Friday, February 28, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Final Post

The Single Most Important Lesson I've learned from playing D&D ...

This is a very challenging question to be honest.  It is difficult to boil down the sum total of my D&D experience to a single lesson.   I honestly thought about this for a little while and I think my last post really sums up what D&D is about for me and what I have learned from it and why I keep coming back.

D&D is about fun.  

Yes that is an ultra simplistic breakdown of a role playing game.  Ya ya ... games are supposed to be fun.
But that is a zen like mantra.  When you play a bad game, sure the first time you play maybe it is sort of fun, maybe even the second, or the fifth time (I'm looking at you Monopoly).  At some point though bad mechanics are going to shine through and your going to get bored.  Stay with me here ... that never happened with D&D.  I caught the bug at age 10 and even though I left D&D for years and years, I came back to it ... 

When I did.  What did I find?


That simple.

D&D is one of the pivotal things in my life that taught me to just stop sometimes and have fun.  Just do something purely for fun.  Hell it doesn't have to be D&D it can be anything that provides you with pure unadulterated fun.  Again this is not an earth shattering revelation I'm giving here, but be honest.  As we age and acquire that mortgage, those car payments, that demanding boss/girlfriend/spouse/kids more and more of our time is claimed doing un-fun stuff.  It is easy to sacrifice your own happiness, take some time and have some fun for yourself.

For me I learned that D&D, with a little effort (not too much) is a source of fun.  That is why I keep coming back to it.  It has provided me with more fun than any other game I've ever played.  It isn't even close.  D&D hands down has given me at this point, probably several thousand hours of fun.  The fun to money ratio of D&D is amazing.  The fun to time ratio isn't honestly that bad either (given that so much of the time you invest is actually fun).  I could go on and on, rambling about this very simple concept that is so plain it doesn't really need to be said.  But I have a penchant for stating the obvious!  

I'll leave you now with amazing words of wisdom (appropriately unrelated) from one of the greatest thinkers of our age ... THE DUNGEON BASTARD!  The lesson here is, again, have fun and don't take any of this too seriously.  

D&D as an adult gave me a good reminder that fun is a necessary element of life! I really do believe that we all need fun in our lives.  Don't forget to have fun, every single damn day if possible! 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Post 26 -- Any regrets about D&D?

D&D ... if I had it to do all over again what would I do anything differently when I first started gaming?

I think I have no regrets at all about my early experiences with D&D.  In fact I think I was blessed with a near optimal entry into the hobby for so many reasons.  First it was the literal "golden age" of D&D, second it was the analog age.  I had no distractions of technology calling me away to spend hours on YouTube or on the latest Call of Duty title.  Third I had a great version of the game to start into D&D with, basic red box D&D.  I can't imagine being a ten year old kid today and just starting D&D for so many reasons I do not see how children could possibly pull off D&D the way we were able to as kids in the 1980s.

We approached the game with a sense of adventure, wonder and even a little awe.  We took it seriously, yet we let it be fun.  When we came together to game, we did so with the spirit of having a good time.  Our DM was serious and applied the rules, but he didn't let that get in the way of that spirit of adventure, or our collective fun.  Those are very simple things, but I cannot tell you how many times I've been in a game where those things just didn't materialize or weren't respected from the beginning.

So honestly I can say I have nothing I'd do differently when I first started gaming.  I have plenty of regrets with how we approached things in various games over the past five or six years, but nothing from my early years.  I think in general the biggest faux pas one can make with D&D or really any game is to take it too seriously.  I also think that when one plays and RPG they need to have a giving attitude.  By that I mean be you a DM or a player you are part of a shared, collective experience.  You are responsible for adding to the fun, for helping breath life into the character and world in which you are playing.  Respect your DM, respect your fellow player, respect the game and respect yourself and above all don't forget to have fun!  All simple fortune cooking kind of advice, but to me that is what it all boils down to.

Never lose your sense of wonder and adventure ... if you can hang onto that ... not just in gaming, but in life, I believe you will have a much better time of it all :)

Here is a great little video that sums it all up I think ...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fun oldhammer/pulp army - Kallistra PYGMIES!!

Today I got a cool package from the UK, my Kallistra Pygmies arrived!

Somehow 2014 has become the year of jungle gaming for me for whatever reason.  I have decided to revisit my old school rogue trader era Catachan army, I'm working on a lizardmen army and sort of as part of that project I decided to pick up a reasonably sized pygmy army.

That roughly 140 pygmies, roughly a unit with blow guns, a unit with hand weapons and shields and a couple units with spears and shields.   I have a couple of palm tree catapults and about 16 boar riding pygmies.

To give an idea of size here is a GW fig.  Honestly these guys could work as large sized 15mm figs (maybe ogre sized or some giant sized jungle warriors).

I am aware these figs are a little non-PC, but they are a fantasy range and did not acquire them in that spirit nor do I really see them like that.  I honestly really love them, they have so much character!  I can hardly wait to get them based and painted.

I'm a little on the fence about how to base them.  I think I'm going to avoid basing them on square bases and instead base them on pennies.  I'll then make square movement trays for them if I want to field them in blocks.

They'll probably see more play in Song of Blades and Heroes, etc. than in WHFB games, granted I don't see myself fielding 150 of these guys in any SBH games ... EVER ... but I wanted to have the option of using them in WFHB, Kings of War, Armies of Arcana, etc.

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Post 26 -- What happened to my original D&D group

Sadly I've gone it my own way.  My first group I played with were a bunch of great guys.  I was twelve the last time I played D&D with that group.  When I was a kid we move around a lot as my dad worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and as he moved up in the company it seemed we had to go somewhere else. Anyway about every three years we moved.  So I lost contact with those guys pretty much.  I saw them in high school and had some quick emails to them here and there in early college.  But its been well over ten years since I've heard from any of them.  Last time I heard they were all off to the four corners of the Pacific Northwest, here and there doing different things. Again though that was well over a decade ago, I'm sure their all married with kids and whatnot now, working for the man, mortgages, car payments and life ... set in upon them. 

The funny thing is I think that experience caused me to do what I've done ever since I was done with my first round of graduate school.  That is to create a home gaming group that is more or less some recreation of that first group.  I don't mean literally, I'm not out searching for people who look like my childhood pals all grown up.  No I just mean that having that weekly group, no matter where I live, has sort of been a thing for me since my mid-20s.

I've never really thought about it but it is sort of me chasing nostalgia I guess.  I have good times for sure and I'm glad I do it ... but I can't help but feel like a loner sometimes chasing things that I might never find again.

But I sully on, and have no regrets.  I have a great group right now and we are making our own gaming fun and charging off in new directions.  So maybe this time around I'll create a new archetype for a gaming group for myself ... only time will tell I guess ...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Battle of the blood bowl clones!!

So all of a sudden we have this glut of blood bowl clones on Kickstarter!  What is up with that! I'm calling unnecessary roughness on this one!  Someone could lose their pants!!


I didn't back the original Dreadball and I do wish I had.  But I am currently backing Dreadball Xtreme at the crazy frenzy level (that might change though the project has awhile to go yet and if the math doesn't work out on it I'll drop down to the uproar level probably).  I don't know I'm somewhat excited about the project.  BUT ... there happens to be two other alternatives up right now which are both a little tempting.

So we have Slaughterball.  I'm backing it too.  Again I'm going to wait and see what the end payoff is ... right now it looks like they are going to struggle to get very deep into their stretch goals.  I think they should fund they have 19 days left and they are half way to their $40,000.00 goal.

Finally ...

 So the one that I am not backing, mainly just due to not getting as much for the cost, Guildball does look interesting and they have funded. 

Dreadball Xtreme is the clear frontrunner, they seemed to just automatically fund to several hundred thousand and could easily crack the 1 million dollar mark knowing how popular mantics offerings tend to be. I think Slaughterball and Guildball are going to struggle by comparison, which is sad because I'd love to see more games like these. 

I hope they do succeed because I think a good, very clean, fast playing Blood-Bowl-esq game could be really awesome. If the design has enough fun and doesn't boil down to too much random or just a total chess game. So we'll see ... right now I'm backing 2 of 3 and I'll likely drop one if not potentially both ... just depending on how the projects develop. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Post 25 -- Longest Running RPG I've been involved with.

A years long D&D campaign is sort of like a marathon in the snow, but up hill both ways.

Well.  I have honestly been in far more 3-5 shot campaigns than not.  In fact I believe there is a "law of RPGs" that is something along the lines of never plan for more than 12 sessions.  In the span of 12 sessions there is always some sort of life changing event that occurs if you have say a five player group and a DM.  Someone's girlfriend/boyfriend has a work schedule change, one of the players or the DM has a work schedule change, a new semester starts with different class schedules, etc.  You get the point.  It seems that over the 20 or so active years I've had as a gamer that every RPG campaign I've been involved in seems to have had a maximum realistic trajectory of 12 sessions.  So as a DM I plan for only 12 sessions to start and then go from there.

So to answer the initial question.  The longest game I every played in was actually the very first a red box basic game.  It lasted about two years technically.  We played in the same home brew campaign setting.  The second longest was about 20 months I think, 2nd ed. D&D.   The longest game I've ever run is actually the one I just wrapped up, which was a mere 30 sessions (ish), Dungeon World.  We might pick up again in the game perhaps next fall.  The players have interest.  The reason the campaign ended was me.  I have some big stuff coming with school and work so I thought it best to have a nice "chapter 2" end point and allow someone else in our group to run a game for awhile.

I have some ambition to possibly run an Iron Kingdoms game over the summer and some one shot fun stuff here and there.  If I fire up a long term DW game again it will probably be next October and then I'd run it through the winter into the late spring probably. 

Say it ain't so ... Egon Spengler is gone.

Really very sad to hear that Harold Ramis passed away yesterday.  Sad news.

Rest in Peace Egon ... rest in peace ... if you don't you might end up in the containment unit.

May it be said you only crossed the streams when you had to!

Man I'm really busted up about this. I dearly loved Ramis, he was a true icon. More as a writer than an actor but those films were really a big part of my childhood. Probably as much as the Raiders or Star Wars films to be honest.


Unrelated, but sort of cool as Harold is interviewed here ... 

Gamer Archetypes according to Dr. Richard Garfield ...

Gamer ADD does it exist?

Having read a really cool article from of all places Vice Magazine with Dr. Richard Garfield the creator of Magic the Gathering (go read the interview it's good) I started thinking about "gamer ADD" that dreaded curse which can afflict a gaming group/club.

One of the interesting points Dr. Garfield brings up is this notion that there are three types of gamers; innovators, honers and champions.

The innovator is someone who tinkers with the rules, enjoys learning what a game can do and then experimenting with those rules in an attempt to innovate. Presumably though at a certain point though these people sort of hit the maximum amount of "innovating" potential and move on to other games.  Garfield's quote in the article that sums this up is "I take pleasure in trying to think outside the box in games," the innovator in a nutshell.  Figuring out how to use the rules differently or make the game play/feel different, etc.  
The honer, hones the rules.  They aren't so much concerned with the innovation part of things but more with complete rules mastery.  They seek to perfect the rules and master the game.  It seems like there is certainly overlap with the innovator, but I see his point that they are not one and the same.

Speaking of being one and the same, the third archetype Garfield lists is the champion can presumably combine both the qualities of the innovator and the honer to learn to both innovate with the rules but also master them.

I'm probably 90% an innovator, 5% honer, 5% champion.  I've had a few flashes of game honing and even combining the two and reaching the champion level with a game.  What I mean by that is back in the day with Warhammer 40K for example, and no I don't mean I just was a champion at tournaments.  I was incessantly reading the rules creating army builder lists, looking at the rules from every angle, practicing the game (playing as many as a dozen full games a week, etc.).  But my general MO is that  I get bored once a game gets to the honing stage and move on to other games.  It isn't that I can't continue to enjoy a game, it is that I need to have new challenges beyond just grinding out that last 10-15% of proficiency with a game.  Some people live for "honing" out that last big of game mastery and that is cool but just not my cup of tea.

This article really gets to the core of what many people see as gamer ADD.  For some people who can't play the same character in an RPG for more than a session, or people who just endlessly bounce from thing to thing ... yes there really is a gamer ADD.  But that is probably more a case of clinical ADD.  For me I do not have that (though if there is a powerful vector ... I can catch the contagion) with games so much, I think if a game is good and well designed it will hold my interest for a reasonable amount of time.  But I usually see pretty quickly if a game is deep enough to allow for some extended "innovation" and if it is it can hold my interest for months or potentially even years.  If the innovation potential is quickly exhausted though and I reach what I perceive as a "grind" ... in order to master this game you need to "practice" ... I'm out.  I don't like to have to do that with games, I just get bored at that stage.  Its is the same regardless of the game, from video games (RTS, MMOs, etc.), mini games, RPGs, or board games when I hit the honing stage I get bored.  

So open ended RPGs where things are really open and up to interpretation (Vincent Baker games are a good example, FATE is another example) tend to hold my interest.  Big mini games with regular releases does as well because the games constantly change but also there are other opportunities for innovation.  Even the elements of modeling, painting and creating terrain become opportunities for innovation.  So those hold my interest as well.

All this got me thinking about my own early involvement with games, particularly around the 5th grade I think, I played chess very frequently, I was pretty good, I'm not claiming I was the next Bobby Fisher or anything though.  I just won almost every game I played.  I was the chess champ of my school, I went to a regional competition and won.  When I hit the state level (Oregon) I got bored, I didn't want to practice and learn historical chess matches, learn individual opponents, etc. So I played in the one state level event way back in the mid 80's and then just quit (I did well actually though from what I recall, somewhere I have a little certificate) and just remember I really disliked it. I always wondered why I did that.  I really don't give up easily on things, I always stuck things out in sports, gods know I do that with academics ... I get obsessed with completing a course, degree, etc.  to such an extent I have two masters degrees, I'm heading into a third one soon and then I will finish out with my PhD.  I get obsessed like that.  I never knew why with games though I didn't seem to have the same attitude.  Well after reading this interview I think I do now understand it.  I like how he put things, a very interesting breakdown of different kinds of ways gamers see games.

Anyway great article it was really an epiphany for me.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge Post 23&24 -- First song and film I associated with D&D

So as a very small child, around age five I was for the first time exposed to the classic (either classic bad or good depending on your perspective) Rankin/Bass/Bakashi films.  I really don't know what order I saw them in

The Rankin/Bass Hobbit animated film was out in 1977 and the Bakashi Lord of the Rings animated film was released in 1978, and then Rankin/Bass did a Return of the King that is I guess sort of related to the first film (obviously it is all Tolkien and the same story, but the animation was different as were many of the voice actors I think) it was released in 1980.  I think it was probably 1979 or 1980 when I saw them for the first time.  I recall watching the Hobbit on my tiny 12 inch black and white TV in my bedroom when it aired on TV (yes I do have a vague recollection of black and white TV sets, rabbit ears and all). 

While it would be several years after that before I first encountered D&D, those films left an indelible mark upon my impressionable young mind.  No matter how bad they are I have strong nostalgia for them and really I am so very glad I encountered them as they made me want to read Tolkien, which believe it or not inspired me to want to read about history.  Those books inspired me to want to read more books, period. I know very odd as they aren't really great children books, I'd probably have been far better off with the Chronicles of Narnia or something.  But in terms of D&D and gaming, there is flat out no way I think I'd have ever really ended up wanting to play D&D.  The only reason I had a chance to play in my first game was because I had read Tolkien, my friends older "cool" middle school brother allowed me to play in his game because I could BS with him about Tolkien.  That lead me down the path of becoming a gamer.  Otherwise I think I'd have just been a sports fan and never been a geek.  Ya ya .. what  curse ... but seriously I cannot imagine how different my life would have been if I would not have encountered these cheesy films.

Now as for music.  I'm sure I could make up some musical connection somewhere else.  But really there is no other song that did not spring to mind first in terms of a connection to D&D.  I recall actually singing this song when we were captured by orcs in our first D&D game (which I'm sure our Tolkien fan, middle school, DM was just wholesale ripping off from the LoTR).

Where there is a whip there is a way ... terrible ... classic ... always has a special place in my heart!

Where there's a whip, there's a way.
Where there's a whip, there's a way.
Where there's a whip...

We don't wanna go to war today
But the Lord of the Lash says: "nay, nay, nay!"
We're gonna march all day, all day, all day!
Where there's a whip there's a way!

Where there's a whip, there's a way!
Left, right, left, right
The crack on the back says we're gonna fight
We're gonna march all day and night and more
For we are the slaves of the Dark Lord's war.

Where there's a whip, there's a way!
We don't wanna go to war today!

We don't wanna go to war today
But the Lord of the Lash says: "nay, nay, nay!"
We're gonna march all day, all day, all day!
Where there's a whip there's a way!
Left, right, left right!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge -- 1st D&D books I ever sold

The first D&D related books I ever read were the endless quest books.  The very first of those I read was the classic Dungeon of Dread  as you can see by the picture there by Rose Estes fantasy author extraordinaire (sarcasm there).  No it isn't Shakespeare but when I was ten this stuff was high adventure!   I owned hundreds of choose your own adventure books and this one was towards the top of my list.  I read this thing ragged.  Somewhere down the basement book vault I still have it I believe (I was too lazy to look for it before doing this post).

Anyway I would be very remiss if I didn't at least mention the Chronicles of Dragonlance as some of the most influential books of my early childhood.  I think I was 11 or 12 when I started reading them and devoured the first I don't know ... what ... 20 or so.  After that things fell of the deep end and I looked to other authors.  Even there though by the time I was in high school I had stopped reading fantasy and sadly haven't really been back.  For a geek who likes fantasy, Warhammer, D&D, etc. I am not very well read.  I guess its not a bad thing as when I hit college I majored in history and read hundreds of history books.  Then I went on to graduate school and started in on anything related to public administration, health care and general management.  

But most of my adult life I've just either been in school working on another degree or during the periods I wasn't in school (and thus experiencing the leisure time reading drought one usually does when they are being required to read metric shit tons ... technical term there) when I did read pulpy adventure stuff it tended to be GW black library stuff.  So to this day I've never read Jordan, Brooks, Eddings, Anthony, Goodkind.  I of course have read the hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and some random stuff by more obscure authors like Raymond E. Feist (who I turned to after my Dragonlance phase had run its course).

2014 Big Gaming project Update: Lizardmen army acquisition phase almost complete!

So I got a package in the mail from my friend in Las Vegas, Will  who I am trading off some sedition wars stuff and some other random WHFB stuff that I don't have a use for but he does.  We basically are just swapping stuff we aren't going to use anytime soon with each other ... lol.  Anyway this pretty much puts the finishing touch on my Lizardmen force.  The only models I really do not have are Kroxigors and I am on the fence about what to do.  I just can't find the GW models, old or new at what I feel is a reasonable price.  I'd like to have about a dozen just because.  Given that, at the best price I could get GW versions for that would be over $100.00 even with a great deal on eBay or something.  So more and more I'm leaning towards going with another range.

Anyway I am really excited about this model I got from Will.  He did some cool conversion work on it.   Hard to make out from my cruddy phone pictures but there is a cool little crown on him. Actually this whole lot is cool because he did all the assembly work, etc. so it is really pretty much ready to be painted (Lord Kroak not withstanding).   Not a single piece of failcast in the lot :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

The front porch is cluttered with packages today!

So FRP games was having a sale on a few things so I picked up my first Malifaux, Kabuki and Scibor minis.  I've been eyeing them for years and never have taken the plunge.  They are all pretty looking.  I just bought them to have, to maybe throw in with other projects.

I picked up the other Cyclades expansion, so I should have everything for the game pretty much now, including the promo stuff.

I also grabbed the Windigo stuff that I've been wanting from Crocodile (Wargods of Aegyptus/Hyperboria). I grabbed the starter group along with the giant awesome abominable snowman o' doom.  He is heavy as hell!

Anyway I was pretty happy that this stuff got here in one piece given the state of the box it arrived in.

More Warhammer Fantasy stuff ... the lizardmen pile grows!

So here is the hard to tell WTF this is pile o' bitz and whatnot.  A friend treked down to Strategicon and managed to pick up a bunch of WHFB stuff at a really good price.  So I snagged a bunch.  What is there is:

  • Skaven Hell Pit Abomination
  • Stegadon
  • Lizardmen Battalion 

When I'm going to get to my Skaven stuff I have no clue, but the Lizardmen are going to be my summer project.  I'm pretty much done with acquisition other than probably about $40-$50 on bitz, perhaps one or two other character models and a couple of big Schleich dinosaurs.  I have a final group of lizardmen coming in the mail from a friend in Las Vegas.  We worked out a trade.  So I'll throw some pictures up of that stuff when it gets in.

I am really looking forward to painting all this stuff up honestly.  I really want to do a bright army for a change.  I've done so many drab, dark, dip armies.  Which I've been happy with but they just all seem to blend together in my mind.  I am no master painter, but just working with some bright colors for a change sounds like fun.

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge -- 1st D&D books I ever sold

So yes.  That image sort of displays how I encountered the newer versions of D&D.  I felt really great about "grid" based D&D early on and then gradually came to really not that great about it.

So as for the question I can honestly say I've never really "sold" any D&D books.  Not some dyed in the wool D&D purist thing, no really they just don't hold their value.  You buy the stuff at a heavy discount on Amazon and as we all know the average RPGer doesn't spend anything on the hobby.  Its the DM who has most of the books and the rest of the people just mooch.  There are always a dedicated one or two players who owns a PHB.  So there just ends up being this glut of extra core books for pretty much every system.  Sure there was a spike with the core 3.5 books there for a brief while they were worth more than their initial MSRP but that was short lived.  Generally the average D&D book is pretty cheap (again not talking obscure/rare modules, etc.) so unlike my constant buying and selling mini gaming stuff on eBay I've pretty much never sold RPG stuff, it just isn't really worth my time and effort to make $3 or $5 bucks and though I'm not living fat like I did back in the six figure days, I'm still not so poor that I am going to spend all the time listing stuff on eBay hauling books to the post office, etc. etc. to make a couple of dollars.  So they've just sat on my shelf.

Books are easy to store as well.  With other hobby stuff like minis, for me anyway I get frustrated with all the stuff taking up space so I try to downsize occasionally.  With all my RPG stuff I have large bookshelves in the basement and they are there expressly to store ... books.  So my wife is never nagging at me to clean it all up, I'm never feeling like I could really do a whole lot more with that area, so I just don't have strong incentive to even pay attention to all that stuff.

Anyway I did give away my 4th edition stuff.  Which I just gave to a friend who was going to give all of his stuff to one of his childhood friends who was a little tight on money but looking to get into the hobby just with his son.  For whatever reason that person (who I don't know and who lives half way across the country) was apparently getting into 4th. ed.  So anyway long story short my friend Scott  gave all of his 4th ed. stuff to him and I chucked my stuff in with his.  I never saw myself ever, ever playing 4th again so it seemed like a no brainer ... help a fellow gamer out with something I was never going to use anyway (and really couldn't sell even if I wanted to ... lol).

Now this isn't a bash 4th ed. piece here, please don't see it that way.  I very much dislike ALL grid based D&D.  I really do not enjoy it.  To me it isn't D&D, it isn't even role playing.  I see grid based RPGs as a bastardized hybrid board game-skirmish wargame-RPG.  Its really a watered down board game, a watered down minis game all combined with a very watered down RPG.  The focus is always going to be on getting into combat really quickly, and then staying there for most of the session.  The mini game side of things is on one hand too tactical for my taste but then again, not really tactical enough.  As for being a board game, I think 3.5/4e would be fine "Descent" emulators.  In fact I sold off all my Descent stuff this last year when I cam to that realization.  So someday perhaps I will use my old Pathfinder shit to run a Descent game, I"ll just pre-gen up some characters for people and run them through railroady dungeons.  That could be fun with my kids I guess.

Overall though I had come to the decision that I really will never go back to the grid, after several different 3.0/3.5/4e/Pathfinder games with several different groups, at conventions, and just from reading blogs, podcasts, and message board posts.  Everyone who was playing at an "optimized" level sounded a hell of a lot like the guys on Bell of Lost Souls running "optimized" warhammer 40K armies.  Its all about the power game, its all about combat and it rarely was about having a good time gaming.  Of course most home game groups were playing 3.5/4e just like we used to play 2nd ed.  Hell half of the groups out there weren't using the grid or minis (which was so laughable to me) and I recall many arguing "you don't even need minis or the grid" which always made me laugh.  Sure you didn't but then you were fudging and hand waiving half the rules ... so why the hell not just go play basic, or any one of the the fine OSR options.

Mind you this was all for me in the pre  Dungeon World days so that was not an option yet.   I never took the plunge with Castles and Crusades or Labyrinth Lord though I own printed copies of both. I have a pretty massive collection of 2nd edition D&D as well.  I never could get anyone to really want to play 2nd.  I just knew that the groups I was playing with wouldn't have wanted to do it.  Most of the groups I've played with have honestly been 3.0era fanboys.  They all started in that era and so they think that is real D&D.  For some that is true, not for me.  Anyway I didn't mean to turn this into a bash any particular version of D&D.  All my ranting aside, I think that if people enjoy grid based RPGing more power to them.  I have enjoyed being a player in 3.5/Pathfinder/4e games.  I will never say never on being a player in a grid based RPG again I just know I wouldn't run one of those types of games.  Thus no need to own any rulesets.  I do still have my Pathfinder books which again I'm holding onto on the off chance I get a wild hair to run a home brew Descent campaign where we just do a series of one shot dungeons.

This post does have me now thinking about all those books though.  I have the better part of all 2nd edition White Wolf stuff.  I really should get rid of all that stuff. Hmmmmm ...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge -- My first non-D&D RPG

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge --

The first non-D&D RPG I played was RIFTS.  It is a venerable system that I hardly need to elaborate on.  Most RPG fans have at least heard of it and it is well known enough that even non-RPG players have run across it.  Kevin Siembieda is the main guy behind it all, though he has had a whose who of sci-fi/fantasy artists do work for him and many other designers have worked with him.  But it is sort of a one man show from what I understand.

Anyway none of that had anything to do with why I played RIFTs.  It was actually pretty late in my RPG career before I departed from D&D.  After I had returned to RPGs as an adult I was fortunate to have a really stable group that played a weekly game for about two years.  After that game finally ran its course, we were up for a change.  So the DM suggested he run a RIFTs game.  He was rightfully concerned about the really gigantic amount of material available and restricted us to the collation stuff.  He also had a pretty novel approach to dealing with the "I want to play a Glitterboy!" phenomenia and that was we all started out as vagabonds and had to earn our O.C.C somehow.  The campaign lasted for about three months and it was pretty fun.  Every successive attempt at making the actual game of RIFTs work (only as a player, RIFTs is not the kind of game I'd ever want to run) has never really panned out well.

What RIFTs really did for our group and me personally was it broke the ice.  I realized that really any genre could be just as fun as D&D.  So I became much more willing to try new systems.  I eventually would gravitate towards indie/small press RPGs, stuff like FATE, Vincent Baker games, etc. etc. I think I owe my willingness to do so all to RIFTs.

These days I play anything but D&D to be honest.  I have come to prefer Dungeon World to any version of D&D.  Not because it is somehow inherently better, but because it is for me as a DM pretty much just as satisfying and far easier to pull off, taking 10% of the prep time, etc. etc. Again I am not bashing D&D, OSR or any other RPG out there I just have found that this year anyway DW is filling the D&D void rather nicely.

There is talk in our group of an Iron Kingdoms foray so that might end up being the next game I run.  So who knows.  I'm not holding my breath for 5th ed. but I will take a look at it and give it the benefit of the doubt rather than just auto hating it.

Woohoo! I love it when a delivery comes in ...

Always fun when you get a special delivery!! 

I got the two player battle set for Hordes.  Honestly don't know why I picked it up, other than I really love the Everblight and Circle of Orboros minis.  Hordes is a "maybe" thing for this summer.  

I also grabbed two board games I've been meaning to pickup forever, Kemet and Cyclades.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge -- First Gamer who annoyed the hell out of me

To me this is a post about gaming being a social activity and how we navigate an often prickly issue of individual behavior, personality and character.  So I'm approaching it from that standpoint.

So being annoyed by fellow gamers ... hmm ...

Of course I have been.  Haven't we all?

For example I've been to conventions where you get in the elevator with THAT GUY who doesn't apparently understand how to take a shower and/or use soap.  I've been in many RPG groups with THAT GUY who is an abusive jerk of a power gamer whose sole intent in life seems to be just to break the game and make the GM physically attack him.  Hell I've even had a thief in my home gaming group who absconded with about $300.00 in games workshop bitz (and it was a bits by the gram order no less meaning that it was probably more like $500-$800 worth of stuff).  I could go on, but we've all probably had these sorts of experiences in one form or another.

But rather than cast blame on others let me elaborate on why I'm probably annoying at times ..

I am a grumpy guy at times.  I get tired and punchy late at night and my patience wears thin and at those times if we are playing some sort of involved game and someone starts up with some rules equivocation or something I have been known to blow my stack.  I would say my most annoying trait is probably my occasional "Donald Duck" episode.  Now mind you I do not normally have a short temper, but under the right circumstances it happens.

Really in all but the case of the thief, I have tried to look past people's shortcomings and see that people come to gaming for many reasons.  Many people do it because they struggle in life somehow, many people do it for social activity, for camaraderie.  We are all human.  No one is perfect.  A person who steals just cannot be trusted in your home so you have to boot that person, a guy with utterly repulsive body odor would be another case of nope not going to deal with that (fortunately that has never been an issue really in any game group I was with ... well we had a guy in the Las Vegas gaming club I was in who would show up to club meetings occasionally ... but that wasn't very often), but quirky and very mildly annoying behaviors I think are par for the course with geeks in general.  Lots of know-it-all types, lots of folks who have mildly anti-social tendencies, and I can over look those traits if they aren't extreme and if those people are genuinely friendly, nice, dependable people I happily overlook minor personality flaws and focus on what we all have in common.  But even then for me to really want to have someone in my own home gaming group I need to have enough in common with the person that we can have a good conversation and get along.  Because to me gaming is as much about socializing as anything and if we can't socialize why in the world would we want to be in a gaming group together that meets regularly.  I don't do gaming to build my self esteem or to self actualize, I do it to relax and just have a fun pass time so the people I choose to game ideally have a somewhat shared philosophy.

Now all that said I have had several people over the years I have just not gelled with in terms of gaming.  One is a great friend of mine who is just an abusive power gamer and has some mad Jekyll and Hyde thing going on when he games. Everyone we gamed with back in the day disliked him.  But you get the guy out of the game, invite him over for dinner and the reaction would be just opposite people really like him, find him witty, kind hearted and really funny.  He is not a bad guy at all, not generally a selfish person, he is a liberal so at least in principal he cares about his fellow man, etc. etc. yet you get him on a table with a 40K army, or running a character in a D&D game and he goes nuts and gets way too competitive, he clams up, he won't have friendly conversations, he just becomes obsessed with winning and not just winning, kicking his opponents ass as hard as he can.  That might be a great way to be in competitive sports, back when I played college football that was how I was.

So more on my inner "Donald" to this day I don't take to any sort of trash talk at all.  I honestly don't know why.  The only thing I can really think of is it must stem to my time in competitive sports during my youth. I do recall as a defensive lineman/linebacker that stuff fueled my inner rage and I channeled it into smashing the shit out of my opponent.  All these years later, a big old beer be-gutted gamer dad that I am now, and I guess at times I still have that inner linebacker that is just waiting to use the trash talk rage to plant my opponent on their backside.  Problem is, naturally, that doesn't mix well with a friendly game of something.  So I always warn my friends when I game, don't trash talk me, please, I'll get ticked fast.  I am not a poor loser though generally, and I can handle some light ribbing or teasing, but if someone starts to really get in with the "yo-mamma" and "that was a stupid move" kind of comments that's when I just have to step away from the table.  Fortunately in my gaming groups it has never been a problem as I've been blessed with mostly laid back gamers who are just there for generally casual play, fun, socializing and having a good time.

I guess the bottom line is I don't like focusing on the negative in other people unless they just stand right in my pathway and force me to confront it.  Otherwise I try to give people wide latitude and have a live and let live attitude.  One of my favorite holiday/comedies of all time is Planes, Trains and Automobiles and I find much in common with the plot of that film and many gamers out there.  John Candy's character is THAT GUY yet he has an endearing side too.  I think that even THAT GUY usually has some redeeming quality and for me it just comes down to ... legitimately ... do those redeeming qualities truly outweigh the bad stuff.  For some people the answer is yes, for others no.
Anyway ramble over ...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge -- 1st gaming convention I ever attended.

The first gaming convention I ever attended was Strategicon-Gatway-Orccon down in Los Angeles at the LAX airport Westin Hotel.  I believe it was in 2001 or 2002 and I can not recall if it was Labor Day, Presidents Day or Memorial Day. Of all conventions I've attended I've been to the Strategicon conventions more than anything else.  I've probably been to 20 or more now.  I've been to Comicon, Gencon and other smaller local conventions as well as many Games Workshop events.  Strategicon is essentially a small locals con, but since its in Southern California there are usually I would imagine, several thousand attendees. Yet it is a small con, it is nowhere near a PAX, Comicon, Origins, etc. at any given time there is 50-200 people in the main hall and dozens of meeting rooms filled with 10-20 people.

In the beginning I went for mini gaming.  Our gaming club used to participate in the 40K stuff and we even ran some big games over the years, etc.  We used to trek down with the better part of our wargaming club.  Once we managed to get 20 people from our 40(ish) person club to attend ... that was a blast.  Other times I'd do an open call for anyone who wanted to come along, they could sleep on the floor in the room for free ... that got some of the younger enlisted military guys and some of the younger members of the club to attend.  Problem with that was it was more like a mid 19th century New York Irish tenement than the normal con trip.  I eventually abadoned those sorts of trips and have ever since imposed my own rule of trying not to share a room with more than two other people (I'll stretch it to three on occasion) which I find ideal for the sake of sanitation and sanity.

I was introduced to so many things at Strategicon from Euro-games to historical gaming, to indie/small press RPGs.  I rarely go anymore because I now live in Utah and though I have strong nostalgia for the event, it just isn't worth the cash outlay to go.  At this point going to PAX or Gencon is just a little more expensive given the plane ticket price to get to LA (or the crazy 12 hour drive that blows a full day of time).

I try to get down there every couple years, in fact I was supposed to go this past weekend but due to the demands of school I just couldn't justify it.  I really do enjoy what gaming conventions provide in terms of getting to get out and demo lots of games, talk to fellow gamers, and generally mingle with the masses and see how others are experiencing and presenting games.  Ya sure there are annoying bits, such as gamers with less than proper personal hygiene skills, big crowds (not a fan of crowds myself to be honest) and the inconvenience of bunking up with other people in hotels, etc.  But for all that for me anyway the cons have been vastly outweighed by the pros.

The next convention I'll be attending is one in my own back yard, Salt-Con a small board game convention at the end of March (28th-30th ... LINK)

Monday, February 17, 2014

When did I first encounter the D&D is EVIL stuff? Dungeons and Dragons 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge ... Post 17

So the first time I heard D&D was somehow "evil" was probably back in 1985, which was 3 years after the film "mazes and monsters" was released.  

Not that I necessarily blame the film, its really crappy.  To quickly summarize the plot, Tom Hanks character loses the ability to discern the difference between the D&D game and real life ... umm .. yup that is it in a nutshell.

As with many new things there is a hysteria that ensues and that happened with D&D.  Not probably all that dissimilar from the anti-comic movement of the what 1940s-70s, or the anti-rock and roll movement, etc. etc. We have seen it with video games over the past 30 years as well.  For me the fortunate thing was, my parents heard there were some possible negative aspects associated with D&D.  They took the time to talk to me to figure out what the game was about, to pick the books up and look past the covers.  In the end the say that the games were simply about telling a shared story, whatever story you wanted and frequently/mostly about good characters versus evil villains and monsters.  

The "D&D" is somehow evil thing really hit our group hardest in the summer of 1985 when we were playing the game like 3-6 days a week for 8-10 hours a day.  One of my friends mothers found out we'd been playing D&D and tried to get all of the parents to make us stop.  As a result a few of my friends were not allowed to play as often as they previously had, and we lost that kid from the group.

Today it is laughable to think that people really believed this stuff.  But it happens all the time.  Not to bash religion (I really try very hard not to do that here) but in some cases overly zealous religious viewpoints can lead to finding "evil" in the most mundane places.  Harry Potter is EVIL and promotes WITCHCRAFT has been one in the past ten years that is reminiscent of the D&D scare.  It is really funny but this one still lingers out there. Honestly though if you look at how things changed.  

D&D was pretty wide open in say 1982 and 1983 and unfettered by conservative religious views.  This film and these ideas I think ultimately impacted the game.  D&D pulled away to my view, from some of the really open and irreverent stuff in the 1st ed. era of the game.  The game seemed to get something of a visual sanitizing for 2nd edition.  I can't help but think at least in part it was due to the hysteria that ensued over D&D being evil/occult/wtf ever crazy church ladies thought it was by simply looking at the cover of the 1st ed. DMG and PHB.  1989 is when 2nd hit and if one looks just at the cover ... yes the 2nd ed. PHB is still witchcrafty looking (the later printing was the super generic black book set which is one of the most boring D&D sets of all time, visually speaking anyway).  But its more standard and heroic an old wizard instead of this huge demon idol.

The game itself, who is to say how much it changed.  I'm sure someone out there has probably written a scholarly article on this topic by now.  This is just idle observation on my part ... pure conjecture ... so who knows really.  I just do feel that the earlier version of the game had an intangible feeling to it that was just different than the subsequent versions.  The game felt a little more "white-washed" and toned down to some extent, maybe PG/PCized a little more.  For sure there are still some cool/harsh/adult elements to the game, but it just didn't feel the same on some levels.  I will be a little lazy here and not break the books out to provide examples, I just don't have the time today.  Perhaps a good idea for a post some other day.  Anyway as far as where D&D went some people inevitably disliked 2nd edition for whatever reason, mostly just Thaco I think ... other than that I haven't heard anything really consistent.  I think the main dislike of 2nd now is its a little more complex than basic/1st and it isn't 3.0 era grid based.  For me it is the version that I had perhaps the most fun with, so I'm not saying I do not like second.  Not at all.  I just see some of the at least aesthetic change that took place and just wonder ... what if there was no mazes and monsters ... what if hysteria never entered into the equation?  Would 2nd edition have been more like 1st, aesthetically and otherwise?  Then of course the subsequent versions would have been impacted as well.  Ironically I guess this is just another version of the "Mazes and Minotaur" question (that question was what would D&D have looked like if it was based primarily Greek mythology primarily instead of the northern European/Conan/Tolkien (I don't give a shit what Gygax said D&D was HEAVILY influenced by Tolkien), etc. etc.).

Anyway rambling ranting ... done ... 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

40th Anniversary D&D Blog Hop Challenge -- Edition Wars!

So this question is: "What was my first edition war and did I win?"

First to answer whether or not I won ... no ... no one wins a version war.

I really honestly did not have much in the way of edition war nonsense in my life until 4th edition D&D came out.  Then of course it was unavoidable.  There was mass ranting and raving everywhere one looked.  I didn't get it honestly because I don't like 3.0, 3.5 or 4e.  I would have been so much happier of 2nd never went away.  Human nature though, we like what we know and we fear what we do not. 

But rant and rave we all did at some point over the 3.5 vs. 4e nonsense.  I feel it was the D&D war to end all wars and we had a "lost generation" as a result.  For me it completely drove me away from anything related to 3.5 FOREVER ... I really hope I never have to play a game of 3.5 again and as I said in the previous post I utterly refuse to DM any 3.0-4e era game ever again.  I'd just not play RPGs if that was my only choice.  I feel the same about 4e and Pathfinder as well.  Just completely not my cup of tea.  So there is my own angst about it.  That said I don't hate people who play 3.5/4e ... if my home group really wanted to play a 3.5/4e game and someone else was going to run it ... I'd join in without being grumbly.  I did that very thing for several years actually. 

As we all know what is so crappy about "edition wars" is here we go again soon with 5e coming out.  Its going to be wall to wall ranting and raving for another few years.

So when tabletop gaming is dying a slow death due to everyone wasting 10 extra hours a week on youtube, so their "hobby" time is now diminished, we have to have a mass "pee in our own pool" episode with version wars again.  Old grognards being all superior with OSR, the 3.5/Pathfinder supporters being superior with "our fat books are the best fat books!" and the inevitable honeymoon people with 5e who proclaim it as the best thing ever.  Que two years of ranting, massive divisiveness and at the end of it several camps of people who could have had great exchange on ideas about how to run and play in essentially the same damn game ... but rather completely divided and bitter.

Version wars suck and they tend to hurt everyone involved and just create negativity, divisiveness and bitterness!  Those from outside who look in and see this just immediately tune out anything that is being said.  I wonder how many potential D&D fans were just outright driven away by version wars?

At the end of the day we are sitting around a table pretending to be fantasy characters ... as adults ... seriously everyone we need to get the fuck over ourselves and just realize how silly it is to argue about this crap.  If only we could focus on the 95% that all this stuff has in common I think we'd all be better for it.