Friday, July 26, 2013

10 Questions

I saw these on another blog and thought it was interesting.  So, I decided to give it a go.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
Yes and No.  I like the idea, but I think there needs to be some variations and expansions.  For instance, a dwarf "thief" wouldn't be the same as a human thief.  So, why not have a "thief-like" variation of the dwarf class?

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?
Of course.  Doesn't everyone?

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?
Ascending.  I don't care for looking at tables during combat.

(4). Demi-human level limits?
Not sure.  I'd probably be ok with them...until I wasn't.  In either case, I think they were too restrictive back in the day.

(5). Should thief be a class?
Yes.  Although I like the 3E way of referring to them as "rogues" better.  It's just a certain set of skills that may or may not be used for stealing stuff.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?
I think a good RPG should have some kind of skill system in place, though I don't think it needs to be all that complex.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?
They have the potential to be.  It just depends on a wide variety of factors.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?
Nope.  Never have.  I like alignments, but the "language" part always seemed kind of dumb to me.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?
No XP for gold per se, but rather for the actions it takes to acquire the gold.  XP is supposed to represent your character learning from his "Experience."  What does he learn from finding a pile of unguarded gold?

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?
I like all of the ones I have played, for different reasons (mainly for the memories they evoke).  But for pure fun factor, I like 3.5 and Moldvay.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?
I kind of like unified, though I can certainly see the arguments for individual tables.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Here all week...

For those of you who don't know, this week is Read An RPG In Public Week.  To that end, I will be taking my newly aquired Star Frontiers - Knight Hawks book out to lunch with me.  Picked it up yesterday at Half-Price Books for $9.99 (along with a copy of the novel of The Maltese Falcon and the Special Edition DVD of Arnold's Total Recall, for $2 each), and it's in practically mint condition.  They also had the big map for the board game, but I couldn't see paying $7.99 for that.

I am damn-near obsessed with Star Frontiers these days, and am jonesing to play it.  I'm really hoping I can get a game together.  Like I said before, even a one-shot would be cool.

I have also been putting some thought into the Life of Rage RPG, specifically the OSR version.  If you've looked at it, you can see that it's really just a supplement to be used with the Moldvay/Cook books.  However, I have been inspired by Blueholme and Mazes & Perils, and am thinking about expanding it to being a fully functioning, OGL game that requires no other books or materials.  It might be more than I am prepared to do in the end, but right now the idea sounds kind of cool.

And finally, we'll be playing 5E again this Sunday.  That's the fourth weekend in a row.  Pretty exciting stuff!  Based on some things that happened in the last session, I have focused my character a bit more in my mind.  I know that the main purpose of this is to test the rules, but I can't help but want to explore the character aspects that have nothing to do with any specific rules.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More 5E and Writing

We managed to gather for another session of 5E this weekend.  There were a couple of new players, and really it might have been just a bit too much.  One player had her character perform a single action during the course of the evening.  I felt bad for her.  The character was a cool concept, but was out of her element in a haunted keep with a mystery to solve.

The other new character was iffy.  He was a half-orc monk (a combo I always liked), but he didn't really play him how one would expect a monk to be played.  He acted more rogue-ish, using persuasion to get the unwise fighter to do questionable stuff.  Regardless, it was still a fun time.  Many jokes were thrown about, including a reference to Conan the Librarian.

Speaking of 5E and playing your character well, there is an article over at Wizards about Roleplaying, and how it will be encouraged and handled in 5E.  If you have your doubts about the Roleplay aspect of 5E (or any edition), I suggest you check it out.  It's well-written, and has me just that much more in support of this whole thing.

Over in the Star Frontiers section of my brain, I'm dreaming up some ideas for adventures to write, as well as other content for that game.  I think once we get settled into our new apartment (moving at the end of this month), I might see about starting a Star Frontiers game.  Not sure how I will do that, as my schedule is usually pretty full, and my wife already has plans to eventually run a Shadowrun game.  But, I will still give it a shot.  Even if it's just a few one-shots and whatnot.

I've thought about trying to get into a Skype game or some other online format.  But with a 4-year old kid around, and my computer being in the living room, I doubt I would get the privacy I would need to do so.

We'll just have to see.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Orcs and Stuff

As indicated by my last post, I have recently developed a renewed interest in all things Star Frontiers.  Last night I did what I always do, and created my own content for it.  As you may have surmised, I am somewhat enamoured of Orcs, in all of their glorious forms.  So I decided to combine that with SF, and do a Race Sheet for Orcs (with original artwork by yours truly).  It's been uploaded on the My Addiction page here.  Take a look and let me know what you think!

Interestingly, that idea came about based on a fiction idea I am developing.  One day I was lamenting on Facebook how uninspired to write I had been for a while (if you're interested, I talk about that kind of stuff on occasion on my other blog).  A friend of mine who knows of my love of Orcs, as well as my long-standing passion for Stallone movies, suggested writing something akin to "The Expendables with Orcs."  Brilliant!  Of course, the first thing I thought of was the old Dragon*Star campaign I had run back in San Diego.

Well, long story short, that is exactly what I am doing.  Except, there will be no magic, and it will be more of a straight Science Fiction Action story.  I'm treating Orcs as if they were just another alien race, with hints of them coming from more primitive "fantasy" worlds.  So, when I looked at Star Frontiers, it seemed to be a good fit.

In other (non) news, not sure if we are playing 5E this weekend or not.  I'm thinking probably not, as it is Friday, and nothing has been mentioned all week.  Ah, well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Star Frontiers

The more observant among you might have noticed the slight change in the graphic that I use for the background of this blog.  Specifically, I replaced the image of the Champions cover with one of Star Frontiers.  I did this for a couple of reasons.

First, although I loved Champions, I never played a whole lot of it.  If I wanted to play supers back in the day, my go-to game was Marvel Super Heroes.  So, it seemed odd that I would include that where it was.  Then, about a month ago, I picked up the Alpha Dawn Expanded Rules for $5, and remembered that I played that game early on too.  In fact, it was actually one of the first non-D&D games I ever played.  And even though I didn't actually play it much more than Champions, it did have a more significant place in my gaming education.

Another reason I changed it is because I have recently become more interested in SF again.  As I said, I had gotten the book, but, with no one to play it with, it was just a novelty purchase.  However, on the OSR Gaming forums, there are a few players who post about it on occasion, and they pointed out a fanzine called Frontier Explorer.  It's available for free through DriveThruRPG, so I picked up all five issues of it last night.

Flipping through them on my computer, I found myself getting a bit excited by the game.  I want to play it again.  I even found myself wondering if I could write content for it, like I have been doing for B/X D&D.  No concrete ideas right now.  Just an urge to create.

So, once more my attention drifts off to other genres and games.  This is a very common thing for me.  Unfortunately, as someone who longs to be a professional writer and author, this is sometimes a detriment, and one of the main reasons I have a hard time finishing anything substantial.

Ah, well.  I'm sure it will pass, and I'll move on (or back) to something else soon enough.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Free stuff!

Inspired by a comment from The Digital Orc, I have created a page above where I will link to the various creations I make for RPGs.  Please feel free to download and comment on anything you see there.  I am very interested in hearing some critical feedback. 

Right now, the material presented is all based on the Moldvay/Cook rules.  The problem is, I haven't played them in years, and have only been reading them.  However, I think I'm experienced enough to tell when something fits a given rules set.  But, I am only human...

Monday, July 15, 2013

More 5E!

So, we got to play yesterday after all. My wife wasn’t there for most of it due to a work obligation. But two of the other regular players from our 3.5 game showed up too, and much fun was had. As expected, the story and game itself were good. The addition of the new players (as well as the in-game explanation of my wife’s character’s absence) went well.

On the rules, some progress was made in understanding the intricacies of 5E. We finally all understand how the streamlined skills system works. We are also beginning to get a handle on the whole “saving throw” concept in 5E. Basically, it’s gone, and everything is an attribute check. Some may think this makes it too simple, but honestly, I like it. No one who actually takes the time to learn the rules and play this game can complain about the rules getting in the way of the story, or the role-play.

Another interesting point I noticed yesterday may just be an epiphany on my part. In the past, in all other editions, I had always been very concerned with having good stats. I was always convinced that those +1’s or +2’s would make all the difference. In this group, my character has the overall worst set of stats. Mine is the only one without at least one “18”, even after the bonuses for race and class that 5E grants. And yet, he still manages to hold his own, just as well as anyone else.

In fact, my character’s Intelligence is only 8, and it’s been a fun exercise to figure out how to RP that. He is a cleric with a 14 Wisdom, so basically he is a slow and deliberate thinker who focuses on the long term, and has a hard time with snap judgments and short-term plans.

This may or may not be a reflection on 5E itself, though I’m inclined to believe it is, at least a little. None of the skills or abilities in the game are highly influenced by your stats. They add to (or subtract from) your ability to perform certain functions, but really the emphasis is laid back on the dice, as it has been in past editions. But without convoluted tables and matrices.

Over all, I’m enjoying 5E a lot. I figured I would at least buy the core books, like I always do. And, if it continues to develop along these lines, I could see running campaigns using this system. One thing I would like to explore, though, is how backwards compatible it is with previous editions, especially the older ones (like B/X and 1E).

Friday, July 12, 2013


Ok, it's time to come clean. I am addicted to creating new crap for RPG's that I will never play.

In recent weeks I have become obsessed with Basic (and Expert) D&D, and have so far written two complete supplements and a new class for it. Just today I spent a little over an hour writing up a Barbarian class for B/X. I think all of my stuff turns out pretty good, but that's not the point.

What is the point? I honestly don't know. I think maybe I am living vicariously through my creations; perhaps living out a fantasy in my head that I am a game-designer of great note and reputation, and that my stuff received by the fans with great fanfare and "Holy bells, how did I play without this?"

In fact, it's all just an exercise in futility. Or maybe it's an exercise in game-material writing, and someday I will put what I have learned into practice and write for a real game that will pay me for my efforts. Yeah, I'm going to go with that.

Anyways, due to scheduling conflicts we may or may not be able to play 5E this weekend. I'll be bummed, but I will live. Also, the DM of my regular 3.5 game recently had a family tragedy, so that game is postponed too. But, that won't bother me. Because family is more important than gaming any day of the week, and I feel for him.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thoughts on Next II

Over the course of the last few days, I have managed to print out all of the Player-relevant documents for D&D Next. Made a nifty cover using some artwork from Pathfinder (because I like it, that's why), and put it all into a binder. We're hoping to play again this weekend, but it all revolves around my wife's work schedule (she owns her own hair salon). Either way, I'm a bit more prepared to delve into the rules and the game itself. Not to mention that my friend has created a pretty neat story, which always makes any D&D game just that much better.

In looking at the rules, I have noticed a few things that I hadn't before. Some of it is pretty important, from a player's perspective, and some of it is more in the DM's domain. The first discovery that I made was in regards to the Wizard, which my wife is playing (a chesty little halfling who is probably too cute and intelligent for her own good). When she rolled her up and started playing her, we hadn't had the chance to really read the rules. So, she was falling back on her knowledge of previous editions, and playing her like a standard Wizard. What I discovered is that the 5E Wizard is now a blend of the 3E Wizard and Sorcerer (which explains why the Sorcerer is absent from 5E).

Basically, she still has to study her spell book, and memorize her spells for the day. But, she is able to cast them like a Sorcerer. For example, if she has two "spell slots" per day, she could choose to memorize Detect Magic and Burning Hands. But, while in an encounter, she can choose to cast her spells as she sees fit. If she wants to she can either cast each spell once, or one spell twice. I think this is brilliant! It gives her the freedom to prepare for a wide vairety of possibilities, but she can change her tactics on the fly. In previous editions, she would need to try to predict what she would need for the day, and choose accordingly, hoping that she chose correctly.

I've also managed to get a better handle on how skills and feats work, so there will probably be some modification there as well.

The other thing I noticed is that there is no Experience table, to designate how many experience points a character needs to level up. Apparently there was one in a previous release of the rules, but it has been removed (based on some perusing of the WotC Forums). Not a huge concern for me as a player, but I'm interested in how my DM will handle this. We are gamers, after all, and we like leveling up.

All in all, 5E (which is easier to type and understand than "D&D Next") is shaping up to be a decent outing. I was asked how it compares to 4E yesterday, to which I was forced to reply that I don't know. I've only played 4E a couple of times, and was not all that impressed with it (it felt too "button mashing" to me). So, I have to compare it to 3E and earlier. And in that, it seems to be a decent progression so far.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thoughts on Next

I finally got a taste of D&D Next this weekend.  The short of it is that I like it so far, and look forward to seeing what comes along.  It’s a pretty standard set of rules, with plenty of familiarity mixed in with some new ideas, many of which I have seen in other forms as house-rules in the past.  But where Next seems to differentiate itself, at least in my mind, is in the character creation process.
As I spoke about before, there is this feeling among the “old school” crowd that the latest editions (mostly 3E and 4E) are so focused on the mechanics of the game, that it detracts from actual role-playing, and turns it into nothing more than a glorified board game.  Now, while I wholeheartedly disagree with that, I can understand why they would think this way.
Next seems to address this issue, though it may not be intentionally.  During character creation, the process, as laid out by the book, is slightly different than in the past.  Before it was standard to:
1.  Roll ability scores
2.  Select Race/Class
3.  Assign your ability scores
4.  Fill out the details
In Next, the process is pretty much the same, in the same order, except that it adds another step.  After selecting your race and class, you select a Background and, optionally, a Specialty and Feats.
Your Background will dictate your skills at the beginning.  You get four skills to start with, and they are related to your background, which can be equated to your “character concept.”  Other games have been doing this for years, so it kind of boggles the mind why D&D has taken so long to embrace this idea.  I mean, it kind of always has in the case of weapons and armor.  But in non-combat abilities, it’s always been non-existent, or handled kind of willy-nilly.
The Specialties and Feats being optional is actually brilliant.  Having them or not having them does not disrupt the balance of the game, as far as I can tell.  So, for the Grognards who sneer at the idea of Feats, you can feel free to not use them, and still be within the parameters of the “written word” of the game.  They are there simply to customize your character a bit, and really not much more.  I believe that’s the way they were intended when introduced in 3E, but things kind of got misinterpreted and out of hand.
Now, with all of that being said, I should also mention that, as we sat down to play, we three players had not finished (or even started) creating our characters, and the DM had concentrated on his story, and was not fully schooled on all of the rules.  We were also hampered by the fact that all of the rules materials were in electronic format, aside from a few pages being printed out for easy reference (I will be working on correcting that this week).  However, the whole process was relatively easy, and we managed to have a really good session.
The bottom line is, while so far Next doesn’t seem to be too revolutionary, it’s a solid game, and our session proved that the mechanics have little effect on the role-play aspect of the game, regardless of what some narrow-minded grongards like to think.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What’s Next…?

My regular, bi-weekly 3.5E game is on hold while the DM is off gallivanting around the galaxy (and by “galaxy” I mean on vacation in Japan with the family).  We will probably resume in a few weeks.  We were left with a nice little cliffhanger, and my character can almost taste the ubersword that we came to this phantasmal island looking for.  Too bad that bastard minotaur (who was my friend at one time) got here first…

Anyways, in the meantime, my other friend has taken it upon himself to start up a less formal campaign, set in Greyhawk, and using the D&D Next playtest documents.  At first I was kind of “meh” about it.  I had a cool concept for a 3.5 character, using a variant class from Unearthed Arcana.  But, now that we have officially settled on Next, I have rethought that.

My current character concept is that of a Hill Dwarf Monk, who will probably serve as the bodyguard for my wife’s character.  Although she is playing a ranger in our current game, she is more inclined towards the “squishy” classes, and I would be willing to bet she plays a wizard.  Which is cool, because she’s good at it.  I’m usually the burly fighter/barbarian type, so playing a monk should be a nice change.  Though still technically a combat monster, it’ll be from a different angle.

As a long-time fan of martial arts, I have played a couple of monks in the past.  However, they’ve always been humans, so being a dwarf presents some challenges, IMO.  Not so much with the mechanics.  The rules work regardless of race.  However, in my mind a dwarf monk would be aesthetically different due to his height, and the personality of dwarf characters.

So, the way I will play him is that he is laconic, and neutral.  He tends to remain quiet and take in all that he sees and hears, and only then will he be forthcoming with advice or ideas.  His fighting style will be nearly bereft of kicks, relying on mostly hand-techniques.  I imagine him using a style similar to a combination of Wing Chun and Hung Gar Kung Fu.

Interestingly, the Next Monk chooses a Monastic Tradition, and the four styles they list in the playtest analogous to Spirit, Fire, Air and Earth.  Four of the five elements of traditional Eastern philosophies.  I assume that when the final product comes out, this list will be expanded a lot.  But right now, it’s almost as if they are hinting at the various nations of the Avatar: The Last Airbender.  I’m going to go with Fire Nation.

So, yeah, I’m kind of excited to get started on this.  And I’m sure I’m annoying everyone in the Facebook group.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gamehole Con

So, I get to really get my Geek on in November.  I just registered for a 3-day, VIG (Very Important Gamer) pass for Gamehole Con here in Madison on November 1-3.

This will officially be my first gamer convention where I am strictly a patron.  I went to Gen Con a few years back, but that was as a vendor, when I worked for ACD Distribution.  This time I will be participating in games, sitting in for panels, and probably spending too much money on RPG-related crap that I don’t need (I need to start squirreling money away for this).

I’m kind of excited because, as a VIG pass-holder, I get access to early registration for special events.  There is a good chance that I could play in a game run by either Ernie Gygax or Frank Mentzer (or, heaven forbid, BOTH!).  Truth be told, this actually makes me nervous.  I have this fear of being looked down on by other gamers because I “do it wrong.”

I never said I was a rational person.

Regardless, I am also looking forward to just taking it all in.  I’m hoping this thing has a pretty big turnout, and that there will be lots to do.  My wife is only going to go on Saturday, so two of my days there I will be on my own.  I have a friend who is supposed to be getting the 3-day pass as well, so I will probably hang with him most of the time.

It has taken me many years, but I think I have finally accepted the fact that I am just a big  ol’ geek.  My exes tended to try to nudge me away from my hobbies, and none of them were ever interested in sharing in my adventures (well, there was one who played AD&D with me…but I’m sure it was just so she could keep tabs on me).  My current wife, however, is a gamer.  And though our tastes in games are sometimes a bit different (she is a huge Vampire fan), she totally gets my love for the hobby.

So, if you are coming to Madison, look for me.  On one of the days, I will be the guy in the black Barbarian t-shirt from my Zazzle store.  Not sure what I will wear the other two days, though…