Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Break!

Christmas Eve in Minnesota last year
Taking a break today from posting anything.  I hope you are having a wonderful holiday, no matter your religion or belief, and more gaming is just around the corner.  Merry Yule!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

You CAN Make This Stuff Up...

UFO recovery seems to be a new part of Kurama's mission
I wrote a few days ago about the mysterious package received at the University of Chicago.  It seems that the entire matter has now been cleared up - albeit in a mostly mundane fashion, and very disappointing to those of us whose subscriptions to the Weekly World News have lapsed.

Coming to the rescue of the conspiracy-theory-challenged is the website, with a story usually reserved for the prologue of a new Godzilla movie:
“I can report with complete accuracy that Navy divers from the destroyer JS Kurama have brought up a substantial piece of the wrecked UFO,” he said. “Both civilian and military engineers took part in recovering the piece. It is now safely aboard the JS Kurama, which is the ship being used by the Japanese Navy for its salvage efforts.”
Man, I cannot wait to see what they've come up with - this should be really good!

The Grind

One of the interesting results to come out of my recent discussion with Ron Edwards was a keener appreciation for the games industry, and how it affects creativity.  I think I am with James Maliszewski when he says on Grognardia that "[i]f anything, I found my enjoyment lessened and a big part of my abandoning it was based on my knowing too much about [the games industry]."

I don't think of this as a major breakthrough, but I do think that the very aesthetic of the Old School Renaissance of "just make stuff up" is essentially subversive insofar as the games industry is concerned - as Dave Arneson once noted.  While it is true that the "indie" game movement has blazed something of a trail towards alternative commercial models for game publishing, the emphasis in the OSR on setting hobbyist creativity above commercialization simply for its own sake is no bad thing.

The telling element of this came about as I was looking for weblinks for James Wallis, who I have enjoyed gaming with ever-so-briefly in the past.  In an interview from a few years ago, he noted that the demand of acting in a business mode often conflicts with attempts to be artistically creative.  I don't think that this is true dichotomy, but the tension does exist.  All of this is to say that the value of what you make up for your own game shouldn't be measured against some abstract or artificial notion of "could that be commercially viable?" The real question ought to be:

"Are you having fun?"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why long-term campaigns matter

Long-term campaigns matter.  That may seem like a self-evident truth to those who are playing Pathfinder or have been involved in a Forgotten Realms campaign for any length of time, but from an OSR perspective, it might not be so clear.  One of the problems of today is that there are so many different choices when it comes to fun games to play.  It was an easier time when D&D was the only choice available - but that soon vanished when new games appeared.

Why do long-term campaigns matter?  Simple - for the story of the campaign and the players in it to develop and unfold.  If "the story" emerges from the play of the game, it's not unreasonable to want to see the "domain game" emerge from character development.  (Not too surprisingly, games like Adventurer, Conqueror, King are aimed at making that possible.)

Recently, I had this realization presented to me by one of my players.  After I told him about my new campaign setting, Aldwyr, Dave looked at me and said, "Well, I like the sound of that, but I hope there's room for some real character development" which he meant opportunities for play in the higher levels of the game - really anything over 7th level, as we hadn't gotten there in about 18 months of play in the campaign I had been running.  Combined with some thinking about pacing, and I decided to go back and do some background reading.  I ran across this quote from Gary in the last issue of The Strategic Review, April 1976:
It is reasonable to calculate that if a fair player takes part in 50 to 75 games in the course of a year he should acquire sufficient experience points to make him about 9th to 11th level, assuming that he manages to survive all that play. The acquisition of successively higher levels will be proportionate to enhanced power and the number of experience points necessary to attain them, so another year of play will by no means mean a doubling of levels but rather the addition of perhaps two or three levels. Using this gauge, it should take four or five years to see 20th level. ("D&D is Only as Good as the DM")
...which reveals a few interesting points about how Gary saw higher level play:

  • Game play should happen regularly and consistently.  Consider: "...50 to 75 games in the course of the year...." 
  • Advancement to "name level" is never guaranteed: "...assuming that he manages to survive all that play."
  • The rate of progress to higher levels slows considerably.
  • A long-term campaign is one that lasts easily more than a year, or even two.
All of which suggests a tension in the modern era between developing a campaign with that kind of timespan, and all the games we'd like to play, and the limited amount of time anyone has.  But if you want to maintain player interest, you need to think about they might develop their character - as long as those characters survive.

I don't think of this as a bug, more of a design feature.  But it is something that can come back to challenge a referee as they go from "town, nearby dungeon, and low-level player-characters" to something much larger and more developed over time. I'm rather curious to see where this will lead. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice 2011 at Stonehenge
Does the calendar in your game year mean anything?  It should.  In pre-industrial societies, the cycle of the seasons and the turn of the year were important in the lives of everyone.  In our "disenchanted" modern world, we pay little attention to the seasons for their own sake, but more as markers of other events and matters of concern.  So there's an opportunity in fantasy roleplaying to re-enchant our world - just a little - not for the sake of superstition, but to reconnect with the world around us.  So add some awareness of time into your game - make that calendar matter for holidays, for the waxing and waning of magical, mysterious and divine forces.  At the same time, go outside and see the daylight begin to lengthen once again, and marvel at the amazing thing that is our world.

Happy Solstice!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

With apologies to Jon Peterson

Read more about this on Jon's blog
I want to be clear: this is an amazing book.  In some ways, it's the book I've wanted to write - but Jon does a better job at much of the subject material by having access to a vast wealth of documentation (and I thought I had an extensive collection!).

I managed to misremember both Jon's name and the title of his book in my recent appearance on Kevin Weiser's podcast, The Walking Eye.  I figured the least I could do would be to put in a plug for Jon's book, especially since it so richly deserves a wider audience. In short, Playing at the World is a history of how wargaming eventually led to D&D, and what other factors contributed to its success when it appeared.  Having lived through the early days of the role-playing hobby myself, I've found it a very worthwhile and interesting read. You can find out how to order it from Jon's blog.  Give yourself - or someone else - a tome of mighty magic for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Starting a game club: why do it?

I just read over on a Google+ community about a fellow whose gaming group - like so many - was beginning to scatter. Whether it was due to college graduation or job and career issues doesn't really matter. My own brother-in-law has been meeting with his college gaming group on Yahoo Chat and infrequent get-togethers for years, so there's nothing really new here.  Once a group begins to fragment, gamers often feel a sense of loss and don't know what to do.  Hence, ConstantCon and Google+ hangouts and the like.

But while I enjoy getting together online to do some gaming, it has never really matched the satisfaction I get from meeting around an actual table in real time. Combined with fond memories of gaming clubs in my past, I've always preferred regular get-togethers for roleplaying. So why start a club?

There are a bunch of decent reasons for starting a gaming club:
  • Finding other like-minded gamers. The frequent complaint of "I can't find other gamers!" is a strong motivation to start a club. I would argue that starting a club and putting a little work into maintaining it is well worth the effort, especially if it results in connecting with gamers who share your interests.
  • Introducing new gamers to the games you like.  This is particularly important for the Old School Renaissance, as many of the games we enjoy are not always available at your FLGS.  Having a club builds visibility for "our" kind of games, which does not happen as readily with online gaming.
  • Getting introduced to new games and campaigns.  There is something worthwhile in seeing how it's all done by somebody else, and better yet, having a chance to play in something different.  It is easier face-to-face, which regular club meetings makes much easier.
  • Building a sense of community.  Unlike online forums which can sometimes descend into endless bickering, a local game club can actually help build friendships and strengthen a sense of community among members.  Don't get me wrong - I've seen clubs go through their own brand of drama from time to time - but if you remember Wheaton's Law and the Golden Rule, a lot of it will dissipate.
Ultimately, you need to be open to experiencing new things to be effective in starting a gaming club.  It might come as a surprise, but gamers are even more varied than the general public, so starting a club can be its own adventure.

Next Wednesday: timing and frequency of meetings.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Second Half...

...of the Walking Eye podcast conversation between myself and Ron Edwards, with my friend Kevin Weiser acting as moderator, goes up today.  I have to admit, I am interested in hearing how it will sound, given that there's a lot we talked about - although not as much about the OSR as I might have liked.  Still, it was an interesting conversation, and I'm looking forward to talking with Kevin and Ron again in the future.

Monday, December 17, 2012

They just aren't the same...

Editorial note:  I wrote this blog post some time ago, but aside from a few minor editorial updates, it is still very much how I feel about the current hype around the "evolution" of D&D.

Don't mistake all of this for...
One of the comments made sometimes by fans of D&D 4th Edition is, "oh, it's so much more old school than 3rd Edition!"  This may or may not be true, but that doesn't mean 4th Edition is Old School.  In fact, there seems to be a fundamental difference between 4th Edition D&D and Original D&D, insofar as I could tell from observing a recent Lair Assault game session at my FLGS.

It may be a contrast in ideal types, but there is a distinct contrast between the "D&D-as-product-line" and "D&D-as-toolbox" approach.  D&D 4th Edition is clearly in the former camp, while 0e is clearly in the latter.  "Yes, but that change took place a long time ago!" someone might suggest.  That's true.  It's quite visible in Gary Gygax's editorial "Dungeons & Dragons - What It Is and Where It Is Going" which appeared in The Dragon #22, in February 1979:

"From a standpoint of sales, I beam broadly at the very thought of an unending string of new, improved, super, energized, versions of D&D being hyped to the loyal followers of the gaming hobby in general and role playing fantasy games in particular. As a game designer I do not agree, particularly as a gamer who began with chess...I do not believe that hobbyists and casual players should be continually barraged with new rules, new systems, and new drains on their purses. Certainly there will be changes, for the game is not perfect; but I do not believe the game is so imperfect as to require constant improvement."
...for this..
Broadly speaking, the history of D&D reflects this tension.  The successive editions of the game have been produced with a fair span of time between each edition - but as every edition has been produced, there have been questions raised as to the necessity of the new edition.  But what has also occurred over time has been the slow shift away from the "D&D-as-toolbox" approach.  I would submit that this shift has been detrimental to the creative process - and why 4th Edition and Original D&D are fundamentally different from one another.  Despite recent suggestions, I believe that 5th Edition will be no better at this than 4th.

...or this...
One might ask why this shift has taken place.  One reason is the pressure of commercialization, as noted above.  Another is simply the work involved in creating your own campaign, as Gary himself recognized:

"DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is like none other in that it requires the game master to create part or all of a fantasy world. Players must then become personae in this place and interact with the other populace. This is, of course a tall order for all concerned [emphasis added] — rules, DM, and players alike."
What's interesting is that even at this date, Gary did not see commercial products as being anything more than add-ons to existing campaigns, noting that "[m]odules and similar material will continue to be released so as to make the DM’s task easier and his or her campaign better."  At some point, modules themselves supplanted original campaign creation, dovetailing nicely with the previously-mentioned pressure to produce commercial products to maintain the company - and in so doing, making it strange for anyone to engage in their own creative visioning of the game through their own campaign.  That's what is really unfortunate.
...or your own work.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

We've got top men working on that...

Ah, props in gaming.  Done right, they can add a lot to a gaming session.  Over time, I've created fake ID cards, accident reports, even a spy's briefcase right down to the unknown surveillance photos, cigarettes, and money (for the record, 20 Euros and 100 Rand).

But I don't think I've gone this far:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Panning for gold

I've recently joined a bunch of G+ communities and combined with some of the other fun I've had over the past while, I now have too many links to follow for gaming goodness.  Here are just a few of the links:

  • Blade & Crown - a new RPG from Rachel Kronick.  Rachel is an old friend from the Twin Cities, and I know she does good work.  I had known Rachel through mutual interest in game settings like 2300AD and Tekumel, but Blade & Crown was something new to me.  I'm boosting the signal.
  • Dave's Mapper - a resource for artistically-challenged referees like me.  I'm just starting to explore it, but I can tell I will get more use out of it over time, not just for D&D but also potentially for Traveller.
  • DrawHexGrid 3.51 - in the past, I've used Incompetech's web-based hex paper generator, but DrawHexGrid looks like a way to get not only hexes but also numbered hexes.  If DrawHexGrid doesn't work for you, check out mkhexgrid as an alternative.
  • Empire - "the board game from Reed College" - Empire was (and is?) a long-standing campaign game that originated at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.  It is another example of the sort of strategic campaign-oriented game which may have influenced later developments in wargaming and roleplaying.
  • The Apocalyptic Post - issues 1-5.  For anyone irradiated with interest in Gamma World, this looks like an interesting resource.  I've downloaded a set and have begun reading.  Definitely something for use with Mutant Future.
  • Classic Traveller supplements from Gamelords, available from Different Worlds Publications.  You can get them on CD-ROM from Far Future Enterprises - and you should!  But also pick up the original booklets for some awesome CT goodness.
  • Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheetsalso available from Different Worlds Publications.  While most of the rest of the Judges Guild stuff for D&D is sold out, apparently Tadashi Ehara still has this classic resource for sale - and for cheap!  There are other items for T&T and RQ, too.
  • Mazes & Minotaurs - the Old School game inspired by Jason and the Argonauts and Homer's The Odyssey.  I'm not sure where I am going to put all the games I want to buy, but this one definitely has my attention.
I know this is what happens when I get to the end of the semester, but I am looking forward to the holiday season break.  I've got a lot of reading and game writing to do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Just over three years and still growing!

In the beginning: Madison Games Day 2010

Back in September 2009, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin.  I had been hoping for some time to join the fabled Dungeon Masters Association at the University of Wisconsin.  Alas, that was not to be, as the DMA had folded just a few months before I arrived.

So I decided to start Madison Traditional Gaming - a group for people who wanted to play Old School RPGs.  After a somewhat shaky start (there were three people at the first meetup including myself), we've grown from a small number of gamers to several regular campaigns, three established referees, and about two dozen regular players and attendees.

For some time, I've wanted to write a series of blog posts about setting up a club and keeping it going.  I think this is important because there's a recurrent theme on the web and in the OSR that "it's just too hard to go out and find players for a game."  I think that's just not true, if you go about it creatively and with an open mind.  Hopefully, some of the things I have learned over the past three years will be useful to others who are looking for other gamers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ron Edwards, the Walking Eye, and me!

Some of you might be familiar with Kevin Weiser's podcast, The Walking Eye.  Kevin's an old friend from Iowa State, and some time ago discovered I was involved in the Old School Renaissance.  It also happens that he knows Ron Edwards fairly well, so he thought it might be interesting to do an interview with both of us, talking about The Forge and the OSR and things related to all that.  So we did that.  It was a lot of fun!  Looks like the podcast will be available on Tuesday.  I'm hoping I don't sound too bad - we'll see!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dwimmermount play

Over the past few months, I've been playing in James Maliszewski's Dwimmermount campaign on Google+.  We've tried to meet every other week for two hours, but it has been difficult at times to get everyone together.  But it has been very fun - and interesting - to see how everyone plays D&D slightly differently from each other.

Case in point: last night, in our fifth session, we discovered a small band of orcs.  Two of them were carrying a coffer of gold, and the rest were acting as guards.  We gained the surprise on them, but before my slightly wisdom-impaired warrior could charge to the attack, the magic-user in the party cast a Sleep spell and the orcs all keeled over snoring.  That's where things got interesting:

  • What to do with the orcs?  In my gaming experience, the solution was simple.  The orcs were asleep, therefore go amongst them and administer a coup de grace to all of them, i.e. slit their throats.  But several of the other players seemed to have a different idea: tie up the orcs, strip them of arms and armor and leave them.  One of my compatriots argued for taking them back to town and turning them in to the local authorities.  Another idly suggested taking them back as "arena slaves."  I argued without success that all of these options seemed pretty weird, but I didn't press the point.  The orcs were tied up and stripped of their gear.
  • What about the coffer of gold?  Although my character, Talys, was a fighter, I said that he was going to check for traps on the coffer and attempt to pick the lock.  One of the other players said, "But there isn't a thief in the party!  You can't check for traps!"  I demurred, saying:

    "That's not an Old School way of thinking about it.  Here - Talys will use his dagger to check along the edge of the coffer, seeing if there is anything suspicious.  If not, he will use the dagger tip to pick the lock.  If that fails, we can bash the lock open."

    Fortunately, James informed us that the coffer had only two simple hasps, and those were not locked.  I suggested placing the coffer so that it opened up facing a wall, which several of my fellow party-members thought was a bit paranoid.  Quickly enough, however, we opened the coffer using two spears, one from each side flipping the cover back.  Voila! Many, many gold pieces.  While the gold was being divided up, I said that my fighter was going to search for secret compartments in the coffer; there were none.
What made me think about it all afterwards was that we all came from different traditions when it came to how to do things.  The question about the sleeping orcs showed a lack of agreement about what "orcs" were really like and how "civilized" society viewed them.  The question about opening the coffer revealed several different sets of assumptions about how things worked in the game.  What was fascinating about this was the range of expectations about what was the "right" course of action to take.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ta-Nehisi Coates talks about not playing D&D anymore: My favorite line so far: "Nevertheless, I miss Tucker's Kobolds."
More here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sometimes you get lucky

I am currently in Des Moines for work, and going back home tomorrow.  Instead of taking myself out to the nice-but-pricey restaurant I had been considering, I went to Half-Price Books in West Des Moines to see what they might have.

I found THIS:                                              

...for THIS price:

Made of win, I tell you.  Definitely.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Elves and their natures

So to speak.

I mean, so I ran across this essay about elves and Tolkien and sex and stuff.  While I know that Gary was not terribly keen about Tolkien elves, ever since the Lord of the Rings hit it big, it's far too easy to fall into the assumption that elves in D&D are, well, what Tolkien thought they were.  Which is unfortunate, since we've got very different elves out there as potential models for our games, including those from The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson.

What do YOU do with elves?  Assume they're all Tolkienesque?  (Let's not get started on differences between the books and the movies...).

The Tekumel Foundation...

As some of you know, I'm the current chairman of the Tékumel Foundation. The foundation was formally incorporated in 2008, with Prof. Barker's blessing. When he passed away earlier this year, we became the guardians of the world of Tékumel. It's not something I take lightly, and as a result, I've been devoting more time to Tékumel and the foundation.

Well, some of that work is about to pay off: the Foundation has a blog.  Additionally, we're moving into a studio space where it will be possible to delve deeply into the vast array of material left to us by Prof. Barker.  Much of it has never been published before.  Frankly, I'm excited.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Interesting dungeon entrance?

I particularly liked seeing just how little illumination you sometimes get underground. And the pivoting door was another nice touch.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Off to Texas - Part Two

North Texas RPG Con has been a blast so far.  I arrived Thursday evening to find Tavis Allison and Nick Mizer in the hotel bar, and we spent several hours talking about academics and gaming.  Friday, I had a chance to run the Jakallan Underworld for two intrepid players, Ian and Duke.  Taking two characters each, they managed to get close to the Temple of Vimuhla's fiery lava moat - only to have two characters slip and fall to an incandescent doom while trying to cross the high, narrow bridge.  The two remaining characters beat a hasty retreat, eventually escaping, but only after losing a Plaque of Ruling the Ru'un to a Priest of Wuru.

Saturday was spent in more conversation and catching up with people, including Allan Grohe, Michael Curtis, Jeff Dee, and many others.  By Saturday evening, I was able to gird myself for running another adventure in the Jakallan Underworld.  Shawn, Kenny, Tyler, Lew, Marshall, Jeff and Chris were the intrepid band who ventured forth (clockwise from myself, above) - Jeff being Jeff Dee, and Chris being Chris Holmes, the son of John Eric Holmes of Holmes D&D fame.  Their party made their way into the Underworld, encountering a ruined temple of Lord Sarku in the depths.  There they defeated a number of zombie-like Mrur, many of the rat-like Kurgha, and then ended up in a stalemate with two Pygmy Folk.  The Pygmy Folk used two Eyes to first Slow the party, and then produce nearly a score of armed and armored automata to menace the party.  Only the quick thinking of Jeff Dee and the casting of a Shield of Defense spell prevented a TPK.  However, by the time the metal monsters disappeared and the spell wore off, the Pygmy Folk were long gone.  They party decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and made their way back out of the Underworld.  Their last encounter was with handful of initially bemused Thunru'u, whom they distracted as they raced past.  The Thunru'u attempted to stop them, and were rewarded with fiery death from an Eye for their efforts.

The party escaped with only 66 Kaitars in loot, which they promptly had to hand over as part of a bribe to the City Guard, who were waiting when then emerged above ground.  However, avoiding near-certain death was itself a reward, and the adventure ended there.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Off to Texas - Part One

Saturday afternoon, I started driving on my cross-country trek to go to North Texas RPG Con.  First stop: St. Louis!

Chris Davis of Blue Room fame was kind enough to offer me some crash space at his place, since St. Louis was a decent seven hours from Madison, Wisconsin.  Arriving late on Saturday, we went out for a late night meal and some discussion about the Tekumel game we were hosting the next day.  Over pancakes and sausage, we "did sums" and came up with about a half-dozen likely players who had let him know of their interest in playing.

The next morning, we got our stuff together and went off to the Fantasy Shop on the south side of St. Louis.  Store manager Josh was a fine host, and soon players arrived: Tom and Karin, Matt Fischer, Jeff as well as Chris and myself.  They had a grand time venturing into the depths of the Jakallan Underworld, eventually finding a small shrine to Ksarul guarded by a dozen Shedra.  It was Matt's character that was done in by the Shedra, which was fitting since he was an adherent of the Doomed Prince himself.  The rest of the party survived just barely, and made their way back to the surface.  We ended the game, and Josh helped out by taking pictures of everyone using Matt's camera.  (Hey, Matt!  Can we see them sometime...?)

Saying goodbye to Josh, and joined by latecomers Adam and Amy, we all went next door to the Shogun Japanese Steakhouse, and had a great meal with lots of knives flying in artistic patterns.  We ended the evening playing more Tekumel at Chris' house, and talked into the wee hours of the morning about gaming, gaming history, and what made Old School gaming so special.

NEXT: Driving to Dallas-Fort Worth!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

GaryCon IV was a blast!

Downside of this past weekend: I had been unsure if I was going to make it to GaryCon, so I had not registered to run any events.

Upside of this past weekend: it didn't matter. :):):)

When I arrived at GaryCon on Thursday, I brought along a whole bunch of material: Empire of the Petal Throne, Classic Traveller, Mutant Future, and Labyrinth Lord.  The only game I ran was the very first one.  Planning for the MAR Barker Memorial occupied a decent part of Friday, but eventually everything got resolved.  By Friday evening, I had gathered a number of players in the Open Gaming Area, and we started to adventure in Old Jakalla.  Over the course of the convention, I ended up running EPT for about 20 hours.  Some highlights included:

  • The party of adventurers who got themselves stuck inside an old Bednalljan tomb, and the one priest of Sarku decided to call for divine intervention.  When the Lord of Worms responded with the question, "what would you have me do?" the anguished priest said, "open ALL the portals to this place!"  Lord Sarku promptly did so - and four player characters joined the ranks of the Legions of the Despairing Dead.
  • Another party of adventurers were given a mission to escort a priestess from Jakalla to Tumissa, and got sidetracked by the agents of the Temple of Chiteng. The battle aboard the ship involved an Excellent Ruby Eye, two drugged player-characters in the captain's cabin, and the ship being set on fire by the sailors who were abandoning ship.  The party eventually made it to Prince Rereshqala's palace, however.
Next stop: North Texas RPG Con.  Looking forward to it!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Last Chance to Donate!

Over at the RetroRoleplaying Blog, Randall Stukey notes:  "Today is the last day of the Leap Month RetroRoleplaying Cancer fund drive. Donations arriving before I get up Monday morning (say 7am CDT on March 19th) will count as donated on the 18th of March."  I encourage everyone who has not donated to think about doing so.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another friend passes away

Professor Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman (MAR) Barker, known to his friends as “Phil,” died peacefully in home hospice on March 16, 2012 with his wife Ambereen Barker at his side. Professor Barker is survived by his wife of 53 years, Ambereen. Details on memorial services will follow. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Tékumel Foundation are preferred:

For more information:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Traveller Tuesday: 2300AD reborn!

This looks rather interesting. I've always had something of a soft spot for 2300AD, after originally rejecting it as "that weird game that was mislabeled as 'Traveller'." Once I figured out what the game was about, I rather liked the connection between it and Twilight:2000. I never really had a chance to play, and now seeing it connected to the RTT rules set makes me think harder about digging out the old stuff and rolling up some characters.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Learning from Lessnard

When I first started playing D&D, back in 1975 or so, I was just a teenager. I played mostly with my high school friends, but after awhile I wanted to see how other people played.  So even though I was in high school, I discovered the Conflict Simulation Association at the University of Minnesota - and an undergraduate majoring in Medieval Studies named Michael Mornard.

Michael's D&D campaign was set in Merry Old England during the reign of Edward III.  Sherwood Forest had a deep dark secret, with the Devil running the show (if I recall correctly).  I learned the old English monetary system (12 pence to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound, and 21 for a guinea), and what you needed to do between dungeon expeditions (repair your armor).  There was one particular adventure where my hobbit thief ended up in the back rank, so I carefully reached over and turned him around so he could see if anybody was sneaking up on the party, while the front rank was puzzling over a door.  "That's 50 experience points, right there," Michael declared.

Gaming with Michael was often like attending the School of Hard Knocks.  At the same time, it was always fun and definitely something that grabbed my attention.  In many ways, my style of gaming over time has been shaped in part by Michael's tutelage.

More recently, Michael moved to New York with his wife, Jean.  Jean is at seminary, studying to be a priest, so Michael has been avoiding his own seminary studies having fun playing and running D&D for some of the New York Red Box crowd, including Tavis Allison among others.  So it was with a real sense of nostalgia and interest I recently read "Gaming with one of the original D&D players" over on Blog of Holding. Go check it out - Michael's in fine form, reminding us that "The cool thing about your character was what you did in the game." Right on. Preach it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Tekumel stuff!

The attached picture is a preview of a new release coming VERY soon from Prof. Barker and the Tekumel Foundation. It will be available through DriveThru/RPG Now. Details to follow soon!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Zak said

Over at Playing D&D with Porn Stars, Zak is exploring some of the same issues I've experienced attempting to talk with Forge adherents about what, exactly, gaming is and is supposed to accomplish.  I pointed out Glenn Blacow's excellent article about different kinds of gamers, which is itself an exploration of the different expectations that people bring to the gaming table.

So what's my point?  Simple: the process of negotiating the kind of role-playing game you want to play takes place between players as a part of gameplay as a social activity.  Whatever you conclude becomes the basis for your social contract to continue - but there's no requirement that this be codified in the rules of the game.  I would go further and argue that to codify such requirements into the rules places limits on role-playing within gameplay.  Whether or not you want those limits is collectively up for negotiation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A modest accomplishment

I have completed three character "sheets" for three different games: Original D&D, Empire of the Petal Throne, and Mutant Future.  They are all 3x5 card sized, as they should be.  I'm feeling accomplished.  :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Peasants Are REVOLTING!

Well, maybe they had a good reason - at least insofar as Terry Jones can tell:

What's interesting about this is pretty straightforward.  In a quick half-hour show, Terry provides a glimpse of medieval life for peasants and that's pretty useful for the aspiring RPG referee.  Past that, some of what Terry talks about gets even more interesting if you start to mix in magic and its place in a D&D society.  Unfortunately, not many campaigns actually explore or reflect how magic is itself a kind of technology.

If you think about it, a D&D world might have some pretty sophisticated approaches to health care, farming, town planning - you name it.  Some of this analysis was done in early issues of The Wild Hunt -  unfortunately, I don't think I own most of those.  Something to dig up out of the past!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feeling unmoved

Wizards has recently made two announcements.  First, about the development of 5th Edition D&D, and then about the release of 1st Edition reprints (with new covers).  I think the idea of reprints to benefit the Gygax Memorial Fund is a great idea, so I'm all for that.  But as for a new edition of the game, I'm...unmoved.

To begin with, let's get something clear: Wizards is probably making the right move to move smartly along from 4th Edition, and from a business perspective, a new edition possibly makes sense.  But the entire reaction to the announcement of 5th Edition strikes me as similar to the reaction from the fan community when TSR announced 2nd Edition, or when Wizards announced 3rd Edition.  But "new" is not necessarily "better." From an individual gamer perspective, I do not need a "new" edition to improve my game.  In fact, if I have added enough of my own imagination to my existing game, a new version may not be as good as the one I've got.  This gets back to a post on Facebook by Jeff Dee, where he observes that the gaming hobby and the gaming industry are two different things -and while I wish Wizards the best, I'm not at all sure that the genie can be put back in the bottle.

Past the initial hype, a particular reaction which has spread like wildfire has been the notion of a version of D&D "for everybody."  As someone put it on Facebook about 1st vs. 4th Edition, "One side is rules light and DM dependent while the other is rules heavy and player empowered. Where's the middle ground or the modular to get us all to the same place[?]"  I'm pretty sure I don't agree with that analysis, and I am very sure I don't need a "middle ground."

Don't get me wrong; I'm not an "old school purist" - I simply doubt that it is necessary (or even possible) for there to be a "one big tent" version of D&D.  James Maliszewski expresses surprise that there are a noticeable number of old school gamers that seem to want a new edition, and I'm with him in that surprise.  What worries me more is that there may be a lot of gamers who will ardently get behind 5th Edition, only to be disappointed when it doesn't deliver.

Regardless of what Wizards intends, however, let's hope it doesn't turn out like THIS.