Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Me and Roleplaying: 2014 and Beyond...

Hail and well met, fellow adventurers! Here we are, on the threshold of a new year of crisis and opportunity! May we all rise to the blessed challenges that the universe lays before us, for challenges are blessings, and they help make us more than we were before!

I love the RPG blogosphere, the whole cacophonous lot of you! Every single one of your blogs are a light that keeps the flame of roleplaying alive! Whether you have a regular game (be it face-to-face or virtual), or are dreaming of gaming days past or future, you are keeping the spirit alive. And I salute you for your efforts, however humble or grand. Thanks to all of you for your continuing inspiration. For that's what you have been, are, and will be for me.

No, this isn't a farewell post from me. I'm just changing my focus for my free time in 2014. I'm working on a dream, folks. Wish me all the best you can spare. I'm bound and determined to change the career aspect of my life. I'm going to focus all the will, energy, determination, and ambition I have in this body into the effort.

So my available time for the hobby will be limited, but it will burn no less brighter for it. Indeed, I expect the inner fire for roleplaying will only burn hotter. I'm looking forward to my return to roleplaying when the time is right, just as it was right about three years ago. I always have believed that hope springs eternal. It is this faith that has driven me most of my life. Without it, I'm not sure where I'd be today.

At any rate, this is an RPG blog, eh? So, what do I foresee for me in the way of gaming in the new year?

Well, there will be no doubt some evenings where I will actually find myself at the game table once more. I've laid the foundations for several good groups of gamers that have promised to have chairs open for me. Most likely I will be a player, as I probably won't have the time to prep to be a GM.

I see the coming year as a time of much-needed reflection on my roleplaying career. This reflection will include some much-needed delvings into the old rule sets that have been calling out to me. I'm feeling like I have a lot of assumptions when it comes to my gaming past. Assumptions scare me. To me, they reek of hubris. You assume you know all there is to know about something, and that's when bad things happen.

Yes, I need to do some long-overdue exploration of my roleplaying past. Since I jumped head-first back into roleplaying in 2010, I've pretty much never looked back. But that neglect of my RPG past has most likely given birth to this burning desire to read and use some of the old books.

One of the big assumptions I've harbored is that I know all I need to know about the older versions of D&D and AD&D. But I'm really feeling drawn to, of all things, 2nd Edition AD&D at the moment. At the very least, I think I need to do a good read of this version of the game over the next year. If only to exorcise the demanding, nagging feeling that I need to explore it again. But actually, I expect to see that old game with my older man's eyes, and see what I get out of it this time around. That's a reunion I've foolishly avoided. I think it's going to be a good thing, for me to revisit the version of the game that took up much of my early roleplaying life.

Heck, if I have time, I might just go back and revisit St. Gygax's masterwork, 1st Edition AD&D...the version that I played the most back in the day. I expect to be rewarded by that journey as well.

As I do my re-exploration of the above, I hope to have time for posting some musings here.

As I've said before on this blog, I love Castles & Crusades, and it really is my preferred version of AD&D, but nostalgia DEMANDS that I go back and take a look at the real deal again. Whether this becomes good nostalgia or bad, limiting nostalgia is really up to me, and what I do with the feeling.
I also hope to do some reviews of new games and such as I read them, and perhaps contribute some gaming material here and there. We'll see. 
The X factor of 2014 is the 40th anniversary of D&D and the release of the next iteration. From what I've seen of D&D Next via the playtest materials, I'm not really interested in using those rules. But what a milestone! I'm excited to see what comes...er, next!

So, this is not goodbye. I will be reading all of your words, contributing when I can, and enjoying every minute of it! I wish you all a wonderful new year of roleplaying goodness! Please have much happy gaming, as well as general happiness and prosperity (both of the wallet and the soul!) Until we meet again on the road to adventure, I wish you all the best!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Call of a New Adventure in 2014

Yes, I’m a fool for nostalgia. I just try not to let it drag me down. 
So, I’m full of nostalgia when it comes to roleplaying. Overflowing with it, bursting at the seams, etcetera. And over the last few years of my personal roleplaying renaissance, I’ve let my nostalgia fuel a return to the hobby that I thought I’d left behind for good. You see, as the years of my last hiatus rolled by, the urge to game swelled like a rising tide. Until I could deny the urge to roleplay no longer.
So round about 2010, I answered the call to adventure. I went out into the wilds of the internet and then the real world to roleplay once more. And I’ve had a lot of fun in the last few years, met some really cool fellow gamers, and have delved back into roleplaying with abandon.
And I’ve come to a new conclusion in the last week or so: perhaps my current desire to set actual play aside again for the time being is actually a result of the roleplaying I’ve done over the last few years.
Sounds paradoxical, eh? Well, perhaps not. Because there's a new call to adventure that has come over me.
You see, since early in 2013 I’ve felt another urge welling up within: to change my career path forever, to finally find work that is infinitely more fulfilling. I’ve been ramping up in anticipation of massive action in 2014 to change my career.
And I think that my successful return to roleplaying has given me faith that I can delve back into other aspirations I had as a younger man, and give life to them as well. So, this urge to change careers, to do something that helps my fellow human beings more directly rather than just slave to make some executives rich, is a dream from my past that is demanding to be brought forth into fruition. And I aim to unleash it.
I am going to become my own boss. I’m going to become an entrepreneur. I’m not sure yet what form that will take exactly, but I have some plans. All I know is, roleplaying has taught me how to dream again. It has reminded me that I need to let my dreams run free, and to not wallow in the rampant negativity that modern global society worships.
I will definitely not be leaving roleplaying for good this year, the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. Hells no! But it just so happens that I can no longer deny another incessant call from deep within me. I’m just going to be focusing a tremendous amount of energy and focus on attaining my new career goal.
This isn’t to say that I’m leaving this blog to sit stagnant either. Rather, I will work to keep it alive, with worthwhile posts. And I am sure I will also get some roleplaying in here and there, but just not on as consistent a basis as I have for the last few years.
Anyway, folks, that’s where I am for now. I’m probably going to post one more time (tomorrow) before the year is over. Until then, please send me positive vibes (as I will be doing for you), and I look forward to continue to participate in our little RPG blogosphere community in 2014! Happy gaming, one and all!

Friday, December 27, 2013

End-of-Week...Whitaker? (12/27/13)

Hey HEY you crazy roleplaying cats out there! Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. Above you see images of a Ghost Dog roleplaying game. Yes, Ghost Dog. That movie starring Forest Whitaker where he's some sort of modern urban samurai, apparently. I was digging around in the dusty shelves of a local "comics and sundry" store that sells new and used RPG books, seeking treasure. And I came across this gem. I flipped through it, but didn't have time for a thorough read. So I can't tell you anything about it as far as the mechanics are concerned. It looked fairly bland in terms of production quality, with some pretty grainy stills from the movie scattered throughout.
I never saw the movie, so I can't discuss the quality of that, either. I just have the impression that Ghost Dog wasn't a great film. Perhaps I'm wrong. Can someone give me a review? Am I missing out on some hidden gem, a cult classic that deserved the RPG treatment?
ANYway, I DID find a VERY pristine copy of the Marsh/Cook Expert rulebook in the shelves! The guy at the register sold it to me for five dollars. Not bad! So that was a bit of a holiday treat for myself. Speaking of the holidays, I had a joyous time with the family, thank you very much for asking. I hope you all had similar!
As for this here suffering blog, I'll be doing an end-of-year post in the next few days. Just want to do something of a wrap up and consider what the next year may bring. As you've probably read here, I'm taking another indefinite break from roleplaying to free up time for other endeavors in 2014. But I might get up to some gaming here and there, read some RPG books, etc. So stay tuned, kids. Until then, happy gaming!

Friday, December 20, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (12/20/13)

Larry's take on that classic D&D alignment illustration
Just a few days before Christmas, and we get the news about the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons coming out next summer (from Forbes, no less).
You know what? I'm excited. Maybe it's my newfound dedication to a radically positive attitude toward life. But I'm feeling happy that D&D is still in print. Yes, I'm not all that interested in playing the new edition, but I'm sure I'll give it a good look, and give thanks for the game that has been more than a game in my life.
Am I going to worry about the in-print version of D&D not conforming enough to the older versions that I prefer? No. There's still going to be some connection, at least if it's just a name/brand and some of the basic mechanics. But if we REALLY want new generations of gamers to appreciate the roots of the game, then those of us who love those older editions need to spread the word. Those who are interested will be willing to listen, and those who do not should not be dismissed outright. It's that simple. You want change? Be the change you want.
In other words, don't be a stereotypical grognard. Stop grumbling, and get out there and tell the kids about the OOP versions of D&D. Teach them the virtues of D&D's earlier iterations. Tell them about the history of the game and the hobby it created. There's no better time than the coming 40th anniversary, in my opinion.
All this from the guy who is basically going on another hiatus from roleplaying for an indeterminate time right? ;-)  I'll be back someday. But this time around, I won't be turning my back on the hobby. I'll be watching, waiting, and planning my return...with an open mind.

One final thought (I'm sure I'm not the first person to consider this, so don't think I believe myself to be some RPG Sherlock Holmes): perhaps this will be WotC's D&D masterstroke. Maybe they were all amped up about this version being the "one edition to encompass them all" because of the 40th anniversary. So they could release an edition of the game that could pay homage (if not do justice) to all the iterations of the game, on the occasion of its 40 birthday, in a time where "geek" is becoming more and more "chic." I'm sure they'll try their best to connect this edition with the anniversary.

Heck, I'm willing to bet that at least some of the marketing materials WotC puts out will make reference to this being an "anniversary edition." Double heck, they might wind up calling this "Dungeons & Dragons: Anniversary Edition." I sure hope they don't, but you never know...

Monday, December 16, 2013

An Early Christmas Gift from across the Multiverse

The Bumble and fuzzy reindeer approve!

Christmas arrived a bit early this weekend, because I received my copy of Lords of Gossamer & Shadow! This is a diceless game that was built on the foundation of the Amber Diceless Roleplaying game, which was created by Erick Wujcik in the early 1990's.
I was a supporter of the Kickstarter, and it's great to finally have the gorgeous hardcover in my grasp!
As I've said before on this blog, I was a huge fan of Amber Diceless RPG back in the 90's. A few friends and I had "graduated" from Dungeons & Dragons and were looking for a more "adult" RPG. Ironically, it was those mysterious and cryptic ads for Amber Diceless RPG in Dragon magazine that alerted us to its existence.
My friends and I got some copies of Amber DRPG, as well as the Roger Zelazny novels on which the game was based. If you haven't read the Amber novels, you really should check them out when you get a chance. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Anyway, we immersed ourselves in Zelazny's mythology and the larger-than-life godlike characters that inhabit it. And from there, we created characters that were the children of those beings, and made the universe our playground. It was a glorious time in my roleplaying career, matched only by the early years that were consumed entirely by D&D.
I, of course, still have my Amber rulebook from back in the day. Here's a shot of that old tome with its "spiritual successor" next to it:

Steven Russell and the folks at Rite Publishing have, in my humble opinion, crafted not only a gorgeous book, but also a thoughtful and deep book that pays homage to its "source code." Sure, the game has "stripped away" the Amber mythology, but I think it's very cool what Rite has constructed in its place. They've made the system "setting neutral" in a way, even though there is technically a setting of sorts. Ultimately, you don't have to be steeped in Amber lore to get into this new version.
ANYway, I can't wait to get some time to read through LoG&S. If you're interested, check it out through DriveThru RPG.
Mr. Russell, during the final stages of the creation of LoG&S, asked backers if they'd like to volunteer to proofread the book. I leapt at the chance, and sure enough he sent me some pages. I'm proud and honored to be listed as one of the proofreaders in the credits of the book, as well as a backer. Thanks again, Steven!
It's really cool to have been a part of this "resurrection" of the late Erick Wujcik's game, bringing it back into print via this new form. It's the least I could do for a game that brought me so much happiness and roleplaying goodness.

Friday, December 13, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (12/13/13)

Season's greetings, folks! I'm going to be showing some snowy Elmore illos for the next few weeks. Brrr, that young lass in the image above makes me cold just looking at her! She needs to cover up a bit more, she'll catch her death! ;-)  Anyway, life is very good, and I'm feeling quite the holiday spirit. It's buoyed my soul, and I'm looking forward to my new attitude and life endeavors bearing fruit, WONDERFUL fruit in the new year!
Still don't have the time for gaming these days, and that's ok. I know there'll be more in the future, sometime. Well, that's all for now, good gentles! Hope your holidays are bright and full of love and laughter. And as always, happy gaming! Roll some polyhedrals for me!

Friday, December 6, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (12/6/13)

Howdy from the hinterlands, pardners! Where nary an RPG session can be seen! OK, I won't go into another pity party for moi. Just checking in with a tidbit about my boy Larry Elmore.
I was never a huge SnarfQuest fan back in the glory days of the old Dragon Magazine. It got a chuckle out of it, for sure, but I never became a fanatic about it. Anyway, Mr. Elmore has a Kickstarter...uh, kicking right now, through which we will apparently get a new Snarf adventure. Hey, Larry can do no wrong in my book, so I'll be checking this bad boy out. I suggest you do the same. The things already funded and it's still got 41 days to do...so maybe we can pour some extra gravy on dem taters!
Welp, folks, I'm gonna be moseying along now. Hope your gaming is plentiful out there (definitely more plentiful than mine). If you need me, I'll be meandering some more through Jack Vance's Dying Earth and trying to get started on the first book in the Fabled Lands gamebook series.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

End-of-Week Jenkins (11/22/13)

Cover art by Kevin Jenkins

So, in my self-imposed exile from gaming, I've turned once again to an old love from back in my youth: gamebooks. I didn't have many of them, and most of them were more like Choose Your Own Adventure rather than actual gamebooks where you had a character sheet, dice, etc. But those few I did have, mostly Fighting Fantasy, are a treasured part of my development as a gamer.
So, I got my hands on some Fabled Lands books, and I can't wait to find some spare time to delve into them and make a return to some gamebook action! It's going to be a bit lonely, as I won't be at a table roleplaying with other gamers. But at least I'll be transported to a fantasy world for a time.
The world of Fabled Lands is one of those British fantasy artifacts that I find so different and appealing. The artwork and the world seem satisfyingly alien, in their own way.
The cover art for the original Fabled Lands gamebooks was done by Kevin Jenkins, and an example of his work is shown above.
Anyway, that's all from me for now. I'll see you in the Fabled Lands!

Friday, November 8, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (11/8/13)

*sigh* I really miss roleplaying. But it's my own damn fault. I won't go into my sob story again. I don't want to bore you, because I already wailed, moaned, and gnashed my teeth about it last week.
I'm still firmly on the path of change and self-discovery that I've set myself upon, of course. The path that has hobbled my roleplaying career. I know it will be worth the sacrifice. But I can't help but feel a bit of unhappiness when it comes to cessation of most of my roleplaying activities, not to mention being able to participate in the RPG blog community.
In other words, I have the feeling that, after three years or so, my adventure "once more unto the breach" of roleplaying has come to an end...for now. I still feel so newly returned to the hobby, and yet another hiatus looms ahead. It's scary.
I know, I'm a grown man and I'm talking about a hobby here, right? But still...I've never been able to shake the feeling of missing out, of not having the social and creative outlet of roleplaying.
Ah well. I believe I'll come back to the table-top now and then, and perhaps even make a triumphant return someday. Until then, I'll keep my fingers on the pulse of the hobby as best I can.
Until next time, happy gaming all, and role some dice for me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

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

Oh lady of fortunes, pierce the veil of time for me,
Cast your gaze on my days to come,
And perchance glimpse a moment of future,
Be it a happy shade or spectre of gloom...
Not gonna lie, folks. I miss roleplaying. I don't think there will be a time in my life when I will ever not miss the hobby.
Even over the long years that I "left roleplaying behind for good," I missed it. In every book I read, in every film and TV show I watched, I saw the plot playing out on a game table. It was because of this nagging, unshakeable love for roleplaying that I finally came to my senses, and realized it was inevitable that I would return to the table. And I did so.
But now, I'm looking at the strong possibility of another considerable hiatus from the hobby. Perhaps nothing like the decade-plus dry spell I just came out of a couple years ago, but still an absense of some significance.
Again, this is a self-imposed exile of sorts, for a good cause: my personal advancement. I have aspirations that will take up my time, folks. I am exploring the beginnings of a new phase of my life. I want to dive in to my new ambitions whole-heartedly. I want to give them all of my focus, all of my effort, and make something new in my life.
But roleplaying will be there, within me. Waiting patiently. As it always has, and always will.

Friday, October 18, 2013

End-of-Week Swanland (10/18/13)

Lack of focus is my great nemesis in this life.
Perhaps it's Adult ADD. Perhaps not. I've never been formally diagnosed.
But, here I am today, having jumped onto another book in my library...having jumped away from my long, slow reading of Jack Vance's Dying Earth. It was back in May that I vowed, after Mr. Vance's death, to finally finish reading his Dying Earth tales.
Sooo, yeah...now it's October. And I'm not done reading Mr. Vance's seminal work.
I'm also jumping around between various other fiction and non-fiction works.
Oops again.
So, I've resolved to give myself some reading structure. I'm going to push myself to start reading all the books I haven't read in my collection, using my bookcases at home as a guide. Meaning, I'm starting with the books on the top of my bookcase, and reading only what's on that shelf until all the books there are done. Then I will move down to the next shelf, and so on.
I am DETERMINED to do this! I am determined to find the time to read again. If this means less TV and other distractions, all the better, right?
Wish me luck. Oh, this brings me back to the cover art for the Chronicles of the Black Company omnibus. Surreal art by Raymond Swanland. Initially, as I saw Mr. Swanland's work begin to grace fantasy book covers, I was a bit turned off by his pieces. But his work has grown on me.
Folks, I hope you have a great weekend! If you're going to be gaming, roll some dice for me!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Early-Morning Clarity, Personal Growth, and Roleplaying - Part 2

That horizon looks ever so inviting, does it not?
So, following on from my first post in this two-parter...
Last post, I spewed some stream-of-consciousness stuff about wanting an RPG for busy adults...didn't really get any advice from the community, so...just wondering if there's any advice out there...
Anyway, onto this here current post. I'm ramping things up in my life, folks. I'm increasing my participation in extracurriculars that I hope will open new opportunities for my career as well as me as an individual soul. Suffice to say I'm seeking greater success and peace of mind/soul in my life. I won't get into all the particulars, but I'm increasing my opportunities to educate myself and broaden my opportunities and horizons.
So, therefore, something has to give, and unfortunately I think that has to be some aspect of my roleplaying life. I think it means I need to put my very-young, recently-started Dragon Age campaign on hold. I think it means I need to shift back to being a player when I can make it to Wednesday nights at the FLGS. Hey, any roleplaying is good roleplaying, I say!
Look, I'm not crying over here. It's my choice to participate in activities in my spare time that take away from my RPG time, especially my ability to be a GM. If I can't GM up to my own standards, I won't do it. I think my group will understand. I miss my fellow gamers very much, I haven't seen them in over a month!
Ironically, despite all of my stuff going on, I think I'm going to have time to make this here blog into a "pro-Dragonlance" blog of sorts. You'll see what I mean...stay tuned.

Friday, October 11, 2013

End-of-Week Parkinson 10/11/13

No Elmore art this week...but at least it's Dragonlance! This week I'm giving you a piece from the great Keith Parkinson, one of my other favorite artists. Here are Sturm and Flint, of Companions of the Lance fame. Then there's some other guy in the background...not sure who he is.
I'm dreaming of gaming, folks. I miss it somthing fierce. I haven't been able to make the Wednesday night games at my FLGS of late. I'll go into the reasons in my next post. Until then, the RPG dream never dies. My return to the table-top is inevitable! Happy gaming, folks.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Early-Morning Clarity, Personal Growth, and Roleplaying - Part 1

Have you ever experienced the phenomenon where, in the moments after you wake up in the morning, the first thoughts that come to your mind seem so pure and clear? In addition, do you suspect that those thoughts are manifestations of your truest, deepest desires? In other words, these thoughts may be what you truly want with regard to some aspect of your life, but most of the time they are buried under all of the other thoughts, feelings, and various mental distractions of your daily life.

I believe I woke up on a recent morning with one of those moments of clarity. At least, I think that's what happened. I want to farm this whole thought process out to you, my fellow RPG bloggers in the great virtual hive-mind that is the Internet. I want your thoughts, advice, feedback, ridicule, whatever. This is going to be a bit long, so I'm breaking it up into two posts. Here goes:

For some reason, I just haven't been feeling fully satisfied of late when it comes to the rule systems I've been considering or actually using. OF COURSE, I am entertaining the possibility that this lack of satisfaction with any of the rule systems that I've been reading/using of late is due to some lack of vision on my part, some lack of thought-clarity.

Anyway, I've been feeling that there needs to be an RPG, and specifically a fantasy RPG similar to D&D, for busy adults. Perhaps this theoretical RPG would somehow facilitate play for those who can meet only infrequently, and who can't spend copious amounts of time on session prep.

Now, I do in fact believe that the continuity and cohesion of a particular campaign depends a lot on the GM's attention to detail, and not on the system being used. Does the GM take the right amount of notes during sessions so that he/she creates a firm bridge between sessions? For me, if I can't maintain this session cohesion, I don't feel like I'm doing right by my campaign and, most importantly, my players.
Back to this RPG for busy adults concept. Here's what I'm thinking currently, stream-of-consciousness style:

Perhaps the biggest concern I've had of late is the "damage" long breaks between game sessions can inflict upon a campaign. As a busy adult, I've come to believe that the sometimes long absenses from the table-top result in an increase in time needed for players to level up. Is there an RPG with an advancement system that doesn't suffer from long absenses from the campaign? Is there an RPG that will have just the right advancement system that will give satisfying goals for players and allow them to steadily advance despite the potential for long breaks between game sessions?

I don't want to keep track of arrows, torches, sling bullets, rations, etc. And as a matter of fact, I don't want my players to keep track of the usual "consumables." Yes, this is my heretical disdain for resource management. Heck, I want lack of resources to crop up unexpectedly.

I also don't want to keep track of time, miles traveled, etc.

I DO want to deal with plot hooks, player decisions, and subsequent consequences.

I'm a busy adult who believes (perhaps wrongly or rightly) that he doesn't have time to keep track of the resource management, but believes that the tension that stems from said management can still be created using the right system...or perhaps using a system right!

I want to focus on the complex results of the interplay between GM and players. I prefer to focus on fostering the cooperative story that the players and I are creating.

When I talk about a story game, my definition is one that doesn't involve me creating the RPG equivalent of a "novel" through which I will railroad my players. I am not a frustrated novelist. I'm a GM running roleplaying games. Story comes from me presenting a world and events in that world, and giving players knowledge of the events in that world (or at least some of those events). This knowledge will come in a variety of ways: rumors in the tavern, intelligence from thieves, braggadocio of mercenaries, whispers of courtiers, declarations from enemies, scribblings on scrolls and in tomes, and on and on and on. Then, the players will decide which of these sounds appealing to them, and they will head off in search of adventure. And part of the joy of this is that I will have to adapt, as best I can, to their whims. I will do my best to react and give them consequences, both "good" and "bad," that will interest, intrigue, engage, titillate, horrify, bedevil, ensnare, and reward them.

As I said above, I don't want my players to have to do bookkeeping. I know there can be joy in the bookkeeping, but that's a different style of play than I am currently interested in. I was interested in the past, but right now I am not. Why? Well, again, I feel sometimes overwhelmed when dealing in-session with I feel like a nanny when I ask players to "mark off that arrow you just fired" or "reduce your mana for that spell." I don't want to be bothered.

I suppose I can get this from any RPG system if necessary, I just need to change my perception. Or is there a system out there that facilitates the plot focus that I'm seeking, but somehow brings the tension of resource management to the table? Is this system called Torchbearer or Dungeon World?

Ok, I'm not all that happy about how coherent this post is...but I think I got the gist across. I feel like I've had a cronic lack of clarity in my writings of late...but that's for the next post. In the meantime, your comments are welcome.

Friday, October 4, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore Musings/Navel Gazing (10/4/13)

Tika wields her +1 frying pan with skill!
Well, after a month of potentially inane and definitely self-serving meme posts, I'm back to End-of-Week Elmore! This time around, I'd like to inject a bit of what I've been thinking about of late, when it comes to me and roleplaying. I'm definitely going to elaborate next week on these subjects, but I wanted to at least give a taste of what's to come.
First of all, I love Dragonlance, and I don't care who knows! I love it so much that I'm thinking it's time I took the next logical step, and make my blog into something of an online bastion of Dragonlance support, positivity, etc.
I know the arguments put forth by the Dragonlance "haters," and I understand where they're coming from: Sure, the Dragonlance modules back in the day were railroady, some of the races (*cough*kender*cough*) are annoying (I believe my long-time hatred of gnomes stems from my exasperation with Krynn's tinker gnomes), etc. The novel series has been very soap-opera at times, and is a large and looming spectre that hangs over would-be Dragonlance DMs. On and on.
Sure, I understand all that. But those things mentioned above can be overcome. Like any other published campaign world, you can take Dragonlance and you can tweak it to your own version of the setting. Just do it, stop crying.
Don't like the whole "test" concept for wizards of High Sorcery? The mages in your version of Krynn abolished it. Boom, done. Don't like the proliferation of dragons in the setting? Uh, have dragons retreat back to the fringes of the world. Simple. So, ultimately, when you start that Dragonlance campaign, you let any players that are huge fans of the setting/novels know what changes you have made so as to temper expectations. 'Nuff said.
The other thing on my mind of late has to do with my desire to find a game system suitable for the needs of the busy adult roleplayer. I need to elaborate on this, but suffice to say that I know that, technically, any RPG can be tweaked/adjusted/house rules/otherwise utilized to suit the needs of a group that can't meet all that often, or sometimes goes through long spells of inability to meet.
However, what about a system actually created to facilitate play by a group that meets infrequently and/or also has a mix of players that can change from week to week? What about a system that allows some sort of progression by players so that they have milestones/goals for which to strive, but that doesn't have to be as "long" of a slog as wading through thousands upon thousands of XP points to advance? What about a system that gives characters access to abilities that they might have from their early adventuring careers right on through to when they become veterans, but just have degrees of danger at lower "levels" (if that even makes sense to you).
All of this makes me think of JB's urging that roleplayers create their own "D&D Mine." And it's also the reason I've been bugging him about the next game he's going to create ;-)
ANYway, I'll elaborate on all of this next week. Until then, happy gaming folks!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Transition of Anthony to October

Welcome, once again, to the best month of the year. As is my annual October ritual, I set aside time to get my fix of Lovecraft. Despite the title of this post, I'm actually going to be delving into my Del Rey collection of the Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft initially, instead of The Roal to Madness collection. Not that I haven't read most of these stories sometime in the past, but as I'm sure you can relate, it's nice to revisit the old pathways into the lands of dread...  

So, I'll see you somewhere in Dreamland, fellow wanderers...

Monday, September 30, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 30: Best DM You've Had

"The road goes ever on and...screw it, I'm outta here!"
Well, today's the final day of this particular "blog challenge" meme. I'm not going to try and fool myself and believe that this series was of any great value to readers. But perhaps it had value for me as an individual. It's definitely given me some things to think about with regard to my own gaming career.
Yes, believe it or not, I got something out of this challenge of questionable value. I mean, just who started this meme again?! I'm not sure...and I try not to dwell on the fact that I don't know who started it! I feel quite like a lemming when I think too much about that...
ANYway...on to the final day topic: Best DM I've had? Hmm, well, I'm going to say everyone DM I've had has been the best. How so? Well, they've all taught me something about DMing, and therefore have allowed me to develop my own DMing skills.
I am thankful for the bad DMs I've had, because they taught me what NOT to do! And then there's the good DMs, like Rich and Bill from my long-running Wednesday night group at All Things Fun in West Berlin, NJ.
So, there you have it, folks! Back to, uh, whatever you'd call my "regularly irregular" posting schedule!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 29: What number you always seem to roll on a d20

I googled d20.

I always seem to roll the wonderful number 3 on the old 20-sider. A lot of good it does me.

That is all.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 28: Character you will never play again

Well, as I've said before, I haven't played all that much in my time as a roleplayer. But, if I had to choose, I would say I probably won't play a Castles & Crusades bard again. I'm not really that fond of bards in the first place, but I thought it would be fun to try the C&C version. I just didn't feel satisfied by the abilities the C&C bard has at lower levels. Then again, by that token, I suppose I haven't given the class a try at higher levels... Oh well. That's all I have to say about that.

Friday, September 27, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 27: Character you want to play in the future


You know, come to think of it, I don't think I've ever played a plain old wizard/mage/arcane spellcaster. Again, as I've said before, I've mostly been a GM. When I've been a player, I've usually played fighters, paladins, rangers, or bards. Yeah, I think a wizardly character is in my future...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 25: Favorite Magic Item

Wow...that's a lot of blasting!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 24: Favorite Energy Type


30 Day D&D Challenge, Days 22 & 23: Favorite (and Least Favorite) Monster Overall

OK, I still need to catch up and these two seemed like a natural pairing, so here goes:


You ready for some more Dragonlance love?


Dragonlance gave us "dragonborn" well before 4th Edition.

Least favorite monster overall: Green slimes. Never had any use for slimes. Perhaps I had a bad experience with them while playing that old Nintendo game Dragon Warrior. I can't remember.

As lame as they look.

Monday, September 23, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 21: Favorite Dragon Type/Color

So, once again I'm playing catch-up with this challenge. Oh well, I am unapologetic! I went on an adventure with the family that included the Sweetest Place on Earth (not Willy Wonka's factory, but still pretty cool), and then we found ourselves at the very excellent Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire!
We had an incredible time at both places, but I'm particularly fond of the Faire, having been there many times over the years, as well as working there on one weekend around the time I graduated from high school. If you're ever in the Lancaster, PA area, do yourself a favor and visit the PA Ren Faire (check out their website if you're cursious about it).
Anyway, on to the Day 21 entry: BLACK DRAGONS! Ready for some more Dragonlance love? Here 'tis: I've had a thing for the evil black dragons since I first read about the dread Khisanth, rising out of the well in Xak Tsaroth to scourge the Companions of the Lance! The group would later encounter, and ultimately slay, the dragon in the bowels of the ruined city. But while she lived, old Khisanth was quite the bitch!

OK, posts for Days 22 and 23 coming later today! Stay tuned...

Friday, September 20, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 20: Favorite Monster (Humanoid)

Krynnish hobgoblins

Let's get some Dragonlance on the blog today, shall we?

Let me give props to the hobgoblins of Krynn! Ah, Krynn, where there is not an orc in sight. Oh no! On Krynn, we have goblins and their larger, stronger hobgoblin kin. And let's not forget the hulking Krynnish ogre! With all that evil humanoid goodness, who needs orcs?

On other campaign worlds there are goblins and orcs, and the hobgoblin does not appear all that often (or so it seems to me). This makes things difficult, such as when you must tell your players that goblins speak goblin and orcs speak orc! Why two different languages? If you have goblins and hobgoblins, BAM! Both speak goblin, as their names imply! No more embarrassing moments where orcs speak goblin! That makes no sense at all!

Oh hobgoblin, oft forgotten hobgoblin! How I admire thee! Who could forget the wonderfully inept Fewmaster Toede of the Dragonlance Chronicles:

And of all the Spiderman villains, I always liked the Hobgoblin the best. I mean, come on, he has a Halloween theme going, right down to the jack o' lantern-shaped bombs:

Yes, my favorite humanoid is the hobgoblin. Especially because this wonderful bit of weird came up when I was searching for hobgoblin images on the internet:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 19: Favorite Monster (Elemental/Plant)

Make mine paraelementals! Specifically, the magma elemental!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 18: Favorite Monster (Immortal/Outsider)


30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 17: Favorite Monster (Animal/Vermin)

The animal we all wanted airbrushed on the sides of our conversion vans back in the day: WOLVES!

Monday, September 16, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 16: Favorite Monster (Aberration)

"Mmm, your face looks delicious!"

Sunday, September 15, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 15: Favorite Monster (Undead)

Oh yeah. It's Dragonlance time again. If you ain't already noticed, you should get used to it around this blog.
So, Lord Soth. And by extension, the type of undead we call death knights. That's what I'm talking about.
There's something about a formerly good knight who is tempted to conduct acts so heinous that he is cursed to the eternal torment of unlife.

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 14: Favorite NPC

I missed posting this Day 14 entry yesterday, so I'm doing a two-fer today, while I watch the Eagles and quaff a lovely Leinenkugel Oktoberfest!
Speaking of libations, that brings me to my favorite NPC: the innkeeper! Ah, how many innkeepers have I depicted during my GMing career! Fat ones, thin ones...bald ones and ones that sport unruly mops of hair...honest ones and ones that would rob you blind while you weren't looking...gregarious ones and ones that would do more glaring than speaking...those that had an earnest desire to please customers and those who were falsely fawning, hating you secretly behind servile smiles...males and females...on and on and on. Most recently, there was an innkeeper with a preference for elven ladies, and his vengeful wife who would applaud when he was slapped for his lecherous ways.
There are those that disparage the cliché of "you find yourselves in a tavern" in D&D-type roleplaying, but I find it a comfort to most players. And it gives me an opportunity to try out a new type of innkeeper.

Friday, September 13, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 13: Favorite Trap/Puzzle

This is an easy one for me, because my answer is EVERY TRAP IN EVERY GRIMTOOTH'S TRAPS EVER PUBLISHED.
Seriously. Every single one. From the simplest to the ones that would make Rube Goldberg weep with joy.
I may not have used many of them, but the books are a damned hoot to read. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 12: Favorite Dungeon Type/Location

"Oh, that looks like a nice place to rest! Let's see who's home!"

Everybody seems manic for megadungeons these days, eh? Sure, I like dungeons as much as the next red-blooded roleplayer. But, of equal interest to yours truly is the castle! Call it an "inverted dungeon"! 
More specifically, there's the haunted castle! To me, there's no better location to inject a bit of gothic horror into your game.
There are, of course, a goodly number of old-school D&D examples of castles. Beyond the obvious infamous D&D locations such as Castle Ravenloft and Castle Greyhawk (which really seems to be a "front door" for a dungeon system, but you get the idea), there's also more recent OSR examples such as Castle of the Mad Archmage. Heck, I daresay the Temple of Elemental Evil is also something of a castle...right? For added inspiration, seek out gothic horror literature such as the famous "Castle of Otranto."
Even though there's something to be said for the anticipatory dread of a dungeon, I think the ruins of a castle can be just as intimidating. Whereas a dungeon can bestow the fear of the unknown hazards that lurk beneath the earth, a dungeon can instill fear and foreboding simply by its imposing appearance. Here is not just the rumor of twisting passageways filled with danger in the form of traps and monsters. Upon first glimpsing the brooding, towering walls and towers of a fortress, one is immediately hit with a physical manifestation of the dangers to come. The structure itself becomes almost a foreshadowing, the first "encounter" of the adventure.
So, please share! What castles have you encountered on your adventures?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 11: Favorite Adventure

This is tough for me, because to be honest I haven't used that many published adventures over the years. I've used them more in the last couple years, during my return to roleplaying, but this still only amounts to a handful of adventures.
And frankly, most of the adventures I used were serviceable rather than extraordinary. Meaning, I embellished them a lot, which is my philosophy on how to run published adventures. I use them as a foundation, as inspiration, and rarely rely on boxed text, the exact monster stats, etc. I suppose that's how most GMs worth their salt run published adventures, so there's nothing exceptional about that.
If I have to choose, I'd say that running The Keep on the Borderlands on Free RPG Day 2011 was the most fun I've had running a module.
I think most of my enjoyment came from knowing that I was running a classic adventure, if not THE archetypal adventure. Yes, I know I was basically using AD&D (via Castles & Crusades) to run a module for Basic D&D, but whatever! We all know it just takes a little bit of tweaking to do such a thing.
Another joy came from the simple act of reading The Keep on the Borderlands. Even the name of the adventure is evocative, conjuring images of a remote outpost on the edge of an unexplored and dangerous wilderness. As stated, I didn't use many modules as a teen, so this was an opportunity to go back and read something that I missed back in my youth. This is especially true because I started out with AD&D, and much later than many bloggers (I got into RPGs in the late 80's).
So, Keep on the Borderlands is definitely my favorite adventure!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 10: Craziest Thing(s) I've Seen

Imagine this with a lot of treasure piled in it.
Back in spring and summer 2011, I played my half-elf paladin Drance in a City State of the Invincible Overlord campaign (via Castles & Crusades rules). There were some pretty fun times during that campaign!
I have to say, though, that there wasn't just one craziest thing/moment from that campaign (which was basically the first continuous fantasy RPG campaign I've played in for...decades!). No, indeed there were many memorable moments that perhaps did stray into the "crazy" realm.
I think there were several factors behind why we got up to so many wacky hijinks during that campaign. One reason was the incredible GM we had in a fellow blogger named Rich, who was as creative and open-minded a GM as I've ever seen.
The other reason was that, at the time, our group of regular gamers was just getting together, just getting to know each other. That always seems to be a heady time, because you're testing the boundaries of what other gamers are open to doing during an adventure.
Also with regard to meeting new gamers, there's the simple, joyous feeling of encountering people that are kindred spirits, with which you click and can have a good time. People you can relax around and just have fun. That can be a rarity in the table-top RPG world, and we're pretty lucky.
Anyway, onto the hijinks. Perhaps the following things won't be crazy to some of you maniacs out there, but hey, it's all a matter of perspective, right?
So, here are some moments I cherish from that campaign: 
  • Setting everything we could on fire. If we thought it could burn, we torched it. I think the first thing we burned down was a tannery. Probably covering up evidence of some misdeed of ours.
  • Inciting a feud between two noble houses, which worked out much better than expected... perhaps a bit too well...given that we threw most of the city into chaos for a while!
  • Seeing what happens when 1st level NPCs get level-drained. In Rich's world, they burst into purple smoke.
  • Beating a "big bad," which was some sort of powerful undead (who turned the above-mentioned NPCs to purple smoke) and stealing what was, apparently, a funereal boat/barge from his hideout. Said barge was loaded with treasure. So, of course, our group wound up wheeling the boat as sneakily as possible (as sneaky as you can be wheeling an entire boat around) through the streets of the City State at night.
There are other moments, but right now Perhaps some of my fellow Wednesday-Nighters can chime in with other tales? Some have been know to frequent this here blog from time to time. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

So, I got Playing at the World from the library...

...you know, that book about the origins of wargames and RPGs? Well, I borrowed it from the Texas A&M University library, to be precise. The funny thing is, I live in South Jersey.

Welcome to the wonderful world of interlibrary loan!
Or maybe it's not so wonderful. Because, well, you'd think that they'd give me, oh, at least three weeks (the usual timeframe for checking out a book) to read the thing. Note that the book (correction: TOME!) is over 600 pages of dense, dense text. How dense? Here's a typical two-page spread:

Wow. I really didn't know how, um, scholarly (text book-y?) Playing at the World was going to be. Oh well, I'm going to get through as much as I can before I need to give it back.
Oh, right, speaking of giving it back...well, how wonderful is it that my local library system has a delightfully cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all lending policy with regard to interlibrary loan? Meaning that no matter how big or dense a book may be, all you get is two weeks. So, you can get Playing at the World or, let's say, Oh the Thinks you can Think by Dr. Seuss (a personal fave). It doesn't matter that one dwarfs the other. You get two weeks.
Nevermind how much it must have cost the library to ship Playing at the World to my local branch for pick-up, etc. Right? Two weeks. Makes total sense.
Some of you might already be saying "go buy the book you cheap bastard if you want ample time to read it." Sure, sure. Of course I could do that.
Or, you know, libraries could start making sense in how they lend books.
Enough bitching, I have reading to do...wish me luck.

"Two weeks!"