Sunday, July 31, 2011

Female armor sucks

I wasn't going to post anything today, but when I ran across this, I figured it was good to share.  Personally, there are a lot of artists who have done work for game companies in the past that have a LOT to answer for, as far as I can tell - and this video makes that all very, very plain to see...or something....

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tip of the Day

A quick tip of the day before heading off for some time in the Great Outdoors...

If you need names for NPCs in a modern or science fiction game, look no further than your spam filter.  After some judicious culling, the names you will find are (a) often quite multi-cultural, (b) ones you would never think of, and (c) sometimes suggest interesting quirks based on the original spam.

Just sayin'....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Interesting contrast

On another forum someone recently asked the question: "I'm one of those old schoolers who hasn't played since AD&D was still fairly new. What's the best way to jump back in?" The first recommendation he got was to start playing D&D Encounters, and I chimed in with the recommendation to consider Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry.  All of which got me thinking...

  • The game that is currently produced as "Dungeons & Dragons" doesn't bear that much resemblance to the game I started playing 36 years ago. 
  • The games that actually do bear a significant resemblance have names that aren't "Dungeons & Dragons."
So in the first case we have the label but not the substance, and in the second we have the substance but not the label.  Ah, well....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tekumel Foundation News


July 27, 2011
Minneapolis, MN


The Tékumel Foundation is proud to announce that on Saturday, June 11th, 2011 Professor Barker's Tékumel materials and wargaming supplies were moved from his home to secure, climate-controlled storage. This project was long and carefully planned and carried out with the blessing and encouragement of Professor Barker and his wife Ambereen and the assistance of dedicated volunteers, some of whom flew in from out of state.

The Tékumel Foundation is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Professor M.A.R. Barker and building an archive of Tékumel memorabilia and documents. Foundation members assisted by Lady Anka’a and various Tékumel fans catalogued, photographed, carefully boxed and transported these materials to a secure climate-controlled storage area in less than 10 hours. Items secured include Professor Barker’s globe of Tékumel, the scale model Temple of Vimúhla first displayed at GenCon IX in 1976, private maps, papers and other interesting and diverse items including unpublished material – exactly how much or what is still to be determined.

There is still much work to be done. Paper items need to be digitally scanned to secure storage; items may need to be repaired and/or restored. Items not directly connected to Tékumel must be organized, including wargaming materials, fanzines of the 1950’s, and games that at various times had been sent to Professor Barker for review.  Fortunately, the Tékumel Foundation has people with the necessary skills to assist with this enormous project.  It is hoped Professor Barker’s papers will yield new material for Tékumel, and we are optimistic that there is “good new stuff” to be published.

For more information, please contact the Tékumel Foundation –


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gary's Birthday

Victor Raymond took the Hardest Gary Gygax Quiz in the World and got 70%!

You are a Gary Gygax Champion. If knowledge of the minutiae of Gary Gygax's life translated to political power, you would be the satrap of a continent-sized province, owing allegiance to no one (except maybe that Grognardia guy).

Paladin Code: You completed this quiz without using Google.

Hey, I'm in good company!

In addition to the above quiz, which was quick and a lot of fun, I also want to mention the Gygax Memorial Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which means that it is a public charity and you can make tax-deductible donations to it.  Gary Gygax accomplished a great deal, and we are all in his debt.  Pay it forward, please.

It's really BIG

I just ran my Tekumel campaign last night, using Empire of the Petal Throne with some mods and changes.  My players are getting used to characters and the world and that's all good. But there's this issue of scale...

See, on Tekumel, the "underworlds" are equivalent to dungeons, roughly speaking.  Over the past few years, I've been running Prof. Barker's original Jakallan underworld at UCon and elsewhere, and it is definitely a "mega-dungeon" in modern parlance.  Even so, it's still a very "D&D" oriented depiction of what lies under the City Half As Old As The World.  And if each hex is roughly 50-100 yards across (the measure cited by Prof. Barker in the past has varied a little), then that means that a single sheet of graph paper covers about one to two hexes on the city map....

So I'm left with a design question - if I want to make the Underworld of Jakallan more "real" to Tekumel, then  that's a lot of graph paper.  Another way to deal with this is to map out the "good bits" and make each descent start from someplace not too far away.  A third way is to let the players start above ground and let then explore until they find something "significant."

I'm still thinking about this....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Advice for new referees, Part One

I'm writing a short essay for people who are new to Old School gaming, but who are considering running an Old School campaign.  There's lots of good advice out there about doing that directly, but not as much about how to think about it - Matt Finch's excellent Quick Primer is good, and if there are other examples, I would like to know about it.

What follows is a sample from what I've written so far - constructive comments welcome!

Some Advice for New Referees
By Victor J Raymond PhD
Copyright 2011

This short essay is not about how to set up your campaign but rather some principles and reminders about how to think about what you are doing as a referee.

There are no “Edition Police”, except in your head.  Occasionally, I’ve heard gamers with less experience than myself say things like “why would you want to play an older edition?  That’s so – backward!”   Sometimes, referees new to Old School gaming will have this misconception, as well. It is a fallacy to think that successive editions of the game have been wholly agreed-upon improvements on previous versions – or that paid game designers automatically know better than you what you should be playing. It may come as a surprise, but Wizards or Paizo do not have patrols going around issuing citations for playing older versions of D&D – except possibly in the peer pressure you might experience from other gamers who want to justify their ongoing 3.x or 4e spending habit.  It’s probably more accurate to say that each edition of D&D represents a different style of gameplay, which may be why there are people still playing every edition of D&D ever produced.  At last count, there were retro-clones (a game which reproduces the mechanics of an older role-playing game) for all editions of D&D ever produced.  The important point, though, is that new doesn’t always equal better.  What you’re playing isn’t outdated – it’s different.

Take the game and its rules on their own terms.  This is mostly a matter of unlearning things you’ve picked up from the games you’ve played already.  From an outsider perspective, most versions of Original D&D have fewer defined features, a much more abstract combat system, and a lot of things that “everybody knows” don’t work.  But like so many things of this sort, what “everybody knows” isn’t necessarily true – and this is particularly the case when it comes to roleplaying games.  The relatively “bare bones” approach of many Old School games isn’t a lack of definition or “crunch” (a term I dislike, along with “fluff”); it represents an opportunity for you to add in your own ideas and make the game your own.  For that to happen, you need to play the game figuring it out as you go, setting aside your preconceptions of what works and what doesn’t. Rather than immediately house-ruling everything to make it closer to what you are used to, start off playing the game as it is written, and see where that takes you.

Random dice rolling is not a flaw – it’s a design feature.  Random character generation is often singled out as one of the “bad” things about Original D&D – particularly the idea of “roll 3D6 and write ‘em down in order.”  It supposedly short-circuits the creative process.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Consider: how often have you observed another player generating the same “sneaky assassin Dark Elf” or “aloof, stand-offish mage” or “mighty-thewed barbarian” over and over again?  That’s the “creative process” supposedly being subverted?  I think not.  To be fair, sometimes people do have interesting and worthwhile character conceptions – but not all the time. What random dice rolling does is give your imagination a chance to try something different – to come up with something you might not have thought of in the first place.  Sometimes people object that their rolls were “too low” – which really means that they think they can’t do well with that character, conceding defeat before starting game play.  Sometimes people simply don’t like what they have rolled.  In either case, there’s nothing saying someone cannot roll again – but don’t blame the dice; blame player preconceptions of what they are “supposed to” get.

(more to follow)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One month

During the past month, I've had the following things happen to me:

  • Coming back from the 2011 North Texas RPG Con, I survived an emergency landing at Milwaukee's Billy Mitchell Field, when the right landing gear did not descend, and we had to crash land with the nose and left landing gear - and the right wingtip.  Good thing we didn't cartwheel or ground loop (the photo is from a couple of minutes after evacuating the plane).
  • Had a good friend, Joel Rosenberg, pass away from an unexpected heart attack.  I was able to attend his wake, immediately after the 4th Street Fantasy Convention.
  • Provided support to my partner, Lynn, when her father passed away after suffering a head injury and subsequent stroke.
I'm hoping to get back on track with that gaming stuff once life stops being so "exciting."