Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Re-reading D&D

If you're at all interested in the Original D&D game, you've probably been reading Sham's Grog and Blog and his D&D Cover to Cover project.

If not, make haste over there! The man makes some good points and some shrewd observations.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fight On!

Fight On! Issue three is available now. Get your copy now!

At 148 pages, it's the biggest issue yet (and quite possibly will be the biggest issue ever.)

As a point of comparison, the original AD&D Player's Handbook was only 128 pages. This gives you 20 pages more!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Observations on the 4e Starter Set

I've seen a few starter sets (or basic sets, as they called them in my day). The old ones, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer -- these were the classics.

Later on, TSR started putting the bare bones of the rules in such sets. They started the pregenerated character thing (it wasn't WOTC; I still have such a set). (Of course, WOTC/Hasbro is still doing it...)

It's as if somebody said "Give 'em less!"

Now, the function of a starter set is to get people interested in a game. You give them the basics and let them try it. I can kind of see not including character generation.

Let's compare this one with the 3.5 starter set:

3.5 had a dungeon. Lay out these tiles is this order. These are the encounters; don't skip any or the characters won't make second level. It didn't say what to do if the Harpy (!) wiped out all the pc's the first time they encountered her! That's what happened the first time I ran it.

So, we've got a railroad with monsters too powerful for the fragile characters. There's no exploration, you just move on to the next encounter (with it's next dungeon tile). This is a good thing? I admit, I liked the props. And if you're going to insist on using a square grid, then saying how many squares a character can move works.

Okay, so how is 4e different?

First of all, there are five characters, instead of four. (Oddly, the text flat out states that five characters is best. But they don't give you any criteria for such a statement.) There are tokens, instead of figures, but this way you can have more.

Instead of a few dungeon tiles, there are punch-out cards containing really thick, plastic coated dungeon segments, including rooms, corridors, doors, a pit, a bearskin rug, a bedroom, etc. The kind of thing you can lay out and the players immediately see where they're at. I approve.

The dice in both versions are exactly the same (so now I have a pair of each...)

The DM book for 4e is where the game really shines. There's a scenario, of course, and this one has more of a background than "You're exploring this dungeon..." like 3.5 had. (If I recall correctly.)

There is discussion of how to design your own adventures, which is nice. There are plenty of monsters, which is nice. The characters are still pre-gens, but at least you can advance them to third level, which is kind of nice. There are still skills, but a vastly reduced list, so it doesn't overwhelm play like in 3.5.

But what really got me was on page three of the DM's book. I'll reproduce it here for your consideration:


The DM is the final authority when it comes to rules questions or disputes. Here are some guidelines to help you arbitrate issues as they come up.

* When it doubt, make it up! It's better to keep the game moving than to get bogged down in a rules issue.

* Have fun! D&D is a game, after all.

* Use ability checks. When players try something not covered by the rules, ability checks should be used to determine success.

* It's not a competition. The DM isn't competing against the player characters. You're there to run the monsters, referee the rules, and keep the story moving.

* It's not your story. It's the group's story, so let theplayers contribute to the outcome through the actions of their characters.

* Be consistent. If you decide that a rule works a certain way in one session, make sure it works that way the next time it comes into play.

* Don't play favorites. Make sure that every character has a fair chance to shine.

* Be fair. Above all else, use your powers as Dungeon Master only for good. Treat the rules and the players in a fair and impartial manner, and everyone will have fun.

There's some really good stuff there. I could quibble about the ability checks thing, but on the whole, that's just some damn good advice, no matter which edition of which game you're running.

Bottom line, America: I don't hate the 4e Starter Set. I could run a game using this for a good long time (I could improvise some character creation rules, and I'm planning on collaborating with a guy to do just that...).

But it still doesn't beat the original three little books. They're still my favorites.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I don't know what I want.

So I have this terribly groovy new game, StarSIEGE: Event Horizon from Troll Lord Games. As I said in my last post, it's a toolkit, and therefore I can do anything I want with it.

But I don't know what I want.

It's not that I don't have ideas. I have three different settings/ideas (in varying stages of development) that I was working on for Big Eyes, Small Mouth back when I had players for that. (They, like so many others, decided they'd rather go back to D&D 3e. Oh, well.)

In addition, there are a couple of other ideas I've had, ranging from Flash Gordon style pulp/comics adventures to Space Opera to hard SF, to Shadowrun (which is totally doable in SSEH, btw...)

(If I really put my mind to it, I'm sure I could even do a fair representation of a typical medieval fantasy type of game...)

I just don't know which one to start with.

Any suggestions?



Monday, October 6, 2008

New and Old

There seems to be a bit of a slowdown on the old school board these days.

Oddly enough, this mirrors my own life; I'm experiencing a bit of a disconnect from old school D&D gaming. Although, I am (in a way) getting back together with old school gaming which was derived from D&D.

I'm talking about StarSiege: Event Horizon, from Troll Lord Games. It's brand new, but has a bunch of old school goodness.

First of all, it's dedicated to the memory of E. Gary Gygax, so how cool is that?

Second of all, it says right on the box that it's a toolkit. You know going in that you'll need to do some of the design work yourself. And that's about as old school as it comes.

Third of all, the game comes with everything your group needs to play. There's a sample setting, a GM's guide, and four (count 'em! Four!) copies of the players book. I've often wondered why some enterprising company didn't just go ahead and do that.

For those of you who missed the excellent review Doc Rotwang gave it, here's a link: StarSiege Event Horizon.

I have little to add, except that what the good Doc found as a gripe (it's a toolkit) is what I find perhaps the most appealing. I'm a proto-gearhead anyway; I was quite the Traveller gearhead, except that I stuck with Book 2 and never really got into High Guard.

The game is not without its flaws, of course. As is virtually inevitable for a Troll Lord Games release, it looks as though they really need to hire a copy editor. In the example of character creation, the starting character picks gear. A list is introduced, with a full colon even, but what follows is an entirely new paragraph. No starting gear list. Oops!

Also, there are other quibbles I have, but they all add up to just that: Quibbles. Sure, a table of contents or an index would have been nice, but this is still a pretty spiffy game.

One thing that also strikes me as ingenious is the way they handle ability scores: There aren't any. Instead, you just have the bonus or penalty you'd have from those scores.

These are rolled on 1d20, but for those who like a gritty game, you can instead use 3d6. This gives us the same table we remember from Tom Moldvay's D&D Basic rulebook: 3 gives -3, 4-5 gives -2, and so on up to 18 gives +3.

Except in StarSiege, you just have the +3. I like that.

Obviously, the game is "powered by" the Siege Engine, from Castles and Crusades. And what's interesting about that is that none of the game is OGL. It's all their own stuff, so no matter what WOTC does, they can still produce this game. And that's pretty nifty.

So, now I have a few different ideas for settings, and for stories in those settings. I could probably spend the rest of the fall and all winter just noodling around with the Trappings, getting everything just right for a game.

But I really wanna run something. Maybe I'll do something online? Who knows. Who cares?

It feels good to be optimistic again.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Okay, here are the pictures, for a side-by-side comparison.

The only change between them is the miracle dip, which I linked to earlier.

I love the way it both coats the figure (because I just know players are going to pick them up...) and stains it all in one step. (And yes, that is the exact same figure in both pictures.)

The dip looks really good on metal, such as armor. But it also brings out details that painters of my skill level cannot paint individually.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More pictures coming soon!

I finally got around to dipping my skeletons early this morning.

For those of you who have been eagerly anticipating the pictures, I apologize; I'll have them for you tomorrow morning.

Any votes on which figures should get painted next? I'm open to suggestions. Part of me wants to do the Adventurers, but another part of me wants to do something where the colors will be a bit more uniform, like the goblins. Whatever.

I'm not really much of a self-starter, I guess. If I had a regular group, and needed to have these figures painted, they'd all be done by now. But there's nothing pressing on my schedule game-wise, so they languish.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Must have been in Mercenary...

Finally, for the first time in around 20 years or so, I have a copy of the revised edition (1981) of Traveller Book 1: Characters and Combat.

This is like the one I originally had, back in the day. I loaned it to a guy and never saw it again. Bastard.

Anyway, I could have sworn that it was in there somewhere, that if a Marine character got Blade Combat as a skill and wanted to specify it as any blade weapon other than the Cutlass, that he had to roll something (11+ if I recall) to "buck the customs of the service" and do so -- otherwise, he had to take the skill as Cutlass.

I loved that little rule. It said so much about the Marines as a whole, right there.

Anyway, I also got a copy of the rules and map (but not the box or the counters) for Snapshot, which was the boardgame of personal combat aboard spaceships.

I'm going to use Snapshot to expand the individual combat rules and Beyond Book Two to expand the spaceship construction/combat rules.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to set this in the Official Traveller Universe or not, but I really don't want to use any of the expanded character generation from Book 4 and beyond.

Also, I really don't know when (or even if) I'm going to run this. But it'll be nice to know I have it, in case an opportunity comes up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Points of Light

Rather than trying to write a better review than Grognardia, I figured I'd just post a link. Go read it.

More on Caesar Fantasy Miniatures

As you can see, I took to heart the fourth lesson from my last post. ;)

Anyway on the left is one of the skeletons from the Caesar Miniatures Undead package.

On the right is the skeleton from the D&D Basic Game (3.5 edition) from Wizards of the Coast. Now, this guy is crouching down (an artifact of the plastic they use, I think, or else he's just that way because he was smushed) or else you'd see that the Caesar fellow is about 2/3 the height.

In another, unphotographed, comparison, he's a bit taller than a Halfling Brawler, if you're familiar with that figure.

Now, the WOTC figs are somewhat taller than the old 25mm "standard". This scale creep is sometimes called 28mm, Heroic 25mm, or even 30mm.

My figures may be much smaller, but at least I can carry more of them for less weight and in a smaller box, to boot.

I didn't get around to doing any dipping last night. Tonight, I hope -- the stuff requires adequate ventilation, so I generally do it outdoors. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lessons learned about photographing miniatures

The first lesson I've learned about photographing miniatures is: Don't do it late at night when you're tired.

The second lesson I've learned is: Don't just say that you've switched your camera to the "close up" setting, ACTUALLY SWITCH your camera to the "close up" setting.

The third lesson I've learned is: Use a tripod.

The fourth lesson I've learned is: Use enough light.

These photos reflect the application of the first three of those lessons.

These are my skeletons. First the back, then the front.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Painting results

I never said I was a great painter, but apparently I'm a really lousy photographer.

I took a picture of the primed skeletons, and then two more of them when they were painted.

And none of them came out well at all.

They're blurry, the detail is all lost (and I was even using the setting on my camera for close up work, too!).

But the painting looks okay.

I'm going to let them dry for a day and then dip them.

And I'll have my girlfriend take the pictures when they're done; her pictures always seem to come out okay.

A painting we will go...

I have to start painting my Caesar fantasy miniatures sooner or later, so I might as well start tonight.

I found my primer last night and primed up the skeletons (scroll down on the link above until you get to the Undead). We'll see how it goes; I've never painted 1/72 plastic figures before.

There are a few painting guides out there, but I'm a bit leery of trying to use Elmer's Glue as a primer...anyway, the regular stuff I use (from the Armory) seemed to stick okay. The problem of course with plastics is that they bend, and when they do, the paint flakes.

And anyway, I'll be using Miracle Dip as a final coat, so that should hold everything together.

I hope.

Pictures tonight when I get something done...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Encounter Critical!

I had never created a character for Encounter Critical. Until now, that is.

For those of you who don't know, Encounter Critical is an absolutely brilliant game designed by a pair of crazies in Wisconsin back in the late 70s. Except, of course, that it's not. It was really designed by S. John Ross, of Risus fame, as an homage to those games of yesteryear, and (incidentally) as a hoax.

We now know the truth, but still the game is beloved by a rare few who "get it". I'm hoping I'll be one of those few. Right now, I'm still in the early stages. (I went through this with Risus, as well, so I think I know how it goes...)

Anyway, without further ado, here's my character:

Character Name...Zarko
Player Name......Coffee

Race.............Planetary Ape

Adaptation...... 7
Dexterity ......15
Leadership...... 6
Magic Power..... 8
Robot Nature....14

Ranged Damage........+4
Melee Damage.........+0


Command Energy........27%
Command Matter........23%
Consume Alien Food....03%
Crowd Manipulate......11%
EXP Bonus.............12%
Great Feat............16%
Lesser Feat...........74%
Machine Friend........40%
Magical Attack........16%
Melee Attack..........55%
Mistaken Identity.....14%
Monster Friend........16%
Psi Resist............58%
Psychic Implant.......14%
Ranged Attack.........73%
Read Minds............15%
Restore Courage.......16%
Saving Throw..........37%
See Future............05%
Sneak Attack..........62%
Unpleasant Order......70%

GC: 700


.45 automatic pistol, w/addl ammo 365 + 3.65 + 3.65 = 372.3
Theskian Dagger, 2.............................6 + 6 = 12
Bulletproof vest....................................... 60

Canteen................................................ 9
Lockpicking tools......................................223
5 days rations......................................... 5
Utility belt with pouches.............................. 5
60' of good rope....................................... 10

Leaves: 3.7 GC

This is for an online EC game that's going to happen over at the RPG site. Here's the link to the sign-up thread over there, if for no other reason that I don't forget it:


Friday, August 1, 2008

Ah, Traveller...

I first got Traveller in about 1982 or so. I'm pretty sure that was the year.

It was the second edition, which I didn't know at the time; I doubt if I would have cared. There were these three awesome looking black books with a bold red stripe and the title.

There was the text on the cover of the box, the distress call from the Free Trader Beowulf. To this day it gets me going.

One day, a guy in my group asked if he could borrow my copy of Book One. I said sure.

I never saw it again.

Many years later, I was at my Friendly Local Game Store and found a copy of Book One in a used bin. For only two dollars! Woo-hoo! They had Book Three, also, and since my stuff is all stashed away somewhere, I bought them both.

They turned out to be the originals, from 1977.

Once I had found out that my original set was the second edition, I had always wanted to see the first edition. I like to know where things come from. Also, whenever people come out with a second edition, there's something from the first that they only put in part of, and it always bugs me.

In this case, my old Book Two discussed space combat. It said that Pulse Lasers weren't as accurate as Beam Lasers (which cost twice as much). But there wasn't a damn thing in the actual combat system to differentiate.

Well, I finally got a copy of the original Book Two, and it gives a DM (die modifier) of -1 when using Pulse Lasers. (I've since gotten the Starter set, which was the final version of the three little books, and it gave this DM as well as saying that Pulse Lasers do two hits instead of only one, like Beam Lasers do. Weird.)

So, I have both the last produced and the first produced versions of the original Traveller set (without the complications of the subsequent books, which in my opinion drastically messed up the beautiful simplicity of the original set...and the silly buggers at Mongoose are doing the same thing over again, it appears! Those who don't know history, and all that.), so I have a variety of options here.

What I'd like to do, though, is create my own mini-campaign (or setting, anyway), just using the three original books, as the sole rules for the game. No Official Traveller Universe (OTU), no supplements, no nothing.

This is to be in keeping with my 'old school gamer' -ness. I'd take it round to conventions and show people how it used to be done.

But I'm growing to like the OTU, which I've always looked askance at. It does what it needs to do, and there's a certain nostalgia for how it was back before MegaTraveller and all that.

Anyway. That's what I'm thinking about today.

Other points of difference between the first and second editions:

Scouts in 1e got one skill per term; in 2e they got 2.

Jump Drives in 1e didn't need power plants; in 2e they did.

In 2e your computer number had to be the same as or higher than your jump number; in 1e it didn't (and the ship designs of the era show this).

Slight changes in the costs of computers; slight changes in the costs of hulls.

Small craft fuel was completely different; craft burned fuel at a rate of 10kg per G per turn. Fuel tankage was considerably higher.

Space combat was a 10 minute turn, with 2 inches representing 1 G. In 2e, it became a 1000 second turn (16.66 minutes), and 1G on the table was 100mm (= roughly 5 inches -- you need a much bigger floor...)

Book Three had a table for determining comm routes (like the ones on the maps GDW produced). It also said that the 8x10 mapping grid was a "convenient size", not absolutely mandatory as later. (And, given the size of the Third Imperium, it also noted that one or two such subsectors should be adequate for years of adventuring...!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I got sidetracked

In my post yesterday, I got sidetracked.

I was going to say how whenever I open any of the Traveller books, I get sidetracked.

And then, while posting about it, I got sidetracked.

The thing is, I've really spent much more time wanting to play Traveller than ever actually playing it. And while I'm sitting there, all by my lonesome, wanting to play, I'll tinker with some of the utterly nifty systems the game provides. Character creation. Ship design. World design.

I played a little, back in the early 80's. That's when I grew to dislike books 4 and 5.

Y'see, I had picked up the basic set (books 1-3) and loved it. Everything one needed was there, and it all worked.

Plus, I immediately fell in love with the Scout service. Any character I created, I tried to get into the Scouts.

And, predictably, most of them died.

But when I went to create a character for another guy's game, the one game going on at the time, they started to put me through some big thing that I'd never heard of. I said I wanted to be a Scout, but they didn't have rules for such a thing.

They did, however, have rules for weapons that would vaporize you. They had rules for starships so big they made the Enterprise look small.

But no rules for Scouts, other than Book 1. Well, hey, at least I can get a ship as a mustering out benefit. So I ended up playing my Scout, and it was okay. The Ref wasn't that big on people making skill rolls to do routine tasks. He was more interested in people playing the game, getting into their character, trying to figure out the puzzle inherent in the scenario.

(And, finally, when Book 6 came out, Scouts couldn't automatically get a ship. But that's okay, because they didn't all automatically get Pilot-1, either. Say what?)

Fighting was deadly, so we didn't fight. Space Combat was not only deadly but expensive as well, do we didn't do that either.

We did trade an awful lot.

In a six hour session, we'd have about two hours of an adventure, followed by four hours of speculation. Seriously, half a game year could go by in one evening.

This so traumatized one of the players that, many years later when I wanted to run T4, I had to reassure him many, many times that the whole trade thing wouldn't happen.)

I wanted to get away from the whole Military/Navy thing everyone else seemed to be doing.

I ran the original game once, for about 3-4 players (this was about 25 years ago, the memory isn't so good). They were hired on to crew a Safari ship, with the specific mission of rounding up exotic animals for the Subsector Capital zoo. The zookeeper wanted to outdo the Imperial capital zoo.

Did I mention that the ship was unarmed?

Another player, hearing about this, got quite incensed and stated that anyone taking off in an unarmed ship was an idiot and deserved to get killed.

So, hang on -- let me do the math here. I'm in a 200 ton safari ship. You want me to mount triple turrets with missile launchers, beam lasers and sandcasters, plus hire and feed two gunners.

All so that, when I'm out and about, a 20,000 ton warship can show up and say "stop", and I -- what, fight back? I think not. It's better to not have weapons and just run away. Or sit there and let them board you. And then unleash the perilous beastie you have in the no. 2 hold...

But the bottom line is that Traveller, even when you're not actively involved in a game, is still loads of fun to tinker with. So even if I never get a game going, I'll still have fun with it.

It just sidetracks me, is all.

Monday, July 28, 2008


So, the usual thing happened.

I wanted to do something with Traveller (the original game, I mean; I still refuse to call it "Classic". It's not Coke, you know.) I've loved this game for years. It was the first boxed rpg I bought that wasn't from TSR (which actually makes it only the second boxed rpg I bought, after Top Secret; when I got Moldvay and Cook I just got the rulebooks, shrinkwrapped.)

I didn't want to do something with D&D, because I don't really grasp "adventures" with D&D. You don't have "adventures", you have a dungeon.

But Traveller, I thought, would have something.

The result?

Weeks later, and I now have more supplements, more rulebooks (I got The Traveller Book and the Starter Traveller boxed set, both sadly long out of print). I found lots of good stuff online.

I created characters.

I created starships.

I created 3 different spreadsheets to use in designing starships.

I created (using software found online) two entire subsectors and a bunch of animal encounter tables for some of those worlds.

And it all adds up to nothing.

So, last night, I sat down with Book 3 and a pair of dice, and created a world.

C342444-8 NI, Po. No bases, no Gas Giant.

Not much of a world, you might say.

I haven't placed it yet, but it must be along a trade route of some sort, or it would just never be visited. There's really nothing to do there.

It has a thin, tainted atmosphere. Can I do something with that? If so, what?

It has a representative democracy for a government. Can I do something with that? Why yes, I believe I can.

There is an election coming up. For as long as people can remember, these elections were great fun, with the majority party imposing its will on the minority party until they got too fed up with it and rebelled, overthrowing the incumbents and voting in their own scoundrels. And then the cycle repeats.

But this time, things are getting bad. In addition to the usual political tricks, there is an undercurrent of genuine violence. People are getting hurt, and people are getting angry.

The Port Captain suspects offworld influence, but can't prove anything; he's busy shoring up the entrances to the Starport in case full blown riots break out.

...and that's as far as I've gotten.

Any comments gratefully accepted. I may not get this done by the end of the month (Three days? No sweat! Yeah, right!) but at least I'm trying.

Fight On! Number Two now available!

I ordered mine! Have you ordered yours yet?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting started

Further pursuant to yesterday's post...

Okay, so I'm getting started on my Traveller/Freedom in the Galaxy game. The GDW resources I have are:

* the Original Traveller three-book set,
* Supplement Four: Citizens of the Imperium, and
* Alien Module One: Aslan.

(I am awaiting a copy of The Traveller Book from Amazon; God knows what happened to my old copy.)

In addition, I have the boxed set of Freedom in the Galaxy, from SPI. (I could have gotten the Avalon Hill edition, but I'm just as happy with the original.)

I also have some supplementary material created by other fans that I found on boardgamegeek.

As is usual with SPI games (and wargames in general), there is a wealth of information in there. I just need to coax it out into the light so I can convert it into Traveller terms.

Really, all I need to do is:

* convert the planets,
* write up the characters, to use as pre-gens,
* convert the alien races, for those players who insist on creating their own characters,
* convert the spaceships,
* write up the "possessions" as special equipment (and one of the variants has possessions for the Imperials...), and
* modify the "mission" system inherent in the rules into an adventure generator, so that I can streamline production of individual adventures.

I have the feeling that I would actually run this as an episodic "tv series", rather than as scenes in a movie. Each "mission" would be an episode would be a play session. (This would also allow for players who couldn't make every session, a not inconsiderable factor these days.)

It's starting to look overwhelming, so I'm starting with the Kayns. These are doglike beings, who only have four worlds.

Oh, hey, speaking of worlds, this project will also be cool because of the way the map is laid out. There are 25 stars but 51 worlds, so some stars have more than one world (1-3, averaging almost exactly 2). This allows me to use the space travel rules (as opposed to the star travel rules) of the game. (Those equations impressed the hell out of me when I first read them, back in the early 80's...)

Anyway, so I may not be able to get something done this month, but I'm sure gonna try!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Creating Campaigns

It seems to me that there are two different (one could say mutually exclusive, but not always) ways of going about setting up a roleplaying campaign.

One, and this is the one I've always used, is to select a rules system and create a campaign for it. This can be as simple as saying "Here you are; what do you do?" and creating from there. It can be as elaborate as spending months dreaming up every last detail, every bit of local color, every NPC's middle name, and then unleashing this mass on your unsuspecting players.

But there is another way, which I have considered in the past but never actually employed.

You can come up with an idea, a storyline if you will, a central point of your campaign. Bad thing X is going to happen to innocent people Y, unless the players Z intervene. That sort of thing.

And then you go looking for your rules system.

Now, I've come out publicly for the anti-background camp, but now I think I was wrong. (I reserve the right to grow and change.) I still don't think the average player (or me, if I'm the player) wants to sit through a hefty book describing all the crap he has to learn before he can even create his character, much less play. That's more like homework than like gaming. Some enjoy it; that's fine for them. I would never say otherwise. But I don't want to have to sit through it.

I also don't like rules-heavy, gearhead systems that require intense planning to, y'know, cross the street.

I enjoy tinkering. I want to be able to fiddle with the rules and the setting both. I want the players to feel good about suggesting changes.

Am I crazy, or does this sound even more old-school than I would have thought?

The designers of the old school games didn't just select a rules set. They had to write it. They created their game and then provided rules for it.

Dave Arneson started with Chainmail, but as I understand it he had already modified those rules by the time the players first entered the dungeon beneath Blackmoor.

Gary Gygax (may he rest in peace) started with the notes Dave sent him (and the one game he'd played in that Dave had run for him) and went from there, picking and choosing and filling in what he felt was needed to run the game he wanted.

What this boils down to (hard as this is for me to grasp, given my background) is that he game comes first, and the rules come second.

That kind of floored me when I first thought of it. May seem old hat to some of you, but it was a new thought to me.

It's incredibly liberating. You don't need to use the ruleset you have. You can change it, use another, or make your own.

You can even change types of games, as I'll explain in a bit.

Once you have your purpose, the rest derives from there.

I gotta say, I feel energized. I'm halfway through the month of July, which is National Adventure Writing Month, and I haven't written a single word of an adventure. But I feel like I'm about to. I have a Purpose, and I have a Plan.

I'm gonna change the type of game and I'm gonna adapt the background for it.

In 1979, two years after Star Wars (and no, I'm not going to dignify it with the stupid-ass title that was retrofitted to it; it was Star Wars when I first saw it and it will be Star Wars to my dying day) opened in theaters, a saucy little company in New York called Simulations Publications, Inc. (aka SPI) released a science fiction wargame called Freedom in the Galaxy.

This game has been described as the best Star Wars boardgame ever, despite the fact that it doesn't even acknowledge Star Wars or Mr. George Lucas (most likely owing to not being licensed...) The boys at SPI put thier heads together and came up with a star map and rules for both armies and characters to move about the map. One player is the rebellion, and needs to foment dissent on the various worlds. The other is the empire, and needs to seek out and crush the rebellion.

Now, while there are shorter scenarios, the meat of the game is in the full campaign. Since this is estimated at taking at least 20 hours, I really don't think I'm going to find somebody who is willing to play this (potentially) awesome game with me.

But. But I might find players who will be willing to play a roleplaying game, as part of the rebellion. I just need to adapt it to a roleplaying rules system, and I'm off.

Now, Wizards of the Coast have the license to make Star Wars. They seem to have slipped out another edition of the game, although whether that's because of D&D 4th or not, I don't know.

All I know is I have their first effort, and I really hate it.

Movies don't really map well to RPGs. The main story has been told. Sure, there may be side stories, but they are never as satisfying. And retracing the steps of, say, Han Solo just doesn't seem to be worth the effort -- by the time you've created your character, I'm already enjoying the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back on DVD. Not worth the effort.

But a whole new galaxy, a whole new enemy, whole new good guys -- now *that* has some potential!

I'm planning on using the original Traveller game for this one. (I'm not going to call it Classic Traveller, like others do, because that's not it's name. In a similar vein, I don't refer to Star Trek as "The Original Series," even to differentiate it from the others. Why? Because it was *first*, and the others can bloody well change THEIR names, WHICH THEY DID. But that's another rant.)

I've found the perfect expression of these rules to be somewhere between the original three books and the Traveller Book. So that's what I'll be using. No book 4; that's for people who just want to blow stuff up. No book 5; that's for large navy gearheads who would really rather be playing Trillion Credit Squadron. And so on.

And who knows? I might just end up with an actual scenario for this month's efforts.

Anyway, that's where I'm at right now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back from the Con II

Okay, so there was this kid and my character kicked his character in the ass.

He didn't want to write down the damage, but the DM insisted, so the kid grabbed his stuff and stormed out.

Couple of things I want to mention before going on:

1) The DM. He didn't take any sides in this matter; he was completely impartial. But I think he kinda got what was going on and approved of it. He's not the kind of DM to ever try to tell people how to play their character, but I know he gets frustrated when nobody listens to him.

2) The kid's brother. Another player in the game, and a few years older, this guy rides the kid frequently. He has him get him food, tells him to shut up, rags on him, etc. Fairly standard older brother behavior, but this kid is extending this to everybody, including me.

Hey, if you wanna hate me for something, make it for something I did, okay? And not because I remind you of somebody else.

So, if the kid wants to hate me for kicking his character in the ass, fine. But only for that.

Now, about half an hour, forty-five minutes later, the kid comes slinking back into the room, sets up his stuff, continues on like nothing happened.

Okay; it's that kind of game. He can do that.

The following day, the kid is talking but nobody's listening, so he calls out "Guys!" Okay, so now I'm listening -- and he stops talking. So I told him to go ahead.

He didn't, so I called him on it. You were talking, but you didn't get our attention, so I was ignoring you. Then you get our attention, but stop talking.

And then I said: "I say this as a friend."

Boy, he didn't know what to think of that!

"But you hate me!"

"No, I don't hate you. I was pissed off for something you did, so I dealt with it. But that's that. It's over."

I went on to explain that he had some good ideas, and was potentially a very good player. But he had to get his act together, and stop pissing people off, or they'd never find out if he was any good becasue they wouldn't want to play in the same game as him.

I'm not saying I single-handedly reformed the guy, but he was doing a lot better, socially, on the last day of the con. I think I really got him to think about what he was doing.

And the game was fun, too. Overall, I had a good con.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Back from the Con

I didn't spend the whole con at the game I mentioned in my last post. But I was there for all but about 4 hours of it (by Saturday night I really needed sleep. And then when I tried to sleep, I couldn't.)

I had fun, made 4th level, and kicked a kid in the ass who desperately needed it.

Now, I want to be clear here: I didn't kick a child. My character kicked his character in the ass.

Like a lot of today's younger gamers (and, sadly, some of the older ones), this kid didn't have the social skills one would expect of a normal human being. He interrupted, he ignored, he babbled, he complained.

He carried a tower shield everywhere, then attacked with his two-handed weapons and/or moved farther than he should. And that was just part of it.

I don't even remember what it was that specifically set me off, but at one point I had simply Had. Enough.

So I grabbed my d20 and told the DM "Alright, I'm kicking him in the ass. I'm rolling to hit!"

And I hit.

And I did 4 points of damage.

3 points were subdual damage, but the fourth was real; this is the way of these things.

Boy, was that kid pissed!

(Heading out from work now; I'll finish this later.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Here's the deal...

Okay, those of you who know me, even if only on the internet, know that I'm an old-school kind of guy.

But I do have one weakness...

There's this guy at my friendly not-so-local game store who runs a game at conventions (such as the one I'm at right now). It's a D&D 3.5 game and he is just running a series of modules. But I have so much fun at it!

Mostly, I like it when there are just a few other players and me. That's because many of those other players are kids.

I find myself in a position to pass on hard-fought wisdom from over 25 years of gaming.

(Also, back when I was first level, there was this Wizard who wanted to leave me for dead. I still give him crap about that...)

Plus, I'm playing a Bard, which gives me an excuse to make whatever lame-ass joke or pun I feel like, right there and then.

(As an aside, I used to play a bard named Jann in a 2nd ed game which became a 3rd ed game when that system was released. I had fun, but I didn't think that I was too overbearing. Well, one night I couldn't be there. The rest of the gang played, and they got along fine. The next week, they told me how they coped with my absence: Every 20 minutes or so, one or the other of them would say "Shut up, Jann!" and they'd get on with the game.

To this day, I'm not sure how to take that...)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

So, here it is, the second of the month, and I still have diddly squat for the World Adventure Writing Month.

But there's something floating around in the back of my brain...

I call it the back burner. I put the idea on to "simmer" back there, and sooner or later, it comes out done.

(I did papers that way back in school, too.)

I have the rest of the month.

But, on the other hand, I only have a few more days for the contest. Hope I can kill two birds with one stone!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In which I admit that I might not be an entirely analog gamer...

Nah, screw it, I still am.

When it comes to the important things, that is. Roleplaying games are played at a table, with your friends. Computers are tools; they will never replace the active imagination of a gamemaster. Period.

But, on the other hand, last night we picked up a Nintendo Wii.

Oh, my gawd!

There was one incident, in a tank game, which neither of us had yet played. The screen said there was one enemy tank. I traversed my turret and fired, bang!

And blew away my sweetie's tank.

She, meanwhile, was trying to understand what was supposed to happen. She hadn't even moved yet.

I didn't get a score, so I looked more closely at the screen -- and then, I finally saw the enemy tank I was supposed to shoot.


We laughed ourselves hoarse at that one. Seriously, it was nearly worth the price of the silly machine all by itself.

So yeah, for roleplaying, I'm still seriously analog. But for other things, I can see a point to digital...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In which I make what feeble contribution I can

I gotta admit: I'm a huge fan of the new fan-produced, old-school magazine Fight On! Loved the idea back when it was just an idea, loved the first issue, love the discussion surrounding the second issue.

For the first issue, I did an illustration. Not a good one, but one that was requested (albeit based one an earlier title for such a venture). (If you're curious and want to play along at home, it's on page 29.)

And then, issue two rolled around.

And I really wanted to contribute.

And -- I had nothing.

I was hoping for an article, or a game variant, or a scenario, or whatever. Anything but art. I'm not really an artist; I don't even play one on tv.

So, what did I finally come up with? A comic strip.

I gotta admit, I'm a huge fan of the old Finieous Fingers strip that ran in the early days of The Dragon. Let's take a stereotypical thief and see what happens with him in a typical D&D world. And a legend was born.

Now, I'm not gonna swipe such greatness; I couldn't do it justice. But I will allow myself to be inspired.

My character is a beginning Magic-User. You know, the old, traditional, one-spell-and-then-he-has-to-go-for-a-little-lie-down sort of Mage. I submitted my first strip today, and Calithena (the editor, or coordinator, or whatever) said they could use it.

So, yay! I'm gonna be a published cartoonist! Maybe someday, I'll be able to collect all the strips in a book like the Finieous Treasury (which was one of my best eBay purchases ever...)

Or, y'know, not. We'll see.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back to Reality

Okay, enough of this 4.0 nonsense.

I'm seriously looking at doing the Worldwide Adventure Writing Month this year. I've done NaNoWriMo for the past 4 years, so it's about time.

And, I have a confession to make: I've never written an adventure in my life.

Sure, I've run games. Many times. Occasionally, I'd use a published module. Or I'd design a "dungeon". Many many times, while running Champions, I'd just throw a villain or two out there and let the heroes beat the hell out of him.

But I never actually sat down and wrote out an adventure, something that someone else could use. And I think it's about time.

And, if I get it done fast enough, I can enter it into the Summer Adventure Contest that Fight On! and Otherworld Miniatures are sponsoring.

So, anyway, we'll see how that goes.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day II

In which I sucessfully make my saving throw vs. 4th edition.

Played the scenario; I was a cleric. Why, oh why, do they have to put a riddle as the first encounter? I was barely awake when I got there, so it wasn't easy.

And from then on it was all combat. There's stuff for every character to do, even the Wizard, but there's almost too much to do. And this was for first level characters.

Anyway, I didn't end up buying the 4th ed player's handbook. I really couldn't justify it; I don't think I'll ever actually play.

But I did get to see Dave Arneson, and he signed my First Fantasy Campaign, so that was pretty darn cool. And there was one of his original players there, Pete somebody (I knew I should have written that down...) He was a blast to talk to. Can't remember anything he said, but it was seriously groovy.

Anyway, that's about all for now.

Abstractions II

I've been thinking more about abstractions since my last post.

Back in the 80's, it seems like everything had to be nailed down. Also, it seemed like every one of us (I know there were exceptions; there always are, but most of us) wanted things nailed down.

Case in point: My highest level character back then was a Hobbit Master Thief. I know, I'm not supposed to call them Hobbits. Bull. TSR was not supposed to call them Hobbits; we did. Because they were. And because the Professor's heirs weren't part of our game, and we weren't causing him any loss of income (if anything, just the opposite).

Well, he built an estate. I took my graph paper and my pencil and planned it all out, with pantries, treasure stores, secret exits, the works.

Never used it.

But I had fun, making it. And this, I think, is the key: If you have fun making something, go ahead and make it (except a mess, of course...) But if you don't have fun, don't let some set of rules force you into something you don't want.

3.5 has a massive stat block for each NPC, monster, critter, etc. It drives me crazy. There's way too much information here, especially for an NPC. All I really need to know about this guy is his name and his attitude, and I can fake the name if need be.

Back in the day, we played lots of Traveller. Now, one of the "games" in Traveller was the starship building 'game'. It was lots of fun; you decided what you wanted a ship for, then build it by selecting a hull and cramming components into it. Afterward, you could easily tell the capabilities of the ship: If it was on the sheet, it could do it, and as well as rated. It was all there.

But nobody really needs that. A lot of people want it, and I used to be one of them. But I never needed it.

I learned that from the Space Fantasy supplement to Big Eyes, Small Mouth. Up until that point, spaceships simply were those things you had to detail in specific terms, period. But S.F. said essentially that "hey, if it's a mecha, fine; detail it. But if it's a set, then it's just a set and you can handwave the rest."

This was immensely liberating for a recovering rules-lawyer like myself. I started to question other methods of doing things, like having an entire world laid out before starting a campaign. I no longer believe that's necessary. It might make the campaign seem a bit less "real" when starting out, but beginning characters don't care about such stuff anyway, in my experience. Besides, when a player brings me a character concept that needs a specific type of place for its origin, I can just arbitrarily say "Sure! I have such a place; it's 200 miles to the west northwest."

They'll never know the difference anyway.

Anyway, that's what's been in my head this morning.

I'm heading off to Worldwide D&D Game Day in a minute. Hope things go well! See ya later.

Friday, June 6, 2008


James Maliszewski has a post over at his Grognardia blog about D&D's abstract combat.

I've already commented upon it, but I'd like to take the concept of abstraction in RPG design a bit further here.

One element of OD&D and AD&D that I frequently see taken out by well-meaning DMs is the aspect of Experience Points for treasure. Gary Gygax once defended this practice by saying that the loot is what the characters are going there for in the first place; it fits to use that as a measure of the experience derived.

(Okay, I'm seriously paraphrasing here; I don't have the exact quote handy at the moment.)

I have to say that I agree.

Others don't; the common refrain is "Big deal, so you picked up a huge ruby worth 5000 gp. How exactly does that make you a better fighter?"

Directly speaking, it doesn't. But I have a counter-question:

So, Mr. first level magic-user, you've already used your one spell today and now you're sticking your dagger in an orc's back. How exactly does this make you a better spellcaster? Or mister cleric, bashing in a kobold's skull; how exactly does this make you better able to turn undead?

The answer in all of these cases is: It doesn't. It's simply a useful referent. You defeat certain challenges, you gain the rewards of experience.

This has been taken way too far in 3.x. The only XP you get is for defeating (i.e.; killing) monsters; treasure "is it's own reward". That's all well and good, if you want to end up with a bunch of psychopathic killing machines instead of characters.*

If you can get 100,000 gp worth of treasure from, say, a dragon, by means of trickery, stealth, and damn good roleplaying, I say it should be worth the XP. You're actually using the skills and such you've learned dungeon crawling for the purpose every adventurer holds most dear: Wealth! Plus, think of the story you'll have to tell!

On the other hand, if you just run in there and kill the dragon (and an experienced group of murderous thugs can usually do this in a couple of rounds, max, at least in AD&D...), it shouldn't be worth anywhere near as much. It certainly won't be as valued, nor make for such good story fodder.

It really depends on what you want to reward your players for.

Now that I think about it, I'm almost tempted to give an option to any future players I might have. You can decide, as a group, whether you want to get experience for:

a) Treasure gained, or

b) Monsters slain.

Option a will not only lead to faster advancement, it will show the players that they can have a good time, develop their characters, and not have to kill everything in sight.

Option b will be the status quo, slow advancement, players killing everything around (including, when they really need those extra few points, each other...) and a bloodthirsty, boring game.

Do we really want that? 'Cause I don't.

Anyway, there; I said it. Let the flamewar commence.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

* And there's something fishy about advancement in 3.5, anyway. I've never run the game, so I didn't know this until recently: The DMG warns against more than 3 encounters per day, because that's when characters start to die.

Okay, now, the established goal is 13.3 appropriate encounters per level. So, follow along here:

We go out Monday and have three encounters. Same Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Friday, during our first encounter, we all level up. Ding! We continue on for two more encounters. Saturday there are three more; we rest on Sunday.

Monday, 3 encounters, same Tuesday, same Wednesday, but we level up around midday.

It's been a week and a half and the party is now 3rd level. Another week and a half and they'll be fifth.

Three weeks to fifth level? That makes 12 weeks (3 months!) to 21st (which, as you'll recall, is Epic Level).

Am I the only one who thinks this is whacked?

Worldwide D&D Game Day

Worldwide D&D Game Day is tomorrow. I'll be going to The Source, my friendly if not-so-local game store to participate.

They'll be releasing 4th edition, so I'll be able to check it out. I predict that I'll buy a Player's Handbook, just to have one. (I've already determined that I won't want to run the game.)

If I think 4e totally blows, you can expect a massive rant about it sometime this weekend. If I don't I'll probably mention it briefly on Monday.

I'm also planning to bring my three little books along, so I can run a dungeon in case they need more DMs. I didn't plan this in advance with the store or anything; I should have. But you never know.

But mostly, I'm kind of excited about seeing Dave Arneson again. He's the guy who started it all. He was there last year (October, 2007) and I had him sign my Blackmoor and Dungeonmaster's Index. I couldn't think of a single damn question to ask him (and I felt like a fool...) This year, I have his First Fantasy Campaign, so that's next on the autograph list. I'm also putting out a general call for any questions any of you might have for him. Let me know (by tonight, please; I can't guarantee I'll look at this in the morning).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Oh, yeah, and the other thing I wanted to mention but didn't:

I love the fact that Tunnels & Trolls has solo adventures. I picked up four of them from DriveThru, and I can't wait to play them!

Never Trust your Friends

Back in my formative years in the RPG hobby, my group was compose of old-timers (who had started with those weird little brown booklets...) and kids. The kids were called munchkins (or, more commonly, munchies) and were given no respect until they had earned it. They did so by playing their character well and not ticking off the old-timers at the table.

I was 20 or 21 or so when I joined the group, and still had my crew cut from when I'd tried to join the National Guard (but they wouldn't take me; too nearsighted). So I didn't look like a kid. In the world of D&D, remember, I was a babe in the woods. But they gave me the benefit of the doubt, so I was accepted as an adult. (It helped that I could sit still, pay attention, and not interrupt...)

Now, these old-timers knew way much more about everything to do with roleplaying than I did; although I owned a few games* I had never actually played any of them. So I took what they said as gospel.

They didn't use the Arduin Grimoire; that was some way-out stuff. So I didn't even bother looking at it.

And they wouldn't play Tunnels & Trolls; it was "just a cheap knockoff of D&D". So I didn't even look at that.

Well, recently I've gotten volumes II and III of Arduin, and there's some interesting stuff. I can see why they wouldn't use it: There was a belief that if something was out there, you had to use it. If you allowed even one class from Arduin in your game, you would have to accept everybody else, with whatever outrageous twit character** they came up with. (I don't know why this was, mind you; nor was it ever explicitly stated. But the rules lawyers were all over the place...)

So I missed out on the gonzo whackiness of Arduin, and also the simplicity and ease of Tunnels & Trolls.

So I'm kinda retroactively pissed.

I got the Tunnels & Trolls boxed set of 5th edition (actually, 5.5). And I love it.

Sure, it isn't as complex as AD&D, or even D&D. But to me, that's a good thing. Throughout the book, designer Ken St. Andre keeps reminding you that you are the GM, and that you get to come up with whatever you want. Oh, and to have fun!

This was not the attitude I noticed in the D&D books. (I mean, we did have fun; it's just that we weren't specifically reminded to do so.) It's handy to have that in there for when you're digging through the rules late at night, wondering why on earth you're putting yourself through all this stuff.

Because it's fun. And because, through your efforts, others (your players) can have fun also.

[People have accused me of not growing up. Well, if growing up means not having fun anymore, than I don't wanna.]

Anyway, I'm going through a real retro renaissance here. OD&D is just the tip of the iceberg for me. I've also recently gotten Metamorphosis Alpha 1e (pdf, alas), Gamma World 1e, Champions 1e (I started on 2e...) and the original three Traveller books (I had the revised ones.)

And I'm loving it.

I want to create scenarios for each of these games, and just travel around to game stores and conventions with my big bad bag of old school goodness, ready to run a game at the drop of a hat. I'm not sure if that's feasible, but I can dream, can't I?

Anyway, to get back to the subject of this post: Never trust your friends. That is, when you can check it out for yourself. (Though there are some things you can trust your friends on; I wish I'd listened to them when a certain female came along...)

_ _ _ _ _ _
* Specifically: The Fantasy Trip, Top Secret, Traveller, and the Basic and Expert D&D Rulebooks (Moldvay/Cook editions)

** That group's particular terminology for a game breaker, something that shouldn't be allowed or was too overpowered. A 15th level Wizard in a 3rd level game, for instance. Or any Wizard that was proficient with and carried a vorpal sword. That sort of thing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Some of my cantankerous old-fart views on RPGing

This may be a bit rambly, since I'm trying to organize my thoughts here (and trying to get it done on my lunch break...), so bear with me.

D&D 4th edition is about to be released.

The fact that this has people up in arms puzzles me a bit.

Sure, there are things I don't like about 3.x; there are always things I don't like. There will undoubtedly be things I don't like about 4.0, too. You wanna know a secret? There are things I don't like about AD&D, also.

I don't run AD&D.

I have the boxed set of Castles & Crusades (the "collector's edition" -- a typo-ridden mess that harks back to OD&D, but not in a good way), and it looks entirely playable. I may run that some day.

But I won't run the full C&C.

Nor will I run 4.0.

All of this is for the same reason: I don't wanna get bogged down in extra stuff.

I'm clairvoyant, you see; I can see the future. Here's how it would go:

I sit down and write up an AD&D (or C&C) adventure for 4-6 players, expecting the four basic classes to be well represented.

I sit down to run said adventure, and find myself looking at two Illusionists, a Ranger, and Assassin, and a Druid.

And, probably, a Monk.

And I don't want that. I don't want any of that.

* Illusionists, in my opinion, are the bad guys. They mess with Conan's head, until he kills them (or precipitates someone else killing them).

* The Ranger is a loner/archer sort, we've all seen them. Refuses to get into melee whatsoever, and prefers to go off on his own. Will not speak to the others in the party.

* Assassin: Again, the bad guy. And not to speak ill of the dead, but Gygax gives two completely different readings of the Assassination Table in the DMG. One, my preferred reading, is this: If you don't want to role-play sending an NPC assassin off on a job, you can use this table to see if he'd successful or not. The other, which all the PC Assassins lean toward, is "Hey, I can use this table instead of the whole combat system and get automatic kills in the dungeon!" Either way, I don't want it.

* The Druid would probably be okay, but Druids these days are a lot like militant Vegans (not all Vegans, mind you; I'm specifically referring to the militant ones...). Go ahead and kill a fellow human, or elf, or goblin or whatever; that's fine. But if you needlessly step on a blade of grass and crush it, I'll roast you over a slow and entirely magical fire (because fallen logs should be just left to rot and not burned at all in any way...) Sorry, Druids, but I don't buy that.

* The Monk gets a pass in OD&D, but not in AD&D. Gygax was specific that these were different games, and it shows. AD&D has a specifically quasi-Medieval Europe tone to it. Monks don't belong in this environment (except the cloistered version that breeds peas and copies manuscripts). In OD&D, particularly Blackmoor, Monks were some of the least of the oddities involved, and the game was better because of it.

So, I looked at running 3.x. Then I looked at running AD&D. (I skipped over 2E entirely). I went so far as to decide to only run S. John Ross's wonderful rpg-lite Risus. But there's something about D&D that keeps me coming back.

I picked up copies of Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert rules in my friendly local used book store (and for less than I paid for the originals, back in 1981). But even that had things I didn't like.

Bottom line, America: The more I pared away, the closer I came to OD&D. And that's part of why I'm an old-school-game gamer. I like a bunch of really old games, like OD&D, Top Secret, Traveller, Tunnels & Trolls, and the early editions of Champions. Partly because of their simplicity (as ranted about above), but also because of their attitude.

"Take me," they say, "you and I can have lots of fun together!"

Whereas a lot of the new games these days are different:

"Study me!" they bellow. "I'm friggin' homework!" (Remind me sometime to tell you how and why a setting like the original folio of Greyhawk was perfect but how today's settings are evil...)

I'm also an Old School gamer. I believe the game belongs to the GM, and the players had better realize it. He who quotes and/or argues rules at me had better learn to duck. Dave Arneson had the right of it: "If I change a rule that makes it official." I'm not here to pander to their basest tastes, to their predilection for weird subclasses.

I'm here to test them in the fires of the dungeon, and see what comes out: True forged steel, or mere wisps of smoke.

And no matter what rule set you're using, that's the old school way.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Initial post

Okay, to be fair: I don't drink as much coffee as I used to. But I still drink some.

It's just that Coffee is my screen name on a couple of sites, mainly the Original D&D Discussion.

But back in the day...

When I started regularly playing D&D, back in '83 (it was actually AD&D, but we just called it D&D), we didn't do much of that "character development" or "deep immersion" stuff at the table. The table was for putting out the lead (and even occasionally moving it; it was mostly there to mark the marching order) and rolling the dice. We'd fight and explore and fight and suchlike for several hours. And then we'd pack up our goodies and turn out the lights.

And then, we'd go out for coffee.

This is where the real role-playing occurred. We'd have entire conversations in character. We'd also discuss what happened that evening, what could have gone better, what we did or didn't like. This could go on for another three hours or more if we weren't careful.

There were some of us who had entire histories for our characters, along with family trees and coats of arms and such. And there were others who had to be pointedly asked when they were going to name their characters.

One of these guys was only that way as a player; but he was a pretty darn good DM. He also lived a block away, so I'd frequently go visit him of an evening. And yes, the coffee pot was always on. To this day, if I visit, the first thing he does is grabs me a cup of coffee.

So, yeah, coffee and my roleplaying past are intertwined. That's why I felt it was a good name for a blog about roleplaying.

The other part, the analog part, I stole from Wil Wheaton. Yes, that Wil Wheaton; the one who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's also a gamer. And it was from his blog that I got the term "analog gamer" for my hobby; it lets those computer gamers know right away that I'm not one of them. I don't have the time or the inclination for computer games (and, for the most part, I don't have the manual dexterity. I get killed immediately in every first person shooter I've ever tried, and the words Real Time Strategy on a game let me know that I'll get slaughtered in a timely fashion by a merciless computer that can execute it's strategic commands faster than I can.)

Don't get me wrong; I'll use computers. I'll even use them as an adjunct to roleplaying. But I don't do computer games, aside from a few versions of Solitaire.

So, there you have it.