I recently decided that my gaming life was missing a proper dose of online play. So I contacted Erik at Tenkar’s Tavern. I’ve read many of his posts and felt he might be aware of some opportunities. I also have interacted with him over the past few years, and thought it might go better if I approached someone that was not a complete stranger.
Erik invited me to join his group and I readily accepted. At the last session there were six of us, including me: Erik, Greg Christopher, Keith Davies, Michael Garcia, and Joe Dimech. I am not a gregarious person by nature and I felt some trepidation, as I am often uneasy meeting many new people at once. I wish it were not so, but I have learned to work within the constraints of my nature.
This post will now shift into a sort of pseudo review. I’ll talk about using Tabletop Forge for online gaming, the Ambition & Avarice rules we used, and a little about the dynamics of online interaction. At the time of this writing, I have participated in two game sessions.
The group gathered within a Google+ Hangout. I was the only one without a camera. I watched everyone’s face while they saw a picture of me riding in a mountain bike race. I did not think the lack of a camera would matter, but I found that it helped me keep track of who was talking. Otherwise, the Hangout can easily become a sea of voices that sound too similar. I suppose that I will have to buy a camera.
The mapping and die rolling occurred with Tabletop Forge, an app for Google Hangouts. I regret that Tabletop Forge is just barely acceptable at this time. There is no “fog of war”, which forces the GM to draw all maps by hand. The chat interface slows down over time and die rolls can take a long time to appear in the window. Quitting and rejoining the Hangout alleviates the problem, but then the players also lose the map and have to start over. I backed the Tabletop Forge Kickstarter and know the developers are capable of resolving these problems. Hopefully, it will not be too long.
Whether they believe it or not, the other players are interesting people and I enjoyed listening to their comments and bad jokes. During the first game session, I said little. I participated more during the second session as I grew comfortable. Some of the visual cues one notices when playing the game in person are missing when the other players are just small images on my display. I have a much harder time sensing when I can interject my views. This might improve if I get a camera because the other players will be better able to determine when I am speaking.
We are testing the Ambition and Avarice rules created by Greg Christopher. These are old school rules that anyone familiar with OSR rules will easily understand. It is clear to me that Greg carefully considered what he wanted to achieve and designed the rules to reflect these goals. The rules are internally consistent and written in a conversational style that is easy to read. I made a few notes about the rules that I should pass on to Greg, but I have no serious objections or problems. This is a solid system.
I don’t intend to write a true review of Ambition & Avarice. I’ll just point out some things that struck me as particularly interesting. First, as typical of the OSR rules I’ve seen, Avarice & Ambition is not burdened by excessive rules. It is easy to remember the rules you need, and, unlike behemoths like Pathfinder, play should seldom grind to a halt as the GM or players consult a tome.
Second, some actions that would require rolls in other games do not require roles in A&A. For example, it is assumed that characters are competent at the basic aspects of exploration and, as long as they explicitly state they are performing certain actions, need not roll dice to find secret doors, traps, etc. I was skeptical of this before playing, but think that it suits this game.
Third, A&A has an interesting system of character customization. As with most games, characters gain Hit Points or spells as they advance. But characters also gain points each level that can be spent to increase Hit Points, improve attacks or the A&A equivalent of skills, etc. This reminds me a little of the Savage Worlds rules for advancement.
I suppose there is nothing Earth-shaking about these aspects of the system. Yet they combine to create a whole more impressive than the parts. This is a tight system that should work well in old school settings,
Now, pardon me while I go steal some copper from some rats.