Friday, December 31, 2010

Women in RPG's: Or, What the RPG-Verse Needs is its Own Don Draper

People seem to be talking about how to market to women in RPG's. Read the links below to get the gist of the positions, but Zak seems to say that you shouldn't direct the artist or you'll get shit art that doesn't appeal to anyone. Trollsmyth says come on now, how about the Sistine Chapel... RPG's just haven't been marketed correctly yet. Greg seems to say that people are basically stupid and don't know what they hell they want, and are easily convinced through sales and marketing techniques. Oddysey has something against voodoo mind control for some reason.

I am more in agreement with the "most people are stupid" approach and can be lead to do whatever clever marketers/admen/politicians/propaganda artists want them to do. It's all in how you sell it.

Let the master explain:



And, just to prove the the guy knows all there is to know about women:


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thoughts on D&D's Endgame Back in the Day

The main goal for my AD&D MU was to build his 500 foot "Tower of Epic Phallic Symbol" so all would know his power. All the campaigns centered on looting gold and magic for the purpose of gaining power in the campaign world. Adventure and exploration were what you did to gain money and magic in your quest for world domination and reputation. It was a game of ambition. It wasn't about the fought only when you had to. Fighting wasn't balanced and all wussified with an expectation of success based on your uber-build...there was actually a more than decent chance you would die back then. Why attempt it?

That's still the way I play today. That sort of mindset is frowned upon in society these days. The political correctness of the 90's did a lot to kill off a generation of gamers who may otherwise have appreciated such a style of gaming.

I remember in 1976-77, in Second Grade, after gym class, whoever won whatever game we played that week got the right to sing at the top of their lungs a portion of the Queen song "We are the champions, my friend...", and shout out the part "NO TIME FOR LOSERS" and taunt the other team. What did that do for us? Whoever was on the losing team wanted to win next week and we would practice and try harder. We wanted to be winners and be able to wear the mantle of winners for the week. It made all of us better.

Now, everybody gets a trophy for showing up. You're a winner just for fogging up the mirror held under your nose. That sort of mindset isn't one that encourages the type of game I play. The endgame with latter editions is assumed to happen, rather than something that exceptional players strived for and achieved only after the harshest of trials. Now you get it just for completing X # of tactical combat encounters which you knew you'd win anyhow, because the rules are designed to let you win.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A New Year's Prediction for WOTC and all D&D Editions

Seeing WOTC's Legal Dept. up to their old tricks again with Crystal Keep, and noting that they are deleting older edition articles off of their website, I think there may be a method to their madness. My prediction:

Why aren't they doing this? That's the real question. Here's my theory and prediction:

Mearls isn't as stupid as his predecessors from a business sense, he likes older editions, and he is aware of the PR blunders of the past. The only reason to repeat one, even to a lesser degree, would be to have a positive side to it---or at least something WOTC can spin as a positive to the fans, while at the same time making money off of it.

Which leads me to think that there will be a re-release of older material, like as in ALL of it, going back to the OD&D books, in a way that WOTC can make money from it.

The real money-maker for the company now is DDI subscriptions, as opposed to book sales, because everyone knows the books will be outdated due to errata in a matter of months. What better way to get people who want nothing to do with paying a subscription to DDI because they don't play 4,e than to release all material for all older versions of the game? How many people would pay 10 or 20 bucks a month for access to everything?

Short of that, if the technology isn't there, they will release everything in pdf format, rather than DDI, thus making up for their massive blunder of a couple years ago.

They've blown their load on Essentials, they've scaled back book releases, there is no new revenue stream on the horizon with the current system, or at least nothing that's going to significantly jack up profits using the IP they are currently in bed with. What they are doing now is a preemptive strike to protect their future plans and revenue streams, as much as it is a way to preserve, even if temporarily, the current hegemony (wished for in their own minds) of 4e.

Making older versions available electronically is a win win for everyone, from their perspective.

My only question now is whether they will go after the clones.

Anyhow, you heard it here first if it comes true. If not, eh...who reads these silly blogs anyhow. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WTF...Crystal Keep, Fantastic d20 Resource, Taken Down by WOTC Years After They Abandon the d20 Paradigm


It was a great resource for charts and tables. It was around for years while d20 was WOTC's system of choice. Now, if you go there you see this:


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thoughts on Some of the New Editions and Clones, Plus a Con Report, and Some Other Random Shit

I purchased the S&W Complete the other day, and I love it.  All the classes of AD&D, races can be other classes, full spell list yet simplified spell descriptions, and simple combat.  It's simple and perfect for me, a guy whose preferred system is AD&D, yet who has forgotten the finer details of the game.  Even though I have like 6 AD&D players handbooks, if I ever get a group together again, I'll do S&W Complete.

I downloaded Adventures Dark and Deep, Joe Bloch's version of 2e AD&D designed as if Gygax had written it, based on comments Gygax made over the years.  I liked it, especially the variety of casting and bard classes.  It reminded me of AD&D plus those old "Compleat" books of the early 80's.  It looks like it has the makings of a great game, but as for me, I think I'm just a bit too old to invest the time in learning a game with so many similarities to the game I know, yet which require me to really get into the rules to determine the differences. 

I DM'd Lamentations of the Flame Princess at the CT Old School Con in October.  The system is simple and works fine.  The only issues I had with it were some of the redundancies with the skill systems, which apparently will be fixed in the new Grindhouse Edition.  I really liked how they did thieves skills.  About the only thing I didn't like about S&W Complete was the thieves skills section, wherein they kept the generic progression, making all thieves of the same level the same.  I would definitely import over LOTFP's skill system to S&W Complete.  LOTFP is very compatible with older editions, with monster conversions and the like easily done on the fly.

A brief note on the Old School Con---it was a blast.  Tavis Allison and I did something neither of us had done before---we ran a simultaneous dungeon crawl.  2 groups, same time, 2 different DM's.  If they encountered each other, then so be it.

The setup was fun.  Tavis and I got together the night before with Tavis' long time friend and with another player to roll up characters and get the LOTFP system down.   One neat thing we did:  each of us created 3 or 4 magic items, which would be randomly selected by the players the next day.  The items couldn't be class specific, could not be a numeric giving item (i.e. a plain old plus 4 longsword) and had to be weird, as befitted a Gygaxian campaign in Zagyg's castle.  They were great fun to make and play with.  Tavis has them, and promised to post them to his blog sometime, so keep an eye out.

We had the groups pick different entrances, then let them loose in the dungeon.  The goal of the groups, the measuring stick we used to determine which group won, was two-fold.  The first criteria: which group reached the deepest level of the dungeon.  The second criteria: if both groups managed to reach the same level, was which group got the most treasure won.  The one caveat to this is that the groups had to survive the dungeon.  Not that they had to get out by the end of the session, but they had to all be alive when the time was up.

It was an interesting dynamic, the simultaneous co-dm'ing.  We used Castle Zagyg Upper Works for the upper levels, and then Castle of the Mad Archmage for the lower levels.  There was no freakin' way we could possibly memorize all the encounter areas in enough detail to be fully versed in it, and Zagyg would have been the harder of the two to do that with, with its detailed descriptions.  We read enough of UW to get the basic story of each area, and ran with it.  Mad Archmage was easier to play on the fly, as the room descriptions were mostly non-existent, because it was a bare-bones dungeon written in the old school style.

Tavis and I sat literally back to back at two tables, thinking we would be able to hear each other and incorporate what the other group had done on the fly.  It turned out that we couldn't really hear that well, with all the people talking.  We basically updated each other every so often with a quick pointing out on the map where each group was, and what they had done since the last update.

The one problem we ran into was when Tavis' group left Zagyg via a tunnel down, and we couldn't find out where that was on the Mad Archmage levels.  It didn't give an actual level number, it gave a name of a level.  We had the benefit of having Jeff Talanian there with us, who co-wrote the Upper Works with Gygax, but he wasn't sure how Mad Archmage synched up.  Tavis made his best guess.  Later, I determined what level it actually was, which meant that our groups were now actually on the same level.   No bullshit, it truly ended up that way.

Now the juices were flowing, as Tavis and I knew but the players didn't.  We kept each other constantly updated via whispering back to back, so I'm sure the players knew something was up.  At one point, while the group I was DM'ing was in a tough fight with a couple of devils, our table was literally surrounded by Tavis and his group.  Initiative was rolled between the groups, and Tavis' group won.  First up was their magic-user, who when asked what he was going to do, replied "Fireball.  Going for the win baby!"

And a toasted flesh win it was.  Their group wiped out my group, taking one of them prisoner after killing the devils. 

We played one more game later that night, with the survivor leading another group into the dungeons, picking up where they left off.  This time, since there was just one group, Tavis DM'd and I assisted with monster lookups and prep work.  Because the last group went the furthest in, they won the Major Award, a 6-pack of Old School Mountain Dew (the throwback version, with sugar rather than corn syrup.)

Other than the Con thing, the only D&D I've been playing lately has been with my my nephew, who is 5 yrs old, when I babysit for my brother.  As I've said in other posts, I think kids are natural role-players, as it's all the same as all the other games of make-believe they play.  Rules are irrelevant.  He treats it like a Live Action Role Playing game.  He doesn't just tell me he is sneaking around, he gets down and crawls around under the tables to sneak up on the bad guys.  Every once in a while we roll dice to see how something goes, and I just tell him what he needs to roll to do something based on how hard I think it is.  I just tell him what numbers need to come up on the 20-sider to make what he wants to happen actually happen.  It just adds some randomness and suspense to the game.  I swear I've learned more about the Old School style gaming with the 5 yr old nephew in a system-less make-it-up-as-you-go game than I have in 25 yrs of gaming. 

One thing I'm excited about is my purchase at Anonycon---The Dresden RPG.  Readers of the blog know I'm a one trick pony, in that I only play and know D&D, but I love the Dresden books so much I wanted to get the game.  Though my crusty old synapses resist learning any new game, this is made simpler by virtue of the fact that it is a highly entertaining system to read, as it is written in the voice of the characters of the novels.  Apparently Jim Butcher had a lot of input into it, and it really shows.  It's almost as entertaining to read as the novels themselves.  I plan on spending some time over the holidays break reading the books, learning the system, then trying to entice my wayward fellow D&D players to give it a spin.   I'll probably DM, since being the only single guy w/o kids gives me the most time to get the game down.

Other than that, not much new. Been doing some writing, which I hope to post here someday when it won't embarrass me too much to have it read by others.

Singing out...

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Funny thing is, I haven't posted much lately.  Seems the less I say, the more people appreciate it.  Go figure.  :)

Anyhow, 2 Con reviews this weekend.  Cya!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ryan Dancey and Cultural Underpinnings and D&D's Appeal, 1974 as Compared to Now

Ryan Dancey continued a thread on the RPGSite, talking about how some aspects of Dogs in the Vineyard can be used to make D&D a better game and appeal to more people. He focused on social interaction game mechanics to get back those players who have been left out by the recent edition's approach to get the same type of people who play MMORPG's.  It's an interesting discussion, but my thought was that the loss of a certain type of gamer which D&D appealed to in the past isn't due to a rules focus, but due to changing cultural paradigms.  From what I posted there:

I think there are certain cultural underpinnings that have changed since 1974. The game appealed to me in the early 80's because of the promise that through exploration in pursuit of lost treasure and magic my pc would become rich and powerful enough to conquer and rule everything around him---or at least set up a tower and get 20 sp per day from each of the inhabitants after clearing the land around it.

Any social interaction that needed to be done was with that focus in mind, and was handled with some basic charisma checks along with roleplaying out the encounter. The basic rules framawork gave us what we needed to pursue our common goals as adventurers in the style of Howard's Conan.

To the extent that RSD says the assumption is to join together and collaborate on a story with Dogs, I have no idea. I've never played the game. I just play D&D, and play it basically the same as I did in 1983. We collaborated on goals prior to playing, not on the story we wanted to tell. We all wanted to become the biggest most powerful badasses in the game world so as to rule that game world, or as big a section of it as we could wage war on and conquer. That had very little to do with what was on our character sheet, and more with the money and worldly power we had amassed.  That approach is very much non-conformist, and not an approach people who are brought up to follow rules would take. To the extent that it appealed to people in 1974 on college campuses is not surprising, considering what was going on in America the 5 years prior to that.

Look at what is going on today in America, especially as to how kids are being raised. They are being trained to be docile sheep, lead around by the nose from one organized play activity to another. The spirit of play (as well as the ability to be critical thinkers) has been crushed out of most of them. To go out into the woods with other kids from the neighborhood after school with a bow and arrow you made from sticks and string pretending to be an explorer in the amazon doesn't happen that much. To stand out and apart from the herd and be rewarded by society and your peers as happened in the late 60's and early 70's is unheard of. More than likely it will get you punished in some way.

Maybe the Dogs approach to RPG gaming is what appeals to the new generation of kids and RPG'ers because of how they are being brought up with different cultural underpinnings than were in place in 1974. Maybe RSD is onto something, being more in touch with current demographic data.

All I know is that for me, a game of D&D without the exploration for the pursuit of power and glory is missing its heart and soul....and that's what I have seen the 3.x/PF and 4.x games degenerate into. Mindless pointless tactical miniature combat games.

More of a story is needed with these latest incarnations, true, but the story develops from the players goals for their characters and what they do to achieve these goals. Pathfinder's adventure paths are the antithesis of what is needed. They're essentially another organized play event, much like soccer at 7 and band at 8:30. The characters are being railroaded through their life, much like the kids who play them are.

Story as an end in itself, or as the primary focus of the game and the game's mechanics, misses the point. The story is what happens as you play, in totally random and unpredictable ways, as you strive to achieve the goals you set for your character.

If the goals of the game in 1974 don't appeal to players today, and you strip them out, then all you're left with is one hollow combat after another to level your character to make him uber in his own right, as compared to other pieces of paper he encounters at that particular tactical miniature encounter. There is no bigger picture.

I blame a lot of this crap on the goody-two shoes approach TSR took with 2nd edition, making everything good v. evil with good always prevailing, and evil never portrayed in a favorable light. That set of assumptions fucked up the game and tore it from its roots. Socially, all that shit hit around the same time as Political Correctness, where certain ways of being were looked down on from snooty-assed cultural overseers, and enforced through lawsuits and school and workplace behavior, which trickled down to influencing daily social interaction, because hey, you never know who you might work with/for someday. I call it the wussification of America. Shit, kids can't even get into a fight in school anymore without being arrested. WTF?

Fuck all that.

If RSD can bridge the game between the older rule sets and the expectations and assumptions based in the cultural mindset of kids today and get new gamers, more power to him. I'll bet you they won't like or understand the game of D&D that I (and most of you it seems) play.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Conn.'s First Old School/Vintage RPG Con, Oct 16!

Just a reminder:

The first annual Connecticut Old School/Vintage RPG Gaming Convention, FalCon, is being held Saturday October 16th, 2010 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 PM at the Falcon Grove in Middletown, CT. The address is 144 Prout Hill Road, Middletown, CT.

The con is focused on older RPG's, not just older versions of D&D. It promises to be a great time, and lots of slots are already listed. You can pay at the door.

Check out the site for more info:

Hope to see you all there!

EVE: A Sandbox Space MMORPG Based in Part on Traveller

The game has been out for a while, but I just heard of it. Has anyone played this? Check these links out....looks awesome as hell.

Unlike most MMO's, it seems to have one server, meaning anyone who plays the game interact with each other. That's 300,000 people. Even more interesting, there appears to have been a huge secret infiltration over the course of a year from one massive guild to another, resulting in switching sides in the middle of an enormous battle, resulting in major gamechanging events, as the formerly larger guild fell.

A game that allows for such sandboxyness to take place gets a thumbs up without me even having to play it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Can't Believe I'm Rooting for WOTC to Quickly Crush Someone Legally...

I'm always ready to stir crap up and have a fight, especially on this topic, which I was arguing with Rob Repp from T$R in 1994 on USENET over. I'm also a lawyer, though not an IP lawyer. I have to say, to pick this fight in this way is stupid. If WOTC didn't go after this guy, it would set a bad precedent. They almost HAVE to. It seems to me to clearly violate the OGL.

Hopefully a C&D letter works. If it has to go to court, then the ripple effects of some idiot judge's opinion might be bad. You never know what a judge is going to say or do. Thankfully, I think WOTC's lawyers know this as well, so they will try to bury this guy fast and get it over with out of court, likely by attacking his means of distribution and payment, if the C&D letter doesn't work.

I can't believe I'm rooting for WOTC to quickly crush someone legally for a position of theirs for which I despise them.

But the potential collateral damage could be too great for the rest of the OSR publishers, whether through court decision, or due to some weird internal corporate dynamic, where we wake the sleeping dragon and it lashes out indiscriminately at everyone.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Red Box Counteroffensive: A Call to Arms! ...err...Dice!

My local DnD Meetup Group (which as far as I know mostly arranges 4e Encounters nights) is tentatively planning a Red Box release event for 4e Essentials.

I plan to be there with my Mentzer Red Box, ready to run Palace of the Silver Princess.

Check to see if there are any groups or FLGS's in your area doing the same thing, and lets make it a worldwide counteroffensive.

Are you with me!?!!?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Essentials and 4e, Based On What I'm Hearing From Gencon

I've been sort of following the developing news, but not being a 4e player, I may not be getting the impact of it all. Help me to clarify. From what I understand:

1. 4e comes out, and they say there will never be a 4.5 and 5e is a long way away.

2. Over the course of 2 years, there are well over 100 pages of changes to the core rules of 4e.

3. This makes the core PHB and DMG essentially useless if they haven't been updated with those changes, which in fact appears to be the case.

4. You get all those changes if you are a subscriber to DDI.

5. Essentials comes out and changes some of the underlying principles of 4e even further.

6. More rules changes are imminent to bring the core 4e game in line with Essentials in every way, perhaps on the scale with the "well over 100 pages of rules changes" that have been implemented already.

7. Essentials and the Essentials paradigm is the future of DnD.

8. They may reprint the 4e core books.

Two questions:

1. What's the point of reprinting core books that are so outdated and useless to running a game which has changed so much? Is it worth the effort to make the changes, when presumably the Rules Compendium will have all those changes worked into it?  Makes me doubt there will ever be reprintings.

2. How does WOTC define "New Edition"?

It seems that by the standards they are using, if we judge editions on a basis of "X amount of changes to the old edition constitutes a new edition", you know, the way most people judge edition changes, then it seems that there has never been an edition change to DnD since 1974.

They seem to give themselves the right to make an unlimited amount of changes within 4e, and as long as they slap the 4e label on it, its still 4e, by virtue of the label alone.

It reminds me of that Orwell thing "We've always been at war with Eastasia." The edition stays the same, no matter what the changes made. The past is made to fit the present and the future, regardless of inconsistencies. The inconsistencies are just changed to fit the needs of the present, which is to not look like a bunch of liars, in saying that there will never be a 4.5, and a 5.0 is far far far off in the future.

Does that pretty much sum it up?

At this point I just feel bad for the 4e players.  But I guess in order for WOTC to charged every month for DDI, they have to make it worth it.  I guess the "value add" is in the fact that DDI is the only way to stay up to date with an ever-changing ruleset, in which changes are part of the normal course of business, and I guess expected to continue forever.

I mean, how many people would subscribe to DDI if WOTC guaranteed (haha, i know, just go with it for a minute) that there would never be another core rule change, or another character/class/feat/ability/power/whatever which would be implemented?  Would articles for Dungeon and Dragon make it worth the subscription for most people, if those articles didn't include that sort of thing?

It seems that neverending change to the core of the game is a necessary part of their business model.

It's only a matter of time before people jump off that roller coaster.

The only reason I actually give a shit about all this, is that DnD is the intro drug to the hobby, like it or not.

If their marketing tactics are designed around short terms revenue goals. then they will likely lose gamers, as they stop playing after becoming more and more frustrated with the core rule changes and ever increasing need to stay on the roller coaster and keep up with the changes. That means less people are able to introduce others into the hobby.

As for the new gamer who gets into it by picking up the new red boxed set on the shelf: iIf, as soon as a person buys a boxed set with "all they need to run the game", and they discover that actually, they need to keep shelling out money every month just to keep up with rules changes, which effectively made their initially purchase useless, how pissed off are they gonna be? How likely is a new guy going to stick with such a game?

I see their actions growing the revenue streams short term, but hurting the hobby long term. Hence my anti-WOTC feelings.

I feel bad for the creative people at WOTC forced to work and design under such conditions. With this job market, what can you do. We all need to pay our bills. If the corporate suits tell you to do something, you have to do it, stupid as it is, regardless of your personal inclinations.

I feel bad for 4e players, forced to continually shell out more money every month not for quality stuff, but mostly to update what they bought 2 yrs ago.

The whole thing sucks.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Share with me the METAL!!!!!!!!

So, I'm running an AD&D game at the CT old school mini-con in October. To set the mood, I'm bringing music. I'm only playing METAL! that was popular from the OD&D through the AD&D 1st ed. years. Share with me your favorite music you listened to as a kid back in from those years while playing D&D, so I can create my playlist.

METAL! only! Because basically, if you played D&D while listening to Bananarama, well, you were a loser, and likely still are.

Please include Artist/Band and Song Title, rather than just saying "Everything from Sabbath, dude!"


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The LOTFP RPG Came in the Mail Today!

It looks really cool.  Well done, and I love the compact size.  That was a surprise--for some reason I expected it to be the same size as the Mentzer boxed set.  I guess every time I hear "boxed set" that's the model in my head.  It's going to be a busy weekend, between that and going through my latest acquisitions (see previous post).  :)  More on it after I read it...

I Looted YET ANOTHER!!! Massive Hoard of Old-School DnD Books!

I'm sure you remember this post from last year.  Well, I did it again!

This time instead of finding them randomly where they were left on consignment in a comic store, I found them on Craigslist.  I drove up to Mass. to pick them up tonight.  The seller was a great guy, and this represents the collection of both he and a friend who used to play D&D together.  The modules section below really filled in a lot of gaps in my own collection.  Plus, I got hold of a Moldvay Expert Boxed set, finally.

It was good to talk gaming with him, as we are the same age, and had a lot of experiences in common---though I have to say I never blew of school with my friends to play DnD all day.  :) 

One oddly disturbing thing is that he gave me all his dice, too.  I asked him if he was sure, as I saw some of the original red and blue boxed set dice in there.  I know how sentimental I am about my own first dice set.  He said yeah, he has no time to play anymore anyway.  Is it me, or is that sad?  I mean, you can give away your books and still play a pickup game somewhere.  But your Dice!  That's like a master carpenter giving away his tools.

Anyhow, I invited him to come down to the Old School Minicon in CT in October.  Hopefully he can make it.

Without further ado...the list!!!!!!

(I didn't name the modules, just put the number, because its like midnight here and I want to go to bed)

1st edition Hardcovers
DMG x 3
PHB x 3
Legends and Lore
Deities and Demigods
Fiend Folio
Unearthed Arcana x 2

2nd Edition Hardcovers
PHB x 2
DMG x 2
Legends and Lore
Tome of Magic
Forgotten Realms:  Adventures
Monstrous Compendium Looseleaf

2nd Edition Softcovers
Arms and Equipment Guide
Complete Handbooks:  Fighters, Thieves, Bards, Wizards, Priests, Dwarves

Dragon Magazines:  88, 90, 89, 93, 91, 95, 92, 83, 94

Dungeon Magazines:  54, 82, 49, 47, 44, 50, 78, 77

Moldvay Basic booklet
Moldvay Expert Booklet, in the blue box, with a 1981 flier/advertisement

3.0 Boxed Set Introduction game


Dragonlance:  DL1-DL7, DL9
UK7 x 2, UK4
X1 x 2, X2
L1, L2
B1 x 3, B2 x 2, B3
G1-2-3, D1-2, D3, Q1
C1 x 2, C2-C5
S1, S2, S3
I1, I2, I3, I3-I5 Desert of Desolation, I5, I7, I11, I12, I13
A2 x 2, A3, A4
WG4, WG9
T1 x 2
CM1, CM2
GA2, GA3
RQ1, RM2, Ravenloft:  Dark of the Moon

World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting Book and the Glossography

The Contract
Shadows of Evil
Evil Ruins


Hall of Heroes for Forgotten Realms
The Magister
Dwarves Deep
Dungeon Geomorphs Set 1-3
Silver Anniversary Against the Giants:  Liberation of Geoff
Dungeons and Dragons Monster and Treasure Assortment Sets 1-3, Levels 1-9
Books of Lairs 1 and 2
Treasure Maps:  for 2nd Edition
Terrible Trouble at Tragidore
Al Qadim A Dozen and One Adventures Boxed Set
The Armory:  Fantasy Roleplaying Character Sheets
D&D Character Sheets (1981)
1993 TSR Master Catalog Collector's Edition
AD&D DM Screen, old, x 2, DM Screen new, Players Screen
AD&D DM Adventure Log
2nd Ed. DM Screen
2nd Ed. Character Sheets x 2

Bigass Bag o' Dice

Not bad, huh?

Oh yeah, the price---

120 bucks!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Size Fits All Marketing at WOTC?

The Hasbro quarterly conference call transcript is up again. As usual, no mention of D&D. However, they gushed about Magic and the digital thing they are doing with it, and how its driving revenue and profits.

In the Q&A section

they say this:

Brian Goldner

David will talk about the sales in Magic in a second. But just to talk about the core brand reinvention, a couple of years ago, we changed the management team. We have great leadership out on the West Coast. The team had really re-thought that business entirely, really went back out after a trial mechanism in getting young people and people who may have lapsed as users to get back into the brand. They really reinvented the entire play pattern in many ways, but kept the things that were always important to the core player and to the fan. The fruits of that effort are starting to come to be borne out, both in the analog card business as well as the digital business. So I really compliment the team for their efforts in – this is a true case of brand reinvention, re-imagination, all yet keeping the core methodology very consistent for that core fan. Dave, you want to talk about sale?

John Taylor - Arcadia Investment Corporation

Before Dave goes, I wonder if I could get you to expand on the digital versus analog thing there. Are you using the digital as much of a revenue generator? If so, is that a key growth driver or is that mostly more marketing-type thing?

Brian Goldner

No. It's a for-sales product. You can build your hand, your deck online. You can buy and you are buying. People are buying digital objects, which are the cards. You have the opportunity if you want to turn those digital objects into analog cards and have your deck delivered to you, but it's really both in terms of growth and usage. Certainly, quantitatively, there is still more business in the analog card business, although digital has grown as has analog. It's a bit of a difference; you're seeing more new users using the analog or paper-based cards whereas you tend to see more lapsed users who have moved away from their friends, they've set up their own lives and they are now reengaging with other lapsed Magic players online because of course, digital helps you to span those distances between friends.

There's more about it, but that's the meat of it, and the site only allows you to copy up to 400 words for use elsewhere.

Anyhow, it occurred to me that if you took out Magic and substituted D&D in there, it would read the same as what we've been hearing out of them in terms of their digital initiative and the reasons for it.

Which makes me wonder, did they actually develop a marketing strategy for D&D separate and independent from Magic? Or, since Magic is so huge that D&D is just a pisshole in the snow compared to it, did they just slap Magic's marketing strategy on top of D&D in order to save resources, citing certain similarities between the customer base (and ignoring differences in the games themselves).

I know it sounds stupid, but as anyone who has worked in a large corporate environment can attest to, it sounds like something a boneheaded corporation would come up with, doesn't it? After all, the revenue streams are so low from D&D compared to Magic, who would notice in terms of overall sales from the "west coast" as they are described above? In the meantime, you saved money and resources in not having to come up with an individualized marketing plan for a product. Short term, you look good, and long term you're covered since the mother ship doesn't care about D&D anyhow, and the growth in the main product will grow revenue for the division anyhow.

Also, I wonder if they will move towards a more print on demand basis in the future, as they are doing with Magic. If they are following the same marketing plan, we'll see it happen I bet.

Edited to add:

I don't play 4e, and am hardly familiar with the system. But people who are just posted this:

"Probably our biggest concern is compatibility. Will all of the stuff coming out in Essentials be compatible with stuff I already have? Every word from WOTC says “yes” and I imagine they’re right.

At least, it’s as compatible as the rest of 4e is right now.

That’s a statement with some subtext so let me clarify. 4e has changed a lot over the past two years. The mechanical design we see in later books is quite different from the design we see in the early releases. For DM’s, I think these design changes are clearly seen when comparing monsters at the paragon tier and above across all three Monster Manuals. I’ll talk more about this in a bit. For players, it’s seen clearly in the huge number of updates to the core classes and powers in the original Player’s Handbook.

The core classes today are very different from those in the original Player’s Handbook. The recent change to Magic Missile is one such example.

The one thing keeping players sane is the Character Builder. Because it’s constantly updated, we don’t have to worry too much about keeping up with all of the updates. Of course, it makes us look at our core rulebooks and wonder why we bother to carry them around. I know I’ve stopped doing so. I might as well be bringing a Laura K. Hamilton hardback for all the good they’d do me at the table."

From here:

So, with books being outdated after 2 years, and the true source located online, why publish books? Just print what you need, when you need it. Is this the future?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Final Take on the Latest OSR Debate

Here's my final take on the whole damned mess.

First, I like and respect Rob and James as people as also like and respect their work.  They're both very creative people.  I've spoken to them both via email and the phone with Rob, and via chat and blogs and boards with Jim.  Rob consented to a very long interview, full of personal questions, which will be posted to my blog one of these years, when we ever finish it.  That being said, I'll attempt to speak my mind rather than mealy-mouth and worry about offending.  I'll just state how I feel, my observations based on my understanding of the two individuals, without sharing personal info, and let the dice fall where they may.  They'll probably both hate me after this, but whatever.  I have to say it as I feel and see it.

As to the OSR:  I don't like revisionist history and dogma.  I do see some of that, and it grows as the OSR grows.  Then comes bull and politics.  Then the judgment of the good/bad/right/wrong way to play D&D rears its ugly head.  It's what happens in every organization/movement/type of thing where people come together.  It's a natural occurrence.   It's inevitable.  Some people see it growing, some people don't.  I see a lot of the early signs of it, being a hater of it, and my early warning system is going off.

Some people say they won't be affected, that they play how they want to regardless of the groupthink.  Fine.  Maybe you won't be.  But for every one strong individual there are at least 10 or more insecure follower types, without a strong a personality, who can be infected with groupthink and Kool-Aid drinking.  That's undeniable, though the ratio may be debatable.  That's who I'm worried about.

As it stands now, the most vocal among us are, unsurprisingly, the people with perhaps the strongest streaks of individuality.  To an extent, those people are in common agreement on certain things, and post their shared views to the world. Those shared views become impressed on the impressionable as “the way it is” just by virtue of being the most common and available reading material.  All things are compared against it.

Then impressionable follower types then preach the one true way to the world, as read on the blogs and boards of the OSR.

So then what the heck is the OSR spreading?  If it's spreading at all in any real numbers, which is something I question, it's spreading groupthink instead of unlimited creativity and play, which was the intent of the creators of the hobby, and some of the earliest desires of those who starting rediscovering their gaming roots a few years, and coalesced into a group of people we now call the OSR.  (I'll note for the record that there's a ton of people that never left, like some at Dragonsfoot, and thousands all over the world, who still play the games they grew up with.)

People then lose focus on the whole reason for the thing in the first place:  to enjoy playing older D&D games, and to share our games, creativity and fun with others.

As to the labeling of who is part of it, and who is not, I've stated my opinion on that here:

Let me just add that the problem in my with Jim's post on his opinion of who is in the OSR and who is not, is this:

You can self identify and part of a group.  No problem.  You will always have others consider you part of a certain group or subset.  That's just part of life.  There's nothing you can do about it.  However, Jim's post made it sound like he was telling others that they were part of something, defined by a certain set of subjective criteria, and THAT THEY THEREFORE HAD TO CONSIDER THEMSELVES PART OF IT, WHETHER THEY LIKED IT OR NOT, BECAUSE THE GROUP AND THE GROUP'S CRITERIA MADE THEM PART OF IT.  That's the key difference.  In other words, it came across as telling people what to think.  It smelled of the dogma I spoke of earlier.  Hence my speaking out about it on my blog, as I hate dogma.

After speaking with Rob and corresponding with him via email for close to a year, I can honestly say he has one of the strongest streaks of individuality I've ever encountered.  He has his own sense of integrity and set of personal beliefs which he tries to live by every day of his life, which compels him to speak out like he has.  As such, you can understand why he was riled up by Jim's post, which made it seem like Jim was implying Rob was part of a group and should consider himself thus.  Rob's not a follower.

He also isn't a guy who constantly goes out there and says “I deserve respect for my accomplishments.”   For the most part, he lets his creations speak for themselves.   I know Jim is a big fan of Rob's work.  He has stated so many times.  I'm a fan of Jim's work and Rob's work, and have stated as such to each of them about their own work, and about the other guy's work.  In terms of the products each produces, I think both guys have a lot in common.  Both exhibit a lot of creativity, and their modules are great examples of pushing the limits of what's out there today.

Rob doesn't need to OSR for sales or credentials.  He was there at the beginning, and doesn't need the name recognition.  Jim does.  Of course he is going to push the OSR as a brand under which to market his products.   I think Rob gets that, and doesn't mind outside of the groupthink component of it.  What really pissed him off I believe is the lack of respect not to himself, but to the whole thing HE was part of, and the group of people at TSR he worked and played with in its earliest days.  I honestly don't think Rob is as personally offended, as much as he is offended at the revisionist history, creeping dogma, lack of focus on play and creativity, and a betrayal of what he considers the core of D&D, and a lack of respect for people who made the whole thing happen in the 70's, culminating for him as the blog post that broke that camel's back in some of Jim's posts recently which exhibited some of those things.   It wasn't all about Jim, is was building for a while I think.

Also, I think Zak S made a valid point above when he said “I don't know man--has there EVER been a renewal of interest in a thing where the originators of the thing being renewed didn't clash with the renewer?”

I think that's a lot of what's going on here too.  Different generations always take things in different directions.  The earlier generations, the ones who created something,  are often shocked, offended, and outraged at where their creation goes.  Jefferson was not pleased with where America was heading when he died, and Einstein hated the fact that his theory of relativity was needed in creating atomic bombs.   I think its the same thing with Rob and Tim, and maybe others from the old days who haven't spoken up yet.  It's just human nature that some bit of ego is involved, though it seems more so with Tim than Rob, and feelings are hurt as people feel due respect isn't being given or shown, not so much to the people, but to what the people created and what they believed and intended it to stand for.

Rob did a ton of work and out a lot of effort into the game in the early days, and as such he deserves the respect of anyone who has ever rolled a d20.  I suspect that Rob would consider the highest form of that respect to be creating something that breaks the boundaries of the games we play today, and the games we played in the 70's---or at least don't do crap that impedes others from being able to do that, through regurgitation of old tropes, misrepresenting the past, or being part of something that dogmatizes and sets rules and boundaries on creativity.

I think Jim has a helluva future ahead of him.  He is doing what others aren't in his modules, and he is trying to open the tent wider to grow what he considers to be the OSR, by bringing the works of other publishers to his display table at conventions to sell.  His take seems to be that a rising tide raises all ships.  I think for that he needs to be commended.  But he still wants to earn a buck, and he honestly believes that the OSR exists, that it is a good thing overall, that the dogma is not there in any damaging degree, and that its useful in bringing others to the table.   It's also useful in growing his business.

Plus, he has a bit of an ego himself.  I think everyone who goes to blogspot and creates a forum for themselves to speak to others does.  It takes a certain level of ego, if not narcissism, to stand up on a soapbox uninvited and say  “Here I am.  Hear what I have to say!”  With Jim its also tooting the horn of the OSR so as to keep the movement alive, so the business opportunities grow.  That's completely understandable., but also its understandable why it may irk others as it has.  From ra-ra comes dogma.

That being said, I think Rob may be off in one area:  many if not most people don't care about the spread of creativity and play, and other ideals of his and the founders of the hobby and TSR.  I understand that Rob is a person who wants to put that out there and make it grow, and so the fact that he sees a group which takes on the trappings of earlier his creations and is using it to stifle creativity through dogma and revisionist history is especially galling to him.  However, his ideal is not the greatest and highest form, because ideals in themselves are subjective.  To criticize one group's ideals primarily because those ideals create something that runs counter to your own ideals, is inevitable perhaps, but since ideals are in themselves subjective, from a higher perspective the battle over ideals is the same as the battle over raisin bran or corn flakes.  I don't think its a black and white as Rob describes, but I understand that his core set of beliefs make him feel as he does. I think that there is perhaps some good that can come of the OSR, mixed with the bad.  I'm sounding the early warning bell of dogma though, and I think if it continues, not much more will come of it in terms of spreading the hobby's original core values of pure unstifled creativity, which is what attracted most of us to the hobby in the first place I think.  But understand that the good and the bad are also subjective, especially when it comes to something like this.  It ultimately comes down to what an individual wants for their own individual games and the hobby.

Some ideals are perhaps more important than others, because of their ability to affect more people through belief in those ideals, but ultimately as any student of history knows, ideals come and go based on the time and place you live.  You just have to pick and choose a set of beliefs to get you through the day, and let you live a life that makes you happy, and let others do the same, because in the end it doesn't matter anyhow, we're all worm food.  Anything we leave behind is going to be used and perhaps corrupted to suit the needs of those using it.  It's depressing but true.  I think Rob believes he is seeing that now, and I can understand why he thinks it sucks.

As to points of view on the matter, imagine a brand new car that has been sideswiped.  A person standing on the side that was smashed looks at the car and says “what a piece of crap.”  A person on the other side says “What a beautiful car.” 

We all come to this with a certain viewpoint, based on out life's experiences.  That creates a certain point of view.  In spite of our differences, and the differences of opinion on this matter and where I think they're coming from, which I've tried to outline above, at the end of the day we all roll a 20-sider to hit something and like to have fun with our friends playing DnD.  On that basis, we have far more in common than we do differences.  If we try and understand the other side's point of view, I think each side can find some truth on the other side.  Life is rarely black and white, and is usually full of shades of gray.  Hopefully we can find some common ground and work together to grow the aspects of the game and hobby that we all love and share and have in common.

I've not really spoken about Tim's post, because honestly I don't know the guy, or of him.  No offense intended to Tim.  I'm not a scholar of DnD history.   I know the role he played in the early days of TSR within the company, and as such I give him the respect he is due for helping to create a game and a hobby I love.

My personal hope for whatever we consider this OSR thing to be is that it breaks loose among the general populace before dogma takes hold and stifles it, and my nephews and nieces have lots of people to play old versions of D&D with in the style of game they played with their uncles and aunts around a kitchen table when they were kids.

Hopefully it gets there.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Different Twist on the Origins of Undead

Some ideas came to me the other day regarding the origins of undead vs. the type of undead they are.  Skeletons and Zombies come from the create undead type spells typically, right?  What about the rest?  We know that some undead create others of the same kind, but where did the first come from?  Certainly there wasn't one progenitor of all of those types, especially when they are mindless beasts. 

How about this:  most undead come from the create undead type spells.  Whether they are Skeleton or Zombie is a matter of deterioration.  But whether they are another type has to do with how evil they were in their lives.  Ghouls and Ghasts could be more evil versions of what was a Zombie, for example.

Next though we have the question of how to define evil.  How about the 7 deadly sins?  The more they committed in life, the more evil they were.  This might also lead in some cases to types of undead being determined---like Ghouls and Ghasts always feeding = greed or gluttony or some combo of the two.  Mummies sin was vanity and pride, hence the wrapping the body and mummification proceess.  They might also have been greedy, as indicated by being buried with all their stuff.

Ghosts:  Pushed to all manner of evil acts through greed for all that life had to offer, their reward is to constantly drain the life-span from their victims representing the waste of many years spent in life seeking that which couldn’t last.

Vampires:  Have the body parts and the desire for sex, the sin of lust was their weakness, but their mere touch kills the victim they lust after.

Lich:  The ultimate in undead, in that a form as been created which  will allow it to fulfill the primary motivating force of its previous existence: Greed. Greed for power, obtained through wealth and magic, exercised through control of everything in existence.  A lich knows that gluttony and lust are for lesser beings, not in control of base appetites.  Wrath and envy are for those without the power to take what they want.  Sloth is good to have in obedient servants without a will of their own, and pride is unnecessary to one with true power, as the manifestation of true power is reward enough. This leaves pure Greed as the sole reason to exist, greed for power, with the will focused through the eternity of lichdom to carry out the acquisition of power.

The Wraith/Wight/Spectre trilogy might represent something for the sins of wrath and/or envy:  For those who have killed due to desire for something, or someone.  They took a life, and are thus cursed to forever drain life and with each kill they are hungrier and hungrier, never to be satiated, making them more full of wrath.  Their form is even more shadowy the more lives they took, representing the fact that even if they were to obtain that which they killed for, they would not be able to hold it.

Shadows might be sloth as the sin:  Searching for the strength of will to achieve something in undeath, since they never had the strength of will to achieve it in life, all they manage to do is drain physical strength from their victims, as they fade to insubstantiality, never able to truly affect anything in the world again.

If most of them are created through the create undead type spells, then the cleric never knows what he is going to get every time he casts it.  He better be powerful enough to control what he creates, or else it would be as likely to turn on its creator as the person the creator targeted them against.

How about those clerics and paladins who fight the undead?  What if they happened to have been extremely virtuous in some of the qualities that are the direct opposite of the vices which they undead are attuned to?  Chastity, temperence, patience, kindness, humility, diligence, and charity.  The DM could allocate some bonus to turning or damage based on how the character has been roleplayed.  Also, items owned by people who were particularly well known for these virtues would be more effective against the undead, and vice versa for being able to control them.

Anyhow, just some ideas.  I have no charts or tables to offer, nor a unified system that ties it all together.  I'm not good at that sort of thing.  Just some ideas thrown out there---do what you want with them if you think they may be helpful.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Membership in the OSR

Why be part of the OSR?  Why define yourself as part of it?  Can't we just play the game we like, share our creations, and encourage others to do the same and thereby grow the hobby?

A couple if posts of James Raggi and Rob Kuntz are showing a couple of different mindsets.  Jim defines anyone who:

1.    Are you playing pre-1989 D&D, or a simulacra unofficially based thereon?
2.    Are you publishing material for those games? deep in the OSR.

Rob doesn't want to be part of it, basically because—-guess what---it doesn't matter why.  Everyone has the right to be part of whatever they want.  If we can't even self-identify, WTF good is life?

I think its cool that so many people are getting back into older D&D games.  But truthfully, maybe the whole OSR thing has run its course in terms of being useful to growing the hobby.  I mean, has it brought in any new players?  Or is it just 600 people on a nostalgia trip, rediscovering a game they loved as kids and making stuff for it? 

At the very least, its dogmatic tendencies make it something I don't want to be part of---if I ever was in the first place.  I'm just a guy who likes to play AD&D who can't get a group going because no one else plays AD&D around here.  I don't share shit with others on my blog, I don't write modules, and I don't write long pseudo-intellectual crap telling others what to think about old shit other people published, like some art teacher regurgitating to his students what to think of paintings in the words of his grad student teacher of  40 years ago.

The end result of such academic definitions is dogma, and things that “qualify” as old school, and things that don't.   Or they get categorized in a certain “age” of D&D.  I mean, who gives a shit?  How does that affect the game we play?

Fighter:  “Wow, that particular bit of dungeon ecology is a fine example of old school Zagygian Naturalism from the Golden Age of Dungeon Architecture.”

DM:  “Um...yeah.  While you were admiring the Bugbear's latrine, one one of them came up and chopped your head off.  3D6, six times in order bitch.”

In the meantime, we fight over bullshit distinctions, as to who's in it, who's not, what it means to be in it---and God forbid you don't drink the right color Kool-Aid.  Then you're ostracized.   Defining something just creates one limitation after another.  All that results in is limiting creativity as you are forced to create within a certain box for a certain audience, which defeats the whole purpose of a game with unlimited imaginative potential like D&D in the first place.

Can't we all just play the fuckin' game we like to play and share our best creative work with each other and try to get new people into the hobby?  Especially the latter part, or else the whole branch of the hobby we love so much will just die off as we argue over the virtues of bugbear latrines and their place in the history of D&D.  For Christ's sake, run a fuckin' game at a Con and get people exposed to the game.   That's something even I've done.

Otherwise, as Chogwiz said, its like a big circle jerk.

EDIT:  Just to clarify, what Jim is doing is above and beyond what most are doing to bring others into the hobby.   My post was directed against him at the beginning only, in terms of defining membership.  The rest of it was more towards the potential of the OSR to grow the hobby, yet not seeing much happen on that front.  How about running games at cons for example?  Probably the best way to do it.  Not seeing too much happen.  To run an OSR con is great, but does it expose others who wouldn't go to it in the first place to older games and gamestyles?  I see a lot of energy wasted on fights and history, but not much in sharing the game and growing the hobby.  On that front, Jim is doing more than most, with his exposing the game to others at Ropecon as well as other games and publishers.  He gets that a rising tide raises all ships.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

4E Essentials---4.5? Beta Test for 5.0? Who knows....

I honestly can't figure out what the hell they're doing. It's supposedly geared towards the new gamers, and trying to get new people into the hobby without scaring them with 20,000 pages of rules. That's a fine goal which I support (though how its easier when one of the "Essential Line's" essential books is a several hundred page Rules Compendium is beyond me).

I don't know enough about 4e to know how the changes in Essentials affect the game, but it seems upon reading the official PR crap that some of the changes make it more like it used to be in older editions. That combined with the whole red box thing makes me think they are trying for people who never got on the 4e bandwagon, as well as older gamers for whom "Red Box" holds nostalgic significance.

And yet they say it doesn't mess with the existing 4e game. From what I've seen in commentary on various boards, it definitely will, and its potentially as significant a change as 3.5 was from 3.0.

All I know is that with WOTC's existing track record for twisting the truth for PR purposes, we won't know what Essentials actually is until it comes out. At that point we'll get a better understanding of what they were TRYING to do, which is apparently be all things to all people, past/present/future gamers.

We'll see how that works out.

If past attempts are any indication, whatever it is they are trying to do will cause a massive PR backlash.

And then there will be layoffs.  Maybe even prior to the annual Christmas Fuck You's.

Edit: Here's an interesting opinion...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ever DM'd a Campaign Where You Limited the PC's to Non-Good Alignments Only? How did it work out?

I'm getting ready to start up a new AD&D 1st ed. campaign, and I'm simply not interested as a DM in having the characters rescue the princess or save the village. I want characters who are selfish and greedy. I want the primary motivations to be gold, glory, magic, and power. I'm telling the potential players this up front. Within that context, it will be sandboxey and open-ended.

Has anyone ever imposed alignment/personality/thematic restrictions like this in a campaign? How did it work out?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unemployed? Play D&D!

Alright, it may sound insensitive or crass, but it's not meant that way. I've been unemployed and I know how much it sux ass. But here's the thing: tonight I played a game of AD&D with a few people I've never played with before. It was the first game session with a new group. Two of the guys were unemployed, having been laid off, and another was off for the summer, being a school teacher.

You're unemployed, money's tight, you have time off, you have the kids home for the summer, and you can't afford summer camp. Perfect opportunity to introduce the kids to D&D. Or to find a group of former gamers in a like situation. Now, this wouldn't be a target market for WOTC, because they won't spend money. They will likely break out the old books, or maybe download a retroclone. But you have to admit, DnD is a cheap hobby, if you just use the base books and your imagination, as was intended originally, before the hobby turned into an industry that tried to convince you that you needed to buy every single books published to enjoy your game.

I'm not saying it's going to happen. I don't even know how to make it happen, other than to hand out copies of the old Red Box with the unemployment checks. I'm just saying that certain factors are in place, which, if the wind blows in the right direction, could bring more lapsed gamers back to the hobby.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tortured Souls! Fanzine from Beast Enterprises

In going through more of what I looted a massive treasure horde of Old School stuff from a clueless comic book store owner for pennies on the dollar, I read three Tortured Souls! fanzines.  Though fanzines, they are really of pretty good quality. I have #4, 5, and 8, from 1984 and 1985.  It is a British magazine, supporting the local British gaming scene, and quite proud of the fact.  It looks like the ones I own were purchased at Games Workshop for 2.95 British pounds, according to a price sticker on them. How they ended up in a comic book store in the bottom of a box in shitty little Ansonia, CT is anyone's guess.

The magazine is more of an equivalent to Dungeon, in that it has  settings and adventures, except that the adventures are generic, and can be run on any system.  Interestingly, they give either stats or references for multiple systems for some of the adventures, including Runequest and Tunnels & Trolls.  The way they inserted the different ruleset info didn't disrupt or distract from the adventure layout.

Something else I've never seen before was a multiple adventure within the same adventure approach.  They have a couple different introductions, and a couple different endings, with several differences within each module if the DM chose to use scenario A or B.  It's a good way to get more bang for your buck, and to let the adventure be used more than once for different groups.

In addition to the standard generic module, they have a setting specific one in each magazine, which though tailored for a certain setting of the publisher's own creation apparently, can be used generically.  It's a good way to set up or support the publication of a game setting.

One magazine had a solo adventure, in the style of "if you choose to run away, goto #45, if you choose to light the oil on fire, go to #67."   I don't recall seeing solo adventures in older Dungeon magazines, or in newer ones like Kobold Quarterly.

In addition, one magazine had a one-on-one adventure, designed for a high level Cleric and a DM.  I remember those from the early days of the hobby, but haven't seen them much anymore.

The quality of the magazine and the quality of writing was good throughout.  There were a no ads in the earlier magazines, and in #8 just a couple.   One odd thing about the magazines though is that they seemed to be about an inch taller than all of my other magazines.  Is that a British thing? 

They had good quality maps, and one even had posterboard quality paper with the equivalent of dungeon tiles which a DM could cutout and use for one of the adventures.

It looks like there were only 12 of these magazines ever published, from what I could glean from Google.  Anyhow, I think  some of these characteristics if added to modern gaming magazines, would go over well with modern audiences. What do you think?

Sooo....What the Hell D&D Game Did Gary Actually Play?

In looking through the links on The Delve, I came across a 1982 interview with Gygax, in Thunderstruck (apparently a fanzine of some sort) in which he is describing the differences between D&D and AD&D. 

Gary says:

Soooo....if he is not using the magic or combat system of AD&D, which is similar to D&D, what was he using?  Did he mean he just used D&D's combat and magic system?   Or did he design his own, as might be implied by the context of that quote in the rest of the article?   (Read it, you'll see what I mean...)

For anyone "in the know", was Gary's magic and combat system very different from D&D or AD&D?  Or did he just use D&D's?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Encyclopedia Harnica--First Impressions

Last October Some of you may remember I looted a massive treasure horde of Old School stuff from a clueless comic book store owner for pennies on the dollar of what they were worth.  I've been going through it slowly, mostly as Shitterial---as in material read when taking a shit. Not to imply thats its shitty reading material, just the opposite in fact.  I save the best stuff for when taking a dump.

Anyhow, I just recently broke out the Encyclopedia Harnica stuff from the list linked to above. I never heard of Harn, either the system or the world, until I found this stuff.  My first impressions upon looking through the 5 booklets are that the maps are outstanding.  Not only are they incredibly detailed, they are realistic.  From castles, to towns, to buuildings and outdoor areas, they all make sense.  The layouts all fit together.  They seem to be designed by someone who understands how medieval villages/towns/castles actually operated.  Best of all, they're generic enough to be used for any game. Consider them stolen.

The next thing that strikes me is the level of detail in the actual world. You can tell that based on what you're reading, the whole thing was thought-out over a lot of years.  It reminds me of Tolkien in level of detail, or, from what I've heard of it, the Empire of the Petal Throne setting.  He even breaks down the economics of the areas, in terms of arable land, and production values.  While harder to copy and paste into your own campaign than the fantastic maps, above, I think they can definitely be used for inspiration. 

From what I understand, Harnmaster was a game ruleset, and the Encyclopedia Harnica detailed a setting. I just have the setting stuff.  Has anyone based a longstanding campaign in the lands detailed in the Encyclopedia Harnica?  How did it go?

Holmes Article: Confessions of a Dungeon Master

Thanks to the Underdark Gazette which referred me to this great article over at The Delve.

There are lots of other great links over there, go check it out.

The article was written in 1980 by John Eric Holmes, and talks about him DM'ing various groups of people. Interestingly, he seems to be playing AD&D with his groups, and the gameplay is definitely not PG-13.   For example:

He talks about violence in the game as a release, interparty conflict, the differences between DM'ing teens v. college age/grad students, chating and how he rolls all dice out in the open, and DM's needing to have the ability to go outside the rules and wing it.

Very interesting article.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All Hail The Master of Old School Maps

Turgenev on Dragonsfoot has a 56 page thread going with some of the best old school style maps I have ever seen, of all types.  He also has a webpage here, where he organizes and categorizes a lot (maybe all) of them. Go check it out, you won't regret it.  Did I mention they're all free?

Monday, June 7, 2010

For All Writers Whose Work Gets Edited By Others...

I was throwing some ideas out to Jim Raggi on stuff for his game, and it brought a story to mind.  As the original author will find it difficult to sue me, I think it's safe to repost it in its entirety here:

by Thomas Jefferson
WHEN the Declaration of Independence was under the consideration of Congress, there were two or three unlucky expressions in it which gave offence to some members. The word "Scotch and other foreign auxiliaries" excited the ire of a gentleman or two of that country. Severe strictures on the conduct of the British King, in negotiating our repeated repeals of the law which permitted the importation of slaves, were disapproved by some Southern gentlemen, whose reflections were not yet matured to the full abhorrence of that traffic. Although the offensive expressions were immediately yielded, these gentlemen continued their depredations on other parts of the instrument. I was sitting by Dr. Franklin, who perceived that I was not insensible to these mutilations. "I have made it a rule," said he, "whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. When I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions, an apprentice hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome signboard, with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words, 'John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money,' with a figure of a hat subjoined; but he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments. The first he showed it to thought the word 'Hatter' tautologous, because followed by the words 'makes hats,' which show he was a hatter. It was struck out. The next observed that the word 'makes' might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats. If good and to their mind, they would buy, by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said he thought the words 'for ready money' were useless as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. Every one who purchased expected to pay. They were parted with, and the inscription now stood, 'John Thompson sells hats.' 'Sells hats,' says his next friend! Why nobody will expect you to give them away, what then is the use of that word? It was stricken out, and 'hats' followed it, the rather as there was one painted on the board. So the inscription was reduced ultimately to 'John Thompson' with the figure of a hat subjoined."


EDIT:  Not to suggest that James was in any way unreceptive to my input, it was just the opposite in fact---it was just that the editing and throwing out ideas for a couple paragraphs of his just brought to mind this funny story.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Laptop Advice Sought---Windows 7? 64 or 32 bit? XP Mode Necessary?

My current laptop is on life support.  I had to buy a docking station because the port to plug in the power cord to is shot.  Which required a base to put on my lap for balance.  The battery life is exactly 16 seconds.  It runs so hot the fans sound like jet engines.  My replacement HD is only 80 gig.  It's a 2004 laptop.  Bottom line, time for a new laptop.

I'm looking at some on, which seems to have the best bang for the buck.  I'll never go with HP/Compaq, and Dells are overpriced.  Alas, I can't afford a good mac. Price range is like 700-900 bucks. 

I'm definitely going to get the I3 or I5 Pentium, with at least 4 gig RAM, and at least a 320 gig HD.  The real problem I'm facing coes down to the software/OS side.  I still run XP, so I'd be jumping the whole era of Vista, which from what I've heard is not such a bad thing.  Windows 7 seems to have a lot more fans. 

Now the question I have is to go 64 or 32 bit.  I hear some basic 32 bit apps don't run on Win7.  Even Firefox seems to have had issues.  My protection right now is Avira, Zonealarm, and Spybot, along with Ad-Aware, all the free versions. Will I have problems with those?

Next, the other programs I commonly use---Pidgin as a universal chat interface, Shareaza, Bit Tyrant for torrents, Thunderbird, Firefox, MS Word 2007, older version of WordPerfect.  I'm hoping those all have editions which will run on 64 bit, or even under Win7 in general.

Then there's the list of programs I have that I use once in a while, but are handy utility programs nonetheless.  Things like programs to convert .lit formatted files to .pdf. 

I guess overall my question is, is Win7 worth it?   Should I stick with XP?  How much am I giving up? 

Then, the question of XP mode which comes on more expensive versions of Win7.  In other words, versions which don't come pre-loaded on the pc.  I've sort of resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to buy the full OS anyhow, because I loathe how they don't give original CD's anymore with the pc.  Dell was the last holdout which used to do that, but since they stopped that practice, I'm not buying from them. Not worth the price.  Plus I don't want to have to a reinstall with all the bloatware.  There's about a $100 difference between Win7 Home and Win7 Pro, which has XP mode.  Is it worth the 100 bucks?

The hardware side of things seems to be the least of my worries, ironically.  Hardware specs, chipsets, etc, are pretty straightforward.  The software side seems to be driving the price up.  What are your experiences with newer laptops running Win7 with the latest Pentiums? 

Any advice is greatly appreciated. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Registration Now Open for FalCon, Connecticut's Old School/Vintage RPG Convention

There is a limit to how many people can attend, based on the location, so register early!

Registration is $10, and will be handled through PayPal.  

Click here to register.

Who's going?!?!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Played My First OD&D Game This Past Weekend, in Celebration of My Turning 40

What better way to celebrate being an old fucker than playing an old game? :)

It was great!  I was able to join in Tavis Allison's Fantastic OD&D White Sandbox game with about 8 other players.  I was fortunate enough to join in their 22nd game session, wherein they finally got to kill the big bad guy at the end, the source of one character's lifelong quest.

First, the location was awesome.  It was in NY City, in one of those massive deli's they have there. It's like the size of a small supermarket. We played in the upstairs area, overlooking the deli.  The deli had damn near anything you can desire to eat or drink, from real cooked food, to any snack imaginable.  Genius location! 

Next, the game itself was neat.  It was a combination of the old Judges Guild module "Caverns of Thracia" and Moldvay's "Lost City" I think.  We used OD&D as a base, but Tavis devised a different HP system, similar to but developed separately from the one used in Carcosa, where HP are not fixed, but change from day to day, and incorporates physical, mental and spirit elements.  I have to admit I haven't mastered it yet, but that could be because the place sold keg sized cans of Foster's Ale downstairs.

Tavis is very flexible, and welcoming of anything. One guy showed up, and he was like me in that it was his first game with the group.  He announced he wanted to be a Faun (like the pan flute thing).  Tavis said sure, made up rules for Fauns on the spot with the guy, and easily incorporated him into the game with the rest of us. 

The group was comprised of a bunch of really smart and capable players, who looked to be in their late 20's -30's, who also were really nice guys.  None of your stereotypical social misfits.  I had a great time with them, both at the game, and afterwards at the Korean Chicken place with like 50 TV's in it, eating wings and drinking Korean beer.

I made up a Dwarven magic-user outcast,  beardless, skinny, bald, with like a 7 Con and a 7 Strength.  Rolling was 3d6 in order, so I ended up with a whopping 11 Int.  Tavis uses a different system for generation, in that he allows you to create a history which explains any odd special abilities you assign yourself.  My Dwarf spent all his time reading books, so never developed the typical Dwarven proficiencies with underground settings, so he couldn't detect secret stonework doors, etc. However, all that time reading allowed him to have a shot at knowing obscure languages.  He fights with a handaxe and a small buckler, when he absolutely has to, but otherwise uses a hand crossbow if needed and his spells won't suffice.

As a result of getting lost in the mines, and stumbling on some mushrooms which he ate to survive which put him in a trance where he had visions, he thinks himself a more true dwarf akin to the ancients, and it is his personal mission to bring back the Dwarves of old, who are like him.  As a result of that he publicly shunned the gods, and was kicked out of his city.  He takes the mushrooms now to gain a insight into certain things, if they work to get him in touch with the gods he feels he contacted when lost in the mines.  His magic is also affected while under the hour long trance the mushrooms put him in, in that the visions and hallucinogenic experiences he has bleed over into the spells in some random way, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.

Tavis didn't blink an eye at that.  Fuckin' cool.  At one point when I was going to use a Wand of Wonder while under a trance, which would magnify the Wand of Wander's already random shit to the umpteenth degree, he got real excited.  We never tried it out, settling on a saner plan.  Next time though...  :)

We got through areas of the dungeon, made alliances with werebears while I was out taking a leak, sweet talked the minotaurs into guiding us to an area where the minotaur king was, and had a blast.  I had no idea the minotaur king was the ultimate goal of 22 sessions, so when the group went nuts when he came out of the room and cast a devastating fireball to soften us up, it was exciting as hell.  Everyone upped their game and enthusiasm, realizing they would possibly be reaching a major climax of the whole campaign that night.  Many were near death, and all the henchmen were slain by the fireball (except for the henchmen Fabio and George Foreman, who were killed in earlier encounters with the gnolls and harpies, and the henchman George Foreman the 2nd who was killed due to an unfortunate fumble by one of the PC's.)

Eventually, with only one PC death (what's an old school game without a PC death?), they killed the big bad guy. It was awesome, as we all stood up, watching intently the key die rolls which would make or break the encounter, and determine if we would end in a TPK or not, which was very close to happening. 

Memorable lines of the night: (AS BEST AS I CAN REMEMBER THEM...)

Me early on:  Whats the goal of the adventure? Why are we here?
Them: Gold, treasure, and to kill the minotaur king/Beastlord.
Me: Why are we killing him?
Them:  Because he's the guy on the cover of the module!
Me: (thinking to myself, "I've found a new home!")

"In 4e its called Whirling Strike.  In OD&D it's called my 5 henchmen attack."  (EDIT---TAVIS' MEMORY IS THAT THE LINE WAS "In 4E you call out the name of your attack. In OD&D you call out the name of the henchmen who are throwing javelins."  I'll go with that, as my memory was beer-influenced...I think I got the spirit of it though.)

One player, when getting into deep shit talking to a room full of minotaur women all alone, looking like he was about to get his ass kicked, while separated from the rest of the group, generously said to us "I'm willing to break scene now if you guys want to do something with your characters."

When Tavis was trying to determine something related to harpy music in the OD&D rules, one guy pulled out Moldvay to see what it had to say, and was ridiculed with "You and your newfangled Moldvay rules."

Finally, when some slavic sounding tourists walked by and looked at what we were doing, puzzled, one of them said "You have 8 people.  You could be playing Bridge."

That's the joy of playing in a very public place I guess.  :)

Anyhow, it was a fantastic time, and I am so doing it again.  It was a great way to turn 40.

Judges Guild's Bob & Bill, A Cautionary Tale by Bill Owen

I picked this up the other day and it was pretty interesting.  I tells a lot about the early days of JG, and is full of personal remembrances and stories as well as interesting pictures and copies of letters and other documents.  It's also a eulogy/testimonial of sorts to Bob who had died right around the time is was written.  It's not that big, at about 40 pages but for 17 bucks the pdf download was worth it I think for anyone interested in the early days of JG, the PG scene, and the people involved in JG.

Get it from LULU here:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

RPG Internet Post of the Week

Over on Dragonsfoot, in a thread where people are listing their most prized RPG possessions (sentimental, not in terms of cost or monetary value), one guy posted a cover of a homemade module he made as a kid in 1986 or '87. It's just awesome. And you know why without me having to articulate it.  If the whole OSR/Vintage RPG revolution can get kids to do this sort of thing again, I consider it a success.

Click to enlarge.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Collections of Pictures and/or Sound Effects For Use in Your Games?

Does anyone know where to get good collections of these sorts of things?  For sound effects I was thinking of monsters growling, creepy eerie sounds, screams, medieval combat sounds, etc.  For pictures I was interested in actual photos or good artwork of real things, like old graveyards, ruins, cathedrals, underground passages/cities, overgrown forests, etc, which could be shown to players to give them a sense of how the area looks.

Are there any such collections out there?  Anyone care to share their own personal collections?  Even links to threads on boards, or blogs, would be helpful.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Laptops Used to DM Old School Games?

Just wondering, other than for pre-game prep, does anyone who runs older D&D games (2e or older, or clones)  us a laptop to DM or play in a game?

Other than for pre-game prep, I can't see the need. 

If you do use one, what do you use it for?  What programs do you use?

Monday, May 10, 2010

If WOTC Breaks Up, Who Would You Want to Get What? Making the Best Out of a Worst Case Scenario...

The recent round of layoffs got me thinking:  What if the inevitable happened this week?  WOTC got out of the RPG business and sold off pieces of itself?  Who would you want to get what?

Greyhawk goes to Paizo, mostly because Erik Mona is there and he loves the setting, so will take care of it.  Plus he did what I consider the best GH resource ever, the GH Gazetteer.

Green Ronin gets the older editions of D&D to publish.  Paizo is already tied to PF, and has its hands full.  Green Ronin/Pramas would do a good job, and Pramas like the old school games, as proven by Dragon Age. Also, they know how to get books on bookshelves. I saw DA in Borders the other day.  They would have to vow to keep the core books of each edition always in production though.

Ed Greenwood gets all things Forgotten Realms, so he can go back and put out the definitive edition of the setting, wiping out all the crappiness he was party to over the last 20 years. I get it, gotta go where the money is.  But still, some of the world changing contortions the various iterations of the setting went through blew me away in their suckage.

Older modules go to Necromancer Games, as long as he promises to always keep them published. 

Newer modules get used for campfire tinder, as they suck ass anyhow. 

Goodman Games get nothing, because I just don't like Goodman's pomposity.

All executives at WOTC who are not gamers must work as snow shovelers in Siberia for the rest of their lives.

Anyone else?

More layoffs at WOTC? --at least one seems to be confirmed.

I hope they all land on their feet.  The only slight positive is that, although being laid off at any tie sucks, at least they didn't wait until Christmas this time, like they usually do.

In solidarity...Greg Leeds, WOTC President

Completely juvenile, but somehow very satisfying...

Seriously, look at this guy's background.

Diaper and luggage seller.

Here's the news link:


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Courtney Love: Last Bitch Standing?

I saw her on Stern the other day, and she is crazy as ever, even though she is off drugs (she says).  Anyhow, something she said took me by surprise.  In response to a comment by Stern on other female rockers, she basically said name then, that there aren't any, and she's the "last bitch standing."

I draw a clear distinction between rock and top 40 pop, so Lady Gaga doesn't count. With that distinction in mind, what other woman is still out there kickin' ass, rockin' on stage?

EDIT to add clarification as to what I mean by still rockin' and kickin' ass from my comments below:  Are they out there creating new music? Doing anything new?  Or just playing the same old stuff they've been playing for the last 30 years?  Are they creating anything relevant to today's music scene? Do they have new albums with new music that's still Rock or Metal?

(Yeah, I know, not D&D, but who cares. I've had some of my best "listening to metal/rock" moments while playing D&D anyhow, usually when deep into a hairy combat scene.)

Iron Man 2

Saw it.  Bleh.  Wait for it to be on Cable for free.  Save your money.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Announcing a Vintage/Old School RPG Gaming Convention in Connecticut!!

It is called Fal-Con, and will be held in Middletown, CT this fall. They are taking event submissions now.  It is focused on all Vintage RPG's, not just DnD.

I spoke with the person organizing it, and he seems pretty cool.  He was really impressed with GaryCon, and wanted to do something similar in CT.

After putting together my list of old school gamers in the state, I had the idea to do a East Coast Old School Con.   I figured there were two in the center of the country, with the North Texas RPG Con, and GaryCon. Seems someone else had a similar idea. A friend of his was nice enough to point me to this, the inaugural event.

With Middletown CT roughly a 2-3 hour car drive from 30 million people, I'm sure we can fill the hall.  My hope is that this becomes the premiere Vintage/Old School Con in the region. 

As of now there are no luminaries or guests of honor, and no exhibitors, just a bunch of gamers.  I think that's the way the event organizer wants it, the first time out.  A low key, low cost, all day gaming event.  Please don't let that stop anyone, luminary or not, from coming down for some Vintage RPG fun. 

I am going to be running at least one session of Castle Zagyg: Upper Works, and perhaps a classic module as well---I am thinking of running a Judges Guild one.  Anyone else interested?

Here's the link:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Older Edition DnD Connecticut Players List Complete!

I was able to get about 20 people to respond, plus a lot of them said they would spread the word to friends of theirs.  Not Bad!


That started me thinking---for those of us who can't make it to Texas for the North Texas RPG Con, which focuses on older games, why can't we do something similar up here in our neck of the woods?  If we did a Vintge RPG Con here in Connecticut, it's within 2 hour driving distance of Boston, NYC, RI, and most of NJ.  That would cover, what, 30 million people who can drive 2 hours to spend the day?

We could have it focus on older RPG's and wargames of all sorts---Traveller DnD, Gamma World, Chainmail, Tunnels and Trolls, Chaosium stuff...basically everything RPG-wise pre-3e. 

Something to think about...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Decline of Man

What is good in life?

Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Modern man:  To only have to share my cubicle with 2 other people, to get an extra 10 minute break a week, and to have a day where you don't have to hear the lamentations of the copier breaking down again.

Don't you just wish sometimes that you could take a sword and carve out a kingdom somewhere due to pure badassedness?

D&D---The closest we'll get.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

WOTC Lawyers Cracking Down on Posts at ENWorld?

From a twitter tweet of the ENWorld owner "Morrus" :

"Eeek. WotC has its lawyers send us letters about member posts now? I miss The Rouse!"

WTF? Hopefully he posts the letter. How stupid is WOTC? ENWorld is like the last bastion of supporters outside their own message boards. Maybe they want the entire message board content of the internet for their own as well.

I would suspect, if I had to guess, that it has something to do with people posting shit with proprietary WOTC stuff in it, like power cards or stat blocks of something they think they own.

Yet another milestone in the PR debacle that is WOTC

EDIT: I want to see the letter so we can see how far-reaching in scope they are shooting for. Assuming its some perceived Intellectual Property violation, their delusional megalomaniacal actions may affect blogs as well.

EDIT THE SECOND: From Morrus on ENWorld:

"I'll not point anything out directly, but there was a large amount of WotC's IP (direct from the books) posted. It has been dealt with."

You'd think a quick email to Morrus, without getting the Legal Dept. involved would have settled it? I'm sure he would have taken it down with a quick email saying "Hey man, there are parts of our books copied and pasted on your forum. Please take it down."

WTF? Like killing a fly with a sawed-off. The Corpo-Borg Assimilation is apparently complete.