Friday, December 6, 2013

Charting Some Progress

Courtesy of the American Thanksgiving holidays, I did something that I haven't done in ages:  I didn't log into an MMO for a week.

After about the first day the shakes died down, but I still got twitchy whenever someone said "boss" or "toon" or "character" in conversation.  Okay, not really, but there was a day or two where I kept thinking that I had to try to squeeze in some MMO time, but that feeling passed by about the third day.

As far as addictions go, I guess MMOs don't captivate me that much.*  Which is a good thing.

That lack of playtime didn't keep me from thinking about MMOs, however, as I was reacquainting myself with the old Moldvay D&D Red Box set:

You know, this thing.  Complete with Errol Otus cover art.

I'd decided to go Old School with the kids and take them through the classic module B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands, and I needed to get back up to speed on all the rules from Basic D&D.

Or rather, unlearn all of the rules from subsequent versions of the game.

The character sheet for Moldvay D&D** is a study in simplicity:

A scan of a sample character sheet in the Moldvay Basic D&D rulebook

Compare that with the D&D 4e character sheet:

And this is just the front page!

And if you take a gander at the average MMO character listing, it's even more complex:
I often wonder why a Rogue would be bent backward like that.
It's not like a pair of oversize daggers would weigh that much.

It's deceptively simple, since all you have to do is hover your pointer over a piece of gear and you get all of the crunchy numbers.

An MMO can create that sort of character sheet because it can take the crunch and hide it from the player, and unless you're a theorycrafter or a hardcore player, you don't necessarily have to worry about the details. But with a pencil and paper RPG, you have to pay attention to the numbers because the actual "fighting" or "doing things" is all done with your imagination.

For most people, however, there's a tradeoff between the crunch and imagination.  It's a bit of a moving target, because different people can handle different levels of crunch, but there comes a tipping point when imagination starts to lose out to the crunch and an RPG becomes all about the numbers.  While my personal tipping point is somewhere more complex than, say, Pathfinder, I can't say where anyone else's --much less my kids-- tipping point is.

Which brings me back to Moldvay D&D.

The game is simple enough to pick up and play, and compared to more complex RPGs*** has a minimal amount of crunch.  And yet all the flavor of a D&D-esque game is still there. For my purposes --a quick, minimal setup type of game that I already know the rules to-- it should be perfect.

The kids created characters, they met up at the Keep of the module's title, and hired some men-at-arms to accompany them in their search for the mysterious Caves of Chaos.  They set out on the morrow, but they'd better not get lost in the forest along the way.  There are things in the forest that love to feast on adventurers.


A short update on "Ever, Jane", the Jane Austen MMO: it made it's Kickstarter goals, and the design team is moving forward with the game.  You can find a short article about the game on The Mary Sue's website. The game seems to be highly attractive to roleplayers who would find Regency Britain an intriguing setting.

*At least not compared to coffee.

**It's called that because Tom Moldvay edited this version of the game, so as to differentiate between the earlier blue book version edited by J. Eric Holmes and the later red book edited by Frank Mentzer (which had the Larry Elmore cover art.)

***Even Savage Worlds, which I've used as a pretty basic RPG in the past.


  1. I can handle 0 crunch, someone else has to do the crunching for me. And I've found that my MMO addiction isn't TOO bad but I'm ashamed to admit my internet addiction is really bad. The internet goes out and I'm a hysterical mess, lol.

    Watch out for those things in the forest!

    1. You know, Ancient, you might want to talk to your RPGer son-in-law about FATE. It's even lower in crunch than Basic D&D, and is very interactive in terms of setting up a game that everyone wants to play.

      As for what they'll find, they've heard a few rumors about the surrounding area, including that an Elf once disappeared across the marshes to the south. Who knows what they'll find.... ;-)

  2. Can you really call it red box when the box isn't red? ;) I actually have a red box D&D in a closet at home somewhere, just not sure which one it is... did a quick image search and it seems like there were quite a few actually red boxes back in the day.

    (I believe I may have shed a few geek points here... I'll get over it)

    1. I still call it the red box because the interior book was red, but the box itself was pink.

      The main confusion among the Mentzer edition and other ones is that Wizards of the Coast brought back the old style Elmore art for a starter box for D&D's 4e. Mentzer's edition came out in around 83-84 or so, while Moldvay's is 80ish. The earlier Holmes edition was 77-78.