Episode 09 — “Anime Perry Mason”

We’ve got friends in low places. Low magic places, at least. Or we would have if we could figure out how to run a low magic game. But that’s okay because, frankly, RAW D&D won’t let us do that anyway. Or would it? Stick around for your feedback and the terribleness that is GURPS.

Brian: https://twitter.com/Fiddleback
Scott: https://twitter.com/TheAngryGM

Website: http://www.DigressionsAndDragons.com
Email: DigressionsandDragons@gmail.com

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The voice and producer of GM Word of the Week, he is also a Freelance Tabletop Game Editor and Writer as well as a long time podcaster. He has written and edited for Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPGs, Modiphius Entertainment's Mutant Chronicles and Infinity RPGs and several others. He is currently working on his own Transit RPG.

18 thoughts on “Episode 09 — “Anime Perry Mason”

  1. Re: barriers to entry discussion

    -What are some examples of what you would consider to be a “Great” RPG product that currently exists, as opposed to just the average or above-average stuff?

  2. What? No more Digressions and Dragon Quest?
    What has become of this show!?

    Also: I want more Scott-pretending Muppets are real!

    Great job u2

  3. As for a system for low-magic fantasy, I’d definitely go in the Conan route, as mentioned, and just run Barbarians of Lemuria.

  4. I really should just make one big comment but it’s easier for me to leave thoughts as I listen…

    Re: GURPS

    I have a ton of GURPS books, but I’ve found myself using them as references for building games in other systems rather than for playing GURPS itself.

    For a number of years I really tried to get a GURPS game going, but the only one that was at all successful was where I went in the direction Scott/Angry suggested. I didn’t make entire pregen characters, but I basically made templates for classes. The players chose one of these templates and had a bit of “Choose A or B package of skills, Feats C, D, or E” etc.

    Recently though I’ve given up on GURPS for my sci-fi campaigns and have been trying O. L. D. My players have really enjoyed the “character building by life path” system

  5. My idea of low magic worlds are the Sam Neill/BBC Merlin worlds where it is very infrequent and is only used as last resorts or causing major events. If I were to implement that kind of world into 5e I’d probably use the Warlock as the template for how magic exists and what is it regularly used for in the world. The class’s spell list revolves around solving problems instead of just burning everything to ash. While the wizard and sorcerer have for the most part the same spells and even more than the Warlock they’re also mixed in with the 31 flavors direct damage dealing spells that players are normally drawn to. The Warlock by contrast has maybe 1 to 2 options for directly dealing damage per spell level, if any at all. There are other spells that deal damage but they are usually contingent upon a certain set of circumstances or have the damage reduced while applying a debuff. The available spell list is designed around mostly altering the unfolding events. Add in the Warlock’s slightly beefier HP pool, ability to wear light armor and use simple weapons it has the tools to deal with most mundane situations and can bring magic to bear when things are not so mundane. This allows a caster to not be reliant on cantrips for even basic attacking and to blend into the world and hide their presence if need be. To me this is truly what magic should feel like. It’s Luke bringing out the lightsaber in those rare but crucial moments and totally changing things. Lightsabers mean business! It’s not everyone including a 4 armed robot, a guy with squid tentacles for hair or a 3’ish foot tall muppet having them and bringing them out at the first sign of there might possibly potentially maybe kinda could be a problem.

    When it comes to expecting the game to play the same at every table issue my answer is no. But then I don’t look at D&D or other TTRPG’s as games. To me they are akin to either game engines or games that were designed to be modded to have custom content. D&D to me is something akin Half-Life or Half-Life 2 where it focuses on an adventure but allows you to load custom levels to make another similar adventure. But someone can really put some effort into it and make a mod that feels like a different game. More rules light or setting-less systems like Savage Worlds feels like the Unreal Engine where its not tied to any specific game. This analogy is really reinforced by the multitude of settings in Savage Worlds as well as the Powers system allowing the GM/Players to come up with the trappings.

  6. Nice episode! I was bursting with laughter at your comments on the pain scale. Got me some strange stares on the street.

    Regarding how most alien races in fiction are quite human, Scott’s comment on how an alien race could have no sense of cause and effect got me thinking about the Heptapods in Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” short novel (and also the film adaptation, “The Arrival”). I don’t know if you guys have read/watched it yet, so… spoiler alert?


    In the book, it is explained that the Heptapods do not see things in terms of “cause” and “effect”. They transcend the difference between past, present and future and experience time as a simultaneous ocurrance of all events that were, are, and will be. However, since they already know what will happen, they are literally incapable of expressing free will. The short story explaind very carefully how free will and precognition are completely paradoxical and cannot coexist in a creature’s mind. I remember being completely taken aback by such an innovative and interesting take on the alien mindset. The movie is also good, although it doesn’t discuss all the philosophical stuff as well (but they do have waaay more explosions, so there’s that). Anyway, yeah, just something that I remembered while listening and wanted to share if you guys. If you haven’t read Ted Chiang yet, I strongly reccomend. Guy’s a genius.

  7. Getting older, as I am, regularity has become more of a focus in my life.

    When I commented in Episode 8 about trying to turn SM Stirling’s “Emberverse” into a RPG, I didn’t realize you’d be talking this episode about low-magic settings. But you see the issue I ran into – in a fantasy setting of almost no magic (Emberverse, Song of Ice & Fire), everyone is a fighter of some flavor without all the magical effects, or they’re busy trying to talk their way through life as a mendicant or some court appointed functionary (or *gasp!* a bard of some type). I still think it could be done, but especially in an Emberverse setting, where mere survival is a daily struggle (minute by minute in the very early stages of the Change), you have to crank the reality setting on your game to such a high degree – tracking food and water both growing/gathering and eating, wounds take a long time to heal (and scars leave very lasting impressions and penalties), and travel is slow and arduous (and boring!) – that it would be very boring for many players. I know there are some out there who would love such high detail, but as much as I love the Emberverse books, I doubt I’m one such who would enjoy a game with such detail.

    Speaking of alien minds, John Scalzi tries in his “Old Man’s War” series to describe some aliens and their different cultures, and he comes close. They do feel very alien, but mostly just come across as inscrutably weird.

    Which settings have you gents used in your campaign worlds? High fantasy, obviously, but have you tried arcanepunk or steampunk? Have you tried turning a piece of fiction (literature, anime/cartoon/TV show, movie, song) into campaign setting?

    1. Another idea that struck me last night (apologies in advance), going back to 3rd edition, what if you ran your low magic setting with just the NPC classes (minus the Adept, because it’s a low-level mage/shaman character) – Aristocrat, Commoner, Expert, and Warrior? Steal the lingering injury table from 5e’s DMG, and damn near everything from the AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide (there’s a blast from the past). The GM handles the few bits of magic (certain PCs/NPCs have visions/prophecies, or can cause minor effects, like a Sending, only through great ritual and time/resources expended) present in the world and the PCs have no control over it and mostly are just spectators.

  8. wait, there is a comment section? how did I not notice it until now (and even now only because it was mentioned in the show)

  9. I feel compelled to mention Open Legend regarding generic systems. I may have a slight partiality on that. But still, it works for any and all settings, it speeds up mechanics so you can focus on story and has a zero barrier to entry. Although, I don’t know how that makes you feel. Freely reprimand me at your leisure.

  10. Te: the word of God

    Imagine that you are playing playing chess with someone, and your opponent says: I charge with my horse in a straight line and trample your peon and bishop. Would you allow it? I didnt think so.

    RPGs are a role-playing experience, but is also a game, and many players feel “cheated” if they think the rules allows them to make something, and the GM says no. Because some part of the RP ia making character-creation decisions, like spells, feats or atributes. So when the GM says you will have to “RP” (acredito) the negotiation with the Baron, you feel cheated of your choice of having a high charisma and the Persuasion skill.

    I think thats why people ask for rules clarification: to play the game better

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