Solomon Guild Designer Notes (art by Eric Lofgren)


(stripped right from the pages of the book)

Perhaps the worst thing to happen to fantasy gaming was elminating assassins and turning thieves into rogues. “The game” stopped being about callous murderers plundering tombs and searching dead bodies, and instead it became a visit to the ren faire. With hit points.

Man, I hate bards.

Guilds became places to get better equipment, learn new ways to gain +1 on attack rolls, and super-secret clubhouses to hang out in when poor choices made PCs fugitives.

(Why even bother?)

To complicate the evolution of this medium, the game was never meant to be used for urban fantasy gaming. Fantasy gaming contempories of the 70s were designed to be about warring miniatures moving 9”. The framework upon which every iteration is built has nothing to do with social interaction and spheres of influence. That’s all stuff great gamemasters have layered into their campaigns after killing module B2. But it’s not really useful when company after company is trying to sell substantive sourcebooks about the “orcs du jour.”

So a book like this either needs to do many things, which dilutes it, or one thing, which limits its usefulness.

It’s the curse of any writing project.

So. There’s a lot of logic behind why the guild is going through an identity crisis. For old school gamers looking for “roles,” the characters in this book have clearly-deliniated gimmicks that cannot be infringed upon. And for gamers looking to create a web of personalities to interact with, the recent changing of the guild’s operations by Annlynn gives gamemasters that flexibility.

To make matters worse, old and new school game mechanics share little in common. The modern character sheet now has 85 things to track where the old school sheet had two. And at the end of the day you’re still rolling a d20 to see if you “hit.” So why all the information?

(I don’t have an answer.)

Compounding the frustration of such an endeavor is the attempt to make characters who have rich backgrounds and complex problems, yet provide stat blocks that don’t solve things “with magic” and/or seem disproportionate from their theme.

Essentially, this was not an easy book. Yet, I want to do it again.

In the process of writing this, I’ve learned a lot about how modern game design is producing bad GMs. Like a modern cubicle farm, mediocrity and laziness has been disguised by systems that cover everything, and the PCs can argue for clemency in lieu of anything. I’m not sure that’s the kind of game I want to write for. Is that the kind of game you want to play?

I suspect the GM buying this book is better than average, so sometimes I catch myself holding someone’s hand when I know they don’t need it.

For that I’m sorry.

(Also, I’m sorry for the preachiness of my tone.)

(And all these parentheses.)

pars pro toto

Individuality is the mainstay of roleplaying games. Customization means no two fighters are alike. Teamwork is defined by the group achieving something in tandem, not necessary having a “team mentality.” So writing a book about so many criminals who all have selfish agendas, yet respect the code of the group is counter-intuitive to game play that rewards individual achievement (XP).

The word Solomon was carefully chosen. And in this context it means something different from lower to upper case. In one instance it is pars pro toto. In another instance it is totum pro parte. And if you’re still not convinced I’m a genius, read that part again.

This book may feel flimsy at times and uninspired at others. That is intentional. Not every player in the criminal game can be an all-star. But everyone has a pathos and everyone has a hubris. Every character succeeds or fails because of himself or herself. Think of this book as your toolbox to creating lasting and memorable urban campaigns.

Thanks for joining me on another book.

— jim pinto

Solomon Guild is available at drive thru rpg.

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