2019/02/20

OSR: The Grand GLOG Playtesting Review

The GLOG is Arnold K's fantasy heartbreaker homebrew. I've been using it for, oh, ~50 sessions now. At ~4 hours a session that's 200 hours of accumulated playtesting for the Rat on a Stick Edition. Not bad. In a now-deleted post, Lungfungus asked for playtesting notes on OC. I hope this helps!

Is the GLOG really OSR?

I have no idea; don't particularly care either. It meets the 10 OSR Commandments. If you want to be charitable, it's broadly compatible with most OSR products. If you want to be uncharitable, it's equally incompatible with all of them.

I can run just about any dungeon or module with the GLOG rules I've got, adapting stuff on the fly. Some might need bit of prep work but that'll always be the case. At the table, I use AD&D monster manuals and add on GLOG bits as needed.


Everyone seems to be writing GLOG classes these days. There are probably at least 100 floating around out there in the blogosphere. Here are 50 (!!) wizards. It's leading to the impression that GLOG games are class focused, whereas, in play, class features and abilities don't actually come up as often as you'd think. I've written a bit more about this in the section below. It'd be a mistake to think of the GLOG as character-focused in the same way as D&D 3.5 or 5E just because all you see on the blogosphere are GLOG classes.

The GLOG isn't a unified system so much as a series of really nifty subsystems bolted on to each other. If you're running a game, consider popping off a subsystem and bolting it on to your system. If you like some bits of the GLOG but not others, remove the bits you don't like and write replacements.


Attack and Defense

PCs  have an Attack stat. Some classes (Fighter and Knight come to mind) grant a bonus to Attack, but most classes have the same Attack. It starts at 11 and goes as high as 15. PCs need to roll equal to or under Attack to hit an enemy, with a penalty equal to the opponent's Defense.

Defense is equal to 10+Dex bonus or 10+Armour. +2 for Leather, +4 for Chain, +6 for Plate, +1 for having a shield.

Really, all you need to remember is the armour an enemy is wearing. Orcs in leather? Ask the PC to make an "Attack -2" roll. Risen undead legionaries with plate and shields? "Attack -7". Conversely, if you remember than Attack 11 is a low-level PC and Attack 15 is a max-level PC, you can easily calibrate for any monster.

I like both systems, though I've fiddled with the Attack per Level table a few times.


Roll-Under Stats

This is a bit controversial. 3d6 down-the-line stat generation creates a lot of variance in starting PCs. Asking for a roll-under test can be seen as an unfair penalty.
1. Only ask for rolls if both success and failure are interesting. If it's trivial, the PC just succeeds. If it's impossible, the just fail.
2. Ask for rolls sparingly.

3. Use roll-under Move, Defense, or even current HP to help normalize results.
4. Rolls should not replace player skill. Rolls are risk. A good plan means less risk and fewer rolls. A lousy plan can involve lots and lots of risky rolls.

+4 is close enough to a "reroll and take the better result", -4 is close enough to "reroll and take the worse result". I use +/- instead of rerolls to save time and to let multiple types of bonuses or penalties stack.

Rolls I've Called For:
Strength: bend an iron bar, toss a fully loaded PC across a chasm

Dexterity: run along a collapsing wooden bridge, leap away from an exploding fireball
Constitution: eat rotten meat, hold perfectly still
Intelligence: recall some highly obscure fact, remember the path back
Wisdom: rolled under each round for Initative. If equal to or under, the PC acts before the monsters. If over, acts after.
Charisma: recall some bit of protocol, turn a phrase, carouse
The GLOG also has a generic Save value for any luck- or supernatural-based rolls. It's 5+Charisma bonus and goes up with level. If you need to pick a Save for a creature, use 5 for most animals, 10 for sufficiently magical creatures, and 15 for truly frightening things.


Manuel Castañón

Inventory

GLOG inventory is great. I can't remember where all the refinements below came from, but they're in the version I use now.

PCs have Inventory Slots equal to their Strength. This assumes they've got backpacks, pockets, hammerspace, etc, etc. I don't want to bother tracking it. The first 3 slots are quick access. Anything in them can be drawn and used immediately. Anything in other slots takes 1 round to remove.

A slot can contain: 3 small items (torches, rations, scrolls, potions, oil flasks), 1 large item (sword, shield, etc), or 0.5 really big items (hammers, etc). Leather armour takes up no slots, Chain takes up 2, Plate takes up 4. Coins and gems don't take up inventory unless you have 1,000 of them.

Every slot you fill over your Strength counts as a point of Encumbrance and applies a penalty to your Attack, Move, Stealth, and any other rolls that require you to be quick on their feet. Being over-encumbered sucks. Don't do it unless you have to.

5th Edition inventory is ridiculously difficult to track! This system is clear, elegant, and helpful. The list of stuff on your character sheet also tells you how much you can carry. Exhaustion can take up inventory slots! It's all so simple. I just put a numbered list, 1-18, on the back of the character sheet, with a line below the 3. 


Lighting

Good torches and lanterns illuminate 30' clearly and an additional 30' of shadows and vague outlines. Candles illuminate 10' clearly and an additional 10' of shadows.

Torches and candles last 1 hour, but are they are cheap. Candles can be extinguished and re-used. Torches, not so much. A flask of lantern oil lasts for 3 hours. It's not napalm, so you can't use it to light your enemies on fire, but you can grease things or make improvised lanterns (as candles).

As a GM, I call for the group to "mark off 3 hours of light" or more, depending on what they're doing. They can mark off 3 torches or 1 flask of lamp oil and move on. If they can't, they're in the dark and are very likely to be eaten by a Grue.


Character Creation

I use a Table of Races. Players roll on it, then either pick or roll for a class, then roll stats (3d6, rerolling one from their race), a background from their class, etc. It's a very quick and painless. Rolling up a new character takes about 3 minutes, and most of that is writing down numbers.

The random element (from race, stats, and potentially class) keeps character generation very interesting. I think only one player, once, had a really firm idea of what they wanted to "try next". Most of the time it's easy-come easy-go. I also don't usually let players read through classes before picking them. I just give a name and a brief description. 


Classes

Writing a GLOG class is easy. It meets what I'd call the "minimum creativity threshold". To write a wizard you just need about 20 decent ideas. To write any other kind of class you need between 4 and 10. It's not difficult to make a class based on any random idea you've ever had. It's also a lot easier to think of elements of a class than it is to, say, a fill in a d100 table or write a dungeon.

By default, GLOG classes have 4 Templates (A, B, C, and D). You can only have 4 templates (from any class, but multi-classing without in-character actions to back it up is difficult, min-maxing is next to impossible).

A really good Template gives the class a few interesting abilities without giving them a "push to win" button. There are a few classes with quite powerful abilities, but there's usually some drawback or limitation. Templates are very rarely about mechanical bonuses. Instead, they're convenient, if a little odd, tools to solve problems, some directly and some laterally.

Player enjoyment seems to come mostly from the weird interactions between treasure, abilities, enemies, factions, and traps, not from any one ability a class has.

I also want all classes to fit onto 1 side of a sheet of A4 paper, unless they've got spells, etc. If you're going to do worldbuilding, either subtly build it into the class abilities or put it in separate paragraphs.

Going forward, I'm going to more clearly separate classes into "Core", "Extra", and "Novelty" classes. Core classes should work. Extra classes sometimes work. Novelty classes, who knows? Use them at your own risk.
Svetoslav Petrov

Core Classes

The core trinity of Fighter - Thief - Wizard should feel right. Sadly, it doesn't quite. Not yet. All numbers below are made up.
  • Fighters have an 80% chance to solve a fight-based problem and a 20% chance to do nothing.
  • Thieves have an 80% chance to go around the problem completely and a 20% chance to find a new and exciting problem.
  • Wizards have a 60% chance to solve the problem, a 10% chance of turning into a toad, and a 30% chance of making the problem worse.
There's just something about playing a wizard that appeals to people. It's not power, it's the sheer delight of accidentally turning yourself into a toad. It's the joy of having a tool kit full of slightly dangerous and poorly understood things. Statistically, playing a Fighter or a Thief will keep  your character alive much longer. They're candles. Wizards are fireworks. And while some people might turn up to a candlelit mass, more people will turn up for the fireworks show.

Lungfungus has a much more sensible and sober take on core classes, if you're interested.


Fighter
This class works fairly well. I'm going to rewrite the "Tricky" ability in template C. A lot of the time in D&D you're fighting something that can't easily be tripped, shoved, or grappled. Combat Maneuvers are significantly less useful than just smacking someone. Fighters are likely to survive low levels, get a few magic items, and end up as solid centerposts of a party.

Thief

I've never quite got Thieves to work the way I wanted to them to. I think I'll need to re-write the entire class. Fundamentally, a GLOG base adventurer can do everything a Thief can do almost as well as a Thief can do it. I probably under-use locked doors and chests in my games, but the players usually bash through them somehow. Traps are disabled with common sense, rope, or foolishness.

I thought "the Heist" ability would provide an interseting incentive to Thief PCs. It ended up not being used. I've gone off bonus XP in general, except for frivolous spending. "Lucky" and "Very Lucky" are quite good.

Wizard
Everyone wants to play a wizard. I don't think I can get away from that. I could make wizards less interesting (boo!) or make the other classes more wizardy (why?), but instead I'm just going to give Wizards fewer options and a bit more squishiness. Players tend to alternate between spellcasting classes and non-spellcasting classes.

My players never really used "Spell Breeding". They tend to neglect downtime in favour of more risky exploring. "Book Casting" also rarely gets used, mostly because of player skill (or the lack of it). I'm not going to drop either one, but I'm going to try and get more use out of them.

Wizards currently gain 2 spells at template A, 1 at B, 1 at C, and 6 at D. I'm going to drop that to 2/1/1/ and 2. Arnold had it so that you could only gain Emblem spells as treasure. I never bothered with that; I prefer generalized randomized treasure rather than crafting PC-specific stuff. Anyway, I'm going to limit it to choosing one of two Emblem spells with Template D. Individual wizard schools will need to be adjusted in accordance with these principles. I'll also sort them into Core/Extra/Novelty schools at the same time.


Extra Classes

These classes do something a Core class does (but differently), or solve a rare type of problem, or compliment a Core class.

Barbarian
They work really well. Every ability harmonizes.

Knight
Knights also work well, especially in generic medieval games where nobility and estates are important. The "Challenge" ability is under-utilized and may need to be replaced, though this might just be player skill.

Paladin of the Word
The main downside to the class is the inability to speak. It's a very difficult thing for a player to manage and can lead to frustration in a voluble person. I may tweak some of the secondary abilities slightly.

Sorcerer
I need to adjust the Mishaps table slightly. Some of the Doubles effects are underwhelming and a Sorcerer with lots of HP can cruise through them with ease. A Sorcerer can solve lots and lots of problems... but only temporarily, and with a dire risk of exploding. High-powered creatures get better Saves, meaning the Sorcerer gets less effective against powerful monsters.

The Sorcerer class tends to outright solve between one and three problems a session. After that, it's either ineffective or actively dangerous. It's a bit of a shock, as a GM, to see the group breeze through a challenge with a literal hand-wave, but it's very satisfying to have it all come crashing down through poorly thought-out sorcery, bad planning, or reliance on the sorcerer's "get-out-of-jail-free" card.

Summoner
This class works fairly well, but I'd reduce the total number number of summons from 6 to 5. 5 is plenty. I also need to adjust a few of the Summons to be more clear and concise. 



Novelty Classes

I think it's completely acceptable (and a lot of fun!) to come up with a few dumb and unbalanced classes from time to time. They're a fun way to test out a new idea or a new mode of play. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. It's a fun project for an afternoon but if it's all you do, you may want to channel your time more productively.

Cannoneer 

Lots of damage but you've got to haul a great heavy cannon around. Tends to end in fire, landslides, and all the wandering monsters turning up at once.

Exorcist (Bell, Book, Sword)
Bell Exorcists need a substantial rewrite. They're just too fiddly. Fun, but fiddly. Book Exorcists work much better in a medieval game, but not so well in a pure dungeon or cave crawl. Sword Exorcists haven't seen enough play to form a solid basis for comparison yet.

Ghoul
The ghoul class hasn't seen enough play to edit yet.

Goblin

The Goblin class is hilarious and works as intended. Goblins are ludicrously squishy but they're an endless source of chaos.

Goliard/Monk
The Goliard and Monk classes are the "Tourists" of my games; high-challenge low-impact classes with some vaguely useful abilities, but nothing like as useful as a Thief. Pick them if you want to really have to work to succeed. The "Fortune's Wheel" ability the Goliard has is less neat than I'd anticipated. It just feels disappointing in play; knowing what's coming down the line feels flat and dull.

Inventor Necromancer

A surprisingly decent class at low levels. It's a slightly different flavour of Summoner, but it does require an active and invested player.

Many Goblins
Hilarious but needs constant adjudication. Also tends towards ludicrous farce.

Surly Gnome
This class is a novelty because it only applies to gnomes, but it's still fairly solid. No adjustments needed.

Underground Cannibal Gourmet
This class hasn't seen enough play to edit yet.

Witch Coven
Didn't work as well as I thought it would. The novelty of playing a low-level goat is short-lived. I may rework it or just abandon it completely.


Spellcasting

GLOG spellcasting is great. I've got my condensed version here.

Level-less spells make balancing everything so much easier. Using Magic Dice as Charges for magic items is very convenient. The entire system makes improvising trivial. 


In Conclusion

If you've got questions, ask away!

23 comments:

  1. I haven't used MD as charges for magic items apart from wands, how does that go down?

    As someone who has read the Abhorsen trilogy, I'd feel comfortable running the Bell Exorcist. That's a lot of prior reading for a class! I think if the bells all had one, maybe two lines of text, rather than detailed descriptions, it would be much more effective. The Bell Dice and having their various difficulties represented that way makes a lot of sense.

    If I was to run your Sorcerer, I would probably start with removing the current list of Double mishaps, and moving everything up a step. Quadruples is just the triples effect + the doubles effect. Done!

    I think all three exorcists need their "these abilities also apply to..." section in bold, with a bit of explanation. That bit is what interests me the most. I'm going to try and shove their core abilities to the forefront of my new playtests. I wonder what my players will do if they find a bloodstained bell... ring it? Let's hope so!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wands work fairly well. It sort of forces a decision on the wizard. Do they invest an MD into the wand for later use or keep it up that day for contingencies?
      A wand has a spell and a limited number of charges it can contain. So a wand of Fireball might have 3 charges. You can cast a 3, 2, or 1 MD fireball by spending 3, 2, or 1 stored MD. Wands only work once a day.

      Delete
  2. I agree about the Paladins of the Word not being able to talk.

    Possible kludges: well-trained shoulder parrots, a speaking-servant, a chalkboard, or the ability to speak in a whisper without it breaking any vows.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like speaking in a whisper. It allows the player to participate in planning sessions as normal (it's calm, quiet, people have time to lean in and listen) but retains the limitation for loud/stressful situations like combat or some kinds of tense negotiation (the guys in the next room pointing crossbows at the door, two factions arguing loudly, etc). This way the limitation comes up enough to feel significant, and requires the player to work around it in interesting situations, but doesn't cut the player out of a core part of the game entirely.

      Delete
    2. It's an inconvenience, but I just think it's something the player needs to know and think about beforehand.

      I gave one player a sheet of black paper and a white marker pen; chalkboard and chalk. They could write notes.
      The other paladin in another group wanted to try, but that character had Int 5 and was illiterate. He just drew pictures. Deeply confusing pictures.

      OOC communication is fine. The _player_ doesn't need to be silent.

      Delete
    3. Fair. I think that that alternative playstyles are fun and a worthy goal for a non-core class. I've personally found though (with similar situations, but not this exact class) that my players generally bring the "can't talk" limitation with them into OOC conversations, even when they're getting frustrated with it and have been told that it's ok for them to speak out of character.

      Delete
    4. Yeah, it's sometimes hard to switch gears, mentally. Oh well!

      Delete
    5. I guess some people think of it as a kind of cheating. But if it's working as intended for you, you're the one with all the play testing experience, not me.

      Delete
  3. Looks like I just jumped on a bandwagon. Here's my take on a novelty class. I'd appreciate feedback.
    https://espharel.blogspot.com/2019/02/glog-class-actor.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there. Sorry, I'm not a fan of this class. It feels like a "chandelier-swinging" class, where the class gets a bonus to chandelier-swinging (and implies nobody else can do it).

      Stunt Work is good. Disguise feels like a thing anyone can do. Entertainer is good but
      Cause Célèbre is just the same effect but weaker. Recitation is interesting but very, very weak. Dramatic Infiltration is fun but remember, "walking off-screen" means the player has effectively chosen not to play D&D for a bit, which isn't ideal. I Am Slain! is fun but extremely situational.

      So yeah, overall, I'm not sure what class of problems the Actor class solves compared to any other class with an Actor background. As a novelty class, sure, it's fine, but also a little underwhelming.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply! Wish you all the best!

      Delete
  4. I'm enjoying GLOG in theory but haven't had a chance to really play; more's the pity. I'm curious what you think about the relationship between AC and damage reduction and how you'd introduce the latter to your particular GLOG pie if the ingredient were asked for?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't speak for Skerples in general but I know that the Barbarian possesses damage reduction as an ability, but that's the only set instance of it in the rules.

      Delete
    2. A few classes and a fair number of monsters have damage reduction. It's a powerful ability. I mostly use it to make some classes extra tanky or to make monsters require unique or clever solutions.

      Delete
    3. Wait, the Glog barbarian has damage reduction? How did I miss that?

      Delete
  5. So... is a 2nd edition of the Glog coming?

    I had fun with it, but ... my OSR experience is limited, and I always had the feeling I wasn't doing it right somehow :/ Some of the players couldn't adapt going from pathfinder to this, others loved it. How to deal with traps was a challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a bit of an allergy to roll-under mechanics -- which is weird since I love Call of Cthulhu and that's all roll-under -- but the GLOG is fascinating. I love the community-driven toolbox approach everyone seems to be taking, sort of like a Linux-D&D, and I mean that as a compliment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. If you had to compare a GLOG character with all four templates to a comparably leveled D&D 5E character, where would you put that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In combat terms, which is what I assume you mean, a third or fourth level 5e character at most.
      From what I've read of it, the GLOG power curve isn't remotely comparable to 5e. A character's power climbs sharply from 'very fragile' to 'somewhat fragile with cool perks', and from there increases in power very gradually to tenth level. The best example is that a single high level 5e character can take on multiple lower level threats in a 'fair' fight and reliably win. A single high level GLOG character will get ripped to shreds in a 'fair' fight against multiple opponents unless they fight really cleverly, use the right items/spells, or their opponents are very weak. Strength in numbers. Never get in a fair fight.

      Delete
    2. No idea! They're calibrated against very different styles of play. A level 1 5E character, with backgrounds and feats and abilities, probably has as much going on as a high level GLOG character.

      Delete
  8. My solution for the 'fortune's wheel' ability was just to not let the player re-arrange the dice. They just know in advance. I haven't had a chance to see it in play yet, but I should in the next couple weeks, as one of my players rolled up a poet (a mishmash of the Goliard, Fast Talker, and Arnold K's Poet/Storyteller class).

    My hope is it leads to the poet doing silly things in the middle of combat to 'burn off' their crappy dice. I bet it'll still be a pretty solid net advantage.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey I'm currently playing a monk/ book exorcist and I have tons of fun.

    Just wanted to ask how you would change up the book exorcist, because I would love to hear your ideas.

    ReplyDelete