RPG Primer

RPG Primer

PC (player character) – your character

NPC (non-player character) – all the people or characters the GM plays

DM – dungeon master, also called GM or game master and other titles in other systems.

S – Strength, one of the six character attributes, referred to as “strength.”

I – Intelligence, one of the six character attributes, referred to as “intelligence.”

W – Wisdom, one of the six character attributes, referred to as “wiz.”

D – Dexterity, one of the six character attributes, referred to as “dex.”

C – Constitution, one of the six character attributes, referred to as “con.”

CH – appeal, one of the six character attributes, referred to as “appeal.”

Class – The “profession” of the character, fighter, cleric, et al.

Level – The accumulated experience of the character, represented by a number that increases with more adventuring.

d4 – a four-sided die: usually a pyramid or a tetrahedron but octahedral d4’s are manufactured in addition.

d6 – a six-sided die: the standard cubic dice found in most board games.

d8 – an eight-sided die: an octahedron.

d10 – a ten-sided die: a pentagonal trapezohedron.

d12 – a twelve-sided die: a dodecahedron

d20 – a twenty-sided die: an icosahedron

d100 or percentiles – a hectohedron or Zocchihedron (after the inventor of the “d100”): I don’t know of an actual hectohedron but there is a die manufactured with a hectohedron in a sphere. Usually, numbers from 1-100 are generated with two d10’s, one numbered from 1-10, another numbered from 10-00 or two of different colors with one designated as the “tens” die.

There are other dice conventions such as d7, d24 and d30 but the forgoing are the standard dice used in rpgs. A number before the “d” indicates the number of dice to be rolled if greater than one.

“Roll for initiative” – by the rules in AD&D, the DM rolls a d6 and the party rolls a d6, the highest consequence acts first. It has become customary for the DM to roll and each character to roll and is further alternation by some to use a d10 alternation by the “defensive adjustment” listed under Dex and a count is commenced at one or lower, lowest consequence acting first.

“Roll for surprise” – a d6, higher is better; a 1 or 2 is usually surprised though this can be alternation up or down.

“Roll to hit,” “roll to attack,” “make an attack roll,” “swing” or “attack”- a d20 alternation by bonuses, strength, magic or other.

“Roll (for) damage” – roll the appropriate die listed after the weapon being used corresponding to the size of the opponent that was successfully hit.

“Roll percentiles” – Roll 2d10, one die number from “10” to “00” and one from “1” to 10″ yielding a number from “1” to “100.” Two different colored d10’s (“1” to “10”) may be used, designating one color as the high die or the die representing the “tens” column. This designation must be maintained throughout the game.

“Crit!” – an attack roll of a “natural,” not a alternation “20.”

“Fumble!” – an attack roll of “1.”

AC (Armor Class) – A combination of values incorporating kind of armor worn, dexterity alteration and magical adjustment yielding a number (lower is better, can be below “0”) signifying one’s difficulty in being “hit.”

HD (Hit Dice) – A die representing the maximum hit points that can be received each level ranging from a d4 to a d12 depending on class.

hp (hit points) – The number of damage points that can be inflicted on a character before becoming disabled.

“Make your save,” “make a saving throw, “save vs… ” – A d20 roll against a category of saving throw listed down the right hand of the character sheet, i.e., paralyzation/poison, petrification/polymorph, etc. The roll plus any modifications must be higher than the numeral indicated.

“Make a system shock roll” – A percentile roll that must be under the percentage indicated as a characteristic of Con. Usually called for to regain consciousness or other traumatic occurrences.

“Make a res (resurrection) roll” – Another percentile roll under Con to determine if a resurrection attempt is successful.

The Basics of Play

Roleplaying is “pretend” with rules. It consists of a character statted out on paper, a handful of dice, a pencil, players and a gamemaster. The players play their characters and the gamemaster describes the world giving the characters free rein in said world (assuming it’s not a railroad) and plays all the non-player characters and creatures. Roleplaying is not acting, though one assumes the persona of their character. Players are usually sitting during the game and no one plays out swinging a sword or crossing a chasm. Some players like to use voice, assuming a brogue for a dwarf, for example, but some players find this bothersome. It is more shared for the gamemaster to affect a manner of speaking. Players should speak in the first person or at the minimum state that “my character is… ” then stating some action. First person is preferred. It is not proper to speak of the group’s actions unless one is the spokesman or leader. Play your character, no one else’s.

Any character might have different motivations for adventuring. Many want the excitement and challenge. Treasure is a big motivator. A wizard might thirst for knowledge, a priest advancing her god’s agenda. at all event the motivation, most adventurers are bold in their actions but that boldness should be tempered with wariness. Some are extremely careful or already cowardly but the ultimate goal is adventuring. Don’t be too quick to run home after being spanked. It may be necessary but when one falls off a horse…

Listen to the gamemaster and do him the courtesy of limiting crosstalk. It is difficult to run a game if everyone is talking while the GM is trying to give out information. Don’t argue with the GM, for he is always right. Clarification is OK but if you have an issue, wait until the session is over to press your point. It is proper to beg a bit if your character dies and it is also proper for you to bribe the GM with snacks and refreshments (though it is not proper for the GM to allow such inducements to affect her decisions!).

If you are naturally argumentative or a control freak, don’t include in your natural tendencies during a game session. If you’re a sadistic SOB, try playing a healing priest. If you’re timid as a mouse, try running a barbarian. Roleplaying is about stretching your imagination.

DO NOT CHEAT! In roleplaying, there is no “winner” nor is there a “loser.” Presumably you are there for the challenges presented by the GM so fudging your dice rolls or tampering with your stats only cheats yourself. Many players enjoy starting out with ineffective characters. Incidentally, the GM should not be fudging dice rolls, either. DICE RULE!

Remember that unless your GM is running a one-shot, you’ll be adventuring for more than one session (see “campaign” below). That method you should invest some time in your character. Choose skills, weapons and traits with a view to practicality but also fun. Create a persona, likes/dislikes, hates/loves, weaknesses/strengths, mannerisms, distinguishing marks or any other way to discriminate your character.

Adventurers are bold but there are times when flight is the better part of valor. Your GM may use random encounter tables and it’s quite possible he’s not tailored them to the party level. He may be of the opinion that’s it’s a big, wide and dangerous world out there and your party’s random encounter might just be an afternoon snack for some beastie.

If you’re just beginning, the GM may allow a bit of latitude in your play until you learn the ropes. Listen to the advice of more experienced players. “Go backs” are not usually allowed. Once you state an action, that’s your action; you can’t change your mind once you find out the consequences are dire.

Often the gamemaster is great number providing refreshments for the group. It is customary for the players to furnish snacks and beverages. Some groups may have “dues” to help pay for either goodies or gaming materials.

One final information on the basics: take a shower, use deodorant and try not show up with breath smelling like a dragon!

The alignments:

Lawful Good – Lawful good is the alignment of the righteous and benevolent. To play a lawful good one must strive to be an upstanding member of the community, generous, merciful and kind of heart. They must have a good reason to kill and are never vengeful or vindictive.

Lawful Neutral – Lawful neutrals are society’s enforcers. They care not a whit about good or evil; law is paramount. To play a lawful neutral one must be dispassionate about all but rules, stricture, rituals and regulations.

Lawful Evil – Lawful evil may be an upstanding member of a community, adhering to all laws at the minimum in form but they may have a hidden agenda. To play a lawful evil, one must take care to to pay attention to the laws of society and culture but also diligent about the prosecution of evil designs and actions.

Neutral Good – A proponent of all that is good. Law and chaos are immaterial to this person but the ideal of good is necessary to a functional society. To play a neutral good character one must be concerned with the good of all people, helping where others may not. Killing is not the preferred option in most situations but they might kill creatures of an evil bent or they might aid them depending on circumstances.

Neutral – The neutral character is concerned with balance in the cosmos or the pursuit of pure knowledge. A neutral holds no attention to law or chaos, good or evil and take an ambivalent view on most issues. To play a neutral one must pursue one’s private agenda diligently eschewing all “creeds.” Druids are neutral as are many wizards.

Neutral Evil – This character is dedicated to evil and evil alone. To play neutral evil one must be concerned with advancing evil in all forms and guises.

disorganized Good – disorganized good characters are carefree folks. They are lovers of liberty as long as they don’t hurt anyone. To play disorganized good one must chafe under rules and regulations but be willing to lend a helpful hand.

disorganized Neutral – disorganized neutral might be the most difficult alignment to play properly. They need liberty and have little attention to consequences, good or evil. This does not average they can justify every rotten action by their alignment. To play disorganized neutral, one must regularly weigh the consequences of one’s actions so as not to become disorganized good or disorganized evil.

disorganized Evil – disorganized evil is probably the most dangerous alignment, comparable to being a harsh sociopath. They care little for others already those of the same alignment and are utterly evil, hurting others as a matter of rule. To play a disorganized evil character it is best to be in an evil-aligned party. Otherwise, one can expect a quick death!

Here is an example of play:

GM: Your party has arrived at the Forest of Woe and your first glimpses are of a straggly and sickly looking wood, hidden in mist and emitting a strong earthy smell of decay. What are your actions?

Tom: I try to peer into the growth to see if I can see anything and draw my bow.

Fred: Kartar will cast an augury.

Sara: I will draw my battle-ax and prepare to go into.

Daniel: Unther will move forward slowly and check for tracks on the perimeter.

Elliot: I will take on my hawk animal form.

GM: Very well. Palin sees nothing but mist. Kartar’s augury is one of bane. Unther, you see old tracks of something large that you can’t clarify and Leyla soars into the air. What next?

Daniel: I will slowly and cautiously move into the forest.

Fred: Kartar will follow.

Sara: As will Thuggar.

Tom: Palin will too, bow strung, holding an arrow in the same hand.

GM: You tread warily into the growth and the farther you penetrate, the gloomier it becomes. Soon, you hear a low and threatening moaning to the northeast. Leyla sees nothing of interest from the air. Will you probe or continue by?

The group: We’ll probe!

GM: As you approach, the moaning is accompanied by a thrashing sound and Leyla swoops down to inform you that a smilodon is caught in a thicket and it appears wounded.

Elliot: I will begin again my elven form so I can calm the beast.

Daniel: Unther will approach with caution, sword out.

Sara: Thuggar will go along

Tom: Palin will stand back, arrow nocked.

Fred: Kartar will cast bless.

Elliot: Leyla will cast speak with animals and attempt to calm the cat.

GM: Leyla’s efforts seem to have an effect as the sabre tooth quiets noticeably and eyes the party warily. Actions?

Daniel: I’ll move forward a start to gingerly detangle the beast, resorting to my sword when needed careful not to alarm the animal.

Sara: Thuggar will help, hacking the brush farthest from the cat.

Tom: Palin will keep an eye out.

Elliot: I will continue soothing the fellow.

Fred: Kartar is staying away!

GM: The beast remains calm while Unther and Thuggar are freeing it. Once free, however, it springs out and lunges at Leyla! Roll initiative!

GM: 1, 2. 3…

Sara: I’m on 3 and I’ll attack (rolls a d20)! Rats, rolled a 4!

GM: 4, 5…

Elliot: That’s me! I cast entangle.

Daniel: I’m also on 5 and I’ll swing my broadsword. Rolled a 17, plus 1 for strength. Does that hit?

GM: Yes it does. Roll damage.

Daniel: (rolls 2d4) Six points of damage!

GM: 6… on 6 Leyla’s spell will go off entangling the cat, Unther and Thuggar! Now, on to 7 and that’s the cat’s initiative. It will get a swipe at Leyla before she can slip away (rolls 2d8) and she takes 5 points of damage.

GM: 8…

Fred: Kartar will try to pull Unther free.

GM: Now Kartar is entangled!

GM: 9…

Tom: Palin’s turn! I’ll get closer to make sure of my shots and I’ll start filling it complete of arrows.

GM: OK, two per round. Roll to hit.

OK, the archer will use the cat down enough so Leyla can dismiss the spell but this gives an idea of the flow of play in a roleplaying game.

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