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.