Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gaming Post, I promise

I have to share this.  For the past couple of years, I've been running the RPG club for middle school kids at my school.  I've been using the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules with a few modifications and a heavy dose of "gonzo".  They love it.  In fact, the club is so popular this year, I have had to split the group into two and have each group meet on a different day.  So, I've got each group meeting weekly, but I'm running twice a week.

Anyway, each year by now, the boys have been excited telling their parents about the game.  I always tell the kids that it's very much like the original Dungeons & Dragons from the late 1970's and they get that.  Well, because of that, the dads have been keeping up with the games through their sons and some have even been running games at home with the whole family.  Last month, one of the dads stopped by to watch and kibitz the kids as they played.  The next game, he sent the boy with Mountain Dew and Cheetos.  On this past Wednesday, one of the kids arrives with a binder.  "It's my dad's D&D binder!  Look at all the cool stuff!", he excitedly called out.  The boys gathered around and spent 30 minutes looking at the drawings, maps and characters in the binder.  "Why aren't any of these on character sheets?" one of them asked.  "Because there were no special character sheets back then." I responded.  ""

And another generation is hooked.  And, even better, the dads are now playing in their own groups and running games for their kids. 

And I'm Back....

Wow...been a little while and so much has happened.  Unfortunately, not much of it was gaming.  So, if you're looking for gaming stuff, skip this and go to the next post.

Well, picking up where the last post left off, Dad forgot to include me in the meeting with the doctors as they reviewed his CT scan.  So, he gave me some garbled version of what all they said which I kinda figured out as "unless you commit to be here, there's not much we can do for you".  So, he went back home to Pecos and returned for the next round of chemo in late May as usual.  Which kinda threw them for a loop because he hadn't really discussed that with them.  I drove down to Houston to be there for this one.  Luckily, the finals schedule and all the other stuff worked out so that I could go and not miss anything.  My visit with the doctor with him gave me a much better view of what they had said and had confirmed my deduction.  Basically, if he had checked himself into MDA back in March, they could have brought full power to defeating the cancer.  However, since he was adamant that his job absolutely required his presence, he refused to follow their orders.  So, they could only try to get him to take his meds and rest and all that.  He wouldn't do it.  And thus, in our meeting, the doctor flatly stated, "you might as well go home and enjoy what little time you have left with your family".  He gave Dad 2 months. 

I therefore refused to let Dad go back to Pecos and instead moved him into our house.  I called in my favors by contacting parents of kids I had taught, talking with the oncologists and managing to get Dad into Texas Oncology here.  They tried to get him to check in, but he refused.  We did chemo for two months and they then said that all the test results and a new CT scan showed that the cancer had spread too far and was too advanced.  In late July, he was put into hospice.  I was sleeping on a cot in his room to help him up in the night to go to the bathroom or get him water.  I became his full time caregiver until school started.  Public school started two weeks before we did, so the wife and the kids were off in school all day.  The hospice nurse would stop by three times a week and an aide stopped by on the days the nurse wasn't coming.  When my school started its in-service, I scheduled a sitter through hospice to be here while I was at work.  After one day, they suggested moving him into a hospital because he was bedridden at that time and was mentally confused constantly.  Two days in the hospital, during the drive to the last day of in-service, they called and suggested that I come there as he was showing all the signs of being "eminent".  So, I called my sister and we met there.  After two hours, he was not conscious for any of it, he passed away on Aug. 23rd.

His funeral was over the Labor Day weekend and because he had so many friends we filled the chapel at the funeral home.  Since then, I've been out to Pecos 4 times.  Each time I either clean up his trailer or deal with his bank and financial stuff or load up stuff from his storage unit.  I figure I've got one or two more trips until it's all done.  There's still stuff to be done about his insurance, selling his trailer, selling his truck, and closing his accounts.  But there's light at the end of the tunnel now.  Been doing some gaming, but my heart's not been fully into it.  I feel like I'm letting the groups down by not being as involved as before, or by distracting them with off the wall comments and such.  Not looking forward to Christmas because that was his big holiday.  He loved giving gifts and dressing up as Santa or an elf and bringing a smile to everyone's face.

Sorry for the long depressing post but I figured I owed some an explanation for not writing.  I'll get back to writing about games soon.  Losing myself in some dungeon drawing & stocking or drawing up & labeling a wilderness area has been a nice escape.  I'll write about some of those things next time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Quick Note

Just to let you all know, no gaming this week.  Hoping to game on the 17th with the Old School group if there are no conflicts.  I'm sure I'll need the distraction of playing rather than DM-ing.  Especially after the odd call today.  Dad's at MD Anderson for another round of chemo plus a CT scan to check on how the tumors are reacting.  However, he tells me today (over the phone) that today's meeting with the doctor involved: the doctor finally showing the results of the CT scan from March, the doctor pointing out more possible tumors than originally they are the point of further exploration with CT today, and lastly, that Dad has had blood in his urine all week. comment all week about this in my daily calls., going to try to either go see him this weekend or spend some serious time on the phone with him working things out.  Also, learned that the doctor is supposed to review the CT scan from today and meet with Dad tomorrow morn.  I've asked to be telephoned in for that one.  I may have more tomorrow.  This is just kind of a vent post, I guess.....

Sunday, May 5, 2013

An Actual Play Report

Believe it or not, we actually got to sit down and play this past Friday.  It's been months since I've had a chance to sit in the DM seat.  Life is still very chaotic, busy, stressful, and (in some instances) painful.  Some more bad-ish news filtered in since the last blog post.  If you're just interested in the play report, jump down to "Play Report".

Bad: Dad started having pain a few days before his chemo treatment.  Nothing severe but it just shouldn't have shown up at all.  A few hours into the treatment, the pain did its usual "start-get uncomfortable-fade" routine....but it didn't stop at "uncomfortable".  It hit 12 on the 10 point pain scale, and hung on there for about half an hour.  It reappeared a few more times like that.  The doctor could not find a reason but prescribed some morphine derivative painkillers for the moments when it appears.  Next week, Dad goes in for a CT scan to check on the tumors' sizes and shapes.  We're hoping for reductions in both.  Then more chemo.

Sad:  The department chair announced her retirement at the end of the school year.  She's been a very good friend and a wonderful mentor.  I am going to miss her dearly. 

Stressful:  A lot of well-meaning people have come by and offered support and encouragement, or I'm sure they thought their words were supportive and encouraging.  However, hearing stories about cancer from others does not encourage me much.  I know how differently a person's reactions to chemo or radiation can be.  I really do appreciate the sentiment, but knowing you're praying for us or something like that is better than hearing about how your uncle or friend's mother's boyfriend survived (or didn't) isn't really that helpful.

Play Report:  (at last, right?)  So, we were missing a ranger, a fighter, and a cleric when the players gathered to pick up on the Freeport adventure.  Last time, the group had chosen to change sides and work with the Illusionist who had rescued his people from a demon incursion on their home plane.  He gets vague, angry and defensive when the subject is brought up, suggesting he was somehow connected to the start of the incursion.  The previous two game sessions had the group running around in a modified version of the Portals of Torsh module from Judges Guild.  The group had managed to get a wagon load of iron bars and such cheap in Freeport and bring it to Torsh where iron is more precious than gold.  They left with a wagon and a half of gold.  The session started out with the group spending their money on magic items and equipment.  The Illusionist was going to send them to another plane to pick up some weapons to help him destroy the demon invaders and retake his home plane.  So, after buying what they could (see paragraph below), they got a simple map and were whisked away to the base of White Plume Mountain.

Aside:  I vaguely remember an old Dragon magazine article which pointed out some problems with the prices in the 1e DMG.  Specifically, Gauntlets of Ogre Power are 10k GP and give you a 18/00 Strength.  However, a Girdle of Hill Giant Strength is only 2500 GP and gives you a 19 Strength.  My guess is that the girdles were supposed to be 25k and up, but I can't find the Dragon article on that.  Granted, I haven't looked that hard yet, but I will.

Back to Play Report:  So, after spending a bunch of the gold, the two fighters present have Fire Giant and Stone Giant strength Girdles.  The thief has an improved version of the Ring of Fire Resistance modified as a cloak.  The mage has Wings of Flying and a magic dagger.  The ranger (halfling) has a Hill Giant strength girdle and a Frost Brand.  They also buy 5 sheep from a shepherd and take those with them to White Plume Mountain.  They follow the map up to the entrance and find the door in.  The sheep fall down the stairs, proving there are no traps there.  At the end of the first corridor, one of the sheep is grabbed by a black pudding and eaten.  The pudding is then pounded to death by stones and rocks thrown by the super strong fighters.  The gynosphynx gives her riddle and asks the party to kill a mage in blue who imprisoned her down there.  She lets them by without a fight.  They go after the magic sword first.  The sheep find a pit trap but managed to survive.  They then find a greased floor to a pit trap with blades...and now the group only has 3 sheep left.  The induction field trap (I love that one...great use of Physics) manages to strip the fighters down.  As their suiting back up, one of the fighters sees the secret door in the wall.  He goes over and knocks on it, saying "Hey guys, here's a secret door!"  Just as he does that, he's ambushed by ghouls who promptly paralyze him.  The other fighter leaps forward to attack, kills one ghoul, and then gets paralyzed by another.  The thief pulls back and starts shooting arrows.  The mage flies up to the ceiling and starts magic missiling the ghouls.  The ranger pulls out a magic skull taken from the serpent folk way back and lobs it at the pack.  My rolls put all the remainder of the ghouls in the blast radius.  The ranger rolls 2d6 and gets 11.  The ghouls have 10 hp.  But it also damages the paralyzed folks, so not all is lost.

As the group overcomes the paralysis and gets ready to move on, two gargoyles show up, checking out the sound of the explosion.  One fighter literally slices one of the gargoyles in half while the other fighter drops the other gargoyle down to 2 hp.  They didn't have a chance.  Further exploration leads to the Arena Room with all the creatures.  The group backs out quietly and goes toward another room.  This room has a couple of wights, which the group takes out in two rounds but they lost a sheep in the process. 

And that's where we stopped.  The group is holed up in the room with the magic river and kayaks.  The next game probably won't be until the 31st because of all the end of school demands upon my time.  While most of them had heard of the module, no one had played it.  They all really liked the puzzles and challenges.  I look forward to the next game.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Real Life Sucks sometimes

It's been a few weeks since I posted anything.  I'm still dealing with Dad's cancer stuff.  Since the last post, he's had a biopsy, a PICC line inserted, one round of chemotherapy (they hit him with 3 powerful drugs) and he got to go back home.  The biopsy revealed more bad news.  We knew he had a golf-ball sized tumor on his pancreas from a CT scan.  The same scan showed spots on his liver.  The biopsy of one of the liver spots tested positive for cancer.  It appears to be a metastasis from the pancreas.  He goes back to MD Anderson on Tuesday to meet with the doctor on Wednesday and have more chemo.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to go help him this time.  The school year is winding down and every day counts more and more as the kids get ready for AP testing in a month as well as SAT II tests in two months.  Luckily, I teach in a private school which doesn't have to conform to the ridiculousness of the state's idiotic demands on passing standardized tests every 6 weeks, just to prove I can teach and the kids are learning.  Anyway, I've done almost nothing to prepare for any games.  I have been blessed with good friends who run good, distracting, games for me.  So, unfortunately, this little blog may have to go into hibernation until life settles down again.  Sorry.  I'll write when I can.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Playing in the White Box

We had a 2nd game in the the S&W White Box this week.  Stan ran a continuation of his game in his Redmark world.  The last game we played, we found the Amulet of Shinkara which turned out to be a handy little healing item.  We started this time with turning in the Amulet to the Duke who had put out a reward for anyone finding it.  When we showed up with it, we were rewarded not only financially for our troubles but we were also given a tower in a northern castle/keep if we would be willing to do other dungeoneering things for the Duke.  Since we unfortunately only had two players as the others had various personal or professional conflicts, we had to hire a batch on NPC's to flesh out our info gathering ability.

Arriving at our tower, we discover that the nobility who actually owns the keep is still present, is related to the duke, and is quite mad which requires him to be locked away.  The meister who is currently acting as steward immediately set off our personal alarms and we started trying to figure out his background and control level.  We had fun giving his spies lots of red herrings as we were looking for information about him.

Lots of role play was done.  We had a real blast.  I rolled dice twice, both were ability checks.  No combat.  It was great.

Now, I know this was terse.  As most of you know, I am pretty distracted right now dealing with my dad's recent discovery of tumors on his pancreas and his liver.  I am currently at MD Anderson with him, awaiting a biopsy of the tumors and the start of chemo or radiation treatments.  So, no game this coming week.  I'll get back to regular posting as soon as life settles down again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wandering around Torsh

This past Friday, the group did some more wandering around the island continent of Torsh, from Judges Guilds' Portals of Torsh module.  I added it to the campaign in the hopes that it would derail the railroad of the introductory Freeport Trilogy.  I put a random portal about 10 feet in the air in the middle of a city block and put a portal to Torsh specifically in the top of the lighthouse maguffin of the 3rd Freeport module.  By making the lizardmen of Torsh more like the serpent people of Freeport, it made sense to connect the two.

Anyway, in the last game, the group had a showdown with the inhabitants of the lighthouse in the end of the Freeport Trilogy.  Honestly, as a DM, I cannot recommend much from that module.  It's a nose-ring, railroad of an adventure.  Modifying as much of it as possible to 1e, the characters pretty much walked through the "tough" fights with barely a scratch.  Their purpose for being there was to chase after and capture an escaped prisoner.  They went through all the levels and never saw him.  After looting the place, including stealing the jade serpent, they went off to heal up.  One of the group finally wondered why they hadn't seen the guy they were chasing, despite seeing him enter the place.

So, they went back in, went up to the top, and entered Torsh.  For those not familiar with Torsh, it's a continent in an alternate Prime Material plane in which the dinosaurs didn't die out but continued to evolve.  Mammals therefore never evolved.  Add to this, most of the plants and such are poisonous to mammals. Lastly, the place is extremely iron poor.

Once there, they followed the tracks of the escaped wizard to a mud brick town of lizardfolk.  They encountered lizardfolk adventurers, human settlers and got news about their quarry.  Following the lead to hunt this guy down, they invaded a lizardfolk mage's tower, got caught stealing, and found the guy to be way out of their league.  They question him and make plans to escort him back to Freeport.  He gives them a gem to calm their jittery nerves and sends them ahead. 

They make plans to ambush the convict when he arrives.  However, they have a few encounters with dinosaurs, more lizardfolk, and then more of the human settlers.  Plot development ensues in which they learn that the guy had helped the settlers escape to this world but is now trying to get them to Freeport.  He has no qualms about genocide of the serpentfolk variation which nearly killed off all the settlers in their home dimension.  And has been working on a scheme to return them all home and eliminate the serpentfolk. 

The PCs decide to quit working for the medusa and help out the convict.  They destroy the bracelet contact with her and start eliminating the lizardfolk.  And that's where the story ends for now.   Sorry for the lack of exposition, but I'm beat.  It's been a horrible week.  I'll write more about it later.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Real Life Sucks

Well, it's been a while.  A round of the flu bug at home and at school meant for lots of late nights, either grading or working with students as they tried to get caught up on their missing work.  In addition to all that, there's the life of teenage children who need someone to haul them to this place or that, or to be picked up at this place or that, and "oh, by the way, can you drop off so-and-so or pick up so-and-so?"  And all this sucks away time to sit down and write.

Sorry for the terse reports below, but I can't remember all the details.

Freeport Group
There has been problems with this group having a consistent attendance, so the challenges sometimes are more difficult because the group is missing its cleric and mage, or missing two of its fighters, or missing the cleric and the rangers.  Anyway, we have now added a player who can be here consistently and be the mage.  Now all we need is to get a cleric.

Anyway, the story so far is that the group continued to chase down the escaped mage in red & green.  The first new player who joined the group decided to play a ranger instead of a cleric, despite the group needing a cleric and already having one ranger.  But, that's their problem, not mine.  So, the first order of business was to go back into the portal to try to track down the mage.  They got as far as the 2nd room in the "prison" (for lack of a better word) which turned out to be a storeroom of sorts.  The markings on the crates were indecipherable, but inspection led to the discovery of lots of little odd things like spices, clothes, mirrors, cannabis, poppy seed, leather straps, dowel rods, etc.  Literally, the entire evening was spent with them going through crates.  Then, as time neared to call and end to the game, they realized they had "wasted" the evening.  I said, since they had fun it was not wasted.

Two weeks later, we meet again, now we're missing the two fighters.  However, the new mage player holds his own as the group follows a lead about the red & green mage.  They chase him to the new lighthouse being built.  They storm it and fight all kinds of snake people as well as humans.  At the top, they fight it out with Milton Drac and two cohorts who are trying to cast some spell upon the town.  They stop it from happening and loot the place, forgetting they were chasing the runaway mage whom they never encountered.  They pick up a few items and some experiences.

This last game, they realize that the mage was never seen so they head back to the lighthouse.  The original mage of the group as well as the cleric are missing (and have been for 3+ adventures) but the group soldiers on.  They find at the top of the lighthouse another portal, only more obvious.  They tie a rope on a body and throw it through the cloudy doorway which is the portal and then haul it back.  Then they enter.  They find themselves on a grassy plain with odd smells and sounds all around them.  The sun is different as are the moons.  They discover dinosaur tracks and the tracks of the mage.  They follow the mage's tracks which are two days old, and thus have to skirt a group of grazing stegosauri and a group of brachiosaurs.  They crest a hill and see a tower off to their right and a mud village/city to their left, so they head to the city.  The city guards are lizard folk, similar to the serpent people seen in the lighthouse.  The guards lets the group in but pointedly tell them which way to the "human section".  Once there, they discover that humans are not native to this world, the food here is poisonous, metal is scarce with iron worth as much as gold.  They also learn of the mage, who is off in the tower with the "Lizard Wizard".  So, they head that direction.

They get into the tower using the medallions they took from the snake people.  They investigated the tower but set off a trap about halfway through, but they were able to grab the red & green wizard's diary before they were caught.  They then tried to bluff their way through grabbing the wizard but he managed to buy them off, for a little bit, with a jewel.  So, we left off with them awaiting him at the portal back home.  They are planning on bringing in a batch of iron scrap with some weapons and armor to sell and make some money before the lighthouse is destroyed.

CSIO/Charlie's SF & Fantasy Adventure
I guess the CSIO game is dead and I take the blame for that.  I didn't get the tone set properly from the start and it was way too hard to get it back.  Charlie stepped up with a SF/Fantasy adventure using S&W rules.  So, we're adventurers who are terrible at adventuring.  I think I already discussed the game in which we found a crashed starship.  So, following up from there, we went after the escaped criminal from the ship.  After two weeks moving across the plains and such, we never lost him but we never gained on him either.  Finally, we encountered a caravan parked in the middle of nowhere.  Talking with the half-orcs and humans we see walking around we learned that the two very large pink flamingos in the center of camp were the leaders.  The one with the top hat and monocle was awake and polite as we asked about the guy we were chasing.  He hadn't seen it but his mate might have, she'll be awake next week if we wanted to wait.  Talking with the humans, we discover they were charmed or something and cannot remember which way he went or what he took with him.  While we were talking, a group of gnomes riding perytons arrived.  We talked with them and got them to take us in the direction the escapee apparently went.  (Charlie had seen a picture of the peryton online and called it a "deer eagle" and made up stats.  When I showed him the peryton in the AD&D manual, he changed what they were because "perytons are better".) 

Climbing on their backs, we headed off only to be attacked by a blue dragon.  We finally defeat it, after exhausting our laser pistols.  And we stopped as we neared the town where the escapee is supposed to be going, hopefully we got there before he did.

White Box Interlude
The last game that was supposed to be run by Charlie ended up being run by Stan because Charlie had a rough week at work and hadn't put any thought into a game.  Stan pulled out an interesting little one page dungeon with some pregens and we jumped right into a game.  We ended up fighting a group of orcs, a few dire rats, a basilisk, and a medusa.  For two fighters, a mage and a cleric, we managed to somehow survive.  We enjoyed the game and might play it some more in the future.

So, that's what's been going on.  I'll try to get back to normal now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Bad Habit

Yep, another cancelled game.  This time, it was my fault.  One of the twins came down with the flu about 2 days before game day.  Confirmation the day before game day.  Mental ping pong trying to decide to have the game anyway with sick child banished to back bedroom or cancel just in case her germs are everywhere.  Safety overruled gaming desire, and I cancelled at the last minute.  Well, I remembered to cancel the gaming group but I forgot to cancel the kids who were coming to watch us play and learn from us. 

So, instead I ran a quick, off the top of my head, Swords & Wizardry game for a group of 3 teenage boys.  They had read all the Pathfinder rulebook and looked at lots of different versions/editions of D&D and were just wanting to see how it played out.  We had a pretty good time with one of them being smart enough to properly honor the old dusty idol in case the gods were watching.  He was a mage and was rewarded with a Barkskin like permanent change (upping his AC by 3 but dropping his Charisma by 3 as well).  The cleric had a 6 Wisdom and was played very well by the young man who rolled him up.  He was completely clueless about the idol but did recognize it as  "a false god" and kept mumbling that the mage had consorted with demons.

We played about 3.5 hours or so.  The boys really picked up on the "we're here to play a game and have fun" aspect of the rules.  We spent another hour after we stopped gaming to talk about some of the roles of the players and the DM should take at the table.  Dice fall where they may; never punish out of game behavior in game and vice versa; and be cooperative instead of DM vs. Players.  They then met with the others of their group the next day and played for 10 or so hours.  Apparently they all had fun.  And I miss those days when you could get a group together and just play without worrying about a curfew or obligations. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Personal Note

Just a little note to say goodbye to a pet.  A friend of mine gave us a male Maine Coon cat about 10 years ago.  He'd been a rescue from someone but my friend didn't know the details.  He'd been declawed and fixed, so he wasn't a kitten anymore.  He never fully bonded with the family but he did love to beg sandwich meat when we made sandwiches.  He was a pretty cat.  He tolerated some attention but preferred to just be around us, not with us. 

About a month ago, I noticed he had stopped cleaning himself and that he moved slower.  Being more of a pet lover than my wife, I urged her to take him to the vet.  We had several discussions about it because she kept putting it off.  Her upbringing gave her the perspective that a pet was more for working/helping around the house rather than being an adopted member of the family, which is how I was raised.  So, we never got him to a vet...and his condition continued to deteriorate.  The past few days, he couldn't even move from his spot on a pillow. 

So, now I'm going through all the guilt and not-quite-anger of having failed to see if we could have helped him.  It's a weird kind of detached feeling.  And it doesn't help that two of my coworkers had to put down their dogs this weekend as well.  Makes the cool evenings a little colder.

Goodnight and goodbye, Frisky.  I hope you are in a better place now, with better people than we are.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Another Cancelled Game

Well, the vagaries of life (overwork and illness) caused the cancellation of another game in Freeport.  I probably could have forced the issue and played with the 3.5 players there (one had a huge headache which implied he was coming down with something, so he wouldn't have been as focused as he could have been), but I chose to call the game in the hopes that the next one will happen.  I'm prepped, almost over-prepped, for the game.  This one should present a lot of clues and hints for the main adventure plus several possible side treks.  We'll see how well it works when I finally get a chance to run it.

So, this next bit is just me working on some ideas about gaming and gaming stuff and expenses and such.  My mind has been percolating on some of these things for over a year now and I think I'm finally at the point to try to get a handle on my gaming wants, needs, and plans for the future  (not necessarily in that order).

Wants:  I would like to have a system that's easy to run and play.  I don't want a lot of fiddly bits and I don't want a rulebook which is too much over 100 pages, total.  In fact, the fewer pages it has, the better because I don't want to frighten off potential first time gamers with a huge rule book.  Also, it's got to be easy to read because I want to encourage the 5th to 8th grade kids to read it.  (I sponsor a gaming club at my school.  Since it's an all boys school, getting them interested in fantasy is easy.  Getting them to read the rules is hard.)  I also want only a few classes so that the character is determined by the player, not the choices of skills, feats, powers, etc.  I want the ability scores to mean something, but not be the focus of the character.  I want the majority of the game to be based upon the imagination and creativity of the player, not the numbers written on the character sheet.

Needs:  I need to stop buying gaming rule books.  I looked through my library and I have over 20 variations of D&D or AD&D or its competitors.  I have at least a dozen different game worlds.  I'm just overloaded with stuff.  I have enough things that I can run games daily, from now until I die, and still not repeat a game.  So, why should I buy into a new Kickstarter for a ruleset or gameworld or even gaming item?  No offense, publishers, but what do you have that I really, honestly, cannot game without?

Plans:  I think I'm going to go through all those different game systems and see if I can boil something down that I like.  I am going to try to categorize the modules I have so I can find what I'm looking for more easily as well as have a better idea of what all I can throw at a group.  I'm also going to go through all the pdf's I've got of all the different tables and such and see if I can organize them better into a DM book that's searchable and useable at the table.  This will probably mean selling off some stuff.  I think I'm okay with that.  Hoarding has gotten a negative connotation of late....

So, what does this all boil down to?  Well, I know my gaming background is such that I don't see enough of a difference between any of the versions of D&D from 0e to 2nd ed to warrant being picky about how a character is rolled up or how he/she advances.  The monsters are effectively the same.  I know hp and attack rolls differ a bit, but not by a huge amount at the earlier levels.  I'll probably use most of the original stuff instead of the retro clones because the parts I like to throw into a game are the bits that are copyrighted and can't be put into the retros.  However, retros are great because their relatively easy to find.  Thus, I guess that unless my groups push for something different, I'm going to pretty much use a version of S&W as my core ruleset and pick up any module that's roughly level equivalent.  But this also means that at such events like the NTRPG, unless there's an old module that I don't have, I don't think I'll be buying anything.  Not only that, but I'm only thinking of trying out games with systems I've never run (like DCCRPG, T&T, and Runequest).  Kinda limits my options there, but that's okay too.  I've got two good gaming groups and they keep me busy enough.  And that's not counting the two clubs at the school that I run for.  I'm good for a while. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quick Recap

This will be short because I have a batch of grading that must get done. 

Last Friday, I stepped aside to let one of our most creative players take the reins as DM.  It was ostensibly a Swords & Wizardry game, but Charlie couldn't care less about the rules.  We quickly rolled up characters, using "whatever method makes you happy, man", and had a party of 4 PCs (a cleric, a mage, and two fighters). 

Opening scene: we're not a very good adventuring party.  We've been together for a while but haven't gotten much in the way of gold or glory, that's why we're still 1st level.  As we were commiserating about our lives, we see & hear a falling star.  Cha-ching!  If we can get to it first, there's money to be had.  So, we quickly grab our gear and head out for the spot we think the star landed.  After a few days of travel and searching, we find a crater with an odd temple-like metal structure at the bottom.  There is obviously a door as two ogres are standing outside it and arguing over the body of a human-sized corpse.  We make our way down and hear that the ogres are arguing over whether to eat now or later.  We have a nice conversation which leads my character to offer to cook up the corpse in an attempt to get them to not eat us instead.

Taking the body, I strip it down and we dole out the goodies.  I then try to set up a fire and cook a leg.  The ogres dislike it and take their anger out on me.  However, I had grabbed the corpse's belt and had activated something.  The punch from the ogre sent me sailing 30 feet, but then I slowed to a stop and gently landed on the ground.  No damage at all.  One of the fighters had grabbed a bent rod device and pointed it at one ogre.  Zap!  Dead ogre.  The other fighter and the cleric gang up on the remaining ogre and take him down.  Now we have access to the structure.

We go into the "temple" and find there are lights along the ceiling and floor....lights which produce neither heat nor smoke.  We cannot access them.  Going further in, we find a room with 6 chairs, in three rows of two, all facing the opposite wall.  There is blood in a couple of them, but no other bodies.  As we investigate, we release a ball about 1.5 feet across.  It speaks oddly, then makes some other sounds while changing colors and then speaks in Common.  It says it's part of an "AI" with a "prisoner transport ship" heading to some set of numbers and letters, which do not sound like any city or country we know.    It asks for permission to conserve energy in order to go with us.  We answer "yes" and it chirps, changes color, and announces "conserving energy, sarcasm mode initiated, shutting down library functions".    It then asks us questions about a prisoner which we know nothing about.  It then tells us how dangerous the prisoner is and how our world is a prison planet.  We ask if there are other prisoners or items like the belt and rod on board and to show us where they are.  We investigate further.

Going deeper into the "ship", we discover that Charlie used the floorplans of the Millenium Falcon.  We find 4 large tubes, one of which is broken.  In the other three, we find a flumph, a grell, and something else from the Fiend Folio but I can't remember what.  I let the flumph out and it starts trying to eat me.  I flip it over and question it.  It's being sent here for tax evasion and insider trading.  We kill it with prejudice.  We figure if he's the least problematic one, the others are worse so we just kill them as well.  We take all we can and then leave the ship to go hunting the escaped prisoner.

It was presented as a one shot, but it may turn into a campaign.  It'll be science fantasy and silly and very rules light.  I'm not sure if we'll be able to play it regularly because Charlie's job sometimes pulls him into remote places for weeks at a time.  I'm looking forward to the next game.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sundry Ramblings

The holidays always plays havoc with the gaming schedule, and this year was no different.  There were two games cancelled because of familial responsibilities, which meant no further exploration of Freeport and the portal or of the Plain of Cairns in the Wilderlands.  Last Friday should have been a return to Freeport, but we ended up talking about the various editions of D&D, old gaming groups and adventures, what we all got for Christmas, and generally cutting up.  It was fun and nice to just sit and relax with folks who share the same hobbies. 

One of the points of discussion was the new Hobbit movie.  While I'm not a full fledged Tolkien scholar, I am a rather big fan of Middle Earth and the associated books describing it.  Thus, I found the film somewhat enjoyable but uneven.  I thought the added material about Thorin was done very well but the depiction of Radagast was horrible.  The goblins were cartoonish, as opposed to being a variant of the orcs as they should be.  And one of the battles is completely different from what I distinctly remember in the book.  But, if you've not read the book (like my wife), then the movie was enjoyable and fun and left you wanting to see the next one.  Which makes me wonder how they can turn this little book into 3 movies?  This installment ends at (almost literally) the halfway point in the book.  The only thing I can think of that will be added is a much larger sequence of Gandalf and the Council fighting the Necromancer at Dol Guldur and an expanded view of the Battle of Five Armies.  But then, I may be mistaken.  It has been more than 10 years since I read the book, which I did to my kids over many nights as a bedtime story.  So, I dug out a copy of the Annotated version and am working my way through that.  Maybe I'll go see the movie again after I finish the book.

On another tangent, not related to the non-game which happened last week, I have been pondering what my approach to gaming is based upon and how that translates to the games I play and run.  The impetus for this navel gazing, self absorption and critique occurred in a couple of recent games with 3 different groups.  After each game, I felt like I had missed out on something really interesting in the game world because I wasn't paying attention to everything being described.  I also noticed that I like puzzles and challenges in which I can exercise some creativity by finding non-standard solutions, like using magic items in ways they were not initially intended to be used or roleplaying through a negotiation which pits two opposing sides against each other instead of having them gang up on me and my fellow PC's.  Those are the fun games.  As DM though, I am often upset with myself because I can never seem to get the image of a room or street or town properly described.  I tend to cut corners and make allusions rather than take the time to really describe the situations around the PC's.  This has often led to misunderstandings and either foolish choices or severe over cautiousness by the group.  As I pondered on these different views, I started looking for patterns of behavior in myself and others to determine where the feelings of disquietude originated.  One thing which I have noticed in the recent years in almost everyone around me is a growing lack of patience with each other and with processes.  I wonder if my lack of description is due to this sense of impatience I find growing within me?  I wonder if my feeling of "missing out" is due to a lack of patience I have when the DM is trying to convey a certain tone or present a more fleshed out scene?  Or could it really all be a product of maturity and depth of understanding of the genre and rules which has taken away that sense of wide-eyed wonder I had when I first sat down to play this game over 30 years ago?  I don't know.  I do know that I wish I could get a little of that sense of wonder back, like not knowing what the monster is or how many HD it has or what it can do.  I especially wish I could rid myself of the idea of "balanced encounters" and "CR" and other metagaming ideas which cause me to not think of what would be fun but what are the statistics and mods and such.

Sorry for the boring discussion.  I hope to have a game report next week.  See y'all then.