[19:01] <+Rob> Hi everyone, I’m Robert F. Mason, author and designer of “Great & Small: The Roleplaying Game Of Animal Fantasy.” It’s an OSR-ish game in which the PCs are nonhuman animals, in the vein of stories like “Watership Down” or “The Guardians Of Ga’Hoole.”
[19:01] <+Rob> You can get a quick overview of the project at the following two links. (Link: http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/p/what-is-animal-fantasy.html)http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/p/what-is-animal-fantasy.html
[19:01] <+Rob> (Link: http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/p/i-can-haz-advenjur.html)http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/p/i-can-haz-advenjur.html
[19:02] <+Rob> The blog has tons of free content, including the Quick Start rules and a free starting adventure.
[19:03] <+MikeMyler> This looks like it’d be great for an Animorphs game — is that inaccurate?
[19:04] <~Dan> (Oh, sorry — please hold questions until we get a (done) from our guest. 🙂 )
[19:04] <+Rob> (done)
[19:04] <~Dan> Thanks, Rob!
[19:04] <~Dan> Okay, now the floor is open to questions. 😉 Want to cover MikeMyler’s first?
[19:04] <+MikeMyler> ……….This looks like it’d be great for an Animorphs game — is that inaccurate?
[19:04] <+MikeMyler> ……….This looks like it’d be great for an Animorphs game — is that inaccurate?
[19:04] <+MikeMyler> ~fin~
[19:04] * ~Dan chuckles
[19:05] <+Rob> MikeMyler — I suppose you could use it that way, but the intent is for the PCs to be animals all the time.
[19:05] <+Rob> Nonetheless, there is plenty of shapeshifting magic in OSR that would make an Animorphs style campaign viable.
[19:05] <+Rob> (done)
[19:06] <~Dan> Does the game take place in any particular environment, or can it involve any animals at all?
[19:07] <~Dan> As in, is this set in North American forests, African savannahs, etc.?
[19:07] <+Almaz> So no Puss in Boots, huh.
[19:07] <+Rob> Dan: Ultimately, it should be able to handle any animals at all. There is no default setting, so GMs and players could set it anywhere. Right now, the focus in on terrestrial mammals from temperate environments because that’s what’s most common in the source literature.
[19:08] <+Rob> Almaz: Nah, not Puss in Boots. The animal PCs here aren’t physically anthropomorphized.
[19:09] <+Rob> Anyway, I am develop three different campaign schemes for the game — one horror, one classic fantasy, and one post-(human)-apocalypse.
[19:09] <+Rob> done
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[19:10] <+Rob> *developing
[19:10] <~Dan> That touches the question I was about to ask: What the relationship is between the setting and the real world.
[19:10] <~Dan> (Howdy, GenoFoxx!)
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[19:11] <~Dan> Is there an assumption that these are “normal” animals that are just smarter than we think they are, for example, or are they supposed to be paranormally intelligent somehow?
[19:11] <~Dan> (Howdy, Alanonzander!)
[19:11] <+Rob> Dan: That’s up to the GM and players. The inspirational literature are stories in which the animals look exactly as you’d expect them to, but talk to each other in a way the reader or viewer can understand. Think “Watership Down” more than “Mouse Guard.”
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[19:11] <+GenoFoxx> (greetings everyone)
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[19:12] <~Dan> I see… How would you compare it to Bunnies & Burrows, then?
[19:12] <+Rob> How the GM and players define the intelligence of the animals is up to them. The rabbit characters of Watership Down, for instance, aren’t supernaturally intelligent. My baseline assumption is that the animal PCs are “normal,” and we are just being given a window into their minds.
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[19:13] <+Rob> Dan: B&B, especially the original, was a big influence, and several of the tools in the game itself were adopted from that game
[19:13] <+Rob> done
[19:14] <~Dan> What is the range of animals you cover, and how (if at all) do you balance them?
[19:16] <+Rob> Dan: My goal is to make a system that covers the full range of real-world animals. I balance them rules-wise using a variation of the OGL size categories, and assigning modifiers to rolls based on differences in size. For instance, larger animals are easier to hit (bonus to smaller opponent’s attack rolls) but harder to damage (penalty to opponent’s damage)
[19:17] <+Rob> I’m statting out the animals listed in B/X and other OSR monster compendiums first, and taking requests from blog readers to stat their favorite animal.
[19:17] * ~Dan nods
[19:17] <+Motulev> have you ever had your brain just randomly shut down on you?
[19:17] <+Motulev> (oops, are we in Q&A)
[19:18] <+MikeMyler> (we are but that sounds like a question)
[19:18] <~Dan> Even with the scaling mechanic, it seems like field mice wouldn’t have much luck against a bear, for example. Which makes sense, granted, but is there some advantage to playing mice in the game?
[19:18] <+Motulev> (its not, trust me)
[19:18] * +Motulev goes and hides
[19:18] <~Dan> (No worries, Motulev. 😉 )
[19:19] <+Rob> Dan: well, characters are defined by species abilities, and their “niche,” which is sort of a character class. So, a field mouse with levels facing off against a bear with none would have increasingly better odds depending on her level. Just like a halfling with levels vs., say, a giant with none.
[19:20] <~Dan> Hmm… What are the niches?
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[19:22] <+Rob> Dan: The default niches are Healer, Herbalist, Runner, Scout, Seer, Storyteller, Trickster, and Warrior. These are variations on classic D&D classes, with some concepts inspired by the original Bunnies & Burrows.
[19:22] <~Dan> (Howdy, Songtress!)
[19:22] <+Songtress> (ooh Q&A!)
[19:22] <~Dan> (Indeed!)
[19:22] <~Dan> (Songtress: (Link: http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/p/what-is-animal-fantasy.html)http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/p/what-is-animal-fantasy.html )
[19:23] <+GenoFoxx> wouldn’t herbalist and healer have cross niche specialties?
[19:23] <~Dan> How do animals manage activities like healing and herbalism without hands?
[19:25] <+Rob> GenoFoxx: Healers are mystics, sort of like clerics. Herbalists are more versatile, and can produce effects the mimic OSR spells, monster abilities, and poison. Dan: That’s largely up to GM fiat. Animals have to make rolls to do things with tools that we’d take for granted.
[19:26] <+Rob> But the source literature mostly leaves that question in the background, so I did too. At least for now.
[19:26] <+Rob> done
[19:26] <~Dan> Oh, quick aside: Do you have a cover image or the like posted somewhere?
[19:27] <~Dan> Just looking for an image to use in the Q&A log.
[19:27] <+Rob> Dan: No, there is no cover image. I haven’t hired an artist, or even sought one out. The game only exists right now as the Quick Start materials (which contain free clip art) and the blog.
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[19:28] <~Dan> Ah, I see. No problem! I’m just going to use a snip of your header, then.
[19:28] <~Dan> (Howdy, Monochrome_Tide!)
[19:28] <+Rob> Dan: That’s cool.
[19:29] <~Dan> So when you say “OSR”, is there a specific edition of D&D that you’re emulating?
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[19:30] <~Dan> (Howdy, MonkofLords!)
[19:30] <+Rob> Dan: Not really. Though I am using B/X and the Rules Cyclopedia as the “skeleton” of the system, I’m incorporating bits from several editions, along with house rules of my own that I have used for years.
[19:30] * ~Dan nods
[19:31] <~Dan> If nothing else, it sounds like you’ve gone a step beyond B/X by separating “race” from “class”.
[19:31] <+Rob> Back to GenoFox’s question: Healers use magic, while Herbalists use primitive “science.” The former’s abilities can be disrupted by other magic, but the Herbalist’s usually can’t.
[19:33] <+Rob> Dan: Sort of. Different aspects of character advancement are defined by either species or niche. Hit Dice, for instance, are determined by species, and several animals increase their Size category as they gain levels.
[19:33] <~Dan> What do Seers do? Psionics?
[19:34] <~Dan> Is the assumption that the characters start out as juvenile members of their species, then, re: increasing size by level?
[19:34] <+Rob> Dan: Seers have limited psychic abilities mostly involving precognition and such. This is a surprisingly common trope in the source literature (think of Fiver in Watership Down).
[19:35] * ~Dan nods
[19:35] <+Rob> Yes, many species start out as juveniles, especially the larger ones. If an OSR source lists the animal with a specific Hit Dice — say, a bear at 6 HD — then I assume that represents an adult individual. So a starting character of 1 HD will be smaller.
[19:37] <~Dan> Ah… So the lower the HD of an adult, the older the starting age of the PC?
[19:38] <+Rob> Basically, yes. It’s a bit unrealistic, but then, this is a fantasy game. I don’t have any species starting ages listed, though.
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[19:38] * ~Dan nods
[19:39] <~Dan> Do you address “mixed-species” groups?
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[19:40] <+Rob> Not directly, but the rules are intended to facilitate them. They can even handle humans/dwarfs/elves, etc. alongside intelligent animals, in principle.
[19:40] <~Dan> (Howdy, Cassiemouse!)
[19:41] <~Dan> How so, re: humans, etc.?
[19:43] <+Rob> Humans are just another animal! Since the OSR is built around the assumption that characters will all be human(ish), it’s really just a matter of making the rules work for nonhumans. The defining species trait of humanoids in G&S will be no need to roll when using tools. Beyond that, it’s pretty straightforward.
[19:43] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[19:44] <+Rob> In standard OSR, your fighter can have a pet dog with defined abilities. I just give the dog more flexibility.
[19:44] * ~Dan nods
[19:44] <~Dan> Now, you mentioned that in the basic game, all of the PC creatures are terrestrial mammals?
[19:45] <+Rob> Most of them. The Quick Start rules also contain stats for constrictor snakes and gopher tortoises.
[19:45] <+Rob> On the blog, I’ve statted-out owls and ravens, as well.
[19:46] * ~Dan nods
[19:46] <~Dan> So do any sorts of creatures fill the “monster” niche?
[19:48] <+Rob> My blog write-up for horse characters does include half-unicorns. 🙂 I do plan to stat up fantasy animals like griffins and owlbears in the future, but right now I am focusing on “real” animals as PCs, as well as writing a more flushed out rules set for future crowd-funding purposes.
[19:49] <~Dan> In the basic game, what sorts of adventures do you see taking place?
[19:51] <+Rob> I’ve made a sample adventure available, “Secret Of The Spooky Old Warren.” It’s basically a dungeon-crawl designed for rabbit-sized characters. In general, animal PCs could go on the same sort of adventures as humanoid ones, though their motivations would be different. Say a natural disaster wipes out your habitat. Time for an epic quest.
[19:52] <~Dan> Right, but presumably animals aren’t stocking up on phat l00t. 🙂
[19:53] <~Dan> (Or however the cool kids are saying it these days. 😀 )
[19:53] <+Rob> Animals would go on quests to seek food, mates, new homes, to escape captivity, and so on.
[19:53] <+jinx> Only ravens and crows.
[19:53] <~Dan> Point. 🙂
[19:53] <~Dan> (Also, howdy, jinx! Didn’t know you were still there. 🙂 )
[19:54] <+jinx> (That is in fact the essence of stealth. 😀 )
[19:54] <~Dan> Getting back to my “monsters” question, though, do you provide stats for non-PC animals?
[19:54] <~Dan> (jinx: Indeed! 😀 )
[19:54] <+Rob> Dan: phat l00t for animals would be stockpiles of food, mating opportunities, greater range for hunting/foraging, etc.
[19:54] * ~Dan nods
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[19:55] <~Dan> (Howdy, TQuid!)
[19:56] <+Rob> Non-PC animals will be assumed to have no niche (that is, class), and be given a stat block similar to that in other OSR-style games. Adding a niche to them should be pretty easy, as the PC rules are essentially taking stat blocks and diversifying them as it is.
[19:56] <+TQuid> (Hi Dan!)
[19:57] <~Dan> How much of a bestiary to you have planned?
[19:58] <+Rob> Not much of one at the moment. I’m working on the assumption that most people will be getting the game as a way of supplementing whatever rules they’re already using. Aside from the species statted-up for PC purposes, they should be able to just plug-in any OSR stat block and go with it.
[19:58] <+Rob> I don’t see a need to reinvent the wheel here.
[19:58] <~Dan> Seems reasonable.
[19:59] <~Dan> But will this be published as a stand-alone game?
[20:01] <+Rob> I hope so. Readers should be able to use the rules therein and not need anything else, but will still be able to plug in options from other OSR games (like magic, fantasy races, etc.).
[20:01] * ~Dan nods
[20:02] <~Dan> You mentioned a horror variant. How would that work?
[20:05] <+Rob> The horror campaign scheme is called Creepy Crawlies, and assumes PCs are “spooky” animals like bats, crows, black cats, etc., who confront supernatural evils and scare off silly humans for their own protection. So, say some vile occult being arrives in an area. Its presence attracts “spooky” animals before humans ever notice.
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[20:05] <+Rob> Some of those animals decide to fight the monsters before they get too big for their britches.
[20:06] <+Rob> That variant would suggest allowing magic and spells from an OSR source of the group’s preference.
[20:07] <+Rob> I’ve blogged two option niches — the Magic-User and the Familiar — who would fit such a campaign scheme perfectly.
[20:07] <+Rob> *optional
[20:07] <~Dan> How would the Familiar work?
[20:08] <+Rob> (Link: http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-familiar-niche.html)http://greatandsmallrpg.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-familiar-niche.html
[20:10] <~Dan> Hmm… So would that require a PC or NPC magician?
[20:11] <+Rob> Yep.
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[20:12] <+Rob> Ideally, the magician would be an NPC who’s easily-persuaded by the stronger-willed familiar.
[20:12] * ~Dan nods
[20:13] <+Rob> But some players might enjoy the classic supportive role, or have it be an alliance with a PC spell-caster.
[20:13] <~Dan> What about the fantasy setting?
[20:14] <+Rob> Also, not all familiars are Familiars, if you get the drift.
[20:15] <+Rob> The fantasy setting is called Trucewood Vale, and it’s heavily influenced by sources like Russian folklore, C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemaar, and other fictional universes where humans and intelligent animals interact more or less regularly.
[20:16] <+Rob> The human(ish) cultures of it will have a heavy Slavic/Russian feel, but the POV will be that of the animal PCs, not the humans.
[20:17] <+Rob> But these aren’t the focus of the project, just examples given to show what you can do with animal characters.
[20:17] <~Dan> Will the humans all be NPCs by default?
[20:18] <+Rob> Yes. Though of course, people would be free to incorporate them as PCs if they wished. There’s an NPC pair I’ve dreamed up for the setting: a toad magic-user and his human Familiar, to show how the rules could integrate humanoid characters into the game.
[20:19] <~Dan> Heh. Cool idea. 🙂
[20:20] <+Rob> Yeah, those two characters are sort of where this whole project began. Them, and the idea of a patron deity of dogs.
[20:21] <~Dan> What are your plans for the post-apocalyptic setting?
[20:23] <+Rob> The set-up: one day, all the humans on Earth disappeared instantly, and all the animals awakened with full sapience. All the cages were opened, and all animals who’d been captive were now free. No one knows how or why. Years later, animals explore the ruins of a post-human world, while squabbling over whether to preserve Humanity’s legacy, or erase it.
[20:25] <~Dan> Is there a weirdness element beyond this setup?
[20:27] <+Rob> Nothing explicit. There’re no magic or supernatural elements beyond the limited abilities of Healers and Seers. It’s meant to be a “reality-lite” feel found in most animal fiction.
[20:27] <+GenoFoxx> so no FTL?
[20:27] <~Dan> Well, I meant in the PA setting specifically.
[20:29] <+Rob> GenoFoxx: Nah. I’d leave it open-ended, so GMs can concoct their own explanation. Dan: It’s an “apocalypse” from the human POV, and some animals would see it that way, too. But there are no mutations or Gamma World-type weirdness. Though again, because it’s OSR, those elements are easily plugged in from other sources.
[20:31] * ~Dan nods
[20:31] <+Rob> I guess I should’ve just called it a “post-human” scheme.
[20:32] <~Dan> What other tweaks have you made to the OSR rules?
[20:35] <+Rob> Probably the biggest one is that I eliminated ability scores, and tied all dice modifiers to species or class abilities. I’m also using a unified dice mechanic that taps the descending AC scheme as broader task-resolution scale. So, easy tasks would have a difficulty of 9, and epic ones would be -9.
[20:35] <+Rob> These are added to or subtracted from your dice roll, and your goal is always to score 20 or higher. And the rules default to 2d10 rather than 1d20.
[20:38] <~Dan> Could you say a bit more about the lack of ability scores?
[20:38] <~Dan> No strength, dexterity, etc.?
[20:41] <+Rob> Sure. I left them out for two reasons. One, in most iterations of old D&D, they didn’t have much function during play; and two, it was quite a nightmare trying to design ability modifiers for such a broad range of animals. I decided it was easier to subsume the modifiers you’d normally get from them into the species and niche abilities.
[20:42] <+Rob> So, instead of “Strength check,” for instance, you might use a Warrior lore check, or a Scout lore check, depending on the situation. Your species applies modifiers to physical tasks like feats of strength or paw-eye coordination.
[20:43] <~Dan> Do you have a sample character we could see?
[20:43] <+Rob> I mean, look at the “monster” entries for, say, Bandits in OSR. No ability scores listed, usually. You just use their stat block. So, I wondered, why not do the whole game that way?
[20:45] <+Rob> Sure. Here is an NPC from my sample adventure.
[20:45] <+Rob> Barnabus: 3rd level owl (burrowing), Storyteller (d3); hp 19; AC 3; Thr 3 (Tough); SZ Tiny; #Atk 1; Talons 1d3+1; MV 60 ft. (20 ft.), fly 120 ft. (40 ft.); Special – Burrowing owls have longer legs than their kin, and can thus move faster on the ground; Mimicry – Burrowing owls can successfully mimic the hissing and rattling sounds of rattelsnakes with an Ave
[20:45] <~Dan> (cut off at “an Ave”)
[20:46] <+Rob> *with an Average Trickster lore check. A Challenging Scout lore check reveals the ruse.
[20:47] <~Dan> If he’s a Storyteller, how would he access Trickster lore?
[20:49] <+Rob> Any character can get levels in any lore. Their niche gives them a special ability that only comes from choosing that niche at 1st level. “Lores” are like skills, so “Trickster lore” would govern things like deception, stealth, mimicry, and so on. Barnabus has no actual levels in Trickster, so his roll will be worse than if he did.
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[20:49] <+Rob> Lore checks are your PC’s dice roll + lore level (if any) +/- modifiers vs. 20+
[20:50] <+Rob> Also, your niche always has to be at least one level higher than any other lores you possess.
[20:50] <+Rob> And it’s easier to earn levels in your niche than in other lores.
[20:50] <~Dan> Huh. Cool.
[20:51] <~Dan> So in the time we have left, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
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[20:53] <+Rob> Zocchi dice! I built them into the game because I love them, but they’re not necessary, and standard dice should work just fine, as long as you’re consistent about which types you use.
[20:53] <~Dan> Zocchi dice?
[20:53] <~Dan> (Howdy, egyptian!)
[20:54] <+Rob> Yes. d3s, d5s, d7s, etc. instead of the standard d4, d6, d8… The game defaults to the former, but it’s the most gimmicky bit, and the one I’m most willing to jettison.
[20:55] <~Dan> Huh. I’m not familiar with those.
[20:55] <+Rob> They’re used, I believe, in Dungeon Crawl Classics, though only for a small number of things.
[20:56] <~Dan> I’ll have to look those up.
[20:57] <+Rob> Maybe you’ll love’em as much as I do!
[20:57] <~Dan> 🙂
[20:58] <~Dan> Thanks very much for coming by this evening and chatting with us!
[20:58] <+Rob> Thanks for having me. 🙂
[20:58] <~Dan> Absolutely!
[20:58] <~Dan> No need to run off, by the way.
[20:58] <~Dan> Just give me a moment to post the log and get you the link. 🙂