Saturday, December 24, 2011

Geek's Paradise: LOTFP Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown Arrived in Hardcover, Star Wars the Old Republic Ass-kickin', and 10 days off!!!

What to do, What to do...

First off, I took a look at Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown, and they are awesome.  Best presentation yet from LOTFP.  Cool maps, great looking books and good layout.  The contents will have to wait to be read in depth, as I am an 8th level Jedi Counselor right now, and off to kick some ass!  This fucking game is the WOW killer.  Amazing.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fuck WOTC and their Christmas Layoffs

The Christmas layoffs continue. 

Good luck to Rich Baker and Steve Winter, and whoever else may have gotten the axe today.  Hope you land on your feet soon guys.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chaos! Embracing it as a DM

One thing DnD gave me through all these years of playing and thinking about it is it developed that part of my mind that asks "And that what would happen, based on all the variables in the equation, to the best of your ability to predict based on all you know of the world about you and human nature, etc."   I am weird in that I can lay in bed for like half a day at a time, not moving, looking at the ceiling, playing my equivalent of DnD chess, figuring out all outcomes and responses.  Its like playing Chess against myself in my head.  Worked hard at that training ability during a period of depression in college.  Weirdly, its helped me as a lawyer, though I hated the practice of law with a white hot passion.

As far as DnD goes, no surer way to a railroad can possibly exist.  I've taken that road in the past with players, they hated me for it, and I don't want to go there again.

What I do now instead, in order to keep the both the players and me on our toes, is keep throwing shit into the equation, so that I can't predict the outcome right away.  I just threw a war on so many fronts with so many players and variables at my players, that I have no idea how it will turn out.  And that's a good thing I think.  No risk of railroading them, their input matters as to the outcome, and lots of spontaneity in the game session as I have to figure shit out on the spot.

I kinda like it that way.  I think its essential for a Sandbox campaign.  The one I am running basically is harsh and gritty, using LOTFP Grindhouse as a ruleset, where all the people in power operate essentially as clever sociopaths.  I guess I'm succeeding in the goal, because last week one player said I'm like Tony Soprano as DM.

Now I just have to try not to think about it at night as I try to fall asleep.  No surer way to sleepless nights can possibly exist.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hey Christian, Wouldya Rather Roll 20 Natural 20's In a Row or Ride This BEAST!?!?

You're the only surfer I know, so whaddaya think?  I woulda shit myself just looking at that wave from the beach....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Deck of Many Things Dealt by a Devil

So my group avoided this encounter (part of their blowing to utter shit the campaign I had developed thus far, but hey, its a sandbox and kinda fun when that happens) so I decided to post something they would have encountered had they hit the deepest darkest part of the mine....

The setup is this:  There is a powerful Devil and his entourage sitting around a large table.  The Devil offers a pull on his specially modified Deck of Many Things to the group---said modifications being unknown to the players.  Part of the mods allow the devil to keep dealing it, over and over, but just to others, without it disappearing.  Also, he managed to corrupt a lot of the cards. 

First rule:  Anyone in the group who wants to draw has to announce it before anyone else in the group draws, and also must announce how many cards they will draw in advance.  They won't get another chance later.  Then they are forced to draw that many cards, regardless of any later regret over the decision....if they don't draw the Devil gets to draw for them with the effect going to the player.  The Devils like it when this happens.  :)

The original language of each card is written after the name of the card, and the part in parentheses is what I added as an evil DM by way of Devilish Card Corruption (TM).

Now some of you may think that some of the stuff below is kinda harsh, but anyone who is stupid enough to draw from a Deck owned by a Devil deserves the consequence.  :)

Note:  under the part dealing with a keep,  my players were currently adventuring in mines under the Keep on the Borderlands, so they would have come up after adventuring and have to deal with a full scale mutiny.  Would have loved it if that happened.  :)

Sun (KD) Gain beneficial miscellaneous magic item and 50,000 XP (Roll on the tables in the DMG—XP comes evenly from all your party members on a 10 xp to you = 1 xp from them basis.)

Moon (QD) You are granted 1-4 wishes (Must take them immediately, and write them down on a piece of paper within 1 minute per wish, real time.)

Star (JD) Immediately gain 2 points on your major ability (taking those 2 points from a randomly rolled character in the group)

Comet (2D) Defeat the next monster you meet to gain 1 level (To the death, monster is randomly rolled and appears before you. None are allowed to interfere. AD&D DMG Appendix L conjured animal table, one level higher than you are. None can interfere, so I hope you're all healed up.)

Throne (KH) Gain charisma of l8 and small keep (Keep you are in, or the closest keep to them, after there is a bloody mutiny. Deal with the political consequences. If two or more characters draw this card, each gets an equal amount of the forces, which are arrayed against each other when you enter the keep)

Key (QH) Gain a treasure map plus 1 magic weapon (Map to the nearest cursed item, Any weapon on either the sword or misc. as long as it is a non + something weapon. The plus is stripped out.)

Knight (JH) Gain the service of a 4th level fighter (4 hd Devil who refuses to leave you, or disguise his true identity---ever)

Gem (2H) Gain your choice of 20 jewelry or 50 gems (Roll in DMG for value, owners appear in front of you, and you are forced to kill them one by one so you can get their treasure. Most innocent and pure people you can imagine. Others are prevented from interfering. The Devils all laugh with glee!)

The Void (KC) Body functions, but soul is trapped elsewhere (In a gem the Devil holds, may give it back for a favor of the group as a whole)

Flames (QC) Enmity between you and a devil (One of the sub-devils in the group around the table)

Skull (JC) Defeat Death or be forever destroyed (Stats per the DMG)

Talons (2C) All magic items you possess are torn from you (Goes to the devil, may give it back for a deal)

Ruin (KS) Immediately lose all wealth and real property (Goes to the devil, may give it back for a deal)

Euryale (QS) Minus 3 on all saving throws vs. petrification (or you can choose another party member to have -6 without them knowing it was you who did it to them)

Rogue (JS) One of your henchmen turns against you ( don't know when or who or why, but you are certain that one day it will happen and at the worst possible moment)

Balance (2S) Change GODS or be destroyed (Randomly rolled, or can voluntarily choose the Archdevil that this Devil serves)

Jester (J) Gain 10,000 experience points or 2 more draws (XP is due to fighting in a pit in another dimension, on a plane of Hell, over and over again, sometimes dying, always being resurrected, winning enough fights to gain the xp taking years, leaving you permanently horribly scared and grey-haired. All this takes place in a wink of an eye. Aged 5 years.)

Fool (J w/ TM) Lose 10,000 experience points; draw again (mandatory draw again)

Vizier (AD) Know the answer to your next dilemma (but be unable to communicate it to anyone in any way)

ldiot (AC) Lose 1-4 points of intelligence, you may draw again (or choose to have someone else in the group lose 1-4 points of intelligence without them knowing it was you who did it to them)

Fates (AH) Avoid any situation you choose. . . once (must declare the situation now, 60 seconds in real time to write it down)

Donjon (AS) You are Imprisoned (In a force cage right there. Devil may cut a deal for freedom)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gary Cooper Woulda Been an Old School Player

Take it from Tony...

He would never whine about balanced encounters and character deaths.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Looking for Apothecary/Alchemist/Herbalist/Poison Recipes/Formulas

Stuff that would fit something more old school in style.  In other words, don't have the concoction simply heal or harm for some numerical value on some stat or attribute, like newer editions do.  Looking for the oddball shit, like "Halts male pattern baldness, with the potential side effect of turning your fingernails purple."   I'm using LOTFP, but anything along that line that can be ported over to an older DnD style game would be much appreciated.

Even more of a bonus would be a list of places where to harvest some of the ingredients, like "The flower blooms only on the full moon if the full moon falls on the same day as the summer solstice."  Or, "Must be extracted from the brain of a living Unnderhuld, and there is a 10% chance upon extraction that the juice reacts violently with the air, causing noxious fumes..." 

That sort of thing.  Thanks!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Unconventional Gaming

So I'm running a DnD campaign using LOTFP Grindhouse rules, and typing this with a Capt. Morgan buzz, so fuck typos. 

I find myself playing a neverending game.  By that I mean it continues in between the "official" game days in a lot of ways.

Here's some shit I find myself doing these days that I've never done before:

Between game days, we run PBEM (Play By E-Mail) to work out lots of stuff.  Very helpful in terms of details and world building.

The players email me specific stuff they want their characters to do on their own, like investigate the polititcal structure of a town.  I send them the info they are looking for.  Fills in the gaps, and lets me take the time to detail something I would normally take less time to do less thoroughly in-game.  Makes for a richer experience I think.

Players call me on the phone and we discuss ideas both in character and out of character.  Not that we geek out and talk in funny voices and shit, but we do say shit like "my character would do this..."

This weekend we can't get together formally, but we are going to try to do a Skype or Google Plus game for an hour tomorrow night, where the players take sides in a side battle that will indirectly affect their characters for good or for bad.  For some characters, more directly than indirectly.

The gameday never really ends.  It always ongoing, in one medium or another, all the time.

Here's the biggie---In-game, I usually have the characters roll almost everything the DM would roll, other than secret door search checks and the like.  For example, if there is a saving throw for the big bad guy, I elect a player to roll it to see if the bad guy makes it or not.  I let one player roll the attack roll for a bad guy who is attacking another player character.  I let another player roll the damage dice.  I let one player roll the dice to determine which PC  the big bad guy will attack that round---which is hilarious if he rolls for himself. Sometimes I let one player roll for initiative for the bad guys,  Is this sadistic?  I love it when a player has to roll for the opposition and the roll's outcome could potentially be something that fucks him, a party member, or the group as a whole. 

I do it in an effort to be transparent, and because it gives me a thrill to see how things will turn out.  I love the randomness of it all.  Plus, its a thrill to be sadistic I think :)

Anyhow, that's my update.

Anyone else do shit like this?  What else are you doing that I might want to try along these lines?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

LA Area DnD Players! Join Satine Phoenix's DnD Meetup and Eat Pancakes!

Check it out!

"DnDMelt is Los Angeles and Hollywood's Premier Dungeons and Dragons Gaming venue for gamers of all ages and experience levels. We have groups for character creation and basic gaming for beginners, one shot games anyone can join and on going Campaigns for those who long for Epic adventures. 4E, 3.5 ... whatever your flavor we will have a place for you. Located at Meltdown Comics at 7522 Sunset Blvd, LA, CA 90046. Our General gaming days are Thursdays 5-10pm and Sundays 11am - 6pm. Walk-ins welcome tho RSVP is preferred so I can organize the right amount of DMs to players. Striving to band our DnD Community together DnDMelt offers more than just a place to game, we offer monthly Memberships, Raffles and Mixer Events. need more information? want to be a part of our DM Crew? Feel free to ask: ~ Satine Phoenix:"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review: A Thief in the Night

About a month ago I reviewed a new book by David Chandler called Den of Thieves.  It was a great book, that left me looking forward to the second book in the series.  Well, the second book came in the mail free last week!  I guess because I took the time to review the first one.  My thanks to Harper Collins Publishing.

Anyhow, if someone sends me something for free, I feel its only right to review it.  I'll always be honest, too, which I guess is the reason people don't send me anything for free to review.  :)

A Thief in the Night picks up a short time after Den of Thieves leaves off.  The thrust of this book is a delve into ancient dwarven mines. 

As he did in the first book, Chandler turns some common tropes and assumptions people have about swords and sorcery books on their heads.  There is  moral ambiguity, suspicious paladin types, creepy elves, ancient double-crosses that play a part in today's world, weird magic, and a group that is often at odds with each other and seem to be using each other to pursue their own goals at times.  Picture Gandalf's Company of Nine as a bunch of selfish Neutral types with conflicting goals all entering Moria together and you get the idea. 

That being said, it was a  good ride, and kept me guessing as to how it would turn out for various characters, who would live, and how things would resolve as to the big-picture.  The good thing about flipping some assumptions on their heads is that the reader is always trying to figure out if other assumptions might be flipped, and how other aspects of what you expect to happen will be affected.  When neat happy endings aren't the expectation, it keeps the reader on their toes throughout the story.

The book is well-written and kept my attention the whole time, which is rare for a book these days.  Its book two of the Ancient Blades Trilogy, so if they keep up this release schedule, book three will be out in a month or so.  I look forward to it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

ConstantCon Game: Playing in Kyrinn's World of Urutsk--Orgies and Feral Chicks...

I have to admit that I never took the time to really get into Kyrinn's world.  I knew from some of her blog posts that her world was extremely well developed--- she had been working on it for decades or something.  As you all know, I'm a one trick pony in that I just play regular ol' DnD, and this world and game system seemed to be too different for me to be able to sink my teeth into and enjoy.

Anyhow, when I saw her running Constantcon games on Google+, I was reluctant to join in for the above reason, and also, to tell the truth here, because she was a woman.  I've never played DnD with a woman before, other than my sister when we were kids, so that doesn't count, and Zak's Mandy in a Constantcon game once.  I'm not exactly the most classy guy in the world, and when I play a Constantcon game, I usually like to have a couple beers in me, kick back, relax and enjoy myself.   That usually involves juvenile/crude/classless humor or comments and/or character actions and interactions.  Most women don't seem to be enchanted with such behavior in other aspects of real life, for some unknown reason, so I figured it wouldn't go over well in playing the kind of DnD I like to play with women in the group.  What can I say---I guess I'm still single at 41 for a reason.  :)

Anyhow, the other night I asked if anyone was running a pickup game, and Kyrinn offered to run one for me.  She grabbed another player, a girlfriend of hers, and we were off.  Now I'm sitting her thinking "Shit, I've got to be on my best behavior.  Try to sober up.  It's gonna be a rainbow and butterflies type game.  We're gonna chase leprechauns or some shit."

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first situation my character encountered was being dropped into an inn on the outskirts of civilization where people were fighting and killing each other, and fucking in various corners.  The first being I encountered was a feral wolf-girl who eyeballed my food, and once I fed her wanted to fuck.  So I obliged, of course.  One flaw all my characters I've ever played enjoy, is that if someone offers to bang you, take them up on the offer, no matter what their race.  I call this the Captain Kirk rule.

Next thing you know, there is a spell being cast on the whole bar, trying to put us to sleep or something.  I made the save only because the feral chick just bit me in the neck after sex.  See how the Capt. Kirk rule rules?  So I loot some purses while they're all half asleep, and run outside.  (I should probably add here that my character was a LOTFP Grindhouse Specialist.  Kyrinn simply converted whatever I wanted to do to her game system seamlessly, based on my stats and abilities and stuff.)

Once outside I meet my Kyrinn's girlfriend's character.  She is on her way in, I warn her off, and when I see two more of those caster race people coming towards the inn, I hightail it to the bushes, chivalrously leaving my newfound companion to deal with their shit.

Feeling a twinge of guilt, I keep an arrow aimed at the whole exchange from the bushes.  A fight ensues, we get the hell out of there after I throw burning oil on the tent house where a ton of people are being entranced by 3 of the enemies' companions.  They break off their attack, and we run into a cleft in a wall, looking for "old gold."

After a bit of delving, we come to a room with a bunch of weird chicks who keep petting us down, trying to draw us in, putting us at ease.  My paranoid "I'm just a first level thief and nothing good can come of someone wanting to make you feel at ease in a dungeon" DnD reflexes kick in and overwhelm any twinge of chivalry I have, and I hightail it out of there too, with the feral chick (who I named  Kim, after a crazy ex-girlfriend I had in college) accompanying me, having already peed on my leg in fear.

Little did I know that if I just stayed I would have partaken in a harmless orgy.  Shit!  Capt. Kirk would be disappointed in me.  My only solace is the fact that Kyrinn and I were on the same page in taking some perverse enjoyment in making her girlfriend blush for like half the game.  :)

Lest you think that this was the best part of the game---fucking feral chicks and orgies and a DM who can "go there" as well as any I've played with in terms of the down and dirty shit of life in a game---this was the least part of my enjoyment of the game.  The best part was Kyrinn's world itself.  The level of detail is unparalleled in any game I've ever played in.  She has like 7000 years of history timelined in great detail, including all aspects of races and cultures, geography, npc's, etc.  It's something else to see in play.  Her descriptions were in such detail that I've never felt so much like I was in a certain location in my head while playing a game.  I still have a very clear image in my head of everything that transpired, as if I watched a movie a few times.  It was fantastic.

The magic and weirdness level were spectacular. I couldn't figure a lot of stuff out, it didn't fit any known paradigm I am used to dealing with, and it was scary/creepy/twilight-zonish/wtf is going on here!  She's an excellent DM, the world is amazing, and the game she creates for the players is cool as hell.  I'm hoping we can make it a regular weekly event.  You're missing out on something great if you don't join in.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lyrics That Either Have or Could Have Inspired Awesome Game Sessions

We all know of songs that were inspired by some bit of fantasy literature, or even DnD.  Zeppelin comes to my mind most often in this regard.  (from like 2:50 on for a minute or so)

Let's flip that around.  Here's the question---have you ever had a specific bit of song lyric that inspired something in your game?  Either a monster, encounter, theme, adventure, or something else? If not, can you think of a part of a song's lyrics that you would love to do something with because it's so fucking awesomely evocative of something cool for DnD?

Name the song, specific part of the lyric, artist, album, and what you've done with it (or want to do with it), and tell us how it turned out.  It you want to be really cool, link to the YouTube video and tell us the minute/second mark of the lyric.  :)

Edit to add:  Maybe it's the 6-pack talking, and I know its hardly METAL!!! (though a great tune), but I'm thinking there is something that can be done with Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence.  There's some creepy shit in them thar lyrics...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Retarded Mearls-ism of the Day


"I think the secret to is that you can memorize all the rules and still not understand the game."
Hey buddy, if you don't understand the fuckin' game, resign and get someone in there with a clue. Spare us all the misery of a 5e designed by you and your team.  Stop wasting time trying to sound all deep and philosophical.  It's just a game for Chrissakes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

On Mages and Thieves in My Game

In my in-person game, using Grindhouse rules, here's how I'm handling Mages and Thieves...

Regarding thieves and thieves guilds---Guilds don't exist. As far as thieves go, you have a few basic types.

1. Opportunist---he sees something laying around, no one is looking, he takes it. Not his chosen profession. Usually has a job, and the job is the place he may steal from. Dockworker stealing an extra bottle of rum when no one is looking, for example, or something he can sell to buy necessities, or a bit of bling to make himself feel better about his shitty lot in life. He may even feel guilty later. But he usually has a need for cash. Desperate types of poor people fit this mold.

2. Crack-head type: Has to steal to fill a need---whether food, drugs, gambling, bookie is chasing him down, etc. Usually a loner.

3. Small-time crook---loser, lives on the edge of society, does a job here and there to get by. May have a few friends who do it. Been caught before, in jail before. Probably will never rehabilitate, as they are lazy and stupid and good for nothing. Usually blows his money on cheap women and cheaper booze. Has a big mouth.

4. Struggling professional crook---takes pride in his job, tries to be better at stealing. Largely self-taught, lives in fear of getting caught by both the law and other criminals, as he tries to poach targets others may be interested in. He has enough talent to encroach on someone's territory to be noticed.

5. Group of thieves---those who consider that they have a territory, otherwise same as #4 above. By territory, I mean usual targets or types of targets. They may know people from #1,2, or 3 above who help them out. Usually friends from way back, like they grew up together and know each others strengths and weaknesses well, and have a form of loyalty and trust.

6. Good group of thieves--same as #5, but pull off better heists, and have a lot better contacts in both the underworld, and maybe even among the populace and legitimate society.

7. Organized good group of thieves with some pull---Same as #6 but they know a lot more people, and have a lot more pull. May know judges, police, etc who can get them off. Still a very small group though. Damn near impossible to break into groups 5 6 and 7 unless you hang with them a long time, and prove yourself.

8. Pick pockets---self explanatory, run the gamut from bad to good. Usually those without hands are bad, having been caught.

9. Con men--self explanatory.

Low life society consists of fences, pawn shops, seedy bars, drug dealers, crack head-type  informants, beggars, urchins, seedy bartenders, men who can be hired for a job---whether to rough someone up or to kill them.

What all these people have in common with each other is they have a culture, a shared language, a shared background (knew each other for a while), loyalty of a sort in that they have been tested and either talk to the cops, or they don’t, or do talk only when certain situations occur. They also know each other, if not by name then by reputation. They know who is "them" and who is "us." There is no professional brotherhood of thieves or of the underworld. There is just them and us, on all levels of society. And if you aren't one of them, then you're a target, a mark, or a threat. None of which is good for you.

To the extent that you're not one of them, but you look like you can handle yourself, have lots of battle scars, look like a badass, or have either a reputation somehow that they've heard of that intimidates them, or that you remain a mystery enough that they can't quantify of classify you, if you walk into the dock area with any of the characteristics listed above, then you might, just might, walk out alive and not get killed just on the off chance that you might have something on you worth more than 1 copper.

It's not like in AD&D when a thief walks into town, asks the guard at the gate where the thieves guild is, checks in and registers as a wandering thief, and promises to kick in a share of theft to the guild while in town. In your case, a newb and a rube, right off the farm, with no contacts and no connections, they'll think your a cop, or a target/threat/mark.

Which brings me to Specialists in the Grindhouse ruleset. The way Raggie describes them, and the way I also like to iook at them, is people with skills useful in various things. There are Indiana Jones types for dungeon crawling, hunter/trappers, tinkerers, thieves, fences, assassins, and many more. All are specialists. How you specialize is determined by the skills you select and what you do with them. Now, having grown up on a farm, your stealth comes from hunting and trapping, your tinkering comes from messing with farm gadgets and game traps, your slight of hand comes from card/coin tricks practiced all night because you're bored shitless and have nothing else to do, etc. That's not to say that you can't easily transfer those skills to some other profession, but their base is on the farm. In other words, you're not a thief---YET. But you definitely have larcenous tendencies. :)

If you want to pursue that route and develop along those lines, no problem, have at it. If you want to go the Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider route, feel free. You could also be the best hunter and trapper in the land. All are specialist roles. Where you take it is up to you. But I just didn't want you to go into town thinking specialist means thief, and expect them to welcome you with open arms. You'd most likely be killed the first night, dressed like you don't belong, looking right off the farm, with no backup, local contacts, or reputation. 

The dagger you wear might be worth more than any two guys have to their name, and those two guys will likely be waiting outside the inn with a couple wooden planks to beat the shit out of you, take your dagger and all your possessions, and roll your body in the river. Picture a white boy right out of some spoiled rich city going to the worst neighborhood in the biggest shithole city in mexico, all alone, dough-faced and innocent looking, and asking around about wanting to put something on the black market. That's about how it would turn out...


Live by the sword and die by the sword. Once you've killed a few times, you become desensitized to it enough that it becomes easier to do it again. Fighters know that of other fighters, and so are always on guard and wisely trust no one. They always expect the ultimate in violence from any situation---death---and prepare accordingly.

Wizards in this world have a recent dark history. About 2000 to 5000 years ago, it isn't clear exactly, the Pantheon wars took place. As a result, Clerics lost much of their power, as they were blamed for the wars that decimated humankind, and were thus allowed to exist only if they didn't get too powerful. They were allowed to live for their ability to heal, and their ability to be used by the ruling warlords and mages to control the small-minded masses through petty superstitions and rituals. They lost much of their powers, as their pantheon and deity specific spells were lost to them. Many clerics still hunt lost ruins today, looking for old prayer books that may have survived the millenia of destruction. 

The mages became the powers of the land. Of course, about 1000 years ago, the mage wars erupted, as 10 of the most powerful mages vied for power over the world. The mages all had their own plan for power. One mutated animal/human and even /plants into monsters hybrids (hence owlbears, griffins, etc today). One dealt with Demons, one Devils, one elements/elementals, one functioned on charming all humans around him, one gained mastery over the natural world, one in illusions/mind affecting spells, one in necromancy, one specialized in augmenting the powers of the mind through magical means, and one through summoning foul beasts through portals to many planes of existence.

The cleric wars were the equivalent of two kids fighting with sticks as compared to the mage wars. The cleric wears had humans fighting humans. The mage wars had total and complete chaos and anarchy, where the creations and summonings and powerful magics got out of control, slaughtered millions of every lifeform on the planet, and shattered and changed the face of the earth in many places. 

Any animosity people felt towards clerics is pretty much gone now, and the distrust is aimed directly at mages. They don't go around with pointy hats and magic robes to identify themselves. They don't form guilds, for fear of persecution from people worrying they may grow strong together again. Some hide out in small villages and after long periods of time gain the respect of the locals, but only the locals. To them he is "their" mage, to outsiders, he is still something to be feared and mistrusted. Many bury themselves in disguise in cities or in lost places across the countryside, to live in seclusion, for fear of witch hunters.

Because magic is so scarce in this world, the only true power a mage has in his or her spells and spell book. The lessons of betrayal and backstabbing learned by the mages during the war, when one-time mage allies turned on each other, were burned into the DNA of mages today. Basically, it takes a lot for one mage to trust another. They all view the rest as potential competitors for power. The only means of competition is spells and/or magical research and knowledge. Therefore, the sale of scrolls or spellbooks is the act of a weak mage, who doesn't care about his power. He will likely be eliminated and his shit taken. Also, if a mage buys a book of first level spells, it could be considered a sign that he is weak, can only cast first level spells, and he may be attacked by someone who can cast second level spells. Or it could be a trap set by the first guy to lull the second guy into a sense of power, so as to turn the tables on him. In any case, it generally never happens, because, like I said, who gives away their power?

Spellbooks to some mages are like trophies of war. The more spellbooks you have, the more mages you killed to get them, since that's usually the only way a spellbooks passes from one mages hands to another mages hands. Lots of spellbooks have bloody handprints on them.

Thus, unlike most DnD modules of the 80's we were used to, there is no friendly mage in the village dispensing unlimited scrolls and potions to promising adventurer mages of like alignment. To give away what makes you more powerful than someone else to that someone else is foolish. Think the mentality and culture of the Sith Lords, and you're close to the mark. Perhaps even better, think the Highlander movie and TV series. The mages teach apprentices so that magic doesn't die out, they train a newly recognized force practitioners in the dark ways of the Sith, they train newly awakened immortals in swordfighting, but when you hit a certain point, "There can be only one!" (or at best two, in the eyes of the Sith.) It's time to get the hell out of the nest, fly away, and become a practitioner of your own.

Of course, if your teacher was a close relative, and there is a close bond, that may be a reason people group together and trust each other. This goes back to the thief associations thing above. Long periods of trust and loyalty being tested, usually having grown up together in the same family or neighborhood, etc. For mages though it is a bit different, because to gain power, they usually have to travel far and wide and kill other mages or raid places to find lost knowledge. Hard to build long-lasting associations that way. That's also why its so rare to see more than one mage in any group of explorers---they don't want to share a damn thing with another competitor.

And of course, since magic is so rare, you'll never find any for sale, or find a buyer for your shit you loot. There simply is no black market THAT YOU'RE AWARE OF for such items. The scarcity of all magic makes any magic very powerful, therefore you either have to have the means to protect and guard your shit against the most powerful beings of the world who want to take it from you, or you keep your mouth shut about it. Waving around a flaming longsword in a bar fight is a sure way to attract unwanted attention from dozens of people much more powerful than you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Of Slingshots and Catapults

At my niece's 4th birthday party today, my 7 yr old nephew says "Uncle Joey, wanna see my slingshot I made!?"

Of course I do, having made my share at his age.  His elastic broke, and they didn't have any stronger ones.  Aha!  I think to myself.  Time to break out those big thick "Johnny Bench Batter Up" style elastics I've been hoarding for just such an emergency.

Then I ask him "You know what's better than slingshots?  Catapults!"

A couple quick sketches later, he announces he wants to make a catapult.  So home I go for handsaws, nails and the Johnny Bench Batter Up elastics.

Of course, his promises to help, as well as those of my 6 year old nephew, last about 10 minutes, tops. 

But I built the fucker anyhow.  It ain't pretty, but it shoots a rock a good 6 feet, with a strong tailwind.  :)

To give an idea of the size, the longest log is about 3 feet long.  Had some difficulty with the part that holds the rocks, but like all good home projects, all it needed was some duct tape.  Badass!

Friday, August 26, 2011

All Day Hurricane Google+ Constantcon D&D Event! Play 'til the Power Goes Out!

Because I've got nothing better to do than drinkin' a 6 pack or two and eating cold pizza while the world ends---I'll be running D&D over Google+ this Sunday, starting at 1 pm Eastern USA time.  I may run Castle Zagyg Upper Works, or a classic module or two.  Ruleset = AD&D/Osric.  Basically, I'm gonna play 'til the power goes out, or I pass out, and hope that there is no work the next day, 'cause like, hangover...

If interested, go to my Google+ page at 1 pm EST Sunday.  If I still have power, I'll be there.

(I'm Joe Thelawyer on Google+)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Seeking Advice: Original Dragonlance Modules for the Nephews' First Real D&D Long-term/Campaign Type Experience?

Here's the deal:  I have 2 nephews, age 6 and 7.  I'm thinking they're just about the right age for some sort of regular D&D gaming.  I've played a couple random one-offs with each of them, to give them the flavor, where I made it up as I went along, and they rolled dice to do certain things, and we all had a good time. They played Jedi, of course.  :)

Much as I'd like to introduce them to what we all love, the old school sandbox style of play, I think they're too young.  I'd like to give them some sort of story, like a series of TV shows that builds to a season finale.  I'd like to make it as fun as I can for them.  Most likely playing with us would be my brother, who I've gamed with forever.  He can help guide the kids towards the obvious best ideas and actions, thus ensuring a good time.  It seems that Dragonlance may fit the bill, despite it being the doom to old school gaming by some. 

I've never actually run any of the modules, although back in the day I made up a variation on them which my players enjoyed, based on the Chronicles book series, adapted for their characters who were trapped in the DL universe.  I have most of the modules, just missing a few, which I could acquire easily I'm sure. 

Honestly, what I like about it is the railroad-y story aspect, though it goes against all I'd like to play in now.  I think the kids would like it.  I think it would give enough guidance and direction to help ensure they have fun all along the way, especially if they know they are building towards something big, one module at a time.  I think the aspect of having what looks like a big huge season finale type thing would get them more into it. Plus, its a simple story, which I know I can dumb down to make it age appropriate if needed without losing the best parts of it. 

What do you guys think?  Anyone have any experience with either the DL series, or with introducing kids of this age to a long term game?


Monday, August 15, 2011

Awesome Rob Kuntz Interview!

A while ago Rob and I spoke about potentially doing an interview.  We talked via Skype, and it was very interesting.  I jotted down some notes, which I then sent to him in the form of questions, in order to flush out some of his more interesting points.  He mentioned that he had one big interview that he was working on with another blogger first.  I think this may be the one he was speaking of.  It's awesome.  Read it! 

Even if we never get to finish up our interview, I have to say Rob is one of the most interesting people I've met, and he has insights into the game, and its history that no one else has, due to his involvement in creating the genre.  A lot of that comes out in the interview above.  I hope he does one day finish his memoirs so we can have more insight into those early days of the hobby.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review: New Swords and Sorcery Trilogy---Den of Thieves, by David Chandler

David Chandler sent me an email asking if I would be willing to review his new book, Den of Thieves, the first book in the Ancient Blades Trilogy.  He said it was in the swords and sorcery style, part of a three book series, where each book will be released two months from each other.  My first thought was "Shit, free book, I'm all for it."  My second thought was that I was glad someone was trying to keep that style of fiction alive.  I'm tired of epic fantasy, I think it's been done to death.  I felt the Black Company lost its way after the first three books, and George R.R. Martin gives me a headache with all the complexity.  The best series I am reading now are the Dresden books, by Jim Butcher. 

When you think of swords and sorcery, its scary to realize that an author today has to compete against the greats---like Leiber, Moorcock, and Howard.  These people are legends.  That's because there just aren't that many people writing good swords and sorcery style books these days.  With that in mind, I started reading his book, prepared to be disappointed by comparison to the Godfathers of S&S.

Far from being disappointed, I'm happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book.  Without giving away too many spoilers, the main character comes from nothing, bastard child of a whore, surviving by quick wits and quicker feet.  You can't say he's "a lover, not a fighter," because he's neither.  He's just a guy trying to get by in a harsh unforgiving world.  The book is set entirely in a city, reminiscent of Lankhmar, where life is cheap.  Magic is mysterious and to be feared, takes a harsh toll on its practitioners, and was much more powerful in the past than the present.  Religion really does not dominate the story at all.

There are elves and dwarves, but they are not what you would expect at all.  Only the dwarves are represented in this book, and only by one character.  They seem to be rare indeed.

There is one ancient order of knighthood, given 7 blades with which to slay demons, but even they have fallen.  One of the side conflicts of the book has to do with a knight who essentially said "fuck these vows, I'm gonna get mine."  He kept his sword, and puts it in service to the highest bidder.  Even the virtuous knight of the story is shown to be weak through self-delusion about the world around him.

The story itself has several twists and turns, and the hero of the story has to basically think his way out of situations, fighting only when he has to, while avoiding several groups who all want his head for one reason or another.  Through it all, he does what he has to do to survive, forced by self-preservation to make harsh decisions.

That being said, it's not all grim and dirty.  There were several funny moments, and interesting supporting characters, like the women of the whore house the main character grew up in, and a ghostly presence I won't say too much about, so as not to ruin your fun.  I also like the moments of perspective the author gives his characters, so that you understand who they are and why they are that way.  It makes it a much richer read than I expected. 

The book moves along at a good pace, and I never once found myself getting bored.  About my only criticism was that the main character spoke much more eloquently that I would have expected, given his background.  Also, the accent of the ghost took a bit of getting used to. 

This is a book that turns certain themes on their heads.  The main rogue is not dashing, good looking, or rich.  You question whether the "princess to be rescued" is even worth saving.  The fallen are not redeemed.  The virtuous are not worthy of admiration.  Yet in spite of all that, or perhaps because of all that, it's a damn good read.

It reminds me of Moorcock saying that his Elric character was like the anti-King Arthur.  Weak, from a decadent empire, and destroyed his homeland--- as opposed to strong, from Camelot, and protector of the realm.  Chandler does something similar with this book, and pulls it off rather well. 

I think it was a very good book, and I am looking forward to the next one.  It seems to be available now on Amazon, though the official release date is August 11.  The series website is


Star Wars Old Republic Trailer

In case you haven't seen it---pretty badass!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Is There Any Doubt That Paizo Rules the RPG Industry?

The swept the ENnies, beating WOTC wherever they competed.  The only Gold WOTC won was for a "boardgame", in the category of "Best RPG Related Product" or some shit.  Too many jokes come to mind for that one. 

ICv2 released its latest quarterly report, and Paizo wins yet again.

What a sad ending for what was once a good company. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On the Use of "He" or "She" in Gaming Material

Both Zach and Odyssey have interesting points to make.

I'll just say this:  I'll put "she" in there all over the place if I ever publish something.

So you know how big a moment this is:

In college in the late 80's (yeah, I'm an old fuck) I worked at a convenience store which sold cigarettes.  One of the perks of the job was that I got first dibs on any cigarette schwag they passed out to get people to smoke more.  I had unlimited t-shirts, lighters, mugs---and my most prized possessions--Virginia Slims boxer underwear. They were marketing to women, and women in men's boxer's was hot at the time.  (Shit, it's still hot to me.)  The more boxers I had, the less often I had to do laundry.  #Winning!

Anyhow, Virginia Slims' slogan at the time was "You've come a long way baby!"  So I had like 7 boxers with that slogan tattooed all over it.  As a guy who grew up watching All in the Family and thinking that Archie Bunker was usually right BACK THEN-- because that's just how I was brought up--- (yeah, I'm an old fuck)---

--take a look at this, and repeat after me:  We've come a long way baby!

Now excuse me as I continue to watch/listen to Lady Gaga's live performance on Howard Stern, and get choked up, after hearing her describe what it's actually about...






Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hasbro Q2 2011 Earnings Call---Something Interesting in it This Time

From Seeking Alpha:

"And one of the key consumer insights that we are seeing as we do quantitative research is that face-to-face gaming are still something people really want and they seek out. And our Games business can absolutely grow. In fact, in the second quarter, our International games business grew. We've been working through the issues in our U.S. business, but overall, you will see more marriages of digital and analog. You'll see more new reinventions of our analog business and off-the-board games that will come into the future. So we think you can grow both."

No surprise there as to the first part---they probably spent 5 million bucks to research that though.  The rest of it gives credence to the speculation that 5e will be a combination electronic and face to face experience.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

One Man's Reaction to the Death of Eddard Stark

This guy has a lot of rants ahead of him, if he gets this worked up at Ed Stark's death...I can't say as I disagree with the guy.  I pretty much said the same thing when I read the books...I may have said it a bit differently, but definitely with the same feeling.  :)

Cornholio Returns!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm on Google + Now

Looks interesting.  Search for Joe theLawyer to find me.  Let's see how this thing works.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Real Reason T$R Crashed and Burned

Finally revealed.

Good god.

WTF was Wildspace anyhow?

Vanguard: The Spiritual Successor to the Original Everquest

MMO Salvation has arrived!

I posted a while back on the original Everquest, DDO, and made an analogy as to how EQ was like old school DnD, while DDO was like new school.  I lamented that there were no longer any sandboxey MMO's out there, nothing in the style of the original EQ.

Now there is.  Vanguard is an MMO which was designed in part by the original EQ designers.  It has the same exact feel.  Dying sux, you loose xp, you need to loot your corpse if you can, the whole world is one big instance, and you get your ass kicked all over the place.  It's not for pussies who want instant gratification, like WoW seems to cater to. 

Vanguard apparently sucked when it first came out 3 1/2 years ago.  They spent a lot of time fixing up things, and now it runs really well.  I became disenchanted with DDO at the high end game.  Endless grinding for gear is all the game is about, repeating the same boring quest over and over again in the dim hope that you might get the thing you wanted out of it so eventually in a year or so you can make that item you want.  Boring as shit. 

We'll see how Vanguard goes, as we get into it more.  But it seems that they are having a huge new influx of people.  I definitely don't see a lack of people to group with.  Check it out, its a good time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

If 5e is More Old School, How Long Before Someone Retro-Clones It? Does WOTC Then Have to Sue All Clones?

That seems to be where Mearls is heading with 5e, with all his koombaya posts on how all editions are the same at their core.  It seems to be the most long-winded sales job/market research project of all time though.  What if, after all the blather, they actually put out an edition of D&D which is familiar to players of older editions?  Does it fall under the OGL?  In whole or in part?  How much I guess would depend on how many new terms they invent just for the sole purpose of making sure it doesn't fall under the OGL, like dailies, powers, healing surges, etc.

Let's say that for the most part, it does fall under the OGL.  How long before someone tries to clone it?

The bigger question, what would WOTC do?  Would they go after them?

I can't see how they wouldn't be forced to.

Executive who doesn't know what a d20 is:  "Hows sales of the new edition going after we sunk a million bucks into its development?"

Mearls: "Well, it was good the first couple days, we made $50,000, but then someone cloned it and is giving it away for nothing."

Executive:  "You're fired, you're whole team is fired--(oh, you have no team left?), and the remaining 2 people at the company who know what those funky dice are--- they're fired too--- and we're suing!"

Would they then be forced to go after the other clone publishers? 

Note:  I'm not saying they have good legal ground to stand on---but we all know that just the cost of defending a lawsuit would halt production of many clones and force a "I won't do it anymore, I promise, just drop the lawsuit" type of agreement.

So, the question is, are we better off letting WOTC go down the path of developing one wretched abomination of D&D after another, so they aren't forced to recognize what we are doing with clones?

Do we want them playing in our sandbox again?

Friday, July 8, 2011

There Needs to be a Skype Pick-up PnP D&D Game Hub

So I'm sitting here tonight, bored, nothing on TV, no movies to see, a rainy lazy night.  I don't want to login to any MMO-type games, and I've read myself to death already today.  What I want to do is join a pick-up D&D group---right now.  But I can't, because although somewhere I'm sure there's a Skype game going on, where they need and would welcome another player, I don't know about it. 

One of you business savvy computer type people ought to get on that project, right away.  You can have scheduled events that people sign up for, and also pickup groups that people list on the spur of the moment, and others can drop in on, if they're having a night like mine, and play a quick module.

Inspiration:  the DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online) MMO.  You login, see quests listed for a certain level, see people already in the quest, and you click on it if you want to join.  Bingo, instant gaming.  Works sometimes, but as we all know, a D&D MMO just ain't the same as real PnP D&D.

WOTC 5E Conjecture by Davis Over at Troll Lord Games

Check it out...

Out of Work Adventurer's Resume

Goals:  To Attain Godhood...or failing that, To Crush My Enemies, See Them Driven Before Me, and Hear the Lamentations of Their Women

Work Experience:

  • CY 387-389:  Ran my own keep.  Duties included slaying wandering monsters in the surrounding area, defending against enemy encroachments on my territory and that of my leige, and ensuring high morale through bribing my henchment with magic items.  
                    Notable achievements:  Slaying the Red Dragon Thorax in 5 rounds.

  • CY 381-387:  Member Band of Psychotic Gentlemen, adventuring company.  Duties:  to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before, and then to kill everything I see and take all their shit.
                    Notable achievements:  Survived Zagyg's Castle down to level 13


  •  Prized student of Brimdar the Grim, noted warrior.

Skills:   None.  I'm Old School Damnit!

References:  None, regrettably  If they were worth knowing, I generally killed them and took their shit.

Paizo vs. WOTC: The Torrent Wars. Paizo Wins Again!

So I'm sitting here thinking that a measure of how popular a product is would be a measure of how many people would go to illegal lengths to acquire it.  In the RPG world, one measure would be torrent downloads of books. 

A quick search on Google produced two links which purported to have basically all that Paizo has produced, and all that WOTC has produced, in two separate downloadable packages.  I used links from the same torrent site, as well as made sure they were recently tracked/updated at the same time, in an attempt at making this an accurate comparison.  (I almost provided the links used, but didn't want to make it easy or seem to encourage illegal downloading.  This was purely a shit-stirring intellectual exercise).

The scoring system?  Basically look at how many leeches, meaning people who want the stuff, are online with a torrent client trying to download it.

The score:  Paizo 169, WOTC 13.  Meaning that only 13 people are trying to download all of WOTC's 4e stuff, as opposed to 169 trying to download all of Paizo's.

Paizo wins again!

Disclaimer:  I don't advise, advocate,condone,  or recommend that anyone actually go out and download this stuff.  Give your money to the people making it.  Buy it.  It's a tough economy, the designers and publishers need the cash.  Plus, it's illegal.  Plus, they are tracking it big-time now.  There is a strong likelihood that you will get caught and get your ass thrown in jail.  Plus, don't be an asshole.  Before the accusations start coming, for those of you not in the know on Torrents, its not illegal to do a search on Google to see what's available, as far as I know.  It would be illegal to download it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

If 4e Went Out of Print, WTF Would You Buy on EBay to Play 4e Four Years From Now?

Think about it.  I'm looking to buy a Rules Cyclopedia, and cruising EBay, and it hit me.  If I want to buy 1st edition books now, the list of books needed is known and straight-forward.  Same with 2e and 3.x  2e has the players options thingy to deal witth, which isnt a big deal, and 3.0 and 3.5 are 97% the same.

When we're in the 6th edition days, when D&D is a boardgame with magic-type cards, and some 4e grognard tells his friends to buy 4e books off of ebay to play in his game, WTF does he tell them to buy?  The PHB is essentially useless as a book, due to like 500 pages of errata.  DDI is offline or updated to 6e, since they only support the latest edition, as we all know. And I still don't know where this whole Essentials line of products fits in to the scheme of thing.  The Rules Compendium?  The other books suggested by WOTC to buy?  WOTC's lack of willingness to number their latest editions by edition?  Their refusal to admit that there is a new edition at all with Essentials---or at least a half edition?  What the hell does a prospective player buy 4 years from now when WOTC is on 6e?

BTW, I don't thing WOTC has begun work on 5e yet---because they have not publicly denied it over and over again.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Paizo Outsells WOTC in RPG Books

When Lisa Stevens, Paizo owner and CEO, was asked "'re saying that it's your belief that the Pathfinder brand has a higher sales volume than the D&D brand"

Her response:

"At this time in history, that is what I have been told by people in the hobby distribution trade, the book trade, and other avenues that both games sell their products into. If you talk to the various retailers, it is a mixed bag, with one telling you one thing and another a different story. But when you talk to the folks who sell those retailers the product that they sell, then you get a clearer picture.

And I am just talking table-top RPG business. I am not talking about board games or card games or video games or whatnot. Just books and digital copies of those books for use in playing a table-top RPG.



Read it here, as well as the rest of the discussion.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

True Blood: Did it Jump the Shark Tonight?

I know I'm not the only fan out here in blogville.  Whaddaya think---did it jump the shark?  It seemed so gimmicky, the jumping ahead 1 year in time.  And WTF is with the fact that we're 45 minutes in before I see one tit?  Not even some gratuitous side boobage before that point. Not saying I watch JUST for the tits---but it helps. 

Goddamned disappointing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A New Round of WOTC Layoffs

Update:  Monte Cook is offering condolences via twitter to those laid off. Let me offer mine as well.  Good luck to you all.

They have an earnings conference call with shareholders coming up at Hasbro, and this is typical corporate proactive CYA behavior when a division didn't meet their earnings goals.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's With all the Zak/Raggi Hate Lately?

It seems to be building up lately for some reason.  I think part of it comes from jealousy---like this guy here.  

To make such a personal attack is so childish as to only come from something like jealousy and/or insecurity.  After all, Zak is well known, respected, an author/artist and successful in many fields.  That Kent dude---well, let's just say that when comparing "size," and showing a picture of the guy and saying "little fucker", we all know what the insecurity about size is really based on here.  He must have done a torrent search for some of Zak's films.  I met Zak in NYC for his show last fall.  He's a nice guy.  (And by the way, the art is not photoshopped stuff.  It's all hand made, paint on paper stuff.)  And judging by the women he was with, the "size" that Kent seems to be really insecure/jealous about likely isn't a problem for Zak.  By mentioning that Zak looked gay, even more indications that there is something else going on there with Kent...Perhaps a tingle down below in the dirty places when viewing a pic of Zak?  After all, there was a desire to seek one out...

As for that Errand guy, any Psychology for Dummies type book will give insight into the sexual repression disguised as morality going on there.  It reminds me of the kid in 1st grade pulling the pigtails of the girl he likes, trying to get attention and yet be mean at the same time, because he's just a bit confused.  The way he alternates back and forth on his attacks between Zak and Raggi though, about the only thing I can figure is that he wants to be the middle bar in the Eifel Tower.

Can't we all just get along?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

D&D Shiterial Chronicles, Volume One, Episode One

Shiterial = Material you read while taking a shit.


D&D Shiterial = D&D material you read while taking a shit.

You see, I'm not such a deep thinker as to go on about the esoterica of D&D's history for page after page, or to post about subjective issues like morality in D&D, and judge others by my own moral standards, like some dumbshit motherfuckers do.

However, I've found that personally, I'm at my most contemplative about life and the meaning and the nature of the universe while taking a good shit.  Buddha had his tree, I have my toilet.  I figured I'd combine that moment of perfection and oneness with the universe with reading D&D stuff from the bygone era and see where that leads me. 

This morning's zen moment:

Did you guys know that on page 22 of the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets there is a half a page devoted to sharks, with a ton of different kinds of sharks, what type of water they are in, and their chances to attack people?   Pretty cool!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Regarding the Morality, Art, Heroes, Anti-Heroes, Nihilism, Roleplaying Question of the Day

This scene sums up my point of view on every aspect of the debate.  I just can't explain how.

Plus, its just badass in its own right.  :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Remember when it was this simple?

My 6 year old nephew, setting up the epic battle between Thor and the army men.  In this picture he had his mother take with the cell phone, he had to make sure I knew that Thor was on the side of the good guys, along with his robot buddy.  Because Thor is obviously the good guy, the army men must be the bad guys.  Duh! 

I suspect that neutral alignment is going to be a difficult concept to get across to him.  :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Goodman's New Game--DCC RPG

Skimmed thru it.  Won't play it.

Art:  I could give two shits about art that reminds me of art from D&D books in the 70's.  Call me a heretic, but I didn't think that the original D&D art was that great in the first place.  It was cartoonish.  People in my high school could doodle better crap than that at their lunch break. 

I'm not at all a sophisticated or classy person.  For art to be good to me, it has to either 1) make me scared, 2) make me cry, 3) make me happy 4) make me say WTF!?!?! or 5) give me a boner.  That's it.  1970's D&D art does none of that.

Ask yourself---is the artwork good in its own right?  Or is it good because it just reminds you of happier more carefree days of playing D&D all weekend with your friends in the 80's?

Spells and their tables:  Yeah, lets complicate shit unnecessarily.  Good idea.   No one really likes reliability in their spellcasters anyhow.

Dice:  Where the fuck do I buy them?  Its hard enough to get people to play your old school games now---so lets throw in some required dice that no one owns and has never heard of before whydontcha. 

Ask yourself this:  Is the game just overall neat on some indescribable level?  Reminding you of good times in the past?  Will you just be stealing stuff from it?  Using it as inspiration? Or will you actually play the thing?

It seems to me that the value in a game is proven when people actually play the thing with other people, and as a result those other people then go out and buy it.  If that doesn't happen, what's the sense?  Go ahead, steal shit from it, read it and get ideas, take a stroll down artwork memory lane.  But if you do so, call it what it is---a splatbook, or a source of alternative rules, like Arcana Unearthed.

If most people use it as a splatbook, or source of inspiration or a source for some alternate rules, then as a game in its own right it is a failure.

I'll take some bloggers word for it that it is old school in style.  If thats the case, and it draws more people to the old school tables, than hurray.  I hope it works out that way.  I just don't think it will, because of the above.

We'll see how it works out.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Looking for Some Advice Running a Skype Game, Both Practical and on Supplemental Programs

I've never tried a Skype game before.  Any advice on how to go about it?  I am also looking for supplementary programs--one to do some sort of whiteboard, and program where I can upload images to the group for all to see.  No dice rollers needed, I'll trust everyone to make rolls and report honestly what the roll was.  No grid combat tools needed to tell where the characters are at any given moment---I'm going to do the narrative combat thing.  Also, it doesn't have to be Skype--as long as it does everything above and is free to everyone to use, its fine by me.  Any suggestions as to supplemental programs or advice on anything else that you've learned in running Skype games?


PS Still looking for players---I have a couple at this point, but the more the merrier.  Interested?   More here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Two Greatest RPG Books I've Read in Over a Decade---Maybe Ever------and I Never Heard of Them Before Last Week...

Warhammer's Realm of Chaos Slaves to Darkness (1988) and the 1990 follow-up The Lost and the Damned.  God! Damn!  These are awesome.  I'm not that big into artwork, doesn't really do it for me in an RPG book---but the artwork in these books is heads and shoulders above anything I've ever seen in any RPG product---ever.  And the content is doubly awesome.  Massive work of the imagination, full of all kinds of useful stuff related to demons/daemons/chaos.

Zak S. mentioned it offhandedly in one of his Vornheim/Grindhouse podcasts, and I'm glad I caught the reference.

Get them.  Get the older versions, before they got all Puritan with the art. 

How come they don't make shit like this anymore?  Seriously?   The company who can put out stuff like this today WINS.  Period.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vornheim Reviewed (and my 200th post!)

When I first got Vornheim it was the pdf version.  I started to quickly skim through it.  My first reaction:


I skipped the intro and TOC, like I usually do, and went for the first thing after that---a sideways map which I couldn't figure out where or what anything was at a glance, and two pages of a tower unlike any DnD map I've ever seen.   They weren't in a style I was used to.  So I skipped to the content section.  Not seeing a detailed static city plan with all the numbered buildings, my second reaction: WTF?  So now I skip to the tables.  Ahh, old familiar territory.  I like these.  I'll go back and read them later, but they're probably the mushroom tables and other weird stuff Zak used in the IHIWMA show, so they likely won't be that useful to me, because people always put stuff from their own games that no one else would use into these things. Then I got to the pages with the numbers all around them.  Back to:  WTF?  Next:  Map of the city---how is this at all useful?  I can't make out the turns in the road.  No numbered buildings, nor any buildings with names on them.  Load up the WTF again.

So I skipped reading it in any detail and went back to Grindhouse, which was my more immediate need anyhow, as I was prepping for a game in which it is the base system.

Then Vornheim came in the mail with the boxed set---(note to self---never be a tightwad and choose the cheapest shipping option from Finland again.  Raggi's cost-saving delivery system apparently consists of strapping packages to the backs of polar bears and sending them on a leisurely swim across the North Atlantic.)

The first thing I'm confronted with (once I took the dustjacket off it to protect it from tears----I'm like that)  is the cover with all the confusing numbers on it that was at the back of the pdf.  Because I couldn't make sense of it earlier with a 2 second glance, I skipped it.  The rest of the book, content-wise, was more interesting when actually reading it in book form.  I could actually focus in and twist and turn pages around to see the stuff which was harder to see on the computer (I don't like playing with pdf sizes, or rotating them, etc. to read something on a screen.  Pain in the ass/laziness.) Also, the city content is written in such a way that isn't extremely Vornheim-specific, so it can be lifted for home campaign use.

Upon closer inspection of the charts at the end, they turned out to be way more useful than I figured they would be.  They are, as I heard Zak describe it later, good tools to develop your own Vornheim.  They were the tools he used to make his city.  They are tools to make the city your own, create your own Vornheim.  They weren't the random mushroom effect charts from the IHIWMA series that I expected them to be.  Neat stuff.  Besides, paraphrasing Zak here, who wants to spend a week memorizing the ins and outs of someone's setting, just to have the characters skip the bulk of it and go shopping?

At some point after this I IM'd with Jim that I liked Vornheim, but still couldn't figure out Zak's weird table on the cover thing and some of the other stuff like the city buildings thing.

Then I listened to one of the podcasts that Zak and Jim did, while I was playing the D&D Online MMO.  (Khyber server, toon is Drakenforged, if any readers play on there).  Anyhow, while slaying gnolls out in the Menechtarun Desert, I hear Zak start to describe the number grid thingy.  I hid the toon in a safe place, pulled out the book, and started to follow along.  In a few seconds of explanation I got it.  The shit's simple as hell.  And also potentially one of the most useful things ever made for a DM.  Pure fucking mental laziness on my part that I didn't invest the less than 10 seconds of reading which it would have taken to learn the thing in the first place.

That goes back to my first impression of reading the pdf---it's not the standard RPG book.  I looked for  familiar things and didn't get them.  Which really shouldn't surprise me, since it came from Zak.  I mean, the guy created this.  And he wrote this.  The only things readily familiar in style and form were the random charts in the back of the book, so I wrote off the bulk of it at first glance, since it didn't fit my preconceived notions of what an RPG book ought to be.

Don't do that.

You'll miss out on an awesome tool.

I'm glad I gave it a second look.  It's a damn good book, full of useful stuff.  And its small too.  One of my first thoughts when I saw it was "Goddamnit Jim, aren't you ever going to print something the size of the old 1st ed. PHB like I've been asking you to for like forever now?  At least it would have made the text easier to read."  Based on the podcasts though, I think if he ever did that, Zak would fill up the extra space with even more material at the same font.  As well he should.  It's good stuff.

I think the size of the book is actually a good thing, because no matter how many other books you have in your DnD-night bag, I guarantee you this one will also fit in there.  You can always have this with you in every game.   It's a zero-encumbrance item.  Plus, now that I've given it a good read, I can't think of anything I would leave out of Vornheim.  Based on that, I'll deal with the font because I like the content, and the only way to get all that content into 64 pages was to lay it out like Zak did.

Anyhow, I don't have a formal rating system of stars or thumbs or anything as I rarely do reviews, so I'll just finish by saying its a damn good book with pretty useful tools.  You may have to drop your preconceived notions of what an RPG book ought to be, like I had to do, in order to really appreciate it.  I'm glad I bought it.  I'm gonna use it.

Hasbro Doesn't Even Sell the Latest Version of D&D on Its Webpage

Check it out.  I was taking a look at the latest quarterly report for some mention of D&D (none again, as usual) and decided to see what they have for sale for D&D on the Hasbro site.  The boxed set of D&D they have up there, along with 6 other items, seem to be ancient.  Maybe you guys can tell me, is that boxed set from the 3.0 or 3.5 days?  It certainly is not Essentials, and doesn't appear to be 4e by the description.

Too bad its not a complete product listing from a few years ago, or we may have been able to get the pdf's for sale via a loophole caused by Hasbro's apathy for the brand.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What a Goddamned Ripoff!

Apparently the world is ending sometime today, I scheduled an Old School D&D Meetup  for tomorrow, and my birthday is Monday.  Shit.

Friday, May 13, 2011

CRAP! Blogger Deleted the Post Wherein I Wrote the D&D Clone Which Was Guaranteed to End All Edition Wars and Unify All Roleplayers Under One Game!!

Due to the combination of cough medicine and Captain and Coke that night, I forget what I wrote down, and didn't save it anywhere else.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Game of Thrones

I just read this post, and have to say I agree with her that Game of Thrones is hard to watch. 

I was just saying the same thing to my brother the other day.  He hasn't read the series yet, and I have.  For him, it's a must see event every Sunday.  For me, I know how things go, who dies and when, and what senselessness there is in many of the deaths of some of the people I grew to care about.  The whole series is depressing, as I turn each page wondering who the author is going to kill off randomly in the next chapter.  I find myself watching the series with the same sense of dread as reading the books, especially since the series makes me like some of my favorite actors even more, due to their excellent acting.  Plus, having nephews and nieces the age of the kids on the show, it breaks my heart to see what they have gone through, and knowing what they will go through is even more gut wrenching.   But damn its a well done series, in terms of an adaptation to the books they were based on, as well as the sets and acting.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Story of Donut Cores and Forgotten Rums, By Sean K. Reynolds--Goddamn Hilarious Inside Look

This is hilarious, an "an allegorical story about writing fantasy books," purely fictional of course.  ;) 

"This is a story about the elves who work in Gameland. The elves write recipe books ... two kinds of books in particular: books about Donut Cores, and books about Forgotten Rums. The Donut Core books had a lot of recipes (the elves called many-recipe books "crunchy books" for a reason that is too long to relate here), and gave a lot of suggestions about things you could make with Donut Cores, but didn't have a lot of history and interesting descriptions of where the Donut Cores came from, their history, or famous people who used Donut Cores. The Forgotten Rums books were less crunchy, but had the stories behind the Rum recipes, history of where the Rums come from, and information on the people who make those Rums. Still, the elves knew that a lot of people like the Donut Core books and a lot of people like the Forgotten Rums books, so they continued to make both kinds...."

Continued on Sean's site.

More interesting posts by Sean on tons of topics here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Paizo to Release an Introductory Boxed Set for Pathfinder

Check it out.  I wish them all the best with this.  Anything that is sold in mainstream stores that is stylistically closer to the game that I like to play is a good thing.  Increases the chances of getting players in my games. 

I just wonder...will it be more like Holmes which lead players to AD&D by design, but leading folks to Pathfinder? Or more like BECMI and stand alone as a game in itself, a more simplified Pathfinder, taking characters to high levels with more releases?

Edit--Seems more like Holmes---see this discussion... where Jason answers the question

If they wanted to, they could do both I think.   A rules light PF would be a good game.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's the Stuff the Rules Don't Cover That Makes Old Style Gaming Great

I was reading LOTFP Grindhouse today, and came across Raggi's Contact Outer Sphere spell.  It's a divination spell to ask the stars something, with the chance of an honest answer tied to the chance of being possessed.  The more honest the answer, the more chance you have to be possessed.  There are no rules on possession, no grids of types of monsters, or of types of actions a possessed character has to do.  It basically says you're possessed by some entity.  That's it.  And that's fuckin' fantastic. 

Those types of things are the best part of the game to me.  The stuff that calls for a creative and inspired DM work of imagination, on the spot, which has a big effect on the game at hand.  That's what I like about the older style games the most.  I especially enjoy it  when one random creative thinking-outside-of-the-box action sparks a whole chain of creative cause and effect between the players and DM.  No rules can be written to govern such things, and my favorite memories of gaming come from those moments.  That's what attracted me to this hobby in the first place back in '84.

I was thinking about newer rulebooks and the road they went down.   I think that in order to attract new DM's, and therefore gaming groups, there was a decision made to make it easier for the DM by giving him rules to handle every situation.  This could, however, potentially have the effect of weakening the creative muscles of all involved.  People tend to think that because so many options are covered by rules, that they ought to do one of those options.  It just becomes the simpler road to take.  With its rules for darn near every event, I think it could have the effect of making people less inspired to take creative license in their game.  This is not to say there aren't creative people playing newer style games---I'm just saying that some of the more creative types might enjoy an older style game more, but just haven't played it, due to the lack of exposure, and the DM and game system not encouraging that sort of play.

One positive aspect of this new type of game is that you really don't need a DM with a lot of experience.  One could make the argument that with 4E you could get by without a DM at all.  With the delve format, and starting positions given, as well as bad guy tactics laid out, all you need is a player willing to volunteer to move the bad guys around and be responsible for keeping track of their stuff.  The benefit to this is that games aren't hindered by lack of a good DM.  The DM doesn't really matter that much.  It makes it easier to get people together to play, not needing to track down a good DM.  Not to say that there aren't great DM's running 4e games---it's just that the barriers to entry aren't as high for DM'ing as it is for older style games in order to have a good DM run a good game, according to the rules of the system and expectations of the players.

From what I've seen of the OSR, we have a bit of a different problem.  There are a lot of DM's with decades of experience, for whom random PC possession is not daunting, but an event that gets our creative juices flowing, especially on the diabolical or whimsical side.  We could likely deal with the consequences of the creative ruling we made regarding the possession, and whatever the player throws at us while possessed.  The problem that a lot of us face, from reading boards and blogs, is finding groups to play with.  We have a lot of DM's, but not enough local interested players.  We have to do stuff via Skype, at cons, etc, in order to get our creative rocks off.

It seems to be due mostly to our age and the family commitments that go along with that, both for ourselves and our players.  People are too busy to get together as often as we would like.  As people take new jobs and move away, or have kids and fall out of the habit, or just take a break and never get back to it, it seems our groups aren't what they used to be.  Not that we can ever go back to the 2 or 3 day marathon sessions we used to do in high school and college, but most of us are lucky if we can fit in a couple 4 hour games a month.

It seems that a natural way to bridge the gap would be to expose some newer edition players to older system games.  The only way to do that would be for us old bastard DM's to go out and try to expose our games in public to the players of later editions.  Those of us who are lucky enough to have regular gaming groups are likely to be playing at someone's house, not go to Cons, and just happily chug along.  Consider playing with your regular group out somewhere in public within view of other newer edition gamers, where they can get a glimpse of your game.  Who knows, you might get some interest, and grow this thing of ours.  Run a game at a local Con, or advertise at a local gaming store.  I really think it's the only way, outside of procreation and exposing our kids to older D&D, to grow the old school thing.

I'm going to do that with the Grindhouse campaign I am starting.  I am doing it in a big room full of of kids playing Magic type card games, and near a group of Gen Y'ers which plays 4e.  Who knows, I may get some drop-ins.  :)  Maybe some of the dads who drop off and wait for their kids to do the card games might fondly recall their own days of geekery, and try my game for a few hours.  Trying to put asses in seats, as Chgowiz puts it.  Not to say that I'm even that good a DM, but hell, you gotta try to do the best with what ya got.  I'll let you know how it goes..  :)