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  • lewpuls's Avatar
    Thursday, 10th May, 2018, 12:43 PM
    A lot of "reviewing" suffers from the same problem that informs much of Internet comment, people know so little about what they're talking about but think they're experts. (Dunning Kruger Syndrome) Browsing/skimming instead of actually reading is another big problem. I suppose it derives from the DKS as well, people thinking they know a lot more than they do. And being lazy, in this case. ...
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    Sunday, 6th May, 2018, 08:29 PM
    (I read a review at ENWorld that reminded me that many reviewers of games don’t entirely know what they’re doing! I reviewed games and related materials for Dragon and White Dwarf a long time ago, but almost never have the time to do so these days. I’ve modified a handout I created over the years for various students (college and grad, computer or game development disciplines) to whom I assigned...
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  • lewpuls's Avatar
    Sunday, 6th May, 2018, 08:23 PM
    (I read a review at ENWorld that reminded me that many reviewers of games don’t entirely know what they’re doing! I reviewed games and related materials for Dragon and White Dwarf a long time ago, but almost never have the time to do so these days. I’ve modified a handout I created over the years for various students (college and grad, computer or game development disciplines) to whom I assigned...
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About lewpuls

Basic Information

Date of Birth
January 22, 1951 (67)
About lewpuls
About Me:
See Wikipedia: "Lewis Pulsipher", "Britannia (board game)", "archomental".

Lewis Pulsipher, Ph.D. (military and diplomatic history, Duke University)
·designer of Britannia (1986, 1987, 1991, 2006, 2008), Dragon Rage (1982 and 2011), Valley of the Four Winds (1980), Swords & Wizardry (1979), Sea Kings (2015), Lew Pulsipher's Doomstar (2016, video (PC, Mac, Linux)); Eurasia (title may change) (forthcoming from Worthington), Germania (forthcoming from Plastic Soldier Company, UK), Seas of Gold (forthcoming from Excalibre)
·Industry Insider Guest of Honor, GenCon 2013
·Online audiovisual game design courses: https://www.udemy.com/u/drlewispulsipher
·Wikipedia entries: "Lewis Pulsipher"; "Britannia (board game)"; "Archomental"
·Google+ Game Design: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Pulsiphergames
·Author of "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish", August 2012http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-6952-9; electronic versions also available at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Books-a-Million
·pulsiphergames.com
·YouTube Game Design channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/LewGameDesign
·Twitter: @lewpuls (https://twitter.com/lewpuls) https://twitter.com/lewpuls
·Game design blog: http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/ and http://boardgamegeek.com/blog/435/pulsipher-game-design
·google.com/+LewisPulsipher
Location:
Gainesville, FL
Sex:
Male
Age Group:
Over 40
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If you can be contacted on social networks, feel free to mention it here.

Google+:
google.com/+LewisPulsipher
Twitter:
lewpuls
YouTube:
http://youtube.com/LewGameDesign
My Game Details

Details of games currently playing and games being sought.

Town:
Gainesville
State:
Florida
Country:
USA
Game Details:
RPGs: First Edition D&D, willing to try 5th, have played them all.

I design board and card games, most well-known are Britannia, Dragon Rage' latest is Doomstar (actually a video game in format). Looking for playtesters for card games and board wargames.

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How Long Before the Digital Dam Breaks? Friday, 11th May, 2018 02:00 PM

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Thursday, 31st March, 2005
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My Game Details
Town:
Gainesville
State:
Florida
Country:
USA
Game Details:
RPGs: First Edition D&D, willing to try 5th, have played them all.

I design board and card games, most well-known are Britannia, Dragon Rage' latest is Doomstar (actually a video game in format). Looking for playtesters for card games and board wargames.

Monday, 14th May, 2018


Friday, 11th May, 2018


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Tuesday, 1st May, 2018


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Tuesday, 23rd January, 2018

  • 04:04 PM - Jay Verkuilen mentioned lewpuls in post Don't Lose The Forest For The Trees
    Backgammon is a race, yes - it's like Ludo but better! <snip> It's a much easier game than chess (hence my preference for it!) - But it is a two-player, computable game with all information available to all players, so I think it counts as a puzzle in @lewpuls's sense. Yes, I think that's right. The thing is, backgammon is arguably the oldest game (with formalized rules) in the world. It's been played for millennia and I have little doubt it will continue to be played millennia hence. So one of his premises---that because it's a puzzle people lose interest once they know how to play it---seems wrong. [quote]I could be wrong, but I don't think that lewpuls is meaning to use "game" in the sense of mathematical game theory/decision theory. His reason for classifying (most? all?) cooperative games as puzzles, I think, is that they are (in principle) solvable and (once the solution is known) there is always a best move. Yes in theory (up to randomness) there is a best move for many games. Given that backgammon's randomness is fairly benign it can be easily incorporated into backward induction and thus optimized. I really fail to see what conceptual work "puzzle" does for many of these "games". (The fact that I have to put quotes around "g...
  • 08:54 AM - pemerton mentioned lewpuls in post Don't Lose The Forest For The Trees
    ...enceforth. As I recall, backgammon is essentially a race between players... been a while since I played it. However, it does have an aspect of strategy and it clearly has a versus (or zero-sum) aspect.Backgammon is a race, yes - it's like Ludo but better! It's a much easier game than chess (hence my preference for it!) - at any given move, if you can calculate probablities across two dice in your head, then you can work out what move minimises your chances of being "hit" by your opponent (meaning that that piece has to go back to start) while maximising the movement of your pieces towards the winning line. A fully optimal move would of course include all the future probabilities for all the future moves, which I can't do in my head for even one roll beyond my current one, and which would require computing across 30+ moves for each player for a complete game. But it is a two-player, computable game with all information available to all players, so I think it counts as a puzzle in lewpuls's sense. The problem I have with the proposed terminology is that in mathematical game theory one thinks about both cooperation and competition. The proposed terminology seems to exclude cooperative games, for instance, which are studied in mathematical game theory alongside competitive ones. Indeed many games have aspects of both.I could be wrong, but I don't think that lewpuls is meaning to use "game" in the sense of mathematical game theory/decision theory. His reason for classifying (most? all?) cooperative games as puzzles, I think, is that they are (in principle) solvable and (once the solution is known) there is always a best move. I don't know boardgames or computer games very well, and so am working from a very limited palette of examples, but I'm thinking something like Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert. I play Forbidden Desert with my 10 year old from time-to-time. We're a long way from having identified the winning play, but I can see how it can make sense to think o...
  • 04:08 AM - pemerton mentioned lewpuls in post Don't Lose The Forest For The Trees
    I'm not getting this point: In games, especially games for more than two, there is no best move (frequently) <snip> Any definition of game that excludes chess and go is a poor definition that is only going to confuse the heck out of people.In lewpuls's terminology, chess and go are puzzles because there is a solution (though it's cognitively/mathematically in accessible to most players). I assume that backgammon is a puzzle for the same reason, although its parameters can change from move to move because of the dice results. Maybe I'm wrong, but I would assume that Diplomacy is a game in the relevant sense. And I guess many other blind declaration wargames (inlcuding CCGs) might count. As to the bigger issue of "why bother"? I assume that this sort of analysis is helpful to game design. (Also - as something of an expert on Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, I can confidently state that his discussion of the word "game" has no bearing on the current topic of games vs puzzles, except in the trivial sense that he is pointing out that words can have varied uses. But making that rather banal point is not what makes the book an important work of philosophy; and the philsophical points have no bearing upon game design.)

Sunday, 17th December, 2017

  • 04:15 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post Tension, Threats And Progression In RPGs
    Ah man. After all the warm and fuzzies the last time around, lewpuls goes full on "git off mah lawn" again. :uhoh: I don't have a lot of ideas here because, to me, games should always involve some sort of conflict (I strongly dislike Eurogames, which are usually parallel competition puzzles, not games). Conflict implies the possibility of loss. Without the possibility of loss or failure, what tension can you put into a game? Umm, what Eurogames are you talking about? Catan certainly has loss conditions, or rather, a win condition which means you have a clear winner in the game. Pandemic has very, very clear loss conditions and you will likely lose as often as you win. Are we seriously going to entertain that the most popular games in decades aren't really games but are "parallel competition puzzles"? Whatever that is. How far back do we actually have to go to find the play style that is being talked about in the article? Dragonlance released in the early 80's, but, was being played in the 70's and the very early days of AD&D. Here...

Monday, 13th November, 2017

  • 12:23 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post The Most Important Design Aspect of Hobby RPGs Is The Pure Humanoid Avatar
    /snip Yeah. Hey, I'm not unreasonable. There are just some things that I'm probably going to push back pretty hard on. :D But, no, I can totally see where lewpuls is coming from here. It makes a great deal of sense to differentiate role playing games from other games this way since it is a pretty concrete difference. Note, that by role playing games, I'm certainly not excluding board games or other games. There are board games that are pretty much short play RPG's. And certainly video games as well.

Friday, 10th November, 2017

  • 12:41 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post The Most Important Design Aspect of Hobby RPGs Is The Pure Humanoid Avatar
    Yes and no though. The Dog in Monopoly isn't representing anything though. Nothing changes about your play if you are the dog or the thimble. An avatar, as it's defined here, isn't just a marker. It has an identity in and of itself, even if that identity is "this is a representation of me". If you change the avatar, you change the game play. Particularly in RPG's where your avatar defines how you interact with the game to a very large degree. Playing D&D as a fighter or a wizard is a very different experience, even though the player may be the same. I pretty much agree with everything lewpuls says here. It's actually a really succinct way to differentiate role playing games from other games. In an RPG, regardless of the medium, your avatar is the primary focus of play. Changing the avatar results in a very different game experience.

Saturday, 26th August, 2017

  • 08:52 AM - AnimeSniper mentioned lewpuls in post Pure Innovation Is Highly Overrated
    lewpuls Its sad when the game companies and their design teams try to rehash or make near mirror copies of earlier existing games to try and grab the market share of computer and console gamer's instead of seeing what made the game so well liked and then incorporating those features into their own near or future release titles. Innovation comes about in both small and large grandiose ways from the new crafting and settlement creation in Fallout 4 to better story line progression/tie in to earlier games or building off snippets from the previous games Fallout 3's mentioning of the Commonwealth for example. Tony Vargas that is also true and sometimes it works and other time it flops like a dying fish... New Coke, Crystal Pepsi, certain Mountain Dew with X-flavors for a game tie in release, and etcetera.

Wednesday, 2nd August, 2017

  • 06:55 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post Tactics And Combat In Fantasy RPGs
    ... be able to use them at all so then you get some limited reliable tactics and nothing else. Part of tactics is being able to accurately predict your odds of success. Unless it's the only possible option, no one chooses an option with a very low chance of success. Not when there are other options that have higher chances of success that are still viable. So, to use your example, if pushing the orc off the tower requires three separate checks, each with a 50% chance of failure (a ridiculous example, but, bear with me), no one is going to do it when they could just stick their sword in the orc and have a much better chance of success. And the problem with leaving everything in the DM's hands is that very, very few DM's are good at judging risk vs reward. If swinging across the room from a chandelier costs you more than you could benefit from doing it, no one does it. And, very often, when it's left up to the DM, options that are not rules defined are generally not taken. lewpuls even mentions the idea that stealth is something you do with the aid of magic. Why? Well, because using magic means that the DM isn't coming up with off the cuff rulings and your chances of success and failure are known. A group that doesn't have access to those magic items simply doesn't do the stealth stuff. I think some games have a story mode - or even an easy mode I guess. Fair enough. But, they also have hard modes too. Shouldn't games cater to everyone?
  • 04:46 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post Tactics And Combat In Fantasy RPGs
    ...ing on your DM, that you would try to push the Orc off the side of the Tower, or shove the Brazier on top of it or throw a Barrel at it. The problem is that there was no rules for that and there was no character button written on your sheet that you could mash to do those actions so really it was up to you and the DM on how worthwhile it was to try anything tactical. That's precisely my point. The game provides zero tactical options. Pushing that baddy off the tower or throw a barrel at it was 100% free form gaming. The DM decided, not the system. I can do that in any game at any point in time. The difference is, now, as a player, I can actually have some idea whether or not any of those tactics are worth trying. I should have a pretty decent idea of how hard/easy it would be to push that orc off the tower. Depending on the edition, I might just be able to do it 100% of the time. IOW, these become ACTUAL tactical decisions. I honestly have no idea what video games lewpuls plays to have the idea that the game will protect you and usher you along. About the only thing games do in order to allow that is save points, and well, that's been part of video games for a VERY long time.

Monday, 24th July, 2017

  • 04:11 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post Tactics And Combat In Fantasy RPGs
    ...o switch out weapons, and you make your tactical choices accordingly. Or, take spells. Area of effect spells like fireball were extremely difficult to pull off. The blow back wiping out the party was very much a thing and a player that toasts his party generally got pelted with dice. :D Now, you have a battlemap (usually) and spells become exacting. You have the option of using pretty much any spell you want to use whenever you want to use it. Plus, you simply have FAR more spells to use in a given day. Particularly in 3e where you had cheap scrolls. Add to this the mechanical changes - forced movement, grappling, disarming, that sort of thing. Yes, I know that AD&D had grappling, but, let's be honest here, it was far more of a PITA than it was worth. So, not many people did it. Now, a grapple focused character is pretty easy to use and is quite effective. Thus, more tactical level choices. Note, I'm not saying one is better than the other. But, I do agree (SHOCK!) with lewpuls here in that there has been a pretty strong shift in D&D towards a different approach to combat.

Sunday, 18th June, 2017

  • 12:41 AM - pemerton mentioned lewpuls in post Let's Not Save The World...Again
    ... with AD&D were my introduction, the design of Keep on the Borderlands was fairly influential as well. While my friend's parents played D&D at the time, we learned on our own. And pretty much the first thing we (and everybody I met in school that were also players) did, was start to design our own Caves of Chaos copies, with lands around, dungeon and hex crawls. Add in the release of the original World of Greyhawk, and the writings of many in Dragon magazine, and that seemed to be the "proper" way to DM. You fleshed out the world for the characters to explore. In the example of play in the AD&D DMG there is no hex crawl. There is a bit of background narration, and then the PCs start at the entrace to the dungeon. The foreword to Moldvay Basic has the protagonist freeing the lands from the dragon tyrant, by slaying the latter using a magical sword gifted by a holy man. That doesn't suggest hex crawling or exploring the world. And before either AD&D or Moldvay Basic was published, lewpuls was writing essays arguing that the "wargame" style of D&D is superior to the "story" style. This is all consistent with Hussar's point: it's one thing to have a preferred style, and a personal history of how one came to and played the game; but that doesn't give a licence to distort the actual history of D&D play.

Saturday, 17th June, 2017

  • 01:35 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post Let's Not Save The World...Again
    But, how is this anything new? Going back to the early history of D&D - you have the GDQ series. One of, if not the most popular module series of the game. There's no going back. There's no revisiting. And it's all about getting to the next boss, which is bigger and badder than the last boss. Or the A series of Slaver's modules. Again, same thing. Even the T series was intended as this ongoing complete campaign. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against their being a story. But it doesn't always have to be "bigger and better" than the last one. But, since day 1 of D&D, it's always been thus. You go to the dungeon, do whatever, come back, gain XP, gain that level, go back to the dungeon to go deeper with bigger monsters and bigger threats, and then wash, rinse repeat. lewpuls is trying to pin this on video games. Good grief, this was part of D&D when video games consisted of Pong and Pac Man. And just to address lewpuls directly - you repeatedly claim that you cannot "prove" anything in 500 words. Then why are you trying to prove something? Why are you making claims about the "way things were" and "the way things are" when those claims are very contentious? Instead of making broad, sweeping claims about history that, perhaps focusing on means to compromise or resolve what you see as an issue might be more productive? ........ Edit to add Just to be fair, I do enjoy these articles. They are thought provoking, and they do have a pretty interesting point. The problem I have, is that the history is spun in such a way that it's very difficult to get to the message without first trying to address some quite questionable attempts to paint the history of the hobby in a very self serving light. No, it is not true that we've gone from local to wo...

Thursday, 25th May, 2017

  • 01:24 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post Consequence and Reward in RPGs
    Ok, I've been cogitating on this for a while now, and I think I'll present my rebuttal to the original argument of this article. As I understand it, (between this thread and the thread that pemerton linked where lewpuls also posted a similar point) gaming has shifted from games of consequence to games of reward. Now, I'm going to focus on D&D, since this is an RPG site, to provide three examples of why this is simply not true. There has been no shift in games, not really. D&D started out with "game of reward" built right into its DNA. AD&D Examples of Game of Reward Example 1: Two characters, A and B, exact same in all ways save that Character A has a 17 in his prime stat and Character B has a 14. The two characters go through exactly the same adventures, meet exactly the same monsters, play identical campaigns. At the end of the campaign, Character B is high level and has 300 000 xp. Congratulations! Character A has 330 000 xp. Why? Because he has a high prime stat. Despite not doing a single thing to earn that significant xp award, Character A receives a reward for playing that character. Example 2: Same two characters, A and B. This time, identical elves. Same stats, same everythin...

Wednesday, 24th May, 2017

  • 09:08 AM - Libramarian mentioned lewpuls in post Consequence and Reward in RPGs
    <shrug> I'm perfectly okay if gamers of this generation are less competitive and challenge-driven, as a whole (obviously counterexamples abound) than gamers of a previous generation. So what? We're a little wimpier than our forebears? Oh well, we're nicer and better people because of it. This is a pretty odd comment. Firstly, there's no connection between liking competitive games and being a jerk. If anything, jerks tend to dislike and react poorly to (fair) competition. Secondly, competition is a separate issue from the topic of this thread. Thirdly, lewpuls doesn't actually say any of those things about gamers today. He's criticising a trend in game design, not gamer preference.
  • 06:23 AM - Lanefan mentioned lewpuls in post Consequence and Reward in RPGs
    ...l. Mine seem much more in line with Hussar's, even when the DM was using all or most of the rules that Lanefan mentioned. I don't think I've ever met an old-school dwarf who made it more than a few levels without somehow running into the Franklin Mint Dwarven Heritage Artifact Collection. Where in 35 years I've yet to meet a Dwarf in any game with any more than one of the set...and even then, it doesn't always work quite right. in my current game there's a Dwarf with a "Dwarven Thrower" hammer - when thrown it turns into a (usually screaming) Dwarf, splats against the target, returns to hammer form and flies back to its owner. My High School group played mostly published adventures and my first college group played mostly homebrew in the FR. I don't know how you miss all the treasure. Just put your finger on the wall and never let go until you've mapped and murdered the whole place.You must have had amazing luck finding secret doors. :) Also, can someone please define what lewpuls means by "legacy games"? Lan-"when used as a handheld melee weapon the Dwarven Thrower is - and behaves as - a very nice enchanted war hammer"-efan
  • 03:09 AM - Hussar mentioned lewpuls in post Consequence and Reward in RPGs
    ...the focus of play - Expert rules and more importantly the Isle of Dread, showcase play that is almost completely divorced from dungeon crawling. 2. The argument that challenge necessarily means "earning" rewards. Thing is, that's so subjective that it's virtually meaningless. What does that even mean? It presumes that the only rewards that are involved in play are the in-game rewards for your character, which in D&D means treasure and XP. Thing is, the issue with "Monte Haul" campaigns isn't so much about not earning the rewards, but that it futzes so badly with game balance. If everyone is hauling around a +5 sword, it makes adventure design so much more difficult. I remember an anecdote by Gygax in Dragon talking about how one of the players had a Vorpal Sword. The issue wasn't one of Monte Haul, but, that the sword was too powerful and it made encounters too easy. So, he maneuvered a way into the game to get rid of the sword. Not because the player hadn't "earned" it. lewpuls' notion that "earning it" only means having a high risk of PC death is simply mired in an approach to the game that I don't particularly share. For me, "earning it" means that you've played the game in such a way that everyone at the table has had a great time. Whoopee, you rolled a high enough Save Vs Poison on that trapped chest so you "earned" your magic sword for getting lucky and rolling high on a d20? How is that "earning" anything? It's like the old rules for bonus Xp for high stats. Has absolutely nothing with earning anything. You just got 10% more XP than the guy beside you because you managed to roll higher on your stats? What did you do to earn that 10% XP? Sorry, but, rewards in games should be for smart and entertaining play that makes the table a better place to be. Rewarding someone simply for getting lucky is just gambling. And I'd rather gamble if that's what we're going to do. Rolling this back around to war-games, I MUCH prefer my war-games that minimiz...

Monday, 22nd May, 2017

  • 10:15 PM - Libramarian mentioned lewpuls in post Consequence and Reward in RPGs
    You're speaking my language @lewpuls! I largely share your preferences and hope you keep writing articles here. It's interesting that old editions of D&D literally called XP an award while newer editions call it a reward. However I think D&D evolved in this direction not so much to appeal to a broader pool of players, but DMs. Most new DMs do not have the restraint and conscientiousness needed to run Gamist D&D. They gravitate to a storytelling style where they script everything of consequence in advance, and therefore find the greater predictability of modern D&D play a boon. E.g. the reduced risk of PC death is often advocated in terms of reducing player discouragement but I think more important is the fact that newb DMs don't deal well with random PC deaths or extemporaneous resurrection quests interrupting their plot. The players are there for hardcore gamist play. I recently picked up Battlefield 1 and was shocked to see how unforgiving it is for a modern AAA videogame to new players. I must have died 30 or 40 ti...
  • 11:32 AM - pemerton mentioned lewpuls in post Consequence and Reward in RPGs
    ...It was written as a tournament module and though it wasn't really converted that well for open play I sure had a blast (and so did the players) when I ran it a few years back. Good times!I didn't say it was a bad module. My point was only that it is a counterexample (one of several) to the "game"/"world" dichotomy drawn by Rygar. the Dragonlance modules that Hussar has already referred to belong to the 1st ed AD&D era.They're of that era in real-world time, but they're more of the 2e era in design and expected play/DM style.This seems like the worst sort of projection of the present onto the past! At the time the DL modules were written there was no 2nd ed or "2nd ed era". They were written, and published, and played, under the 1st ed rules, years before 2nd ed was written and published. They are an important part of the evidence for what constituted 1st ed AD&D play, and they show that dungeon crawling in the classic mode was only one component of the full range of play. lewpuls himself recognised the breadth of playstyles right back in his White Dwarf columns from the late 70s and early 80s. He had (and still seems to have) strong views about his preferred way to play, but he never made the mistake of thinking that it was the only way to play D&D/RPGs.

Friday, 18th July, 2014

  • 11:33 AM - pemerton mentioned lewpuls in post More DMing analysis from Lewis Pulsipher
    In the early numbers of White Dwarf Lewis Pulsipher (who posts on these boards as lewpuls) had a series of advice articles on playing D&D. I talked about one of these in an earlier thread. In this thread, I want to talk about the following passage (first published in White Dwarf 24, April 1981 - reprinted in Best of White Dwarf 2): Basic D&D styles range from the "simulation" through "wargame" to "absurd" and finally "novel". As one moves along this continuum the DM's procedures become less rigorous. . . . The simulationist wants to reflect reality as much as possible. A fight with a broadsword and chainmail ought to work just as it did in the Middle Ages. . . . These people have no place in D&D; D&D is solidly in the wargame camp, and simulationists should try Chivalry & Sorcery or make up their own games. The "wargame" style is how D&D is designed to be played. . . . As much as possible, all that happens should be believable . . . if you read it in a fantasy novel. . . . [T]he "absurd" style condones unbelievable occurences. . . . Monsters such as a "spelling...

Sunday, 15th June, 2014

  • 12:50 AM - Libramarian mentioned lewpuls in post DMing philosophy, from Lewis Pulsipher
    It's cool that lewpuls showed up in this thread :) This describes my approach to DMing really well. I'm just recently beginning to move beyond it in realizing that how appropriate it is for the DM to make something up on the spot slides up or down based on how close it is to affecting the PC's HP, GP or XP. I never fudge dice rolls in combat or alter the value or location of treasure on the fly, almost never override morale or surprise rolls, rarely but sometimes override encounter or perception-type rolls, and make up lots of stuff during social/town encounters. I always make sure the players know my general approach, even if they don't know whether I'm deciding a particular thing randomly or by fiat. When I do "massage" the game in a particular direction it's not to produce a better story but to customize the game to my players' ability and create a smoother learning curve for them. Like a guitar teacher altering their lesson plan to make learning to play a little smoother and more enjoyable...


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Saturday, 12th May, 2018

  • 07:55 AM - MichaelSomething quoted lewpuls in post Advice About Game Reviewing
    Perhaps reviews-as-advertisements are influenced by games themselves. How many board game boxes have you looked at that tell you little about the game, but a lot about the story, even though the story may not have anything to do with how the game is actually played (typical in Eurostyle)? I haven't looked at the backs of enough RPGs lately to know if it's the same there, but I know some RPGs are sold on the basis of the story rather than the game. Indeed. After hanging around here, I get the impression lots of people just ignore the rules and do improv theater.

Thursday, 10th May, 2018

  • 06:08 PM - Elfcrusher quoted lewpuls in post Advice About Game Reviewing
    Perhaps reviews-as-advertisements are influenced by games themselves. How many board game boxes have you looked at that tell you little about the game, but a lot about the story, even though the story may not have anything to do with how the game is actually played (typical in Eurostyle)? I haven't looked at the backs of enough RPGs lately to know if it's the same there, but I know some RPGs are sold on the basis of the story rather than the game. I suspect part of this is due to the fact that too few people expect rules to reflect the story, or that such a thing is impossible. The common attitude seems to be that the quality of the rules systems is independent from the quality of the story. I.e., find a system of rules you like and then re-skin it for each story/genre. E.g. GURPS. So if you have no expectation that the rules themselves...not the labels attached to the rules, but the actual mechanics...can evoke the story, then the rules become kind of like the operating systems f...
  • 09:03 AM - CapnZapp quoted lewpuls in post Advice About Game Reviewing
    You have to play a game before you can review it. Thank you for your post, but is is obviously untrue. Loads of RPG supplements are reviewed based on a read-through. And that's perfectly fine. RPG.NET even formally distinguish between playtest reviews and... whatever they call not playtest reviews (don't remember) What you should always do, however, is disclose that your not playtest review is not a playtest review. Cheers!

Saturday, 5th May, 2018

  • 04:14 PM - Jay Verkuilen quoted lewpuls in post The "Superstitious Mumbo Jumbo" Of Dice Rolling
    Yes a lot of cheating occurs. One of my first rules is, if a die falls off the table, it never counts. Yep, my table rule is if it's cocked or dropped, it gets rerolled. I have read of people who can control the result of dice rolls. This is why casinos require you to roll off a wall. Cheap dice are often biased. Casino dice are made differently, sharp corners and no material removed for the numbers, and are much more expensive. Indeed, the physics of the die roll means that it's very, very difficult to induce bias when there's a higher energy bounce, hence the requirement in casinos for the back wall bounce for the roll to count. The Game Science dice are somewhat better than the Chessex ones, and both are miles better than the old 1970s and 1980s ones made of cheap plastic which wore down unevenly and often had serious manufacturing flaws.

Tuesday, 1st May, 2018

  • 04:36 PM - Ralif Redhammer quoted lewpuls in post The "Superstitious Mumbo Jumbo" Of Dice Rolling
    Everyone I’ve met who’s said they’re a “good dice roller” is more likely just a cheater. No amount of alleged skill or luck can mitigate that sometimes the dice will whiff on a roll. Yet there’s the person that always hits, always succeeds at crucial checks, and always shows up with an 18 in a stat. When no one else can see their rolls, of course. For my part, I give into dice superstition. I know it’s not really a thing, but it’s like I can’t help it. Red dice roll better, it’s bad luck to let another player touch your dice, and it’s possible for the “luck” to get burned out of a die (especially on the last day of a con). ...or occasionally, "I'm a good dice roller." This is pure hooey of course: probability governs dice rolling, personal characteristics have nothing to do with it.
  • 12:24 AM - iserith quoted lewpuls in post The "Superstitious Mumbo Jumbo" Of Dice Rolling
    Good strategy and tactics in the game is to limit the number of times you have to rely on the dice to bail you out of trouble, and good players do that, while poor players rely on the dice a lot. So of course bad things happen to them following dice rolls. They may get the impression that they are "bad dice rollers", but what they actually are is bad tacticians, or simply unwise. This is something I say a lot on the forums (and in my games), so I definitely agree. Dice in general and d20s in particular are no friend to the players. Given half a chance, they'll kill you and everyone you've ever loved. Do your best to avoid rolling dice by removing uncertainty from the situation and you will be more successful. And if you have to roll, spend that Inspiration!

Friday, 13th April, 2018

  • 08:33 PM - Celebrim quoted lewpuls in post Making Fixes For Spelljammer
    Even with Norden bombsights from only 4 miles up in broad daylight, American bombers had little hope of hitting a target smaller than a city block. That was in fact basically the gist of my question. One of the big questions of a D&D setting is, "Are castles really functional?" And for most objections, I have a way to answer, "Yes.", which is my desired outcome because I consider the castle so important to the medieval fantasy setting. Minas Tirith is still something I want to exist. But one area that might render that untrue is bombardment by aerial attackers. If you can carry a catapult stone, say 40-80 lbs., up to above the level that a ground attacker can reply by way of a torsion engine of any sort - which isn't that high really. Then you can bomb with impunity. So far that's never been really tested, because no PC has ever hard pressed the idea and had the resources. So far I've mostly said that the time required to load bombs, gain altitude, and return put a hard limit ...

Monday, 2nd April, 2018

  • 02:58 PM - Celebrim quoted lewpuls in post Do We Still Need "Race" in D&D?
    Biologists have settled meanings for these terms, of course. Races (of birds, for example - yes, some have races) can interbreed. Species rarely can interbreed successfully (mules, from horse and donkey, are sterile). Humans, dogs, and cats are three species, not races. All human races are part of one species. D&D indulges in sloppiness using race where species was usually meant. I strongly object. We have no reason to believe that any of the basis of real world science applies to a fantasy world. Species is a slippery enough term in the real world, and put a dozen Ph.D.'s in biology in a room and ask them what the definition of a species is and you'll probably get more than a half-dozen different answers and a conversation as convulted and impassioned as "Who is better, Kirk or Picard." Fantasy worlds tend to have science with a basis in the beliefs of the ancient world. In fantasy worlds, DNA doesn't exist and there are generally no barriers to interspecies breeding at all. In...

Wednesday, 28th March, 2018

  • 08:43 AM - delericho quoted lewpuls in post How Would You Design For Spelljammer?
    I think you misunderstand. Almost all of my standalone games are models of some (possibly fictional) situation, whereas a great many modern board games (such as many Euros) are abstract (model of nothing) even if a story is tacked on. Modeling is essential. But if you only have story, you don't have a game. A story without mechanisms is not a game. When much of the discussion has been how to connect various realms (and which realms), you're not doing much (if anything) to specify mechanisms to model that. You're right. There was context, expressed here, that I missed. 3D: No, it's a matter of practicality. It's too fiddly, too complex, to model 3D space. 3D dominates tabletop games where it's done. Even computer space games, which can model 3D much better than tabletop, are sometimes 2D. That explains RPGs and board games, but it doesn't explain Star Wars, Star Trek, BSG, Babylon 5, "Space: Above and Beyond", or the like. Which was the point I was making in the paragraph above the...
  • 06:28 AM - Shasarak quoted lewpuls in post How Would You Design For Spelljammer?
    Virtually every RPG has a default or background setting. D&D's was "medieval plus magic." (Though they didn't think through the consequences of that, they relied on available fiction.) That default setting is, in the long run, what's being modeled. But you can create more detailed settings and add modifications to the rules to help model that setting. Which is what Spelljammer is supposed to be, but the rules (mechanisms) do a poor job. I always thought that Spelljammer did a great job of being "Elves in Space". Helms draining magic was one of the few mechanisms that did a poor job.
  • 03:34 AM - Andor quoted lewpuls in post How Would You Design For Spelljammer?
    No. As I said, carrying capacity. The average 'jammer can carry far more than spells-items-monsters combinations, and there are lots of 'jammers. And they can hover (very important in aiming those rocks etc.). Of course, if your world is full of magic and high-level casters and monsters (unlike mine), the contrast is less striking. Well, I think that's the disconnect. A spelljamming helm is basically a minor artifact. A spelljamming ship is a complex, expensive system somewhere between a caravel and a battleship wrapped around that artifact, and filled with dozens of crewmen including spell casters (or possibly Beholders.) It is not a part of a low magic setting, except possibly as a singular legendary threat/goal akin to a flying castle, or city on a giant turtle. If someone has a fleet of Jammers, then you are not in a low magic setting, Q.E.D. If you have a low magic setting, and a fleet of Spell Jammers show up, then what you have done is exactly replicated Admiral Perry sailing int...

Tuesday, 27th March, 2018

  • 09:26 PM - Andor quoted lewpuls in post How Would You Design For Spelljammer?
    Many of these comments talk about story elements/setting, few about mechanisms (some say mechanics) of play. While evocative, story isn't a game, nor is a setting a game. To design a game, you must focus on mechanisms, not on story. You could use an entirely different setting with the Spelljammer rules (mechanisms), and it might well be more entertaining. But the focus of the article was on the mechanisms and their flaws. I disagree. You want mechanics and story to support each other. If you want free wheeling, swashbuckling action then the baseline 3e system which demands fighters must turtle or lose most of their damage is a lousy system. If you grim 'n gritty low fantasy adventures then pretty much any leveled system is not for you. If you want gonzo fantasy space adventures with beholder bartenders and giant space hampsters and Giff, then you need to design for that. If your mechanics are not meeting your story goal, change the mechanics. If your mechanics, in emergent play, take thing...
  • 03:36 PM - delericho quoted lewpuls in post How Would You Design For Spelljammer?
    To design a game, you must focus on mechanisms, not on story. I disagree. Story and setting will inevitably inform mechanics - if only because some setting elements will dictate the need for some mechanical elements (an explosive Phlogiston needs rules for how explosive it is, while a non-explosive one does not). Further than that, though, in my experience RPGs are better where the mechanics are designed to reflect the setting. And the more idiosyncratic the setting, the more it benefits from this (again, in my experience). Rather than focusing on one or the other, I'd argue that you're better off designing both together, each to support the other.
  • 03:25 PM - Von Ether quoted lewpuls in post How Would You Design For Spelljammer?
    My title was "Spelljammer's Game Design", but the question as title is better for eliciting comments. I have drafted another piece to explain the major changes I made in my game (not enough room for more in 600 words). Many of these comments talk about story elements/setting, few about mechanisms (some say mechanics) of play. While evocative, story isn't a game, nor is a setting a game. To design a game, you must focus on mechanisms, not on story. You could use an entirely different setting with the Spelljammer rules (mechanisms), and it might well be more entertaining. But the focus of the article was on the mechanisms and their flaws. Yes, Polyhedral Columbia, SJ was 2e, but I used 1e rules with it. There's not much difference between the two editions. In game design, talking about "fun" is mostly useless, because it depends so much on the person. One person's fun is another's trash. Saying something like "I'll add what's fun and remove what isn't" is 100% useless to anyone...

Friday, 16th March, 2018

  • 11:17 AM - Alexander Kalinowski quoted lewpuls in post The Difficulties Of Running Low Magic Campaigns
    The fundamental problem with a low magic campaign is that people have been "trained" to expect high magic by video RPGs and MMOs, and by video games in general, that are often designed to reward rather than challenge players. In other words, the low magic campaign will feel much too "tame", too dull, too slow, too "lame". Yes, it can be just as dangerous as any other campaign, but I suspect most players are not looking for danger any more when they play RPGs, again as encouraged by video games (where you can never lose). And yet Game of Thrones is a raging success, so I have to question your assumption a bit. But then again I might not be the right person to ask - I occasionally have to bite my tongue to not openly mock high magic games, particularly when they are reminiscent of World of Warcraft, which I find just corny, tacky, terrible.

Sunday, 4th February, 2018

  • 07:48 AM - Ratskinner quoted lewpuls in post Is D&D Too Focused on Combat?
    To the wargamers, the extreme story-telling games aren’t even games, let alone D&D. Okay, wargamers are close-minded, narrow thinkers...got it. And most wargamers want to feel in control of what happens to their characters, as much as possible, Okay, so...um...seems not too objectionable. so they don’t want to be told a story, they want to write their own story. ...and now we're off the rails. There is very little in (especially Old-school) traditional RPG-structure that allows a player to ensure he can "write his own story" outside the narrow confines of the combat mechanics, and a few tables here and there (many of which are routinely ignored by lots of DMs). Without social skills, interaction rules, or non-combat conflict resolution...its all just literally playing "let's pretend" with the GM, except that the GM has the trump-card at every single turn via Rule 0. Yup, you may want to Capt. Picard-level diplomat or Capt. Kirk-level womanizer, but nope, if the D...

Saturday, 3rd February, 2018

  • 02:45 AM - pemerton quoted lewpuls in post Is D&D Too Focused on Combat?
    To me, the big flaw of 4e was that it was only about combat.Skill challenges are the tightest form of non-combat resolution - especially for social encounters - that D&D has ever had. The spells that helped in strategic (exploration or otherwise) activity disappearedAnd yet in my 4e game the use of spells like Object Reading, Phantom Steeds, Hallowed Temple, varios wards and magic circles, etc is very common. Perhaps you didn't read the rules for rituals? To the wargamers, the extreme story-telling games aren’t even games, let alone D&D. And most wargamers want to feel in control of what happens to their characters, as much as possible, so they don’t want to be told a story, they want to write their own story. Non-wargamers are less likely to feel this way.This reads a bit like you've missed the last 20+ years of RPG design. The whole rationale of games like Burning Wheel, HeroWars/Quest, Dogs in the Vineyard, Cortex+ Heroic, etc, is that the story is generated in play, rather than ...

Sunday, 21st January, 2018

  • 05:30 PM - DMMike quoted lewpuls in post Don't Lose The Forest For The Trees
    Rochambeau[/URL] (as opposed to Cartman's manifestly unfair version) is a game because of imperfect players; with optimal players it's just randomness. I will say this, though: I did feel that "puzzle" clarified to me what an RPG is, but... XP for bringing Cartman into this. Moreover, role-playing is the genre of games least amenable to being made into puzzles. The designer always has to ask himself (or herself), "what am I trying to show in my game?" The question isn't as important for an adventure designer, but still worth asking. This not only applies to game design but also to many creative activities. I was, unfortunately, asking myself "what is Lewpuls trying to show in his article?" My best answer is, "don't lose the theme or vision of your game while designing the parts." Sound advice. But in keeping with the course of the discussion... What is an RPG then, if it is composed of several puzzles, as well as game elements? Game, puzzle, or maybe just something that defies alternate classification? Complicating nonsense: In another thread I ask the question: what makes an RPG different from improvisational acting (improv)? Improv is required in an RPG, but some people's RPGs look more like improv than a game.
  • 03:50 AM - Jay Verkuilen quoted lewpuls in post Don't Lose The Forest For The Trees
    "In his Philosophical Investigations,[4] Wittgenstein demonstrated that the elements of games, such as play, rules, and competition, all fail to adequately define what games are. Wittgenstein concluded that people apply the term game to a range of disparate human activities that bear to one another only what one might call family resemblances." Ah, good old Ludwig... such as boozy swine. At least he was just as shloshed as Schlegel. And indeed, "game" is really a family resemblance. People are very sloppy when they use the word "game". For some, it's more or less synonymous with "play". But such broad words become virtually useless. So I try for more specific definitions, and that means some things people call games are actually puzzles. The problem is when those definitions are deemed correct and most people don't know the context of the technical language. I work as a statistician. Lots of terms in statistics have OL meanings that mean one thing and in statistics they mean another. Thi...

Thursday, 4th January, 2018



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