Friday, May 31, 2013

Arguing over the sandbox...again?!

This is cute. Adults arguing over the "right" way to play pretend is NOT cute.
This is something I've been meaning to post, given a recent resurgence of bickering that amounts to pedantry. Specifically, pedantry over exactly what a sandbox really is, as it pertains to roleplaying.
Sheesh. Here we go again.
I don't know why some of our fellow game geeks seek to make our wonderful pass-time an arena for nasty argument! There are those that needlessly complicate things, aren't there?!

Come now, folks. We all know, deep down, that a sandbox is a state of mind, a type of play, that unfolds organically between GM and his/her players if they are in that magical roleplaying "zone" we've all experienced at some point. Look, it's an interaction of the GM's prep and his ability to think on the fly when players inevitably go in their own direction. For some groups it's a rare thing, for others it happens most of the time. It depends on the delicate interplay of the unique individuals at any particular table at any time out there in gamerland.

A good GM will give players options/plot hooks/choices/paths/ whatever you want to call them. A good GM will be open to the unexpected directions that players will take when they choose which hooks to follow. A good GM can make any module into a sandbox.

Good players will trust their GM, if that GM is doing right by them and giving them lots of options to choose from. Good players will give them GM benefit of the doubt when it comes to the hard work of GMing.

If things aren't working out in a group, and the sandbox style you love suffers, then find another group, right? Sometimes this is easier said than done, but given perseverance, roleplaying hope springs eternal.

Come on, people, this is all pretty much self evident and, with decades of roleplaying experience under our belts, it's become a sort of RPG common sense. For most of us, at least. But there are those that, for some reason, just like to argue for the sake of argument. I pity them. I truly do.

End-of-Week Elmore (5/31/13)

Like the gentleman on the dragon above, I'm back in the saddle! The GM's saddle, that is! I ran my first game session in months this past Wednesday night, and it sure felt good! I'm running Labyrinth Lord (augmented by some house rules), using a combination of Rob Conley's Blackmarsh and Points of Light settings. I'll be posting a recap sometime very soon.
And, as stated in my "manifesto" post yesterday, I'm determined to use my sessions as "beacons" of the old-school style of play. In this way, I hope to do my small part in attempting to keep the old-school style (and the older D&D editions as well as the retroclones) alive!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A short OSR Second Wave "Manifesto"

I was cruising around the blogosphere, and came across this post again by the inestimable Matt Finch. I read this post a while back and meant to comment on it, but never got around to it. So, here goes:

I like what Matt is saying: we now have plenty of "tools" (gaming products, especially the retroclones and supporting materials). The next step is spreading the good word, or what we might call "edition thumping" (just because I want to come up with a "clever" term).

Yes, us "old schoolers" need to be out there playing. We need to be in the game stores, libraries, etc. with our old school-style gaming materials showing loud and proud. That's why I created a GM screen using three-ring binders with the cover of the Mentzer Red Box in all the front slip covers. I've gotten a lot of curious looks when I'm gaming in my FLGS, since every other game in the store is (for the most part) D&D 4E. And some people came up to ask what we were playing, and expressed interest in joining. Now, at the moment I'm running Labyrinth Lord and I'm using the "official" Goblinoid Games screen. That also attracts some curiosity.
The point is that we need to be recruiting. Plain and simple. We can't just be grognards and sit around complaining about "kids these days." We need to be nice people, open to new gamers and their many questions. We can't be stuck in our little niches grumbling anymore.

There are those who continually prognosticate the death of the hobby, but what are they doing to stave off that demise, besides being doomsayers? You want to find more players for the OSR? Create them. Nurture them. Show them the true TAO of D&D (Tao meaning "the way," right?)
If you want roleplaying to survive, do something to keep it alive! Don't just sit back as some silent, inscrutable "master" of an OOP game. Be a truly enlightened gamer and get out and recruit! Be the solution, be part of a movement that strives to save the hobby from extinction! Otherwise, shut up with the "RPG apocalypse" crap!

Farewell, Mr. Vance

I wanted to add my voice to the growing chorus of bloggers who are mourning the passing of Jack Vance.
Like some of my fellow RPG bloggers, I've come late in life to an appreciation of Vance's fiction and the seminal role they played in many aspects of the D&D game (I won't repeat them here, as you probably know those influences he had on the game). Though, like everyone else who played 1E AD&D, I was exposed to the vaunted Appendix N list, as a youth I didn't really have access to the more obscure tomes it referenced. What was readily available were the D&D novels, in particular the Dragonlance novels. As I've said before, those were my first real foray into fantasy fiction, for better or worse (I'm personally fine with my path to fantasy fiction, but I'm sure some readers are shaking their head in pity right now).
But with age comes wisdom, as well as money, the ability to drive to a bookstore, and also the ability to scour the Internet for old editions of books. Yes, over time, I came to discover the books that Gygax set forth in Appendix N, and added many to my personal home library. Sadly, I haven't read all of them as of yet. I'm quite easily distracted, you see, and my library is home to everything from the latest escapist offerings of new authors to the old tales of the founding masters of the genre.
But, I'm committed to changing my reading schedule to finally, for good and all, complete my reading of the works of Vance and other members of the old guard (Leiber, Moorcock, Le Guin, etc). It sometimes takes a passing like this to remind one of the need to focus on the priorities, you know? So, I'm starting up again with my reading of The Dying Earth. I've started reading my Science Fiction Book Club edition in the past but stopped due to my short attention span (and not for any lack of enjoyment on my part when it came to Vance's writing).
Farewell, Mr. Vance. As you sail into the beyond, I hope the sound of our thoughts and prayers speed your passage into eternity. You showed us the worlds you dreamed, and thus inspired countless other dreams, many of which no doubt manifested themselves in other fictional works as well as a good number of game tables.

Friday, May 24, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (5/24/13)

Greetings, folks. I know, I know, it seems that all I've been doing of late is posting these End-of-Week things. I apologize profusely for my lack of blogging fecundity (not that I've ever been all that fecund).
Like the handsome fellow in the illo above, I hope to return from the "dead" soon, when it comes to roleplaying and blogging. Getting acclimated to the new job is taking up most of my time these days. So, I've been missing game nights as well as posting my Elmore-worshipping blog filler.
Please believe me when I say that I want to turn things around ASAP!
With regard to the blog, I've been looking back over things and I realized that I haven't done a lot of product reviews on this blog. I would really like to do some of those, especially for products that haven't been reviewed to death already (such as the OOP D&D stuff or the more high-profile OSR stuff). For example, I'd really like to give a detailed review of what is probably a hidden gem at the moment: Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures by Flatland Games. Do yourself a favor and google that, when you get a moment. I'd also like to review some fiction and maybe some film (again, perhaps the more obscure offerings).
As for roleplaying itself, I think I'm almost ready to sit back down in the GM's chair (I really, really miss it). Once that happens, I would definitely like to start blogging about what happens at my sessions, both in terms of play reports as well as thoughts that occur to me pertaining to the GMing craft.
That's all for now, good people! I hope you have a relaxing Memorial Day weekend!

Friday, May 17, 2013

End-of-Week Trek (5/17/13)

I always liked the version of Star Trek that was in my head more than what they have shown on the big and small screens. My preferred Trek is more like The Original Series or the current J.J. Abrams films, as well as the Enterprise series with Scott Bakula and friends (if I had to put them in order of preference, I would go with Enterprise, J.J. Abrams' version, then TOS).

Yeah, those versions are most similar to what I personally want to see when it comes to Star Trek: a more wild and woolly crew and a universe to match. The other versions of the series could be a bit too...sanitary?

Anyway, I'm going with some friends to see Star Trek Into Darkness on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to it. I enjoyed the first film, but didn't think it was spectacular. But again, I liked it because it fits my personal preference for Trek flavor: grittier and a bit less cerebral. I'm hoping that, since the first movie is under our belts and the "get to meet the crew" phase is over, we can move on to more interesting and solid storytelling.
And of course, in true Anthony fashion, my returned interest in Star Trek has come with a renewed urge to ROLEPLAY Star Trek! What else is new for Gamer ADD Boy?! I fear that the talented Mr. Dan Proctor has something to do with this current desire on my part, thanks to Goblinoid Games' Starships & Spacemen RPG. But I'm trying to fight this distraction like Kirk fighting the gorn, "judo" chopping and all.

P.S. Sorry for lack of posting of late. The switch to a new job has been sucking up my time.

Friday, May 10, 2013

End-of-Week Harryhausen! (5/10/13)

Today my end-of-week post is dedicated to the late Ray Harryhausen, at the suggestion of R.J. at Gamers & Grognards. So, in honor of Ray on this impromptu Appreciation Day for him, here goes:
Probably not long before I got into D&D, I saw those cool movies that were staples of Saturday afternoon TV. You know the ones I'm talking about. They starred such mythic figures as Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, Perseus, and others. They featured fantastic voyages, heroes roguish or virtuous, vile villains, sword fights, hammy acting, and...the monsters! Oh, the monsters!
When you're a kid, you don't care about the names of the people that appear on the screen at the beginning of films. You want the adventure to start, and the monsters to come forth! So I didn't know who Ray Harryhausen was as a kid on those long-ago, dream-like Saturday afternoons, that magical time when there's nothing to do but let loose your imagination, and once the movie is over you're going to run out of your house and play until dinnertime.
I didn't know who Ray was, but I worshipped his work. I also didn't know that I would someday be sitting around a table pretending to fight the skeletons, dragons, animated statues, and the other creatures he brought to life. But when the time did come for me to face down those terrors, just like the heroes on TV, I knew that I'd come home, so to speak. I'd found my hobby!
You know, these days everybody's trying to use CGI to make film monsters look more and more real. BUT, to me, the "fake-ness" (for lack of a better term) and "jerky-ness" of the stop-motion creatures Ray created only added to their fantastical nature. I'm not sure if that's just the imagination of the kid I was when I saw his stuff for the first time, filling in the "warts" that come with stop-motion.
But the very "limitations" of the special effects actually created a wonderful strangeness and, at least for me, helped with suspension of disbelief. These were mythological creatures, and they looked/moved like it. The nature of the medium lent an air of the magical to the monsters.

Well, Ray, I just want to say thanks for being one of the inspirations behind my love for the fantastic! Rest in peace, rest well, and thanks again for the magic.
P.S. Does anyone else find it strange that his last big film was Clash of the Titans in '81?!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Enough with the Anti-Paladins, already!

This guy's called a "blackguard"...that's better than "anti-paladin."
I wanted to share a thought for the day:
I never understood the need for the "anti" in "anti-paladin." I know that, traditionally in the real world, the term paladin was used to describe those considered virtuous or holy warriors, such as Charlemagne's Paladins. But, ask the Saracens if the Paladins were holy; you'd get a different opinion!
Anyway, the Merriam-Webster definitions for paladin are: 1) a trusted military leader and 2) a leading champion of a cause. That second definition supports my point here: it doesn't say "champion of a GOOD cause." A paladin is a champion of a belief, cause, religion, whatever. So, even if that religion is evil, they are still just a paladin!
Ugh, in my long-gone Second Edition AD&D days, there was a guy who always, ALWAYS played a drow anti-paladin. Blech. As it turns out, that meant he was pretty much a douche, both IN and OUT of the game.

Let me leave you with a parting thought: do you call a cleric of an evil religion an "anti-cleric"?!
So, what do you all think?

Friday, May 3, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (5/3/13)

Ah, that looks like a portal to an abyss (or rather THE Abyss, if we're talking Dragonlance...and the above indeed depicts Dalamar and Kitiara of Dragonlance fame). I would be loathe to step through that gate!
BUT, in a couple weeks I will be stepping through the "portal" of a new job, and I couldn't be more excited! So, I suppose I'll be walking through a gate to ESCAPE an abyss...not that my current job is that bad, though! ;-) However, the new job should hopefully be a much better environment/culture in which to work...fingers crossed and all that. I'll find out soon enough!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day and Renewal

I've heard of the May pole...but what are these guys doing? Happy bludgeoning?
So here we are and it's May 1st already! For the last few months (since about February) I've missed my Wednesday night games at the FLGS, due to the fact that I was taking a class and had other work and family commitments.
And, I had a new job opportunity drop into my lap (I'm here to tell you that LinkedIn is awesome, folks). I'm happy to report that opportunity has panned out quite nicely, and I'm going to start my next career adventure in a couple weeks! One of the best parts of the new gig: it's still within driving distance of my FLGS, so Wednesday game night shall live on!
Even though I've missed some Wednesday night roleplaying, I've managed to keep getting together with a group of guys (who were originally friends of friends) with whom I'm playing Pathfinder (I'm a half-orc rogue). Let me tell you, the game gives me a headache and causes frustration. There seems to be way too much dice rolling and time spent on all sorts of feats and other junk. And don't get me started on the friggin' attacks of opportunity! Oy vey!
Yes, I knew going into it that Pathfinder was more crunchy than, say, Castles & Crusades and the "OSR-approved" rules. But I thought I could get over the crunch. But I don't think I can. It's not that I couldn't learn and grasp them. I just find myself resisting the learning process. There's a very vocal part of my mind that bluntly states "Not interested!" And I guess I'm okay with that. It really leaves me yearning for the older rules, you know?
But hey, the way I see it, it's still roleplaying! You know those old sayings about pizza and sex, right? Even when they're bad they're good?
Anyway, have a great May Day kids!