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?!?!