It has come to my attention that I am still considered a fixture in the GLOGosphere; which I find somewhat strange since my criticism of GLOG and GLOGers was harsh in the public light, but that's neither here nor there. Anyway I would like to take this opportunity review and revisit the GLOG, and maybe lay some groundwork with what I plan to do with it going forward.
If you don't know GLOG is Arnold K's fantasy heartbreaker homebrew. He designed it on six principles: compatibility with osr modules, a low power level, accessibility for new players, simplicity, quickness of play, and hackablity. It is these principles that have contributed to GLOG becoming so popular in OSR spheres.
Before I continue, let me say that I probably have less than average play time with GLOG. I have yet to run it for a home campaign and the online campaigns where I did were short-lived due to an ever changing work schedule or other interests taking precedent. But I can say with confidence I have at least a weekend's worth of experience running GLOG. Also my version of GLOG was heavily modified from the base, but I don't think that's a surprise to any GLOGers out there.
Let's kick things off with my biggest pet peeve with GLOG. Almost ever roll in GLOG is roll under. You roll under your Strength stat to bust open that door, you roll under your Save to avoid falling rocks, you roll under your Attack (with your opponent's Defense as penalty) to swordify that orc. In general there's nothing wrong with a roll under system, other than all of my players hated it.
I'm not particularly sure why but most of my players could never come to like the roll under system of GLOG. I believe the culprit is human nature. While the OSR prides itself on a return to form, since that form came into being gamers have experienced decades of an ever changing and revised gaming scene. By now "high number good. Low number bad" is ingrained in our gaming brains, and roll under goes against that.
Now I could just tell my players to get over it, but I have found we all had more fun when I switched to a roll over system. In this regard there are several options. Delta's Target 20 is a favorite of mine, but I got more mileage out of adopting the system from Ben Milton's Knave. However the latter felt less OSR than the former.
I both love and hate Templates. While I think it is a neat idea, I have noticed that the abilities they give rarely come up; and they ultimately feel like wasted effort and distraction.
Towards the end I gave up on them entirety and adopted Lungfungus's system in which a class had a passive bonus on up to two stats and two abilities in their kit that they could use from the start. Most of my players like this but sometimes it felt like a class could use one or two more abilities in its kit to properly define its capabilities.
It also goes without saying that the nature of class templates motivates everyone to make their own GLOG classes, which is fine, but I would rather put my focus elsewhere.
Stealth and Move are what I call secondary stats. They're secondary to the six ability scores. I believe their purpose is to accommodate common activities. PCs sneak and run a lot and therefore would be better at it (hence the higher base chance) and having a stat as resolution makes things simpler. However a part of me wondered if these could be ditched entirely for simple ability score rolls.
Skills seem to be the first things to go when someone makes their own GLOG hack and I don't blame them. The system in Arnold's base is kind of clunky. In my GLOG-like I threw out a skill system entirely in exchange for skill tags like Skerples' base. If you're skilled in tailoring you can probably do things a tailor can do.
It goes without saying that Arnold's magic system is the greatest contribution from GLOG and, like classes, everyone seems to like to make different wizard schools. Skerples' wizards are a little to mechanically bloated for my tastes and I feel like mishaps and dooms being on a school to school bases is also a little too involved. I'd much prefer a giant mishap/doom table or to get rid of them entirely; I'm fine with wizard's being a walking spell list with 1—3 perks and restrictions.
As you can see my negative critique's of GLOG center around its core mechanics, which begs the question, "Why use GLOG at all?" I've heard people ask similar questions of old school hacks of 5th edition: why call it 5th edition when you have had to homebrew it to something else entirely? I'm afraid the only answer I have to that is "I don't know."
At this point GLOG is more than just a system. It's a design philosophy identical to Arnold's original six philosophies when he set out making his fantasy heart breaker. Also it's grown into a community of gamers, aka the GLOGosphere. I think reifying GLOG helps no one and DMs should pursue their and their player's ideal GLOG because at the end of the day all that matters is peeps are having fun rolling weird dice.
Moving forward I believe I want to focus my efforts towards putting out my own GLOG-hack. The name for it came to me awhile ago and it's stuck: my GLOG-hack will be called Variant. I would like to put out a full pdf sometime in the future, but at this point "future" is pretty vague because as of right now I'm pursuing other, more personally worthwhile, interests outside of elf games.
I find it helps to lay out some limiting ground rules when first starting a project because it will help direct efforts. When it comes to variant there's only one rule that comes to mind: simple sinister strategy. Now what the heck does that mean? I'll break it down for you.
Simple is simple enough. Everything aspect should be simple: character creation, combat, resolution, etc. If I can't explain it to my players in five minutes or less, if I can't explain it without making them read, then it fails simplicity.
Sinister is more conceptual. The word itself is defined as "giving the impression that something harmful will happen" and I believe that defines a majority of OSR play. Your character is alive, but they will eventually die horribly. The dragon roosts on the mountain, but adventurers will eventually murder it for its hoard. In other words Sinister is a roller coaster ride spiraling towards entropy.
Strategy is the thinking man's sport. I've heard of these DMs that work without rules and just improv every resolution, and that's fine I guess, but I believe it does a huge disservice to players. For players, knowing how a particular event or situation will be handled by a rule is ammunition. If a player doesn't know what ammunition is at his disposal, he won't know what plan best suits his situation; and in my experience I have never met a player who hates it when a plan comes to fruition.