Friday, July 25, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (7/25/14)

"Ha HA! My green dragon will defeat the heck is THAT?! Is that a beak? And check out those feet! I've heard of a bird dog, but this is ridiculous!"

Friday, July 18, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (7/18/14)

White dragons have always been interesting to me. They're just, know..not the typical fire breathing dragons, right? I know that seems like an obvious statement. But seriously, they're very counter-intuitive when it comes to the whole dragon least to the lay person not steeped in the lore of D&D monster manuals!

Okay, enough musings on that subject. I've just gotten a bevy of rules with D&D DNA, including 13th Age, Dungeon World, and Dungeonteller. And I have to say, Dungeonteller is, so far, my favorite of the three! I'm working on a review of that game, which I hope to publish soon.

Anyway, have a great weekend, folks!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

D&D's 40th Birthday: What are we REALLY celebrating?

Okay, maybe this post is just all self-referential musing. But I wonder how many of you out there feel the same way. There's something I want to put out there for your consideration. This might not be a ground-breaking post in terms of its sentiment or subject matter, but bear with me.

I don't care what edition of the game you play. Hell, I don't care if the Medieval fantasy RPG you're playing is even called D&D or not. We're all still playing D&D, folks.

So, I posit this: what we're really celebrating this year is not the 40th anniversary of the brand name of D&D. We're celebrating the spirit of the game, and all of its uncountable varieties and offspring!

Thanks, Azeem!
Morgan Freeman said it best, I think, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: "Allah loves wondrous variety!"

Just a note: this sentiment also includes 4th Edition. Speaking of which: congrats on the cancellation of your edition, 4E fans, because you are now a part of the "my favored edition is out of print" clan! Welcome, hail, and well met!

I'm bringing all this up because, well, I bought the new D&D starter set, and downloaded the free Basic rules. And while I think all that 5E stuff is nifty, I have to say that I'm so much more excited about games that don't carry the D&D name, but rather carry the D&D DNA.

Here's the versions of the game that I'm currently drooling over:
I already own Dungeonteller and the Warriors of the Red Planet beta. My copies of Dungeon World and 13th Age are on their way from the great Noble Knight Games.

Of course, I also already own Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, Adventurer Conquerer King, Beyond the Wall, Dragon Age RPG, Crypts & Things, Five Ancient Kingdoms, and other permutations of the "world's oldest RPG" of which you no doubt have heard! And all these "clones" sit cheek-by-jowl on my bookshelves with D&D books from all eras of the game. And it's like looking at a glorious family reunion, with many generations gathered into one place.

I'm so happy that D&D has gone forth and multiplied, incubated in the fertile minds of so many fellow enthusiasts!

So, talk back to me, fellow roleplayers! Tell me how you are celebrating D&D's 40th this year, what version(s) of the game you're celebrating with, and any other reflections you care to share!

Long live Dungeons & Dragons, no matter what skin it wears! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Time to get my a$$ to Mars (with Warriors of the Red Planet)!

I love the OGL, man. It continually gives us an ever-growing smorgasbord of D&D variants, such as Warriors of the Red Planet! This is, of course, a sword & planet variant of the rules! Awesome, another bit of useful house rules that I won't have to create myself ;-)
This is the softcover beta of the rules you can get from Lulu right now on the cheap. The game's creator - Thomas Denmark of the WotRP, Original Edition Fantasy, and Studio Denmark blogs (and creator of the Dungeoneer game) - has been working on this for a while, and to be honest I had all but given up on this game seeing the light of day (not because of any failing on Mr. Denmark's part, but just because the development was taking so long).
But I'm glad I was wrong! I have had some time to read through, and it's pretty cool so far. I hope to have a full review someday, as soon as I can get to it.
This thing has me so excited about planetary romance that I had to break out my copy of the gorgeous John Carter of Mars collection illustrated by Thomas Yeates. Hmm, might be time for a re-read!
Anyway, I would love to find some time soon to help playtest these beta rules. Yeah, seriously, this has me so excited (as does the Dungeonteller game, which also just hit the streets) that I might need to come out of my current roleplaying hiatus! Stay tuned...

Friday, July 11, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (7/11/14)

The Search for Free Slurpees goes on...
Happy 7/11, folks! Apparently you can get free Slurpees today. Not sure if that appeals to you or not, but there you go. Consider that a public service announcement. Whether your consider it an invitation or a warning is up to you!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Have you heard of Dungeonteller yet?

Well, you have now!
A gentleman named Doug Anderson, author of the Blue Boxer Rebellion blog (love that name!), has been quietly working on this "kid-friendly" version of everybody's favorite fantasy RPG.
He recently put the free "Dungeonteller Hero Pack" on DriveThru RPG. The offering is a preview of the rules, and includes some sample characters.
Dungeonteller has a simple and unified mechanic that I really enjoy! It's all based on just the d6. I've professed my love for d6-based games in the past, and that feeling hasn't changed. There's just something primal about using the d6, you know? Maybe stemming from my board game days (I played a ton of Risk back in the day, among other games). Does anyone else out there love the d6?
I have to say something right now: I think I'm more excited about Dungeonteller than I am for D&D 5E. I'm friggin' serious about that. More and more, as time goes by, I'm looking for a rule set that doesn't tax my particular brain. I need simple rules, but with a simplicity that carries within it the flexibility to have a lot of nuance. Yeah, that's a good term for what I like: nuanced simplicity.
At this stage in my life, I can't be the kid who had time to sit around and ponder all manner of arcane rules for a game. It was cool to be able to do so when I was a teen, don't get me wrong. I don't fault those who have the time and brain power to do that sort of thing. But that sort of rules erudition is not in the cards for me right now.
I want rules that get out of the way of the game, you know? I know that other people can keep more complex rules straight in their heads, and more power to them! But as for me, I only have so much capacity in the old noggin.
Anyway, DUNGEONTELLER! The full game is slated for release by the end of the month. I CANNOT WAIT! Seriously, the game is also stated as being for "new gamers." So, by that logic, it's not just for kids! I have to tell you, I would run this for adults any day! Seriously.
At the very least, it's much more likely I would run games using Dungeonteller than D&D 5E at this point in my life! How's that for an endorsement?
Keep your eyes peeled for this one, folks!

Monday, July 7, 2014

D&D 5E Starter Set: First Impressions & Thoughts

Please don't take the following post as a full review. Just want to put that caveat out there. I'm just giving my opinions here, and trying to clear up my confusion here and there.
I'm only going to be talking in this post about the Starter Set contents. I haven't yet read through the Basic Rules PDF that is free online, mainly because I wanted to have an unadulterated read-through of the box contents. I've read through most of the starter rulebook at this point, and wanted to start writing out what I'm experiencing, thinking, etc.
Here's just some impressions and thoughts:
To me, this "basic" game is a bit more "advanced" than what I'm used to, when it comes to a basic version of the game. But right there, that's a rub, isn't it? As a long-time gamer, try as I might I can't really escape my D&D history (personal and otherwise) or the context/influence of said history.
So, when I'm thinking Basic D&D, my old gamer brain shoots back in time to Moldvay and Mentzer, you know? I'm sure some of you experienced that as well. BUT, there was nothing that WotC said to indicate that this box would be as basic as Basic, if you know what I mean. 
And, am I even off base, because is the Starter Set supposed to be a basic version of the game, and used in tandem with the online free Basic PDF? I'm trying to get clarity on this, and perhaps it's not WotC's fault for my lack of clarity. That very well could be true. This whole thing could be clear as day to some folks, but with my limited time and brain capacity these days, I could be missing the message here, and the interrelation of the products.
So, the question is: is the Starter Set supposed to be a beginning point for entry into use of the Basic Rules PDF AS WELL AS the upcoming PHB, DMG, and MM?
I mean, the game has proficiencies included, but not feats. Proficiencies in Basic D&D? Perish the thought, at least when it comes to the old sets from the 80's. But this Set is not supposed to be THAT basic, I suppose. It ain't your daddy's Basic D&D, and I guess that's alright.
So, overall the game seems to be stripped down version of 3.5, with some new innovations to the rules, such as getting rid of reflex/will/fortitude saves (the saves are now attached to the attributes, similar to how Castles & Crusades does it). Also, there's the advantage/disadvantage thing that everyone's been talking about, and it seems rather neat, although the thought of more dice rolling is usually not appealing to me on a visceral level. I prefer less dice rolling when possible.
I have nearly zero familiarity with D&D 4E, so I'm not sure what may be in the Starter Set that came from 4E. I know that 4E had at-will, encounter, and daily powers, and I'm honestly looking forward to seeing if those things are offered as optional rules for, say, spellcasters in the PHB. Any way to lighten up the "limitations" of Vancian magic is good in my book. I notice that the cantrips in the Starter Set are at-will casting, so there's that.
The fact that they mention that adventurer's ability scores can reach 20 was disturbing to my old-school sensibilities, but I'm not sure how that works when they're using the 4d6-drop-the-lowest method. Maybe they mean through the use of magical items...oh wait, I think I remembered that in the advancement rules in the Starter Set, your character increases in a class primary ability score at a certain level...okay so I guess the max attribute level is now 20? Sounds kinda icky.
Also a bit icky to me is the bonus inflation for the attributes. Example: an 18 gives you +4 now. Ouch. That's something of a gut-reaction turn-off as well.
The set encourages players to see replay value in the included module...and I suppose that's what one would have to do while waiting for monsters in the Basic PDF and/or the eventual Monster Manual?
I know that JB is currently discussing the actual "completeness" of the Basic PDF at the moment, and getting flak for it, unfortunately. I know that JB can come off as being confrontational about RPGs, but I think he's just passionate. He can sometimes be inflammatory, but I don't think that comes from a desire to simply start arguments. He just wants to get people energized and fired up about the subject.
Some people have stepped forward to remind JB that the current version of the Basic PDF is not the final version, which will be out in August I believe, to coincide with the PHB release. I guess they're trying to keep some of the PHB stuff under wraps until the release of the book, because honestly the Basic PDF just seems to be pages ripped out of the PHB.
I can understand a company not wanting to give away the cow for free, you know. So they want to be cautious with what's given away for free. Again, is the free stuff for use with the Starter Set, but if you want to have a fuller experience, you leave behind the Starter Set and Basic PDF and move on to the PHB/DMG/MM? Maybe the RPGPundit can clear things up for me!
Anyway, this has been an interesting experience. I'm not sure that this version of D&D is for me, because of the "complexity" of it, despite the thing being called basic...but then again the Starter Set doesn't say it's Basic, as far as I know.
BUT THIS DESIRE FOR "SIMPLE," BASIC RULES COMES FROM MY OWN PREJUDICE AT THE MOMENT, and not from any fault in the 5E Starter Set itself. Because personally, due to my own specific life circumstances, I'm looking for simpler rules these days, even simpler than old 80's Basic and even my beloved Castles & Crusades. To that end, there's a certain little game coming out soon that might scratch my simplicity itch...more on that in another post!
In the meantime, please give me your thoughts, impressions, etc. on 5E so far!

Friday, July 4, 2014

D&D Starter Set: I Gots Mines!

So, the best little FLGS in South Jersey, All Things Fun, was open today...and they're one of the stores that got the D&D Starter Set early...AND I told them a few weeks ago to set one aside for me...AND I was able to head on over there today to grab mines!
I want to state this right now: today, I am declaring full independence from skepticism, doubt, and edition wars as I begin to pour through the books in the box! I will approach this new edition with an open mind, as I read through the contents.
But first, let me take you through a brief look at said contents! I have to tell you, I felt like a kid as I sat on my living room floor, tearing open the box and digging into it!Whether that warm and fuzzy feeling will persist remains to be seen.
Here's some pics from the unboxing:
The dice. Nothing spectacular, but functional of course. I rolled the 20 and it came up a 19! Not bad for a first roll.
The rulebook! I flipped through. It has less pages than the adventure in the box, which felt...weird to me. Hmm, or it could be a good thing.
There's the rules and the adventure books. And the pregen characters.
Here's what I thought was just an advert...but the other side is a blank character sheet that you can use, of course, for photocopying.
And here's a bit of filler cardboard...hmm...not sure how I feel about that. I guess it keeps the contents from flopping around too much. But still...the box DID feel light to me when I picked it up. But that doesn't mean anything I suppose. And anyway, I can print out the Basic Rules and put that puppy in the box! Maybe throw some minis and pencils and more dice in there for good measure, and take the neat little bundle to game night! The room in the box calls out to be filled!
And here's a couple decent illos from the books! I like the bewildered look on the half-orc's face!
Anyway, just wanted to give you a taste. I'm going to do some reading tonight, for sure! Can't wait! I'll report in with more detail as soon as I can.
Happy 4th of July, one and all!