Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Proof of a Conspiracy

Yes, this photo - taken at a Starbucks in south Minneapolis - reveals the sinister dark underside of the Old School Renaissance.  Gathered for nefarious purposes are (from left to right): Aaron Kesher, of Sandbox Empire (AKA Kesher on the Original D&D Discussion Board), then myself, and then Tom Juntunen, one of the contributors to the furtherance of all things Tekumel.

This was the first time I met Aaron, and it was a blast to meet someone else from the discussion boards and blogs.  Turns out that Tom is a nearby neighbor of his, and since Tom and I go way back, it seemed appropriate to get together and catch up with one another.  We had a grand time talking about everything from Warriors of Mars to Microlite 74 to The Source Comics & Games - and got Tom to consider running Classic Traveller again.  As Elizabeth Bear would say, "WIKTORY!"

The staff at the Starbucks were courteous enough, and put up with our raucous reminiscing until quite some time after closing.  Then, not unlike some taverns in games I've played in, they unceremoniously tossed us out onto the street.  And then we stood out under the streetlamps, talking some more, until Aaron had to head home, ditto Tom and myself.  It was a very fine evening.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's not Dr. Pepper, but it looks tasty

Jones Soda has developed a new limited edition of soda pop geared for D&D players.  And while this news has probably bounced off the far boundaries of the internet a couple of times already, I've just heard about it.  It reminds me of the very early days of gaming, when a potions of healing were found in six-packs, if you were lucky....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Campaigns and Living OD&D

Rob Conley has some interesting ideas about a kind of Living OD&D that might be something TARGA might eventually run.  (Is that enough "might"s?  It's very exploratory in nature, or so it would seem to me.)

What I find fascinating about this is that in matches what people did oh-so-long-ago, where characters and campaigns were not necessarily tied to one another so tightly.  Jeff Rients talked about this awhile ago, and his discussion is still spot on.  What's a little disheartening is how quickly people want to add some sort of tracking mechanism, when one of the beauties of the OSR is that it recognizes the primacy of the referee in their own game.  Even so, it's an interesting discussion.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Table Fees

"Five dollars an hour."

"For a table?"


"...And that's if the game is out of print or unavailable from your distributor?"


I stood, slightly dumbfounded.  The gaming tables were in a next-door store front, at that moment completely empty of gamers.  The Not-So-FLGS manager smiled that "I'm with a customer but I don't really mean it" smile.  I must've let on that I was taken a little aback, when he continued, "Hey, if you game for four or five hours with a few friends, that's just a five from each of you.  Cheap!"

"But it's free if you can get the game from your distributor."


I can understand that game stores need to sell games to stay open, but this kind of table fee is clearly aimed at moving current product, rather than the long tail of gaming.  It also has encouraged me to look at other game stores in the area to run games at - simply because they don't have such fees.  Economics can cut both ways.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dan Proctor interview

Dan Proctor, author of Labyrinth Lord, gets interviewed over on RPG Blog II.  It's an interesting interview, since I chose Labyrinth Lord over Swords & Wizardry for OD&D simulation.

I found myself curious about it and the Advanced Edition Companion - since much of what I wanted to add to my game was somewhere in-between OD&D and AD&D 1st Edition.  (OSRIC is too close to AD&D for me to really find it workable, largely because of slavish attitudes towards the rules rather than the rules themselves)

One of the reasons why I didn't go with Swords & Wizardry was frankly the lack of art in the original release.  Now I find myself interested in putting the new versions of it and Labyrinth Lord side-by-side and seeing which one I like better.  (I suspect I will stick with Labyrinth Lord, however.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Need some help

I'm working on a project that might be rather interesting when it's done.  What I need is this:  a global project of the Earth with the poles in different locations - the South Pole somewhere around the Black Sea, and the North Pole somewhere in the South Pacific.  Some more glaciation would be cool, too.  In particular, I'm interested in the actual geography and terrain of Antarctica underneath all of that ice.  I have no idea what's actually there, aside from a mountain range that cuts across the continent.

If there is somebody out there with the requisite chops to help me out with this, or even some directions in how to do it for myself, that would be neat.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Player-characters are....

"I'm a loafer with a dead-end job in real life; why can't I play a hero in a fantasy game?" I've heard comments like this fairly frequently from gamers with whom I've played, over the years. Aside from the self-esteem issues implicit in the comparison, there's a fairly good reason why not every player-character is going to be a hero.

Heroes have to beat something. Overcome some sort of challenge. You know, win.

But for that win to have any meaning, there's gotta be uncertainty. The chance of losing. Which is why I've always said that player-characters in D&D (and frankly, any RPG) are not heroes when they are created. They have the chance of becoming heroes.

I was reminded of this when I read Dan of Earth's Simple Comparison. Nicely put, Dan!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What are these "modules" of which you speak?

When I first started roleplaying, back in 1975, there were no modules. Instead, people spoke of "dungeons" - as in, "Say, we're going to play in Steve's dungeon on Saturday - want to join us?" The idea of going on an adventure was firmly inside the frame of a larger campaign. Some people had elaborate set-ups, with kingdoms, history, background - even different races to play. Others were focused on the site of adventure; everything else was superfluous. If players came and went, so did their characters.

So when I picked up a copy of Keep on the Borderlands just the other day at Frugal Muse Books, I found myself remembering some of the reaction of "old-timers" to the idea of stand-alone adventures: "why would you want that? I mean, it's not even written for your campaign." Up until 1977 or so, almost all of the material produced for D&D had been published in The Strategic Review, The Dragon, or Judges Guild material (the latter being more recent). Which resulted in lots of interesting monsters, magic items, elaborations on the rules, and all of it got picked apart and then kitbashed by referees for their own games. What this meant for the players was that the narrative of adventure emerged from play, and wasn't predetermined by a series of modular pre-fabricated interactions.

So it seems to me that the period of 1974 to 1977 could be marked as being fundamentally different from roleplaying after 1977. It's that kind of gameplay I want to see explored further in the Old School Renaissance. Put another way, think about this - how would you design an adventure to share with others that didn't have a "greased rail" approach, like so many adventures written at the time?