Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This is just goddamn cool---Miniatures Battle of the Moathouse with Gygax, Kuntz, and the original Grognards

You have to check this out....

Ended up finding it by chance. The pictures are excellent!

Big News from Rob Kuntz and Pied Piper Publishing!

Rob just announced that he is releasing a few great new products.  Among them, an essay detailing dungeon crafting in the early campaigns, including Greyhawk Castle among others, as a learning tool for DM's:

"Within that context, Ramsey Dow and myself have concluded that a treatise—an in depth essay—on dungeon-crafting in its many facets should be of interest, so we are gathering notes to add to my already 10,000+ word MS which describes the creation of Greyhawk™ Castle, Castle El Raja Key and Maure Castle™. This historical and instructive treatise will cover the beginnings of this honored endeavor and track some of the changes that have taken effect with the modernization of the game."

In addition, he is releasing two new products in his Dungeon Sets (tm) line, detailing 12 levels of dungeons, USABLE BY ANY SYSTEM!

"DUNGEON SETS™ was an idea conceived to bring maximum game value to each DM’s table, whatever FRPG system they are currently using. These are un-keyed, color maps with integration notes and a comprehensive legend that are presented as a contiguous, and exacting, dungeon setting. In studying the needs of DMs who all have specific campaigns with real histories, characters and plots of their own, it became apparent that the idea of mainstay adventure modules, such as many based upon TSR’s old model of assumed expediency, has shifted greatly with the contraction of that market and an ever present need over the years for specific game material created by each DM. In keeping with that honored ideal, PPP will make a leap in two areas: in presenting challenging maps for expansion along different creative lines by individual DMs; and in offering supportive materials for these, such as booklets containing new and innovative monsters, NPCs, spells, magic items, magical areas and set pieces which can be incorporated into the map designs as each DM sees fit, thus expanding the range for them to continue “branding” their own campaigns as creatively unique. "

In addition, he will be detailing in other Dungeon Sets, locales alluded to in other products:

"I will be designing sets such as the Fortress of Fyarz and the Cloud Castle of Aer (as noted in the Bottle City). Ramsey will also be creating increasingly imaginative and challenging sets to test the tenacity of your players! The integration notes for DMs will increase as each set expands upon the base we have realized. They will include creative additions not seen at “basic” levels and in concert with supplemental source material will allow for an ever-expanding range of imaginative material to be used in stocking these dungeons and settings."

Release date is November 15. Check Pied Piper for more details.

I can't wait!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kobold Quarterly review---plus, do we really need magazines?

I was one of probably 40000 bloggers given a free review copy of KQ 11 a couple weeks ago.  I've seen it before, both in paper and pdf, and I like it.  It's very reminiscent in style to the older Dragon magazines of a couple decades ago.  The articles are very informative and interesting, covering both 3.x/PF and 4.0.  One article from Monte Cook in particular stood out.  What I liked the most was the ads though. The one from Planet Stories stood out as pretty neat, with a retro look as befits the line of books published by Paizo. 

I remember riding my bike to the mall, so I could hide in the corner of the bookstore and read Dragon Magazine cover to cover, being too broke to afford to buy it.  (That's also where I tore off the shrink wrap from stuff to read it, so I wouldn't have to buy it sight unseen...or to just try to memorize it because I couldn't afford modules either)  Back then, I hardly knew anyone who played DnD, and Dragon was my only glimpse into the bigger world of DnD.   The ads let me know what new stuff was coming out.  I read the magazine as much for the ads as for the articles.  We took the articles as official canon, not knowing any better.  The letters to the editor were really interesting, both the questions people had and the responses given opened up our  isolated game table to other new ideas we would try to incorporate. 

Kobold Quarterly has all that.   My question is, do we need it?  With the Internet, we have an overabundance of everything the magazine gives us.  Even the RPG Notables who were featured in a couple of the KQ articles have blogs, and are approachable on the Internet in a variety of mediums.  Some of the blog and board posts where people made up content or fiction is better than what you find in KQ---through no fault of KQ.  Like I said, it's a good magazine, and brings back fond memories of crouching in a corner at Waldenbooks all afternoon. But since the advent of OGL/d20 where nothing is canon unless you want it to be; and boards, blogs, and chatrooms where anything and everything is discussed and created;  and mailing lists and web pages letting you know what new products are coming out, why do we need a magazine?

I wouldn't buy the magazine, personally, as the Internet fills my needs.  That is not a reflection on KQ though.  It does what it does very well.  It's a good magazine. I just don't feel that I have a need for it. 

Race and Class in Older Editions

Since Friday's AD&D game (my first in over 20 yrs.) I've been thinking about racial limits to class and levels.  When later editions came out, I remember thinking cool, they got rid of that.  It never made any sense. Now, looking back, I think it made sense from a certain perspective.  After getting back into the literary roots of the game, and reading a bit about where certain aspects of the game came from, I think I get and appreciate the class and level limits a bit better.

Basically, the bottom line reason, is that Gygax wanted humans to be the predominant race, and the other races were somehow lesser.  Also, even though they looked human, they were different creatures.  Elves weren't humans with pointy ears.  They were physiologically, and more importantly, mentally different than humans.  Hell, they didn't even have a soul.  They were  a part of nature/faerie world.  The physical similarities didn't make up for the fundamental differences in the way their brains were wired.

I think one of the reasons that the limits were excised was that it is not politically correct to say that someone is inferior to another in certain ways.  It leads to all sorts of accusations of racism and hate crimes.  So as not to engender that, and to recover from the early bad rep of D&D as satanic, all aspects of that were wiped out.

Also, players wanted the ability to make their elves Uber, goddamnit, and why do the rules say we can't?  In all the novels I've read they are Uber.  I wanna be Uber!  Whhaaaa!!  Coming from a different literary background latter-day gamers didn't recognize the base of where D&D came from, me included.

For example, personally speaking, I cannot do higher forms of math--as in anything beyond pre-algebra. My mind is not wired for it.  No matter how much I was taught, over and over, I never grasped it in the slightest. I could memorize steps to do basic pre-algebra equations, but I really had no understanding of what I was doing.   On the other hand, in areas like reading comprehension and analysis, I test very high.  It's a breeze.  My brain is just wired that way.   Within the human race we have very wide degrees of separation between people.  Though it's politically incorrect to say so, not everyone is created equally.  But within the human race, there are measurable norms and variations from that norm.

Now imagine an entirely different race of beings, which only superficially look human, but are as different from you or I both spiritually and mentally as we are from kangaroos, but who are highly evolved and very intelligent, and are able to communicate with us verbally.  That's what gnomes, dwarves, elves, and halflings are.

With that in mind it is completely understandable that they would have racial level and class limits.  Their minds can only mimic the human world's classes and abilities to a certain extent, the extent to which their brains are wired for it.

On the flip-side, something which was not explored but would have been cool if it had been, what are the classes that the demi-humans are naturally wired for?  What spells or spell-like magical abilities would they have had? What inherent racial traits, other than ones in the context of a human-centric point of view or the ones useful for adventuring, would they possess?

It's interesting to think about.

DM'd my first AD&D game in over 20 years Friday night....

It was fun.  I actually DM'd the group in my modified 3.x adventure Red Hand of Doom, as a trial run for the Con I will be running it at.   They didn't know it was coming, expecting the Bard campaign.

Players were my brother and a friend who also hadn't played AD&D in over 20 years, and one guy who never played D&D at all until 3.0 a few years ago.  I had copies of the DMG and PHB for all.  We hadn't expected the new guy to show, which is why I thought it would be a good night to spring the surprise AD&D night on the group. 

Prep time took a bit longer with him there, but it was interesting watching his reaction.  I had pregen characters, and he ended up with the magic-user and the ranger.    He was trying to look up some stuff in the DMG asked "Uh, is there any sort of organization to this book?" I responded "Yeah, Gygax's stream of consciousness."  We all laughed when he asked if the range of spells was really measured in inches.  The dreaded THACO conversation with him turned out well, as he is an engineer by trade.  :) He picked it up fast.

Prepping for the game was fast for me, after I got done writing up the pregen sheets.  I basically copied them from 2 modules:  the pregens in the back of Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, and from Against the Giants.  The copying over and looking up the gear and rules for everything else on the character sheets was essential for me as DM to rememeber the basics.  There was a lot of stuff I never knew, or forgot I knew. Mostly related to combat. Gygax was clear as mud on some matters, and I realized we houseruled back in the day not knowing we were houseruling, as we never really did the surprise stuff by the book.

Nonetheless I decided to do it as by the book as I could, minus weapon against specific armor types, which I thought was an Unearthed Arcana thing, rather than a AD&D original DMG thing.  I was surprised to see it there.  I didn't like it in UA, and I still don't like it. So we eliminated it.  We also left out weapon speed factors.

Damn I like group initiative.

The adventure went well.  It was a bit faster than our 3.0 game, but not by much, I think for 2 reasons.  First, we had to remember and figure out stuff as we went, like thief backstab bonuses to hit, for example.  So that took longer than normal.  Also, we use narrative combat in 3.0, so the time difference wasn't as great as for people who use mini's and grid combat and all the special movement and attack rules in 3.x.  We don't use many of those rules in our 3.0 game.

Still, I thought we'd get more done.  I think the reason why I thought we would make more progress is that the last time we played with this system was high school.  We could literally play for 15 hours straight, get up the next day and do it again.  Now our old working butts are tired at 11:30 pm.

Afterwards, the next day I read OSRIC's combat section, looking for more ways to streamline the combat and make it easier to explain to people. I really like how they explained, especially initiative.  It's a well done book, and from what I've seen the changes they made to the system are very few, mostly minor, but good ones, like fighter specialization, fighters v. low level guys, and some magic item changes.

Playing also made me realize that AD&D is my favorite system, even more-so than 2e which I thought was my favorite for a long time.  There is something grittier about it, less politically correct, and less story based.  Less of a assumption that you are the "good guy".   Most of what I realized I like now about AD&D 1e there was no way to appreciate back in the 80's, because I didn't read its literary influences like Vance, Howard or Leiber, nor did I have the life experiences to appreciate such a game. 

I'm actually tempted to get together a regular AD&D 1e/OSRIC group now.