Friday, November 30, 2012

End-of-Week Elmore (11/30/12)

*sigh* I haven't been able to roleplay for weeks now. This pic is the closest I will come to a fantastical adventure today! *sniff* Anyway, hope you all have a great weekend. I'm going to try to jump on the meme-wagon (a bit belated) next week, and post some pics of my RPG bookshelves. Until then, happy gaming!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Did 2E AD&D Introduce the Natural 20?

One of the big reasons I created this blog was to be able to pose questions to the RPG blogosphere, and get some feedback from the collective mind we have going on here. I am in no way a scholar of D&D Edition Comparitive Studies, although I would like to be such an expert. I just don't have the free time these days to devote myself to memorizing the similarities and differences between the editions. I'm hoping that someone out there has the edition knowledge to answer my question. 
So anyway, I've been flipping through my recently acquired (or rather "re-aquired" after my old copies went missing ages ago) 2nd Edition AD&D Player's Handbook, and came across pages 90-91 where it says (under the header "Impossible To-Hit Numbers"):

"...a roll of 20 is always considered a hit and a roll of 1 is always a miss, unless the DM rules otherwise. Under most circumstances, a natural 20 hits and a natural 1 misses, regardless of any modifiers applied to the die roll."
Here's my question (again, because I don't really have the time at the moment to dig through all the D&D editions before 2E to figure this out): Is this the first mention of "natural 20" (and natural 1) in Dungeons & Dragons (Basic and Advanced)?

It pains me that I don't know this bit of information. I am sorta ashamed I have to ask it! But I am really curious to get the skinny on this subject. I look forward to your input, folks!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Inspiration: Cities of Mystery

What's worse than a Monday? A Monday that comes after a holiday weekend. Blech. Anyway, due to Thanksgiving goodness I missed my End-of-Week Elmore posting last Friday. So today's Monday Inspiration makes up for that. The above image was created by Larry Elmore for the 1989 Cities of Mystery box set. I've always like this one a lot. To me, it always suggested young adventurers, just starting their careers, stumbling across one of their first encounters with danger.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Holiday RPG Musings

As I’m sure most of us do, I’m thinking deeply about my life during the Thanksgiving holiday. In particular, I’m thinking about my relationship with RPGs. Perhaps my mind is dwelling on this subject because for several weeks now I have not been able to meet with my usual RPG group. So it may be that I’m suffering from withdrawal, and this is making me pine for all things roleplaying. So, here’s what’s on my mind:
I believe that I am prone to fits of RPG assumptions. I think since I returned to table-top RPGs in July 2010, I’ve been focusing on retroclones and other modern recreations of out-of-print versions of Dungeons & Dragons, rather than a re-exploration of the actual Dungeons & Dragons games.
I’ve been assuming that retroclones are the direction I MUST go with regard to my return to gaming. I’ve also been assuming, perhaps in a mostly unconscious way, that retroclones are “superior” to the original D&D versions. This applies in particular to Castles & Crusades, which I’ve allowed myself to believe is “better” than Advanced D&D.
I think I’m moving away from this superiority belief and moving toward deeper and deeper desire to engage in an in-depth study of the Basic/Advanced D&D editions. I’ve been assuming that I know those systems already. I’ve overestimated my understanding of those original rules. I may know the general concepts pretty well, but my knowledge of the finer aspects of D&D is sorely lacking.
I now think my focus on retroclones has been purely a matter of expediency. They are what’s in print and readily available, and they are often more streamlined that the original versions. This, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, is no doubt due to my current life as a busy adult. When it comes to C&C, there’s also the fact that it makes some changes I like to the Advanced D&D classes, as well as a unified modern mechanic.
Of late, I’ve had a growing urge to study, of all things, Second Edition D&D. In the epilogue to my gamer testimonial, I professed a disdain for that edition. I have to say that this supposed disdain is probably based on a tendency to turn away from a pastime after inundating myself with said pastime. This is especially true when it comes to me and RPGs. I think I just immerse myself so deeply in an activity that I burn myself out.
But this rejection of 2nd Edition AD&D also comes from my weakness for novelty and perhaps a bit of attention deficit disorder. I’m not just talking about Gamer ADD, but just generalized ADD. I think my retroclone focus was based on a tendency I’ve always had to cling to a “newer is better” mentality/habit. I go through phases in life where I cannot focus well on things. But I also labored long under a tendency to assume that prior versions of D&D, or indeed D&D itself, is somehow “childish.” From reading other blogs, I don’t think I’m alone in this. There was a time when I left D&D behind and moved on to RPGs that I thought were more “adult,” such as Amber Diceless RPG and the White Wolf Storyteller games.
I know I’ve been rambling here, but this post is probably more for me to talk things out to myself rather than be a coherent read for others. However I would love to hear feedback from readers. To sum up: I’m going to stop assuming I have a deep understanding of the Basic and Advanced versions of D&D, and actually read up on them. I know I have limited time to do so, but I’m going to make the commitment. I’m also going to rethink my prejudice toward 2nd Edition AD&D and give that system another chance. It is, after all, the version of D&D I played the most besides 1st Edition AD&D.
Wish me luck as I delve into the depths of my RPG motivations!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fantasy Authors Play 1E at ConFusion

I hope everyone reading this - including those outside the US - has a great Thanksgiving weekend! You don't have to be a US citizen to give thanks, right? Anyway, I stumbled upon the video above, so I decided to share. You'll see authors like Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss, and others playing 1st Edition D&D! It's edited down to a half-hour video (apparently they played for about three hours or so) but it's pretty entertaining. Below is another video of the authors talking about RPGs. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The House of the Wolfings

I might be one of the last people in the gaming blogosphere to learn about this book, but The House of the Wolfings is apparently one of the books that probably inspired J.R.R. Tolkien. You can download the book for free here at the awesome Project Gutenberg site. You can also get a print copy here.

So, has anyone heard of this book? Has anyone read it? I'd love to get some impressions of its merits/flaws.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mr. Curtis Goes to South Jersey

The requisite table of various and sundry gaming goodies!

So I've finally found the time to get pics off my new phone and write this post! On Sunday November 4th, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Curtis, the man behind the Society of Torch, Pole and Rope blog and the creator of OSR staples such as Stonehell Dungeon and the Dungeon Alphabet. Despite the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, he drove many hours from New York to New Jersey, South Jersey to be exact (we Jerseyites consider North and South Jersey to be almost separate realms, but that's a discussion for another time).

When I arrived at the incredible All Things Fun in West Berlin, I had a chance to talk to Michael about gaming, the OSR, and the havoc of Sandy before a couple other gamers arrived: Rich of Circle of Dar Janix fame, and Mike from Swords of Legend. Once these fine fellows joined us, we got down to the business of gaming!

The calm before the proverbial gaming storm...

Michael gave us the following choice: he could run us through his Emirikol was Framed! DCC RPG module, or he could run us through one of two unpublished modules. My fellows and I leaped at the chance to playtest something for him! So Michael handed out some 1st-level DCC characters (we decided to take two each) and gave us a quick overview of the system before starting the session. 

I think he's trying to scare me with his GM screen (the "evil" dice bag is mine)...

I thought it was rather hilarious that one of my character's Lucky Rolls (part of the DCC RPG character creation process) was "Conceived on Horseback." I thought such a feat of agility on the part of the character's parents would confer some sort of bonus for the offspring, but alas that is not the case.

My two characters' sheets and associated spell page print-outs.

I don't want to give away anything about the module we playtested, but suffice to say it definitely had a strong old-school feel, with what I thought was a nod to at least one Basic D&D module from back in the day. I'll leave it at that.

I picked up a copy of the revised Dungeon Alphabet signed by the author himself, as well as some other swag that Michael brought along. Bottom line: it was cool to finally meet a prominent member of the old-school RPG community to talk about gaming and get down to some actual play!

This should have at least given me a Dex bonus, thanks to very agile parents...

'Nuff said.

Friday, November 9, 2012

End-of-Week Elmore (11/9/12)

So, I think I'll start a regular posting of inspirational artwork from one of my favorite fantasy artists: Larry Elmore. I know he has his critics, but his art graced the covers of my beloved Dragonlance novels back when I was a kid, and because of that his work has a lot of meaning for me.

I have to tell you that I was inspired by Al at Beyond the Black Gate, because he's been doing his Friday Frazetta series for some time now. Hey Al, I hope you don't mind if I've riffed on your idea! ;-)

So, feast your eyes, and each week I'll be posting more Elmore art that inspires me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A (Character) Fate Worse Than Death?

This post is a loooong time coming for me. It's a testament to how behind I am with things I want to blog about. Anyway, Tim at Gothridge Manor wrote a post about character creation a while back. In particular, the following struck a cord with me:
"Unlike the current trend of character funneling in DCC [RPG], we put a lot of planning into the creation of characters. It's fun and makes you really invest a bit more. Nothing wrong with funneling and it can be a ton of fun, but so is sculpting a character you want to play for a while."

So, of course, this being the OSR blogosphere, the above statement begs the question: does this investment of time in "sculpting a character" mean there's an associated lessening in character mortality? I'm not asking to be a d-bag, I'm just asking in order to preempt the more hardcore OSR types from getting their grognard comments in ;-)

Seriously, I'm all about style of play, but campaigns that encourage character building/design/ whatever-you-want-to-call-it often get the stink-eye from hardline OSR folks. I'm not one of those folks.
I am asking because I'm just curious. As for me, I enjoy letting characters be a little more hardy if the campaign is one of those types that might be called "character" or "story-driven." However, in those types of games, the characters CAN STILL DIE, but it usually means they did something really rash.
However, I'm getting more and more interested these days in a "traditional" old school D&D game, with the assumption that it is deadlier due to lower hit points, lack of balance concerns, the "letting the dice fall where they may/no dice fudging" attitude/expectation, etc.

ALSO however, I think the OSR worships character death way too much. Come on, folks. There are other fates in the game that can be worse than death: level drain, maiming, imprisonment, becoming outlaws, making powerful enemies, etc. What makes these worse than death? Players characters need to LIVE with these results of their actions. The onus is on the DM to impose these consequences on PCs in order to give characters hazards other than death. I think having threats other than death makes a campaign more of a living, breathing place, not to mention a more fulfilling experience.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that a DM who focuses heavily on character death as a consequence is an unimaginative DM. A character living with consequences seems, to me, much more interesting.
Please let me know your thoughts on the matter of fates worse than death in RPGs, especially with regard to D&D (of course).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Inspiration: Ruins of Undermountain

I am not feeling it today, folks. Not. At. All. Not feeling the whole Monday morning, back-to-work thing. Shocker, right, coming from the RPG blogosphere's version of Garfield (if you don't know, I complain about Mondays fairly regularly here). Anyway, I went to game with Michael Curtis yesterday at All Things Fun in South Jersey yesterday, and had a great time indeed! I will write a post this week about the event, when I get a chance.

In the meantime, I'm staring at the image of the Ruins of Undermountain box set cover illo, to help me to slog through another Monday. That image never fails to inspire me. It just reeks of potential adventure waiting in the depths.

I really need to get a bumper sticker that says "I'd rather be roleplaying."

By the way, I've decided to start going by my real name here on the blog. Hi, my name's Anthony, and I'm addicted to roleplaying. Nice to meet you!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Where are Matt and Jeff?

Within the last few months, there have been those in the gaming blogosphere who have wondered if the OSR is losing least, the blogging end of the OSR. I've tended heavily toward disagreement with that assessment. Things seem alive and well to me. Yes, perhaps posting for many bloggers has slowed (Grognardia being one of those, which has caused no shortage of nervousness), but I don't think that heralds an impending doom. Popular opinion also states that the rise of Google+ has drawn folks away from the blog format. I'm sure there's some truth to that, but still, I don't see a Grim Reaper headed toward the RPG blogosphere.
However, of late something has grown more disturbing to me: the long silence at Jeff's Gameblog and Mythmere's Blog. Does anyone know how things are going for Jeff Rients and Matt Finch these days? I'm sure both of them are working on OSR projects, but still...when two pillars of the movement are so quiet, it's not hard for some to come to bad conclusions about the health of said movement. Anyway, any updates on how things are going for both of them would be appreciated. Thanks, all.