Friday, July 27, 2012

Altered Oerth: Session 1

You know, I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying my return to table-top roleplaying. It's sessions like the one last night that make me thank my proverbial lucky stars that I've made it back to the hobby.

This past Wednesday night found me slipping back into the GM's chair for the first session of my Altered Oerth campaign. What makes it "Altered"? Well, first of all, there's no guarantee that I will follow any of the "canonical" events of any of the Greyhawk materials published over the last few decades. I know, has anyone ever really used a published setting completely by the book? And is such a thing even possible? Probably not. My players aren't all that familiar with the setting at any rate, so they're not really coming into this with a lot of expectations.

Also, I'm not using the traditional Greyhawk pantheon. Instead, I'm using the "truncated" 4th Edition D&D pantheon. There were just way too many gods in the Greyhawk firmament for my tastes. The 4E pantheon has some of the key Oerth deities (Pelor, etc.) with a Forgotten Realms god here and there (Bane, for example), and some other gods that I'm pretty sure were made up for 4E (Zehir).

There are some firsts for me in this campaign. First, I've never GM'd a game where anyone played a gnome. And one of the players rolled up a gnome illusionist! I'm pretty much as anti-gnome as you can get, but I'm willing to put aside my dislike for this campaign!

I've also never run a game where someone was an assassin or a monk. Back in my teenage AD&D games all those years ago, no one ever really strayed too far from the core fighter/thief/cleric/magic-user (though there were a lot of paladins in my group as I recall).

So the characters (all starting at first level) consist of a half-orc barbarian, a human monk, a half-elf assassin, and the aforementioned gnome illusionist. As it stands, my players and I are pretty much in new character class territory here. Should be interesting.

Highlights from the session:

The first session starts the campaign early in the month of Readying in 591 Common Year (CY). So, it's very early spring and there's still snow on the ground. The place: the frontier city of Safeton on the Wild Coast. It's the last bastion of civilization before on encounters the goblinoid-controlled Empire of the Pomarj to the south.

The party members all meet each other for the first time in, of course, a tavern. This one is called the Loyal Dog. The monk has come to sell some fish she caught. The half-orc comes looking for work busting heads. The assassin uses the place as a safe house. And the gnome, well, he's out for a stroll to cause, well, mischief of course.

The gnome causes the ale in the mugs of four rowdy sailors to splash up into said sailors' faces. As they stand up to start a fight, the assassin rolls some marbles under their feet, causing one to fall on his arse. The group begins to think this is the beginning of a beautiful fellowship.

While in the Loyal Dog, a herald passes by outside, crying out about a recent rash of disappearances. There are rumors of holes being found in local Dock Quarter tenements, as if something has come up from below the earth to drag victims into the depths. There's also word of a madman who has been roaming the streets raving of strange ruins on the coast of the nearby Wooly Bay.

The PCs decide to start investigating the disappearances after a drunk laborer tells them he knows where they can find one of those infamous holes in the earth. He leads them to an abandoned house and takes his leave. Once inside, the characters disturb a nest of stirges (and what nasty little creatures they turned out to be!). After fighting off the stirges (but not before some of the PCs were drained of some precious blood) they group did indeed find a large hole in the floor of one room, at the bottom of which they could see an old section of defunct sewer. They decided to head to the Custom House of the Dock Quarter, to alert the harbor master of their discoveries.

The harbor master was less than impressed with their findings, however, and was even less than impressed with the appearance of the adventurers (being himself a well-dressed merchant). The gnome decided to charm the harbor master and was successful. The party proceeded to convince their new friend to hand over all manner of equipment. This however seemed to attract the unwanted attention of the Custom House guards as well as the functionaries who work for the harbor master. The group eventually decided to stop pressing their luck and left with their new gear, heading back to the dark hole to the old sewer system...

The session ended there. We only played for two hours, having taken up the first hour to look over the new characters and get everyone acclimated to the new setting. I'm looking forward to the unfolding adventures in the weeks ahead!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On the Slaying of Dragons

So, more than a year after receiving A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin in the mail (from the now defunct Borders, may they rest in peace), I've finally finished reading it.

First of all, I was in no rush to finish this one. Why? Because who knows when GRRM will finish the next book in the series! What's my motivation to finish? So I can sit around for years waiting for the next installment? No thanks. So I took my time with this book.

What did I think of it, now that my year-long read is over? Well, I'm very torn. And frustrated. Martin is, to me, a Pygmalion figure. Like the aforementioned Greek legend, he's fallen in love with his creation. Which is fine, I suppose. I am sure I would feel the same as Martin were I in his shoes. I mean, we're talking a legacy in the making here. His writing is still superb.

And that's what's so frustrating: his work is incredible, but the way he's told his tale in this novel (and the novel before this one) has become bogged down in detail and secondary characters.

I understand if Martin wants to cement his legacy as someone who elevated the fantasy genre to new literary heights. I understand how someone would want to show off a world they have painstakingly created. Heck, isn't that what any GM worthy of his binder wants to do at some point? And part of me was very curious and excited to see more of Martin's world.

But does all of the above really make for a great story that still engages long-time readers? I'm not so sure about that. Is it possible that Martin could have show us his world in a more focused, shorter narrative? I think so.

The books in the Song of Ice and Fire series have always been long, but the last two have included an increasingly large number of viewpoint characters, some of whom were minor figures in earlier novels. I know that such events occur often in real life, where individuals can be thrust into the spotlight after the demise of those who stand above them. But does this serve a story when it happens over and over? Much is made of how willing Martin is to kill off characters, but can this attrition go too far? I think you can kill off reader interest if you kill too many central characters, or if those characters live but are laid low (i.e. become down on their luck figures) over and over by events.

It can also be very jarring to have to reorient oneself in space and time at the beginning of each chapter, due to Martin's huge cast being spread out across two continents. The series has seemingly become a travelogue. We see characters on journeys that never seem to end. I know this is supposed to be fairly realistic with regard to travel in a medieval world. But is all this realism starting to undermine the story? Ultimately, readers want a cohesive narrative that moves forward at a good pace. The backdrop is secondary. Yes, we want a lived-in, authentic-feeling world in which the characters and plot to exist. But when the world begins to overwhelm the story, things become muddled.

One other nitpick: the repetition of certain phrases is irritating. Words are wind. Much and more. Little and less. Leal (meaning loyal) subject. Dark wings, dark words. Mummer's farce. Over and over and over.

I read the first Ice and Fire novel, A Game of Thrones, around 2002. Long before the series gained its current notoriety. I'm a long-time fan. I really want Martin's series to succeed as a coherent body of work that will stand for years to come as a paragon of the genre. But I also want it to end, and end well. All good things must do so. I just hope that he doesn't drag this on much longer.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Any Thoughts on Non-Combat Initiative?

Hey out there! I posted about non-combat initiative this past Saturday, and I didn't get very many hits on the post (and no comments). I should save posts like this for the work week, eh? ;-) Anyway, I'm just hoping that you'll find the time to read that post and comment. Looking forward to advice/input. Thanks!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Non-Combat Initiative?

So, I'm considering using initiative in some non-combat situations in my upcoming Greyhawk campaign. Meaning, when it comes to moments during a session where players are all telling me (as GM) what they want to do pretty much all at once, there are times when I feel I need to give them some structure/order. There's so much going on at the table during a typical RPG session that I feel I need to do something to keep things organized. Mostly to make things easier on myself.

And it's not just my current group that has made me think about this. From the very beginning of my roleplaying life, I've felt some frustration when my players are all talking at once. So now I'm thinking I need some "democratic" way to determine who gets to talk to me first, second, etc. and not just "around the table from left to right." So, since this is an RPG, we let the dice decide.

I'm not saying my players are disorganized. I'm just thinking that sometimes they are all excited and have ideas they want to execute, and things get a bit disjointed. I think our sessions would benefit from determining just who gets to act in what order for non-combat situations.

I've been searching the blogosphere for prior mention of this concept but haven't found anything so far. I'm not thinking that I'm some great innovator with this idea, though. I'm sure someone else has thought of/used this before. I'm very curious to hear from someone who might have used this in a campaign.

I guess I'm wondering if this sort of thing could be considered too much of a "hand holding" on my part. I suppose one would say that the onus is on the players to discuss what they are doing and report their decisions/actions to me in as coherent a manner as they can muster. They need to be the ones to make sure they coordinate their efforts and act as a cohesive unit. And if they're all talking to me at once and declaring actions, then I need to tell them to take a moment and get organized.

And hey, sometimes that player "chaos" of indecision and overlapping/competing goals is great, and totally natural/realistic. That's why I'm saying that I won't use it all the time. Just when I'm feeling overwhelmed or if it seems the players are feeling overwhelmed, or both.

But sometimes there's the situation where one player wants to suddenly make a decision that could affect the whole party ("I'm going to pull that lever over there to see what happens.") and I want there to be a chance for someone else in the party to interject/intercede/ interrupt said action. That's one of the moments where I think I should say "Ok, everyone needs to roll initiative to see if someone gets to do something before you pull that lever."

And then there's the question: is this where the caller concept comes into play? I've tried using callers in my prior gaming life and in my current roleplaying endeavors, and it seems to not go over so well. The players still seem to want to talk directly to me. And truth be told I'm more comfortable with that.

Please let me know your thoughts! All advice is welcome.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Altered Oerth Campaign

The recent fog of indecision that had obscured my vision has lifted. My muddled brain has returned to clarity. I've made a decision, and it's one with which my players and I are happy.

I am going to be running another Castles & Crusades campaign at my VFLGS (VERY Friendly Local Game Store), All Things Fun! This time, I'm running things in the venerable Greyhawk setting, something I've wanted to do for a long time. Any advice regarding resources (both online and otherwise) and other Greyhawk tips/tidbits would be appreciated, of course. Heck, if you just want to share stories of your own Greyhawk adventures, feel free to do so!

The campaign is called Altered Oerth, and as the name implies I'm going to be changing things up from "canonical" Greyhawk lore. Sure, some things will be recognizable to fans of the setting, but there will be other aspects that I am changing, including (but not limited to) the pantheon of gods. I've always thought the original Greyhawk pantheon was overcrowded, not to mention the fact that many of the gods' names were veritable tongue twisters.

In the coming days I'll be posting here about some of my changes, as well as my house rules for the campaign, etc. The first session is next Wednesday night (7/25/12). So if you'll excuse me, I have to continue my prep work!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In the Mind of a Mad Gamer

"Oh, and Game Master, just one more thing: love your campaign!"  

Perhaps the excessive heat the US has been suffering under has broken my brain. Perhaps seeing the bickering of my family over parental issues (that's all I'll say on the matter here) has broken my spirit. Whatever the cause(s), I've found my brain severely unfocused as of late. As a result, my mind has been spinning on all levels, and this includes my gaming life.

When I was young, my hobbies were a true escape from a tumultuous family life. I read books voraciously. I found solace in places like, well, Solace, the tree-top village in the Dragonlance Chronicles. Yes, reading was a hobby, and linked to that was a "hobby" of self-imposed isolation. To be hidden in the depths of a library, secluded among stout walls made of book shelves with a book in hand, was to be in paradise for a short time. I also liked to write fantasical stories, an interest that I'm sure I shared with many young people who enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons.

When I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, I was often in the role of Dungeon Master, as my enjoyment of crafting plots was the greatest among my childhood group. As with many of us, the game gave us a means to develop creatively and socially.

I suppose reading is still an escape for me, and roleplaying is still something of an escape and a creative outlet, as well as a great social event (I can't say enough about how much I enjoy being around my current group of players). Though now I'm escaping the sometimes onerous grind of adult responsibility/bullsh*t.

ANYway, to continue on from my recent post about self revelation, of late I've found myself feeling pulled in many directions with regard to what I want to run as a game master. I feel really upset at myself for putting my still-young Labyrinth Lord game on hold. I didn't want to do that to my players. But I also had to be true to myself with regard to the fact that I felt unfulfilled with what I was running.

After a lot of rumination on the more nebulous aspects of my feelings, I think I've reached some clarity on things. I suppose not many people out there will be interested in hearing a 30-something man go on and on about roleplaying woes, but this is more for my own sanity, I think. I need to lay out what's on my mind in some organized form. I hope this will alleviate the swirling miasma of Gamer ADD. I've been inspired by Chris at Classic RPG Realms, who isn't afraid to talk out his struggles regarding what system to use.

Again, I consider anything with D&D "DNA" to be D&D wearing a mask. All that being said, here's my thought process as of right now:

Basic D&D

I have come to realize that I really want to run a game using actual Classic/Basic D&D rules. The retroclone thing wasn't cutting it. This came as something of a shock to me, as I'm a big fan of the 'clones. But I can no longer hide from myself the fact that I want to play "pure" if I'm going to play Basic D&D.

If I'm going to deal with the somewhat arcane mechanics of Basic D&D, then I want to be actually playing Basic D&D. That means using the original rulebooks. I have a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia that I'm dying to use, and I have PDFs of the individual Mentzer box sets that I can print out (or have done so already).

I'm not sure if this sounds shallow or bizarre, but yes, I want to use those original books. I don't want to use a retroclone. There, I said it. Again, I have nothing against the 'clones. They're great, and they're the impetus behind looking back to explore early D&D.

But I want to see that Larry Elmore/Terry Dykstra artwork when I'm flipping through the books. I want to see the fonts they used. I want the beholder in the monster section! I want that authentic D&D experience, which to me means using the original books.

And in using the original books, I want to stay as close to rules as written as I can. I really want to cut down my house rules and just do rulings on the fly as needed. I think the majority of my house rules will pertain to the classes, to give them a bit more "oomph."

Again, I'm feeling very guilty about putting my Labyrinth Lord game on hold after only a handful of sessions. I think I owe it to my group to give Basic more of a fair shot. But to me that means actually using those original rule books. Once more, I ask: is this insane?

I'll include the DCC RPG here, because it uses Basic's race-as-class feature and many other connections to Basic. I really like what Goodman Games has done to the D&D chassis. But I feel like it has more rules crunch than I'm willing to deal with at the moment. I have an urge to run some DCC RPG in the future, but not right now. I don't want to deal with the crunch.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

When it comes to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, for some reason I currently have the opposite desire: I do NOT want to run a game using actual AD&D rules. I would much, much rather use Castles & Crusades. I'm not sure if this is a strange divergence from my "NEED PURE BASIC D&D!" feelings. But there you have it. At any rate, I have no desire right now to GM an AD&D/C&C game.

D&D Mine

Every once in a while I get the urge to make my own "edition" of D&D. Who in our blogosphere community hasn't felt that urge, right? I want to take the Swords & Wizardry clone as a foundation and put in all the tweaks I want and make my own game! I was inspired recently by JB at B/X Blackrazor when he proposed the D&D Mine concept.

But at the moment, this still is a case of "MUST PLAY PURE BASIC D&D!" eating at my brain. So this recurring urge is, once again, pushed aside.

Other RPGS

I really like Savage Worlds and the Dragon Age RPG. Their allure is that they offer an alternative to those games that are variations on D&D (i.e. those games that use mechanics very similar to D&D, either Basic or Advanced). And this appeals, because I have no deep-seated desire to immediately house rule either of these non-D&D RPGs, because they aren't D&D!

I think that I'm so familiar with the D&D rules that I can't help myself when it comes to house ruling. I'm sort of tired of this uncontrollable need on my part to endlessly tweak the D&D design. So, to me, the logical solution is to try another RPG for a while, and take a break from D&D in all its forms.

Yet my desire to play these games, strangely enough, makes me yearn for D&D. I'm really feeling insane...


I try to tell myself that I don't have a time limit on my new gaming life. I can run one sort of game/RPG for a while and then switch to another at some point down the road.

Ultimately, I'm sorry to subject my poor gaming group to the results of my scattered mind. I'm feeling like a very divided self, with my attention pulled in too many directions. This is frustrating to no end.

Any advice is very much appreciated.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th (July 2012)!

Watch out for bad things today...such as a terrifying skeletal warrior smashing down your door! That would definitely be unlucky for you...

Above is one of my favorite pieces of D&D artwork by the great Jeff Easley. This is one of those images that conjures up warm fuzzy D&D feelings for me. Ah, takes me back to my gaming days of yore AND makes me yearn for more adventures to come!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Self Revelations: D&D, the OSR, and Me

I started this blog to chronicle my return to roleplaying. I really had no idea what my attempt to return to the fold would entail, or how successful I would be. As far as success is concerned, I've got a steady group of fellow gamers that I play with on a fairly regular basis. So I consider that a success.

Note, of course, that I had no idea there was an OSR when I came back to gaming within the last few years. When I first made my concerted effort to return to the table-top, my first exposure was with Pathfinder (which I found to be interesting but too crunchy for my tastes...I had never played 3E either, for the same crunchy reason). It was this lack of fulfillment with an in-print game that caused me to wonder about the out-of-print games from my past. I decided to dig around online for those older editions, and the rest is history...

Since I've come back to roleplaying, I think I've learned some things about my current gaming self. The following is very subject to change, however, as I'm nothing if not mutable:

The Old Rules
At the moment, I don't really want to go back and use the old D&D rules as written, be they Basic or Advanced D&D. Sure, I have strong feelings of nostalgia for those old rule sets. Like so many of us, it was my first RPG. There's a certain lure to the thought of playing actual D&D instead of a retroclone, but again, that's probably just a bit of "bad" nostalgia. In re-reading the Rules Cyclopedia, Moldvay/Cook/ Marsh B/X, and AD&D, I find myself balking at the "clunkyness" (or what I personally perceive/define as clunkyness) of the rules. I've also run into that balking feeling while running some Labyrinth Lord recently. So I've reached a point where my issues with the rules have overcome the gravitas, the prestige, the tradition, the whatever-you-want-to-call-it of playing actual D&D or those retroclones that cleave close to it (i.e. the "first wave" of clones = OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord).

I say all the above with not a little sadness, because I blame my current state of life as being the culprit behind my inability to grok the old rules. I can't seem to retain the little idiosyncrasies of the old rules. I know this seems lame, but it's a sad truth for me. I've got some personal things in my life that are taking up a fair bit of brain power of late. Maybe this ineptitude on my part will abate someday, but for now...

I have to admit, though, that I've felt a recent urge to get the original AD&D books, in order to add them back to my collection. The books my teenage group shared years ago were destroyed by a friend who became a hardcore born-again Christian. After so many years of not having the hallowed words of Gary Gygax in my library, I feel the need to own them once more.

I'm not sure why, even though I know how old school games are about rulings and not rules, that I just can't feel totally at peace with playing D&D rules as written OR with house rules that make them more to my tastes. Maybe it's some disillusionment with the rules, or being tired of the same old D&D rules appearing over and over in the vast number of OSR publications, or a combination of the two. Don't get me wrong, I love the wondrous variety of the OSR and believe it is a positive aspect of the movement. 

I think familiarity does breed contempt, and I've been around the D&D rules for so long that I'm probably getting a bit tired of them. I probably need a break from them. I can't seem to help the urge to tinker. I know, the prevailing thought process is that older D&D rules were pretty much made to be just guidelines, and made to be tinkered with. But I just don't have the stomach for too many house rules of late. Maybe it's my current time crunch that makes me get upset if I have to craft too many house rules. Granted, I don't think I've played with too many house rules, but still...I feel the need to find a game that doesn't give me the overwhelming urge to tweak. This feeling alone probably strips away a good portion of my OSR cred (if I ever had any).

The Rules with D&D DNA
Again, I've no urge to use the original D&D/AD&D rules in a current game. For my AD&D needs, I have Castles & Crusades. It is the game that had Gary's blessings as the successor to D&D, after all (at least, according to the Troll Lords, who were close to Gary before he passed).

Yes, the only version of AD&D I really dig is Castles & Crusades. It's a wonderful amalgam of 1E (classes, races, overall aesthetic) and 3.5 (more modern unified mechanic), with some new ideas/twists thrown in (example: rangers don't cast spells...that's awesome...never could stand spellcasting rangers) and an old-school mentality surrounding it.

The other game that's made a big impression on me is DCC RPG. I really like this "second generation" clone! I am definitely liking it more than the original/first wave of clones, and I know that statement may raise some hackles. I know, DCC is not supposed to be a clone, but come on a clone a clone. I'm not ready to actually run DCC RPG at the moment, but I have the itch (and some of those Zocchi dice as well).

Both of the games mentioned above use a much more unified mechanic than the old versions of D&D/AD&D. And these days, I'm loving me some unified mechanic. This is due to being busy with adult life, which leaves me with minimal brain space to use for storage of various mechanics. I know, lame, right? Oh well, it's my truth. And to thine own self be true.

The less I feel the need to house rule, the more I like the RPG. I do like to play with some minimal house rules for C&C (one sheet of paper front and back is my limit!), and DCC seems like a game I wouldn't want to house rule much at all.

But C&C and DCC have that D&D DNA, and of late that's bothered me. So I have to conclude that I'm having an issue with D&D, deep down.

Other Rules and New Rules
Lord knows that, over the years, I've played a bunch of other games that weren't D&D-based. I played a lot of Palladium (TMNT, Rifts, Heroes Unlimited, Ninjas & Superspies) and also Amber Diceless RPG. Most recently I've been playing Savage Worlds. So my experience with the other RPG possibilities out there is probably part of my current urge to look elsewhere. Look, I learned a lot about rulings not rules and other concepts favored by the OSR through my experience with a non-D&D game like Amber Diceless Roleplaying. With no dice and just four attributes, the ADRPG GM has to make a lot of rulings.

Bottom line: I'm really curious about newer, non-D&D based systems like Savage Worlds and Dragon Age. I feel the urge to break away from the D&D "hegemony" least for a while. These games also have unified mechanics (with Dragon Age going so far as only using the d6, rather than Savage World's use of the other polyhedrals we all know and love...I have to admit I'm going to miss all those other dice while we play Dragon Age).

I know there are a lot of OSR folks who clamor about player vs. character skill, and a system like Dragon Age can lend itself quite easily to players depending on the character stats and associated skill rolls. But I'm here to tell you that my thoughts towards character stats and skill rolls are also tied to my current gaming status. I'm a busy adult playing with busy adults. We don't have all the time we used to have in order to lean mostly on player skill and searching every cranny of a dungeon.

I guess you could say we don't have time to be incredibly clever. We have time to be somewhat clever. My players are very creative and come up with really inventive solutions to things, be they battles or negotiations with NPCs or solving puzzles. But if they sometimes want to lean on the dice mechanic, I'm not going to stop them. Because in our limited time we want the adventure to press forward, and not worry about exploring all the minutia that "pure" old school D&D play demands.

I do encourage a combination of player and character skill, a compromise if you will. These two roleplaying concepts don't need to be mutually exclusive. Player ideas improve dice roll success or eliminate the need for dice. I guess I am not purely of the OSR when it comes to mechanics, but I am when it comes to the style, the spirit. Not that labels matter, though. The gaming is what really matters.

Conclusion...For Now...
I'm not sure if I'm getting across all my feelings as clearly as I wanted, but I made an effort here. Mostly for my benefit, but I'm also wondering what others think. You may think I'm a cop out when it comes to the OSR, but again, I'm thinking that I'm more of an omnivorous gamer rather than just a consumer of the old ways. Maybe I'm not really an OSR gamer at heart. I don't know. Not that there's a strict membership guideline for the movement, right? ;-)

I'm not knocking those who want the pure OSR feeling/gameplay. I'm just realizing that I'm least for the moment. Someday, I'm sure, I'll want to play C&C or DCC or maybe even Labyrinth Lord again. I think I just need some time away from the same rules I've been using for so many years. Hell, I might want to try my hand at original AD&D again. Who the heck knows, right? I'm nothing if not a sufferer of chronic Gamer ADD!

But for the time being, I talked to my group and they seem interested in me running some Dragon Age RPG. And I'm having a blast with my friend Bill's Savage World of Solomon Kane game. Both games may owe their existence to D&D (like all other RPGs), but they don't owe much in the way of mechanics. And I'm really, really liking that fact.

Wish me luck on this latest phase of my gaming life. Until we meet again, happy gaming!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Walking Duh!

I love the Walking Dead television show. The comic books...well, they're OK.

Look, I think the comic is pretty good. I know a lot of people worship the comic. But there's some things that bug me about it. I'll try to articulate my feelings but it's sort of hard to put my finger on how to describe exactly how I feel. I know this is just my opinion, but I need to vent (I guess you could consider this a pseudo-review/critique of the entire series thus far).

I know that I should be backing up my statements with some concrete excerpts/examples from the comic, but I don't have the time to do so at the moment. I would really like to do a follow-up post where I give some examples. I guess I really wanted to write this and see if anyone else feels like I do. My only issue is that I don't own any of the comics or trade paperbacks. I've been borrowing the trades from my local library system, and they're always in big demand, so it's hard to have them around for long in order to reference for something like this.

That being said, here goes:

1) The characters seem to jump to these extremes that are totally...well, they seem almost bipolar. They'll find a new place to live and immediately say "this is it, this is where we can set up a life! Our struggle is over!" And I mean someone literally says that out loud, which is a no-no in good writing. There's a lot of moments where I'm like "show me, don't tell me." I mean, they come over a hill and see a town down below, and someone just starts assuming right away that they've found the promised land. Hey, here's an idea: have a character say the place is "paradise" AFTER they've lived there for a while. I know, what I've just described has happened, but there are instances where they're jumping to huge conclusions. These people instantaneously go from being cautious survivors to extreme optimists. This can be summed up in one sentence: "Nobody talks like that!"

Look, I know these people are supposed to be living through the end of the world, and yeah that would make people behave pretty irrationally and have big mood swings. Would they have moments where they would jump to conclusions and have flights of fancy because they desperately need hope? Yes. But there are a lot of times when the comic comes on strong with the notion that, despite the adversity, Rick's group is pretty focused and most of them have the ability to think rationally. So these moments of naivety are really jarring.

2) There are these pretty unrealistic moments where characters, mostly Rick, go off on these monologues about the situation of the survivors. It's really off-putting. I mean, he just starts holding forth on this really deep stuff for long stretches, and I'm left thinking "wow, this sounds like something someone would prepare for addressing a crowd at a town gathering, and not something that one would come up with whole cloth right after killing a bunch of zombies." I'll say it again: "Nobody talks like that!"

3) Then there's moments when they meet new people and tell these new people "we don't trust you" without an explanation. I would be like "listen, a few months back we got attacked by some maniac called the Governor who almost killed all of us." Give these newcomers concrete, detailed examples of what you've actually been through. Don't just tell someone you don't trust someone and not tell them why. Rick and the gang keep meeting people who've been lucky enough to be relatively sheltered from the undead hordes. Rick's people have come to the conclusion (rightly so) that they're more battle hardened than many of the people they meet. It would be a good idea to discuss this fact with new people they meet, so that they don't just seem like maniacs with no motivation other than being a paranoid gang. "Hey, if we seem like we're nuts, here's why." That would solve a lot of first contact problems for all involved, I think. Rick and the gang are looking for some humanity and some remnants of civilization, but when they meet other living people they lose all capacity to communicate clearly.

That's all I can muster right now. Again, I think the comic is a cool exploration of what happens when the dead rise and the world as we know it ends, and it most definitely has the ability to have a much wider scope than the TV show ever could. But there are definite moments when I'm reading the books that I'm kicked out of my immersion in the story.

P.S. I think the fact that the show's "reality" has diverged significantly from the comic book's reality is a huge plus. It gives us some "alternate universe" possibilities when it comes to the characters.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Festivus in July: My DCC RPG Stuff Arrived!

Ah, gotta love a delivery of gaming goodness on a Friday, folks!

Yes, that's right, that's a picture of my package right there! My package of DCC RPG goodness, that is! I got my stuff from the incredibly awesome people at Noble Knight Games, where great customer service is alive and well.

I hold the mighty d30 in my hand!

And here is a package of the first ever GameScience Zocchi dice purchase. I got the kind that glow in the dark so they would stick out among my other polyhedrals.

Ah, the tome itself! No more will I struggle with the PDF! It really is a value for the money at $40 (actually, I got it on sale for $35).

The Noble Knights also threw in the 2012 Free RPG Day offering from Goodman Games!

My god, it's full of art! The spine felt nice and tight as I opened it, and the scent of the pages was pleasant enough. I love the smell of gaming in the morning! This is indeed a tome in every sense of the word, though truth be told it isn't as heavy as I expected it to be.

This image was an awesome treat as I skimmed through the monster section. Those are the Troll Lords, the great minds behind Castles & Crusades. Clearly Goodman Games has some love for the rowdy bunch of game designers from the wilds of Arkansas. This warmed my proverbial cockles of my heart, as it was great to see a connection between one of my favorite game systems (C&C) and a new system I am about to explore. That bodes well.

Some close-ups (above and below) of the Zocchi "gems." Again, I wanted them to stand out from the usual dice we're all familiar with from years of running games with D&D's DNA. 

They are indeed funky, folks! They'll have to grow on me, I suppose. They still seem, well, blasphemous to me, but I'm sure I'll get used to them. But they sort of scream "unholy geometry" don't they? Almost something that Lovecraft would describe! ;-)

So, if you'll excuse me, I've got some reading to do!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Second Anniversary Stuff (Sorta) Giveaway

Hello again, all, and I hope you're having a great 4th of July! Well, I'm just going to go for broke and put up a list of stuff that I no longer have space to store, and I would like to give all of this away to good homes.

Again, as I said in my last post, funds are sort of tight on my end. I won't charge you for the items, but you may have to pay for shipping. I'll work to ship stuff as cheaply as possible (I'm willing to get advice on shipping cheap from anyone out there).

If you want anything, email me at and we'll work out the details.

So, without further ado, here's the list:

Roleplaying/Card Games:

Underground RPG core rulebook

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay core rulebook - 1st Edition

Star Wars RPG Revised core rulebook - Wizards of the Coast

Rifts RPG Worldbook 13: Lone Star

Dungeoneer: Tomb of the Lich Lord card game

PC Games:

Descent: Freespace Battle Pack

Age of Empires II: Gold Edition

Civilization IV: Gold Edition


Medal of Honor: Allied Assault


Original Stargate Movie Official Magazine

Monday, July 2, 2012

OMUtB 2nd Anniversary: Should I Give Away Some Gaming Stuff?

Wow, I just realized today that Once More Unto the Breach! turned two on June 30th! I've been distracted of late due to a whole host of crap, not least of which was the fact that we're getting Hell's weather and our central air was dead. Well, the AC is now fixed and I can focus on, you know, not melting when I try to use my laptop.

Thanks to one and all who stop by my humble little corner of the blogosphere and read, comment, etc. I really like communing with you all out in our...well, community.

Anyway, I feel good about the milestone, and was wondering if I should give away some stuff to show my happiness. Well, I'm not talking about giving away PDFs or gift certificates or stuff like that, unfortunately. I'm talking more along these lines: I have a lot of gaming stuff, not just RPGs but PC games, card games, and other various stuff that I can't store anymore in my house. I just have way too much of the stuff.

So, I was thinking of writing a post with a list of the stuff I want to give away, and see who wants what, if anything. Do you think this is a good idea? I mean, if no one wants certain items I will just find some other way to move them out of my house.

I guess the big concern on my part is shipping. I'm pretty much broke right now (thanks to the aforementioned central air system replacement that now has me set back many thousands of monies). I can't really spring for shipping, kids. So the stuff will be free, but most likely ya'll out there will have to pay for shipping...unless someone who wants an item or two (or three, or more) can advise me on some dirt cheap shipping methods.

So in other words, each deal would be on a case-by-case basis. Seriously, I'm not trying to turn a profit. I just want the stuff to go to a much better home than mine (because the stuff is just in storage, basically). anyone interested in seeing my list of stuff?