Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A thread to follow for those interested in WOTC's stance on PDF's

From Jack99 on ENWorld:

"So, I was one of those who were very sad when WotC decided to pull the plug on their PDF's. I completely understand why WotC think they needed to do it, but that doesn't change the fact that I lost a very handy tool for my work as a dungeon master.

Thank god I could still cancel the order on the e-book reader I had made - A few weeks later and I would have been SOL.

Anyway, this thread is primarily here to remind our good friends at WotC that we still expect an alternative, as we were promised. It would also be mighty nice if we at some point could get an idea on how this project is coming along.

It's now been almost 4 months (okay, 3½ at least) since the PDF's were withdrawn, and I think it is about time that we start hearing what WotC are cooking up.

While we are waiting for an answer, I guess we could talk about what possibilities there are, as to replace the PDF's. I must admit that I know very little of these things, so my best suggestion would be to re-release PDF's again, but I am guessing that won't fly"

Predicting the thread's imminent closure on ENWorld, for daring to publicly call out WOTC on something and make them feel in any way uncomfortable, the chances of the question getting answered can also be discussed over on theRPGSite. It's where I've been hanging out these days---a great board, mostly unmoderated and not for people whose feelings are easily hurt.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Old Atari TOEE game and Gimp Classes on the tabletop

I still play that game a couple times a year. Just the other day I went through it and created what I called the "Gimp Group", one made up of a Monk, Barbarian, Ranger, Druid and Sorcerer. (I still couldn't bring myself to play the most useless of all classes, the Bard, even though this was the Gimp Group.) I twinked them out with the cheat codes and bought them all the best starting gear, etc.

I ran it using the Circle of 8 mod pack, which fixed most of the bugs in the game and added a ton more content (

Anyhow, I got the guys all geared up and set out to the moathouse---and was killed in the first wandering monster encounter. It was pathetic.

Granted, the TOEE game is essentially a game of combat, not RP. To the extent the characters are good at combat, they will be more successful. My standard group in playing the game is 2 fighters, wizzie, cleric, thief. Sometimes not even the thief. I usually blow through the game with no problems.

In my tabletop games, we forbid all prestige classes, and any experiences we have had with the above mentioned Gimp classes has turned out horribly. Maybe it's our lack of skill in playing those classes, I don't know. The only one that ever worked out ok on the tabletop was when a player rolled up a barbarian, and so in spite of the player's ineptness, the HP helped him survive.

Anyhow, my question is this: in a straight-up combat oriented tabletop game, without prestige classes, are the core classes head and shoulders that much better than the my Gimp Group's classes in your experience?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Old School Renaissance---love the spirit, love the energy, love the nostalgic good feelings---just not into the games themselves.

It's been about 6 months now since I started getting into the old school thing, which I guess means reading and contributing to blogs and boards related to the topic of older versions of D&D and their associated clones. I downloaded all the clones, read through them, and enjoyed the trip down memory lane as I also read through the older edition books I have. The lure of simpler rulesets and simpler times was a real draw. The idea of having more power in the DM's hands was also an attraction. Rulings, not rules baby! I used some of the ideas I learned in that time to develop the backbone and ideas of the Medieval Bard Rock Band Campaign, (click the dude with the lute in the top right to learn more). I even re-read Leiber, Howard, and other Swords and Sorcery era authors to get into the mood. We started the bard campaign, and I believe that my time swimming in the old school pool has influenced how I DM it in a positive way.

A few weeks ago, I finally convinced my group to give Swords and Wizardry a shot, as we were planning to tackle the Tomb of Horrors (we never played it, back in the day). I printed out multiple copies of the S&W books for the players, and we got together to go over the rules and plan for the game. We had a good time creating the characters. They kept saying things like "Holy crap I can turn demons!" and "My cleric has more HP than your fighting man", etc. It was really a fun trip down memory lane. I read through Tomb of Horrors, and was ready to go for the next week.

When next week came along, I kept finding myself thinking more about the bard campaign, and the other campaign we put off for the past few months as the other DM took a break. We ended up playing the bard campaign the next week, and back shelving the S&W session. I felt like I wined and dined a woman I wanted, then got her into the bedroom and realized I didn't want to have sex with her. It was weird.

For the longest time, I was a reluctant 3.x player. Until late 2006 I never played a 3.x game, and prior to that, the last time I played D&D was 2nd edition in 1999. I basically missed the whole 3.x era. Second Edition was my game of choice. It was simpler--3.x had way too many rules for me. We houseruled the hell out of the 3.0 game we play, so as to make it more like the older games. But still, we use skills, feats, detailed spell descriptions, classes and class abilities, and most other aspects of 3.0. For the bard campaign, we are even using aspects of Pathfinder Beta, and will likely incorporate some of the better elements of PF Final when it comes out.

I know that one of the best features of the older games is that they are very modifiable, easily added to. As I went through the mental checklist of what I would add to S&W to make it more like the game I would like to play, I realize that it would probably end up looking like the game we play now. Weird. But as I think about it, I realize that I have more of a grasp of the rules of 3.x now than when I began playing it. I am more comfortable with the game rules, and with the reasons behind those rules. And best of all, the players in the group don't hold me to all of them. I’m able to wing it, as long as everyone has a good time. I make up rules and rolls on the spot, and we all get a kick out of what happens. As long as no one feels I'm railroading them, or just being arbitrary and capricious at their character’s expense, it's all good.

We use the rules as guidelines, not maxims. They’re used if we need them, and don't act as a straightjacket. Certain things we eliminate completely, like ability score buff spells, DR, and magic items that give ability score bonuses, but most of the rest of the rules framework we use if needed. It's sort of like how we played AD&D. We hit the DM Guide when we needed to, but as long as the combat and treasure flowed, we were mostly fine.

Which brings me to another thought. There are really two aspects to the old school thing as far as I can tell---one is the rulesets, the other is the flavor of the campaign. A lot of people, including me, conflated Swords and Sorcery's grittiness as depicted by Leiber and Howard with the old school rules, since they were contemporaneous, and Gygax was influenced by them. I realize now that rules can be easily separated from campaign flavor. One doesn’t dictate the other. Old school rulesets aren't a necessary aspect of a Swords and Sorcery style game. The grittiness, morally neutral/selfish, darker mood from the S&S authors I like can easily fit a 3.x ruleset, as I am demonstrating to my own satisfaction (and that of my players) with the bard campaign.

The flavor of the campaign is really set by the players and the DM deciding what the character motivations are going to be, not necessarily the ruleset or what the ruleset rewards to level up. In the old days, GP for XP was king. That dictated a lot about how people played the game. Now, killing the toughest bad guys dictates how fast people level, under the 3.x rules. We are basically skipping any formal XP system altogether with the bards, and I am just leveling the characters as the campaign needs dictates. That way the players can have fun with their characters, and not be straightjacketed by having to do certain things to level.

I realize now that what I was really looking for out of the old school thing was more of an S&S campaign feel, and less of a need for old school game rulesets. I was tired of the heroic “save the world” stuff which the 2e era ushered in with Dragonlance and its progeny. I am now DM’ing a comedic S&S type game, if there’s such a thing. I guess it’s more of a Hackmaster type of game, (from what I’ve heard of it, because we never played Hackmaster either).

So while I love that the OSR is taking place, I don’t really feel myself a part of it. I love reading about what people are doing, though. Castle Zagyg Upper Works boxed set by Gygax/Troll Lord is featured prominently in the bard campaign, as will be Rob Kuntz’s original Castle Greyhawk levels when they come out. I’m also going to use a lot from WG13 as the characters hit lower levels of the dungeon. But the dungeon delving will only be a small part of it all, because at the same time I’m using a lot of modern gaming influences, rules, and elements like Green Ronin’s Pirates of Freeport as the main setting, with heavy social roleplay elements. It’s not all hack and slash anymore. Entire sessions go by without a sword being swung, and we’re all happy with that.

I don’t know what the future holds for the OSR. I don’t know what drives everyone else’s involvement with it. All I know is that my players and I are having fun playing a very odd game of D&D, and no matter what version of the game anyone else plays, I wish for them that they are all having as much fun as we are.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The OGL? All my idea...commissions are owed...

From what was perhaps the first D&D Internet Nerdwar, a post from Usenet where I introduced the idea of something resembling the OGL. It was 1995, and T$R just closed down all FTP sites with gamer created material on them with threats of legal action a year or so earlier. Their first online rep was an unmitigated ass, hated by all. Sean K. Reynolds came onboard, and helped to calm things down a lot. He took a lot of crap, unnecessarily so, and I'll buy him a beer if I ever meet the guy in person for the crap I gave him. I give the guy lots of credit for calming things down.

Anyhow, here's the link, proving once and for all that the OGL was all my idea.

Commissions are owed to me on all OGL sales made since its introduction. Pay up, bitches. :)

RPG Magazines

Everyone seems to be talking about magazines these days. Kobold Quarterly, Knockspell, Fight On!, and I think even Goodman Games has one, right? I was always excited to read Dragon Magazine as a kid. It gave me a little bit of a window into the rest of the world of RPG's, as well as the world of D&D. I would get a little bit of everything---help with questions, new spells/monsters/gear, ecology stories, maybe some good adventure ideas. Pre-internet, for a guy who didn't really game outside his circle of friends, and never went to conventions, it was really my only glimpse into the rest of the D&D Universe.

I read through some issues of Kobold Quarterly recently, and while it does evoke some of the same memories (and I love looking at the ads for other companies to see what everyone is up to), it lacks something. I follow 5 or 6 boards a day, probably scan through hundreds of Blogs, and have gigabytes of material on a harddrive. I don't now what a magazine can offer me anymore in terms of game content. What's yet another take on minotaurs going to do for me, when I have access to 5 or 6 takes already through the Internet and harddrive? With chat groups and discussion forums of every type, where I can talk to 5 people at the same time from all around the world, and ask questions on boards and get 50 responses in an hour, what can a magazine do for me in terms of feeling part of a community that I don't have already?

There was something special with Dragon magazine in particular, in that it was "Official". We treated whatever was in there no differently than what was in the rulebooks. There was something special when reading something written by Gygax or Kuntz, or one of the other big names back then. With the market flooded with supplements and OGL/d20 products, and every conceivable resource imaginable on the Internet for free, nothing feels special anymore.

It's kind of sad, actually. I love the ability to have massive amounts of information at my fingertips. But I do miss what I used to get from reading Dragon, while sitting on the floor with my brother in the back of Waldenbooks.

p.s.---as for digital magazines, for me paper magazines are a bottomline must for it to be called a magazine. A digital magazine may as well be called a webpage, blog, or a Word document. No different to me.)


Sunday, July 12, 2009

I have nothing to say

Looking around the boards today, and for the last few days, and realized I really had nothing to say about all the threads on all the boards, and all the posts on all the blogs I read. And that's a lot of content to have nothing to say about.

So I guess I'll talk about why I have nothing to say.

I have nothing to say good or bad about any edition, because it's all been said, and to each his own.

I have nothing to say about WOTC/Hasbro, its actions, or its future, because I've already stated I don't like them, and their future is irrelevant to my gaming future.

I have nothing to say about the future of the hobby because we'll never be able to predict it, and it doesn't really matter to me and my group and the game we play. As my brother's kids grow up, we have a built in group to play with.

I have nothing to say about the future products, because I have enough material on my PC to last me 35 lifetimes, covering every conceivable subject.

I have nothing to say about the game I'm playing, because it's all been said on my blog already.

I have nothing to say about the game others are playing, because their games are largely their own matter.

I have nothing to say regarding any musings on any D&D related subject, because I haven't had any meaningful ones lately.

So, in summary, signing off, with nothing to say.