Monday, March 22, 2010

I Have Made Two Decisions

The next update to the LotFP: RPG rules will have only ascending AC, with a base unarmored AC of 12.

My group has been using BFRPG since is started in July 2008 (and a Vaasa group I had earlier that year used it as well), and ascending AC works well. I think it's easier for new people to pick up, and is essentially the same mechanic as descending AC anyway (Die Roll +/- Modifiers must equal Target Number), just computed differently.

If the major clones had a unified presentation of armor class, I would have followed suit. However, Swords & Wizardry AC is different than Labyrinth Lord AC is different than OSRIC AC is different than BFRPG AC, so my goal of compatibility wasn't going to be helped no matter what I did.

LotFP adventures will not change their stat format. I will still use "Armor as Leather + Shield," for instance, instead of marrying the adventures to my new rules. The adventures will still be as compatible with one rules set as another.

Conversion notes for using descending AC from modules and the other games will be given in the Referee book.

My Marketing For the Box Won't Say "Old School"

Nor anything intimating it. Not on the promotional posters, nor the back-of-the-box text.

The insides will still be full of old-school references and links and ads (included at my expense) for other clones and companies in our scene. But in accordance with my "We shouldn't act like a persecuted gaming minority," attitude concerning the OSR and the greater RPG hobby, I'm going to present this based on its atmosphere and "color," not its "politics," if you take my meaning. The plan is to get this into stores, and get it in front of people who aren't up on all the internet RPG happenings.

Whether it works or not, who knows. But if the only people that buy this are people that are on all the usual blogs anyway, you won't need to be told it's an "Old School" game to know, so it's not like I'd be missing vital marketing info there.

So whatcha think?


  1. I think the decision to eschew mention of old school could be a good one. I think relying upon tribalism as a primary means of achieving appeal is not necessarily a good idea.

  2. Excellent idea. You're right: people who would equate it with 'Old School' already knows who you are (and as someone mentioned before) will be buying it 'for the Raggi'.

    As a self-contained game, it should be presented without association to existing entities, in my opinion.

  3. I agree with Tom but no descending AC makes me a sad panda.

  4. I'm just really unhappy with presenting dual AC rules in the same system.

    What are the arguments for descending AC? "It's tradition!" seems to be it.

    I have first-hand experience over the past year-plus seeing how new players react to the descending AC in Labyrinth Lord and the AC system in BFRPG. Ascending AC requires a lot less explanation and a lot less repetitive chart-scouting on everyone's part during combat.

    And if Swords & Wizardy, by Mr. "Old School Primer Finch doesn't toe a strict traditionalist line in the area, I figure there's wiggle room on the subject without being cast out of the tribe. :P

  5. I think those are really good choices. :)

  6. I heartily approve of not using the term "old school" as a marketing term, for reasons I've made clear elsewhere.

    Conversely, I'm disappointed you'll using ascending AC, though I'm not surprised. I think it's a perfectly defensible design choice but, as in Swords & Wizardry, it's a choice that dampers my own ardor somewhat -- not that that should be taken into serious consideration.

  7. Ascending AC has always made explaining the game to newbs easier; "Add all those numbers and your die, then tell me what you get" Is WAY easier to handle than asking them to figure out Thac0.

    Asending AC has been added to my AD&D games.

  8. I think both decisions are sound. As someone who plays with kids (7 and 9) I have to say ascending AC is the way to go.
    AS for the other decision, as someone who is relatively new to "the scene" I have to say that both the tribalism and the group persecution complex have, imo, decreased considerably in intensity considerably over the last few months.
    I think you may also want to avoid any kind of add/marketing copy that actively and/or passive aggressively shits on non "old school" play styles.

  9. I generally approve, with one question:

    Why is an unarmored human AC 12? Typically, an unarmored human is AC 10 (with BFRPG having an unarmored AC of 11).

  10. Fighters will begin with +2 bonus, whereas all other starting characters get +1 and unclassed 0 level schlubs get +0.

    I want to make the fighters important, but not SUPERKILLER. Maybe the 1 or 2 point starting AC difference won't make that much of a difference on the player side, but since monsters will use the Fighter bonus I didn't want to screw PCs.

    I can be argued with on this point, though. :)

  11. Looks good to me. "Old School" as a marketing term apparently doesn't mean the same thing we mean by the term, so I doubt it would have much impact one way or the other outside of the blogosphere, so I don't see it as a big deal, but I can tell it means a lot to you, and that's probably more important.

    I'm not a huge fan of ascending AC primarily because I *am* a big fan of doing funky things with to-hit numbers, but if you're not going to do that, I can certainly see the appeal of ascending AC.

  12. I'm an "ascending AC" agnostic, so no complaints from me. I'm with you on your decision with using or not using "old-school". I've been struggling with that issue myself. I think there's a real risk in using a term that can be very political. Just put it out there and let the people decide for themselves if it's old school.

  13. I like it. More on the ascending AC in my forum post.

    I agree that marketing a game as old school isn't necessarily a good move, if you want to actually attract new players. The negative connotations (outdated, old-fashioned, clunky, grumpy old grognards sitting in basements reeking of cat piss) of saying anything is old out-weight the positive connotations (traditional, classic, basic, system-light) in my opinion.

  14. My Marketing For the Box Won't Say "Old School"

    This is a smart choice that takes genuine humility - well done, James.

    As for descending AC - a big part of your target audience (new roleplayers) doesn't care about the traditional nomenclature, so you're free to use the more intuitive system. 2 for 2 today.

  15. We switched to ascending AC yesterday afternoon after maybe 10-20 sessions.
    Mostly because it's counterintuitive to have AC and THAC0 go down when they get better and because somehow making descending AC HD-Based to-hit-modifiers calculations confused players. Now our AC is 20-equivalent descending AC, and we have increasing attack bonuses.

  16. Are you opposed to doing both ascending and descending, as in S+W? I am a descending AC loyalist, sorry, thought I will still buy it even if you go with ascending only. Both please?

  17. Bah! There is no real difference between ascending and descending armour class, so why change? I guess my objection would be that by adopting ascending an ascending armour class you are saying a descending armour class is inferior, which it is not.

    Either way is better than dual armour classes, though. :D

  18. I don't care. When I play the LotFP: RPG I'll simply house rule in my preference - the descending AC system. Easy peasy. :)

  19. good call on ascending AC,
    i have been doing it that way since 3rd (?) edition gamma world

    You are talented writer,
    but you views are sometimes too forceful
    for the insecure

    since you are going thru SO MUCH effort
    why NOT have two editions

    G = general audiences (shortened text)
    R = full Raggi

  20. I'm another agnostic on AC type.

    But the marketing choice...I was already going to buy it but now I'm really going to buy it.

    Old School isn't a rules set IMNSHO, it's how you approach the game. If you make it your own you're going old school.

    You are one of the best examples of the mindset out there...and by just saying, "Look, this is MY game and how I do it" embraces that more than any label could.

  21. For what it's worth, I agree with dropping the "Old School" tag. We can talk about RPGs that are old school in style but the term doesn't always need to be branded on them like some lepers' bell.

    I have to agree with James, tho, on the issue of ascending AC. Just not cricket, I say. Any implication that descending AC is counter intuitive and harder to learn smacks of compromise and reminds me a little too much of the d20-gloaters of ten years ago ... oh yeah, I hold grudges :)

  22. Giving fighters an AC bonus makes a lot of sense. There is no way it is as easy to hit a trained warrior as it is to hit a bookish scholar.


  23. Is it going to be sold in "brick and mortar" stores like Fantasiapelit?

  24. jonas, I can't speak for either James or for Fantasiapelit, but I can guarantee that Puolenkuun Pelit in Helsinki will stock it.

  25. The first POV I want to bring to this is every sell-out to 3.5 conceded for sake of simplicity and intuitiveness is an argument for utilizing 3.5 as a basis for the game. Or, you take it a different route entirely, but hybrids with things rarely work.

    What you really need a product design expert with immense experience in value proposition design and both qual and quant research... it would garner insights far superior to the informal play-test focus group of your own games. Of course, you would also need someone who understands the soul-lessness of traditional methodology and truly understands the target audience.

    Hmmm, where could such a person be?

  26. It is ascending armor class for me.

    But for all the descAC lover I suggest to add an appendix with to-hit tables and a ascAC to descAC conversion formula (like 20-aAC).

    This makes also very much sense if referees of your game want to convert descAC stuff to your game.