02 June, 2021

Simulacrum — Beta Release

EDIT: New drafts are uploaded in the first few days of the month (though sometimes I skip a month). A changelog for drafts is available at the bottom.

I've had a few requests to provide copies of my game, Simulacrum, and sometimes I've posted drafts in the comments section or to /osrg.   Overall though I've been reluctant to put it out in a main post.  In part that's because I wanted to continue to write about the process of development, and putting out a near-final release would seem to detract from charting its creation.  And I've not been in any hurry because this project has always been for myself, rather than based on any delusion that the world breathlessly awaits another OSR game.

But a lot of my reluctance has to do with wanting it to be the best that it can be before really releasing it to the wider world.  A year of playtesting saw my players hit 7th level, and I'm looking forward to their exploration of the game's higher levels and the inevitable tweaks that will produce.

Still, I think it's time.  So, without further ado, here's the beta for my humble game.  I'll be continuing to run my campaign, read blogs and other games, and take into account feedback, all of which will lead me to tweak things here and there, and eventually I'll put it up on DriveThru and make it "final", but it is tested and feature-complete and you should find it perfectly playable.

1 - Simulacrum Player's Manual - Beta 24-02

2 - Simulacrum GM's Manual - Beta 24-02

3 - Simulacrum Designer Notes - Beta 24-02

4 - Simulacrum Playing Aids - Beta 21-06

The Player's Manual is entirely self-contained, and should be everything a player needs.

The GM's Manual completes the game; it has some cross-referencing, in that it expands and comments on Player's Manual material, but is GM-only.

The Designer Notes are bonus material, made simply because I'm tired of downloading OSR games and having no idea what they did to depart from the TSR baseline, let alone why they did so.  Everything I've done has been for a reason, and I imagine at least a few of you reading a history/theory/game design blog are going to be interested in that kind of inside baseball, as I am.  By reading it, those on the fence can decide if a given change has a basis that makes sense for them.  Completely optional.

Lastly, the Playing Aids PDF consists of a few simple squares you can print and cut out to give to players so that they can announce their stances each round by throwing down their choice on the table, aiding the GM in running fights quicker.  They're not necessary at all: ever since I switched to Zoom I've been just handling that verbally, but in person I've found that it speeds things up.  The PDF also has a GM's sheet that I print off a copy of each session to track key session elements: time passing, treasure gained, and so on (the little dinosaurs in the time-tracking boxes are a reminder to make a wandering monster check).

The only thing that I feel is missing is a character sheet.  I created one for my own use, but it uses graphical elements I stole from other works and so wouldn't be right to share.  Characters are pretty simple, as they are in most OSR games, and so this shouldn't be a major hindrance.

Why Bother?

As I said above, most of this was about creating a game for myself: very few people play most OSR games.  What it does and why is thoroughly explored in the Design Notes document, and there's lots of changes.  However, in short, I do think this offers a few key things that other editions / clones don't:

A thorough design focus on 4-5 players.  As I've explored in other posts, old-school D&D assumes large parties: 6 PCs/NPCs at the very minimum, with 15-16 total towards the top end.  Old-school lethality is definitely a thing, but a lot of it comes from your modern group of 4 to 5 players rolling up to keeps in the borderlands without any retainers and getting mobbed by hordes of monsters placed to challenge player groups that were two to three times the size.  Simulacrum takes a combination of PC toughening and monster weakening throughout the game framework that brings things back to a more even keel in terms of party / enemy balance.  PCs aren't superheroes, but neither are they hopeless frails in the face of the enemy.  This isn't intended to make stronger heroes per se, but to level the playing field for smaller groups back to where things used to be, albeit in a non-traditional fashion.

Native hexcrawl support.  Using the system I've worked out in an earlier post, the game handles hexcrawling in a far cleaner fashion than the traditional D&D rules, making the wilderness portion of the game not just something paid lip service to, while at the same time not bogging things down with a mountain of tiresome Wilderness Survival Guide-type survivalist tedium.

Two modular core classes.  A tight two-page spread gives you all your core character creation, so that making new characters is quick and easy.  At the same time, a mix of modular add-ons and spell schools allows one to create a set of custom classes for their own campaign, or to have an extremely flexible structure that allows you to more readily capture a wider variety of archetypes and variations than normal, while at the same time not needing page after page of classes and subclasses or descending into the hell of "builds".  As such, you get brief rules and fast character creation, but also a decent amount of flexibility that should let you make a form of any standard D&D class as well as a few that never existed.

Streamlining without compromising core play.  I've tried to make things run more smoothly in terms of aspects of weapons, armour, saves, task resolution, classes (as above), and spells.  However, I tried to avoid the common phenomena of streamlining for its own sake, and to the point of removing what makes an OSR game actually OSR.  Things like encumbrance and the classic dungeoneering procedures are kept and even sometimes slightly clarified / expanded upon, and advice on how to use the engine in old-school games sown throughout, so that the game doesn't become a generic fantasy ruleset but remains focused on the classic dungeoncrawl and compatible with most any old-school module.  "Rules-light" is not an end unto itself, and my general approach has been "how I can make something work better for me" rather than "what can I cut".

(Reasonably) complete rules.  Many OSR games aim to be rules-light, but achieve that in large part by farming out core content to other books: spell lists, magic items, bestiaries, any procedures other than core task resolution.  I've attempted to include everything you need for typical play, without having to run to the DMG or PHB to actually run a proper game.

I would welcome any questions or comments.  I'd only note first that between the GM's Manual and the Designer Notes that a lot of the "why" as to what I did is covered.  Still, if I missed something or are not clear there, by all means let me know.

For those interested in a draft-by-draft changelog, I've started a simple text one here, tracking from Oct 2022 onwards:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eu1RLu1nJdo80Uv-RODLmOkKp4kOU_6Q/view?usp=share_link

I hope this all is of some use to you out there, either as a full game or as a collection of elements for you to steal for your own OSR game, as is right and proper.  For those of you who commented on earlier drafts or run playtest games, thanks for your feedback over the years: it's been invaluable, and I'd be glad to hear more of it.  Happy adventuring.  Go forth and plunder!

53 comments:

  1. Thank you Keith for posting the beta of your game! I am looking forward to reading the books and trying their ideas in my games.

    Best,

    Lucas

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  2. Glad to finally see this on your blog.

    One thing I'd like to see in the Designer Notes (Or the GM's Manual) is how do you handle languages and what purpose do they serve in the game.
    I've become less of a fan of how Languages work after reading Arnold K's blogpost on the subject and was wondering how you tackle the issues presented in that post or if you have a different view and use of Languages entirely.

    Anyways, happy to see your system being publicized more as it gets finished.

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    1. I don't have a special systemic approach to languages beyond what is explored in the Player's Manual, where I specifically leave that to the GM, based on their desires for realism vs gameplay convenience. You can see why "Common" became a popular choice, especially in systems that want to encourage roleplaying and general diplomacy with encounters rather than just hack and slash. Ultimately, some people want to invest the time into segmented languages, and others find it annoying, but the community is too fragmented on this one for me to make a one-true ruling for my game and expect it to satisfy everyone, and it's not mission-critical to any sort of experience I'm attempting to capture to mandate it.

      I was intrigued by an idea in the comments to the post you reference that every speaks Common but languages still exist as a way to eke out positive Reaction Roll mods, however. That's an approach I hadn't seen or considered before. Cheers.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this with us. I look forward to reading through it!

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    1. I thoroughly enjoy what I've read so far. Campaign Matters is such a nice way to handle these rules that are so commonly modified. The Named Levels offers a tiered approach to play that offers some of the benefits of more modern PC leveling, but without the complexity and min/max behavior that can come with it. I appreciate the notes that help establish how Simulacrum would compare to other classic editions, such as how attack bonus compares to fighter levels or feats help create characters that emulate classic classes. Nicely done!

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  4. These rules look very interesting - will I be able to solo them ? (just me running a single character)

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    1. Hmmm ... characters under the system are more powerful, certainly, but are they powerful enough? I suppose it comes down to whether or not you're willing to start them a level or two higher, and if you would use retainers or not. The common failing of solo play is in the action economy, where a solitary creature/character, even if strong, winds up losing because its opponents have so many more attacks collectively. You can compensate for that here somewhat by ensuring you have a warrior with Hordeslayer (i.e. cleave/sweep). Ultimately I'd give a solid "maybe" but feel compelled to point out that, just as this ruleset was designed with 4-5 players in mind, Scarlet Heroes is specifically designed for solo play and so (though I've never played it) would likely be the better choice. If you wind up trying this out anyways, let me know how it goes. Cheers.

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  5. Hi Keith. I really like the rulebooks. I notice that the GM's manual has been updated. What has changed? Thanks! Lucas

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    1. Hi. Mostly the monsters: I gave another pass through the monsters to fix whatever I could find, so treasure was adjusted, a few stats here and there fixed, more special abilities added, some of the encounter numbers adjusted (especially for creatures with big lairs). I also added a new weapon property (Silent) and redid the generic dungeon wandering monster table to be clearer and based on intended PC level instead of the level of the dungeon. Lastly, I fixed the missile table in the back, which didn't match the Player's Manual version.

      I'll likely update it again next month, as I am working on adding an additional two pages to fit in a spread of 16 demons and devils into the monster section. Thanks!

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    2. I love that you're providing updates to these files as you edit them. Thanks in advance!

      I'm a watcher on the page comments. If you happen to think of it, please add a comment here, so I'll know when the August update is available.

      (I noticed a typo in my comment, so I deleted it and reposted.)

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    3. Will do (and I'll be updating both of them next month). Thanks again for your interest!

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  6. Just wanted to say that I was skim-reading through your Design Notes file and I keep feeling - over and over again - really impressed by the creativity and wisdom in various little decisions in your rules. After a while, it's hard to get too excited by 'yet another retroclone' but I feel there are a bunch of common-sense innovations/houserules in here. Inspiring work - thank you!

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  7. Hey, may I ask how you handle an issue with combat declarations? I think only PCs will have combat stances, but presumably enemy spellcasters need to declare intent to cast during this phase as well. Do you have a standard procedure for adjudicating whether players or foes FIRST commit, out loud, to spellcasting? Like an initiative for declaring intent? I can imagine tactical situations where one side gets an edge from knowing what enemy wizards are doing before they declare their own actions.

    Just curious whether this comes up, whether I'm understanding your rules, and how you handle this, if relevant. Great stuff!

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    1. Hi. Thanks for the kind words on the Design Notes: I'm glad someone is finding them useful (or at least interesting).

      For combat stances, those are PCs only (they only mention players, but I'll add a more explicit note in the next draft).

      As for spell declarations, how I've been handling has been rather loose, I realize. Yes, enemy spellcasters declare at the same general point as the PCs do. I don't *think* that I've ever told the players if enemy casters are actively casting before they decide their actions, and in any case they've never pressed me about it before deciding on their own actions. I know I always decide if the opponents are casting on their own merits, without regard to if the players might be doing the same: I see that as part of my GM role as a neutral arbiter.

      While it's been working for me so far, I think you're right that it should probably be more rigorous. I'm going to do a bit of thinking and research and should have an answer in a couple of weeks when I update the draft (which I'll mention in a new comment on this post). Thanks for the note!

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    2. Thanks. To riff off comments elsewhere by Ben Milton and Chris McDowall, there's advantage in a style that hands the players as much information as possible and makes their game-challenge about figuring out how to respond. That would incline me toward GM declaring enemy casting before the players decide on their stances ('oh no, the shaman is muttering, I'd better focus on taking him out. I press the attack with Offensive stance.' / 'uh-oh, the ogre mage isn't casting, he's coming for us. I choose to Guard the squishy wizard this turn').

      I suppose there could be a related issue for missile and melee declarations within their individual phases too, no? I.e. do PCs who chose to Dash know who the enemy intends to attack before they conduct their own interrupting attacks. The difference is between:

      "Ugh, that ogre might go after our wizard this turn, so I'd better strike him."
      vs.
      "Whew! The ogre is still focused on our barbarian, so I'm going to trim those orc's ranks this turn instead."

      Anyway, not to quibble too much, and thanks for thinking about these edge cases. My brain likes having the clarity of a fore-written procedure. I have a wargaming background and so have had to work through these issues in that arena.

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    3. Dash at least I know how I do it: it matches the normal mode of combat in that you don't know what they're going to do before you yourself decide to act. That having been said, picking it means you generally have a pretty good idea (the giant scorpion is probably going to sting us; that enemy berserker is probably going to try to smash out mage, the next hit will probably kill me, etc).

      No problem at all with the quibbles: it's the sort of fine detail that I enjoy and that I think really makes the difference between a playable game and a good one. I very much enjoy the "rulings not rules" aspect of old-school play, but of course there were and are limits to that. In particular, I think it's essential that the core procedures of the game be nailed down, to give you a concrete base for riffing around. So, anything that is a hard rule should be as clear as possible, and questions like yours really help there.

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  8. Updated drafts to 21-08.

    Player's Manual: Removed Mage requirement to have at least 9 Arcana (if you can have crappy warriors, why not crappy mages?); added a death threshold para to the ability score section instead of hiding that info away under Dying, so that players calculate it ahead of time (and flipped it around so that it's roll-high instead of roll-low); allowed high-level martial artists to damage creatures with their hands that are only hit by magic weapons; added electrum pieces for compatibility purposes; added time to don armour; clarified spell declaration (thanks Gundobad); split up Movement Phase wall of text; minor spell tweaks

    GM's Manual: Expanded the ToC; heavily expanded the Experimentation and Carousing tables (over doubled); added system advice on light and darkness; added another page of Misc Magic Items; added a dual-page spread of "daemons". Overall an extra six pages added (one of which is a new colour art splash page, to keep the layout fixed in the right places).

    Designer Notes: Misc clarifications

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    1. Thanks for the updates! I appreciate you keeping us up to date on the latest changes!

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  9. With my playtest campaign coming to an end at 60 sessions due to real life intruding, I've updated the drafts to 21-12. The characters reached level 8, so material beyond this lacks real-life testing. Two deaths overall (RIP Taffy the Mage and Snort the Sneaky) and many a lost Ensign Ricky retainer. Couldn't ask for a better group to work with.

    Player's Manual: Mostly subtle wording polishes and small-scale changes at this point and so hard to call out. More specifics on forcing doors. Made fatigue affect healing, so that being short of food/water/sleep matters more. Gave greater granularity to the rules for carrying coins. Ruled that potions require encumbrance (Small items) rather than being free items. Allowed held missile fire to be made at the end of any phase, not just the Magic Phase. Made lost spellbook recovery more affordable and quicker.

    GM's Manual: Add a Campaign Matter option to allow GMs to make rod/staff/wand saves one level lower than whatever effect they're creating.

    Design Notes: Minor clarifications.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that your campaign has come to an end. Still, 60 sessions is quite significant! I hope you're able to start up a new campaign soon.

      Merry Christmas!

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  10. I regularly lurk around the OSR blog scene, but I'd somehow missed these docs until very recently--thanks so much for sharing them! I actually started reading with the Designer Notes and was immediately intrigued when almost every one of your goals/decisions in the design aligned with my own tastes. The project got me excited enough that I'm seriously considering using Simulacrum as the primary mechanical skeleton for my next campaign. Great stuff!

    That said, I have a couple of questions about your implementation of navigation and overland random encounters.

    1) Why do navigation checks use a unique PC D12 roll rather than the standard task resolution? Is it as simple as wanting to be sure the roll isn't tied to any particular ability score/mod? Or was it just the easiest method to keep the modifier for Hex Entry Cost significant?
    2) Unless I'm missing something, overland random encounter checks are only triggered after navigation checks are made (the one exception being camping in the wilderness). However, as written, navigation checks are only made when the PCs are headed to a hex they've never visited. Does this mean you never check for random encounters when the PCs are in familiar territory?

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    1. Good timing: I just updated the Player's Manual and Design Notes earlier that day (for Tim, I heavily reworked the Warrior's abilities and feats so that the best abilities are mutually exclusive class abilities while the lighter, fluffier stuff is reserved for feats; added a "noisy" mod for dungeon exploration; and added rules for Mage familiars).

      Navigation checks use a D12 because, as you suspected, the modifiers applied by the base hex cost fit really well with the D12 scale, whereas they'd need finagling to fit the D20 scale. It also matches up with the random encounter roll die, which I thought was nice (if hardly important). In my earliest drafts I tried to fit everything to D20, but I found that I was needlessly breaking compatibility with TSR material at times (which I sought to keep whenever I had no strong reason to break it), and sometimes getting awkward results due to the 20-point scale, just in the pursuit of dice consistency that I think is somewhat overrated.

      Good spot on the wording for navigation random encounter checks: a case of "I was playing it right, but didn't notice that the wording doesn't support that". You roll whenever you enter a hex, or make a navigation check (i.e. when searching a hex). I've updated the Player's Manual and Design Notes to fix this, and will be updating the PDF for the hexcrawl rules post on this blog shortly to match. (I'll also be making a substantial, unrelated update to the GM's Guide later this week.)

      I've had people from time to time take the rules for a spin and it's always resulted in excellent feedback, so if you do give it a try at the table (or even notice other unclear/wrong passages), I'd love to hear about it. Thanks for your interest!

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    2. Thank you for the summary of what's changed. I look forward to checking it out!

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    3. Very cool. I can get behind the changes to the Warrior. I think the new arrangement does a better job of encouraging feat choice based on preferred style rather than straightforward effectiveness vis-à-vis damage output. It also puts less pressure on me to replace Brawler immediately since I'm leaning toward dropping it in favor of generally available intentional combat maneuvers.

      The Designer Notes mention a Retainer Offer Reaction table/hiring chart, but I haven't been able to locate it in either Manual. Was it dropped along the way (intentionally or not), or am I simply overlooking it?

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    4. Also, any guidelines on the timeline for recovering fatigue from its various causes (starvation, thirst, suffocation, etc.)? The descriptions of Climbing and Forced March provide specific details, but I don't remember any other examples. At least on the page, your implementation of fatigue seems extremely punishing (for good and ill), so I'd want to be clear about what players can do to overcome it. Any general notes about how fatigue has felt in play at your table would also be appreciated.

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    5. Re: the Warrior changes. I agree. I wanted martials to be a serious threat in this game, not a sad second-banana to casters (and when there's only two bananas to choose from, that's doubly important). Much like Richard Garfield and his understanding that the Black Lotus was good, but not getting just how good, I knew that Smite and Hordeslayer would be the most popular choices for PCs, but in play one of those was picked about 90% of the time, which was dull; mechanically, warriors typically wouldn't start getting differentiated seriously (barring magic gear) until level 10.

      The Retainer Offer Reaction table was moved to the GM's Manual, as part of a general effort to get all non-PC-relevant info out of the Player's Manual. It will be in the updated GM's book draft later this week.

      I have no fatigue guidelines for the specific instances you mention, no. My feeling was that they were so circumstantial and also fiddly/particular that trying to hard-code those specific instances would be a bad idea. For example, "without air" could be stuck in a void / vacuum, or holding your breath too long, or outright drowning. If your lungs are full of water, recovery would probably take a bit. If you were just oxygen deprived, probably quicker to get back to normal--different cases, same mechanic and rules situation. "Fatigue cannot be removed until its cause is addressed" is the broad guideline, but overall I felt these were prime areas to just let a GM rule as they will.

      Fatigue in general has felt good, insofar as it's come up. There's not a lot of situations where it applies, so the most I've seen in play is heavy, which was alarming but no one thought it improperly applied or punitive (and I don't have shy players). My main playtest party has a necromancer and the Unflagging Endurance spell, so they don't tend to run into march-based fatigue any longer. It may be a matter of taste, but I did in general want fatigue to matter rather than some minor -1 or -2 to hit and that's that.

      Thanks again for your questions.

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  11. GM's Manual update: expanded carousing table (50 options now, as my players keep churning through content), new mundane equipment fast packs for quick chargen help, a hexcrawl aid chart, two new magic system variants (intended for NPCs, not yet playtested)--black mages and sorcerers, retainer offer reactions, advice on stealth, a take on the Table of Despair, some new full-page colour spreads. Up to 94 pages. I think this one is pretty stable now.

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    1. These updates sound amazing! Thanks for continuing to expand and improve upon this content.

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  12. Keith, I've just finished my second full readthrough of the Simulacrum docs, and I have one or two (or twenty) questions/comments for you. Before I explode the comment section here with my rather lengthy list, I figured I'd ask: would you prefer I post them all here or send them to you directly? If the latter, what point of contact should I use?

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    1. Happy to entertain however many questions you have. Send an email to sinisterwangho at gmail and I'll go over them. Thanks!

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  13. Would it be possible to get a look at the character sheets of the PCs in your playtest game? I'm curious to see how they've developed.

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    1. I actually don't have access to my playtest group's character sheets, as we switched to online play (I live in a different city than four out of the five of them), and since I run the game sandbox-style without specifically designing challenges for them, I've never needed to see them in any case. I *think* they printed the character sheets I gave them and have physical copies on their end, but I'm actually not sure; I've asked and I'll see what they say.

      The player group as it stands is currently three Warriors and two Mages; I've had two deaths so far (a Warrior and a Mage), and those players have had replacement characters come in at one level lower than the rest. As with typical old-school play, a lot of their development (outside of roleplaying of course) has been gear-related (magic items, spells) or play-related (blessings, curses), rather than rulebook mechanics. One guy has lycanthropy and has parlayed that into a major aspect of his character, for instance, seeking to be able to control it rather than getting rid of it.

      If there's something specific you were wondering about, I'd be happy to provide details, and I'll see if I can round up something electronic to give you.

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    2. Oh, I was just generically curious to see how they'd advanced, what sort of unusual gadgets and curses and blessings they'd picked up, that sort of thing. Nothing urgent or load-bearing. Thank you very much, however.

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  14. Back to the campaign at long last, merrily journeying through AA3: The Curse of the Witch Head at the moment. Updated drafts. Usual other minor polishing throughout, plus: SPM - Reworked pursuit rules so that possible player actions apply the largest modifier (makes packing caltrops and throwaway food a solid choice). Moved the equipment fast packs to the player's book, where they made more sense. This in turn required some extra material on lifestyles and downtime (and a new splash page of art) to keep the layout working, but it's still only 58 pages. GM's Manual - Added some optional cold and hot weather rules I was finally happy with, plus some rules for drug addiction and a few fantasy drugs to go with them.

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    1. Oh boy!

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    2. Any novel developments in the campaign?

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    3. It's been a lot of fun, though I'd hesitate to call it novel. It continues to be useful in a playtesting sense, especially with things like spells.

      I've segued from Curse of the Witch Head into the classic JG Dark Tower module, and it's been very interesting playing such a storied classic. The layout is rather rough: I wish I'd taken more time on prep than I had, as I've made some navigating mistakes moving through it. But adding the corrupted sorcerer from Witch Head (who escaped before the players could nab him) to the Dark Tower mix (I had him flee to the area where the towers are) has led to a very interesting extra layer, on top of the Settites and Mitraists of the towers. I've had a great deal of fun watching the group trying to navigate the potential loyalties and forces in the village that starts the module. The prevalence of teleport portals in the towers is also huge: I think they were about one wrong turn from a TPK at one point after being one-way teleported deep into the complex, but they navigated back to safety by sheer luck.

      If you're planning on running Dark Tower yourself, I've found this post invaluable:

      https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/46646/roleplaying-games/dark-tower-level-connections

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  15. This looks fantastic! Have you considered publishing Simulacrum via crowdfunding?

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    1. No, the thought never crossed my mind. I don't quite want to say the market for OSR games is saturated, since while there's a thousand of them out there already another successful kickstarter seems to appear every month. But while I'm very happy with my game and think it has its own niche, I don't think there's really much of a commercial hook to it: no baked-in interesting setting, no gonzo colour art. That is to say, the hook is in the rules, and that's a hard sell: I think the number of people who are interested in finely gradated examinations of core D&D play who aren't already just using D&D is pretty small. So I'll just keep uploading monthly drafts until I get to a point where I'm happy enough with it to throw it up on DriveThru, and then give the PDF away for PWYW/free. Thanks for the kind words though. :) Hope it proves useful to you.

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    2. I think you'd be surprised how many gamers love the design goals of Classic D&D but wish they were honed more for intuitive use in play. My favorite D&D ruleset is BECMI because it most clearly articulates the procedures required for running old-school dungeon crawls (the dungeon exploration turn, reaction rolls, etc) while also supporting often ignored elements like strongholds, warfare, and domain management. I'd love to see you tackle more of the D&D mid and end games (intuitive rules for building kingdoms, running domains, wars, etc). There's so much potential there that often gets handwaived or ignored.

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  16. I think the best comparison would be Old School Essentials, in that it's appeal is presenting classic D&D rules in a straightforward and easily referenced manner rather than a new setting or fancy art. You're presenting your rules in a similarly intuitive way, but also taking the extra step of polishing them up and reworking them in a really impressive way. I think you should consider publishing them at some point, I spend lots of time reading OSR games and you have a really special talent for reworking classic D&D rules to better facilitate play at the table.

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    1. Thank you, I really appreciate that. They will be published eventually, but just as POD. I've made some Lulu proofs to check the art and whatnot and both volumes work pretty well in book form.

      I'll address your other comment here as well, as Blogger doesn't like nesting comments beyond a certain point. I'm reluctant to go beyond what I have now into the late-game material that you mention. One of the main themes of this blog is the need for strong design goals, and my most recent post is on the value of generating rules from play rather than theory. For late game material I don't really have a design goal--any overriding sense of how things should work--or any play experience with the domain game beyond some very surface-level stuff. So while I have some basic ideas, if I did anything, it would really be just "make some stuff up with the hope it's good", and I think that a lot of bad rules come out of that sort of approach. Right now I can't say, for instance, if I could or even should do something different than, say, what ACKS is doing.

      If I get to that level in my playtest and my group winds up exploring those avenues of play, I might change my mind, but I'd actually want to arrive at conclusions through play than solely through theorycrafting. Cheers.

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  17. Hi, do you note the differences between versions when you update your pdfs? Just curious if that's written down anywhere, I'm a couple versions behind and am not sure if I'm missing anything major.

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    1. If they're especially large-scale or important I tend to note them here; the last such big series of changes was in October. Otherwise I don't note them down per se, but I keep all previous public drafts and can easily do a compare if you're looking for a specific month-to-current comparison. Shoot me a mail at sinisterwangho at gmail and I can run that for you. There will also be updated new versions next week, the most notable change being new random encounter tables for the GM's Guide (as the old ones have worn out their welcome at the table and I want a larger, more gradated series). Cheers.

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  18. I've updated the drafts, and added a new text changelog to the bottom of the post so that I don't have to keep commenting here to keep people up to date, while still allowing interested folks to keep track of what's happening.

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    1. Each time you add a comment, I receive an email update. If you could continue to add a comment when there's a new version, it's a great prompt for me to return here and check it out!

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    2. Richard Hughes5 March 2023 at 02:47

      Indeed, same here.

      I think it'll please you to know that I regularly use your matrix of NPC personality traits to randomly generate personalities for basically every random yahoo my players accost, and more, that it's worked out great for me.

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    3. Richard, that's great: I'm so glad some of the material is proving useful.

      I usually update every month when I'm actively playtesting. So, I don't want to post a new comment every month (which would be mostly empty / just clutter) when you can just check back on the first Monday of each month to see if there's anything new (since Sunday night is game night). The only reason there was a few month break was the holidays and the large amount of extra text I added to the GM's Manual this time around; normally the updates aren't that large.
      However, I'll still make a comment if there's been an unusually large update, like this month's batch was (also, I just updated the GM's Manual again with some small monster entry fixes). Thanks!

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  19. I'm Richard Hughes from 5-March-2023 above, and I wanted to share a really remarkable failure state I've run in to using the reaction table and random NPC personality generator in my games.
    For each NPC, I usually roll twice on the NPC personality table - the first roll is their Primary Personality Trait, the second roll is their Secondary Personality Trait. I don't always bother with this but it's so easy that I can do it pretty casually for any random monster the PCs are going to bumble in to. This is creating the very novel problem that one of the players was getting confused as to how and why all of these NPCs were Important To The Plot because they expected that I wouldn't drop this much detail on NPCs unless they were Important, and growing quite irritated when this understanding was betrayed by the motives of these NPCs proving to actually be profoundly venal and dumb.

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  20. I've encountered this early on in my current campaign. If I get a metagame problem like this, I tend to step outside the game and tell the players outright that they're mistaking a system artifact for something it isn't. I find it's faster to just cut to the chase.

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    1. That's what I wound up doing - I showed them the 2d6 Reaction table and the procedure I'm using for RNG'ing personalities. I'm not sure they realized how much of the game's content was procedurally generated, or at least inspired by procedural generated content, until I showed my hand. It would be more flattering if it hadn't created a bit of a bad time for them at the table, ha ha.

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