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Monday, 17 June 2013

Looks Like We're Going Beyond The Wall...

In recent weeks I have become rather smitten with a new (to me) RPG: Beyond The Wall And Other Adventures, thanks to a mini-blogfest being organised by Rob Barrett of Vargold: The Wolf-Time.

Flatland Games' Beyond The Wall appears to be a streamlined version of basic D&D but with some interesting twists, particularly during character creation.

Character creation is a communal affair with the players not only creating their own in-game personas at the table, but also the village they come from.

Through the use of 'playbooks' (a different one for each character based upon the archetype he or she is emulating), the players shape their home environment and weave background stories that tie the characters to each other - and help explain why this rag-tag assemblage wants to go adventuring together.

The 'playbooks' are mainly collections of random tables so a lot of the heavy lifting is done for the players and all they have to do is connect the dots.

This is already sounding like something I've been kicking around for years, but the more I learn about the game the more boxes it ticks:
  • No clerics - mages have healing magic
  • Non-human character races are optional (I'm really hooked on the idea of a human-centric campaign; I also think this will help differentiate my game from Meredith's Warcraft campaign)
  • Low magic - which can sometimes run awry
  • Ascending Armour Class
I've ordered the print edition of the game and am waiting for that to arrive before I really get stuck in, although I have the PDF that came with the bundle (as well as the extra free playbooks that Flatland Games offers).

Straight off, I'll say my only real quibble with the rules is their version of "ability checks", which while simple fail to take a character's level into account as far as I can see. As these are the core of the minimal skill system that seems a bit of an oversight . There's also the oddity of the fact that these tests require a d20 roll UNDER a target number, whereas combat rolls and saving rolls require a roll OVER.

In this case I think I'll simply port over Castle & Crusades' method of making attribute checks, which will work fine with Beyond The Walls' nice little touches, but create a unified "roll over" mechanic (that also factors in a character's experience level).

I'm also not totally sold on the games' method of adventure creation (it's almost a step too far towards 'indie' gaming). While I may use it for the initial adventure which is included in the game I expect future scenarios - although tailored for the characters to a degree - will more closely resemble traditional D&D-style adventures.

In the meantime I've created a blogroll (in the left-hand column of this blog) of all the blogs taking part in Rob's online character/village creation exercise for those seeking more flavour. Although the best place to start is Rob's introductory post here.

I'm thinking that when it comes close to me resuming my seat behind the screen for The Tuesday Knights I'll email them a list of the available playbooks, get them to pick what archetype they want to create and then print out those so they are ready at the table when the group sits down to 'roll up' new characters.

6 comments:

  1. I was interested up until you mentioned ascending armor class.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh, there we must agree to disagree.

      To me, Descending Armour Class, and "to hit" tables, are an outdated throwback to D&D's wargaming roots.

      The fewer tables I have to consult during a game the better - especially during something as fast-paced as a combat scene.

      Yes, I know there are formulae for calculating the target number number without using Ascending AC (e.g. Target20, THACO) but Ascending AC is just a simple, elegant way of resolving combat I'd never go back to the original way of doing things.

      Even when we were teenagers and just getting into making our own houserules, one of the first we came up with - to eliminate the combat table - was a variation on Ascending AC, so I guess it's kinda always been in my blood.

      Delete
  2. The problem is that I am an outdated throwback to D&D's wargaming roots, and lovin' it baby.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beyond the Wall caught my attention the same way that it did yours. I have my hardback book and it is beautiful. I like just about everything about this little RPG. It's just beautiful. My only quibble (and it's minor) is that the hardcover retains the page numbering from the individualized pdf booklets. That makes page numbers useless. Fortunately, everything is so easy that I don't think we'll need to dig through the rules much during play.

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My hardback copy arrived today and I am in the process of printing off, as an individual booklets, the "core rules", "spells and magic" etc sections so I can hand those out to the players who require them.

      I didn't notice the page numbering until you said, but the book's so slim (especially compared to most 'mainstream' game books these days) that it's not really a problem.

      Delete

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