Monday, January 30, 2012

Interesting stuff on the horizon this year from WoTC

Other than the obvious big news about 5th edition ... WoTC has some interesting stuff slated.

One is what Mike Mearls calls a "euro" style board game.  We'll see if it lives up to that, but it sounds interesting none the less.

"Now on to board games. Lords of Waterdeep is slated for March. It's basd on the city of Waterdeep in Forgotten Realms. Each player takes on a lord of the city and competes for influence and prestige by recruiting adventurer's and sending them on quests. Euro style game. You'll be hearing more about this too as we go forward."

Then Dungeon Command:

To me interesting stuff jumping out so far and now for me Dungeon Command chief among them.  It sounds like a tactical battle game.  A return to minis out of WoTC as well.  Interesting stuff ... as well the cover art for the 1st ed reprints?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Flames of War 3rd Ed rolling out ...

Yes this is old news FoW fans have known this since late last summer and there were official announcements late last fall. I just wanted to post this because A) anyone with the main 2nd ed rulbook don't forget you can get a free copy of the mini rulebook! B) I plan to go get mine next week and C) For me ... I just have to say I find it hard to believe ... it seems like 2nd wasn't out long but it was ... time flies I guess (also then again I took a long hiatus from FoW so that is a big part of it for me).  Having pulled out my FoW collection I'm pretty happy I have a pretty huge amount of stuff still ... gigantic amount of Germans, a moderate amount of Russians and Americans.

Out of the gate I'm going with an American armored rifle company ... but I'm going to quickly try to follow up with a large foot slogging German or Russian force (just depending on what I have ... I'm leaning Russians but I'll have to price out what I'd need to add to the force, etc.).

Friday, January 27, 2012

People are complaining that 5th edition D&D will be like 2nd edition?

I've seen some posts and speculation that wow ... since 5th sounds like 2nd ... how horribly unoriginal? I guess that is the point of that banter ... or perhaps it is just more pointless version wars dribble. 

I think it is a potentially valid question ... would a 2nd ed format work?  Core rules with layers of other optional/supplemental materials/rules/etc.  Of course it would and it sounds like that is what they are going to be doing ... and who the hell could complain about giving people more choice and more than a single way to play the damn game?

For the record I played mostly 2nd ed D&D back in the day ... in terms of amount of what I've played during my gaming lifetime I think still to date 2nd ed is what I've played most.  As far as my preference I had loads of fun with 2nd edition D&D but towards the end of the run there was too much there, with all the add ons skills and powers, encyclopedias of spells, magic items, etc. etc. it was a pretty ponderous amount of stuff.  That said no one had to use it all and most DMs and groups didn't.  It was cool to know though that if you wanted to run a roman themed game, there was a book to help, or if you wanted a big amount of extra detail you could get your really cool all about dwarves, elves, what the hell ever ... books.   So for me I fail to see how this would be a bad thing if 5th ed ends up being like that?  And just because 2nd ed was like that ... if 5th ed copies that model somewhat ... its not innovative?  Huh? What?? Why even bring that up??  Yet those kinds of comments are flying around and I guess it bewilders and saddens me. 

For me ... if I want to RP I've never looked to D&D.  D&D is about killing monsters in dungeons.  If I want to have more meaningful, complex and interesting RP there are far better systems available now.  It is frustrating how little people are willing to look to other systems to suit specific needs ... it is actually the OSR guys bitching, the 3.5 guys bitching and everyone bitching that is leading WoTC to now be looking towards an apparently 2nd ed style system.  How can any of those guys bitch that apparently now everyone expects 5th to be a big swiss army knife systems that can do it all.  What the hell else could WoTC do and not end up cutting off their nose to spite their face?  If they want to "re-unify" the community (impossible IMO ... but I guess I can't fault them for trying) and get people with strong preferences to at least take a look at the new system and/or stop ranting against it ... it is going to have to be a big multifaceted system of some kind.  Again if that is the expectation we are either going to end up with a monstrous simulator thing ... (GURPS) ... that some people can handle but most don't even want to bother with or probably at best some sort of 2nd ed style game that has a tiered assortment of books that people can add in to increase complexity at will (ya an I know GURPS is basically that as well ... I'm just not a fan of the system it is far to complex for my taste). As progressive as many OSR people seem to think they are, they seem oblivious of many other systems for doing fantasy role playing outside of the D&D clone/emulator range ... games like BURNING WHEEL ... LEGENDS OF ANGLERRE are two prime examples.

With this latest complaint apparently the argument is that the officially supported version of D&D apparently has to support the denominational preference of all the given complainers ... and I ask why?  If you don't like it don't play because D&D can't be all things to all people.  I don't expect D&D to knock my socks off with amazingly awesome role playing ... the damn game has never been about that!! Just because random people out there feel they are "pro" D&D players who apparently are playing D&D in full iambic pentameter ... the game wasn't designed for that.  The game I think should focus more on providing light hearted hack and slash with some RP on the side.  That is what D&D has always been good at!!  Beyond that people can go play with their old dusty "classic" rules and have fun ... than can play with the newer "tactical boardgame" rules ... if they don't like D&D at all then do what I do and go play what I think personally are the even better  systems (previously mentioned).  But everyone needs to just quit napalming people who don't like their chosen version.  Why must we as a community engage in this pointless factional version war? Even if people have valid points it does no good bashing each other endlessly.  Sadly though that is looking like every step of the way with the roll-out of 5th that is going to continue being the case. 

As I've ranted about in other posts to me all old D&D (pre-3rd edition D&D) is ... erm ... its classic I agree. I have strong nostalgia for it, but it is more a "hey guys lets re-live 1984 for a night .. what do you say" kinda thing, again just from my preference and perspective.  I couldn't as an adult play that for months on end and be happy.  I aspire to run that kind of a game for my own children as they all are between the ages of 8 and 12, I'm sure they'll have fun with it.  But as an adult, who has been there and done that for literally decades.  It just has little appeal in terms of being a primary choice of what I'd like to spend my time doing other than a very occasional "shits and giggles" kinda thing.

Not since I've played games like Legends of Anglerre, Burning Wheel, Apocalypse World, Dogs in the Vineyard will I ever view any version of D&D the same way.  So the endless "the old stuff is better than the new stuff ... the new stuff is better than the old stuff" at least to me its mostly moot.  If I want a fantasy game where the goal is to kill monsters with a standard fantasy party, taking loot and completing simple storylines ... I'll go with some version of D&D.  For anything else more involved ... personally I'd rather play another game.

All that said I begrudge the OSR guys nothing, I'm proud of their passion and efforts to keep the old school games alive and furthermore bring them new life. That is going to allow me to be able to easily run some kick ass games for my kids ... so I say bravo.  To the Pathfinder guys I say thanks for keeping RPG sales decent for local hobby shops ... so there is at least some gateway to tabletop RPGing in local stores ... that is the future of tabletop for good bad or otherwise.  So thanks guys and hats off to Paizo I don't care for Pathfinder but I love that company :)

After all this time I just don't get how the holier than though version wars rage on! Can't people see that the denominational fighting between nerds who should be uniting to save tabletop gaming ... is the path to ruin!  All this as the barbarians of video games continue to destroy the empire is just killing me.  I know with 5th ed a ways out ... I have a looooong road to travel.

Hmmmm ... where exactly does the Eastern Tabletop Gaming Empire begin ... perhaps I can flee to Constantinople before its too late ... I think I'm going to head there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

G.U.B.A.R Podcast ... awesome!

A couple good friends in Las Vegas have the beginnings of a great podcast going G.U.B.A.R (geeked up beyond all recognition) Scott and Anthony talk about RPGs, mini games, board games and general geekery check it out it tis good stuff indeed!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cooperation and solo play with mini gaming ... interesting concept ...

Cooperative play as well as solo play are concepts I'm seeing bounce around more and more out in the blog-o-sphere for mini gaming and I really am intrigued by those ideas. For some this might be old hat but to me these are new concepts as far as mini gaming/wargaming goes. 

The base concept of "solo" play is that one could play out a scenario with some randomly generated enemies.  This could be applied to ANY game system almost.  You'd simply go through scenarios and really think about how they would play out, then you designate the key points where a savy opponent would potentially attack, with what unit types, etc. and bada bing.  As the game plays out roll to see where the enemies are.  This can be done with some simple dice mechanics, it could be done with index cards with some basic random moves that make sense for different units (then shuffle em' up and try to anticipate what is going to happen next).

This isn't a new thing, I can remember doing things like this with Warhammer 40,000 back in the day ten or so years back when I was very interested in tournament play, traveling to GTs and regional RTTs, etc. A few friends and I would sit huddled over army builder ... then off to the table where we'd proxy whatever crazy army we'd just come up with to face our forces one at a time and at the tourney point levels.  But I never translated that to other types of mini gaming and haven't even thought about it for years now.  But what if ... what if ... one was to take those sorts of concepts and apply them to fun, scenario driven games?  It might work great ... I think eventually I will try this out. 

On the face of it that might sound a little boring but depending on the game/system, the amount of thought put into the scenarios, and the moves that the enemy would make, this could be an interesting way to play a game.  Beyond this though the same concepts could be applied to a two or more player game ... to convert a vs. game into a cooperative game.  

I think I'm going to try this out at some point ... though with all I have on the gaming to-do list it might be awhile.  Anyone else done much solo play/cooperative play mini wargaming?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Atomic Robo RPG Coming soon!

Atomic Robo is a comic book series depicting
the adventures of the eponymous character,
created by 8-Bit Theater writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener.
Via game designer Mike Olson's blog The Spirt of the  BLANK  I've heard about an exciting project he is working on for the FATE system ... ATOMIC ROBO THE RPG!!

A decent interview with Mike about the project over at the
Paper & Plastic blog.  I've been acquainted with Mike for years now via the Strategicon/Gamex events ... I've played in several of his games and consider him a friend.  For those who don't know Mike was an assistant designer on the Legends of Anglerre and the main designer on The Kerberos Club FATE adaptation as well as the supplemental material for Anglerre.  Mike is also an amazing FATE GM ... over the years I've been very fortunate at Gamex/Orccon/Strategicon to be able to play in some of his hilariously fun one off games.

1st edition D&D reprint?!?! AWESOME!!

Apparently WoTC is reprinting (in a limited edition, which will hopefully not be too difficult to get but ... don't know about that ... fingers crossed!) 1st ed Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Handbook and Monster Manual all in one monster 35 buck edition.  From the sounds of it available only at your local store in "limited" quantities.  Meaning ... 1 per store so they go on ebay for 100 bucks each ... or hopefully many per local store but for a limited printing or something.  I think the edition reprint is friggin AWESOME but the "limited" nature of it might be an issue.  Time will tell.

I'm really hoping this isn't a ploy on WoTCs part to toss shop owners a bone by giving them something that is in artificially scarce quantities to make a fat profit on ebay with in order to keep them happy ... at least a little ... until 5th ed drops.

Beyond  that this bodes well for the new edition ... if they are doing something like this, perhaps, just perhaps they are actually going to have some old school elements in the new version.  If I can buy this locally at $35.00 I will happily do so.
When I posted this WoTC just had the first book up.  Later that day they had all 3 of the books up, 3 books times 35.00 per book.  If the funds go to the Gygax memorial it is cool and I can't complain about the cost.  But for me ... I have the original printings of these books ... it would be really a waste of limited gaming funds to go out and buy them.  For others it will probably be an awesome deal ... for anyone who doesn't own the books already ... this seems like a great deal actually! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Warhammer 40K 6th edition ... a reality or a mirage ... where is GW headed?

So for those 40k fans out there, old news hear there is that leaked version of 6th edition Warhammer 40,000 supposedly floating around on the internet.  Much theory on its legitimacy, some have declaired it a fake already some say they know a guy who knows a guy who has confirmed it.

I almost wonder if this is a case of the game designers leaking something they wish they could do, hoping the buzz online gets so big the bean counters take note. I've heard that over the past ten years there has been a gradual shift in power at GW.  I've heard that one, by one as the old guard Andy and  Rick for sure, left that what clout the design team had was largely eroded and now most big decisions are corporate and usually based 100% on marketing and sales.  Yes I know "GW is a business they have to make money" don't whack me with the fan boy cliché just yet.  At any point I've heard that shift has really upset the apple cart so to speak in terms of how they do things. 

More and more each year they tighten the screws and shift how things are done.  I along with many people sort of entered the GW hobby during the "golden age" of the 90s-early 2000s when the guys who created the game (Rick Priestley) and built it into what it is were still with the company so alot of deference was paid to them.  Now that they are gone that is gone and GW is alot more like WoTC these days than not.  So I do wonder if maybe some of the design team has gone a bit rogue here ... hoping to have some ammo in their bandoleer to use against the bean counters and lawyers when they try to sell the idea.

Over the years I've had alot of anger at GWs gradual morph into just another large-ish corporation run by lawyers and bean counters not passionate lovers of the products they produce but rather just the green the corporation produces. All that and I have to say even I am interested in this edition of the rules.  To me if they really could come up with a rule set that let people run the game how they wanted, do historical style/scenario games casually at home AND let people run tournament style games ... that would be amazingly wonderful.  What is most striking here for me is the same type of conversation going on regarding the new rule set as is being had about 5th edition D&D.

The big stumbling block to that though is simply the very, very vocal tournament player who loves their endless 1500 point vs. 1500 point standard cleanse mission with "balanced" codex vs. "balanced" codex (read ... "balanced" ... in so much as not balanced so many players feel the urge to run out and buy the new army/codex/etc.).  I just don't see how tournament style math-hammer is paying their bills?  Ya the tourney guys are vocal via Bell of Lost Souls, etc. but are their numbers large enough to affect GWs profits really?  Are the tournament players the ones who  drive the profits?  Directly I can't see how that could be the case.  I know the BoLS crowd has long made the arguement that the tournament set controls the "hearts and minds" of the consumer base (at least here in the US) and that is less tangible. Or is it really mostly just kids (who convince their parents to dump 500 bucks on the game, and then get disinterested because the stinky store troll repeatedly savages them) and collectors who just buy crap and never play in public? In 2011 GW had

I would think there would be a very healthy "collectors" market as Forgworld continues to crank out the outrageously overpriced models, year after year and apparently there is a market for that stuff.  It really has saddened me over the years seeing kids, young guys with beater cars, using financial aid money to buy that crap.   We are talking mostly $200-$1200.00+ models, certainly some cheaper kits, rhino doors and whatnot but that isn't what I'm mostly talking about, though if you kit out your entire force in forgeworld add ons it can run into the hundreds easily.  Kids who should be fixing their cars up so they can try to get a girlfriend ....  sigh ..... on one hand I have to commend them for being dedicated to the hobby on the other I feel like smacking them on the back of the head.  At any rate GWs business model has really been more one of dope peddler than game company. So when I hear they are rolling out something that looks more like a historicals rule set … I have to wonder if it can be legit.

On that note though hopefully this rule set is real and this marks a departure from endless cookie cutter rule sets focused only on tournament play.  If they can create a compelling, fun to play rule set I'd happily play 40K again with the one or two people I still know who have armies, we’d play scenario games and historical style battles.   In fact that is something we've been talking about anyway, but we'll see if these rules are borne out as real.  

My super technical and amazingly well illustrated Games Workshop Business Model Diagram ... thing ... erm .. 

Here is a link to GW's financials this year GAMES WORKSHOP 

Here is the Chairman's statement from Tom Kirby and it sounds honestly like he himself is pondering the loss of the "old guard" at Games Workshop though he quickly launches into "Finecast is awesome" and the standard boiler plate.

We like to think of ourselves as a young company, eagerly entering the world of commerce bristling with ideas and ambition. Our staff bring the energy and optimism of youth to every problem we face, don't they? It is a salutary reminder for me to remember we will be making 30-year-service awards at our veteran's night dinner again this year. It won't be long before I get mine. Danielle Gaudry, who founded and ran our French business for many years and is surely the definition of that youthful vigour, retires this year. Retires. We are no longer so young, either as a business or the people who run it. Two things flow from this. Firstly, we now know (more by trial and error than sophisticated analysis - 'the wisdom of years') how this business works. We know what it takes to run a good Hobby centre, we know how to run a good trade sales department, we know how to recruit people who have great attitudes, we know how to make the best miniatures in the world and how to surprise and delight our customers over and over again. (Go take a quick look at Citadel Finecast - awesome!)

What we are now learning is how to spread that knowledge around the far flung world of Games Workshop. We are also learning that we are not doing it fast enough or thoroughly enough. Secondly, the generation which built Games Workshop is beginning to wonder what a 'pension' is. We wake up in the morning with the same aches we had yesterday. We wear glasses. We have learned patience (is that always a good thing and does it come from wisdom or exhaustion?). Some of us have a Senior Railcard. Nonetheless, we remain passionate about the potential for the Hobby and the Group. So, in addition to the normal running of the business, we will also be turning our gaze upon the problems of succession. We will be rolling out a programme aimed at getting everyone at Games Workshop to understand how we do business.

The challenges are as real as ever and our full responsibility is as well. Despite the exigencies of the 'real' world our destiny is still in our own hands. We have to ensure that the best practices we know about are followed everywhere within the Group. We have done much to improve our profitability and the return on your capital but we still have work to do on re-establishing growth, particularly in our Hobby centres.

Dividends have returned. I am as pleased as you are. Does this herald in a new era of progressive dividends on an assured yield? Hardly. We return truly surplus cash to shareholders. 'Truly surplus' means the cash we can not use because we have already spent all we need for the growth of the business. It would sit in a bank account if we didn't return it. Working this way means the payment of dividends will be fairly happenstance; I can see us having surplus cash in the future and when we have (assuming it is a sensible sum) it will be returned, not according to a schedule, but right then and there.

Tom Kirby
25 July 2011

More about Games Workshop's leadership ... it has always struck me as a bit odd at how much people know about the GW games and how close their ears are to the ground so to speak with rumors, etc. but how little they know about the actual leadership of the company itself.  So here is some pretty accessible information that isn't widely discussed and/or presumably known (at least here in the US).

Tom Kirby - Chairman of the Board of Directors for GW.
T H F Kirby (age 61), chairman. Tom Kirby joined Games Workshop in April 1986 as general manager and led the management buy-out in December 1991, becoming chief executive at that time. Between 1998 and 2000 he took on the role of non-executive chairman, returning to the role of chief executive in September 2000. He now performs the role of chairman following the appointment of Mark Wells as chief executive in December 2007. Prior to joining Games Workshop, Tom worked for six years for a distributor of fantasy games in the UK and was previously an Inspector of Taxes.

Mark Wells - Chief Executive Officer
M N Wells (age 49), CEO. Mark Wells joined Games Workshop in May 2000 as director of strategy and planning. He qualified as a solicitor with Messrs Herbert Smith in 1987, and subsequently held various management roles with Next PLC and Boots Group PLC, including director of customer service for Boots the Chemists and director of merchandise and marketing for Boots Stores, Netherlands.

Kevin Rountree - Chief Operating Officer
K D Rountree (age 41), COO. Kevin Rountree joined Games Workshop in March 1998 as assistant group accountant. He then had various management roles within Games Workshop, including head of sales for the Other Activities division. During the year ended 29 May 2011, he took on the responsibility of managing the Group’s service centres globally. To reflect this, his title was changed to chief operating officer from chief financial officer. He, however, still retains responsibility for all financial matters within Games Workshop. He qualified as a chartered management accountant in August 2001. Prior to joining Games Workshop Kevin was the management accountant at J Barbour & Sons Limited and trained at Price Waterhouse.

So there you have it the company is day to day run by an attorney and an accountant.  The company is run by bean counters and lawyers with little passion for the what it is the company does, sure they pay lip service to it and probably "own armies" and have some showy ribbon cutting style games now and then.  But make no mistake these guys are straight up businessmen who are peddling a product.  They are simply selling widgets.  When a company gets to this point it is going to behave a certain way ... vs. ... some guys who built something from the ground up who created a game, made it what it is.

People like that will run a company differently than some bean counters and lawyers who were brought in to maximize ROI.  Doesn't mean that company can't make good products anymore it just means that the heart and soul, the things that initially drew people to the company initially ... the passion, the love of the game ... those things will likely always take a back seat and decisions will be made differently in years to come.  This has been a long, long time in the making the management led buyout at GW occurred in 1991 and from day one "citadel" was owned by a guy who was very interested in selling minis and make money.  So I can only take this argument so far with GW.  I am just saying that since the old guard has departed over the past ten years the company has changed.  Some people might feel for the better, I personally don't feel that way but that is just my opinion, entirely subjective.

GW has had an interesting parallel to TSR actually only GW never got bought out from the outside it managed to stay independent and for a long while I think that meant the guys like Rick Priestley and Andy Chambers were really counted on to give the company direction and focus. Great interview illustrating some of what I'm talking about with Rick Priestley. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gaming isn't main stream? What about Curt Schilling the dragon-slayer!

Geek has been chic for years and years now ... this isn't news ... so I've been shocked recently to encounter several people, dozens in fact, who seem to feel being a geek in general, but particularly being a gamer puts us out of the main stream.  What sparked this was a conversation with a friend who was shocked when I said gaming is main stream man combined with many comments I've read during the great 5th ed wave of mass blog-o-sphere wide lamenting, gnashing teeth, celebration, drawing daggers, and jumping off of cliffs ... I saw a few blog posts out there where people were actually suggesting that D&D and gaming in general wasn't "main stream." I paid attention to those comments because in my mind one of the big problems for gaming is that it has become so main stream we are experiencing all the problems you see out in "main stream" land ... lol ... whatever that means. That said yes, yes, of course a new day in terms of opportunity for new products, etc. which hopefully will be very beneficial to us old guard now having main stream status for our hobby.  Clearly here I'm not saying specific micro niches of gaming are "main stream" just that more and more someone can out loud, in public, say something like "I'm a gamer" or "I'm a geek" and no one raises an eyebrow at you.  Of course segments of gaming will probably always be little isolated backwaters (thankfully eh!).

But saying gaming is main stream on the whole is really not true, obviously there are areas that will never be main stream.  But D&D is very widely known now and cited as something many famous folks did when they were kids, almost as a badge of honor.  Video games are 100% mainstream dozens of celebrities have admitted to being video game fans and most pro-athletes play sports related video games (or at least say that publicly as they love the money rolling in from EA).  Tabletop even has become more and more "main stream" when you can find Settlers of Catan in the average Barnes and Noble now ... the numbers are big enough all round to call gamers and I mean true gamers not just "video gamers" but guys that play tabletop of some variety as well as.  When MTV and CNN, etc. have "geek" sections now, when CNN runs regular stories frequently about geek-culture.  Hell MTV was running a story about an upcoming FATE based game, that is semi-obscure RPG stuff and its being covered by MTV Geek.   Obviously The Big Bang Theory and similar media exposure has done its number as well.

When Comicon is no longer just a stinky comic shop nerd fest (hasn't been for years now) but a big media roll-out event ... this all means ... sigh ... geekery and gaming is main stream.  To me this isn't news and I think someone could make the argument that "gaming" and "geekery" were mainstream in the mid-to late 90s.  But apparently people still are shocked when that statement is made. Well this article just slapped me in the face with those thoughts again so I thought I'd post about it.  Yet another big name athlete/former athlete proclaims their geekery ... before anyone says well that is just video games I also submit this quote.

“I was always a big fantasy guy, a big ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ kind of gamer,” Schilling said. “That was always a very big, significant piece of my gaming because I was always a very avid reader as a kid. I read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy for probably the 20th time a couple of years ago, but that’s what got me into fantasy gaming.”“If you think about it,” Schilling said, “I’ve lived the ultimate gamer life”.”

Schilling is by far not the first celebrity or sports figure to say he is a gamer geek or even a D&D fan, he is just the latest in a growing line of people saying so ... as gaming continues its long entry into full main stream entertainment status.

Curt Schilling the dragon-slayer

2012 ... a make or break year (alternatively a gaming mid life crisis)

Big game ... no clue how many points we were playing with
it was easily 10 full armies worth.  Germans vs. Americans and
Russians in a cool moving train objective scenario.

2012 a new gaming diet ... my new years resolution and my reasons why.

First I have to say ... it should go without saying that we game for fun right?  If not what the hell is the point.  So for me yes indeed gaming still has been fun but not nearly as fun as I know it can be.  I'm not lamenting for some past better than it really was "golden age" to return.  No I am a realist with gaming and I feel I know what I can reasonably accomplish myself and what I can reasonably expect from people in my gaming group.  That said gaming is not nearly as good as it could be right now and I hope to change that.  I think gaming for me has gotten a little "out of shape" to continue with the diet analogy.  So I need to start an exercise regimen and go on a diet (hell I need to do that in reality, but that is thankfully off topic here).  I am going to try to trim the fat this year and focus on some new "exercises" like painting minis, outright dropping gaming activities that aren't producing for me in terms of fun and enjoyment, etc.

This past weekend I attended a historicals game at a game store about 25 miles from my house. A new group of folks, seemed like good guys generally and the store they play at was great. I got to play almost the entire game, I wasn't using my own minis it was a big game with some pretty specific forces, etc. so the club provided everything.

I was running a portion of a large American group, mechanized infantry battalion. I haven't played any flames of war in about five years and I have to admit I didn't play much back when I was playing. I might have a dozen games under my belt. This is a new version of the rules since I played though I didn't really see where the changes were, everything seemed familiar even after all that time. I had a great time and the game renewed my interest in flames of war and solidly reaffirmed my new interest in 15 MM. So a good start to historical gaming for 2012. A potentially new group/club to game with ... a store that heavily caters to historical gaming ... just in time to coincide with my desire to jump into historicals.

This brings me to the next part of the post and it is first a resolution for the year, a very, very difficult resolution and perhaps one that I might not ever be able to make again. It is going to be probably impossible to pull this off, overly ambitious, a little unrealistic, but ... NO VIDEO GAMES of any kind for 2012. Why would I do this to myself? Why deprive myself of such entertainment? Simple ... let me now launch into just what I have planned for the tabletop this year. Let alone a whole bunch of real life realities such as an ultra busy family life, big wedding in the family that is going to take alot of time, etc. graduate school to contend with, several trips planned and a huge transition in gaming for me. The other stuff is irrelevant for the purposes of this blog, yet clearly we all have lives beyond gaming eh? Because of that I have increasingly found myself questioning the value of gaming vs. the value of other pursuits in life. Not the important life stuff, but the frivolity of life.

Seriously why tilt at the windmill of gaming when I could just try to learn to play the piano, or strike out at a foreign language again or get into photography, spend more time hiking and camping, etc. For me the other more important stuff comes first always as it is, family, etc. etc. but the discretionary time spent doing gaming ... the past few years the returns have been very diminishing returns I must say.

So instead of just hanging it all up and calling it a day with gaming, which I would hate to do very much. I think it would feel like losing a limb or something ... seriously. I have spent the past year or so really thinking about what I could do to cut off the dead tissue and bring the limb back from the brink so to speak.

I have been on the road to recovery now for awhile and come to conclusions about gaming. Spending time doing gaming to borrow a phrase from an old friend "just because it is like something I used to like to do" rather than because it is good in its own right ... what the hell is the point of that? But honestly I've done that for a long while now with parts of gaming. I've played games that really weren't that enjoyable. Alot of cookie cutter D&D, with versions of the game I find tedious. Alot of solo video gaming and MMOs and the like and alot of just ho-hum ... semi-fun games that could be better. I've struggled to put my finger on what was wrong. Part of it is gaming with many new people in a new area, it has taken time to get to know people, etc. gaming with old friends you've known for years and years vs. new people you don't know well can have its ups and downs. Beyond that though as I've bemoaned in many other posts here ... gamers are changing ... the internet and "popcorn brain" for us all has really meant a difference that I've seen in terms of what people are really willing to play, and even then what they seem to be good at and what they just half-ass their way through.

So all that swirling melee of life, deep thoughts, the reality in which I live ... changing preferences ... ultimately has led me to the conclusion that I need to focus more on what I really want out of gaming and the rest of it be damned.

 Yet that will come with a price to the "rest of" my gaming. D&D will likely not happen this year unless it can dramatically change and get better.  I'm hoping I can work to reform our D&D group a bit, if not I'm going to have to put it not only on the back burner, but in the Tupperware container and into the fridge for now.  I'll likely have a Friday night indie/small press RPG night with a pretty dedicated group to those kinds of games. Saturday gaming is in flux right now ... I'm thinking its going to be a few Saturdays a month of historical gaming and some public play via the gaming club I founded at Weber State University. That will likely be the some total of that. I have had an ongoing D&D game on Saturdays ever since I moved to Utah nearly 3 years ago, so parting with it will be bittersweet. Video games though have become the "junk food" of my gaming life and I simply don't have space in my gaming "diet" right now to accommodate them and take my gaming to where I want it to be.

A fat stack of new historical rulesets that just came in the mail this week (thanks to some great sales at Warhammer Historical and Foundry) to choose from this year. First out of the game will be the Warhammer Old West system. Then Hail Caesar and then (not pictured) Black Powder. Flames of War is likely to rise again this year at some point as well.

As for the minis ya that is a gigantic amount of painting to do, I didn't even bother to put up the huge amount of terrain I picked up to go along with it all.

There are essentially two Roman armies, Zulus & Brits, Old West, Ancient Germans, Celts ... some of the armies will need more fleshing out but its a gigantic undertaking is all I'm really trying to express.

New adaptor for my flash cards from my camera still working out the glitches so sorry for the vertical images there ... damn phone!!  All that stuff came this past week and I'm really just trying to show the hundreds and hundreds of figures to assemble and paint (beyond that stuff I just received about 120 old west figures that came in from Foundry that I didn't snap pictures of) and no small amount of terrain to tend to. New rules to learn, etc. etc. If that isn't enough ... the grand pappy of RPG systems I hope to learn and start playing with the indie group soon ... burning wheel.

So 2012 is going to be a big, busy as hell year for me and I just don't have time to play video games this year, beyond that I don't have time to waste on bad games and on gaming that isn't fun. Will I hold to that ... I hope so ... for the sake of other gaming I hope so. I want more from my gaming time, I want most of all fun, honest to goodness fun. But I can't deny I seek what gaming used to give me years ago, an actual sense of accomplishment, very good camaraderie, and the kind of relaxation and solace that only a good pastime can provide. So I hope to bring those back into my own gaming, and in the process ... hopefully ... save gaming for myself for not just 2012 but for hopefully the rest of my life :)

So I'm calling myself out here and just damn going to try to take the bull by the horns and make some well needed positive progress this year with gaming.

Anyway happy gaming to you all in 2012!! May it be fruitful and multiply :D

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shadows over Camelot ... old school vs. new school ... 5th ed craze

This whole 5th ed thing this week and the reactions from OSR people the 3.5 fans the causal D&D players and the 4e people has been interesting to look at. For me it has just continued the conversation I've been having with myself basically ya I know talking to myself, next I'll be on the street corner shouting about the end times. Seriously though it has had me reexamining just my own preference for what a game of D&D should mean, what I like and what I don't like.

Really old school D&D in terms of weak starting characters is actually quite well suited to 11 and 12 year olds. It teaches them many things about being leery of just rushing headlong in when perhaps a little caution is warranted, etc. its good for problem solving, etc. as well ... players get rewarded for avoiding conflict, for being creative and overcoming difficulties through guile, etc.

People complain about how low level characters are very weak in old school games, and I don't disagree there I have long said that myself. But having seen the other side of the coin where characters feel so powerful at low level that it doesn't reflect the genre but is rather more like a video game ... I also hear that too. I think more and more with D&D the only interest left with the game for me is nostalgia. The newer stuff is just too much like a video game and therefore ... for me anyway ... dull. Why actually not just go play WoW? One can argue as I have for years ... well anything face to face/tabletop is superior to video games right. I guess, if that is the only critera. Why not just play Monopoly then or a card game? That excuse only goes so far ... tabletop gaming should be good on its own. The games we choose to play go a long way towards making that a reality. Clearly a good group can make mediocre stuff fun and a bad group can take the best of games off a cliff.

For me though I've come to focus more and more on the social interactions within RPGs. What is it that is bringing us as a group into the game, what motivates us to want to play week after week. If we don't want good social interactions between characters, why the hell are we doing and RPG? Why don't we play 40K or Warmachine then? I guess that my take as someone who does mini games, board games and RPGs though. For the RPG only guys I guess that thought doesn't even register. To me the social interactions within D&D just aren't good due to the rules. If they are good it is because the players themselves have learned to role play their characters well. So what one might say. Well the big so what is ... what about a new player ... what about people who are playing a character outside of their comfort zone or something. Not having solid rules that facilitate good social interaction in the game means those people are going to get hung out to dry.

So more on the D&D as a cooperative board game concept. If we take that route then its ok that D&D isn't designed to maximize social interactions, its designed to provide a combo heavy, video game like, tactical miniatures game. Even here, being a mini game fan, 3.0-4e era D&D kinda suck as tactical skirmish games, the games are just too complex ... balanced in places way unbalanced in others. Also to me if they wanted to make a good tactical skirmish game, why didn't they just do that on the side? God I'd have loved to have seen that WoTC making a small skirmish game that could be used along side the RPG if people wanted. That would have been great. They didn't do that though, the smashed the MMO based 3.0 pen and paper game all together ... tactical skirmish boardgame stuff with an odd role playing game.

Along these lines I have long said that 4e was the most "honest" representation of what it was grid era D&D is. To me ... that version (at least pre-essentials I honestly haven't played essentials era 4e at all) plays better in terms of being a fun fantasy based tabletop game than did 3.0-Pathfinder stuff.

Ok to the Shadows Over Camelot part, if 3.0-4e are just going to be more like board games than RPGs I really wish they played more like an endless Shadows Over Camelot. That could be rather interesting, perhaps even more satisfying than the current versions of the game. Sadly they don't though. The newer versions of D&D are a matter of players combing books to find the most powerful combos and DMs focusing on encounters rather than story. Even there I'd say ok your going to make a board game/minis skirmish game ... so why not just boil the game down to Descent? Just an honest to goodness dungeon crawl/grid based combat miniatures centric board game where players kick down doors and slay monsters for loot. Done and done. Put out some minis, some tile sets, and focus 100% on good mini based combat.

Rather than talk about the minis and combat heavy stuff though my overall point and theme here is "why can't D&D play more like a good game of Shadows Over Camelot? Because Shadows ... for a board game anyway ... really creates great social interaction between players! For those who haven't played that game ... I highly recommend it.

Shadows is a cooperative board game. It can be a very fun, casual, experience ... the game is by no means a masterpiece of game design mechanically. Conceptually though I really like how it works. The group is playing as the knights of Camelot including King Aruthur. The kingdom is beset by barbarians, quests for the grail, Excalibur, Lancelot's armor all must be undertaken all while a hidden traitor operates in the midst of the group. Mechanically the game is rather simplistic, it involves D6s and cards with a board with pieces for various things. The point for me though is how the group interacts, how people pull together to overcome the challenge of the game. The game itself brings players together to choose how they'll overcome what the game is throwing at them. Granted even in shadows, combat is the only way .. in a matter of speaking. Knights have to go quest. I guess there is the option to stay at Camelot and draw card, so we'll call that one of the lone non-combat actions. So even in a board game, with mostly only combat to choose from, a better mechanic for creating social interaction and group decisions is had. Shadows has some actual RP elements to it in that there is the traitor in the midst of the group (though in the newbie games you can run the game without a traitor, not nearly as fun IMO). The traitor element of course isn't very typical for the D&D analogy, though as I think about it ... the DM would be facilitating that sort of stuff. So the DM side of things is the traitor stuff. But honestly anymore most games of D&D aren't even as good as a good game of Shadows Over Camelot. I say that, group not withstanding, as we all know a great group can take any game to amazing places, but the average gaming group isn't "great" and the poor guys stuck with gaming at stores, well they don't even get an "average" group to work with. The average group has the flaky guy who can't show up all the time, the grumpy guy who is going through a divorce, the power gamer guy, the girlfriend who is only half heartedly playing, the DM who just wants to tell her story and not be bothered with what players want, the stoner dude who is half baked when he shows up, the fanboy who despite not being the GM owns every book, module, etc. and has a penchant for correcting the DM every five minutes, etc. etc. so you plop that reality in the middle of a big, fat, miniatures, markers, tiles, several rulebook, complex system and expect these people to make stuff out of it, for 20 levels of play. Huh?? What?? Why!!! I'd love to see them scrap all this crap and start over, but we all know that won't happen. There are legions of loyal 3.0 era fans who have figured out how to make things with the current systems work and like it all just fine. To be honest it wouldn't be fair to those folks to just dump all this stuff in the trash. So what is WoTC to do? 4e is a boardgame style game now, love it, hate it, be indifferent to it ... that is the reality ... so from my perspective the best we can hope for is more board game style.

So overall ... realistically looking at where D&D has gone and where it could possibly go I think if they get things right 5th D&D will play more like a good game of Shadows Over Camelot and less like Descent. It certainly shouldn't play like a video game, nor should it play like a game of chess, or magic the gathering.

What D&D is in the post 3.0 era is more players coming up with powerful combos and focusing on that first and foremost. I feel this represents a serious break from what it is that makes D&D. If Bill and Jim have rediculously powered up characters and Betty and Jake have ho-hum run of the mill characters and you have an average DM who is just trying to hold things together. Just from the get go there might be some problems. To me that is sort of a design flaw. For some groups, with people who love math-hammering up their characters, pouring over books, tweaking, fiddiling, and sadly in some cases creating characters that are better than other players characters so they get ... what ... more attention ... feel superior? Ok ... umm ... I guess if that is what floats their boats. Sadly that last bit there though tears these systems in half IMO.

I'm sure the min-max types of folks love 3.0-4e era D&D ... because in that respect there is no real alternative to that kind of a game. However for casual players (which would include most new players) jumping into this mix can be quite a jarring experience. I've seen this in my own groups several times. I have never been one to play D&D at a store, in fact in all the years of D&D I've played I've never played a game in a store. I've played many games at gaming cons though. So I'm less well versed in public games, but I've never seen how the newer versions of D&D were very new player friendly. I cite as my prime example of this ... WoTCs decision to roll out the Essentials line.

To me though this bespeaks my point ... player characters themselves have become too complex and this complexity doesn't increase social interaction, it decreases it. There are far too many moving parts, that don't improve social interaction between characters, in fact these moving parts do more to divide the players to push them away from each other, towards over specialization, towards solo-combat monster type characters. How is that good for a game that is supposed to be about a group coming together to have fun? I know for sure some groups have great fun with 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder/4e. I myself had months and months of great fun with 4e. So I'm not saying it is impossible, we all found a way to make it work didn't we! To our great credit. But I think for everyone who has enjoyed these games many people have quickly burnt out, become disillusioned, bored, frustrated. You can see that online, you can see that in many groups with players choosing to drop the game, DMs giving up, etc. All of that can't be blamed on the game, that is people, that is modern internet age life. But a part of this stuff I think comes down to the games themselves. I think the decision to make very complex combats and move the rules for PCs entirely towards combat has flavored or colored the game in that direction. Sure DMs can house rule up stuff, they can add in things, make skill challenges ... erm ... more about actually using intellect and creativity vs. just rolling a D20. But even in Pathfinder and 3.5 the way the game is slanted towards combat, towards conflict as the first method to resolve things. That is what you get you get a game that is all about combat, and everything else is an afterthought.

It is so bad this is how the average D&D player I've encountered in my quest to find a new gaming group approaches the game. Kick down the door, attack, and ask questions later. Why? Years of 3.0-4e era gaming. Players get rewarded for that behavior and when a DM runs a game otherwise, in my opinion they are kinda being a dick. That isn't how the rules are truly written, the rules themselves slant heavily towards combat. Many might ask ... "well isn't that the point" ... and if they do they just prove my point. Certainly that has always been part of the game, you have always wanted to delve into that dungeon, slay the vile monsters, recover the wondrous treasure! Along the way though the game became so much more than that and then ... that so much more was lost.

That in my opinion happened somewhere towards the end of 2nd edition and things have never been the same. Does that make me an OSR guy? I don't know. I'm coming to grips with that ... perhaps ... but even there I don't play 1st edition, I don't know if I even like 1st edition anymore. Like I've said other than having an eventual plan to do some OSR stuff for my kids in a few years, I don't see much potential for that in my own gaming group. So its probably irrelevant.

I do empathize with those who have had angst regarding the newer versions of D&D. Having played alot of the new stuff and come to this point there are some very big structural problems with D&D anymore and I don't know if they can be overcome. WoTC has led many people down a different path and I just don't see how those people are going to want to come back. So if 5th edition is going to really "re-unite" even portions of the divergent D&D fanbase they are really going to have to smash together some odd and very conflicting game elements. While some are saying that is impossible ... I think Shadows Over Camelot to me shows that at least for a single session you can have at least some of these mixed elements together. Granted shadows is no true "grid style" miniature combat game. The player pieces in the game are simply markers to denote what activity the given player is engaged in. But I think there is a lesson to be learned from that game.

Who knows though its all idle conjecture at this point ... until we see some concrete details on what WoTC is planning who the hell knows ...

Time will tell ... something tells me that we are heading towards more of the same and even less sanity though ...

Monday, January 9, 2012

OSR is a SHAM!!

For the record I don't believe OSR is a sham its a wonderful movement that I dearly am glad for. But I see many people out there pounding their chests right now proclaiming victory in the name of all D&D ... solely on the basis of the OSR movement and for me that is record scratching ... "Whutcha talkin bout Willis" moment. By saying something like that though I'm trying to make a ... probably lame ... but I think somewhat relevant point. Why does this constant justification to exist need to be made by the OSR people. It seems to dominate much of the discourse in the OSR community and for the life of me I can't figure out why. To me the reasons OSR exist and will continue to exist are self evident. That said there is also this propensity to I think overblow the size and impact OSR is having, which I think undermines some credibility and diverts the discussion away from where it should be. Look people this blog is shitty ... lol ... I know it. It is a thought journal for me really, just a little place to toss out an idea or record something I'm thinking about, working on, doing with the game group.

I really have zero expectation that it will ever be all that interesting to very many people. But there are blogs out there where the authors/owners choose to really spend alot of time and effort on the content, and they start to have a stronger voice and develop a community around them. I think with that comes a little responsibility, especially in communities like the OSR community. I guess that is the nature of my long, rambling rant here. I sort of hope for the best from the OSR guys because I respect what they are trying to do.

To me the OSR movement was much more akin to say the Occupy movement as not. It was about OWNING ones own game. About returning to something that wasn't broken and didn't need to be fixed. It was a little bit about nostaliga, a little bit about small amateur game design, about blogging and podcasting and just having fun. OSR was a reaction to the grid ... I will say that again ... it was a reaction to the grid based 3.0-4e era versions of D&D (including Pathfinder).

The 5th edition frenzy today really has me a little non-plussed at some of the commentary form people regarding OSR. OSR is a movement towards 1st/basic edition D&D ... period. It is special and interesting and cool ... and really apparently full of itself. OSR is not singlehandedly responsible for the demise of 4e, and I don't care what anyone says OSR isn't the driving force behind new 5th ed. It does not have the vast numbers that people out there to warrant some of the rhetoric people are spouting right now. OSR defeated evil Hasbro ... huh? Ummm ... no. Sorry guys. Paizo has probably a 90% greater claim to that. Lets face it 3.0-4e era D&D just has some serious design flaws ... just because the OSR crowd has recognized that doesn't mean they are RESPONSIBLE for the demise of 4e ... lol. Yet some people are actually SAYING that ... it is silly.

To my knowledge the OSR community is a community of tens of thousands perhaps low hundreds of thousands ... VS ... what low millions for the 3.5/Pathfinder fans. So who is going to have more influence?

Beyond this ... and far, far more importantly in my mind. Individual self proclaimed OSR leaders are claiming some kind of design superiority based on their association with OSR?!?!? What??? To me I see the "indie" RPG scene as potentially a far better place to draw inspiration from as the game moves forward. If old school D&D was so vastly superior why were so many so willing to jump to new versions? Why did it take so long for OSR to begin? I personally think OSR came to be and thrived because of grid based D&D .. pretty much alone. Old School D&D is not a main stream cup of tea. The insane dungeon ecology of many of the Gygax era stuff is nostalgically fun, but very campy and even for a fantasy game ... so woefully unrealistic ... "why is the underground goblin empire next to the red dragon's lair ... under a lake of gray ooze ... with a Minotaur civilization living along its banks ... all in the area the size of a suburban mall."

That stuff was great fun when I was 12 back in the mid 80s but it isn't going to be fun for many adults these days. Its a great "he he" lets have some beers and relive 1984 for a night kinda experience, but it doesn't make for long standing, intellectually stimulating, deep RP kinda campaigns. I know D&D has mostly never been about that, but there has for a long time been at least an attempt at blending in some maturity and intellectually stimulating elements into the game. Some very challenging moral and ethical dilemmas, etc.

Much if not most, of OSR is campy "how do we use this ten foot pole to defeat the evil overlord" kinda stuff. Again, wonderful, delightful, hilarious, potentially dark and devious ... old school goodness. But it is just that. It is constrained by that era of game design, that style of game. Why constrain D&D? Why not instead look more to games like Burning Wheel, Apocalypse World, Dogs in the Vineyard. Of course not entirely and you couldn't really do that out loud ... game designers would have to be blending elements into the mix. I hope elements of basic/1st ed era return as well as elements from 2nd ed. I hope the preserve some of the good stuff from 3.0-4e era D&D as well. But I dearly hope that they look towards some of the really cutting edge RPGs in the indie/small press category as well. Above all I hope we can at least have a by the rules option to NOT USE THE GRID in 5th ed D&D.

I also hope that the OSR people can stop proclaiming victory over WoTC as theirs alone. The Paizo/3.5 guys have done a bigger part in terms of just not giving WoTC cash for a bad game and making due with what it was they like about D&D ... just like the OSR guys have. What about the third column of D&D dissent ... the guys like me ... who just stopped playing all together? I stopped giving WoTC money and I didn't have a chance and/or the inclination to get whole hog into OSR and tried as I might 3.0-Pathfinder D&D was just never for me. I did my 4e time and then left. So where does that leave the guys who still love D&D but feel dispossessed? Hopefully WoTC is looking to bring us back into the fold as well and if so I hope they aren't going to just stamp a brand on OSRs ass or Pathfinder-ize D&D (they couldn't we all know we won't see a simple return to OGL, I'm just saying ...). No 5th ed is a move in a new direction and we all need to keep things in perspective and watch the epeen and chest thumping.

D&D has been a sick old cancer ridden man with a bad heart and cataracts ... for a long time. Its time to pass the torch, not time to jump up and down about his demise. But micro-celebrities in the blog-o-sphere are going to likely do alot of "I told you so" high five crap. It is inevitable. I think all of us have been saying we see 4e on the way out for a long time. I could thump my chest a bit saying I predicted this over a year ago ... but that would be bogus because I follow many blogs, talk to a wide range of people in different towns, at cons, etc. etc. about gaming and just absorb what others are saying. Such is the nature of a constantly plugged in world. I'm looking at this as a moment when there is some opportunity to bridge some rifts and heal some wounds and I hope that the overall OSR community, the players of pathfinder, 3.0/3.5 ed guys, etc. will try to exert positive influence if indeed WoTC is going to be listening.

Again hope against hope I do that this is the ticket we've all been waiting for and so that is how I'm going to leave my mind on 5th ed for now. I would be shocked if we see the game out before next fall at the earliest and I wouldn't be half surprised to see it come in the spring or summer of 2013 (a Gencon 2013 launch would make sense).

Addendum to the original post (just because its too big to fit in the comments section):

I don't disagree about demographics mattering and I don't disagree with the point about amount spent vs. people who play. Though even there don't go too far with discounting numbers. You can be certain that Hasbro pays attention to the numbers not just who is spending right now. They are looking at market share, number of customers, etc. those guys might not be buying books but maybe they will chip in with some buddies for a group DDI account, maybe they'll buy some D&D special edition dice or whatnot, etc. Maybe they won't buy books but maybe they will buy a video game. So WoTC does make decisions as probably does Paizo based on numbers ... not just on who is spending today or next month. I don't want to over state that though nor suggest that how many people playing something vs. how many people buying it ... clearly I fully concede by far how many people are buying is the most important of the two. Obviously and if I overstated I was wrong.

A age old anecdote about the RPG industry that I've heard for years and heard industry folks at GAMA say in a tongue in cheek fashion "the average RPG consumer spends 0.00 per year on actually RPG materials." RPG fans have historically been cheap, pirates who are content to plunder their rules, or share a players handbook between five people.

One of my main points actually and I'm sorry I expressed it poorly, is that Pathfinder is selling alot more product than OSR, again if you don't give OSR the huge boost by including all small press/indie RPGs with OSR. I believe that the amount spent on Pathfinder alone is more than all of OSR, and I'd be surprised if that wasn't by a wide margin. Again we are not lumping small press RPGs or Indie RPGs with OSR. They are not part of OSR. Mouseguard, Dogs in the Vineyard, Fiasco, Dresden Files are not OSR. So all that activity while having impact probably on WoTCs sales (maybe I don't know what kind of crossover there is). Again NO CLUE if that is the case just posing a theory.

If that isn't the case though and someone can link something to disprove that statement ... then indeed my logic is flawed ... otherwise it still holds water.

Another thing I will admit, I say it constantly on this "blog" of mine. I'm not a pro/elite blogger. I sit, I type, I don't even edit. Its a one shot, spur of the moment thought journal for me basically. Just a way to put an idea out there and see what people think if anyone even responds. Its mostly just a cathartic exercise for me. I have a masters degree in public administration, I've taken some business and economics courses but I am by no means a stock analyst or economist.

My main reason for saying these things and/or posing the theory is I keep asking myself what are OSR people spending their money on? My experience with OSR is alot of free or very cheaply priced product with a few exceptions. My experience with OSR is also alot of second hand purchases. OSR people tend to spend alot on ebay, alot on old 1st ed. modules, etc. That = zero benefit or effect upon WoTC or Paizo. I will theorize again that the Paizo guys, are outspending both the OSR and the 4e fans these days. That was the main point.

Clearly and obviously demographics matter. The baby boomers have far more disposable wealth than any other population cohort right now. Working professionals of all generations have more to spend on games, etc. so if someone can market a product do you want to market them to people with money? Or 18-25 year olds who tend to not have anywhere near as much discretionary income? Business 101 does apply I don't disagree. If we really got into the issue, it would require proprietary info from Hasbro and Paizo and some sort of "industry" wide numbers for OSR. But again ... how many OSR people are there? I see some blogs, I see some podcasts. I see no local brick and mortar stores in my area (or many places at least in the Western US) that heavily cater to OSR. I do see those stores catering to Paizo folks and still selling D&D. I see D&D and Pathfinder for sale at Barnes and Noble, en mass on Amazon. I don't see as much OSR stuff though. That is my point. I see many people proclaiming how big OSR is and now how large their purchasing power is. Yet I don't see any data to support that? I do agree if you lump OSR in with ALL the small press RPG activity it is substantital but that is disingenious as the Indie-Small Press RPG scene is not about OSR really at all. Its about Cubicle 7, Evil Hat, IPR, Drive Through RPG, etc. certainly some OSR stuff is traded on those sites and on lulu. Again though unless each OSR fan is spending hundreds each year on PDFs ... they are in my opinion not even going to be close to the spending levels of Paizo fans. Who are buying their publications and now miniatures, etc. etc. in large quantities all over the place.

For example The Warstore, Miniature Market, just to name a few carry Paizo products. I don't see really any OSR products there though. So this big OSR puff up about how OSR is doing all things for the industry, controlling the hearts and minds of the most important fans, apparently selling vast untold millions in product. I'm just not seeing it? Where? Who is making these piles of cash? Perhaps ebay ... on the after market sales of 1st ed modules. If we lumped that in, perhaps we could call OSR a significant factor in terms of percentage of RPG sales.

I'm not saying OSR is insignificant, far from it, clearly intellectually OSR has been very, very important. When you have the likes of Mike Mearls talking about OSR as well as other noted and/or influentail game designers you can't discount that. OSR has made its mark. If in no other way than by simply proving that people can just return to the classic systems that weren't broken and didn't need to be fixed. People can use the OGL to publish new materials, people can buy 1st ed stuff and simply convert it, etc. etc

I get this and applaud it. I'm just saying if there is a flaw in my logic about the size of the OSR customer base ... then show me the data? I can't find it. OSR in my opinion based on what I readily admit to be anecdotal data mixed with making assumptions based on some other sources (for example look at the amazon sales figures for the sales of WoTC vs. Paizo core books, etc.).

My point isn't to troll or be argumentative my point is that I think things are getting blown out of perspective from the OSR community. There is oddly ... how or why I don't understand ... alot of ego there. From the little I've seen in the blogosphere and OSR podcasts even before this 5th ed announcement I hear much chest pounding and really arrogant "we are all important" kinda rhetoric. This week with the 5th ed announcement that kinda thing seemed to really get blown out of proportion.

To be fair I haven't been watching the Paizo boards or equivalent pathfinder blogs, etc. so perhaps its just as bad there. At least in the case of pathfinder I could see some justification for smugness. Even then though it really would be unjustified. I think the failure of 4e came more from mismanagement and market forces than anything else. D&D has been a property somewhat adrift for a few years now. After the initial launch of D&D and say the first 18 months or so of release ... things just started sliding down hill. Was that because of OSR or Pathfinder? No. That was the fault of WoTC alone. So taking credit for slaying the dragon in a case where it basically swallowed its own tongue .. is a little unjustified. That was my main point.

The larger issue is ... it is out of this kind of environment that WoTC hopes to "re-unite" people and win the hearts and minds of its very fractured customer base? How the hell are they going to do that and if they somehow manage to pull it off, it is something that not just the RPG industry should make note of but its something that academics and business leaders outside of the industry should watch closely ... it would really be a comeback for the ages. This wouldn't be an outright first, for other similar examples one can look to: Harley Davidson, Apple, don't laugh ... seriously ... Martha Stewart, Ford, Best Buy, etc. Those are examples of businesses with fragmented, actually hostile customer bases ... which managed to navigate the mine field and find a way to come back from it. Do I predict a great comeback of D&D ... sadly ... probably not. But it is possible if the right people do the right things in unison and they finally get and stay focused on the customers.

5th edition Dungeons and Dragons Announced ...

Well 2/3s of the blogs I follow I'm sure are alight with discussion about this, honestly I haven't checked any of that yet. I've only seen the WoTC site stuff and had some discussion with friends on our local game group board.

To me I've been burned by WoTC many times and have a deep seated pessimissim about the future of D&D. I have to be honest about that up front. That said though, in my heart of hearts, I deeply wish these guys would get things right and return the franchise to happier days. I think tabletop RPG needs a unifying force, a brilliant gateway to new players, something beckoning people to try it out. I think we all need a good old standby RPG again. So I hope that this time we are given a system that the disparate groups from OSR, to the 3.5/Pathfinder purists, to the 4e fanboys ... can all rally around. That might sound impossible and I admit I have said as much on more than one occasion, but really it isn't impossible. It is very possible. There are already murmurings of a multifaceted system where one can add or take away layers of complexity. If they do really end up going that direction fully and they try to really be accommodating to the different groups. The deep story RP people, the crunchy mini based, grid based, combat people .. allowing people to take out the RP stuff or take out the need for grid and long, complex combats ... and have the game still be whole somehow. Well, that would indeed be something at least worth looking at for anyone who has in the past enjoyed D&D ... wouldn't it?

I ran across this comment on the WoTC board and as far as 4e and Forgotten Realms. Just a quote from

"I agree with progenitus5... as a major fan of FR I was horrified at how alien the setting became. (I do understand the necessity to eliminate the metagame from this setting... but there again a big stick is more apt!) FR in previous editions was a beautiful entity - the gem of the RPG world. 4e changed the feel of this - something which completely summarises this edition. 4e felt out of touch... failing to capture the true essence of the DnD experience. That, for me, was the gamebreaker. Jbennett, January 9, 2012"

Just a quote from a random dude without spell check turned on ... lol. But honestly I think that captures what is wrong with the game from my perspective as well. I felt this way about D&D since 2nd ed. Even in 2nd ed much of the stuff that came out lacked the spirit of original D&D.

Most of the years of 3.0-4e has just felt ... off ... for me. There were flashes of fun with those systems. Hell for about six months we had 4e going well and really thought we'd found a new favorite game, that was short lived though and we hit that inveterate wall in the system then shortly thereafter got hit over the head with the brick that essentials was. Honestly I know many folks out there didn't feel this way about 3.0-3.5 because its most of the D&D some people have played. So that IS D&D for some people. For me I recall a odd mix of basic/1st and 2nd as my first experiences with D&D way back in the days ... and I had several years of that ... then I stopped playing D&D for probably 10 or 12 years and came back to it in my mid 20s a little while after getting back into mini wargames. We had a few very good years of 2nd ed at the end of its run in my old gaming group and then ... 3.0 came out and I personally never got my D&D mojo back. I am a huge fan of miniature war games

To me D&D is at its core a fantasy RP game and settings filled with a sense of darkness and foreboding yet mixed with elements of frivolity, humor and heroism. When this is all done in a very interesting way it just creates wonder and magic unlike almost any other game can. It is from that diverse cocktail of stuff that people have woven endlessly entertaining games for decades. I hope they find a way to bring that back more than anything else. D&D losing its way has really been nothing but a bad thing for all tabletop gaming ... I think these impacts have extended even beyond just the RPG side of tabletop gaming to the entire tabletop gaming community.


Ok having read more blogs, more online chatter, my biggest question is 5th edition still a grid based game? That is the biggest question I have right now. I don't see how they'll be able to break away from the grid in post 3.0 world. The grid has been the source of a majority of the problems with post 2nd ed D&D (many of the problems with D&D do in fact have their roots in the mid to late run 2nd ed stuff). The grid is constraining and I say this as a historical wargamer, a decades long fan of Games Workshp games, etc. I love minis, I even have a special nostalgia for minis based D&D. But the grid based versions of D&D have lacked that special something I think in large part due to the big derailing, game interrupting nature of grid based, very complex combats. Story and RP defacto have to take a back seat in a grid based, crunchy combat game. I do not believe it will be possible to please all the various groups ... the deeper RP/Story folks on the OSR side AND the crunchy grid/minis based combat guys on the 3.0-pathfinder-4e side ... all at once. Yet that is what is being said is the aim of 5th ed. So I'm deeply intrigued to see how this seemingly impossible task is going to be pulled off ... this is either going to be a really historic game ... or one of the biggest flops we've ever seen. The stakes are high in nerdland :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vampire Counts + Unbalanced look and feel + Resin = Meh

Ok ... I've seen some of the new Vampire counts stuff on the GW site, BoW, and around the net and some of it looks very beautiful and well done. Yet there are some things I'm seeing like ... Resin bat swarms ... but not NEW sculpts?!!?!! What??? WHY!!

GW is "finecasting" (I feel dirty just typing that) a bunch of the "classic" models. The old bat swarms, I'm sorry those to me are not "classic" they are an old sculpting style that isn't redeeming, interesting in a kitchy way or anything ... those should be plastic on one of the sprues they should come with the zombies or skelletons or whatever like ripper swarms do for the nids. Why on earth would they do that?? Expect people to pay 24 bucks for what looks like two swarm bases? What the hell?? Ya I know maybe 20 guys globally want some new ones to match their current army but ... seriously ... even then 24 bucks a swarm? Why would anyone use GW models for that. At that price I can buy pewter reaper swarms for 6.99 and they match the look and feel of the old range nicely ... so GW can hang when it comes to this price gouging BS! Lets not even talk about 53.00 for a resin black coach. Seriously? 53 bucks?? What the hell that is just obscene!!

It is a matter of the greed or mismanagement (or both) and lack of a long range planning GW seems to have these days. That to me seems the most striking difference between GW today and GW five or ten years ago. Today it almost seems like their strategy with miniature gaming is more lets make the quick buck, lets worry about this quarters profits, to where five and ten years ago they seemed content to have a methodical multi-year, long range plan. Certainly that is still there and the current economic environment has alot to do with things, but I have to wonder if the mass departure of all the old guard in terms of game designers doesn't have alot to do with this as well. From what I've heard there has been a power shift at GW over the past decade or so and now the game design folks are sort of seen as subservient to the demands from the MBAs and corporate executive folks ... and the creative content coming out of GW ... at least in my opinion is showing it. I think there are some strong similarities between what is going on with GW and what has gone on over at WoTC.

I really need to look at their annual shareholders report (though I don't know how much they have to disclose being in the UK) I'm curious to even see what percentage of their revenue comes from mini games anymore. The things they do just simply don't make sense. I get upset about this because GW really holds a dear and special place in my heart so even if I'm not playing many of their games these days, I still hope for them to succeed but in a way that strengthens the community, in a way that brings new people to the hobby. Driving the costs of minis up so high that it is laughable for parents to look into it as a hobby for their kids. Seriously at 60 bucks a video game, even a few a month, that is cheaper than being heavily into GW games by far. During my peak about six or seven years ago I was spending $500.00 a month on average with some months going up as high as $1000.00 or more and that was at a 20% discount without sales tax. I still wasn't able to keep up with all their releases. Now we know that the typical teenager isn't going to pull that off, but even buying a single army ... now is a $1000.00 prospect in many cases. Why?? Why on earth does it need to be that way? It doesn't. GW is unwilling to look for ways to make their game cheaper and more inclusive, they seem hell bent on shrinking their customer base and offering only models at the high end, more forgworld at really ludicrous prices (for the price of a single large Forgeworld model I can buy a legion of roman figs, an entire mantic horde army, etc. etc. there are even other options out there like the dreamcast titans, etc. that are IMO better done than the forgeworld stuff. All the eastern European resin knock off places have jumped into the action ... thanks to GWs insane pricing almost anyone can make money producing models for their games.

I don't care for myself anymore as I've just largely given up on ever playing GW games again (other than their historical systems which they don't even support anymore, perhaps some blood bowl, mordeheim or necromunda, etc.). The reason I care and my big worry is just that due to pricing being driven ever higher coupled with the fact that kids can much more easily access video games ... what is the future of tabletop mini games? GW has been the historical gateway for most young people to get into mini gaming. Outside of GW mini games are largely the pursuit of old men ... is it going to only become more so thanks to GWs lack of care?? One can only hope Mantic and Privateer Press can find a way to get minis back in the hands of young folks on the scale that GW has been able to.

I have been very frustrated that GW is only focused on the top of the market, but that said it has undoubtedly created alot of opportunity for other smaller companies to come in and gobble up little crumbs. So I spend my money on the high end with Warlord on historical stuff, and at the economy end with the host of companies like reaper, etc. etc. So who knows maybe the renaissance is just around the corner. Dark Eldar and even the Space Wolves (despite some blah stuff in there) were solid new releases and I really was sorely tempted to get back in, I bought the wolves codex and had plans for an army. Even with fantasy I really was hoping to get into that with the small group of locals who aren't store troll power gaming jerks ... but the rulebook is 100 bucks (nearly anyway) and selling people on a $1000.00 game ... its just a non-starter.

I guess the silver lining for me though is from Blood Angels, Tomb Kings, to Ogres, to Necrons and now this ... GW has had a string of releases that just absolutely failed to capture my imagination like they used to. So more and more I'm ebay'ing off my GW stuff and looking to historicals and non-GW games for my mini gaming hope.