Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas to me!

Hmm, been a while since I posted. Well, I can take care of that!

One thing I always try to do around this time of year is find something special for one of my favorite gamers: Me. (I figure if I get myself something, I probably won't be disappointed.)

I've long been searching for a good 'space' science fiction game. Traveller has long been a favorite, but it carries way too much baggage (not to mention being completely unbalanced and annoyingly gearhead-y. But that's a whole other rant). I never played Star Frontiers. I bought StarSiege: Event Horizon, but something about it just rubs me the wrong way.

And then, a while back, I was (as usual) reading Jeff's Gameblog. And he mentioned X-plorers.

X-plorers is a rules-light science fiction game from Grey Area Games. I took a look at it on Lulu, and it looked right up my alley.

So, when Fight On! number 7 came out, and I went to order it, I got X-plorers as well.

The next day, Grognardia did a full review of it. I hadn't known about the free version. To be fair, though, I would have bought it in print anyway. I'm not going to try to recap James M's review; click the link and read it yourself. But I will give my own comments.

What's not to love? It's rules light, which is always a plus. It's OGL (to an extent), so it's based one familiar stuff. Advancement is minimal (compared to the tweaked-out piles of numbers I saw in D&D 3.5...) There are no aliens as yet (shades of Asimov, right there). And the robots can't harm humans (good heavens, more Asimov, right off the bat!)

In short, this seems to be the game I've wanted my whole life.

With the resurgence of the old school movement and their whole do-it-yourself ethos, stuff I might otherwise have complained was missing is now simply an opportunity for me to imagine the hell out of it. There's a lot less crunch than, say, Traveller. But that's okay; having been through the crunch of Traveller I'm better able to look at the stuff that's there (like starships) and tweak and mod the rules myself.

And it's okay that I do that. In fact, it's encouraged! This is a real old-school attitude, and one that I really like. Plus they seem really friendly over at the forum and the Yahoo! group.

So, now I just have to round up some players and give it a shot. I think I'll really like it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sometimes, the rules can work FOR the party...

So, we were ambushed by kobolds.

This is fairly standard for a first level dungeon; they're kobolds, that's what they do. It's the only way they can survive.

But they didn't kill anybody, so they got killed themselves, all but one who ran off.

Unconcerned, we continued on our merry way. Until we came to a door, one that wouldn't open no matter what we tried. We made a lot of noise trying to open it, and the DM (Kesher) told us so.

"It'll attract monsters," he said.

So I had an idea:

"Fine, let it! We'll hide and ambush them!" And someone else (sorry, I don't remember who) said "And we'll wait until they open the door!"

So that's what we did. Doors open for monsters, even when they don't open for player characters.

So we ended up ambushing the kobolds this time and killing off some more of them. And we got the door open, to boot! I love it when things work out like that.

Sadly, however, while searching the Wizard's room, Melvin opened the wardrobe and was immediately bitten by a large, black snake. Failed his save vs. poison, and Melvin is no more. The party continued searching the room long enough for me to roll up a new character, equip him, and enter the dungeon and catch up with him. That's when my new character (a magic-user) asked "Who is the dead guy, and why haven't you looted the body yet?" So another fighter got Melvin's +1 sword, which was kinda cool.

One little gripe I do have about the game is the way everything changes all the time. Now we're using a different system for magic. I mean, sure, it's interesting to see the different ideas that come up, but at some point I'd like to just PLAY instead of PLAYTEST every time. Ah, well. I guess that's what other games are for.

(Don't get me wrong -- I do enjoy the game. I just don't want to have to learn new rules every session, that's all.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Nostalgia Gaming

I'm proud to be a part, in my own small way, of the Old School Renaissance. I've long thought that games were getting too complex, that we didn't really need the endless rules, the endless supplements and splatbooks, the endless endlessness.

On the other hand, if a game isn't supported, it dies. How many people do you know who still play Star Frontiers? Or Top Secret, a clunky but awesome game I used to love.

Okay I have to admit, when people accuse us of "nostalgia gaming", I get a little irate. But in my calmer moments, I do have to admit that there's more than a little truth to it. At least, for me there is. (I don't want people to think I'm speaking for anyone else.)

What brought this on, you may ask?

Well, I've rediscovered an old love. Not a girlfriend; my wife is my one and only in that area. No, it's the first role-playing game I ever bought any of.

It isn't D&D. While that was among the first, it wasn't the very first. In fact, I resisted playing D&D for quite a while, simply because it has rules quirks that take some getting used to.

No, this was Steve Jackson's very first rpg, called The Fantasy Trip.

Where D&D was quirky, this was streamlined. Where D&D was vague, this was concrete. (As a reviewer in Isaac Asimov's Science Ficion Magazine said "Four hexes are four hexes and that gargoyle is either in your way or he isn't.")

But I couldn't get anyone interested in it.

Sure, there was this one time. I got the "second string" if you will, of my gaming group, to give it a try. (The "first string" were the really cool older guys, who had been around since the little brown books. They would occasionally try something else, but were steadfast D&D men to the last.) We tried it out, and while it was okay, it wasn't sufficiently different to warrant a change.

I still like it, though, because it was so different from D&D. Things made sense. I'm kind of a big fan of making sense, but then I've always been a science fiction guy more than a fantasy guy. In fantasy, you can just say "it's magic" and get away with it. SF was always more rigorous, in that if you postulate certain changes in what we currently understand about the universe, the technology in question would actually work, whether it be warp drive, teleportation, or ray guns.

(I'm not trying to say that SF was in any way better; just different, just something I preferred. Put the rocks down.)

So, The Fantasy Trip (or TFT, for short), was kind of like the science fiction version of fantasy, if you take my meaning. There were spells, and you could put these specific spells into magic items. No more "What spell do I need to make a flaming sword?" or suchlike, that you got in D&D.

And combat was codified. You had your movement allowance, and if you moved too far, you couldn't attack. If you were engaged, you could shift one hex, but that was it.

Does any of this sound familiar? Add in Feats and you have a version of 3rd edition D&D, right here. No wonder I was so enamored of it when it came out. (That's right; I said it. The bloom didn't come off the rose until well into 3.5, with the endless stream of supplements.)

So now I see some of what others didn't like about TFT, especially as compared to D&D. It didn't have that same sense of wonder. It didn't feel like "anything could happen."

There was, in short, no serious weirdness.

Because I've since learned that that's the hallmark of pulp fantasy (or swords & sorcery, or whatever...) You need to get your serious weirdness on, of you just haven't got it.

And that, I think, is where I fall down as a DM. I'm not in touch with the serious weirdness. I may lack the gene for it, or something. I'm still more of a science fiction guy, even though the world has moved into more of a fantasy phase. (I'm not worried, though; I expect the pendulum will swing back again.)

So I may try to run TFT. Just don't expect it to be D&D, though. It is what it is. (I may just run the wargames, Melee and Wizard -- possibly at a convention. That would be cool. I think these old games need more love than they're getting.)

Because I do feel a large rush of nostalgia from some of my old games.

Make no mistake, I still do like them better because they're simpler, more "elegant" (if I can get away with using that word), more downright accessible to the busy gamer who doesn't have a fortnight to read and digest a three hundred page player's handbook before starting a game. I don't think the modern trend toward "bigger is better" is a good thing.

And I still really really hate "collectible" games of any stripe.

So, in the final analysis, am I a Nostalgia Gamer? Sure, to some extent.

But I've never seen much reason to distinguish between types of gamers. Aren't we all pretty much alike, when you get right down to it?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shot to Death by Canon

And no, that's not a typo.

By canon, of course, I mean the sheer amount of baggage that any game or game system gathers as it grows. And they do tend to grow, don't they?

Sure, lots of disgruntled fanboys like to say that the company is out to gouge them for all they're worth, and that's why they keep putting out supplements and magazines and things like that. And there may be some of that.

But I think it's far more likely that when people find a game they really like, they play it to death. And their experience soon outstrips the possibilities of the basic version of the game, so they add to it. (Some people do this before they even start playing, but they are exceptions. I hope.)

And, as a result, you end up with tons of additional material. Any given piece of it, surely, is just one addition and won't change things much (if at all). It's like a pinch of salt in your soup: It enhances the flavor but doesn't change it.

Add fifteen, twenty years of additional "salt" and you have an inedible mess, only of any use to the hardcore gamer who stuck with it forever. Hard for a new guy to get involved in this, ain't it?

And all of that stuff becomes canon. And once something is canon, it cannot ever be changed (although possibly retconned, which is a whole other rant). It must be debated and/or argued, but never changed and never ignored. Hey, just ask the die-hard Traveller cognoscenti.

You might think (with some justification) that I'm talking about D&D/AD&D/WOTC's 3 & 4e. I could be, but I'm not.

I'm talking about Car Wars.

One of the niftiest games ever, the original edition of the game is a classic of compact design and mind-expanding possibilities. And the whole game is a textbook case of a game spiraling out of control and growing exponentially, until the point of the basic game is nearly obscured.

See, originally it was about fighting, car to car. You get in your car and I get in mine, and we go out on the road (or into the arena, whatever) and we duke it out.

But that was only the half of it! The bulk of the time people spend on the game as a rule is in the vehicle design part of the game. Only today, with the fifth edition, you don't even have a design system! (Hmm -- that may be why the Rules Compendium (aka 4th edition) is now available on Steve Jackson's pdf store, e23. But it's not for beginners...)

But there's just too much of it. I went along buying the games and some of the supplements, right up until the original Deluxe Edition. And that's where I stopped. I didn't need gasoline engines, or freakin' Boat Wars for crying out loud. (Truth to tell, I had almost had enough of the really tiny pedestrian counters -- but that's a subject for another post...)

So I took a cue from the Old School Renaissance. I decided to get back to basics, to reboot 2031 if you will. So I got on eBay and got a copy of the old pocket box (actually the third edition, but in the grand scheme of things it's considered the third printing of the first edition, if you take my meaning). It's not enough, though; I subsequently found a copy of the FIRST first edition (the ziplock bag edition that came out before the pocket box; it's on it's way to me from Noble Knight Games).

And I designed my own area, which debuted tonight.

It was the first game ever for my wife, and my first game in probably 20 years. The arena is a figure 8, so there's an intersection. The levels don't change, so everybody crosses right there. Well, Herself wanted to see what happened if she swerved in front of me. What happened was a collision, with a closing speed of 65mph. That means 8 dice of damage -- to my front armor but her side armor (and, as it turns out, her power plant and driver as well, fatally for the driver).

So, we didn't even make a complete circuit. But the arena now has a name: Crash Crossing. You can see the whole thing is the out-of-focus long shot; the final position (mine was the green car) in the other shot. (As usual click to embiggen.)

(For the curious, we each had a stock Joseph Special, with no modifications whatsoever.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clerics, Alignment, and things like that

There are these people in France, you see. And they've decided to build a castle.

Sure, I hear you say. Them and William Randolph Hearst (or was that Charles Foster Kane?). Seems like everybody with a couple of million dollars to rub together wants to build a castle.

I've been in the SCA; the topic of discussion whenever anybody discussed the Lottery was what sort of castle they'd build if they won. (Not whether; only what sort.)

And that always seemed a bit off to me.

Okay, so these people in France are using actual Medieval construction methods and no new technology. Great for a research project, but still a bit off.

Y'see, the main, major, life-changing, everybody-and-their-brother-gets-involved construction project of the Middle Ages was NOT the construction of castles. They were a dime a dozen; anybody with a pair of spurs to his name built one of those.

No, the real big deal in construction back then was a cathedral.

(See how I got Clerics in there? Pretty sneaky, huh?)

Now, a lot of people in the old school renaissance (okay, on the Original D&D Discussion Forum, and really not all that many, but go with me here) want to do away with the poor Cleric. "He's just not Swords & Sorcery," they say, "he's just not pulp."

Well, no, he's not. But he's very Middle Ages.

The one constant in the Middle Ages was the church. Kings would come and go, local lords, populations, etc. Even your parish priest, or his boss the Bishop (dun duh duh DUH dun! Sorry.) They might come and go. But the old mother church? Always there. Omnipresent. Churches were more than a place to kill an hour on Sunday. You went there for village meetings, christenings, weddings, funerals -- everything! It was THE social center of the Middle Ages (and the reason they didn't invent Facebook back then.)

So, why is the Cleric not shown more love? It's because they are invariably treated as a combat medic, the guy with the band-aids, nothing more. And I think that's just sad. (Not that I haven't done it, mind you. But as often I'd be the guy playing the Cleric.)

So, how do we reconcile this? The Fighting-Man is a blast to play at low levels, because he can always do stuff. The Magic-User is a blast (literally...) at high levels, because he can lay waste to everything at a whim. And what can the Cleric do?

Well, for one thing, he can turn undead. That's nothing to sneeze at. (BTW: For those of you playing with the Moldvay/Cook or later rules, you seriously need to look at the earlier rule sets. When you turn, you don't roll 2d6 for the number of hit dice of undead you turn; you roll 2d6 for the number of undead you turn. Otherwise, you'd only ever be able to turn a grand total of one (1) vampire, since they have 9 hit dice. Do the math for yourself; you'll see.) Those level drains (if you'll pardon the expression) suck!

But there's more than that. Clerics can perform masses (such as the last rights, which you'll need if you aren't on your toes). They can hear confessions (which you'll need; see previous point). And they provide a great amount of conflict to a game.

What's that you say? That it's up to the monsters to provide the conflict? Why, gentle reader, who on earth do you think I'm talking about?

Y'see, there are these guys called Anti-Clerics. It's right there in Men & Magic, page 34:

Note: There are Anti-Clerics (listed below) who have similar powers to Clerics. Those Clerical spells underlined on the table for Cleric Spells have a reverse effect, all others functioning as noted. The chief exception is the Raise Dead spell which becomes:

The Finger of Death: Instead of raising the dead, this spell creates a "death ray" which will kill any creature unless a saving throw is made (where applicable). Range: 12". (A Cleric-type may use this spell in a life-or-death situation, but misuse will immediately turn him into an Anti-Cleric.)

Anti-Clerics: Evil Acolyte, Evil Adept, Shaman, Evil Priest, Evil Curate, Evil Bishop, Evil Lama, Evil High Priest.

Where do these guys hang out? In dungeons only? I don't think so!

When I was starting out in adventure gaming, in the 80's (yeah, I'm old; get over it. I have.) I would play pretty much any game which looked interesting. So I got Steve Jackson's Illuminati! because it looked cool. And later on, I picked up the Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (and immediately understood more about The Fantasy Trip, but that's another story...)

Anyway, there's a point in there with a Satanic ceremony, and one of the characters says that a lot of Satanists get positions in Catholic churches so they can steal consecrated items to desecrate in their rituals.

That's what an Anti-Cleric would do. (Remember, in OD&D, there's no Know Alignment spell...)

So: Law is the good guys and Chaos is the bad guys (see, you knew I'd bring Alignment into this...) Well, the Christian Church is based on the Bible. Why couldn't the D&D Church be based on, I dunno, "The Book of the Law?" This would be a Bible-equivalent for a D&D world. Anti-Clerics (chaotic) would profess piety, but secretly work toward the downfall of the church. (Check out the Bishop dude in the movie Ladyhawke. An EHP if I ever saw one. And don't even get me started on Cardinal Richelieu...) And of course the Lawful (i.e.; good guy) Clerics would be on the watch against ALL THE EVIL IN THE WORLD. Including, of course, the Anti-Clerics.

(I'm not advocating McCarthyism, but wouldn't that be a fun scenario for you push-the-envelope type DMs? "The Inqui-SI-tion, what a show!")

Anyway, that's how I'd run D&D if I ever run D&D. (I've been toying with the notion of running a game on the aforementioned OD&D Discussion Forum. If I did, would any of you reading this now be interested in playing? I'm just curious.)

And that's what I have to say on that. Not especially earth-shaking, I know, but hey, I'm just one blogger.

And now, I think I'll have another beer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Overcoming inertia and new pictures!


I've gotta say, it seems my only problem in working on games and gaming related matters is to just get started. I have this incredible inertia -- if I'm at rest I really tend to stay at rest.

On the other hand, once I get going, watch out! I do tend to get going much like a juggernaut, running over everything in my path.

Case in point: One page wilderness and quarter-page villages. See previous posts.

Another case: Painting figures. I have a bunch of new ones pictured here, all done in the last few days. Seriously, I've done more gaming related stuff (painting, writing, etc.) in the past week than in any week since my gaming heyday of the mid 80's. It's pretty cool.

Anyway, at the top we have some new fighting-men. (As usual, click to embiggen.) These are designed to be player character types, but can be stand-ins for NPCs should the need arise.

Next are some more undead types, to bolster the skeletons I painted quite a while ago. I don't honestly know what D&D monster type these guys are supposed to represent. Are they wights? Wraiths? If anyone has any suggestions, I'm open...

And then we have a goblin standard-bearer. What? Why would you need a standard bearer? You only need them if you army.

(See what I mean about getting a lot done?)

Bloomin' 'ell, 'e's done it again!

Well, this one page thing seems to have gotten in my blood. I was worried about those villages, you see, in the Barony of Northmarch. I didn't want them to go out into the world without some more attention, so I hacked Chgowiz's lovely dungeon level template and made a village template. Well, sort of. Take a look; it's here, on my Google Docs (and I think I set it up so anybody can get it, but I'm not sure).

In other news, I went to a birthday party today. The guest of honor was an old DM of mine who I haven't seen in a couple of years -- and haven't gamed with in far longer. Well, his son has been bugging him to do some DMing (he's probably the most Gygaxian DM I ever knew). And he might join us for Kesher's Otherness game sometime. That'd be cool.

And in other other news, I'll have more pictures up, probably Sunday night. I've been painting again...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Northmarch (One-Page Wilderness) reposted

Thanks to Kesher, Northmarch is now also available here!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Pictures -- as promised!

Here they are, my new pictures. As usual, click to enlarge.

For those of you who read my last post, you'll understand why I didn't get more painting done. But I got the important stuff done, at least for Kesher's Otherness game: I got a figure painted for my character, Melvin. He's the guy in plate and the red and white surcoat on the end. I also painted my other Mage figure, because we have two of them in the party (and now we'll have two painted figures). And the dwarf, because we have a dwarf (sometimes).

I have an elf and some more human fighter types to paint up before the next game (maybe more than one elf -- we seem to have a few of them).

We haven't faced any orcs yet, but when we do, I have some figures ready!

One Page Wilderness

Since everybody else in the old school renaissance seems to be putting out their own one-page items, dungeons, cities, wildernesses, even whole games!), I thought I'd join in the frenzy.

Actually, it was a guy on the Original D&D Discussion forum that got me started. He said what I felt, that he had the creativity of a lump of mud. Well, he doesn't and neither do I.

So I took it as a challenge, and here it is: The Barony of Northmarch.

You can get the pdf here (which gives a legend for these symbols, as well as an encounter table and hex by hex descriptions).

Thanks to Chgowiz, for the One Page template.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

There will be more pictures...soon

I had the day off from work today. And I'll have tomorrow off, too. The warehouse I work at is moving, and all our stock is on trucks, waiting for the pallet racking to be installed, which will happen tomorrow.

So, having some time on my hands, I primed a whole bunch of my figures today. Tonight, I started (barely) painting my orcs. Since I have tomorrow off as well, I hope to finish the orcs and do the goblins and the rest of the undead.

So, there will be pictures of the rest of the Caesar Fantasy miniatures line coming in the near future!

Monday, September 14, 2009

More gaming

You may remember this post. Or you may not. Anyway, they have a permanent opening in this game so they gave me a call. So now I have two games (in addition to various online things), although neither of them is weekly.

So, Yay! It's a good year for gaming, apparently.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I can has table!


Finally, after all these years, I have in my own home a table big enough that I can host a gaming-type activity. I also have six matching chairs (not shown). That's enough for a game, just not a huge game. To show the size of the table I took a pretty universal constant: The Holmes-edit D&D Basic Set box. Everybody should be able to judge relative size from that.

This was my dining room table while I was growing up. We moved Dad out of the house two years ago now, after Mom died, and we've been cleaning it out and hoping to sell it. But in this economy, and in that market, I don't know.

But I do know that I can has table!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Booklets! Pictures! Pictures of Booklets!

This is in response to Jeff's Gameblog, wherein he posted pictures of his booklets. Now I have to do the same, so here you go.

These are my D&D books, printed from the pdfs. But these are different. These are the deluxe versions.

I got the leather-style heavy paper for the covers as packing material in something at work, there were about 10 or so of them (and several have already gone away, so I'm nearly out...). The interior pages are done on parchment paper I had for a calligraphy project (that never went anywhere, but so what). The open booklet is on a piece of white paper to show the difference in color of the pages.

Hope you like them!

And finally, a picture of my new dice rolling area for taking to conventions. Cost in materials: five bucks at WalMart. The looks on people's faces: I hope it will be priceless. If you can't read the sign (I can't), it says "Kids! Stay off my lawn." (See, 'cause I'm older than they are and ... well, either you get it or you don't...)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fight On #6!

Fight On! number 6 is out, both in print and PDF. I haven't read every page yet, but it looks at least as good as the previous issues. There are some very nifty things this time, as well as another Education of a Magic-User (which introduces a new character!)

Check it out at all the usual places.

Monday, July 27, 2009


It was a quiet day around the house, yesterday. Up until, that is, the phone rang.

After establishing that I was who I am, the called finally identified himself. He's an acquaintance and fellow gamer. A while back he said in his blog that he was starting an AD&D 1e game, so I asked if he had room for one more player. He didn't.

But yesterday, four of his seven players couldn't make it. So he wanted to know if I was available.

I sure was! After checking with Herself to be sure we could swing it, I agreed and later set off to play. I was running somebody else's Halfling Thief, and I think I did okay. There was some talk of another guy having to drop out, and they might make me a permanent member of the group if that happens. So I might have another regular game to play in.

That would be nice.

Or, I could get references from past GMs and set up my own Gamer Temps service, like in Knights of the Dinner Table.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Seems like just a couple of posts ago, I was telling you that Fight On! Number 5 was out.

(Oh, hey, it WAS just a couple of posts ago!)

Anyway, Fight On! Number 6 is on the horizon -- I can tell, because I just got my comic strip submitted (that's The Education of a Magic-User, for those of you who missed it in earlier posts). I haven't hit a deadline yet, so I'm still on track there.

However, this one is different: Calithena, the guy to whom I submit the thing, said (and I quote): "This one is quite funny."

That's a good thing for a cartoonist to hear! It beats the heck out of no comment at all. Actually, other than people saying they're looking forward to it, I haven't received a whole lot of comments at all.

Which is still better than "It's not funny" or "I don't get it" I suppose. Ah, well. At least Herself believes in me, and that's really all I need. Because ultimately I'm doing this for myself; when I start doing it specifically for others (as opposed to for myself), then I'll have to quit, because it'll be work and not fun.

But right now? It's still a lot of fun!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A tale of two bands, and the gaming connection thereto

A few years back, my nephew wanted to see this one band live in concert. They were playing at the University, not too far from me. The problem was, the boy was just 18 and his mother didn't want him coming to the Big Bad Twin Cities all by his lonesome.

So she asked if I'd go with him. She'd buy my ticket; she just wanted a chaperone for the boy.

Well, it's family, so what could I do? I went.

We had seats at the very top of the arena. I was in the very last row, so I could hardly see the performers. But it was sure loud enough; I didn't have to worry about hearing them.

I didn't care for the band (they weren't bad, they just weren't what I like). It was crowded. It was smoky. It wasn't a pleasant experience for me. I could have lived without it.

Another time, many years before this, I went to a party with some friends. At this party, the entertainment was a band which contained the brother of the girlfriend of one of my friends.

Again, it was loud; this time so loud I just stood near a wall and felt it vibrate. The songs had no distinct difference one from another; they were just an assault of noise (although I later found out that one of them was supposed to have been "Johnny B. Goode").

Again, I could have lived without it.

Thanks for sticking with me through this! You're probably wondering what this has to do with gaming.

Well, it's an analogy.

The first band, the major label band, that everybody went to and we couldn't even see them, that's 4th edition. A helluva lot of people love it to death, and even though I don't particularly like it, I don't begrudge its existence. It keeps gaming alive after all.

The other band is old school, whatever old school rules you like (my preference is 3LB, but ymmv). It's not that it's objectively "better", it's just different. And part of that difference is that when the music was over, the musicians sat around and drank with the rest of us. I listened to their stories and such. They asked us what we thought and some of us (not me but those more musically inclined) told them -- even if it wasn't unabashed praise.

I felt like I was a part of it, not just a spectator.

And that, to me, is the whole reason I'm involved (even in my minor way) with the whole Old School Renaissance: I get to be involved. Directly involved, I mean.

Specifically, I have a contribution in every issue (so far) of Fight On! magazine. I'm proud of that. (My comic for Issue #6 is mostly written, so it should be finished this weekend.)

I really don't see any hope of me having such a connection with 4th edition. Not just because I don't play it, but because I can't see getting very deeply involved in such a thing. It's just not my cup of tea.

4E is a major label release, after all (in fact, the most major of labels).

I'm much happier with a local garage band.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fight On #5 is out!

Get your copy today! (Well, you can't actually get your copy today. But you can order it here.)

As usual, I'm in it with another installment of The Education of a Magic-User. Not my best one yet, but I kinda like it.

There are other comics this time as well, so I don't feel alone any more.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Long and Dull Ranty-Rant about Labels

Old school? New school? What the hell?

Okay, labels are just labels. They don't really tell you anything about anything, unless you know exactly what is meant by the label. And the labels "old school" and "new school" apparently don't tell people enough about what the game is like to be worthwhile.

Okay, fine. I don't care.

I don't play games to acquire a label (other than "gamer", but I've had that one so long I don't even think about it much anymore). I play games because I enjoy them.

I don't consider them "just games" any more than I consider a book to be "just a book" or a movie to be "just a movie" -- or a job to be "just a job". I tend to find the word "just" to actually be unjust; it's unnecessarily dismissive.

They're not "just games" to me, whether old school or not. Gaming has been a big part of my life, it has contributed largely to my development of social skills for one thing. Most of the long-term friends I have I made through gaming. So yeah, I'm going to tend to take it seriously.

But doing so doesn't mean I need to rain on somebody else's parade. I've come to realize that if some kid I don't even know wants to play 4e, then that's fine -- for him. Doesn't mean I have to play it (I tried it and didn't like it -- there's too much farting around for my taste). Same with 3e; I used to play it and enjoyed it for a long while. But it began to get a bit samey; everybody else I ever met had higher stats than I did, so they thought their character (or their "build" was therefore better than mine). And that's just not the kind of thing I'm into. I'm glad it's there for those who like it, but I no longer count myself among them.

Notice how I'm not saying my way is better? That's because it's only better for me; it isn't my place to say what's better for someone else. I'm just saying "this is what I like", not "this is what you should like". I don't have time for people dictating to me what I should be doing so I'm damn sure not going to dictate to them.

Tell you what, you want labels? Okay, here you go.

Back in the day, on the Risus mailing list (which is now the Risus Yahoo group), there was a discussion of trust. Risus is a high-trust game. You really have to trust the GM to do what's best for his game (which should include allowing the player characters to be awesome).

It's the same with old school, near as I can figure.

New school, apparently, is the result of a backlash against such things. Some GMs were found to be untrustworthy, so a massive body of rules had to be erected to "protect" the players from these GMs.

(Back in my day, if you couldn't trust your GM, you just didn't play in his game. Simple as that.)

And this "new" school isn't as new as you might think, either. I remember one game back in the mid-80's. We had some old established players and some newer ones. The DM was a distinct Gygaxian; he was there to challenge you but not to kill you outright. Something happened (I don't remember exactly what), but some of the players cried foul. I didn't care; I knew he was going to give us a good game and that he should be given the benefit of the doubt.

So I said, "Look, he's the DM; you can trust him."

One of the newbie players, who thought she was much smarter than she actually was, chortled and roared out "Anyone who trusts the DM has got to be STUPID!" (I'll note here, before I get flamed for this, that she was NOT typical of the other female gamers I've known...)

She actually believed this shit.

I looked at the DM; he looked like he'd been kicked in the gut.

Similar situation came up in 3.5. Another Gygaxian DM (this one came up playing D&D, the boxed sets; you know, the ones some people who simply cannot read call "Basic D&D" when only the basic set of D&D is called Basic). He had the experience and the DMing chops, he could run a good game. Or he could phone it in. Depended on his mood that week, I guess.

Anyway, 3.5 is pretty cut and dried. The rules say you can do this and you can't do that. Well, he did something that apparently contradicted what the rules as written said. And his brother hit the roof. They argued about it for at least half an hour, during which time the rest of us got no gaming done.

No trust. None whatsoever. (Turned out that what the DM was doing was okay by the rules, but his brother didn't have all the information. Nor should he have; if you already know it all, why are you playing?)

So trust seems to be an old school trait, but it isn't. It's more necessary in the play defined as old school, but it ought to be there anyway.

Anyway, this discussion of trust came up regarding Risus. Risus dates back to the early 90's, and allows you to design the specific character you want. Sounds pretty new school to me, but it still requires a high degree of trust in your GM for it to work. So it's kind of both. Or neither. (And it's also free. Remember the name, kids: Risus. Confounding expectations since 1993.)

The label doesn't matter. Risus is a good game, and I'll play it. Because I'll play what I want, and don't care what label others put on things.

You see, I trust my Gamemasters (or referees, or whatever). But I've seen it go the other way. I've seen guys who expect (and frankly deserve) my trust when they're behind the screen; these selfsame guys immediately display their arrant distrust when it's me back there. I may have to earn some respect, but if I've gone to the trouble of putting a game together, the least you can do is give me the benefit of the doubt -- if I prove untrustworthy, then that's one thing. If you shoot my game down through distrust before I can prove myself, that's an entirely different thing -- and you won't be invited back, that's for sure.

So, is there a point to all this ranting? No, I don't think there is. I just wanted to get in on the whole debate that's resurfaced. I wanted to give people a different look at things. Hey, it's my blog -- you get my viewpoint. And that's all I'm qualified to give.

If you agree with me, if don't agree, either is fine. I don't expect you to change your mind because of what I say. I may get flamed, I may get praised. I don't think I'll care very much one way or the other.

Anyway, that's where I'm at.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I'm back and I'm back.

No, I'm not just repeating myself in the title of this post.

I'm back from my honeymoon in Las Vegas (which is an awesome place, if a bit overstimulating for herself).

And I'm also back in work mode for my comic strip, The Education of a Magic-User.

I had bupkis. I mean absolute nada. Zip. Zilch. Goose-egg.

So I emailed Calithena that I'd have nothing and that I was sorry. (Hey, it was the least I could do: The official deadline was something like March 24...)

And as soon as I had given up, as soon as the deadline had irretrievably passed, that's when I finally come up with an idea. (It's kind of zen, in an asinine sort of way, but hey, it's me.)

And that's when Cal got back to me and said he could give me until Thursday, because the humor section is its own self-contained space and doesn't need monkeying with, layout-wise.

So I'm back in the old cartooning chair at the drawing table tonight. I have my script pretty well worked out (always the tough bit), and the drawing should be a breeze.

It's good to be back.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Takin' it easy...

...for a few days. (Not that you'll be able to tell; I'm not the most frequent of posters to begin with. Whatever.)

Anyway, I'm getting married. Tomorrow. And then we're off to sunny Las Vegas for a bit of a honeymoon.

I won't be totally away from the internet, of course, but I'll be away from my home and all my beloved games (I'm traveling light, so the most I'll take will be pdfs -- and a few dice; hey, a game might break out sometime, right?)

Anyway, take it easy yourselves for a few days. I'll be back before you know it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

By Request - Close Ups!

I had a request for close up pictures of my figures, so I tried it. Whaddya know? The digital zoom on my camera works pretty well. Here we go!

The pictures get imported funny; they're not in the order I asked for them. Oh well. They should be pretty obvious, anyway.

The women are, from left to right, a Cleric, a Fighter, a Magic-User and a Thief. At least that's how I see them. (From behind they're the other way around.)

The men you've already seen, although here you can see them better.

I'm kind of impressed with how these have all come out. I'm happy that I have a consistent methodology:

A) to produce figures suitable for actual play,

B) that doesn't take a long time to complete, and

C) that gives me figures of a decent quality (i.e.; I don't have to hang my head in shame when compared to the "real" figure painters).

And as usual, click to enlarge them.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What do Mark Twain and Dave Arneson have in common?

Answer: A lot.

For one thing, the rumors of their deaths were greatly exaggerated; Dave is still with us (as of my latest information). (Mr. Twain, obviously, is still dead. But nobody really expected otherwise.)

But both men wrote. They were both Americans. They both clearly had a great sense of humor.

Dave Arneson may not be the household name that Mark Twain is, but around my household he certainly is.

I'm glad he's still with us.

A Sad Day

I just heard that Dave Arneson passed away.

He was the guy who started it all. Without him, we wouldn't be here.

I'm sure those who knew him well will have eloquent eulogies for him. I only just met him a couple of times, both up at The Source. He was pleasant, and cheerfully signed the things I brought with me. (First Fantasy Campaign, Blackmoor, and the Dungeon Masters Index)

I can think of no more fitting tribute than to say that I'm going to keep right on playing and having fun. I think Dave would have wanted that.

And with that in mind, more pictures! Sorry they're out of focus -- they're better than the first ones I took.

This is a mini-battle scene, showing the Barbarian Hair Brothers against a Barbarian Orc.

All figures are from Caesar Miniatures, from their Fantasy line. Click to embiggen. I think the necklace of teeth on the orc came out really well. And I had to make the barbarians blonde, because their heads just looked so 80's hair band (they look blow-dried, don't they?). Next up will be some female characters from the Adventurers set, the ones I take as a Mage and a Cleric.

Anyway, hug someone you love today (especially a game designer).

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Pictures!


Here's the mage from the Caesar Miniatures I bought way last fall or summer or whatever. I finally painted him. (Click photos to embiggen.)

Actually, the reason I waited this long wasn't mere laziness. I wasn't sure how to prime the silly bugger. But then I came across the Junior General. And they led me to learn that Krylon makes a paint, called Fusion, that specifically bonds with plastic. Good stuff! And it's a buck cheaper than the primer I just bought at the gaming store...

Anyway, here he is, Fusion primed and miracle dipped.

New Avatar!

Here's my new avatar! Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Here is the new box I'm using for my D&D books. The box I originally bought them in is intact, but in pretty crummy shape. And since many people only have the pdfs and not the original booklets, there is some interest in finding or building boxes to contain such books.

I got mine at Joann Fabrics, which is also a craft store, in the craft section. It's a papier mache box that looks like a hardcover book. Here's a link to the item on their website. (It says they have large and small sizes; I must have gotten the large size since the dimensions they list are too small and my box cost $4.95 whereas theirs lists for $3.99. Whatever.)

Anyway, these three pictures are as follows:

First, the front and "spine" of the box. I've added a sticker on the front, duplicating the front of the fifth printing "white box", and stickers on the spine saying (in case you can't read it):



TSR, 1974

Second, the books inside the box. See how much room is left? And

Third, the three D&D booklets, with reference sheets and Chainmail.

The box can be painted, but I was impatient to put my books in there. But I'd love to see any boxes anybody else gets and decorates.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Advice for DMs

As I've said before, I read Wil Wheaton's blog. In the linked entry, he posts a reminder of some of the basics of DMing.

These are pretty good, since they're not the same old four or five things. Plus they're drawn from actual play (which he's posted also earlier in the series).

Now, some might object because he's doing a 4e game. I don't care. The basic principles hold, regardless of edition (or for that matter game; he also cites GURPS and T20 as well as D&D). These are just basic things a referee should know/do.

I especially like the last point, about blogging about your experiences. We can all learn from each other this way, and I like it.

- - - - -

And speaking of other bloggers, I got my shipment from James Edward Raggi IV today. He's the guy at the Lamentations of the Flame Princess blog. I got both versions of the Random Esoteric Creature Generator, which is infinitely cool, as well as Fantasy Fucking Vietnam. I think I'll run that one at a local convention -- that might shake some people up! (Naturally, I'll remember all of Wil Wheaton's advice when I do. The synthesis should prove interesting...)

Oh, and all three items are signed. How cool is that? This is one of the parts of the old school renaissance that I like a lot -- that you can be on a first name basis with game designers (or should I say with other game designers?) It puts the emphasis back on "hobby", instead of "industry".

Monday, March 16, 2009


Sometimes I wonder if we old school D&D'ers aren't just a bunch of crotchety old farts who are out of touch with the real world.

I mean, I read Wil Wheaton's blog. He played the hell out of D&D back in the day, when he was a kid, like we all did. Sure, it wasn't the '74 rules, but it was based directly on them -- it's effectively the same game. Sure closer than AD&D was at the time.

And ol' Wil has, through his celebrity blogger/geek status, gotten to get in on a 4e game with other geeks. And he loves it. He even got out his old Mentzer Basic set and read through it, which shows me that at least he can easily see a continuity between where we as a hobby were and where the current wave now is.

And that's cool. That's okay for them as likes it. They're having fun, and that's what counts.

But then I remember playing 3rd edition. I've had a lot of fun with it, but I also remember the rules arguments, the discussions, the sheer "trying to wrap our aging heads around strange and badly worded concepts" of it all (I still hate the unnecessarily complex "attacks of opportunity crap").

And I can't help but contrast it with the game I'm currently in. Aaron Kesher, over at Sandbox Empire, is the referee -- and I use that word advisedly. No lordly Dungeon Master he. He's just a guy with a world that he lets us visit. It's his sandbox, but it's our playground.

And play is what we do. We discuss rules, but only to see what fits us best as a group. We defer all final decisions to Aaron, because it's his world. We make bad jokes (okay, that's mostly me...). We come up with weird and strange notions (which Aaron makes note of...)

But we don't have the knock-down drag out rules arguments. We really don't.

We also don't have a lot of powergaming. Or any, for that matter. The routine goes like this. "Oh, man, I only have a twelve Strength? And a nine Intelligence?" "Don't worry; stats aren't as important as they are in later editions." "Well, okay..."

Twenty minutes later.

"Yeah, I think I would go ahead and pull the lever anyway -- after all I only have a five Wisdom!"

Players learn to have fun with their characters, warts and all. There's so little given in game terms that the players, highly creative sorts after all, simply have to come up with something interesting, whether background or quirks or philosophy or whatever.

And we're loving it! We don't need piles of rulebooks as high as a dragon's eye. We don't need power attacks or healing surges; we just go in their and risk death for gold and glory.

We also don't need a complex skill set. You want to do something? Go ahead and try! Depending on your stats, your personality, the Referee's whim and quite probably the phase of the moon, it might be easier or harder, but unless it's a specific class skill (such as spellcasting), you at least have a chance. And that's all you really need.

And death happens, don't think otherwise. Each death means a new opportunity to try again with a new character. We've played three times and I'm on my third character. Nobody has gotten beyond level one. But we keep coming back, and we keep having a good time. And if we don't like something in the game, we can always ask the referee to change it. He might not, but we know that we can ask.

So yeah, the kids out there can call me a crotchety old fart if they like. Their words pass by me like a spring breeze. They can have their shiny new 4th edition, too, and more power to them! Anything that keeps them off my old school lawn is fine by me. Plus they help keep my friendly local game store alive, which gives me a place to play. And if we show them how it's done, they might just join us and find out how much fun a good old dungeon crawl can be.

At least that's the way I see it.

Sneerglaw no more

Sadly, Sneerglaw didn't survive the latest foray into Under Xylarthen's Tower, by the estimable Jeff Rients, as run by Kesher.

Those hobgoblins were just too much.

Although I do have to say, he proved much more valuable to the party dead than alive.

First of all, there were the 755 gold pieces he was carrying (from the last session when we'd found a necklace worth 5000). Then, one of the guys took his blackened Balrog skull back to town and traded it to a Mage there for a scroll of Protection from Evil.

All in all, not to bad a deal.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mister Procrastinator, that's me!

So, I said I'd read all these books/magazines I've gotten lately and then probably review them.

And I sort of have reviewed some of them (well, one, but with snippets of another).

I finally started actually reading Empire of the Petal Throne. Section 200, The World of Tekumel, really pulls you in. There's a world here, and it's up to you to explore it. This is not your "standard D&D" (as if that phrase ever meant anything...)

I haven't gotten into the seriously different parts yet, but I like the character generation and combat sections. Spellcasting would be a bit weird, but I'm sure it would be okay once you get used to it.

As far as physical presentation, the pdf of the book itself is pretty good, but I have to wonder about the maps. What size were they originally? They seem to be 11x17 in the pdf, which doesn't print out right on my 8.5x11 printer (even if I just print half, there's a strip down the middle I'm missing). And I'm really not an expert on printing odd sizes from pdfs.

Anyway, there will be more to come on this and other things. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The challenge is the thing

From Through Dungeons Deep, page 5:

"A fantasy game isn't played so that a single character wins. No one is trying to beat the others. The idea is to have a good time facing challenges and, hopefully, overcoming them -- all as a group effort. Everyone works together."

Ah, how that last sentence has fallen out in some games. I've seen it happen. I like it better when the group all does work together, but I also know I can't count on it.

from page 15, immediately following an example of play:

"This example showed several things. One is that the player characters never once made a decision based on game rules; their actions were based on the situation described to them, their knowledge of their comrades and common sense. This is what makes role-playing games feel so realistic."

Indeed. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Got the rest of it.

Yesterday I got Fight On! number 4. (I couldn't wait for the proofreading stage; I ordered as soon as Cal said he had it up on Lulu.) This issue is dedicated to Dave Hargrave and his world of Arduin, so be prepared for some old school gonzo dungeoneering!

And then today, I got Through Dungeons Deep, by Robert Plamondon. I'm happy it's the same book that I remember. The cover illustration proves that; it shows a painter with a smock and floppy beret, standing in front of a magnificent dragon. The painter tells the dragon that he has painted portraits of the most famous dragons in all the land, and now wishes to immortalize him. But before he begins, he will show the dragon a sample of his work.

With the dragon, flattered beyond repair, now eagerly staring at the easel, the "painter" takes the cover off of the mirror of life trapping. Vooop! No more dragon. Then he calls his workmen in and excavates the entire horde, without any combat taking place.

I remembered that story all these years as a really good example of player creativity. It's the kind of thing that I love about old school gaming. (I really don't see a computer game allowing for such a thing. Do you?)

Anyway, once I've read it I'll post a review.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Featherstone review, part 2

Caveat: I haven't actually read the rest of the book. But I have read much of it and heavily skimmed the rest.

The remaining chapters of the book follow a similar format to Chapter Two, in that they look at a specific part of military history (in Chapter Three, one specific battle), and then describe how to simulate that one the wargames table.

A couple of points need to be stressed here. Neil Thomas's book Wargaming: An Introduction (as I've mentioned before), is a very modern, plug and play kind of wargaming book. It's for two players to sit down and knock some figures together, improvise some terrain, and decide if wargaming is right for them.

Featherstone, on the other hand, is for a club. There is nary a two-player game in the entire book. Each project is for a minimum of three people (assuming one is a referee). In more cases, there are five people (two players on each side and a referee).

Also included are tales from the wargames club (as I believe I mentioned before).

Now, this presents an entirely different picture of wargaming than I've been exposed to. It's more focused on doing it yourself, with the whole club getting involved. The referee is there to settle any arguments, and everybody has a good time whether they win or lose. It is a social thing, with all members drawn together for camaraderie by a shared love of military history, sportsmanship and friendly competition.

This is the exact same sort of atmosphere D&D grew out of. The club Featherstone speaks of is similar to the clubs Dave Arneson and the late great Gary Gygax had.

While I appreciate and enjoy Thomas's book, I'm truly happy to have gotten Featherstone's. And I'm kind of glad I got it now, as opposed to 20 years ago; I really don't think I'd have 'gotten' it back then.

"Where are the rules?" I can hear my 20-years-younger self cry out in anguish. "Aargh! Who wants to put up with all this crap? Just give me some rules and let me get on with it! Ah, screw it, here's a nice board wargame where I can sit down and just play."

The difference, as you can see, is an important one. The Thomas book is for players, who can sit down and get on with things. The Featherstone approach, on the other hand, is for referees, for creators, for those who have the vision to create their own world and invite players to join them in it.

And if it weren't for the Old School Renaissance, I would have missed that point entirely.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Featherstone review, part 1

I've started reading Featherstone and it has been ... interesting.

Chapter One includes a lot of stuff I found strange, given that he appears to be writing for a first-time wargamer. There are sections on military possibilities, chance cards, time charts, and morale, which are all good. But there is also a long section on surprise and how to simulate this in a game, which I found rather hard going. I'm sure it'll be more clear upon re-reading, but it almost seems as if this chapter is a test. "Make it through this," he seems to be saying, "and the good stuff lies just beyond."

If that was his plan, it worked. I made it through chapter one and on into chapter two, which covered American Civil War battles. Here Featherstone gives a brief description of the conflict, points out how well documented it is (making research easy), and goes through a short but complete description of weapons and uniforms of the opposing forces. With this information, one could buy a few boxes of Airfix or other plastic figures and put together (and paint!) their own armies for a fairly small investment (compared to metal figures anyway).

He also includes rules for such games, which run to about three pages overall, although these pages also include an illustration and a sidebar.

Unlike commercial rule sets, this is just the actual rules. Figure out for yourself how to base your troops, and dig up the historical order of battle -- that stuff isn't here.

Featherstone also shows some of the human face of wargaming, in his vignettes "Down at the Wargames Club".

I am struck by how much the "do it yourself" ethic permeates this book.

Now, for a good basic introduction to wargaming, I'd highly recommend Neil Thomas's "Wargaming: an Introduction", which includes rules and army lists for several periods. It covers some of the same ground as Featherstone, but does it in a much more "starter set" way.

As a comparison many of you will understand: Featherstone is D&D, with supplements. Thomas is the Mentzer Basic Set of D&D, with module B1 included.

I like them both, but the attitude in each is different. And that's okay. Differing attitudes make for a broader coverage of the subject. Each book works, in its own way.

Each book also includes glorious photographs, many in color, of miniatures that are painted far better than I'll ever be able to paint them. But I shall persevere and do my best; my only goal is to not totally embarrass myself with my painting skills. And I think I can do that.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Blogged too soon!

Here I was, content that I'd gotten one of my books. And about two minutes after I hit "publish post", the UPS guy came with my Amazon order. Game Night by Jonny Nexus, and Space: 1889 by Frank Chadwick (of GDW fame).

I'm Mr. Happy Guy.

First book arrives

In my last post, I mentioned that I ordered a bunch of books. I got the first one today, and it wasn't even one that I mentioned.

The book is Featherstone's Complete Wargaming, by the redoubtable Donald Featherstone. Published in 1988, the book appears to be a treasure trove of information about the hobby. Now that I've got your attention, I'm not going to talk about it. (Hey, I'm at work, and I only just got it, and I haven't had a chance to even read it yet!)

My gaming, you see, tends mostly toward roleplaying, and that tends mostly to D&D. But I originally wanted to be a wargamer.

The first "adventure game" (to use the broad term) I ever bought was Ogre, by Steve Jackson (yes, that Steve Jackson), published by Metagaming. This would have been in 1979 or so; I'm guessing here because I don't specifically remember.

It would be three or four years before I found someone to play it against. In the meantime, I read what I could in the library about wargames and wargaming. There was a sharp division in print (although I later learned it wasn't that sharp in practice) between the miniatures guys and the board wargamers. I fell into the board wargamer camp because one whole game, complete and ready to play, was available for $20 or less (sometimes much less; Ogre had cost me $2.99).

Whereas with miniatures, you had to go out and

* buy the damned things,
* assemble them,
* paint them,
* base them, and
* find some way of protecting them.

Then you had to do the same for their opponents.

Then you had to beg, borrow or build the terrain for the battle.

And you had to do research so that everything listed above was accurate. (This really would have come first, but I really didn't know what I was doing in those days...)

And then you had to find a place to store all this crap. Yowza.

Well, times have changed. After many, many, many years of "adventure gaming", I'm no longer a footloose wanderer. I have a permanent home, with a basement for my gaming activities, and plenty of places to store stuff. I can even buy or build shelves, should I need them. And because my sweetie is an absolute genius with money, I can actually afford to buy things now and then, like miniatures.

I bought some this weekend. I got a game called Napoleon in Europe at Half Price Books, for $50. It's out of print, so I don't know (or care) what it would have cost new. But it has hordes of plastic figures, around about the 1/72 scale or so.

I can work with this.

I'm finished assembling (but not yet painting) my first complete army. The French Napoleonic army from the book Wargaming: An Introduction by Neil Thomas. Neil presents simple rules for a few different periods and provides army lists to accompany them. The book is readily available (again, at Half Price Books) and seems like a winner.

The only problem was, he uses the "standard" basing conventions for these armies. Close order infantry, for instance, would be four figures on a 40mm by 20mm base, assuming 15mm figures. For 25mm figures, the base frontage would be 60mm.

Well, I just don't have enough troopies to do that. So I tinkered, as wargamers do. I took 3 figures per base, with a frontage of 50mm. They fit, they look okay, and they'll work better on my smallish table.

Plus, I can make two complete armies this way.

I'm going to try some solo wargaming with them, and I'll let you know how that comes out.

And I'll probably review Featherstone's book. Once, y'know, I've actually read it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Economic Stimulus, from a gaming perspective

I don't like most of the newer games I see out there. I've tried 4e D&D and was not impressed.

Yeah, sure, I'm just a curmudgeonly old fart. But that's my problem, not yours.

So, anyway, I decided to use my state tax refund to stimulate the economy a bit, gaming-wise. I've ordered stuff from both Amazon and RPGNow, so that I either have now or will soon be getting:

* Empire of the Petal Throne. I've always wanted this game, just to see what all the fuss was about. Got it as a download (the only way I'll ever be able to afford it), along with the maps and the first issue of the Tekumel Journal (or whatever it's called). It'll probably take a whole ink cartridge to print the silly thing out, but we'll see. I might not need to print the whole thing.

* Through Dungeons Deep. I remember reading this book out of the library once upon a time, back in the 80s. It seemed to be more about D&D than AD&D (which is what I played at the time), so I never sought out a copy for myself. But now I really want one, so I'm getting one.

* Game Night, a novel about gods doing a bit of gaming, by Jonny Nexus. Jonny was the guy behind the Critical Miss online fanzine for dysfunctional gamers, which was brilliant. So I have high hopes for this novel. Hey, anything to help out a fellow gamer, right?

* Space: 1889. I dunno, I've just always loved the whole Victorian thing. And the whole Mars thing. So when you mix the two, hold on! This is a game I've always wanted, but couldn't afford back in the day. I'm glad they're reprinting them, but I doubt if I'll buy any of the supplements. Again, we'll see.

I may or may not review any of these here in this blog. Who knows? But I'm happy to be getting them. I'm doing my bit to support the economy, at any rate.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

R.I.P. Bahb the Draftee

Turns out, we didn't continue on in the Ruined Monastery.

So, Kesher rolled on a table that I believe he got from Jeff's Gameblog, one that determine's your character's fate if he was left in the dungeon last time.

And Bahb the Draftee didn't make it out. So sad.

On the other hand, it gave me a chance to play my new character. But first, a little background:

In light of Men & Magic, Page 8, Other Character Types:

"There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as let us say, a "young" one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee."

I hereby present:

Player Character Balrog:

AC: 2
Move: 6/15

Table of Levels:
Hit Magic Immolate
Level Experience * Dice Resistance ** Damage ***
====== =============== ====== ============= ==========
1 0 1 5% 1d4
2 2,500 2 15% 1d6
3 5,000 3 25% 1d6
4 10,000 4 35% 2d6
5 20,000 5 45% 2d6
6 35,000 6 55% 2d6
7 50,000 7 60% 3d6
8 100,000 8 65% 3d6
9 200,000 9 70% 3d6
10 300,000 10 75% 4d6

* I used the same progression as the Magic-User; this is obviously negotiable.

** Calculated as against an 11th level Magic-User; adjust up or down by 5% for each level difference. Thus a first level Balrog (MR 5%) against a 5th level Magic-User (-6 levels) would be 35%.

*** Only if a hit is scored with the whip, so the opponent can be brought into immolation range, or if opponent is already in contact.

(Good thing these buggers don't use magic, eh?)

I named him Sneerglaw, which a friend of mine pointed out only yesterday was Walgreens backwards. (We were passing a Walgreens at the time).

He was a lot of fun to play. Got to immolate a couple of times (I may need to restrict that in number of uses as well as just damage, but for a sandbox game like this, it seems to be working okay.)

The elf wiped out an entire warband of orcs with but a single Charm Person spell.

Basically, we had a great time. In three hours of gaming we defeated all of our foes (except the Wight; we ran from it). We also got a pretty good map made.

We were exploring Under Xylarthen's Tower, by the estimable Jeff Rients of Jeff's Gameblog fame (which you really should check out if you haven't already -- it's one of the best).

Best of all, the whole party survived.

Can't wait until next time!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekendy gaming-ness

(I was going to say "gameyness" but that sounded way too wrong...)

On Sunday I will again be participating in Kesher's Otherness game, up at The Source.

Tomorrow, Herself and I are having people over. This will be the first time we've done so in...well, ever really. No, I tell a lie: One time at our last place we had a couple of people over.

So, we're kinda new at this.

It's just one couple, and the women are good friends who don't see enough of each other. The guy I kinda know, but haven't really spent any time with. But Herself informs me he's a gamer, so it's all good. I'm sure we'll find something to talk about while the women are doing their thing.

I'm just a bit nervous (as well as bored out of my skull at work, where it is glacially slow).

Anyway, I have Sunday to look forward to. Bahb the Draftee lives! But whether I can say that on Monday or not -- now, that's the question...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Survived Con of the North

I didn't run anything. I only played one game.

Okay, let me clarify a bit: There's a guy from a local game store who runs a drop-in drop-out D&D 3.5 game at all the local cons. I first encountered this two years ago, at MarsCon. I started a bard (at first level, naturally) and by the time that con was over, he was 3rd.

Well, going into this con he was 4th; coming out, he just made 6th. But that was at 10:00 pm on Sunday.

(I later calculated that I spend 28 hours in the game this weekend. And 26 hours in the hotel NOT in the game...)

Overall, I had a good time. I had hoped to make 6th level, and I did.

But I did rediscover the thing that I don't like about 3.5 (and I hasten to add that this is not necessarily a problem with the rules as written, it's more a problem with me):

It brings out the rules lawyer in me.

Now, I was raised by a pack of wild rules lawyers, back in the early 80's when I got started playing AD&D. If there was a rule, somebody could quote it (I got really good at the rules for two weapon fighting...)

One of the rules I loved best was the one at the very end of the DMG, about how the DM is in charge of the game and should make it his own. We all discussed that, but rarely applied it. We pretty much played by the book.

But there were arguments about rules! Even back then, we argued. (I think that could be the appropriate collective noun for roleplayers. You have a pride of lions, and a murder of crows; well, you could easily have an argument of roleplayers...)

And this weekend, I found myself falling back on the old ways, of reading the rules whenever anybody didn't know exactly how something worked -- the problem is, then I'd want to beat the offending party over the head with the rule. Not very social, I know. And it wasn't even my game, so it really wasn't my place to do I tried not to.

But there was this one guy who really ticked me off. I got into a bad mood and it stayed through most of Monday. (But I'm feeling MUCH better, now!)

Anyway, that's my con report.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Con of the North

Con of the North is a local gaming convention. No panels, no cosplay, no GOH; just gaming. By gamers for gamers.

I never have my act together in time to definitely say that I'll run something. Last year I pulled a dungeon out of thin air and ran OD&D for some people, but that's about it.

I hope I get in the Holmes game a guy I know is running, but don't yet know. Also, the 3.5 game I often play in should be running, so there will be something. But I'm not sure exactly what.

Anyway, gotta pack; we leave tomorrow and I wanna sleep late.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Deadlines? Oh, yeah; deadlines...

Some of you may even remember this post. But I'm guessing most of you will not.

(Hey, I could be wrong; I have no idea if anyone actually reads this unless I get comments. It would probably help if I updated more often, like on any sort of an actual schedule. But I feel that leads to long parenthetical navel-gazing entries on the state of my life, which changes very little, and ... oh, wait ... damn.)

Anyway, I finally got off my butt this weekend and produced the third installment of my comic strip for Fight On! magazine. It's called The Education of a Magic-User, and so far I haven't named the main character. Or his sidekicks. (I really ought to do something about that.) Maybe put up one of those "Characters" pages that the webcomics do.

But anyway, the point is, if you get the fourth issue of Fight On! (when it comes out), I'll have another comic strip in it.

This means that I have work in all four issues to date. I'm kind of proud of that.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I play

Sunday, January 18, at The Source Comics and Games.

Here are photos; in the first one, I'm the guy at the end of the table, directly between the camera and the pop machines.

The DM (with the little laptop) is Kesher, from the Original D&D Discussion Forum. We're playing the original D&D rules, from 1974, and the adventure is James Maliszewski's Ruined Monastery, from Fight On! number 1.

A good time was had by all.