Thursday, March 26, 2015

So About That Bad Rep of Yours?

I promised y'all a story.

Some years ago we were playing Rolemaster Standard System  (RMMS) which is basically like D&D with more detail and realism. I decide to try a Mage which is the magic User of the setting, a generic spell caster type.

I'm 5th level which is maybe 3rd in D&D , closer to 2.5

The setting is a tavern  and of course a fight breaks out,

Soon people are reaching for blades.

Its my initiative and so I say "I prep a Frost Ball."

Now spells in RMSS require a roll to go off and the more rounds you spend on this, the easier the roll.

Frost Ball is  not a strong spell, its not a Hadoken or Kamehameha type  effect, its a modest effect more likely to stun than kill and its blast radius , 10 feet wouldn't wreck everything in sight. Its not perfect for a barfight but I didn't think a sleep spell would help at the time.

Two rounds go by and I drop the spell and simple bash the bad guy unconscious with my staff.

There after my fellow players assumed I was "That  guy who plays blast crazy  mages." all for a low level, moderately powered spell I never even  cast.

Now after some years I moved on and into my new group.

We are now playing D&D 5e . I'm playing the boxed set iconic elf wizard. I changed nothing basically.

In our explorations we run into a nasty level boss with a lot of henchmen . Seeing a real good chance we would get killed and thinking the guy we were supposed to rescue was already dead and a dwarf to boot  I use my scroll of fireball.

Now I can almost see everyone gasping but you see Evoker Wizards in 5e can exclude a number of people from a spell equal to the spells level. I make a quick judgement call, figure who can take it even if they fail the save and  use the scroll. The Dwarf Cleric in the party gets singed but the fight becomes a curbstomp. We take much less damage than we would have otherwise. In other words I did my job

But what do I get ? I'm the guy who plays crazy blast wizards.

Le Sigh ...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Joann Jett with Bad Reputation

For reasons that will soon be apparent

What I like to play and run and why

Just a personal post

I like to play D&D and generic fantasy in most forms  and will play most games, Playing is not my thing though and I can get bored sometimes unless I am into my character or the game.

Now given a choice I'll run

#1 Euro-Centric Fantasy.

Faeries tales mostly, adventure fiction too. From Migration era  to the Early Modern . No Cthulhu generally except in Conan games  . I don't care much to run or play games in other cultures or eras  as I don't understand them well enough  do them much justice  . Orientalism and similar tropes outright annoy  me. I can play Victorian/Old West  though  and while I have huge respect for the arts and scholarship of the period, its not my thing usually.

#2 Zeerust/Hard  SF

Think Aliens, Firefly, Outland, Cowboy Beebop  hard SF with cultures I can relate too . I can tolerate Space Opera, Star Trek, Star Wars but they aren't my things. I detest Transhumanism though I actually playtested some of the Transhuman Space books . They are amazing and if you like Transhumanism, you should have them in your collection. I have a few and have even mined them from time to time.

#3 Post Apocalypse

Twilight 2000K stuff with a little Mad Max, not Gamma World or a Boy and His Dog though.

#4 Modern Fantasy/Horror

Anything from I dunno 1970 on up.  This is my best genre I think. I run tight games that are usually well received and  have run more of this than anything else. Also little Cthulhu here. Not my thing.

#5 Low Powered Supers.

As mentioned  before I kind of suck at Supers and while I've enjoyed a few games of Marvel Super Heroes and run a few as well, its hard to find good GM's or games where I can play what I want without hurting anyone else's fun . Low powered supers are another matter as they are a variation of Modern Fantasy really and I enjoy playing and running those

So there you have it. These are what I usually run and given a chance will play.

How about y'all?


Where the Blog is Going

I've been thinking about this blog and where to go with it.

It wasn't easy, there are so many good games, so many ideas and so many different directions to go int that it easy to get bogged down.

So in that vein I decided I go with the following

#1 Old School Games specifically Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures from Flatland Games.

This is my very favorite Old School game and I like it enough to playtest for it.

#2 Eden Studios Unisystem

This game is semi-moribund but its my favorite system to run especially in its Cinematic version . I've also playtested for them. Its simply the best system thus far for me.


I've covered GURPS a bit before and of course with permission  I host the infamous Ballistic Spreadsheet by Doug Cole but its high time I started sharing all the stuff I've made.  Coincidentally I've playtested for them as well and worked a bit with SJ Games. It was if you were wondering a very good experience, they are solid professionals.

Occasionally you may see some D&D 5e talk, and maybe little Pathfinder Epic 6 and a bit of this and that but there you go, the  new focus.

Hope I don't drive any of y'all away but if you decide to leave, hey appreciate your reading and good gaming,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lesson Learned #3 As a Player I Avoid Violence

Its just a quirk I've noticed about myself as a player, either I'm getting old or something but  outside of dungeon crawls I tend to avoid violence in games of late.

It wasn't always this way though I've never played combat monkeys but its just I find many fights tedious, no longer care about weapons minutia or any of that. I know these things. know my weapons and martial arts I just don't groove to them in my gaming as much.

Now I don't always get a choice in this when I play. First   my GM's like the action scenes

Second even when the GM isn't pushing action   one or more people in the group will almost certainly draw agro on us all so it behooves me to make combat effective characters. So I do and sometimes I have fun. often not.

Now don't get me wrong  I'm not some gaming snob, I don't even play story games or think they better than good old TTRPG's or that violence is in games is wrong. Heck I  enjoy my share of hack and shoot in computer games  but for whatever reason I usually make characters who avoid unnecessary fights  and violence,

Heck I've even skipped games I thought were going to  too violent letting folks know.

As such I simply try to make my choices with both eyes open and this makes sure that everyone is happier and that  I pull my weight as a player too.

Now this  doesn't seem like a big deal but it might surprise you how many gamers don't do this and its a shame. There are lots of reasons, habit, not wanting to be alone, others but in any case it  would make better gaming for everyone if people could articulate what they want and play only when they were into the game and its premise.

Lessons Learned #2 My Games Aren't Violent Enough for a Lot of Players

One thing I've noticed when I run games other than D&D type Dungeon Crawls   is that I treat violence in a somewhat realistic manner, that is best avoided.

This however can create problems with player involvement. Much like the old writers trope by Raymond Chandler  "If you don't know what to write next send a man with a gun through the door" violence is a big part of games and the players have come to expect it.

Its not something you can easily work around , simply, the guys need fights.

So over the years I've adapted and try to select settings and campaigns where fighting is a good and useful and fun option,

Sometimes it means tweaking  the rules a bit, such as in my SF game where .65 caliber seeker darts with ONC warheads exists (one shot, one brain kill) or the setting in  more modern games where frankly shooting people is usually not an option .

And  you know what, its fine. Part of a GM's job is coming up with stuff that makes everybody happy from time to time and brings home the fun. And gaming  goes by a single rule, if its fun, you did it right.

Lessons Learned #1 , A Lot of Gaming Ideas are Daft in Practice

One upside to our current gaming setup is that we get to try a lot of experimental games either when player's can't make it or just as a break between games.

One of the more daft ideas i ran with was "Inherent " in which the characters were defrosted convicts sent by a failing A.I. to repopulate the Earth.

my pitch for this was

 Back in the 1980's they started freezing Felons. A hundred years later you defrosted convicts and your slowly failing computer system are the last of mankind. Can you restart the species while avoiding all the behaviors that got you frozen in the 1st place. Basically Morrow Project meets Fallout meets Oz.

This well, sucked.  Bad concept, mediocre implementation and while the players were fine and even had some fun , it just was stupid.

Another bad idea, letting the players play themselves as Super Heroes . This have been great back in 1981 with Villains and Vigilantes but in 2014? Made of suck.

Other ideas I won't even try are Suds which I describe as "A tabletop RPG designed explicitly as a soap opera rather than an adventure game. There will be some action but its mostly drama drama drama in the vein of Melrose Place and the OC" and The Mighty which is another soap game, this time more along the lines of Dallas, Falcon Crest and Dynasty. Not only have my players never even seen any of these shows, no one us, me included could pull off the drama. Not gonna happen.

Even ideas that are partially useful and can be played such as

Starlight, Iron and the End of Days:
This is DeLint style Faerie tales set in a 2050 where the demographic prediction of Phillip Longman et all are true. Less Men means the Fae have crept slowly back into the world. Normal people, poignant empty cities and the greening.

can't necessarily be stretched too much and something like 

Revolution Rock: set in the same Universe where a band of teen age friends try to get into the rock concert of the century.

are just not going to work 

So the lesson I learned in the end is that as  I look over my huge list of games I have to remember  lots of cool ideas but they are just that, cool idea and are  daft in practice

So What Are you Good At ?

Well since  I'm bad at Supers people might be wondering what I am good at?

Well if I may toot my horn  I run very good Urban Fantasy/Horror ,good  Aliens/Firefly type SF, decent Fantasy especially Gritty and solid fairly realistic Post Apocalypse . I can also run police procedural and modern adventure (1950's and up) .

Pulp isn't my thing nor is any other historical game though I could manage World War 2 in a pinch. I think.

I've also run a bit of Ancient Aliens type stuff with some success. I won't run it again as its not something my players enjoy very often but the same went pretty well and even the player who kind o had to get dragged away from making it a shoot em up  admitted it was a good game.

Oh yeah and fairy tale themed games, Those I do pretty well.

Actually I sort of suck at running Supers

One of the things I've learned while with this group is that I'm just not good at running Supers games,

Oh I do good world building, my players inform me that the Marvel variant I run is pretty interesting . I actually like playing Supers occasionally, especially in the Marvel universe  but something in the ethos of Supers and its assumptions not to mention flow of rules  of most Supers games seems to make my games fizzle.

They always end up dark and awful even when the goal is lighter.

There is an exception here, Street Level +Occult and Psychic type games work well enough. Realistic Batman meets Kickass meets Constantine meets Firestarter I can manage but that really isn't a Supers game.  Its more modern fantasy with costumed vigilantes.

So in the future given time is limited I'll simply skip running Supers games and spare my players the mediocre gaming.

So What's Going in Gaming Land?

Not much really. 

I'm still with my excellent group but I am on hiatus for a while. Personal life is a tad busy and I am also kind  of burned out on being a player.

I don't mind being a player if I am into the guy I am playing and/or the system but in general playing is mostly  not my thing and I really prefer to GM.

We were playing QAGS  Quick Ass Gaming System in the M Force (download at the link free and legal)  Setting kind of a Monster Hunter's International sort of setting .

The system is more robust than I expected from its name as less silly and  I  have no complaints with our GM, J  he knows the rules well and runs a good game. Its just not clicking for some reason which is a shame as the  rest of the group is having a blast. 

That's alright though. I've often taken long hiatuses from this hobby including much of the 90's where at most I bought GURPS books.

I'll probably return sooner than later or maybe run something at the FLGS. Who knows? 

New Addition to the Blog Roll and a Dropped Blog

Having discovered this blog, Chain Link and Concrete  via Gaming Ballistic   and having seen its  very good GURPS and D20 content I've decided to let it replace the on hiatus Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque .


Friday, March 6, 2015

So What OSR game would you like to play and run?

Kind of an open thread really.

I'd like to play or run either Castles and Crusades or Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures. 

How about you?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why No Gary Gygax Memorial Yesterday?


Because I remember him  and yes Dave Arneson  too every time I open a gaming book.

As the Havamal (Stanza 77)

Cattle die, kindred die, 
Everybody  is mortal: 
But I know one thing that never dies, 
The glory of the great deed.

and thus as long as polyhedral dice  rattle on tables, they are with us. 

Taylor Davis Fairy Tale Theme

This is kind of an embarrassment of riches. Taylor  Davis is another amazing violinist and performer, also lovely and nerdy too.

She doesn't have the same wild energy as Lindsay Sterling but her music has  a slow moody quality and a rich classical sound.

I think y'all will enjoy it.

Lindsay Sterling Dragon Age

An amazing performer, kind of a nerd,  great violinist, really cute  and reminds me of an occasional player in my group whats not to like?

If anyone were to make Mercedes Lackey's  Free Bards stuff  into a movie, she'd be perfect as a slightly older Rune of Westara too as she's demonstrated a bit of acting and singing skill too.

The Six Top OSR games are?

I want to let y'all know this is an opinion piece only and shouldn't be taken to think any particular  game is bad.

I've looked through a lot of these games, I mean a crazy crazy lot of them and I have yet to find one that's actually bad or adds nothing of value to our community.

I guess  it because these games come from a good foundation with decades worth of real world testing for that foundation. Or it could be that OSR writers are just awesome. Who knows?

However my  picks for the best six are as follows.

#1 Swords and Wizardry

This does everything an OSR game needs to do and does it well. Plenty of support and plenty of genres make it a magnificent tool box of a game.  Best of all the "Complete" version which is enough gaming for a lifetime is absolutely free and can be snaked here or a number of other places.

#2 Labyrinth Lord

I gave this amazing game 2nd place with a tiny bit of reluctance as its probably as good as S&W. Its a matter of taste really S&W mimicking early AD&D and OD&D  as versus Lab Lord mimicking B/X and AD&D  . It too is well supported and free

#3 Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

This one isn't free and as heavily supported or generic like the other games. Instead its tight, focused and has  the coolest character generations systems in any OSR game. You can learn about it on its homepage. 

#4 Fantastic Heroes and Witchery

This isn't a game for newbie gamers, its rich, complex, nuanced and incredibly complete  especially as it was basically made by one man. Its also free along with some cool support which can be had here though you can buy a print edition or a properly indexed PDF as well. If you like a more AD&D2e or more pulp flavor, this is the one for you.

#5 Basic Fantasy Rolepaying Game

Often overlooked including by me hence the edit. This is a B/X rift, modernized, incredibly well supported, sold at cost, yes cost, in print that does everything a D&D RPG ought to do. Its all amazingly open, generously set up and ready to rumble. Interestingly this is the only OSR game in which my players actually have a copy and are even eager to play. I can't recommend  this game highly enough. Its all free here. 

#6 Castles and Crusades.

I don't actually have that much to say about this game other than its solid and once you get past the SIEGE gaming engines quirks and the sometime haphazard presentation of the books, I think you'll find this to be a good OSR game with a low learning curve for players coming in from Pathfinder or other 3x games. It has intriguing support books as well and plenty of adventures. And yeah its a bit more modern in feel that the above games but in general, it works, is well supported and has a good player base. You can hit the Troll's Den in my blogroll or the company homepage  for more information.