Thursday, January 31, 2013

Basic Fantasy Role Playing Blog Appreciation Day

I decided I wanted to join some of my fellow RPG bloggers and help Eric Tenkar with his Basic Fantasy Role Playing Blog Appreciation Day event. This is despite my lack of time to do much in the way of a thorough study and review...but when has that ever stopped me?! ;-)
I can't speak competently yet about the ins and outs of the system, not until I have time to read through it. Instead, I wanted to give some stream-of-consciousness impressions of the game from my perspective. I have composed a short ode. Ahem...
Oh Basic Fantasy Role Playing Game (BFRPG), thou art a hidden gem amidst the sea of OSR offerings! You are among the games that inflict me with bouts of the dreaded Gamer ADD. Thy many tomes and other wonders are available for free download!
Ahem, harrumph...ahem. Ok, enough of that. Here are the serious facts of my opinion (heh): I consider BFRPG to be the only true collaborative effort in the OSR movement. What do I mean? Look at the homepage of the game's site. Look under the header "How Can I Contribute?" That's right. Send them your BFRPG submissions and they will be added to the ever-increasing list of free materials. The game depends on the RPG community to help it grow, and to spread the word. That's the way it should be.
The person behind the game has started a blog, and I'm glad for that, since it's given some backstory for the game's development. I say "person" because, honestly, I can't easily discover the identity of the person posting (I believe it's Chris Gonnerman, who's name appears on the site as part of the copyright language). That, to me, speaks volumes. It says to me that the person or persons behind BFRPG are not doing what they're doing for recognition. They're doing it for love of the game.
Look, I'm not saying that the other OSR game offerings are peddled by glory hounds out to make a name for themselves in the hobby. What I'm saying is that there's something to be said for a quiet and humble approach. It's refreshing, and clearly a labor of love.
Do yourself a favor, and be sure to keep BFRPG in the loop when you're looking for your next old-school-flavored game. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Battle of the Bards: AD&D vs. C&C

Ok, maybe I should wait until I have the AD&D and C&C books in front of me before I get into this. Nah. I'm impatient and lazy, so I'm just going to riff on this one. Here goes:

So I'm playing a bard in a campaign using the awesome C&C rules. Anyone who's read this blog for any amount of time knows I love C&C. But now that I'm playing again, and playing a class that I've never played before in any version of D&D, I'm having some issues with some of the rule choices.

So yeah, I'm playing a bard for the first time ever in my gaming career. I thought it would be good to try something new. Anyway, there's this bard ability called "Exalt" that basically boils down to my bard chanting or singing or playing an instrument or something, and inspiring my companions. All well and good.

But this class power only seems to help companions with bonuses to saving throws and attribute checks, not combat bonuses. Somehow, that doesn't make sense to me. I mean, the description of the power mentions "battle cry" or something like that as one method of performing Exalt. So, you loose a battle cry but your companions only benefit via better saving throws? That just seems rather limited to me.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the AD&D bard (1E and/or 2E) have some similar ability that provided bonuses to combat for companions?

Overall, I'm finding the C&C bard sort of, well, bare. Meaning, there doesn't seem to be much that the bard can offer. Sure, Legend Lore is awesome. It allows a bard the potential to know vital tidbits of information during the course of a session. But that and Exalt are the only class powers that a bard has at low levels (I think...again, I don't have the C&C PHB in front of me at the moment).

This issue might seem minor, but there are other C&C class abilities that I'm having issues with here and there. This is sort of making me pine all the more for some Classic D&D. Less character class "powers" to deal with during a game, you know? Meaning, more room for player creativity, right?!

Anyway, any insight you wonderful folks out there can provide, that would be awesome, as per usual! What would I do with out our virtual collective consciousness/hive mind?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dippin' my toe in the Pathfinder pond once again...

So this past Saturday night I made my way to an acquaintance's house to play some Pathfinder. The group of guys I played with are technically "friends of friends," but we've known about each other's appreciation for RPGs for a while. It's just taken us a while to get together. I figure that, if we get together enough, we'll eventually take on a new level of friendship. You know how these RPG things can go ;-)

Anyway, there were four of us, one GM and three players. The GM is running the Rise of the Runelords adventure path. I played a half-orc rogue, and the other guys ran a cleric and a monk. We had a good time, joking around and killing some goblins, interacting with NPCs (in my case, lifting some valuables in the process), etc. It wasn't a session of earth-shattering excitement, but then again it's the first session we've ever played together. Hey, we were roleplaying, so that's a good thing!

I have to say that I still feel lost when I'm playing anything more complex than Basic D&D/Labyrinth Lord or Castles & Crusades. I may always feel that way. I'm not sure I can/want to grok the system, you know? As long as the guys are willing to have patience with my lack of system mastery, then we're good to go. I don't think these guys will give me the grief like my last Pathfinder group.

So, while I had fun, it was mostly due to the people I was gaming with, rather than an enjoyment of the game system. The experience has solidified for me the fact that I love the older systems, and am quite happy with them. I will very likely continue to play in the Pathfinder game, but I know I will probably never want to run a campaign using the system. Gimme the old games any day!

Friday, January 25, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (1/25/13)

No time to post much in the way of commentary with the Elmore selection this week. Let's just say, I'd rather be adventuring. Have a good weekend, all.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Could it be...D&D and SATAN?!

Check out the following, I got a chuckle outta this:

OK, I suppose the title of this blog post is sorta inaccurate, because not all of the "nutty" news stories included are about D&D and Satan. But a good number of them do involve that taint of "D&D is bad" mentality that was rife in the 80's. However, there doesn't seem to be a mention of Jack Chick anywhere, so that at least is refreshing.

I think my favorite is the story where the guys gave up tossing around 45 RPM records in favor of playing D&D. Good move, fellas.

P.S. Did anyone out there reading this have a Judah the Christian Soldier action figure?

Remember the Heroes (& Other Worlds)!

Hey there, folks. Been getting my ass handed to me by work, but I wanted to check in. So, I read that the Sword & Shield blog is going on hiatus. I hope it's not a long one, and I wish the good man called "Fenway5" the best, and hope to hear more from that amiable chap soon! Our RPG blog community is like a slow-to-reproduce race of beings: every loss is a big one. 
He has other blogs, however...especially one dedicated to his Heroes & Other Worlds (HOW) game. I'm a customer, by the way! I bought HOW, which is based on The Fantasy Trip RPG and inspired by B/X D&D.
I haven't had time to really read it and give it a proper review, but I wanted to share some "inspirational photos" of the game. I think the book is gorgeous and oozes with old-school flavor! What I've read of the rules intrigues me. The style of art and layout makes me think of British RPGs like Advanced Fighting Fantasy or Dragon Warriors, games that I've had a hankering to play one day.
So take a look at the photos below, and do yourself a favor and grab a copy for yourself!

Friday, January 18, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (1/18/13)

Chaos! Argh! This illo gives you an idea of how I'm feeling at the moment. I'm in the middle of a battle involving work deadlines! So just a short note this week. Blech! Yes, the image above is one that Larry did for Everquest. Note the iconic scantily clad elf wizard lady. I know, an Elmore illo with alluring ladies in revealing outfits?! How unusual! Well, enjoy, hope your week wasn't as busy as mine, and happy gaming! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


JB of B/X Blackrazor fame coined the term "D&D Mine" last year, after D&D Next ("5th Edition") was announced. JB put forth the opinion that gamers can create their own "version" of D&D, without the need for WotC or anybody else to help things along.
Now, if you're like me, you've seen the occasional discussions/disagreements regarding the question: "What is the OSR?" And I got to thinking (as an extension of what JB put forth): if one can create their own custom version of D&D, why not create your own conception of what the OSR is to you? Let's call it "MyOSR"!
I suppose the folks in the blogosphere have already been working under their own understandings of what the OSR means to them. I say, keep on truckin', folks! This is just another debate that really serves no purpose.
I don't care if you've been with the movement since the beginning, or just getting into the scene. Your OSR is just as valid as anyone else's OSR, whether you think it stands for Old School Revival, Old School Renaissance, Old School Revolution, or whatever. What matters, what holds us old-school RPG types together, is our love for the older systems and styles of play. And that connection persists no matter what the acronym means to you.
So screw the labels, and game on!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Finally got around to becoming a member...

...of the RPG Blog Alliance! I'm not sure what took me so long. I'm a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, folks. I just sort of ignored this particular group. But that oversight has been rectified! If you have a blog and haven't joined as of yet, I encourage you to do so!

The Mongoliad: A Hidden Gem?

Has anyone out there heard of The Mongoliad? I love digging around libraries in search of books I haven't heard of, because I'm usually obsessive-compulsive about keeping an eye on upcoming fiction. So I was digging through the audiobooks section of my local library branch, and found an unabridged recording of The Mongoliad, Book One. I'd never heard of this book, and that's awesome!

So far, it's a pretty cool. The story takes place in the 13th century, and follows a motley group of warriors as they help the fight against the Mongol hordes. Pretty good stuff. Apparently, it's been co-authored by a list of authors including well-known names like Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear. It began life as a serialized online story, but was eventually published in dead-tree format (and, of course, made it onto a good number of audio CDs).

You can read more about The Mongoliad here.

I'm enjoying the tale so far. Has anyone else read this book? At this point, I would recommend checking it out. I'm hoping that I won't change that opinion as I get further into the book!

Friday, January 11, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (1/11/13)

Why have I decided to show a scene of death crafted by the Great Elmore? Because I am ruminating on the subject of demise today, fellow gamers. 

The demise of who, you ask? Not who, but "what." That "what" is blogging. Is blogging an endangered activity? Or rather, let's be more specific, shall we? Is the RPG blogosphere dying?

Is Google letting Blogger die in favor of Google+, folks? Are more and more RPG bloggers migrating over to Google+?

Why do I ask? Because I look at my blogroll and I see that many long-standing blogs have not been updated for some time now. Familiar names such as Beyond the Black Gate, Dreams of Mythic Fantasy, Jeff's Gameblog, and others have been dormant. Even Grognardia has not seen a new post in weeks. 

Now I know that some of these blogs have owners who have been working on OSR products, and therefore have less time to post. But I wonder: am I missing a party that's raging on Google+? I've been loathe to delve into the use of Google+, because I'm quite comfortable with blogging, thank you very much. But is my stubborn clinging to Blogger keeping me from something awesome?

And of course I know that the whims of adult life can pull us away from the hobby. But there's always the fear that we will lose members of the community, you know. I am saddened by the thought of the older blogs, those that introduced me to the OSR, disappearing. But such is the circle of life, eh?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

You've heard of "murderhobos," but what about...


A note for the kids: this image depicts Charlie Chaplin in his film "Modern Times."
Perhaps Chaplin's most famous film is "The Tramp."
Thus, I give you...Charlie Chaplin as "The Torture Tramp"!

And what about "fire-lighting freeloaders"?? Ok, that last one is a stretch. But I'm particularly proud that I came up with torture tramps.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Someone came up with the term "murderhobos" as a wry commentary on what many D&D characters seem to be: belligerent wanderers who travel here and there, killing things in order to take their valuables.

Well, if you've been reading the OSR blogosphere for any amount of time, and played the early editions of the game, you know how often the matter of torture can come up during play. So, players are also folks who wander around, kick the ass of various creatures, and often hold sentient survivors hostage and subject them to torture (or at least the threat of torture) until they give up the information a party of adventurers desires.

As for fire-lighting freeloaders, if you're an old-time gamer, you know how often lamp oil was used to immolate foes! You also know how burning down buildings in a town comes into play. Yes, arson is quite the convenient way to cover up your tracks!

So, I hope torture tramps takes on a life of its own in gamer parlance, just like murderhobos!

The original torture tramp gets a dose of his own medicine!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The OSR Version of the "Story Game"

This post, over at Carjacked Seraphim, got me thinking again about something that's a regular topic across the RPG blogosphere...a topic that I might not have commented on before. That's about to be remedied.

I'm going to try to make sense. Since I have such little time for RPG musings these days, I feel like I don't have enough time to write in as cogent a manner as I would like. Therefore, I'm never quite satisfied with my treatment of topics I want to discuss...never satisfied that I clearly communicated what was bouncing around my brain. Oh well, enough caveatting. Here goes:

One of the sacred cows of the OSR is the "sandbox" style of roleplaying, where (in my definition) the GM creates an open world for players to wander hither and yon as they see fit. I am a believer in this style of play, and even wrote one of my rare substantive posts (damned lack of free time!) about a pitfall that unwary GMs can encounter when running sandbox campaigns (i.e., sometimes GMs can forget the value of consequences stemming from players' actions).

The topic I want to focus on is a widely-perceived division between sandbox campaigns and "story-driven campaigns," in which (my definition) GMs create a "predetermined" overarching plot that the characters react to/interact with. Many gamers equate story games with railroading, but I'm not sure it's that simple. Sure, in the hands of a careless GM, a story-driven campaign can devolve into players living out a frustrated novelist's unpublished opus. But I think that fate is not inevitable.

There's a tangent in here about how some RPG systems lend themselves to sandbox play and others to story-game play (I suppose the White Wolf World of Darkness games are the paragons of the latter style), but I won't get into that here.

I argue that a sandbox campaign is a type of story-driven campaign. But instead of the story being fleshed out significantly by the GM at the beginning of the campaign, the story unfolds over the course of play. Indeed, if done right, the full "story" of a sandbox campaign isn't known until the end of a campaign.

I suppose my current point (others may resurface from the quagmire of my brain at a later date) is that gamers should see that play/campaign styles are not that different from each other, if one takes the time to look.
I guess that was a lot of build-up for a statement that was pretty short. I feel that there was something more I wanted to say but can't formulate the thoughts into words. Again, I'm having trouble finding time to focus and craft longer posts, but wanted to get the thoughts out there, to get some thoughts from the community. I hope I'm not just stating the most obvious facts in the world.

Friday, January 4, 2013

End-of-Week CALDWELL (1/4/13)

"Welcome back to work. Now that you're safely chained to your desk again,
I want that proposal by close of business today. Or your soul is mine!"

Thank the good spirits this is a short work week! I'm definitely not ready yet to return to work after time off for the holidays, so I've had to slog through the last three days. Fake it 'til you make it, right?

This week's art selection is from Clyde Caldwell instead of Mr. Elmore. This is because the Caldwell illo above illustrates how I feel at the old workplace today. I should probably see this new year as a chance to reflect on my dissatisfaction with my overall career "choice." I put "choice" in quotes because, upon reflection, I sort of meandered into my current career rather than taking an active approach to finding a career that I really enjoy. I've just sort of followed a path of least resistance, in my estimation.

It might be time to correct my wandering career path, and take some steps to redirect the trajectory of the rest of my working life (which, based on current Social Security projections for the future and the pitiful 401Ks in this country, will probably be the rest of my natural life).

Who knows, maybe someday I'll have a career that will eliminate my hatred of Mondays. I was going to say "one can dream" but that's probably one of the roots of my dilemma: too much dreaming, not enough doing.