Thursday, June 23, 2011

Facing Down the Beast

So, instead of bitching about gamer ADD like I've been prone to do in the past, I decided to man-up and do what I should have done before: take all the RPGs that have been plaguing my mind and literally spreading them all out in front of me. Like a lineup of the usual suspects. And I gave them a good hard look, and some thought, and I was determined to come to some conclusions. And I think I've finally regained mastery of my gaming domain.

First there's Castles & Crusades, my number one game. The Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote. The Little John to my Robin Hood. The Riker to my Picard. I started out my gaming career with AD&D 1E/2E, and C&C to me is a near-perfect reimagining of those editions of the game. I like what Troll Lord Games has done with the system by incorporating the SIEGE Engine mechanic, bringing some 3E into the mix. I don't have to do much in the way of house ruling to get it to where I need it to be at my table. I will never need to go back to AD&D, because C&C has become the ideal version of those editions, to me.

Now, as I've said before, until recently I never actually played any version of basic/original/non-Advanced D&D. I bought the Rules Cyclopedia when it came out in the early 90's, and also bought the "Black Box" version of D&D, but never actually played them. I missed out on the whole boxed set thing entirely when I was a kid. The LBBs and all that Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, etc. jive was something I would have appreciated back then, I think...but I missed it all. I was just never exposed to it.

But looking back now, and having dabbled in OD&D (especially via Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess), I have become more and more enamored of OD&D and its clones. But looking through Moldvay, Mentzer, the Rules Cyclopedia, clones like Labyrinth Lord and S&W and LotFP and all the rest, I think that I feel strongly about actually using the original Mentzer books rather than a clone. I just like the look of the game, the layout of the books, the style, the art (as a confessed Elmore nut). There's just something about it that calls to me.

So, when I get the chance to run some OD&D, I'm going to use Mentzer, with some house rules I'm mulling over to add a bit of spice to things. I'm taking inspiration for my house rules from many sources on the web and blogosphere, as well as from other games. This includes the beta version of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG.

Now, there are some other various games that have also been tempting me with their shininess. Games such as Barbarians of Lemuria, Dragon Age, and even that game based in Middle Earth called The One Ring that I just learned about YESTERDAY! Yes, gamer ADD has no mercy. Heck, I just really discovered a lot to like about Dragon Age less than a week ago, on Free RPG Day. All of these various other games I have lumped together as potential candidates, but I have used a bit of reality to temper my expectations. These miscellaneous games are nice and all, but I either don't own them, they haven't been published yet, or they would take time to learn that I just don't seem to have these days.

Above all, I'm totally dedicated to the Dragonlance game I am currently running, and have no intention of sacrificing it in order to jump into OD&D right now. And especially not for some new shiny game that would require a whole new cycle of reading rules, learning rules, teaching rules to others, etc. I've been waiting a looooong time to do a Dragonlance campaign,  and I have met a great group of gamers who make running the game a pleasure.

Wow, it feels good to get that all out! All it took was standing up to the beast!


  1. I keep itching to run Barbarians of Lemuria. The gaming gods whisper:

    "BoL + Hyborian Age = Awesome!"

  2. The more I keep reading about your description of Castles & Crusades, the more I'm thinking I'm going to have to pick it up to use for my "old school" one-shots. The only thing that gives me pause is that we're using all of the old AD&D Modules (S4 is up next), and as the DM I'd hate to have to spend the time to go through and convert everything. Last time I ran an old-school game through S3, we used OSRIC, so the conversions were pretty much nil.

    Still... C&C just sounds so cool. Although I love Pathfinder, part of me wishes that I'd stumbled across C&C before I switched my 3.5 game over to Pathfinder. It sounds like C&C has more of the pulpy old-school feel that I was trying to shoot for in my game.

  3. I'm really sorry C&C doesn't get more love in Old School circles. I mean, the frigging Castle Keeper's Guide came out earlier this year and I saw maybe one post about it.

    C&C is definitely my go-to game if I want to run "AD&D"--I agree about using the original material (Mentzer or Moldvay or what have you) for running Basic D&D. There's definitely something very specific about the feel of BECMI-era D&D (aside from all the awesome Elmore illos, of course).

    Do you know about ODDities? It's a fanzine that (at least in its earlier issues) feels very Mentzer-focused. You can find the issues in Dragonsfoot's Classic D&D section.

    @Martin: Converting pre-3.x stats to C&C is an absolute breeze. I routinely did it on the fly while running the game. Basically you're just flipping AC to ascending rather than descending, deciding if the creature has a Physical Prime or Mental Prime (obvious based on creature type), and noting the creature's Hit Dice in order to determine attack bonus...and that's about it, actually. Converting 3.x stat blocks is also fairly easy, although sifting out the relevant stuff from all the cruft can take a little while longer so it's not as easy to do it on the fly.

  4. Well, we're enjoying the opportunity to play in your Dragonlance campaign as well! I must admit that I too tend to fall victim to gamer ADD. Our current C&C group keeps me looking forward to game night each week though, and that definitely helps me keep focused.

    Lately, I find that I have just a few game systems that I really like and lots of game concepts that I find interesting. I'll often peruse new game books in order to see how different games handle putting together different settings, but I tend to find very few games that make me take pause long enough to consider switching systems. Often, I find that I might borrow from several games' settings for use in one of my few favorite systems.

    I am very curious to check out yet another game company's take on translating Tolkien into a game system. I gotta respect the ambition involved in any earnest effort given to a project involving Middle Earth. I hope Cubicle 7 does a nice job with it...

  5. Bill! Thanks for the pep talk when it comes to our still-young Dragonlance game! Yes, I agree that a good game with a good group of people goes a long way to helping to keep me focused on the game at hand.