Friday, July 31, 2009

Old School Skills in Action The Rogue

The primary reason I created a skills system is for itself. The myriad discussions about thieves among the Old School community caused me to think about the role of that class.

There are adventuring activities other than fighting and casting spell that people want characters to be good at. Whatever I came up with that the need it has to fulfill. For example trade, or being a courtier. Things that allow players to make character that are better at "something else" other than dungeon crawls.

It not a criticism of dungeon crawls. But a recognition that this is not the 1970's and we realize now all things we can do with the funny dice. Just as importantly there are people who want to this with D&D, not GURPS, Basic Roleplaying, or a myriad other systems that out there.

So what I came up are the Rogue Classes.
Note these are designed to work with Swords & Wizardry but should be easily adaptable to the system of choice.

The Rogues are those who choose to sacrifice fighting or magic aptitude in favor of special abilities or excelling at certain Tasks.

So far I have Burglar, Thug, Mountebank, The Claws of Kali (assassin), and Merchant Adventurer.

Merchant Adventurer
Rogues may choose to start as Merchant Adventurers. Merchant Adventurers deal with illegal or dangerous trade. They are somewhat adept at fighting and know several skills useful to commerce. Merchant Adventurers are found as smugglers, black marketers, caravan masters, pirate lords, treasure hunters and ship captains. They often organize expeditions into unknown lands. Merchant Adventurers can be of any alignment, and must possess a Charisma of 10+.

• Prime Attribute: Charisma 13+, +15% experience.
• Gains 1d6-1 HP/level
• Fights using the Cleric combat table.
• Can use leather armor and shield
• Can use the following weapons: hand axe, club, dagger, light mace, staff, short sword, light crossbow, dart, sling, and short bow.
• At first level a Merchant Adventurer gains the following skills at skill level 1: Accounting, Geography (2 regions), (Law or History), Locution, Professional (one type), and Survival(one region).
• At first level a Merchant Adventurer may distribute a total of ten levels to the above skills. Nor more than five levels may be placed on a single skill. The remaining levels need to be split between different skills.
• For every 4 levels the Merchant gains 1 skill level in all his skills. In addition he gains 2 additional levels that he may add to one or two skills.
• Instead of adding a skill level to an existing skill, a Merchant Adventurer may choose to add a new sub skill from the following list: Geography(region), History(region), Professional(type), or Survival (region).
• At 9th level a Merchant Adventurer may opt to form his own Company and attract investors and loyal followers.
Note that in the trade system I am working on Accounting modified rolls dealing with bulks goods and Locution deals with one on one small volume trading. The difference is because in large trade knowledge of rules and procedures outweigh your personal charisma and vice versa for small trades.

The Burglar is the traditional thief using my skill system.
The Thug operates using feats of strength and personal charisma. High level Thugs are leaders of large gangs.
The Mountebank is a hybrid magic-skill class. They specialize in deception, and anti-divination magic to support the work of Thugs and Burglars.
Of course Merchant Adventurer have the skills to deal with smuggling although they can be considered the most legitimate of the four Rogue classes.

Again the idea is not to make D&D into another game but rather give the GM and player an option to specialize at something other than fighting, casting, or praying.

One thing that I did tho is make sure that all the Rogue classes were adventuring classes. Thanks to an idea by Jeff Rients I developed a nifty way of handling the rest of the in-game world.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Old School Skills

At times I hear the dislike of skills and less commonly the Thieves, a skill based class, among the Old School community. A recent example is a post at Grognardia here.

I understand the sentiment. I played in games where a players looked down a corridor and the exchange went something like this.

John Doe: I look down the corridor
GM: It 40 fee long and othewise empty except for a door at the end
John Doe: I check for traps.
GM: What your find trap skill
John Doe: 40%
GM: You see an outline of a pit trap 20' down the corridor.
John Doe: I walk and and disarm it.
GM: OK you roll this on.
John Doe: I have a 45% chance here. 15!
GM: You wedged the pit trap so it doesn't open.

This exchange is not the style advocated by many Old School fans.

But it is a fallacy that skills are incompatible with the Old School Approach. Even with the Old School approach there come a moment of truth. The moment when you have done all you can and you just have to take a chance. Where a slip of a finger means you die in agony rather than sleep in the lap of luxury.

Most D&D games I been in a DEX roll or other suitable attribute would be called for. With my GURPS Group, we have to describe what we do in detail. Then only at the moment of truth do we get to make that roll. Instead of a saving throw or characteristic roll we roll vs a skill.

The main reason for skills among my group is that we want to fine tune our characters. That we trade off some things to be very good at other things. More than what the coarse numbers of our characteristics and/or level allow. Skills allows us to do that.

In the project I been working on I struggled with this issue. To create some of the classes I wanted to use a skill system. As much as I like GURPS the skill system does increase the time needed to make a character. This lesson was reinforcing during my playing around with Hackmaster Basic (a review will be coming) which has a Skill based system. If I went overboard then I lose the ability of D&D to quickly make a character.

I decided that like Traveller I would rate skill in levels. 0,1,2,3,4,5 and so on. This has the added advantage of being readily used in a idea I have for applying Traveller careers to D&D.

Basic System
In order to succeed on a task you have to roll 3D6. You add your attribute, plus your skill level and any modifiers. If you roll equal to or higher than a 24 you succeed. If you wish to use critical successes and failures then use the following. If you roll a 34 or higher you critically succeed, if you roll a 14 or lower you critically fail.

This system is designed so that an attribute of 10 with a skill level of 4 will succeed 50% of the time on a difficult task.

Using Tasks.
In general the character describes what he wishes to do and the referee decides which tasks roll are needed if any. Task rolls are not meant to replace the player’s description but rather represent the random element. Given enough time a skilled character will succeed at a task. However the heat of combat or potential combat may cause the character to attempt the task as fast as possible. Under pressure attributes and skill have a directly bearing on whether a character succeeds or not.

Legerdemain (DEX)
This aids in performing tasks involving manual dexterity including manipulation of small mechanical objects.

A successful roll will allow a character to pickpocket a mark that is in the midst of a crowd.
A successful roll will allow a character to perform a sleight of hand trick or concealment when you are 5’ feet or more away from an audience
A successful roll at a -4 modifier will allow a character to pickpocket a mark that is alone.
A successful roll at a -4 modifier will allow a character to perform a sleight of hand trick or concealment when you are closer than 5’ feet to an audience.

A successful roll will allow a character to disable a known trap mechanism.
A successful roll will allow a character to pick a lock open with thieves picks.
A successful roll at a -4 modifier will allow a character to pick open a trapped lock or a trapped chest with a lock without triggering the trap mechanism.
A successful roll at a -2 modifier will allow a character to pick a lock open with inadequate tools.
Note: These rolls should only be made after the players adequately describe how he disabling a trap mechanism. The referee should add or subtract modifiers.

Locution (CHA)

A successful roll at a -4 modifier will allow a character to rally a broken unit in mass combat

In the initial round of a combat a character may engage in a repartee with the enemy. The roll is successful will halt everybody in earshot for 1 round that understands the speaker’s language. The enemy may counter with a repartee of their own. It is stressed that character should role-play this before making the roll. A repartee may not be done in if the character is surprised.

In the initial round of combat, a character may attempt a Witticism on a single individual that understand his language. This has a -4 modifier and if successful the character will gain the initiative due the target laughing or being angered. It is stressed that character should role-play this before making the roll. A witticism may not be done in if the character is surprised.

A character may use his Locution skills to haggle a better deal for an individual item based on the Trade Deal Table under accounting.

A successful roll will allow a character to please a crowd with a performance. Use the selling price column of the Trade Deal table to see how much the character earned in tip. Multiply the resulting selling modifier by 1 silver piece time the number of people in his audience. In addition to performance this task can be used by barmaids to solicit tips and beggars.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sandbox Fantasy: Kings List and your Campaign

One of the more common items found in archaeological digs are written or carved items that give the list of the kings of a realm. Their existence is an example of the earliest use of propaganda. Even to the point where a bit of Orwell's 1984 comes into play where a predecessor's name is chiseled off of the monument.

Frankly they are dry reading however I find the format incredibly useful as a short hand to cover thousands of years of history in different regions. I can lay two different region's kings list side by side and see what events were concurrent. The format is also useful when written as a time-line.

The trick to pick the dominant or most important cultures in your campaign. It may not be the most powerful but it should be the one that effect most of the polities in your campaign. In our own history the history of Europe and Middle East can be defined as the History of Rome. In the Far East China has a similar impact. Sure there will be stuff that happened before and afterwards but it that culture's history that is the central drama. For my Majestic Wilderlands the central drama is the story of the Ghinorian People.

The kings list I have for you is just one chapter of that story, the Overlords of the Dragon Empire. Arising out of one of the predecessor states that formed City-State, the Dragon was the dominant power of the Upper Padizan Peninsula even challenging Viridistan for a brief time.

You can download it from here.

I used to include these in the detailed handout that are available to players. I switched to using one paragraph biographies of important rulers. I could make those much more entertaining than the Kings List. One thing some of my players like was the inclusion of historical quotes that I made up for various people. It gave a feel for what these people were like

One of the central stories of the Ghinorians was their exodus from enslavement by followers of Set. They were led by the prophet Alcambras. When they reached land promised them...


For two more years, the Ghinorians followed the steadily sinking star. Finally the host crested a ridge of hills and saw that the star had set. Before them was a wide valley with a great river running down the middle of it down to the sea. Alcambras very old and gathered the people together.

For many years now we have journied together in a wonderous adventure and now we have come to it's end. Before you is our new home, the Valley of Ghinor it shall be called.

Alcambra gazed wistfully across the valley;

But I shall not complete the journey with you. My time comes close and Mitra calls me to final service. I appoint Loris as my successor, she will pick from you those who will continue Mitra's work. Of those remaining you shall be divided into seven tribes. Each will be granted a portion of the valley to settle. Let each of the tribes elect judges. The judges, under the leadership of Loris shall watch out for the good of all Ghinorians.

I am glad to have made this journey with all of you. May Mitra bless you and keep you from danger.

Alcambras then laid down to sleep and passed away from the mortal realm.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Vote Old School

Vote soon!

Note that Goblinoid Games is one the list as well for Best Publisher. You can vote here.

OD&D Random Strongholds

A couple of random strongholds generated from OD&D Vol III

8th Level Priest guarded by 6 8th Level Fighters with 130 men with 6th Level Cleric with 6th Level Cleric with 7th Level Cleric with 7th Level Cleric with 5th Level Cleric with 7th Level Cleric

10th Level Wizard guarded by 3 Manitcores with 110 men with 7th Level Magic User

9th Level Fighter guarded by 2 7th Level Fighters with 80 men

8th Level Fighter guarded by 3 Ogres with 110 men with 3th Level Cleric

11th Level Wizard guarded by 4 Dragons with 90 men with 7th Level Magic User

8th Level Priest guarded by 17 4th Level Fighters with 140 men

8th Level Fighter guarded by 1 Rocs w/ 4th Level Fighters with 80 men

9th Level Fighter guarded by 3 Giants with 100 men with 7th Level Magic User

9th Level Fighter guarded by 3 6th Level Fighters with 40 men

9th Level Priest guarded by 7 Spectries with 120 men

8th Level Priest guarded by 10 Treants with 150 men with 6th Level Cleric with 4th Level Cleric with 7th Level Cleric with 6th Level Cleric

8th Level Priest guarded by 3 8th Level Fighters with 80 men with 4th Level Cleric

8th Level Priest guarded by 5 8th Level Fighters with 110 men

11th Level Wizard guarded by 1 Wyverns with 70 men with 7th Level Fighter with 7th Level Magic User

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Old School Random Generator

I apologize for the misinformation yesterday on how to download my Old School Random Table generator. It turns out that I had a additional file to include as well as correct the version of .NET it runs under.

You can download the utility from here. Unzip to a empty folder. It needs .NET Framework 2.0 which you can download from here. I forget that Visual Studio 2008 allows targeting different framework versions. So those of you with Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 can run this utility.

For those of you who don't want to deal with downloading the .NET Framework here are some results of the generator

A(Land) Treasure

1,000 CP; 6,000 SP; Gems: 3 x 50 GP; 10 x 100 GP; 500 GP; 5,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 800; 2 x 1,000; 2 x 2,000; 1 x 3,000; 1 x 4,000; 6 x 6,000; 1 x 10,000; Map To (10,000 SP; 20 GP; Gems: 4 x 10 GP; 5 x 100 GP; 500 GP; Jewels: 4 x 1,000; 1 x 1,100; 1 x 2,000; 1 x 3,000; 3 x 4,000; 3 x 5,000; 1 x 6,000); Scroll of Prot: Lycanthropes; Potion of Heroism

5,000 SP; Gems: 10 GP; 4 x 50 GP; 13 x 100 GP; 500 GP; 5,000 GP; Map To (Potion of Polymorph(Self); Cursed Scroll, Polymorph to Insect; Scroll of Prot: Lycanthropes); Scroll of 1 Wizard Spell; Map To (Lawful Sword +3; Neutral Sword +2; Lawful Dancing Sword with Detect Gems, Detect Shifting Walls & Rooms, Detect Traps, Empathy; Ego 11; Potion of Clairvoyance; Cursed Scroll, Random Teleport 1,000 miles)

A(Desert) Treasure
Gems: 4 x 10 GP; 3 x 50 GP; 7 x 100 GP; 4 x 500 GP; 5,000 GP; 100,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 600; 1 x 900; 2 x 1,000; 2 x 1,100; 1 x 1,200; 1 x 1,300; 3 x 2,000; 1 x 3,000; 3 x 4,000; 2 x 5,000; 2 x 6,000; 1 x 7,000;

5,000 GP; Gems: 5 x 10 GP; 17 x 100 GP; 8 x 500 GP; Jewels: 1 x 500; 1 x 600; 4 x 1,000; 1 x 1,300; 2 x 1,600; 4 x 2,000; 1 x 3,000; 2 x 4,000; 1 x 5,000; 2 x 6,000; 1 x 8,000;

A(Water) Treasure
Gems: 4 x 10 GP; 6 x 50 GP; 41 x 100 GP; 9 x 500 GP; Jewels: 2 x 800; 2 x 900; 12 x 1,000; 2 x 1,100; 1 x 1,200; 8 x 2,000; 4 x 3,000; 3 x 4,000; 5 x 5,000; 9 x 6,000; 2 x 10,000; Map To (10,000 SP; 14 GP)

Jewels: 1 x 700; 1 x 800; 2 x 900; 13 x 1,000; 2 x 1,100; 3 x 1,200; 1 x 1,400; 1 x 1,600; 3 x 2,000; 10 x 3,000; 7 x 4,000; 6 x 5,000; 5 x 6,000; 1 x 8,000; 3 x 9,000; 1 x 10,000;

B Treasure
6,000 CP; Armor +1, Shield +1

5,000 CP; 1,000 GP;

3,000 GP;

Jewels: 1 x 1,000;

4,000 CP; 1,000 GP;

C Treasure

4,000 CP; 2,000 SP; Gems: 10 GP; 2 x 100 GP; 500 GP;

9,000 CP; 3,000 SP;

3,000 SP; Jewels: 1 x 3,000; 1 x 5,000;

2,000 SP;

4,000 SP;

D Treasure

5,000 CP; 6,000 GP; Gems: 100 GP; 500 GP;

3,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 600; 2 x 2,000; 2 x 4,000; 2 x 5,000; 1 x 6,000; Map To (Gems: 2 x 10 GP; 3 x 50 GP; 5 x 100 GP; Jewels: 4 x 1,000; 1 x 2,000; 1 x 3,000; 2 x 6,000); Scroll of Prot: Magic; Potion of Invisbility

2,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 1,200; 1 x 4,000; 1 x 5,000; Potion of Human Control; Oil of Etherealness; Potion of Diminuation

4,000 GP;

1,000 GP; Disappearance Dust; Armor +2; Potion of Control White Dragon

E Treasure

Lawful Sword +1, +3 vs Dragons with Detect Sloping Passages, Empathy; Slay Chaotic Thieves, Paralyize Chaos; Ego 8; Lawful Sword +1, +3 vs Dragons with Slay Chaotic M-U, Paralyize Chaos; Map To (Gems: 10 GP; 12 x 100 GP; 6 x 500 GP; 5,000 GP; Jewels: 2 x 1,000; 1 x 1,200; 1 x 2,000; 2 x 3,000; 5 x 4,000; 3 x 5,000; 2 x 6,000; 2 x 8,000); Scroll of 2 Wizard Spells

6,000 GP;

3,000 SP; Map To (Potion of Fire Resistance); Potion of Poison; Potion of Super-Heroism; Scroll of Prot: Magic

Neutral Sword +1, Locate Objects; Map To (Gems: 3 x 10 GP; 7 x 50 GP; 26 x 100 GP; 4 x 500 GP; Jewels: 1 x 700; 1 x 900; 2 x 1,000; 2 x 1,300; 2 x 2,000; 2 x 4,000; 3 x 5,000; 1 x 6,000; 1 x 7,000; 1 x 8,000; 1 x 9,000); Armor +1; Scroll of Prot: Magic

5,000 GP;

F Treasure

Jewels: 2 x 700; 1 x 1,200; 1 x 2,000; 3 x 3,000; 2 x 4,000; 3 x 5,000; 2 x 6,000;

10,000 GP; Armor +3, Shield +3; Scroll of Prot: Undead; Map To (25 GP; Gems: 3 x 10 GP; 3 x 100 GP; 5 x 500 GP; 5,000 GP); Potion of Invisbility; Cursed Scroll, Transported to another planet

Potion of Growth; Ring of Djinn Summoning; Shield +2; Potion of Fire Resistance; Cursed Scroll, Fatal Disease (3 turns)

9,000 GP;

14,000 SP; 1,000 GP;

G Treasure

20,000 GP; Jewels: 1 x 4,000; Map To (40,000 SP); Neutral Sword +1 with Detect Magic, Detect Gold, Detect Traps, Speaks 2 Languages; Ego 6; Map To (10,000 SP; Gems: 2 x 10 GP; 50 GP; 8 x 100 GP; 500 GP); Crossbow of Distance; Scroll of 1 Wizard Spell

30,000 GP;

10,000 GP;

20,000 GP;

10,000 GP; Gems: 10 GP; 3 x 50 GP; 2 x 100 GP; 4 x 500 GP;

H Treasure

44,000 SP; 30,000 GP; Gems: 50 GP; 3 x 100 GP; Jewels: 1 x 1,000; 3 x 3,000; 3 x 4,000; 3 x 6,000; Ring of Fire Resistance; Wand of Illusion; Map To (20,000 SP; Gems: 10 GP; 50 GP; 12 x 100 GP; 500 GP; 5,000 GP); Scroll of 1 Wizard Spell; Potion of Control Silver Dragon; Scroll of 7 Cleric Spells

15,000 CP; Gems: 9 x 10 GP; 11 x 50 GP; 41 x 100 GP; 12 x 500 GP; Jewels: 2 x 500; 1 x 800; 2 x 900; 6 x 1,000; 1 x 1,100; 1 x 1,300; 3 x 2,000; 6 x 3,000; 5 x 4,000; 9 x 5,000; 3 x 6,000; 1 x 9,000;

60,000 GP; Gems: 10 x 10 GP; 14 x 50 GP; 43 x 100 GP; 18 x 500 GP; Jewels: 3 x 1,000; 1 x 1,100; 1 x 1,200; 2 x 1,400; 1 x 1,500; 2 x 2,000; 8 x 3,000; 4 x 4,000; 5 x 5,000; 11 x 6,000; 1 x 7,000; 1 x 8,000;

44,000 SP; 10,000 GP; Gems: 4 x 10 GP; 5 x 50 GP; 27 x 100 GP; 4 x 500 GP; 2 x 5,000 GP;

20,000 CP; 30,000 GP;

I Treasure

Gems: 100 GP;

Gems: 10 GP; 50 GP; 3 x 100 GP; 500 GP; Jewels: 1 x 1,200; 3 x 2,000; 2 x 3,000; 1 x 4,000; 2 x 5,000; 1 x 7,000;

Gems: 3 x 10 GP; 6 x 100 GP; 4 x 500 GP;

22 Magic Arrows +1

Jewels: 1 x 600; 2 x 700; 2 x 1,000; 1 x 1,400; 2 x 2,000; 2 x 3,000; 2 x 6,000; Map To (30,000 SP; Gems: 2 x 10 GP; 2 x 50 GP; 8 x 100 GP)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My secret to writing the Wild North

The problem with writing Sandbox Fantasy settings is that you have a two to three dozen good ideas and about three times more locales to write up. In comes the random generators. You don't use them blindly but rather roll until an idea pops into your head. Being a programmer I coded up some of the generators to make hundreds of rolls.

You can download it from here. Just unzip it into a empty folder. CORRECTION it needs .NET Framework 2.0 not 3.5 which you can download from here. I forget that Visual Studio 2008 allows targeting different framework versions. So those of you with Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 can run this utility.

Note you may have this already so try running the utility first.

The four tables I coded are
  1. The Treasure Tables from Original D&D
  2. Ruins from Judges Guild
  3. Islands from Mazes and Minotaurs
  4. Strongholds from Original D&D
To use the software just click on the button and the result will appear in two boxes. The second box you can select the text and copy it by pressing then C at the same time. After that you can paste it anywhere you like. If you get a blank result that means no treasure was rolled this time.

For the treasure tables you will need to select the treasure type from the combo box on the left.

Coding up the treasure table generator was the most painful of the lot. Full of special exceptions and conditional rolls. Also had to code in the generation of magic sword!.

If you want the source code you can email. This software isn't meant to compete against Tablesmith and other generic generator but a quick and dirty utility to help get my writing done. The ruins were the first things I did hence the name Ruin Generator.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Twittering the GURPS Game

Twittering the GURPS Game here.

The Perils of Industry Prophets

Here is a interesting pre 3e prediction by a well known (for the time) industry writer

When I Own TSR

On the face of it his reasoning is sound considering Micheal Stackpole's experience. He had success in writing and developing products that relied on settings with rich and detailed backgrounds. The most prominent of which was Battletech.

He reasoning is based on extrapolating from then into what was his future. Yet he could not predict that the combination of the D20 ruleset, the Open Gaming License, and the fact many gamers were ready to return to the hobby would cause the D&D 3e to explode in popularity.

While it may seem like I am picking on Micheal Stackpole the reality is that a lot of people thought as he did. And despite Ryan Dancey and the Wizard's team looked as visionaries today it was a GAMBLE for them. The whole thing could have been dude and Ryan and his team remembered as a footnote.

The important thing that happened is that Ryan, Tweet and their team put their passion for D&D into making the best product they knew how. They also put great effort into all the little things that go into launching a major product including some not so little things like the Open Game license.

They were ready when the Black Swans showed up and reaped the rewards.

Doing your best work and getting the details right will not guarantee success. But when that opportunity roll comes you will have one heck of a modifier.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My next GURPS session and Project Apollo

I will be trying out Twitter again when I play my next session of the GURPS Fantasy campaign. It will be starting on Monday July 20th around 6:30 eastern standard time.

Also don't forget that is also the 40th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing. If you have a hankering to try it for yourself, you can download the free Orbiter Space Simulator here. I also develop free add-ons for this which you see here. For wanting to try Apollo itself the most playable add-on is here and the most realistic add-on is here.

The difference between the two is that ASMO sticks with the Orbiter Space Simulator controls. Understand that Orbiter is a simulator not a game, but the author has wisely made a bunch of aids that allow novices to get going with realistic space flight. There still a bit of a learning curve.

In contrast NASSP's Project Apollo for Orbiter is designed so that you can take the original checklists and follow along doing exactly (or your own thing if you want) what the astronauts did. It even runs the original software for the various guidance computer.

Is is hard, in someways, but a ordinary person can learn to do it. The For the astronauts it wasn't technical difficulties of the training but being able to handle emergencies while accurately reporting what went wrong and what went right. To be able to do that under very stressful condition is a remarkable ability and is why 90% of the early astronauts were test pilots.

So come Monday, while follow my (mis)adventures at some point step out and take a look at the moon and remember the day that 40 years ago two men and a team of thousands brought fire to the moon.

Fire in the Sky here.

MMORPGs vs table top RPGs

Here Ryan Dancey comments on the effect of MMORPGs on table top RPGs.

Also, I think it is really hard to argue that people aren't leaving tabletop RPGs for MMOs. Any study of MMOs points out how many people are ex-TRPG players. The reason for this is that of the 5 types of people who like TRPGs, 2 of them are better served with MMO tech, and 2 are neutral, leaving just 22% of the audience who can only get the things they really like from the tabletop game.

This statement is partly based on this study of roleplaying games.

There are five broad catagories outlined in the study

Power Gamers
Character Actors

The first four are found to represent 22% of the market and the mixed category 12%.

From my own experience in gaming throughout the years. Power Gamers are a lost cause to Table-top roleplaying. Back in the day, I used to run into this type time and time again but the combination of MMORPGs, First Person Shooters, and to a lesser extent LARPS have sucked this player out of the general roleplaying market. One reason is that they thrive on human vs human combat where two players give it their all going against each other.

Thinkers are also a bit of a lost cause as well. This is mostly due to time issues. The fact that RPGs are played or progress at a glacial pace compared to MMORPGs. The computer of interface of a MMORPG can hide a lot of complexity which this type of player can try to figure out. MMORPGs can allow you to try out different combinations of attributes at time of your choosing rather than waiting for the next session.

Better served by tabletop RPGs are the Character Actors. The interplay between referee and player and with other players fuels interest. When thriving in a area, LARPS are the real competition for this player. In LARPS there is little to get in the way of your acting a role. MMORPGs are used as well but the limitation of the technology often makes these activities ephemeral.

The last is the Storyteller player. Here the Tabletop RPG reigns supreme over the MMORPG. I view this as an unfortunate choice of words because what attracts the Storyteller player is not the "story". But rather the continuity and the dynamics of interacting with the setting. The story is what emerges from the players interacting with the setting refereed by the GM.

This is something that MMORPG have yet not being able to do well due to the technology. Either they turn everything over to the players. Or they have one more storylines that you work through from Level 1 to Max level. After the second or third time through, MMORPGs players attempt a variety of quick leveling schemes to minimize play in this area of the game

The idea is NOT that Storytellers are playing for a beginning, middle, and end. Instead there is a starting point. A series of climaxes, and then a point when all the characters goals are fulfilled. This is where a campaign ends if no other non-game factor comes into play.

In some businesses catering to one segment of a market usually is a bad idea by causing your customer base to shrink from what is natural for your product. However the nice thing about focusing what interests the Storyteller is that the plot (not story) can be tweaked to appeal to the other types of players. You can add in opportunities for Power Gamers, Character Actors, and Thinkers to shine all the while keeping the person most interested in tabletop engaged.

This is one of the main reasons why I am interested in developing the sandbox campaign settings. Because the key is to have a large toolkit of "bit pieces" that you can combine for a specific session. Sure everybody like making their own stuff but since we have to referee a whole world it is never enough. At some point a player will go left instead of right and leave the referee scrambling.

While great referees can just effortlessly come up new material most, like me, need a little help. Also having prepared material often allows you to focus more on the other aspect of refereeing. The key is to have a good toolkit.

I think there is a good opportunity in supplying referees with these "bit pieces". One of the reason I like being involved in the Old School Renaissance is that it gives me an audience where I can try out different ideas than what has been done before. We will see how it works out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You can't have too many Travellers

The many editions of Traveller. Interestingly I don't own a complete set of the original 3 books. Also I don't have the Hero System version of Traveller. I do have Traveller 5 but forgot to put the CD Case in the photo.

My preferences are
  1. GURPS Traveller
  2. Traveller Book (Classic)
  3. Mongoose Traveller
  4. Traveller D20 (great lifepath system for the D20 System
  5. MegaTraveller (love the chargen tho)
  6. Traveller New Era
  7. Traveller 5
  8. Marc Miller's Traveller.

Traveller Hero I suspect would go just above Traveller D20. I can't comment about Traveller 5 yet and it's rank is still in flux. Marc Miller's Traveller is blah. on the opposite end of the scale is Mongoose Traveller (need to quit make so many layout and editing mistakes tho). MegaTraveller has the Character Generation that works well but is mess everywhere else. Traveller New Era is the D&D 4th edition of Traveller. It says it's Traveller on the cover but it is not. GURPS Traveller is #1 because I am so familar with GURPS and the sourcebooks are the best since Digest Group Publications, in some cases better. Traveller D20 has a nifty way of handling levels and lifepaths.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Adventure that is Traveller

This is the age of the Third Imperium. In the year 1105, the Emperor Strephon rules over an empire of eleven thousand worlds. On the far reaches of the empire lies the Spinward Marches, the frontier of the Third Imperium. A crossroads for humans and aliens it is a dangerous place, but for those who dare to cross the abyss between stars, fame and fortune waits

I ran a GURPS Traveller campaign several years back using the Traveller Adventure. I created some handouts for the game. Since Mongoose Travellers is starting to have a following I post it here for your use. It is seven pages focusing on the Aramis Subsector.

I kept a log of the campaign here. Sadly it was only three sessions.

The Handout.

From a previous post the Luminous Nebula. It is a Yacht/Far Corsair capable of Jump-5 and has some interesting options for the cargo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Industry of Doom. Maybe...

James Mishler has a lot of experience in the RPG Industry. He gives his admittedly pessimistic view here . I wish a lot of the things he says isn't true but unfortunately he is accurate on how the RPG Industry has a lot of pressure on it.

However I don't agree with the pessimism or agree that it is becoming a zero sum game between publishers.

Quality sells. If you do it right the first time then you will be able to exploit the opportunities that come. Now what do you do and what is right can be hard to figure out. Microsoft rarely made great software the first time out. What they did right was the business side of software. So when IBM came looking for a Operating System Microsoft was ready and Gary Kildall of Digital Research (their CP/M was the leading OS of the day) was too busy flying his plane.

James over at Lamentation of a Flame Princess is blogging about everything he doing to become a professional publisher. I don't know whether he will succeed or not. But if an opportunity comes he looks like he has the passion, creativity and organization to take advantage of it.

But will those opportunities come? That is the big if.

Now I believe that the original D&D fad, and the later 3.0 explosion are once in a generation events. That do one outside of whoever own D&D is not likely to be able to reshape the industry. But then there are the Black Swans.

For a long time Europeans believed that Black Swans were impossible. At the height of the Age of Exploration on different continents all they found where white swans. But then they reached Australia and found the impossible, a species of black swans. A Black Swan is an unexpected event that totally reshapes everything that goes on after. Most of human history consists of series of Black Swans. This gets obscured because of historians applying hindsight.

An example of a Black Swan is the advent of Magic the Gathering. In 1990 who would have thought that CARD games would have been more dominate than RPGs by 2000. My own Black Swan came when I discovered not just one but three groups of high school kids playing NERO Live-Action in Northwest PA. Not just playing a little but in a highly organized manner. I was able to work with them and formed a full NERO chapter that went strong for a number of years. I was able to do this because two year priors I decided to learn how to run events in Pittsburgh NERO chapters (PRO). I had a good reputation and was able to take advantage of the opportunity.

The thing about Black Swans is that you can't control when they happen. The other things is that the form they take by definition is unexpected. So while it your work in RPGs that allows you to take advantage of it, the subsequent direction could be completely different. Much like Wizard of the The Coast shifting to a RPG company to a Card game company.

Because for many of us RPGs are a hobby, even when doing it professionally, the day will come when we have to turn aside to do other things. Until that day comes I will be doing what I can to make the best damn products I can make and just maybe I will catch another Black Swan.

Using Fantasy Grounds

Because Dwayne is based in New Orleans Louisiana the only practical way to keep the group going is with a virtual tabletop. When we first starting doing this two years ago Fantasy Grounds was the best out there although a bit pricy. There are others out there like Battleground RPG that some people may prefer to use. Battlegrounds has a better pricing scheme with the floating licenses pack you can buy. There are other that you can try for various prices including free. RPG Virtual Tabletop gives a good rundown.

In addition to the software we use Skype for talking. It has a nice conference call feature plus I have a phone plan ($30/year) that allows me tie in players with phone access only. Two years ago Skype was the easiest out there to setup and use since VOIP software has continued to evolve. I am not up on the software for VOIP but a google search will have several alternatives.

The experience of using Fantasy Grounds+Skype is very much the same as sitting around the table. Face to face is preferred but if your groups is now scattered across the country it is a more than adequate substitute. Plus if you are fan of the Old School Renaissance and it is not popular in your area you have a means to getting a group to play these new old games. It also works for any other RPG that doesn't have a following in your area.

Using VTTs has advantages and disadvantages. The best advantage is fog of war. Most VTTs allow you to obscure the map and reveal portions as the party explore. The next best is the ability to keep a log of what everybody type in chat. However this presumes that you use the chat and not conduct 90% of the session via voice. However even if you use voice the chat log is good for the old trick of passing a DM Note. However unlike the tabletop there is no way the other player will see the note being passed.

One disadvantage is that in some cases there is more work involved. You need to either draw or scan in everything you want to show the players. You can't just yank the sheet from the folder and place it in front of them. Dwayne, the current GM, is very good at scouring the internet for images and maps to use for his games. Just doing a image search via Google will save you loads of time. In addition buying adventure PDFs becomes even more valuable. You can often just copy the image out of a PDF and use it as a JPG.

Plus you need to keep in mind that if you want to use "miniatures" or tokens in VTT parlance you need to keep all at the same scale. So if your man size is 50 pixels by 50 pixels you want to make sure everything else is scaled accordingly. The good news that there are several vendors and free sources that have a large amount of tokens at a consistent scale.

Adding stuff to your VTT is pretty much a matter of dragging and dropping JPGs and other files into the correct files. Once they are there it appears in the list of stuff you can display. Plus the various VTTs have drawing tools you can use. Fantasy Grounds support a adjustable grid that your minatures can snap too. Drawing tool for freehand drawing. And pointers which are good when you want to find what in a circular radius or a cone. In addition pointers are good for drawing lines.

Fantasy Grounds and other VTTS support what is called rulesets. A ruleset generally consists of a character sheet and a combat tracker specific for that RPG. Some rulesets (like d20) are highly automated some are just fill in the blank forms. Fantasy Grounds has about a dozen official and unofficial rulesets. I have used the default D20 ruleset, along with the GURPS and 4e ruleset found at Four Ugly Monsters A partial list is here that you can look at.

Some of the official rulesets come with rulebooks that you can use for references in the VTT. Personally I have a two monitor setup on my home computer. When I am GMing I have references opened in the left monitor and FG running on the right monitor. When I was playing last night it was easy to log stuff in Twitter because of the dual monitors.

Note that dual monitors are great to work with if you use your computer for serious work (even serious hobby work). Most midrange gaming cards ($50 to $100) have dual monitor port making two monitors a snap to setup.

For people playing the older editions I recommend looking at the Castle and Crusades ruleset.

If you have specific questions I will be happy to answer as best as I can in the comment section.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Old School Renaissance

To me the Old School Renaissance is not about playing a particular set of rules in a particular way, the dungeon crawl. It about going back to the roots of our hobby and see what we could do differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers of the time.

GURPS and Twitter

I use Fantasy Ground with Dwayne and Tim, (Gothridge Manor) to play in a weekly GURPS Fantasy game. Currently Dwayne is DMing. The game is set in a post apocalyptic fantasy world after a horde of demons and their Brimstone Warlock masters won.

We play followers of Delaquain the Grey Maiden a goddess of justice and honor. Tim plays Torrum a Paladin, I play Ambrose a priest-mage (using GURPS Magic). We are part of a contigent that gets teleported here along with a castle in the aftermath of a huge battle fought on our homeworld.

So far we are exploring and this is our fourth expedition. We just run across a old underground storehouse of some sort. I decided to try out my Twitter feed mid way. The 140 character limit of each message disicplined me to keep it short so it didn't interfere with actual play.

We use GURPS because we like the added complexity and customization options. As you will see from the twitter we run a recognizable old school game. For those of you not familar with GURPS basically we don't have a lot of hit points. 10 for me and I think about 12 for Torrun. We have defense rolls and armor absorb damage. But as you see sometimes that doesn't help.

Magic is a mana based system that comes off of fatigue. I have about 10 fatigue and a typical spell will take from 2 to 4 mana to cast. However I have the recover Energy spell which allows me to recover fatigue at a rate of 1 per 5 minutes instead of 1 per 10 minutes.

Here is the twitter feed enjoy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

From the Attic: A Mage's message

In the mage's campaign where Tim character Jeremy lost his magery; the climatic confrontation game at the trial of Barton Dwayne's character. Tim decided to go all out in defending Barton and wrote a hell of a speech. Before the game he handed it to me so I would know what to expect.

Unfortunally the trial was never held. Jeremy's defense of Barton was a little more dramatic. There was a faction in the guild really out to get the PCs. While enormously successfully the four PC, Jeremy, Barton, Edward, and Alec, really shook up how the Mage's Guild usually operated. In a seemly minor incident (minor compared to other things you will read about) the traditionalists finely figure a way to bring the PCs to heel. Circumstances were such that only Barton turned himself in.

Jeremy had just recovered his magery and was studying god magic at the time of the incident. So he was free to come. Resolved to defend Barton, he returned to City-State but for various reason the venality of the traditionalist pushed him over the edge. With the power of the gods at his command he demonstrated dramatically that magic has no limits and busted Barton out.

Here is the speech Jeremy wanted to make. I hope you enjoy it as a view into what was a very enjoyable campaign.


Hello everyone, it has been a long time since I’ve seend you all. I hoped to return on a more favorable note, but these are chaotic times.

I will tell you now, for those who are not aware, that Barton and I have been friends since we were fumbling apprentices. I came here from my special training to defend him. I know Barton to be impulsive, explosive, and even wild at times. But never once has he did anything to harm the guild. Sometimes his tactics cause the elders to wince and sweat. But he has never failed to do what they have asked. I can on many occasions remember where he had gone beyond what was asked of him at his own personal cost.

If you will indulge me I will run off a few of the tasks Barton has performed.

  1. He help rid the guild of the vampire Ventrue.
  2. He helped discover the taigh and is solely responsible for the reconstruction of the taigh. I assure you that the taigh is a very ethical being and would not just anyone do this.
  3. He helped disrupt the armies of the Duke of Bernost, crippling the northern forces. We as a group took over keeps, ambushed supply caravans, and set traps for any other that passed by. They were terrified to travel on their own roads. Barton is solely responsible for the peasant revolt. He supplied them with arms so that Bernost would have more to contend with. At the end of it all the Overlord himself personally thanked Barton.
  4. Barton tracked down one of the seven elder Ventrue Vampires and slew him on his own grounds. Imagine the danger he put himself into to rid this city of their filth.
  5. I personally saw him resurrect a man who was wrongfully killed.

He has also helped me in my time of need. When I was stripped of my magery by the Lars, Barton accompanied me to the Realm of the Lars. There he fought selflessly to help a friend.

Now I know we are here to discuss his knowledge of Edward and Alec being associated with the Black Lotous. But I want to remind you that they were friend before he found out. They have saved each others lives countless times. Assisted each other in times of need. And why should we blame Barton for his knowledge and not seek out the answer to why somebody like Edward was allowed to come in. If we wish no Black Lotus among us then maybe we should screen the people into our guild a bit more carefully. He was and is Barton’s friend.

Whether you like to admit it or not I am sure everyone of us has done some outside the code. This code tries to limit the umlimited. The needed for it real, but there are many grey areas. We are always discovering, expanding our knowledge, and sometimes we do things that is beyond the code. Sometimes we much rely on what we think is right instead of being told what is right.

Alec and Edward have done no harm to our guild. Barton has if anything proven the capability of our guild to the Overlord. He has been working hard to rebuild the Taigh and build a home there. And soon I believe he is going to be married to a lovely lady.

I want you to consider everything Barton has done and what he is doing now and ask yourselves if he deserves to be punished. He has done more good for this guild than anyone else I can remember in recent memory. He is a good man and a good friend, that is why I am here today. Do what you must, but consider Barton as a whole and not judge him for one single incident.

Thank You

Sunday, July 12, 2009

From the Attic: GURPS Mage the Ascension

During the early 90s GURPS Mage the Acension came along with GURPS Voodoo. Both had radically different magic system yet still worked within GURPS.

GURPS Mage was definitely the most powerful system. I tweak to make it the type of magic the Gods used. The mana system that clerics and mages used was a pale shadow of what is form of magic could do.

One thing I had to change was what Paradox was. In the normal Mage game Paradox occured whenever a normal person saw something that couldn't be done by science. It represents the dominant reality of reason punishing the mage for defying it.

For the Majestic Wilderlands I decided that Paradox occurred when creation was bent in unnatural ways. The world was created from chaos using natural laws. Mana is a force that can be manipulated by will. A force that was created alongside the other natural laws. Mage Magic in contrast is the very bending of reality itself. Defy the natural laws then Paradox kicked in.

One thing that prompted this post is that I am sorting all my gaming stuff after cleaning the garage. I have a dozen White Wolf books including all five of the original World of Darkness Games. I wondered why the heck I bought them. I despised the tone of the campaign they had and the mechanics were blah. Then Tim's post at Gothridge Manor reminded me.

They make some of the best damn monster manuals ever.

Excuse me as I hang garlic and load up on silver bullets. I think I hear the howling of White Wolf fans.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The other side of the Screen: A Player's Loss

Tim at Gothridge Manor talks about experiencing the loss of his magery during a GURPS campaign I ran.

RPGS are supposed to be deadly. Without the risk, the challenge is meaningless. However not all risks involve the death of the characters. By 1990 I began to try different consequences for really bad mistakes made by players. I read enough real history by now to know that the consequences for misfortune isn't always death.

The incident with Tim's Mage occurred during the all mage campaign where everybody played a Mage using GURPS Magic. The idea of the campaign was to flesh out the background of magic in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Most of the guys I play with are very good gamers. Either they are great roleplayers or are expert in the rules. As far as rules goes Dwayne is the best of all us. Every advantage that was available in GURPS Magic was exploited. By this point in the campaign the characters and players were very competent. It has gotten to the point where a little arrogance was creeping in.

One thing I established early on is that the Magic Wilderlands the clerics are the preeminent users of magic. Due to historical circumstances the last thousand years has seen the rise of independent traditions of magic. The existence of the clerics and the churches is one of the main reason that mages have not taken over. When the Tim and Dwayne assassinated the Baron they found out why.

The Baron was a Tharian Horselord, High Chief of his clan. The Tharians in the Majestic Wilderlands believes in the gods however they don't worship them directly. Instead they venerate the Lars. The Lars is a spirit assembly of the clan's ancestors. The ceremonies and shrines are maintained by Mystics who have powers similar to clerics of other religions.

During the assassination, the clan realized that they were under magic assault. The Mystics swung into action. Dwayne got away but Tim was not so lucky. Tim was sent to the spirit realm to stand before the Lars. His speech to them was arrogant. It's tone was "Go ahead and kill me. I know I am morally superior to all of you.". In some ways he was right. City-State was a cesspool of hypocritical politicians that effected everything including the Mage's Guild the players were part of.

It was then I figured out that stripping away his magery and letting him live would be a far better way to go. So say the players were shocked as an understatement. When I pronounced sentence there was an audible gasp in the room. It got the feeling that afterwards none of the players felt safe.

The campaign afterward veered in a new and interesting direction. The political and social consequences of the assassination still had to be dealt with. Tim needed to find his Magery again. Plus the other issues they been working on were still out there (like a Dragon in Warwick).

Ultimately the lost of Tim's Magery split the four person party. Dwayne and Tim became steadily more radical in their belief in the Independence of mages. To the point where they abandoned the Guild of Arcane Lore in City-State and established a new conclave in Dearthwood. The other two players, Dave and Jesse, decided to remain loyal to the Overlord. They stayed in the Guild of Arcane Lore and used it as a power base to rise in the Overlord's court.

The ramifications of Tim's loss of magery continues to this day. If you were to play in the Majestic Wilderlands one of the conflicts you will find are between the mages of the Guild of Arcane Lore and the mages that follow Jeremy and Barton, Tim and Dwayne's characters.

For you reading this, my best advice on using this post is fourfold. Death need not be the end, consequences can have unintended effects, allow your players to have a lasting effect on your setting, and record what you player do so you can use it as part of the background of the next background. Even if they are an entirely different group your campaign will be all the richer for it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rob! Read that again.

Back in the middle 80s I ran a AD&D 1st campaign for Dwayne and Tim . It was the first evil campaign I ran where Dwayne played Lord Divolic a Myrmidon of Set (LE Paladin) and Tim played Count Travlin his ally. At one point in the campaign I just didn't have anything ready. So I pulled out the Tomb of Horrors.

When they saw this they warned me that they knew it by heart. Apparently when they first learned D&D all they had was the Tomb of Horrors and Keep on the Borderlands. They puzzled out a system using d6s from the few notes and stats and played them constantly. One would run the Keep while the other the Tomb.

Needless to days by the time they got the rules a few weeks later they knew them both by heart. Now a couple of years later I am about to run the Tomb for them. I really didn't have anything else so I said what the heck what the worse that can happen? I wasn't going to abandon a evening of gaming.

Little did I know....

The adventure wasn't hard but it wasn't a cakewalk. They realize shortly in that while very familiar with the place they didn't have every detail down. So they went about methodically and carefully. Now I know some of you referees are talking "out of game knowledge". However I agreed not to penalize them because of the circumstances.

So after a couple of hours they were standing outside of the stairs that lead to the demi-lich's resting place. The Tomb of Horrors comes with great "Show the Players" illustration along with short but evocative descriptions to read. So I read the description which included

The mithril doors set on the southern end of room 28 are 14-
feet wide and 28-feet tall (and 3-feet thick).

Dwayne suddenly perks up and looks real interested and says.

Rob Read that Again!

I did and then it hit me.

Oh no! Forget the demi-lich's treasure. We are talking the motherlode of Mithril here. What even more amazing that Tim and Dwayne missed that all the time they were running it themselves.

Well they dealt with the demi-lich by knocking it in a Bag of Holding. (What they did that is another story). Left the dungeon and made a deal with a couple of dwarves from Thunderhold. The wealth realized from the Mithril and the other precious metal lining the tomb fueled Divolic's subsequent rise to power.

While that much wealth was a potential campaign wrecker I turned it to a advantage not by figure out how to take it from the players. But rather using it to take the campaign to a whole different level.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Lasting Impact of a PC's Faith

Ryan posted a comment on a A Crisis of PC Faith Answered that brings up a important aspect of how I run my campaigns.

This will be a little more difficult for this particular cleric. In the area of the campaign world where the characters are operating, there is only one legally sanctioned religion, and the character is a cleric of a different religion. As it stands, all non-sanctioned religions are forbidden from building temples or having more than six priests in any given town. His religion does have shrines in rural areas, as the teachings are becoming more popular with peasants and common folk, so perhaps he can develop a network of patrons in rural areas or something to that effect.

In some ways what Ryan describes is an ideal situation for a PC. In addition to the cleric character growing in game terms, the small size of his faith means he can have outsized impact on it's subsequent history.

If the setting will be used in later campaigns. Keep notes on what this person does (as well as your other players).

Then weave it into the background of the next campaign that is run using this setting.

This will almost guarantee player loyalty and add an amount of coolness to your setting.

Plus it has an added benefit of you not having to explain a detailed aspect of your setting's background to existing players. Just remember to keep a cliff's notes version to pass out for the new folks.

The main downside is players using knowledge their character doesn't have. I don't get rigid about this. After all it is tough at time to get players to play attention to the setting at times. However I do make it clear that abusing out of game knowledge is not a good way to earn experience in my games.

In a world where we compete against dozens of other games for time and attention; the ability of tabletop RPGs to dynamically change to reflect what a PC does remains a singular advantage. Use it!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A crisis of PC Faith Answered

Ryan has a good post here about a player in his game that truly roleplays a cleric.

In GURPS or Fantasy Hero the issues he raise are a no brainer to deal with. They are among the many disadvantages one can take to gain more points for advantages, characteristics, and skills. In GURPS terms the character would probably have a Sense of Duty, plus a unique Discipline of Faith.

But he is D&D which doesn't have any game mechanics that benefit characters that start out with self imposed limitations. One way to handle this is how 3.X dealt with issues. Unique classes or prestige classes that give interesting powers in exchange for the limitations imposed by the class

While one can come with new classes for older editions there is an alternative.

Advancement other than levels.
Treasure other than golds or items.

Both boil down to embedding the character within the setting. Allowing the PCs to gain contacts, allies, status and join organizations. When done right the player eat this stuff up. Using this Roghan is not just a 5th level Fighter with a +2 sword, but Rogahn, a Captain of the Mercernary Guild. Or we can have Lukas a senior priest of the Church of Delaquain.

In exchange for the hassles and limitations of dealing with this the players gain lucratives leads as well as access to resources they otherwise may not have.

The free and footloose character still works. They have the advantage of just being able to pick and go whenever they feel like it. But I find that once a player finds something that they are deeply interested in they go with it until the endgame.

For Ryan's Cleric, I recommend that contacts and a path up his temple's heirarchy would be good rewards for the gold he is passing up. Done right the player may wind up being the major driver of the campaign's plot. I find that campaigns revolve around characters with strong convictions or personalities. Simply because that once you start doing A, B naturally follows then C all the way to the endgame.