Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Map of My World

I mentioned a little while ago that I had found my old gaming world.  Here's the map.  I hope it's legible.

Finally Gaming Again

Well, one of the kids is now in college so I've had to pick up some extra work to help pay for the out-of-state tuition.  This means fewer moments of reflection about gaming and even less time for posting here.  But I'll try to do better.

Last night, enough of the group gathered together that we could have a quorum.  One was missing due to flu.  Another was finishing up a final exam.  While it would be nice to have one or two more who would be interested in playing so we could always have a full contingent, there would not be enough physical room around the table if everyone were to show up then.  Right now, if everyone showed up for a game, the table is full (6 players).  Maybe if I can find a good-sized boardroom/conference table, I can then up the number of players with less fear of everyone being here at once.  Another item for possible future purchase....

Anyway, back to the story....

Short synopsis:   A year and a half ago, Dad passed on.  At that time, I was alternately gaming in a Pathfinder campaign and trying to get a group of Old School grognards together for some OD&D or B/X or AD&D gaming.  As each game night approached, I discovered certain levels of reluctance to game.  I dreaded each PF game as I knew that the campaign world was interesting but had taken a turn toward more combat and less exploration and roleplay.  While the other group had hit a low note because some just didn't want to really play but just wanted to blow off steam and talk.  I missed gaming, especially the games I remembered as I got involved in this hobby.  I blame no one for the direction the game nights took nor do I think poorly of anyone at the table each session, in either group.  It was all internal.  I was dissatisfied and it was pretty much my own fault.  So, I did the only logical thing I could do.  I took a hiatus from gaming until I could figure out what my problem was.

The Journey:  As of August, Dad had been gone a year and I had sorted through most of his effects.  In the year he was gone, the most gaming I had done was at the NTRPG con.  I played in 5 games over that weekend.  I left an open invitation for the gaming guys to come by and kibitz or maybe play a board game,  but no serious gaming took place.  I started going through my collection of stuff and culling out the things I had no interest in playing anymore.  I sold a lot of my 3.0 and 3.5 stuff to Noble Knight Games, and I'm sure they made a pretty penny off of it.  I didn't care.  I was done with heavy rulesets and I wanted the fun I had when I ran games back in college.  That's when I came across my thick folder of notes and such from the game I ran during my last year of college and then restarted and ran through my time in graduate school.  It was like a ray of sunshine on a cold dark day.  My spirits lifted and all the wonderful memories came flooding back.  This was fun.  This was challenging.  This was what I wanted back.

The Decision:  For the next few weeks, I looked through it all and tried to sort it into a more organized mess than it was.  Along the way, I decided that this is what I wanted to play and run.  And I didn't care if no one else in either group wanted to play, I was going to run this.  House-ruled 1e AD&D.  Basically a mix of OD&D, Judges Guild, and 1e.  Stuff I didn't like got tossed.  Stuff that I thought was broken was "fixed" to my contentment.  And to those that argued that something "wasn't logical"...hello!...fantasy world!  It's not logical, but it's self consistent as I view it.  And as it's my world, I created it, it's consistent in my view.  Deal with it.

The Game:  Now a few months went by before we got a quorum for gaming.  Last night, we started.  I ran them through the Training Area of Tandok.  A simple 1st level dungeon I developed to teach people how to play the 1e game.  It's silly and fun, full of tricks and traps and strange monsters.  The premise is that the group are apprentices who are undergoing their "final exam" of dungeoneering before graduating.  Of course, if you die, you didn't deserve to graduate.  While it is not a "killer dungeon", it can be deadly to those who do not practice resource management or thoughtful exploration.  The group made it through about 15 rooms, picking up 6 goblin torchbearers/pack carriers.  An encounter with 2 bugbears dropped one of the fighters and almost dropped the ranger.  An exploding gas trap almost took out the mage, but then the thief put it to use to kill 4 large spiders.  They managed to kill 4 hobgoblins, 6 centipedes, 2 bugbears, 3 stirges, and overcome about 8 different traps.  They've found plenty of equipment to replenish and expand their stock, as well as some gold and a spellbook.  About half of the 1st level is explored but one hobgoblin got away and might be lurking further in, or gathering a strike force to come back.  We'll see what happens next time!

Due to the holidays, the next game probably won't be until the first Friday of January.  I'll write up more then!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Some Random Friday Thoughts

Several things have been occurring in my little world which have had my thoughts jumping from topic to topic in a most unhelpful way.  So, in an effort to gain some control I thought I'd try to nail a few of them down here .

My gaming:  Two big events coming up.  One is the start of my OD&D/1e campaign.  I'm going back to my roots (or comfort zone as some would say) and digging out all my old adventures that I wrote back in my college and graduate school days.  I'm updating it all to add in new acquisitions made since then as well as changing some of the dated references of the early to mid 80's.  I'm adding in some Wilderlands stuff as well as some of the old TSR modules I have picked up these past 20 years.  I'm also making a list of the rules changes, ie which OD&D rules take precedence to 1e and vice versa, that will be the foundation of the system.  Hopefully, I end up with something that looks interesting and that folks will want to play.

The other big event is pulling the trigger on the PF game, I think.  The current DM and most (if not all) of the players like a high powered super character combat driven game.  I don't.  I also generate my character's personality from his stats and how the world works.  They generate their characters' personalities from feats and skills, regardless of the world.  They have backstories and names and such before they have stats.  I never give my characters a serious name until they reach 3rd level.  To me, character death is no big deal because chargen takes 10 minutes.  To them, character death is awful and should be avoided at all costs because chargen takes hours.  So, different outlooks and different attitudes will eventually cause strife either in the game or at the table.  I like these folks personally so I'd rather walk away from the table with friendships intact rather than be unhappy or cause others to be unhappy.

My home life:  The next child is heading out to college this coming week.  That's two of the four kids gone.  The big house is going to feel more empty.  The wife has added lots of clutter to hide that fact, I think.  And clutter makes me irritable.  So, we have some undercurrents of strife. Adding to that strife is the cost of the college, which is not insignificant and we've still yet to hear back from the Financial Aid department.  I'm taking on tutoring jobs to add in some cash but I don't think it will be quite enough.  We'll see.

School/Job:  Odd schedule and more duties.  Busy, busy, busy but not feeling like I'm accomplishing anything.  Trying to implement new tech strategies.  Preliminary results are positive.

Well, I think that's all of it.  Just sort of venting so no need to comment unless you just want to.  Thanks for listening.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Old Games

For the past few weeks, I've been working on cataloging and organizing my bookcase full of gaming books and such.  Since I obviously enjoy the older game systems and their associated modules and settings books, I've got quite a lot of stuff.  The difficulty has been trying to find a good way to place them in the book shelves.  Especially since the shelves are antique lawyer style cabinets with glass fronts.  I'll post a picture of them once I get everything in place.

Of course, as when you dig through a collection you've not looked at in a while, you find treasures you forgot my old gaming stuff when I first learned to play and several of my original dungeons I put together.  Ugh...they were awful Monty Haul, fill every space of the graph paper, no sense of ecology things....But I did find  pocket folder filled with 1e characters I spent a couple of weeks on.  I remember thinking I should have a stable of NPCs to pull out if I ever needed a party of adventurers to be encountered.  Those were fun to look at.  I was scrupulous about following the rules of character creation and equipping.  I could probably still use them today for a 1e game....

But something else I found as well.  Back when the OSR was starting up and I was beginning to give up on 3.5, 4e just looked awful and Pathfinder's bulk looked intimidating, I found the website of Jason Vey.  His write-up of an OD&D Hyperboria fascinated me.  I would love to run such a game at some time.  Now Jason has another website and I've bought his stuff.  Very nice and very useful.  Then I did some more internet digging and found some other stuff that intrigued me.  Like this.  And this.

And then I came across a box of games from a dear friend of mine and I want to play those too.  The 2nd edition of Paranioa boxed set was in there along with at least a dozen different modules.  Under that was a batch of the original Traveller books (the LBBs) and a batch of 2nd & 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu modules and rulebooks.  Some of these I hadn't thought about since we played way back in graduate school.  Of course, we also played Star Fleet Battles but as a beer & pretzels game of "kill the ship". 

Ah...the fun we used to have when life moved at a slower pace.  Taking all of a Saturday to play a game was acceptable.  There were no demands from work after you left at 5ish.  No cell phones to interrupt anything.  And the term "gamer" meant a person who played at a table with other "gamers", using funny shaped dice, pencils, and paper; not a person on a computer or console.

Guess I'm just getting old.
(swiped from here)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Reviving Tandok

After a few honey-do's later today, I'm going to get serious about reviving my old homebrewed game world from my college days.  The plan is to rework some of the maps, write up a set of house-rules for 1e AD&D for everyone, and organize my old DM binder with the new things I've been grabbing from various blogs.  This post is to act as a reminder of some of my ideas and to generate some input/kibitzing from others.

Here's a couple of ideas:

1.  For stats, 3d6 straight down but you are allowed to reroll 3 of the stats.  The only thing is, you have to keep the reroll.

2.  No Evils.  No gnomes.  No Assassins, Monks, or Illusionists.  No psionics.

3.  Either starting at 1st with a few adventures or jumping up to 3rd or 4th...not sure.

More later....

Friday, August 15, 2014

Computer vs. Tabletop Play

In my comments section, I have been having a great conversation with a former student and now friend about gaming.  He grew up with computer games and (this isn't a knock against you, Charles) often will compare such with tabletop gaming.  It's a good conversation because it covers a lot of the things that have been rumbling around in my head for the past several years.  After reading Playing at the World by Jon Peterson, I had an even clearer idea of what I liked and what I disliked in today's different versions of tabletop games.  Mr. Peterson also clarified some of the fuzzier points of gaming history in terms of the development of computer games and the shift toward storytelling.  Since finishing that book, I have become more aware of the shift of terminology when discussing games with just about anyone younger than 35.  For example, I was often confused when I would ask my students if anyone would be interested in setting up an RPG club.  There was usually enthusiastic support...until they realized I wasn't talking about video or computer games.  And they couldn't understand the concept of not having a computer to put together a character or running a story for them.  So, after a while, I stopped trying to get a gaming club put together.

Today, when you say you play RPG's, anyone under 35 thinks of console games like Zelda or computer games like Fallout.  (If I paid attention to such things, I probably could give more examples.  But I don't and I am not interested in learning more.)  If you can keep that person's attention after you explain you are not talking about computerized gaming, then they will typically assume a version of a computer game but played with paper and pencil and dice.  The next hurdle, if they're interested in learning more, is to overcome the misconception (at least it is to me) they have that there is no difference between a "character" and an "avatar".  The computerized games have the player build an avatar.  Typically a couple of hours go into the development of the character's look as well as picking skills and feats and powers and options and such.  Thus, with a significant commitment of time invested in this avatar (it's not a character, I'll explain more in a minute), the player appears to expect a game in which the avatar is always the hero and will always find a way to survive.

To me, a character is developed from the die rolls.  It's random and should never take more than 10 minutes to create.  The attachment to the character grows as the character gains experience.  In fact, I had a running joke for a while with my old group back in the 80's that none of my mages ever lived past 4th level so they didn't get named until they hit 5th.  Since none of them ever did hit 5th, we all laughed at it.  However, I've got a thief that survived to run his own Thieves Guild and a fighter who (when we stopped playing) was 10th level and was carving out a barony with about 2 dozen men-at-arms.

But I digress.  As mentioned in Playing at the World, the development of computer games was a result of the popularity of D&D and the increase in computer availability.  Try as they might to hide this connection, the basic ideas of hit points (or health points or stamina or call it what you will), armor class or protection, and such things are present in all such games.  So, this co-mingling of terminology makes finding tabletop gamers difficult, especially those that prefer tabletop to computers.  And then trying to find those who can rise above the railroad-like storytelling of many computer games to explore the "sandbox" style of play is even harder.

So, what was the point of this diatribe?  Just an exploration of a question that popped in my head from two comments in two different social media:  How would D&D look today if it never expanded into computer play?  Think on this for a minute.  I remember when the only class that had "skills" was the thief.  I remember the idea of Non Weapon Proficiencies was first introduced in an old Dragon article, which then started showing up in the last few 1e AD&D books.  They were still "optional" in the first 2e books, but became a fixture in the later ones.  These came from computer games.  And to my mind (as an old gray headed grognard), they were the start of the downfall of a great game.  I wish I could properly attribute this quote from someone on Facebook: "Explaining OD&D or 1st ed AD&D to someone now is like trying to explain Shakespearean comedy to someone who grew up watching explosions for fun."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Is My Gaming Approach

Swiped from another source (can I get a link, Chris?):

"The role of a superior DM is NOT to tell a story to his or her players. The DM need only provide an interesting and challenging environment for the players to explore and then administer that environment totally impartially. Superior players will be able to create a character-driven, interactive story from these raw materials, and neither the players nor the GM can tell where the story is headed."

- The Gospel of Papers&Paychecks

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Take on the Edition Wars

This has been kinda rattling around in my head...because there's so much open space....

The "new" edition of D&D is out, has been out, and has been discussed quite a bit out in the ether.  I've watched this stuff unfold back in the 4e day as it has now and I've noticed something that perturbs me.  There appear to be a significant number of gamers out there who think "new edition = better game" and "old edition = worse game, so stop playing it".  Yes, these are generalizations and are fraught with possible exceptions.  But these statements aren't exactly what's bothering me.  I'm not sure I can put it in words, so let me relate a condensed "discussion" I had on a now defunct form when 4e came out:

4e Adorer: "Look at the new edition!  It's so cool! Look at all your character can do!"
Me: "Ummm, but that looks complicated.  How is complicated better than simple?"
4e Adorer: "Well, it's not complicated once you get used to it.  But look how much cooler your character is!"
Me: "Well, yeah, once you get used to anything, it's easier.  But what's wrong with the earlier edition?"
4e Adorer: "That was broken, this is fixed.  Look how cool your character can be!"
Me: "But it looks more like a video game.  I don't care for video games.  Can I just ignore those rules and still play like I'm accustomed to?"
4e Adorer: "What's wrong with you?  It's blasphemy to ignore rules!  Use the rules to see how cool your character can be!"
Me: "Hmmm, no, thanks.  I'll stick with my edition.  I like it."
4e Adorer: "Well, you should try playing it before you dismiss it.  It's so cool."

I guess my problem is in that last comment: "you should try playing it before you dismiss it".  Really?  Why?  That comment implies that I somehow lack the intelligence to make an informed opinion just from reading the rules.  And before you try to argue that it doesn't, switch the topic to something beer or an obscure foreign food or a movie or TV show.  Example: You might like Honey Peanut Butter beer, if you'd just try it.  You might like paneer makani if you'd just try it.  You might like the new Nicholas Sparks' movie if you'd just try it.  You might like "The Teletubbies" if you'd just try it. 

Do you see what I'm getting at?  If some one says "I don't like robot movies", we will quiz them on why.  That's human nature.  But if it boils down to "I just don't find them interesting", we tend to accept that and move on.  Granted, if we're big fans of robot movies we'd try to suggest titles to change the person's mind but we don't push it.  It's the same with food or drink or TV or music or just about anything else, except for gamers when discussing different editions.  Again, another generalization, but it mostly holds true.

So, just because 5e is new doesn't equate with 5e is better in my book.  Now, after all that squabbling about not trying new things, I have already accepted an invitation to try 5e as a player.  I don't hold a whole lot of hope that the experience will win me over because just reading the Basic free pdf put me off on several points.  I don't understand why ability scores aren't rolled first.  I don't see the need for tying something to each ability nor for the need to have bonuses for each thing.  I disliked the very first example because the DM should have asked for the character's Int score and modifier and then rolled it secretly.  The example allows for too much metagaming, and it violates the first rule the book lists: The DM describes the situation.

Sorry for the long ramble.  Honestly, I can't really tell the difference between OD&D, B/X, and AD&D too well.  Those are very similar and relatively interchangeable in my book.  But the insurgence of new rules and the strong implications of "You Must Play the Rules As Written" in the later editions just turned me off.  Yes, I tried them.  Had some fun for a while with 3.5 and PF, but only at the lower levels.  Was completely turned off by the rules of 4e.  And now, with 5e, despite the promises of it being "like the older editions" but with "new rules to appeal to a new audience", I just am not interested.  And I have to ask, if it plays like the older editions, then why not just play the older edition?  If I'm not a "new audience", then why do I need the new rules?

Friday, June 27, 2014


So...the wife went and spent a week up in Kansas with her mother and family.  She spent most of that time as relief for her older sister who has had to be the caretaker for their mother.  Susan's mom was diagnosed back in February with Stage 4 lung cancer and it had probably metastasized to her hip and other body parts.  Rather than fight the disease with chemo or radiation, her mother said "I'm going to die anyway and I'd rather not be miserable".  The oldest child then contacted hospice and we've all been put into "waiting mode", which is a horribly callous way to say basically the truth.  The oldest is a school teacher and her husband has also been fighting prostate cancer.  Anyway, things are beginning to culminate now.  My mother-in-law has been pretty much bedridden for the past week.  She's lost a great deal of weight.  She sleeps almost constantly.  When she is awake, she is often confused by who is who and why she's where she is.  Based upon what I dealt with last summer, the end is near and it's tough watching it happen again to someone so close.

With this hanging over us all, the wife and I decided to steal away for a few days for a little bit of time just for us.  We took off to our time share in the backwoods of Arkansas and just rested.  We focused on supporting each other and strengthening our connection so we can better weather the storms ahead.  It was nice.

That being said, not much else was done on the gaming front.  I've been working on putting together a campaign as I mentioned before, mainly trying to get a good idea for a starting point.  In the old days, we all just wanted to loot dungeons and kill monsters.  Nowadays we need better and clearer incentive.  The last few games which have really stood the test of time had a common starting point.  The old kobold game had the group begin play as part of a kobold band.  The next campaign had us all starting off as kidnapped fishermen.  These were emotional hooks.  I've tried other ideas for other starts, but those all fizzled, mostly because I couldn't get the emotional buy-in that these other campaigns had.  So, I'm going back to an old, old idea from the beginning of my gaming days that worked then; the group is a soon to be "graduated" class of former apprentices facing their final exam.  They must survive a sample dungeon crawl to "graduate". 

The main problem with this start, though, is that the players need to show up at the table ready to play whatever the dice tells them to play and not try to start with a character already in mind.  This blank slate approach allows for more creativity when the character is being rolled up.  I would like to be able to feed a few ideas into the creation process to use for later adventures.  But such an approach is anathema to how a character is created in these later editions of D&D.  So, we'll see if I am able to get anything actually played.

Side Note:  I realize that I may sound pretty harsh when I discuss the later editions of D&D and it's spinoffs (like Pathfinder), but I really cannot fathom the long term interest in these systems.  I have had the epiphany that when I say that a system is "number heavy" or "unbalanced" or even "munchkin-esque", I am generally thinking of a different definition of these terms than others.  To me, the new systems require the use of a computer to make a "proper" character, in the sense that the number of rules makes calculating the hundreds of bonus and penalty modifiers is absolutely staggering.  This then allows for multiple rules lawyering discussions to break out, followed by the discussion of which computer character generator was used and the weaknesses and failings in each one.  The characters made with just the book and a pencil then become unbalanced, typically toward being weaker as some of the bonuses do not all get added in or all the penalties applied.  And thus, to make the "best" character possible, one needs to become the munchkin and find all the loopholes and gray areas.'s just too much work.  And if you enjoy that sort of game, more power to you.  I wholeheartedly support you as you are playing a game you enjoy.  That's the most important thing of all: Play what you enjoy and to hell with what anyone else thinks of it.

I believe that is the lesson I have learned through all this, be yourself and enjoy yourself.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rumors in the Dungeon

Just a quick note so I don't forget the idea.  In some recent games, the players who had characters die in the dungeon or on the trip to or from the dungeon have immediately tried to get their newly rolled up characters back into the game they can go find their old characters' bodies and loot them.  This led to several discussions about Player Knowledge vs. Character Knowledge which then often digressed into the topic in the previous blog post.  But I think I have an idea which allows this mixing of knowledge bases. 

Allow me to present it this way: How do the characters know of the dungeon?  Did they stumble upon it while trying to do something else or had they heard rumors about it?  If rumors, how often had they heard rumors?  Was it part of the evening "stories by the fireplace" as they were growing up?  If I continue down this track, then I'll be as bad as some of the nitpickers who have to have multi-page backstories explaining every little detail of a character's background.  I think I've pretty much said "I couldn't care less" to such things.  So, since this is a fantasy world, I have decided that when the survivors returned they told everyone who died and where they died.  Thus, the newly rolled up character has heard the rumor of adventurers' bodies being left behind, unlooted, in the nearby dungeon.  Granted, only fools go into the dungeon....and we all know adventurers are the biggest fools of all.  So, sure, you can go looking for your old character's body....but remember, others have a chance of finding it first.  Hmmmm,  wouldn't it be funny to meet your previous character as a zombie?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Skills: Player's vs. Character's

In further attempts to wipe away my gaming malaise and to clarify some things in my head, I'll be posting more in the next few the spirit moves me.  Sorry for spamming some of you.  Just trying to really nail down some concepts for me.  If they help you, great.  If they bother you, ignore them.

In a discussion the other night with one of my Old School gaming buddies, we hit several topics about gaming as well as about being "old guys" who still play this crazy game.  (Get off our lawn, Storytellers!)  One topic which has been rattling around in my brain since then was the idea of Player Skill vs. Character Skill.  In my first D&D game way back in Nov of 1978, I asked the DM "What does my mage, Gandalph,(yeah, we didn't have a lot of imagination when it came to names) know about this thing?"  I don't even remember what the actual discussion was about, but I still distinctly hear his answer, "Your character knows everything you know and maybe some other stuff about the gaming world."  So, if I couldn't solve the puzzle, neither could my character...irrespective of his Int score of 16 or whatever I had rolled.  But the flip side was, I could look up the ingredients for gunpowder or whatever and apply it in the game.  I actually did try to sell gunpowder at one ended badly when an enterprising thief tried to strike an candle in the lab where the powder was held.  I survived but was banished from the town.

I also remember having to solve riddles and word puzzles and games to get past traps or through doors and into the next level.  I tried to do something like that a couple of times in the 3.5 games I ran a few years ago.  The players kept asking what they needed to roll and against what skill to solve it.  I said "you solve it" and it caused consternation.  However, the best puzzle was the campaign itself.  I ran an urban game in which the players were new arrivals to the City State of the Invincible Overlord.  I handed out a few clues and rumors.  They tried to follow them all.  Unfortunately for them, there were 4 possible roads in those original rumors for them to follow.  They kept trying to make them all fit onto one railroad track.  The deliberately ignored all hints and clues indicating that there was more than one plot line.  It was hilarious from my point of view. 

Sorry, digressed there.  The point though is to show something I noticed.  The folks who want more "realism" by having feats and skills don't want the game to be more realistic, only their characters (or avatars, to be more precise).  Real life is complicated, so why shouldn't fantasy or sf life?  There are no railroads in how your life (or my life) flows, so why should your characters always find only the hints and clues that follow one set of tracks?  Of course, if the characters/avatars are "more realistic" then each encounter has to follow that same "realism" which is why it's so difficult to get "balanced" encounters and such.  In the Old School, it's the Player that makes the decisions and solves the problems.  So, as in real life, things don't need to be balanced which makes the game more interesting to me, as a player or a DM.

I think the next topic might be Character Death...don't know yet.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fighting My Way Back

Well, obviously, it's been a while.  I've been dealing with Dad's estate, my son's high school graduation and subsequent college choices, and just general burnout & depression.  At one point, the idea of getting out my gaming stuff and cleaning off the table to host the games made me ill.  I just wanted to slink off somewhere and hide.  The drama of the two gaming groups didn't help things.  Well, "drama" is too strong a word.  The increasing tensions due to divergent approaches and desires made each game a little less appealing and little more unpleasant.  I just don't do min/maxing.  I don't do munchkin. 

So, as I was sitting in a funk in mid-May, my oldest asked about the games.  The old school group had pretty much decided on taking a hiatus for the summer.  One bowed out for other games, two bowed out for the PF game, one wanted more time with his wife, one was having a baby, one was starting a new job.  The PF group had grown to 10 players, which is ridiculously untenable.  When I dumped that on her, she said "well I'm not surprised you don't like the PF game.  They're making avatars and you make characters."  Wise words.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that D&D had been shifting more and more toward a tabletop, pen & paper version of a computer game.  And that made me want to hang on a little tighter to my roots.

Then, last week, I finished reading Playing at the World by John Peterson.  I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in an in depth history of wargames, roleplaying games, miniatures, and how they all met to make the game of Dungeons & Dragons.  The Epilogue goes into the development of computer use in the history of D&D, the various games and such. 

In fact, I finished the book the day before the start of NTRPG con.  I attended, though initially I wasn't very excited about going.  I was still burned out and not really wanting to game.  I just wanted to sit back and visit with friends.  But I got pulled into a swashbuckling game connected with a new ruleset that's due out sometime in the next few months.  It was fun.  Then, one of my friends begged me to join the AD&D Tournament game because they needed more players.  We ended up winning.  But the big turn around on my attitude was on the 2nd day.  A gamer from Austin had put together an OD&D game using the Avalon Hill Outdoor Survival map and rules, just like Arneson and Gygax used in the first couple of years of D&D.  And it was glorious.  It completely wiped away my funk.  I had a strong sense of deja vu as I played because it was exactly like the first games I played back in 1977 when I was introduced to D&D.   It was a wonderful hexcrawl game.  We had to keep track of water and food while searching for treasure and fighting off spiders, manticores, and dragons.  We ended up with a flying castle, a manticore pet, and the hoard from a family of green dragons.  Cutting out breaks and character creation, I would say we played a total of 4 hours.  So, from now on, the only D&D I'm willing to play is AD&D 1e and earlier.

So, where does that put me now, game-wise?  Well, I have walked away from the PF group and I do not intend to return.  I would like to think it's been an amiable parting.  I realized I wasn't happy but they were.  Thus, the logical thing to do is wish them luck and to go find a game I like.  The Old School group won't get back together until August at the earliest, and maybe not even then.  At least, most of them probably won't be back because they're off doing their own thing.  The wife suggested I start up a group for teens in the area that want to learn to play.  That's an idea worth looking into, and I've already got a couple dungeons and hex maps done up from my start in this game.  I'll try to keep you all posted.....if you're interested.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ooopss...Late Again

Well, crap.  Life appears to have stolen all my free moments and left me with nothing but puzzlement about how all my time vanished.  Strange...

Been busy with school, life, and school....and more life...and illness.  Yeah...anyway...

So, more drama in the gaming department.  I'm in two gaming groups, which alternate meeting at my place on Fridays: an old school group on one Friday, a Pathfinder group on the next, then back to old school, then PF...etc.  You get the picture. 

The old school group is going through some growing pains as we get to know each other a little better and start becoming more a part of each others' lives outside of the gaming circles.  Because of that new familiarity, we're all beginning to open up a little more about a gaming preferences.  While we really enjoy each others' company, we have definitely different views about what makes a "good" game.  A couple of us want a "story" game, one in which there is an overarching plot with middle goals and character development, which culminates in a "boss battle" or some other cathartic conclusion.  A couple of us want an "exploratory" or "sandbox" game.  A game in which we are given several plot hooks and the players choose which one to follow.  There is no overarching plot initially nor is there a conclusion though there can be character development.  And a couple of us just want to get away from the kids, hang out with intelligent adults, roll dice and drink beer, and just have fun.  As I said, we're now getting to the stage where we all are wanting what we prefer...and we're coming to the conclusion that the first two approaches to gaming listed above (the third fits into either one) are not only incompatible but may even be mutually exclusive.  So, we're at an impasse of sorts.  I'm trying to take it as a challenge and work on a sandbox in which there can be a conclusion which will satisfy the story players but is open enough that the explorers enjoy their time.  Of course, the biggest hurdle in this is character death.  In the former, character death derails the story and messes up the arc, and "is no fun" to the story person.  However, it is an integral part of the explorer game.  If there is not the likelihood of death for bad decisions, then there is no challenge. 

If you haven't figured it out, then let me state right now that I'm in the explorer category.  I don't want to follow "your" story because it should be "our" story, all of us around the table.  If I do not have a chance to die, then how can my character heroically sacrifice himself so the rest of the party can escape?  No, I don't want his death scripted into the story: "on page 37, your character sacrifices himself to save the children of the town, but he's not really dead and comes back on page 45 at the critical moment".  This isn't Days of Our Lives, this is D&D.  This is an adventure.

Anyway, there's been much discussion about what we're going to do.  I hope to get my game together by the start of March and that it's acceptable to everyone.  If it's not, I'm not sure what I'm going to do.  The funny thing is, one of the other players happens to play in both groups and mentioned the discussions at the end of a PF session.  As expected, the PF group was clueless about why anyone would want an explorer type of game.  When I tried to justify myself, they were just all the more puzzled, though one of them did opine "oh, so that's why you're character has sucky stats".  Yeah, I don't min/max, I don't look for the loopholes in the feats and such, and I barely keep track of my skill points.  Those are all crappy things to keep track of and irrelevant to how I view my character.  Maybe we just need a re-org of the two groups...move all the story guys to the PF game and all the explorer guys to the old school night....