Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyous Yule and a Happy New Year.
I hope this season finds you happy, healthy and among loved ones.

I also hope Santa brings you lots of gaming and geeky goodies to enjoy for the next year.















Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Learning another language for geeks and gamers

Learning a second language is something I think everyone should do. Which is all nice and good to say, but I have to be honest and admit that I suck at learning languages.

It isn't that I can't learn a language or that it it too hard, I just get bored with it. I barely made it through 4 semesters of Spanish in college, mostly because I didn't want to study. I sincerely want to learn a new language, but I just have a hard time staying focused on it. Currently I'm working on Irish and playing around with German, but much like the 2 years of Spanish I had to take during my undergrad, my heart just isn't in it. The desire it there, just not the focus. However, I may have found a way around this little hurtle.

Being a geek I just can't help but feel drawn to the fictional languages that I encounter in movies, TV shows and books in a way that I'm not with real world languages. I'd love to speak Elvish, Orc, Na'vi, Romulan, or any number of other geeky languages. Unfortunately, you can't take Klingon or Tengwar at any of the colleges in my area. Lucky for me we have the Internet.

During my studies of Irish and German I stumbled upon a great site called Omniglot that contains information about every language I've ever heard of, as well as many more I never knew existed. One day, while perusing the alphabetical list of languages, I discovered that the site also has information about fictional languages. 

 Klingon, Romulan, Atlantean, Tengwar, and, my favorite, Kryptonian are just a few of the fictional languages on the site. Not only does the site have information, including alphabets, for these languages, but also links to other sites with more detailed information.There are even areas that give advice and useful tips for learning languages.

The best tip I've seen so far is to learn a language that you actually want to learn. Which would explain why I'm doing much better with Irish than I ever did with Spanish. I simply have never wanted learn Spanish at any time in my life. I only picked it to fulfill my degree requirements because German wasn't available at that time. Plus my advisor convinced me that it would be more useful than German. Shows what they know because I still can't (under)stand Spanish. 

If you are not wanting to actually learn a language but just find some writing to use in your game you can just use the fictional or magical script sections. There are more than enough authentic scripts here to use in any type of game you run.

Once I found all of these fictional languages on Omniglot, it got me curious about what other resources there are for these types of languages. So I began searching for others.

Besides the ones listed on the Omniglot site, I also stumbled upon a site for learning the Na'vi language heard in the movie Avatar. Learn Na'vi is an amazingly well done site for such a new fictional language. There are literally hundreds of pages of pdfs that can be downloaded, including workbooks and dictionaries to help you learn the language. If you are having trouble learning the language you can just jump on the forums for help. If you have a printer that can do double sided printing I highly recommend printing the pdfs from this site out in booklet form. It makes them much easier to carry with you, while still allowing you to read them easily. Otherwise you are going to be using at least one ream of paper.

If you are like me and prefer to both hear and see the language you are attempting to learn, then you may want to check out the Project Ngaynume podcast. I just found this site and have not had the opportunity to actually listen to the show, so I can't give it a definite thumbs up yet. I will update this post or do another one once I have had a chance to review the show to let you know if it is worth your time. Or you could just check it out for yourself and save us both the time. 

For us Superman fans, Kryptonian, is a language that you probably have wanted to learn for quite a while. If so you should really check out Kryptonian.info. All of the information is on site, with no downloads, but it is still a very informative and well done site.

If you find a language on Omniglot that you want to learn, you should also check out Amazon.com or other booksellers for dictionaries and workbooks. Of course the only ones you are likely to find are for the more popular languages like Klingon and some form of Tolkien's Elven language(s). I got an Elvish Dictionary for $4, which is the total cost with S&H. That's not a bad deal.


Every fan of the Harry Potter books/movies that I know has tried to speak Parseltongue at some point. When my daughter was a few years younger she would hiss at me in her own make-believe parseltongue language. Yes, I did encourage the behavior and yes I sometimes(always) answered back in my own version of the language. Something I think most Harry Potter fans have done at some point.

While not as detailed as the other language sites, The Parselmouth is still a fun little site. Since the language is mostly just a spoken language (snakes don't have hands after all), there are no pdfs to download. Instead you type in the word or phrase you want to say and the site makes an audio translation for you to play. You also have the option to download the parseltongue version of your word/phrase to store on your computer or like me you can use it as a ringtone. I'm not claiming that the parseltongue found on this site is any more "legit" than the hissing my daughter and I did, but it should still appeal to most Potter fans. (Note: for those of you running the current Paizo Adventure Path: Serpent's Skull, this site could provide some really good audio props for your game.)

For you Legion of Superhero fans, and who isn't, there is also a site to learn the Interlac alphabet used in the comics.  It is just a one to one substitution cipher for the English language alphabet, but still could be useful if you are running a LSH game.

Whether you are waiting for the Great Cthulhu to return and wipe out all those non-believers, running a CoC game or a Pathfinder game in the Darklands you may find it useful to learn a little Aklo.

Atlantean is another language you may find useful. Especially if you are running a Rifts campaign.

If you are a Wheel of Time fan like me, you may want to check out these sites to help you learn the Old Tongue. The Complete Old Tongue, Dictionary of the Old Tongue and the Wheel of Time Wiki are some sites I think you will definitely like.


If you are addicted to the Sims,  you may want to learn Simmish to better understand what your people are babbling about.

For those of you that are more inclined to stick with the Tolkien languages you will probably want to check out the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, Parma Eldalamberon, The Elvish Pronunciation Guide,  the Eldarin Wiki, Duke Universities Elvish Language page, The Council of Elrond, Ardalambion, Fellowship of the Word-smiths or the Elvish Dictionaries. May may also want to check out this site  with various Quenya lessons, or this site with what seems to be some interesting info about Tengwar, or perhaps even this one which seems to have numerous pdfs you can download. Those are just a few of the sites I found for learning the various Elvish and Tolkien languages.

I'm always looking and finding even more sites that focus on learning fictional languages and I will post them as I find them. I'm planning to try my hand at learning Na'vi, Kryptonian or some form of Elvish, so I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for sites related to those languages. If you happen to know of some really good sites or just want to offer some useful advice about learning a language  feel free to share in the comments.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Given that this is Thanksgiving I thought I might as well do a post about what I'm thankful for. Naturally this will be gaming oriented so I'll leave out the obvious, but still true, thanks for things like health, family, job, etc.

1. I'm thankful for Paizo & Pathfinder. This may seem silly but for once it is nice to still have support for my preferred system even though the company that created it moved on.

2. The OGL. Thanks to this Pathfinder exists as do many of the OSR games that I enjoy.

3. Essentials. Even though I am not a 4e fan I like that WotC at least tried to give us a product that not only would appeal to new gamers, but those of us that did not care for original 4e.

4. RPG Bloggers. Even if I wasn't a member I would still follow all of the great blogs that are a part of this network. Many of which I would never have discovered if not for the RPGBN. Even when I'm between groups I can still get my gaming "fix".

5. Green Ronin. Now I finally have DC sourcebooks for one of my favorite superhero systems.

Well that's my list for this year. Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gaming with the kid

My daughter and I are set to run through another D&D Essentials game this weekend. I'm thinking I may try to get her to run a thief or cleric instead of her standard Slayer. I'd like to run a stealth oriented game and see how she does.

Since she still has issues remembering things like healing surges, I'll probably run a tag along GMPC to help her out from time to time, maybe a thief catcher from the local town watch, a magic user of some kind or an orphan from town that follows her around. I'll try to post a recap of how things went.

Also I just started teaching her how to play Magic: the Gathering. I started playing Magic back when it was first released ('93-'94?) and quit around '98. I think that was around the time Tempest was released. My wife and I had a brief run playing Magic between 2001 and 2002, but she lost interest in it when she quit gaming with me and my group. So I haven't played magic in damn near a decade but managed to talk my daughter into giving it a try this past weekend.

I dug out my cards and let her use one of my pre-made decks. We used core set only because I wanted to keep her first time simple. Besides I prefer the core set anyway. I don't like keeping track of all the weird mechanics that some of the expansions seem to use.

She loved it and so I bought her a deck of 2011 core set(Blue & White) the other day. She has been itching to play ever since. She's also pretty cocky about it, making bold claims that she is going to kick my butt and asking me how I think it will feel to get whooped by a girl. She is competitive just like her mom. Naturally I can't let a teenager talk smack to me in regards to a game I've been playing (off and on) since it was first released so I got her a box of tissues and told her she'd need them to dry the tears after the massive beat down I'm going to give her.

It is all in good fun and she knows I really don't care if she wins, but it's nice to spend time with her and see her enjoying things I enjoy as well. I spent too many years sitting through Winx and Barbie movies and playing kiddie games with her, so I've paid my dues. I also know that since she's entering her teen years it won't be long before parents become the most uncool people in the world. Something to be avoided when possible.

I'm going to enjoy these times I get to game with her and hope that one day(when she's 35-40, has a Phd and a successful career) she'll meet a nice boy that likes D&D and Magic and they'll raise a whole new generation of geeks. Of course I'll expect to be invited over for game night.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Musings on Essentials and D&D in general

I was just sitting here reading through Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and listening to The Nut Gallery Review episode 52 (a very good movie and game podcast by occasional Geek Gazette contributor  Jason James) when I realized how much I missed Pathfinder.

I started playing Essentials when my daughter asked to learn D&D and at first I really liked it. Perhaps it was just the fact that Essentials was new and shiny or maybe it was because I was thrilled to see my daughter taking an interest in gaming, but now the game is losing its luster. For some reason Essentials just isn't as much fun for me to run. My daughter is having a good time, which is the most important part, but I keep getting bored. I just keep feeling as I'm boxed in, stifled.

Don't get me wrong I still like Essentials far better than I did original 4e, but the more we play the more I find that I just don't like the system as much as I do 3.x/Pathfinder. I tried running Essentials the same way I have been running games for over 20 years, graph paper and no minis, and with a few minor tweaks it works just fine. Although I have found that running one on one games with the 4e system is a bit more difficult. I never gave the claims that 4e was too team oriented much thought until I started running solo adventures. It isn't impossible, it just requires a bit more prep.

Thinking that perhaps I needed to change my DMing style and run the game in a manner closer to how it was designed, I broke out the battle maps and monster pogs that come with the DM kit. My daughter didn't care  for this much (she suddenly had a hankering to play Heroscape after our first time playing this way) and I didn't like it at all. It felt very much like playing a board game and neither of us liked having to take the time to work out the various minis related rules during combat. It really slowed down the game and drained any sense of cinematic adventure that we tend to emulate in my normal style of gaming.

Granted this was my first time really running  a game like this so I wasn't 100% comfortable with it, but it didn't take long for me to figure out that I'm not fond of that style. Perhaps my experience would be different if I were on the other side of the screen, but since I've been DMing pretty much every game I've played for the past 20+ years I can't say for sure. Things might also feel different if I were running a full party instead of one on one adventures, but I doubt it. I actually think it would have been an even worse experience. I've run more than a few systems in my time and have not gotten as bored as I did running the more tactical style 4e is designed for.

While I'm happy to know that I have Pathfinder, tons of 3.x books, all of my older edition books, some great OSR games and countless other system to fall back on, I'm actually kind of sad that I find myself not enjoying the current edition of D&D. I really want to like it, especially now that I've gotten my daughter to play. She'll play whatever I want, but I wanted her to love D&D as much as I did at her age. 

I've been playing D&D for over 20 years and until the release of 4e I've never thought negatively about an edition of the game. I've had problems with certain books or aspects of various editions, and definitely taken issue with WotC on a few occasions, but never have I had a problem with the system as a whole. It's kind of depressing.

While I was thinking about all of this the nutgallery gang were discussing M. Knight Shyamalan's and their thoughts about his movie(s). This got me to thinking about my issues with 4e.

As I said before I have had issues, though not as many, with every edition of D&D as well as nearly every game I have ever played. No game is perfect. So what would I want WotC to do to make me like D&D again? What could they do to bring back all of us that gravitated towards Pathfinder, the OSR games or any other system that has replaced D&D on countless gaming tables?

Honestly I don't know, but this did get thinking about how WotC seems to view those of us that just can't stay or even get on the 4e bandwagon as acceptable losses. This thinking is what helped Pathfinder tie D&D for the #1 RPG slot recently. It also seems to drive the critical view of WotC that I and many other gamers have expressed over the past few years.

Unless I've been misinformed WotC owns the TSR name. Why don't they use it for special products?There are many of us that enjoy older editions and the OSR games. So why doesn't WotC release special or limited edition revised versions of older editions? I'm not talking about 4e with artwork from an older edition slapped on the front, but an actual revised version of older editions.

I'd pay $50 for an all in one AD&D rule book in a heartbeat. Something like an AD&D Rules Cyclopedia with revised/updated rules, some monsters and maybe even some setting info would be great. They could even take a page from S&W and have both Thac0/Descending AC and BAB/Ascending AC for those of us that do not remember Thac0 fondly.

Since 3.x is still going strong as Pathfinder, why doesn't WotC do the same thing for 3.x? Why just give up those customers? Update, revise and streamline 3rd edition(fix the stuff that Pathfinder didn't), release it under AD&D with a nifty TSR label as an all in one, stand alone Rules Cyclopedia type book and I'm dropping another $50.

If none of that seems possible, I'm sure someone will be happy to point out why, then why don't they find out what makes people love the older editions (OD&D thru 3.x) and what people do like about 4e/Essentials. Then release a completely separate AD&D game combining as much of all the best parts of each edition as they can. Granted this won't make everyone happy, and the game may suck, I don't know, but as someone pointed out on one of the OSR blogs (sorry I can't remember who), the majority of OSR games are based off of 3.x anyway. It can be done.

Why has WotC let Paizo take such as large section of their customer base? I'm not complaining. As far as I'm concerned Paizo outclasses WotC on multiple levels and I've been a Paizo fan since they started publishing Dragon. I hope they not only continue to tie WotC for the #1 spot, but I won't complain if they completely crush WotC and end up owning the D&D brand. (I know it ain't happening, but I can dream) Still from a business POV it just seems counterproductive to be ok with driving off customers.

It would be a different matter if they were just losing a few customers, but when it is enough to allow a publisher that stuck with the older edition of your game to tie you in sales, that should speak loud and clear to the suits and bean counters. 4e is a fine, solid game for people who like that style, I'm not saying the game is bad. In fact I think 4e is mechanically superior than the older editions in several ways, but for me it just can't stand up to 3.x, Pathfinder or the ton of quality OSR games available in terms of fun.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gamers that ruin it for the rest

I have been pondering for some time now what it is that has turned me away from RPG's. After thinking on it for several weeks I began to ask a few of the other players that have or do play RPG's with us. We came up with a list of annoying things that certain gamers do that have ruined it for us. For the most part this is just one player and we have stopped inviting him to play but it ran deep enough that even that did not save our love for RPG's

The first trait is always wanting to be in the spotlight. A good game and a good plan by the GM should let everyone have there time in the spotlight. Even then that is not good enough for some they want the spotlight in all situations. Even when it does not make sense like being a wizard and trying to show up the warrior in melee. At first as GM's we thought it added humor to the game but after time we grew tired of the antics. This resulted in a particular player either dying or being on the verge for several important battles.

This leads to trait number two - whinner. Nobody likes a whinner especially when you created you own problem by being dumb. They can cure a lot of things but being dumb is not one of them. You want to be a wizard that runs into melee evertime because you have used up your daily spells on the first monster then you deserve to die. The other area that really gets my blood pressure up is when the player comes up with a hair brained idea that has no chance of success and when the idea fails sits and whines that it is not fair. You want to do something that you have no skill in and it requires a roll of a 19 or 20 to succeed yet you try it anyways. I feel no sympathy when you could have crossed the crevice with the rope bridge instead of trying to climb higher up and jumping it. Don't whine at the GM or the other players when they leave your dead carcus on the bottom of the bottomless pit (not sure how that works). Why should the rest of the party have to climb down to drag you out because you are dumb.

Trait number three was hinted at above -- burning all your spell points and then thinking the whole party should stop to sleep so you get your spells back even though we just got up 2 hours ago. We tried to explain spell management but just got the blank stare and the response all I have left is one 1st level spell. Maybe you shouldn't have burned all your spells before you found out that the creature really couldn't hurt the melee guys so it was just a matter of time before they brought it down. Once again another blank stare.

Trait number four - psycho min / maxer. I will be upfront that I have no problem with most min maxers. Why not get the most out of your class / character. Since I am being honest some of my most memorable playing moments were not using skills I was great at but overcoming short comings in my character. Anyways back to the point. A psycho min/maxer is one that will search and search the rules for a loop hole to cheese out his character. Going back to some of the traits above it aids in being the one in the spotlight. You know the ones that use loop holes in the rules to become a charcter that can do anything with no weakness, that is fine, you can play the game by yourself (which by the way they are no doing, I do wonder how that is working out).

Trait number five - the guy who when things are not directly involving him he becomes a distraction. Here I am being the diplomat and getting us passage across a forbidden land. As negotiations are going on and going in my favor, the guy playing the 6 charisma, 8 Int, 10, wisdom fighter dwarf decides that he is bored with the negotiations so he decides it is a good time to let out the most obnoxious fart, followed by a roof rattleing belch, followed by another toxic fart that clears the room for the next 10 minutes. Once we finally get back in the room he starts to tell a story that about something that happened the week before, once we get back on task he brings up a this one time when I was playing an RPG story that took place 10 years earlier. Eventually the GM just grants us access to get things moving again in the right direction. Once again taking the spotlight from another character. Eventually the GM got fed up, had him arrested, thrown in jail, while the rest of us completed the quest. This lead to about 3 hours worth of whining and we sure did take our time get things completed. On top of that the GM kept secret talies of everything we looted and left it up to us to split it with him if we wanted. Even then it was not worth his hastle. Also in the category are those that really don't want to game just want to hang out. Sure that is a lot of the attraction to just hainging out, as we have gotten older we just don't do that anymore. I get that but that does not mean that you get to come in and take away the game from the rest of us, just because you have no interest in it.

Trait number six - the guy that only has one way to do things his way. Most of the time this comes up when we are trying to figure out a good plan of attack and God help us if we don't choose his plan. Even if it does not make any sense or completly goes against my characters morals. No as an 18th level paladin I am not going to dress up as a lady to try and distract the guards while he the multi class warrior that has 2 leveles of rogue tries to sneak by them. Which of course he just couldn't understand why I wouldnt do that and then on top of that his plan wanted me to dress as a muscular girl and try to intimidate them. Once again he didn't understand why as an 18th level paladin I was not maxed out on intimidate but was maxed out on diplomacy. Which by the way, I walked up to the guards and used diplomacy to get us in the castle.

Here are some traits that I like.

Rules Lawyer - yes I like them. As a GM I can't remember every rule and rely on those that have the rules memorized from cover to cover. As a player I like it as well, especially when we switch systems.

The guy who suprises you. I like being suprised by someone that hides a talent until it really is needed, and it leaves you with the "really you can do that, that is sweet". Especially when they respond, yea I got that two levels ago.

I am sure that everyone has there own horror stories and can expand on list. Due to this though I have become burnt out. Why is it that good gamers are hard to find?

Jason James
http://www.thenutgallery.com/

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Reading Material

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Here are just a few of the books I've been reading recently to inspire my Halloween game as well as some upcoming games.

D&D: the Mark of Nerath
Given that it is dealing the a mad Lich, undead and the Shadowfell I thought this would make a good choice for my Haloween D&D Essentials game. I'm almost done with it and so far it has been a really good read.


Next on my Halloween season reading list is Star Wars: Death Troopers.
This books received a lot of criticism because it strays too far from the normal Star Wars universe and others claim it is just poorly written. Honestly, I liked it. It isn't the most brilliant novel I've ever read, but it sure was fun.

I've just started reading Dead City but so far it seems pretty good. There's sort of a Walking Dead feel to it. I believe it is set to be a trilogy, so I'll definitely be picking the other two up when they are released.

The trilogy of Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet are ones I definitely recommend. This is one of my favorite zombie series, so far.
                                              

Naturally Halloween wouldn't be complete without some King and I recommend the short story collection, Just After Sunset.


 Since most of the books I've mentioned have been about zombies, I can't leave out two of my favorite by Max Brooks.


and The Zombie Survival Guide. Everyone should own a copy of this book. You never know when you are going to need it.




Although this has little to do with Halloween I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy of Towers of Midnight (November 2 release from Amazon). I'm a Wheel of Time fan, as are many others, and I can't wait to read this book. If Sanderson did as good of a job as he did on the last one, I'm sure it will be great.







A Little Something For Halloween

Here are 3 versions of a song we use to sing on Halloween when I was a kid and thought I would share.

The Hearse Song v1
:

The old grey hearse goes rolling by,
You don't know whether to laugh or cry;
For you know some day it'll get you too,
And the hearse's next load may consist of you.

They'll take you out and they'll lower you down,
While men with shovels stand all a-round;
They'll throw in dirt and they'll throw in rocks,
And they won't give a damn if they break the box.

The worms crawl in and the worms crawl out,
They crawl all over your chin and mouth,
They invite their friends and their friends' friends too,
And you look like hell when they're through with you.


The Hearse Song v2:
Do you ever think as a hearse goes by, that you may be the next to die?
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box,
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.

All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.

A big green worm with rolling eyes,
Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You spread it on a slice of bread,
And that's what you eat when you are dead.


The Hearse Song v3: This is the version I remember from when I was a kid.

Do you ever think as a hearse goes by, that you may be the next to die?
They wrap you up in a big white sheet,
And bury you six feet deep.
They put you in a big black box,
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.

All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.

A big green worm with rolling eyes,
Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You spread it on a slice of bread,
And that's what you eat when you are dead.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where is the Big Budget D&D Movie? - Spinoff Online

There is a pretty good article pondering the same question that many of us gamers have been pondering for years, "why can't they make a good D&D movie", over at Spinoff Online.
The author, Graeme McMillan, makes many of the same points I've seen repeated over and over around the net. The D&D name has almost as much recognition as many other big budget properties like Transformers and Star Trek. Plus there is a built in fanbase waiting for a good film. Why there has been no Lord of the Rings level D&D movie yet is beyond me.
As McMillan writes in the article, since Hasbro owns G.I. Joe and Transformers as well as a movie studio, there really is no reason that this movie isn't being made. Unless it is due to rights disputes or just fear of making another dud. Perhaps because there is no well defined story or characters that are recognizable to non-gamers, like in many other franchises, no one really knows what to do with it.
I'd be happy with a live action Forgotten Realms movie starring everyone's favorite Drow or even a live action Dragonlance movie. Although my personal preference would be an Eberron movie, but it is more likely they'd go with a "classic" D&D setting over Eberron. All I know is I want this movie. Hell, I want 10 of them, but only if they are good.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The 15 games that have influenced and inspired me as a gamer

  1. Dungeond & Dragons (All editions) I may have started gaming with a mixture of basic and 1e books but 2eAD&D is when I really started gaming. 3e is the game that brought me back into gaming after several years away.
  2. Villains & Vigilantes
  3. D&D: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Sega Genesis); I loved playing this game. As a matter of fact I think I will go find my copy and play it this weekned
  4. Final Fantasy III & VII
  5. Star Frontiers
  6. Magic: The Gathering
  7. L5R; I actually played the card game long before the RPG, but I enjoyed both.
  8. Life; I still love this game
  9. Werewolf (the original); I played the CCG before I knew this was an RPG as well. I've only played the RPG a few times and honestly didn't really like the system, but I always wanted to like it. Since werewolves are my favorite monster, it makes the list.
  10. Pathfinder; 3e got me back into gaming and Pathfinder keeps me wanting to play.
  11. Call of Cthulhu d20; this is just a great book to read and use for ideas, even if you don't use the system.
  12. Clue
  13. Heroscape
  14. d20 Modern; a very underrated game IMO.
  15. Mutants & Masterminds
Honorable Mentions & Games that are inspiring me now
  1. OSRIC(I've played it using the pdf once, but I just got my print copy from lulu this morning, so it is time to role up some characters.)
  2. Swords & Sorcery White Box (Too much fun to be a free pdf download. There is no excuse for not having this)
  3. Dark Dungeons (The next best thing to having an actual updated Rules Cyclopedia)
  4. Hollow Earth Expedition (this game just does not get enough love. Great game, super simple system and loads of fun)
  5. Monte Cooks World of Darkness (probably one of the best Modern books in the d20 system. Combine this with CoC d20 and the d20 Modern books and you can play just about anything.
  6. Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide
  7. Pathfinder: City of Strangers 
  8. D&D Essentials: Heroes of the Fallen Lands
Individual Gaming Books that have been the most influential/inspirational:

  1.  Eberron Campaing Setting
  2. Creative Campaigning (AD&D 2e): I still break out this book and read it when I need ideas or just for fun.
  3. Rifts
  4. The Rules Cyclopedia; I can't believe I forgot to put this one on the list.

    Games I am most looking forward to playing right now:
    1. Mutant Epoch
    2. DC Adventures
    3. Basic Fantasy, I just ordered by copy from lulu
    4. The new Red Box; just got it and can't wait to tear it open

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    The Class Compendium and other curious WotC items

    I was nosing around on some of the message boards when I came across a post about the Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell (which is also called Class Compendium: Heroes of Legend  in the Amazon picture) book that is set to be released next year. In truth I haven't been a big 4e follower outside of Essentials, which I am very happy with. I've pretty much ignored everything that has been, is being or will be released for the system since I quit playing it a couple of years ago. Well except for one item which I'll get to in a minute. Honestly I just didn't figure I'd keep buying 4e after the 10 product Essentials run, but this book has piqued my interest.
    Here is the product description from Amazon:
    "Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell provides new character options for Dungeons & Dragons® Essentials players who are ready to move beyond the two player-oriented D&D™ Essentials books, Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms.

    This book gathers five classes from the
    Player’s Handbook—the cleric, the fighter, the rogue, the warlord, and the wizard—and presents them in the new D&D Essentials class format introduced in Heroes of the Fallen Lands, with rules updates and errata. It features rules that allow D&D Essentials characters to select non-D&D Essentials powers, and it grants non-D&D Essentials characters access to class features from Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. In addition, this book presents feats, rituals, and rules for multiclassing.
    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (February 15, 2011)"  
    So it would appear that all of the complaints I've seen directed at Essentials from 4e fans may be a little off base. This book appears, according to the description, to serve the purpose of bridging the gap between Essentials and the core 4e books. Essentials is apparently not meant to be the death of 4e as they know it after all. Currently I'm not sure whether I'll be buying this or not. Essentials has, so far, had everything I've wanted out of 4e and I'm not sure I want to bring all the stuff I didn't originally like back into the game. Of course knowing me my curiosity will get the better of me and I'll buy this book anyway. Plus I'm kind of hoping it is another digest sized books, I just really like those.

    The next thing I noticed is that WotC seems to be on a boxed set kick. There are at least two more boxed sets on the list of items to be released next year. I'm not sure why, perhaps it is because of the Red Box or Essentials format's popularity because the upcoming sets are pretty similar in format.
    Here are the sets I found, again with descriptions from Amazon.
    The Shadofell: Gloomwrought and Beyond
    "Terror and suspense await you in the Shadowfell.

    This boxed set is for Dungeon Masters interested in taking their heroes on excursions to the Shadowfell, as well as Dungeon Masters looking for a sinister setting in which to run thrilling urban adventures. A 128-page book presents the fully detailed city of Gloomwrought, complete with location descriptions, maps, quests, and game statistics for monsters and villains. It also includes provides information on other locations heroes are likely to visit beyond the city's dark walls. In addition, the box contains a 32-page book of encounters set in Gloomwrought and beyond, two card stock sheets of die-cut monster and villain tokens, a foldout battle map, and a deck of 30 cards that DMs can use to add suspense to any Shadowfell-based adventure. 

    • Game: 160 pages
    • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast; Brdgm edition (May 17, 2011)" 



     Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale


    "The Nentir Vale -- a frontier land sheltered by mountains and strewn with abandoned farmsteads, ruined manors, and broken keeps -- is the perfect base for any Dungeons & Dragons® campaign. Many heroes begin their adventuring careers here, and some also meet untimely ends.
    Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale presents statistics, tactics, and lore for an array of new monsters that prowl the Nentir Vale, some of which trace their origins back to the earliest editions of the Dungeons & Dragons® Roleplaying Game. Other entries focus on campaign villains present in the Nentir Vale region, among them the Iron Circle, the Tigerclaw Barbarians, the Raven Roost Bandits, and several new villainous groups introduced here for the first time.

    The monsters and villains contained within are appropriate challenges for heroic- and paragon-tier characters and fit easily into any home campaign, as well as other Dungeons & Dragons published campaign settings. In addition to a 128-page book of ready-to-play monsters and villains, this product includes 8 die-cut sheets of card stock monster and villain tokens and a double-sided battle map featuring four different encounter locations you can use when running encounters.

    Contents:
    128 page book of ready-to-play monsters and villains
    8 die-cut sheets of card stock monster and villain tokens
    1 double-sided battle map (featuring 4 different encounter locations) 

    • Game: 128 pages
    • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast; Brdgm edition (June 21, 2011)"
     Now this last item is not listed, that I could find, on WotC's site and there is no image on Amazon. So I can't be sure whether this is an actual product, or an item that has been canceled. Which brings me to the item I was actually wanting to get, but which is now apparently canceled, the Nentir Vale sourcebook. This is the setting I run the games for my daughter in, so I would have liked to have had this one. Perhaps it has been delayed and will be released closer to the time of the Monster Vault boxed set release.





    This next item I've added to the list just because I am curious about whether it will be a standard sized book or a digest. It is 320 pages which is about the same as the digests. All of the standard sized supplement books I own, and the few I looked up on WotC's site are 250 pages and under (usually 160 pages), but it doesn't actually state that it is a digest. So this is one that I may have to look into a little more when it gets closer to release.

    Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow

    "The Shadowfell is a cold, grim place through which the spirits of the dead must pass on their way to . . . wherever. Dark, evil things live there, suffused with the power of shadow. Some mortals in the natural world learn how to tap into this source. Assassins. Necromancers. Hexblades. By all accounts, a ruthless lot. However, not all beings that draw strength from the Shadowfell are vile, blackhearted fiends. A few even dare to call themselves heroes, using the power of darkness to fight darkness. Are they evil? No. Deeply disturbed and hounded by their own dark demons? You bet.
     
    Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow™ focuses on characters that fight evil in ways that make others cringe. In addition to exploring the nature of the shadow power source, this book presents races, classes, feats, powers, and other options aimed at players hungry to play the archetypal antihero with a dark edge.
    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (March 15, 2011)" 


    And on a semi-related note if you haven't checked out the gaming and D&D inspired 20-sided Rhymes over at Hipster, please! do so now. Not only is one of my favorite Nerdcore artists, MC Frontalot, featured on the album but I've now found several new favorites. In my opinion  this album is a must have for any gamer. I admit that I don't love every song on it, but more than a couple really kick ass. A few of my personal favorites are I Play D&D by Krondor Krew, D&D at the Library by Glenn Case and of course Hassle the Dorkening by MC Frontalot. Although I do like the original version better than the remix that appears on this compilation. 
    If that isn't enough to get you to go download this album right now then check out this rockin album cover.






    If you happen to be looking for more Nercore artist then check out the other compilations on Hipster, please!.

    Two more artists that I highly recommend and that I wish were featured on this album, but weren't  are MC Lars and MC Chris.

    Just for fun here are some videos.


















    Friday, October 15, 2010

    The Mutant Epoch RPG

    The Mutant Epoch tabletop adventure role-playing game from Outland Arts is apparently set to be released this month.

    I've been keeping tabs on the development of this game off and on for quite a while and I am definitely looking forward to grabbing a copy of this game.

    Click on the following link or the picture below to go to Outland Arts' website

    The Mutant Epoch

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Sunday Video Fun

    Just for the heck of it, I'm posting a punch of geeky videos that I've found. Some are funny, others are dumb and some just kick @$$.
    Enjoy.





















    this is one of my favorites















    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Happy Leif Erikson Day!!!!

    In honor of this great holiday, don't forget to put on your horned helmets, animal skins and go out pillaging and plundering.



    Once your done with all that strenuous plundering, don't forget to kick back with your spoils (Pizza and Mt. Dew is also acceptable) and relive the glory with a nice viking rpg adventure.
    Vikings RPG

    Greenland Saga

    Viking Age RPG

    Vikings-Midgard

    Some more viking goodies for your game at RPGNow

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Will Wonder Woman ever really be as iconic as Superman & Batman?



    While I am a WW fan, most people can't relate to the characters. She's just too foreign and few creators "get" her.
    Superman may be an alien, but he is a messianic figure, who embodies hope. He had an American, midwestern upbringing and even to non-christians his values are familiar. He is a man out of place, who lost a family/people that he never got to know, and who seeks to connect to his heritage. He is also alone even though he has people who care for him. These are all things that most people can relate to on some level.
    Batman is the very embodiment of loss, tragedy, alienation, the battle with inner demons and the desire for vengeance.
    Both characters are fantastical representations of the "masks" that most people have to wear. Everyone must be different in different situations. They are also both representations of mankind's desire to make their environment safe and to have the power to fight those that are more powerful.
    Wonder Woman has very little of that.
    First she is a woman and unfortunately many people, including women, are prone to see strong women as a threat, not role-models. Most societies on this planet are patriarchal and while views are still evolving and maturing, the image of a powerful woman is still not as desirable as a powerful male savior. Secondly, she has little that the audience, mostly men, can relate to on a personal level. She's clay, given life by greek gods. Even among the non-religious this concept is someone "foreign" in many cultures where the Abrahamic religions are prominent.
    Lastly, with the exception of the current storyline, WW is a princess, who regularly chats it up with gods, she has a "family" that loves her and she isn't out for vengeance. She is trying to assume a messianic role as a peace ambassador, but even that is not something most males(the majority of readers) can relate to. She does have the battle between her warrior nature and her desire for peace, but that's about as close as she gets to seeming human and sometimes that seems forced. She's just a little too perfect.
    Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Capt. America, Iron Man, Hulk, and countless other characters all have very human inner and outer battles. Money, love, loss, rejection, desire and isolation are all traits shared by the more popular (Iconic) characters. That's why people can relate to them.
    If you ask the average non-comic book reader to tell you about Superman, Batman, Spider-man and Hulk (Thanks to the movies and cartoons you could possibly add Wolverine, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Blade and Green Lantern) they will hit on many of the very human traits that have helped these characters survive for so long. The traits and fears they will hit upon are are almost universally shared by all people.
    Now if you ask them to do the same thing with Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Thor or the Flash you will get completely different answers. Wonder Woman will likely be associated with being sexy/wearing a sexy outfit, magic lassos, and invisible planes. With Aquaman you'll get swims, talks to fish and maybe the color of his costume. With Thor you might be lucky to get someone to mention his hammer and with Flash you'll get "he runs fast" and maybe the color red.
    There is a reason characters like Wonder Woman are not as successful outside of the realm of comics. Even in comics Wonder Woman is the only one of DC's trinity that doesn't have more than one title. I could be wrong, but I think that she barely sells enough to support even that one.
    I'm not bashing her. Hell, she's one of my favorites, but honestly most little girls would rather grow up to be Supergirl than Wonder Woman.
    If her current storyline had been her origin or were to become the definitive WW, then this might change. As much as people may dislike the costume change, the current direction of her book has made her much more human than before. I for one hope it continues. It could be exactly what she needs to truly be the icon she is supposed to be.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    This Year's Halloween Theme?

    I'm not sure what I want to do for this year's Halloween themed game. I've done zombies more than once, but then again you can never get enough of zombies. I've done vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, mad Nazi scientists, Cthulhu(naturally) and I think I even did aliens one year.

    My past Halloween games have been in fantasy, pulp, modern and future settings. This year I don't know what to do. Maybe it is still too early, or maybe it is the fact we are still having 100 degree weather, but this year I'm not feeling too inspired.

    So is anyone else planning to run a Halloween themed game this year? If so I'd be glad to hear what you plan to run so I can steal your.... ummm.. use your ideas for inspiration.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    My Favorite Pathfinder Character Generator

    Recently I was looking for a Pathfinder character generator so I could make some quick NPCs and pre-gens for new players. I came across this site with a great PFRPG character gen. It is easy to use and it generates fairly nice character sheets that you can print when you're done.

    If you go back to the home site, TroveToken, you can buy some of their products and also access the beta for an online 4e NPC generator, an online battlemap generator and a generator called "Storybook."

    To be quite honest the Pathfinder generator is really the only thing on the site I've ever used, and I use it a lot, so I can't speak of the quality or usefulness of the others. However, I will probably start using the 4e NPC generator if my players take to the Essentials line like I have.

    One last note, most of these programs are free to use online, but they will cost you if you want to download them.

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    My little girl's adventure as a "dark elf"

    I just finished running an adventure for my daughter and she did remarkably well for her first time actually playing.

    She played Azula, a "dark elf" (she doesn't like calling her drow) fighter/slayer out of the D&D Essentials Heroes of the Fallen Lands book. I started her out at first level to be sure that the numbers crunching wouldn't be too much for her and was surprised at how well she caught on.

    Azula came upon a small village where the children had been disappearing at night. She offered to help the town's people out by looking for the kids, whom she discovered were being abducted by goblins. The goblins were hold up in an old mine just east of the village and upon discovering this Azula made a bee-line for the mine.

    On her trip there she was confronted on two separate occasions by goblins that were out patrolling the area. After making quick work of these lowly goblin patrols she made her way to the mine, where she had to take out the goblin guards at the mouth of the mine.

    Long story short, she fought her way through the mine and eventually took out the leader of this band of kidnappers and his second in command. Triumphant she returned every last one of the kids before the goblins were able to sell them to an evil dragon that was going to eat them.

    OK I know this adventure won't win any awards for creativity, but I think it served its purpose. My intent was to make it something simple enough for a young, first time gamer, but with enough action to keep her interested. I fortunately succeeded on both accounts. Actually I think I may have over compensated and had too many goblins for her to fight because at one point she did comment on how many there were, but I took it easy on her and made sure she didn't lose her first character on her first run.

    I have to say that she did much better and was far more creative than I thought she would be. During battles she would come up with these incredible maneuvers and relied heavily on her acrobatic and athletic skills. She got through the skills challenge in the mine with flying colors and had almost no trouble remembering which dice to use and for what. She even did a good job of keeping track of her special abilities, feats and powers, something I still have to remind my older players about.

    Over all I think it went well, and she seemed disappointed when it was over. That is kind of my fault because I expected to spend a lot more time during the game explaining things to her, but she needed very little help. Since she had such a good handle on the mechanics, the whole thing only lasted about 2 1/2 hours, which I feel is a good first game. A few reminders about adding her attack bonus to rolls was all she required through the whole scenario as she mercilessly hacked her way through my goblins. Even though I am always proud of her, her skills as a gamer took that pride to a whole new level.

    When we rolled up Azula last night she immediately began pushing me to come up with an adventure. I told her she would need to wait until Sunday because I still needed time to prepare. She was so proud of her PC, and since she just couldn't wait until Sunday, she actually took the time to come up with a fairly detailed back-story for Azula. She named her parents, sibling and her reason for being a fighter. Apparently her father was a great fighter and when he died she became a fighter in his honor. Of course I immediately wondered what Freud would have said about that one.

    While the game was a hit, the oddest thing happened after we were done. She asked me why we didn't play normal D&D. I explained to her that this was D&D and asked her what she meant. Her reply was that it didn't "feel" like the normal D&D that she has watched me and mom play over the past decade. She then told me that she wanted to play "that D&D".

    Of course I knew that she meant Pathfinder/3e because that is the game that we normally play. I honestly didn't think she would know the difference as far as the actual play experience went. I did my best to keep the game as close to what I normally run as possible and I didn't think it seemed that different. At least not from where I sat.

    So afterwards she asked if she could convert Azula to Pathfinder and we did. Next time my group gets together it looks like Azula will be tagging along.

    I'm not giving up on Essentials just yet. She's agreed to run another character in another 4e adventure, but she's itching to get her feet wet running with the big kids in Eberron. So, as successful as her first gaming experience was, she apparently has paid more attention to what has gone on during my games than I gave her credit for. I raised a 3rd edition player and didn't even know it.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    My lttle girl takes her first step towards becoming the geek I always hoped she would be and a useful site for most RPGs

    After my last Pathfinder game had ended and the group had gone home, I was doing my session notes just as I usually do. My 12 year old daughter came in and took a seat at the table across from me, which is not uncommon. Then, out of the blue, she asked me to teach her to play. To say that I was filled with geek pride would be an understatement.

    Given that she has never played a table top RPG I knew that 3rd edition and Pathfinder would probably be a bit overwhelming for her first time. Sure she's watched me and mom game for years and understands the basics, but I still wanted her first time at the table to be fun and not frustrating.

    After telling her that I would love to teach her, while trying to hide my elation, I immediately began going through every RPG book and pdf that I own looking for a system that would 1) be easy enough for a beginner to learn 2) easy enough for me to modify quickly 3) something appropriate for her age (not too adult, not too childish) and 4)would also hold her attention.

    Given her age I came up with several choices. Sword & Wizardry White Box, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Villains & Vigilantes, Truth & Justice, Pokethulhu and I even looked at running a game from the FATE or Savage World systems. I showed her the games I had picked and asked her which one she wanted to play. "I want to play D&D, because I want to be one of those dark elves", was her reply. There was nothing I could do or say to convince her that we could still do that with these other games, nope it had to be D&D.

    Now, much like my gaming group she thinks there are only two kinds of D&D, 4th edition and Pathfinder/3e. If it doesn't have one of those name on it, then it isn't D&D according to them. As I've said before my group and I were not fans of 4e so the books have just been sitting on my shelf gathering dust, but after she said that I remembered that I had read a lot of positive reviews about the Essentials line. From what I have seen on various boards and blogs Essentials was much "easier" and better organized than the original core books (I am not fond of the original core books, at all). I was curious about the Essentials books anyway and they seemed to be designed for new gamers, so off to Amazon I went.

    I was going to get the Red Box, but if the revisions to Essentials were as good as I had heard I wanted something more substantial. So I ordered the Rules Compendium and Heroes of the Fallen Lands. Let me just say it now, on record, I love these books. Yes, you heard(read) that correctly. This die-hard 3.x/Pathfinder player found something in 4e that made me excited to try the game again. The Rules Compendium is, from a DM's POV, the single best RPG book I own in terms of usefulness. It is just ridiculously easy to reference things on the fly with this book. Good job on that one WotC.

    While Pathfinder will remain my fantasy RPG of choice for the foreseeable future, I have to say that the changes in the Essentials line, minor though they may be, make the game much more appealing to me. For the first time in a long time WotC has done something that I not only like, but am glad I bought. This will probably raise the ire of some die-hard 4e fans, but I want more digest sized Essentials books that are this well organized and reader friendly. If nothing else at least give me an Essentials Monster Manual. Not a boxed set like the soon to be released Monster Vault but an actual digest sized book to go along with the two I just bought and the Heroes of Forgotten Kingdoms book that I will be ordering when it is released.

    Mike Mearls if you, or anyone else from WotC, are by chance reading this, I accepted the "olive branch" and am at least willing to bring 4e back to my gaming table, but I sincerely want my Essentials Monster Manual/Monster Catalog/Monster Compendium(whatever you want to call it). I do not, and I repeat do not want boxed sets of anything. I want easy to carry books that are well organized.

    So this weekend I will be running a 4e game for my daughter, and probably my wife as well, using the Essentials books. Just thinking about her sitting there rolling a d20 and exploring dungeons with her "dark elf" is almost enough to bring a tear of joy to my eye. I'll let you know how it goes.


    Now that that is out of the way I came across a site while prepping for this weekends 4e game that I think may prove quite useful. GoDeckYourself is a site with various types of customizable cards for various RPG needs.
    I found blank 4e Power Cards, 4e & 3.5 Equipment Cards, Pathfinder Sorcerer Spell Cards, Initiative Cards and cards that I'm not even sure what they are for, yet.
    You have the ability for minor customization of you cards (size, backing, and I think maybe even color)and when you are done the site generates a pdf for you to download and print.
    The site says it is in beta at the moment, but there is more than enough on the site for nearly anyone to find something they can use in their game.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    Underdark Gazette: A good post and my comments

    The Underdark Gazette did an interesting post dealing with a quote from Mike Mearls with some ponderings about D&D and WotC in general.
    I've posted some quotes from the site and my responses below.

    Underdark Gazette:"Making the old material available in Print again would be nice, but I don't need WotC."
    I would love to see old editions of games released. As a matter of fact I think "revising/updating" some of the old material and releasing it under a "D&D Classics" line would be brilliant. Same basic game, but with some of the warts removed. (An updated '91 Rules Cyclopedia would be my vote for updating and rerelease... G.G)
    Of course it would be nice if there were also a few pages added or at least an online guide for people who've only played 3e/4e to convert THAC0 & descending AC to BAB and ascending AC. (Purist may disagree, but I think Sword & Wizardry had the right idea with this one. Doing both so old and new fans could play the game the way they prefer...G.G)
    While I've always disliked descending AC/THAC0, I grew up with it and can deal if I have to. My newer/younger players have only seen it in my old books and think it is the dumbest thing they've ever encountered. So if I run older editions I have to convert. Which makes game play easier, but prep is a pain.

    Underdark Gazette:"And ultimately, they did players and publishers of pre 4e editions a favor."
    I wonder just how much of the market share the OSR and Pathfinder have taken from 4e? (I'm sure D&D still holds a majority of the market, but I bet the other publishers are chipping away at it...G.G) I bought a few 4e books when it came out and was willing to give it a chance. The game wasn't bad, it did what it was designed to do, but my group and I didn't like it much.
    Pathfinder, Dark Dungeons, Basic Fantasy,or even my old D&D/AD&D books give us more than enough fantasy systems. (Though it would still be nice to have new D&D books to buy... G.G) I'm not making any claims that 3e or any other game is better (Preference is subjective and can not be right or wrong...G.G), but non-4e games just fit our style of play.
    Underdark Gazette:"Repeating history and dismissing the hobbyists who've made emotional and financial investments in their game, looks like just one more dick move, from WotC."
    This is my #1 beef with WotC/Hasbro and 4e. Being told that 4e was just a stupid rumor and then finding out they'd been working on it for 2 years left a bad taste in my mouth. I lost what little respect I had for the company after that.
    I do think if they would put older edition pdfs back up for sale(cheap) and release updated print versions of older editions, they could go a long way towards closing the rift with former fans. We may not play 4e, but we'd at least keep supporting the company.
    I just can't believe that no one at Hasbro has thought to capitalize on the OSR movement or to support the very loyal 3e fans. Don't get me wrong I love Paizo's material, but why would WotC want to give those customers to Paizo?
    A much revised/updated 3e system released under under a new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons banner would sell like hotcakes (IMO...G.G). Keep the mechanics compatible with 3e/3.5 but give it a definite old school AD&D feel/look (like they tried with the new Red Box)and I'd buy it for sure.

    A Paladin In Citadel said: "My only concern is, do the bright-lights at WOTC really get the core of what makes D&D, D&D?"
    Personally, I think that a majority of the guys at WotC, the ones that are left anyway, "get it", it is the suits at Hasbro that don't.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Edition Wars? Are we really still doing that $#!^?

    While I don't get a lot of quality Internet time anymore, I do try to visit all the blogs and forums I can when the opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately I still keep seeing a lot of old school vs new school, pathfinder vs 4e, system x vs system y, I'm right and your wrong, I'm smart and you're dumb, blah blah blah blah.
    I actually encourage the younger/newer gamers that I meet to stay far away from a many of the blogs and message boards related to our hobby. If I were looking at a lot of these posts from the perspective of a newbie or even a person who is just returning to the hobby, I'd want to stay far away from other gamers.
    It is really sad that people who claim to love an industry so much spend so much time belittling not only another person's favorite game, but the people that like said game. What's even more sad is that a fairly large percentage of these gamers are adults and have been with the hobby for 10+ years. I think it would be safe to say that more than likely these same people are at the very least in their 20's, yet still resorting to childlike, playground behavior.
    The plain and simple fact of the matter is that what game you like, what game I like, and what game some guy in Zimbabwe likes means jack shit. The only time people need to like the same game is if they are in the same gaming group. What you like has absolutely no impact on what I like and vice versa. So why the need to "prove" your game is better? I just don't get it.
    I started playing RPG's well over 20 years ago with a hodge podge of D&D books from the 70's, AD&D books from the 80's, and a few miscellaneous books that came from various box sets. All of which my mom bought me at a yard sale. My friends and I loved the D&D cartoon so convincing them to play the game was not difficult.
    None of us knew a single person that had ever played D&D and because our books were from different editions, we didn't have the best understanding of how the game was supposed to be played. Hell we didn't even have any of those funny dice the books said we needed and our Monster Manual was a little booklet that contained about 10 monsters.
    So we house-ruled the shit out of it, created our own monsters and emptied every game of Yahtzee in our homes of their d6's. Our first characters sheets were on blank pieces of notebooks paper as were our dungeon maps. Was our game being played "correctly", were a bunch of kids with only the vaguest understanding of the game able to create balanced monsters and proper house-rules, not by a long shot. Yet, despite our handicaps, those games are some of my fondest gaming memories.
    I moved a few months later and didn't find anyone to play D&D with until I was a freshman in high school. By this time I'd gotten some of those funny dice, graph paper, some actual characters sheets and because I still longed to play I bought more books(I got a real monster manual) when I got the money, and had a better understanding of the game.
    Naturally my high school gaming group was more experienced, so our games became a little more detailed and "proper" than my original group. The DM we played with was big on playing by the rules and we were all OK with that, for a while.
    When he was unavailable we'd all take turns running games and when it was my turn, the games tended to be more like the ones in my original group. I only used the rules as a guideline and always tried to make sure the game was fun above all else. I never tried to get a TPK, though it did happen. I was a little too generous with the treasure, but I also put the group up against some opponents that were way out of their league. I required the players to think and react rather than relying on what a rule said. No one ever whined that my games were broken or unbalanced. No one ever bitched and moaned that I had done exactly the opposite of what a rule said to do. None of that mattered because we were there to have fun and as long as that was accomplished then the game was a success.
    Since we all went to school together there were times we just wrote down a few stats on some notebook paper, from memory if possible otherwise we just made them up, and I'd run games for the group right there in the back of class. We didn't take our gaming gear to school so we had no dice, I made up the stats for monsters and yet we still had fun. It was with this group, during those at school games, that I started expanding my RPG experience to include sci-fi, supers and other genres besides fantasy. We were making the stuff up so it didn't matter whether we were fighting dragons, zombies or Darth Vader.
    The most important part of all of this is the "we". That's what matters, everyone in the group is having a good time and participating. Eventually, I became a full time DM for a different group and have pretty much run every single game I've played in since. I've always let my players have a say in what kind of games I ran and what was fair. While I may come up with the scenarios and make the rulings on things, the game isn't just about me.

    When I started playing D&D, I had no understanding of the rules and we made the best of the situation. As I got more books and a better understanding of the game I began to incorporate more of what the rulebooks said. After all the creators of those games had often thought of rules for things that I had never encountered, and they were often pretty good rules. Still those older editions were pretty light on rules, when compared with newer games.
    As the years progressed players wanted rules to cover more things that popped up in game or options that officially allowed them to do something. So the game creators obliged and thus we got 2e AD&D, which was a "tighter" game than 1e or basic. Then came 3e and the d20 system.
    Of all the D&D editions I feel that 3e was quite simply the most versatile, but with that versatility came an abundance of rules. This same rules/option increase can be seen in just about every single system that has survived from those earlier days. It doesn't matter if you play Palladium, Hero, or D&D, the core books have gotten thicker or there are more of them, but that's not necessarily bad.
    All these extra rules and options have done is put down on paper the stuff we just made up back when I first started playing. They brought consistency to our games. Back then if someone new came into our group we had to explain all the house-rules we had made up to give us the options we wanted. Even though we all played D&D, the way my grouped interpreted the looser rules may be very different than how your group interpreted them.
    With the newer editions  it became easier to walk in and play with other gaming groups and know what was going on with only a quick run down of the house-rules. Which once the the rulebooks began leaning towards making what you can do "official", those lists of house-rules seem to be much, much shorter than they were 20+ years ago, if they even exist at all.
    Did all of these rules and options "break" our beloved game? No, because in the front of nearly every fucking RPG book I own it clearly states that if you don't like a rule or an option in the book, then throw the damn thing out. The only important part is having fun. The RPG industry didn't burden us with a bunch of rules that tied our hands and kept us from doing things we wanted to do, we did that to ourselves.
    This brings me to the point of this little diatribe of mine. The edition wars or even system wars are juvenile and stupid. There is not a single thing you can do with your edition or system that I can't do with mine and vice verse. Unless of course one of us lacks the imagination and ability to think freely or feels like we must slavishly adhere to the rules. I mean come on, they are just game books and it isn't as if they are divinely handed down to us.
    If I want "x" ability/spell/skill to do something in my game and my group feels it is OK, then that is how it will be. If I want to run a skills challenge, which I have been doing for years, I don't have to do it the way it says in some rule book. Although I can do it just as it is written,  I am just as likely to do it in a way that contradicts the rules. Primarily to keep the story moving but also because I think it will benefit the game.
    Now to be clear I don't throw out all the parts of a system and just do whatever comes to mind. I actually like the fact that the books come with options and solutions to things I used to have to make up on the fly. So yes I do like my rules, but I am not their slave.
    If I want to play an "old school" game, I can break out my Rules Cyclopedia, AD&D 2e books, Villains & Vigilantes, any Palldium book, or a retro-clone (Dark Dungeons, Basic Fantasy RPG, GORE & OSRIC are my personal favorites). Of course I can play the exact same kind of "old school" game with D&D 3e, Pathfinder, D&D 4e, Hollow Earth Expedition, Cortex, L5R, Call of Cthulhu, Mutants & Masterminds, Savage Worlds or pretty damn near any RPG on the market. The reverse is true if I want to play a "new school" game. All the rules do is give you the basics, and some guidelines that you can follow or ignore.  It's not the rules or the system that decides how a game is played, it's you.
    I own hundreds of RPG books and I cherish every one of them. There are some I prefer over others for one reason or another, but I have gotten something good out of every single book I own. I have books for systems that I probably will never run and I have books that are falling apart because I use them so much, but none of them are useless or worthless.
    Now is about the time that some of you, the one or two that actually read what I write, may be calling shenanigans. After all haven't I said that the Palladium system needs to be reworked and that I quit playing 4e because my group and I don't really like it? Yes I have and I do stand by every word.
    At it's core the Palladium system isn't bad. The basics are pretty much just like every other RPG, you have a target number, roll dice to hit. The problem with Palladium is that their information (options, rules, etc) are spread out over so many books and even within the core Rifts book are poorly organized. The system (predominately Rifts) has become an unwieldy mess of books and rules. As common as it is for some people to call out WotC for being money grabbing jerks, Palladium is just as guilty.
    Can you run/play Rifts with just the core Rifts book? Sure, but you will only have a handful of villains, unless the GM roles up some GMPC villains using the O.C.C's in the book, and there is only one R.C.C. Want to play something other than a human or dragon hatchling, too bad you have to buy another book. Want to know more about magic, there are more books for that. Want to fight vampires, aliens or some other monsters, too bad you need more books. It almost seems as if each Palladium books is equal parts game resource and advertisement for other Palladium books.
    Don't get me wrong, and I've said this before, I love Palladium's stuff. I also wish my gaming group were willing to play the system. They just don't like it and don't want to buy the books. When people tell you that house-ruling is pretty much required to make the game "playable" (I have been told this more than once by people devoted to Palladium. To be quite honest even Mr. Siembieda, who is a really nice guy, once told me at Gen Con years ago that alot of players throw out a majority of the system and run it on house-rules), then the system has gotten too bloated for its own good and could use some fine tuning. What's the sense in even having rulebooks if you end up throwing most of the stuff out? This is an instance where a new edition is not a bad idea. Still I just can't help being drawn to this system. The 50+ Palladium books I own can attest to that.
    As for 4e I personally don't have a major problem with the system, it does exactly what it is designed to do. My group and I just don't want to play it.
    I freely admit to being a fan of 3.x and Pathfinder is our system of choice. I own 4e books, I've ran 4e games but my group clearly told me they wanted to play "D&D" (which to them is Pathfinder or any older D&D edition). 4e just wasn't their cup of tea.
    As a GM/DM, 4e made prep time easier and I won't deny that, but the group didn't like the character options. They really didn't like the fact that the classes were designed to fill a specific role and I can't disagree with them on that. I could have easily thrown out what we didn't like about the game, but why bother when we would have just changed it into Pathfinder. So we stuck with 3.x and Pathfinder is our default fantasy game.
    Of course I think Pathfinder made GM prep much easier when compared to 3e or 3.5. Of course that is just my opinion. My players like the changes to classes and so we are happy with the system. We have no reason to change.
    Now where I have a major issue is with WotC. In the lead up to 4e they stated more than once that everyone talking about 4e was wrong. There was no 4e and 3.x was going to be around for a while. I also remember more than a few comments by WotC staff members at Gen Con and on message boards that leaned heavily towards insulting when it they spoke about the people saying that 4e was being developed. (OK on the boards they claimed to be WotC staff, and I took them on their word, but can not prove the validity of this.) Then the very next year at Gen Con, they not only announced 4e, but said that they had been working on it for something like 2 years.
    They made this fine presentation about all this really cool stuff that was going to be available when the game was released and then didn't come through. I actually got excited about some of the features they were supposed to have available, but the closer it came to 4e's release, they still didn't even have test versions up.
    So my beef with 4e is and has always been WotC's attitude towards their fans. At the time they seemed to be telling us that because they own D&D all of us mindless, geeky sheep would believe and buy whatever they shoveled our way. I just didn't take too kindly to that attitude. Now I know there are some really great people working at WotC, a few of which hinted at displeasure with the company's POV during some brief conversations and this is not their individual views, but it did and still does seem to be the WotC/Hasbro view. I gave the game a chance and still may even buy the Red Box, but I won't pretend that their actions didn't sour my view of WotC and the current D&D brand a great deal.
    Now the thing I find the most upsetting is the things I continue to see around the net. I freely admit that fans of all editions have been openly acting like royal asses, but I find that more often than not a majority of this poor behavior is coming from 4e fans.
     I've seen insults towards 3.x, OSR and player's of completely different systems that range from them being mindless sheep (I'll address this in minute) to them being simple or close minded. WTF?!? How can having a preference for a certain system or edition mean you are dumb or close minded? I don't think less of 4e players because of their choice. Hell if you were running a 4e game and asked me to play I'd probably do so gladly, unless I was running a game that same night. As fun as it can be to GM a game it is nice to sit on the other side of the screen every once in a while.
    Now as for the mindless sheep comments, which seem to be the most popular, how is continuing to buy products that support the game you are already playing more like being mindless sheep that replacing all those books you bought just because there is a shiny, new, but completely incompatible edition available? It seems to me that the sheep like behavior is going with the rest of the flock to the shiny new pasture, when the old pasture was just fine.
    There have also been a lot of insults thrown towards Paizo because they decided to stick with the edition that basically created the company. Mostly that they are selfish, money hungry hacks. Again I have to give a big WTF?!?
     Just like every other company, including WotC/Hasbro, they are there to make money. There is nothing wrong with that and they likely wouldn't last long if they didn't at least try to make a profit. The important thing is how they view and treat their fans/customers. Besides there was a demand for a product that they were already knowledgeable about, so why shouldn't they keep going with it?
    I've had nothing but good experiences dealing with Paizo staff and customer service and have yet to hear anyone that has honestly dealt with them say different. While I have never personally dealt with WotC in that way, I have heard just the opposite about them.
    Paizo includes all of their potential customers in their playtests, and everyone from freelancers up to the top bosses are on the message boards interacting with fans, asking and answering questions. I've never seen that on the WotC boards. The only time I've had interaction with, supposed, WotC employees online has been on other boards. Like I said before most of them that I've spoken with, online or in person, are great people who love gaming as much as the rest of us. (I've only met one WotC employee, whom I think was a boss, that was a dick in person. Right after that, and maybe because of it I don't know for sure, a couple of other WotC creators whose name I won't mention, spent a good 10 minutes just chatting with me at Gen Con) The company is where my problem starts and stops.
    Now before it seems like I'm picking on the 4e gang, let me set this straight. I'm not saying, in any way that 4e players as a whole are being asses online. That would not only be a generalization, but a very poor one at that. I know a few 4e players, online only, I don't know anyone personally that still plays 4e, and they seem like stand up guys and gals. So for the "good guys" in the 4e gang, don't be offended. Of course I do realize that I'm probably going to get ripped to shreds in the comments, but I know it is just that select group of loudmouths and they do not represent the 4e group as a whole.
    It has just been my personal experience that the most hostile gamers on message-boards seem to be the ones claiming to be 4e players. I say "claiming to be" because I don't know them personally and they could just be ass hats that are trying to stir up trouble. It is just that a majority of these jerks represent themselves as 4e players and given that it would be kind of silly for a non-gamer to spend time on RPG boards just to stir up an edition war, I accept that they are in fact 4e players.
    Now to turn my accusing little fingers away from the 4e crowd I have to say that I'm disappointed in a lot of the OSR players as well. Most of the old school gang seem to be 30+ years old and yet too many of them have been participating in the edition bashing as well. I expect better from people in my age group (Again this is only directed towards the jerks who continue to stir up trouble and insult fans of newer editions). Going old school is fine, I'm running a Rules Cyclopedia game next weekend, but old school does not equal better. It is just your preferred style of play. Enough with the elitist attitude. There is nothing wrong with people playing AD&D 1e/2e, 3.x/Pathfinder, 4e or any other d20 game on the market. I would encourage anyone, especially someone new to the hobby, to play which ever edition/system they want, just as long as they are playing and keeping the hobby alive.
    Now as for the 3.x/Pathfinder group. I've seen more than a couple of you stirring up trouble on the boards as well. Please stop acting like dip shits. Just because some of us stuck with a version of the rules we prefer does not make us anymore superior to other players than they are to us. 3.x/Pathfinder may be my system of choice, but it is not the end all, be all of gaming. Every system/edition has its flaws, if you claim something different then you aren't reading the same books I am.
    In all sincerity, I'm really not trying to be mean or attempting to offend anyone. I'm just really upset with how I see some of my fellow gamers acting towards one another. I just think it would better serve the community and industry if we all got along better and supported each other. Even if our opinions differ. Otherwise we may be responsible for tearing apart the very hobby we all claim to love so much.


    One last thing. For all of you that claim Pathfinder is not 3.x but an entirely different game. You are both correct and wrong. It is a different game because it is not called D&D, but it is just as close to 3.5 as 3.5 was to 3.0. I have no problem using any of my 3.5 or even my 3.0 books with Pathfinder. So yeah, Pathfinder is a continuation of 3.5 and only a different system in name alone. So with the exception of the name, Pathfinder is closer to being the D&D we've all been playing over the past decade than 4e. Just in the same way that many of the retro-clones are closer to being OD&D or 1e/2e than any of the editions that have been published in the past decade. Basically they are all D&D, in some fashion, with different labels. Kind of like D&D and AD&D.
    Also for everyone that likes to talk trash about other editions, and I'm talking to OSR, 3.x and 4e players alike, please don't think that stating things like "it sucks" or insulting staff for company "x" are valid arguments. First of all unless you personally have had negative interactions with said staff, don't trash talk them. Most of these guys were/are gamers just like us and are some really nice people. Secondly, I have seen no one on any blog or message board that has given actual, hard evidence as to why a particular edition is better. Every single post, mine included, are based solely on personal preference and opinion. Neither of which is more right than anyone else's because opinions, no matter how strong, are in no way, shape or form, facts.  If you can't back it up with hard indisputable facts, then just assume you are wrong. Unless you clearly state that it is your opinion, then you are neither wrong nor right. You just have an opinion, and just like assholes, we all have one.