30 Homing Instinct 8s Humans 13,71 Human Lore 21,35 I- THE ISLANDS 6-7s Island flora and fauna 6s Impale 50,52 J- Jump 21,35 K- "Kahvi" 67 L- LANGUAGES 13 " Lore 21,35 "Leetah" 66 Levitation 41 M- MAGIC 21-23,38,5s " Feeling 44 " points 20 " powers 38,8-9s " use 48 Manipulation 21,36 Melee Activities 48-49 " Round 33-46 " Skills 49 Weapons 57-58 Mind snare 45 " Stun 44 Mineral Lore 21,36 -Missed Throw Table 38 Missiles 59-60 -Missile Weapons Table 60 Mounted Combat 55 Movement 20,47-48 -Movement Rate Table 33 N- Name 16 Natural Weapons 58 Nets 60-62 O- "Olbar" 70 OTHER TRIBES 64-72 P- Parry 51 " an impale 51 passageways 56 perception 21,36 -Perception Modifiers 37 -Pirate Statistics table 18s Plains Elves 12,70 Plant Lore 21,37 " Shaping 41 Power Gain Roll 29 Preparing a weapon 48 Preservers 13,72 Previous Experience 21-22 R- "Rayek" 64 Recognition 9,19 Recognized Lifemate 18 "Redlance" 18 Research 30 -Resistance Table 26 Ride 21,37 Ride Skill Limit 51 Rockshaping 42 S- "Savah" 64 SEA & ISLAND CREATURES 9-16s -Sea Elf Characteristics and skills 2s Sea Elves 12,68-69,2-5s Seismic Activity 6-7s Sending 23,45 Shape Changing 42 Shield 45,51,63 Simple Success 24 SKILLS 34 -Skills Table 21 -Skills Results Table 25 Skill Training 27 Skill vs Skill 24-25 Social Structure 4s Special Attack 50 - " Attributes Table 23 " Environments 55 " Success 25 Stealth 21,37 -Stealth Terrain Modifiers 37 Stormseeing 8-9s Strike Rank 20,47 - " " Table 47 - " " Modifiers Table 20 Sunfolk 10,65-66 Surprise 48 Swim 21,37 Synopsis 13-16 T- Telepathic Powers 42 -Terrain Effects Table 33 Time and Movement 32 Throw 21,38 Trolls 71-72 Troll Lore 38 Turns 33 Two Attacks 51 U- Unfavorable Environments 56 Underwater 56 V- -Volcanic Eruption table 7s W- Water Control 9s Wavedancers 4s Weapons 5s Weapon Description 62-63 " Length 47 " Use 57 Weather 6s "Winnowill" 67 Wolfriders 10,24 CHARACTER GENERATION SEQUENCE Age: 2d10 x 2d6 Recognition: age/10 on 1d100 Recognized mate alive? POW x 5 on 1d100 Roll Basic stats: page 19 Dmg Bonus: If STR + SIZ >= 25.... Experience Bonus: INT/2 Hit Points: (CON + SIZ)/2 Magic Points: POW Strike Rank Mod: Table on Page 20 Special Attributes: Max of 2 rolls on table (23) Previous Exp Tot Basic Stats X # on Age factor chart (page 21.)*Basic Stats can be increased (except INT or SIZ) Initial Skills: Table on 21 Talent Roll: 1D100 Weapon use: Table on 58 <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<> Launching a National University Gaming Organization My name is Mike Barbre and I am the Vice President of the University Gamers Unlimited at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. I am sending you all this note in the hope that you will feel as I do. It is time to begin a national organization for gaming among the universities of the world. This can help each of us in many ways. I will list some of the benefits below; A list of people who share your gaming interests. When budgeting time arrives at the universities, belonging to a national organization is a big plus. I will work to get each member a standing discount at the various companies who make our favorite games. (idea) a newsletter put out annually. (idea) a newsletter of the highest quality containing just advertising from our favorite companies (I like looking at ads) and anything else we can think of. Ok, your saying what will it cost? Answer: nothing more than your groups address. If I get enough of a response I will make up a form letter along with a signup sheet to be copied and provided to each member of your groups. Each member (hope) would fill out and return the signup sheet. By doing so I will add the names to a universal gaming database. Using the miracle of SAS I will then make a 'phone book' and send it to everyone. Generally this would be a forum of gamers, with the benefits of a university. If you are interested at all please send me a note, and if possible provide the address (on campus) of your favorite gaming organization. I thank you for your time and hope to hear from you soon. Mike Barbre University Gamers Unlimited 250 University Center, UMSL 8001 Natural Bridge Road St. Louis, MO. 63121 <>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>X<>


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