Thursday, August 25, 2016

HMS APPOLYON PLAYERS GUIDE PART 1 - Combat and Exploration

It's perhaps long overdue, and really this document has been sitting about, mostly edited, mostly complete for some time now.  I've finally decided to release it and hopefully others will find it useful.  In addition to being the combat and exploration rules I've used extensively for my last campaign of HMS APPOLYON, it's a set of fairly well tested rules that I've used in modified form for other games.

A LINK TO THE GUIDE

From the Introduction to this ruleset:



H.M.S. APOLLYON

Player Manual Part I
COMBAT AND EXPLORATION

I never set out to write a retro-clone, only my own esoteric setting material, but HMS Apollyon has turned into a retro-clone of sorts – specifically a sort of homage to the earliest editions of Dungeons and Dragons.  I have a copy of the “Whitebox”, the later “collectors’ edition” that I bought long ago in my youth, but I never really read it with a critical eye until playing in Brendan S.’s Pahvelorn game on Google+.  Most of the basic rules and mechanics here are pulled or interpreted from the “Whitebox” and the “Little Brown Books” it contains, but they are more the product of other’s work and games – Nick W., Ramanan S. and most of all Brendan S., as well as the players who have stuck with the setting as it has contorted and evolved, especially Chris H. and Eric B.

I have tried to keep my rules concise, but rather than just offer another set of retro-clone rules I want to provide my reasoning for why I have adopted them.  You may notice small text boxes below some of the rules, and in these I have tried to justify why I am using a rule and what I hope to accomplish with it.  It’s my belief that while setting is largely formed by evocative description, NPC interaction and collaborative storytelling, that rules are still important as they can destroy or support a setting’s tone.  I shy away from too many player-facing mechanics and try to emphasize “player skill” over “character skill” but mechanics do help make a setting, especially combat mechanics which largely set the game pace, character turnover (lethality) and how important central is to the game.

The intent of the HMS Apollyon setting is to provide players an exploration game in a setting where life is cheap, the world cruel, and combat against the denizens of the haunted hull a desperate, not altogether wise gamble. These combat rules are written with this goal in mind.  The rules were slowly developed and modified through play and thus are esoteric as opposed to systematized.  While systematized rules have an intuitive appeal, I have found that the effort to fit everything into a structured rule set rather than a collection of smaller subsystems or individual rules tends to stifle the sort of “rulings not rules” mindset that early Dungeons and Dragons fosters as well as discouraging the individualized house rules that are necessary to fill gaps in any rule system in a comprehensible manner that doesn’t rely on metagaming or “build science” more appropriate to war games.

14 comments:

  1. Awesome, thank you for sharing this.

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  2. Best ever... love you blog... a real inspiration. Thanks.

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  3. Also, the lart paragraph of the introduction is right on.

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  4. Been waiting for this a long time. Thank you, Gus!

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  5. So, quick question: since there are only three levels of illumination, do dim sources become full illumination for a single person if you double-up, for example two candles or two kelp-strands?

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  6. @Tim, I'd say no - the purpose of dim sources is to make stealth and scouting more effective and to have an intermediate dangerous situation when the party starts running out of light. Of course if you're using it in your game you can do what you'd like.

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    1. I might; I just wanted to know how you'd run it if the question ever came up from players.

      For me it'd be like, yeah, you can carry around enough candles to have full illumination, but then good luck dousing them, or lighting them, all in a hurry.

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  7. Great to see a post from you Gus. Awesome stuff.

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  8. Excellent stuff!
    Thanks for sharing!

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  9. However one might wish to embrace rulings vs. rules, every ruling is a precedent. It is impossible with a long-term campaign not to build up a vast number of precedents, which then become difficult to manage without attention given, which can in the long run break down a campaign into squabbling and distrust.

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    1. @Alexis, To a large degree the rules link above are a collection of the rulings that became precedent - then were changed, refined and modified for different settings and mechanical preferences by several GMs over about three years. They've worked well for me, and part of the reason is that they are adaptable and modular (or as I call it esoteric) so individual rules/subsystems can be plugged in and out with little fuss.

      I don't have a pessimistic view of evolving rules precedent (or changing rules precedent) and I haven't seen squabbling and distrust in my games between GM and players. I think when a GM establishes first that they aren't adversarial (the assumption of character competence is key there), and generally tries to be conservative with rules additions (I always try to put the ruling into an existing system if possible - a stat check, a save, an existing combat mechanic etc) confusion and the resulting conflict rarely arise.

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  10. Great to see a new post. Only had time to glance at it but they look very transferrable to a lot of different settings. The firearms rules, f'rex, would be great in ASE where (IIRC) firearms seem a bit namby-pamby.

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  11. Thanks G.o.d*, you started updating again! As soon as I finish toiling on my desk I'll take a look at these rules!

    *Great Old Decanter

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