Saturday, June 30, 2012

Schrödinger’s Ferrit: Character Death and The Boy


The last three gaming sessions have been chock-full of character death. Kaye, on of our players, has been the recipient of most of the death, losing three characters in the last three game sessions.

He lost a 1st level half-orc fighter in the Labyrinth Lord game by charging into a pack of ten orcs. His 7th level bio-espionage robot was crushed by falling debris in Stars Without Numbers. Then a failsafe installed by his creators, the alien Methans, kicked in, creating a micro-black hole which wiped out a city block. Then in Spelljammer, his mil-wiz-black-ops spellsword maic-user fighter hybrid thing was gunned down by a squad of mind-flayer controlled, arquebus wielding, hippopotamus headed Giff.

Kaye lost three characters in eight days. Interestingly, he bounced back quickly and remained rather chipper.

In the same time frame, The Boy lost one character. He did not remain chipper.

I've been running a group of players through B1: In Search of the Unknown at the FLGS. It's a continuation of the Labyrinth Lord game I was running last year. The Boy was playing his favorite character - Ferrit the halfling thief.

So, Ferrit and the crew were running from the band of orcs who had sliced up Kaye's half-orc into tiny little pieces. Since you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your friends, I asked about the characters' encumbrance. The rest of the characters were carrying little-to-nothing, as they had been newly created. But come to find out, Ferrit was laden with about three donkey's worth of stuff.

Ferrit was the last in line during the mad dash to the entrance of the dungeon. The orcs threw their clubs, hitting the halfling in the back. He kept on running, but they would be on him unless he loosened his load.

So, he began to toss stuff aside. The heaviest thing he had was his huge mass of coins - which he refused to part with. But he began throwing everything else.

The party suggested - strongly - that he get rid of his cash. He refused; instead letting go of his Morlock spears.

"How many Morlock spears do you have?" I asked.

"Nineteen," he said.

So, now the angry orcs were armed with spears. They rained death down on Ferrit, knocking him down into negative territory and bleeding out. The rest of the party raced on, got out of the dungeon, spiked the front door, and ran back to the fort.

I decided that it was not the time, quite yet, to tell The Boy that if he would have dumped the gold out behind him, the orcs would have stopped to pick it up.

My son was angry. Very angry. Ferrit the Halfling was his favorite character ever, and he was not taking it well.

I talked to him about it on the drive home, but you know, there is nothing to beneficial to say in these circumstances. When we got home, he broke down emotionally. He wanted Ferrit back.

"Ferrit wasn't dead when we last saw him. He was still bleeding. He could have survived. The orcs could have patched him up."

"I'm sorry," I shook my head, "The orcs were interested in the rest of the party."

"I know - I'll roll up a new character and call him Ferrit!" he said.

Now that is completely against my own style of playing. A character in the ground is a character in the ground. But he is not me, so there was little I could say. I nodded, "Sure."

"But," his faced dropped, "It's not the same Ferrit."

I scrunched up my lips and thought for a second.

"You know what?" I looked at The Boy. "As a DM in this case, I am primarily interested in mechanics."

He looked at me like I was speaking Orcish.

"The numbers. The numbers that make up this character sheet here. This numbers here died today. This character sheet is finished. That is the mechanics of it. The numbers died."

He looked at me blankly.

"Whatever Ferrit is - the spirit - the idea of Ferrit - he still lives on in your heart."

"I don't want him just in my heart."

I smiled. "Like I said, I am primarily interested in the mechanics here. The character sheet died. If you want to make a new character and call it Ferrit, then that is okay. If you want to make up a story about how Ferrit somehow survived the dungeon and crawled back to the fort - that is okay too. Remember, he doesn't have the same stats. He was 4th level and is now 1st level. He lost everything. He would have gone through something horrible that reduced his physical abilities and changed his very being."

The boy smiled.

"And remember, if he dies again, and he dies in front of people, this type of story really doesn't work. He went below ten hit points while no one was watching, so he's like Schrödinger’s cat. Ferrit's quantum state was uncertain."

He smiled again. He got the reference. He’s an eleven year old addicted to the Science Channel. "I think I can live with that," The Boy said.

So - Ferrit will be back. He's a lot weaker than he used to be. His body is covered in scars. He doesn't even remember how to be a thief anymore. He just knows how to be a fighter, since The Boy shose a new class for him. But, Ferrit is back.

And hey, I get to retain my Kind, Compassionate Dad Card and my Asshole DM Card - at the same time.  Talk about quantum states.

- Ark

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dungeonspiration: The Garden Monster


Sometimes the backyard garden spawns monstrosities fit only for inspiring a game of Dungeons and Dragons.  Pictured here is a freakish carrot we pulled out of the ground today.

Do me a favor.  Please post a caption to the image above.  It needs a good caption.  Thanks. :)

(Hirst walls by me, mini painted by The Boy, carrot by the grace of God.)

- Ark

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Glacia Facia


I'm still working on the Glacia Cover, slowly but surely.  Here is here face so far.  Not bad looking for a half-yeti barbarian ice queen.

In Crazy-Ass Tim's 2e Spelljammer game, I came up with the idea that Glacia's helf-yeti tribe abhors the undead.  To combat undeadness, the members of the tribe eat anything they kill - thus ending the problem before it begins.  This usually means that Glacia is normally coated in blood and guts, very full, and looked upon by everyone in a 50 mile radius with disgust and revulsion.

Glacia's travelling companions, wanting to impress the military leadership of an outpost, tricked Glacia into taking a bath - the first bath of her life.  She was not amused - swearing fiery vengeance upon everyone who was armed with a bar of soap during the violent coup de scrub.

- Ark

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where is Chaotic Lame on the Chart?


The Demon Lord Soulvex is . . . well, let's just say he is a very challenged individual.   Understanding that, in these parts, being a Demon Lord is largely a hereditary position, may explain a lot.  Still, he has a legacy to live up to, so he tries.  Well, not really, now that I think about it.  Yelling at dogs doesn't really count.

- Ark

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friendly Local Game Store: Roll2Play

Yesterday was the soft opening of Roll2Play, a new game store within comfortable cycling distance from my house.  Roll2Play has been an online store for a while, but the owner, Tiffany Franzoni, finally realized her dream of going brick and mortar.  She's a vocal and active advocate of gaming and spends lots of time at conventions around the state.

Roll2Play isn't just some hole in the wall.  Tiffany Franzoni has made her store into something quite wonderful, jam-packed with games and done up with natural wood displays, tables, and chairs.  It's equal parts store and gamer hangout, and the vibe is - well - it just feels like home when you walk in.  Board games are available to play at any time, and heck, there is even a setup for mini painting.

So me, The Boy, and a couple of friends stopped by to support the 'Amazing Tiffany' and her staff last night.  I brought Labyrinth Lord and a copy of In Search of the Unknown just in case we felt like playing some D&D.  Well, we plopped down at a table, and within no time, gamer gravity took effect and we had a D&D  game of 8 people going - some of the people I had never met before and who had never played an old school RPG.

You know, for a long time, I had this dream of running an open-type rpg - where people could just wander in and start playing an rpg I was running.  Other games store were . . . okay . . . but nothing ever clicked like I saw it in my head.  My vision was very similar to the way I heard Tim Kask describe game nights at Gary Gygax' house in the early years.  Well, last night felt exactly like that. Well, sans Gary Gygax.

So, looks like my new home is Roll2Play, where I'll be slaughtering countless people I've just met.  And  playing some boardgames too.  Tiffany has stacks of them just sitting there waiting to be played on her 'free to play' shelf.  Space Hulk and Dragon Inn were just sitting there, beckoning to me.

Excuse me.  The drool on my chin is unsightly - I know.  But I just can't help it.

:)

- Ark

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dungeonspiration: Virgil Finlay

At this year's NTRPGCON, I had the good fortune to sit down with Diesel LaForce and discuss art.  As he was digging through a box of his his Deities and Demigods remakes to show me, I began to grill him on his pen and ink technique.  After describing his approach, Diesel began to talk of his influences - one of the biggest being Virgil Finlay.

Finlay was an illustrator for pulp magazines back in their heyday.  Diesel was particularly impressed with the stippling and cross-hatching techniques that Finlay did in his works.  I hadn't heard of the artist, so looked him up after I got back home.  Well, of course I had seen Finlay's work - I just didn't know who he was.  And Finlay's art - yeah - wow.

Here is a brief sampling:

Strange Compulsion

Roads Claus Rescue Serinna

Call Him Demon

The Sheeted Dead
On  the Edge of the Galaxy

I know Virgil Finlay's work definitely inspires me.  Not only to improve my drawing abilities, but to run games in settings that spring to mind when viewing Finlay's work.  Check out Virgil Finlay on the various search engines.  His stuff is out there, all over the place.

Enjoy.

-Ark

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Who wins? Mearls or Gygax?


Okay, that title may start people beating each other senseless with clubs - but let me 'splain.  Yesterday, I detailed my group's experience with the D&D Next Playtest.  To sum up, while I had issues with some of the fiddly bits, the players liked it so much they wanted to continue through the Caves of Chaos in future sessions.

My initial thought was, well, Mike Mearls pulled it off and developed a decent game.  But then I got to thinking.  The adventure we were actually playing was Keep on the Borderlands - that's Gary Gygax's baby.  All the WOTC team did was to stitch together a ruleset where you could play through the Cave of Chaos properly - something that Gygax and Arneson and Holmes and Moldvay and Cook and Mentzer already did years ago - in four (or more?) different versions.

Of course, you could say it was the DM and the players - but let's keep us out of it for now.

So there probably is no real answer here, but it's fun to think about.  Mearls or Gygax?  Is it the ruleset or the adventure? Both or neither?

Anyway, I'll let ya'll duke it out, if you are so inclined. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

From 5e to Oe and Back Again

5e Playtest - well, as much as I can show you legally.
When the URUTSK game didn't make at NTRPGCON on Thursday night, one of the staff members suggested we join in one of the other games, or perhaps one of us could start a pick-up game.

I looked around and said:

"Hey, I've got D&D Next in the trunk of my car."

I tried to keep a straight face, but failed. The statement was met with raucous laughter. You probably had to be there.

I said it as a joke, but I also said it to gauge the reaction to 5e at the Con. Most of the people I talked to had no interest in Fifth Edition D&D. Well, many had signed up for the playtest, but the interest waned there, and they ignored the pdf package when it was released. There were some, though, who actually participated. Interestingly enough, they universally liked it.

That's not scientific polling or anything, but it is food for thought.

I've run 5e twice. The first was a 'meet and greet' with the rules. I ran The Boy through a dungeon that I made up on the fly so I could get the mechanics down before rolling out the playtest proper. If I can't run a game system by pulling an adventure out of my ass, then it's dead to me already.

The boy picked two characters to run with - the Human Cleric and the Dwarf Fighter.

The pre-game ran really well - I liked the mechanics from what I saw. My big issue was with the characters themselves. The cleric was a laser cleric - pyu-pyu-pyu-ing all over the place. Okay, it's a different kind of cleric than in *my* D&D, I get that. Still, it felt funny.

What I REALLY did not like was the fact that the fighter could not miss. The fighter's Reaper feat meant that even with a miss, the fighter still did it's ability score modifier in damage - 3 hp in this case. That's melee AND ranged.

No. Nuh-uh. That is so wrong on so many levels. Do I really need to spell it out to WOTC? Do I need to explain how ridiculous that is?

Interestingly, those that I mentioned it to at the con had not noticed that little feature of the fighter.

One thing about DMing 4e for over two years taught me is to pay close attention to the rules. I mean, how can you bitch about something properly if you don't know what you are bitching about? :)

The Boy, however, absolutely LOVED the Laser Cleric and the Never-Missing Fighter.

So, the night before I attended a Con dedicated to old school gaming, I ran the D&D Next playtest. That, in itself, ishilarious. Well, to me, anyway.

Crazy-Ass Tim has detailed the adventure on his blog here. Go read. I'll wait.

---

Okay, we're back.

4e Caves of Chaos - Pretty embarrassing eh?
What got me was how organic it felt - how natural and old-schooly. I think that WOTC 's decision to have the playtest use the original Cave of Chaos was quite smart, as it allows people like me to compare Next almost directly to my experiences with Basic and Advanced.

The Advantages/Disadvantages mechanic was fun and simple to implement. It was a little hard to think with, because for three decades, I've been translating what is going on at the table into percentages in my head - kind of like Neo does with swirly green characters in the Matrix. Calculating percentages with the 2d20 thing in Next is something I still haven't got down yet.

I play 'theater of the mind,' but movement needs to be looked at, I think. Being able to move before and after an action is great. It allows for wonderful sniping. But the absence of an opportunity attack leaves a lot of holes. I am not a big fan of the opportunity attack in 4e, mind you, but the characters have free range over the battlefield and can rush forward, attack, and rush back out of melee range time and time again. It's kind of an annoying little dance. I don't know what the solution for it is, though. Perhaps Disengage as a full action? I don't know.

I think one of the most surprising things is how Crazy-Ass Tim's fiancee reacted in the game. She's never played an RPG before. It frustrated her. Not the game mechanics. She got those right off the bat. She was frustrated with the other players themselves. I'm paraphrasing here, but she said something to the effect of "You guys are complete idiots who cannot think tactically on the battlefield to save your lives."
And she was right.

The halfling was too busy stealing stuff during combat to be useful. The wizard ran up to AN OGRE to get into melee range so that he could deliver a shock grasp - then was summarily pounded into the ground. Players stood motionless in the doorways of rooms full of archer goblins that were hiding behind overturned tables.

Two players were brought down under zero hit points. In OD&D, they would be flat out dead, and most likely, the whole thing would have been a TPK.

D&D Next is far more forgiving. Now whether that is a problem or not is a very subjective matter. But the hp inflation is not too bad, (I'm comparing to 4e) so making it more deadly would be a pretty simple house rule on the Death and Dying mechanics. So I don't see it as a problem. And, from what I've heard, WOTC is reworking hit points, so hopefully they'll reduce the safety net a bit more. Well, I would hope.

The at-will spells were a bit much for me too. I don't necessarily think that the low level magicians and clerics should be more combat effective, or even equal to, the fighters. Their power should be in having bizarre spells that create strange effect so that they have to use their imaginations to come up with nifty solutions to wacky problems. Not until they reach higher levels should they be as combat effective - casting spells like Remiehneppo's Thermonuclear Blast. Sorry, that's just how I roll.

Having four days of old school gaming right after than has let me contrast and compare a lot. Especially since I played OD&D with Tim Kask on Saturday. Comparing 5e with some real, honest to goodness 0e from the horse's mouth (or whatever part of the horse Tim represents,) has been enlightening. there is a lot to argue about, but I think that it all comes down to the point that the mechanics should not get in the way of the kind of game you want to play. If they do, then the game is broken - FOR YOU. It's a highly personal thing. You can fix it, or move on.

For me, the make-break for D&D Next will probably lie in character creation and ability advancement - specifically the Themes mechanic, and how spells are handled. Those are some pretty damn contentious areas. We'll see what happens.

So, after the session was over, I was packing up my things and thinking about the next game I'd be running in the same timeslot - Champions. Suddenly the players asked me a question.

"So when are we going to play this next?"

I was taken aback. We already had a whole host of things in our 'gaming queue' to get to. Gamer ADD is a harsh mistress.

"Again? Really?"

They nodded.

"Well, okay then, we can just continue with the Caves of Chaos in this same slot then," I chuckled.

Crap - I hope WOTC starts releasing playtest material faster. Otherwise, I just might have to pull out Labyrinth Lord. ;)

- Ark

Monday, June 11, 2012

NTRPG Con 2012 Loot


This year at NTRPGCON I was much more selective in my purchases, and significantly poorer, so they balanced one another out.  What I got away with was:

  • The Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game with the Limited-Edition Gold Foil Cover:  Squee!  I missed out on the pre-order, so I thought I'd miss out on this too, but it was sitting there at registration beckoning me.  Looking at the beta test materials last year, I knew I wanted this for the art alone, even if the game sucked.  However, I got to play it at last year's con with Harley Stroh, so I knew it was an awesome game.
  • Doom of the Savage King: Dungeon Crawl Classics module #66.5, by Harley Stroh.  This came in the big old black and gold telephone book for free - and isn't supposed to be available elsewhere.
  • The Adventurer Conqueror King System: This is the hardback.  Honestly, I wasn't planning on buying this.  But I saw it and, well, yeah.  It's such a pretty book with awesome art inside.  And and and . . . yeah.  I'm just an OSR slut.  Anyone want to play ACKS?
  • Spelljammer: Since Crazy-Ass Tim has turned our Second Edition AD&D game into a Spelljammer game, I figured - why not?  I might as well know something about the system.  This is the full original boxed set.  The dealer crammed in some other Spelljammer related material into the box as well, including Greyspace, so the thing was pretty damn well packed with stuff.
  • Hel:  I also picked up a print of Hel, from Diesel LaForce's Kickstarter project where he is redoing his old TSR work from Deities and Demigods, similar to what Jeff Dee is doing.  There is a little story with this that wouldn't be right to tell, I don't think, so I'll just keep my mouth shut and gloat all by myself.  If you see me smirking one day, it's probably about this.
  • B1 & S3:  Diesel LaForce had a box of old TSR stuff under his table that I saw and began to dig through.  Search of the Unknown and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks were both inside.  I lost my copies long ago, and had been looking for affordable copies.  They were both well worn, annotated, and cheap.  Now I'm beginning to wonder - was that Diesel's personal stash of old beat up TSR stuff he was getting rid of?  Crap.  I didn't even get him to sign them!
  • EPT Swag: When Doctor Victor Raymond ran us through the Empire of the Petal Throne game on Friday night, he gave us several handouts afterwards.  Lots of neat stuff.  But the kicker was a beautiful two sided, full color poster map of Tékumel.  It's completely awesome an Dr. Raymond is a very generous guy.
So, that's my fifth post about the con and I suppose I should give it a rest for at least a bit.  

I'd like to thank Doug and Mike and all the other staff and special guests for pulling off an amazing convention.  Oh, and the gamers too.  There was a complete absence of fuktards.  How many places can you say the same thing about?


- Ark

Sunday, June 10, 2012

NTRPG Con 2012 - Day Four

Circus Maximus on Thursday via JohnGaunt
I had a Red Bull for breakfast this morning. That one didn't take, so I had another.

Sundays are sleepy affairs at conventions - people staggering around nursing coffees and headaches. The Boy and I got back to the hotel in time to play in Jeff Dee's Quicksilver game.

Quicksilver is a 2d10 based game. I like the system. It is elegant and very simple - a perfect system to run at a con and detailed enough to be a used in a larger campaign. It's point buy with skills, so die-hard OD&Ders won't be happy - but then again, they've already got their game, don't' they? :)

I absolutely loved the critical successes and failures system, brought on by duplicate results with the roll of a the two ten-siders. It scales beautifully so that if you were good at something, the less critical failures you would have, and vice-versa - something that doesn't happen in d20 games that I've seen. And the crit results were great, and I definitely need to steal the Jeff's stuff for some of the systems I play.

We played with a great couple from Midland, Texas, where I used to live, and Zeb Cook. Zeb played a goblin who didn't know the rest of the party's language very well, so he was stuck communicating to us in only one syllable words. That's another great mechanic in the game, and I think particularly fun for cons.

I had gotten to talk to Zeb the day before of my bizarre history with second edition, and admitted that for two decades I wasn't very happy with him about the whole thing - and he had just smiled. :)

About halfway through the game, Crazy-Ass Jim (purestrainhuman) showed up finally to take part in the convention - mainly to buy stuff. After introducing him to Jeff Dee, I took a look over at Zeb.

Now, Crazy-Ass Tim was brought into D&D through Second Edition, and Zeb Cook has been a HUGE idol of his for a LONG time. But, of course, Tim had no idea what Zeb looked like.

Squealing Fangirls
So, with an evil gleam in my eye, I grabbed Tim, took him around the table, and introduced him point blank to Mr Cook.

I really wish I had a camera, because to see Crazy-Ass Tim, who is a sizable man, melt into a little squealing fangirl was just precious. I will laugh hysterically and rib him about it for decades to come. Again, NTRPGCON has paid for itself many times over.

It's the simple things in life, yanno?

You can read Crazy-Ass Tim's version of events at this post over on his blog, From the Ashes.

So anyway, we played the game and all survived. Quicksilver is a fun one. I'd recommend it.

I spent the rest of the time at the con talking to people until - especially another long session with David LaForce. Very cool dude. But, alas, Red Bull was wearing off, so The Boy and I drove home, where I promptly fell asleep on the couch.

Now, in these last four post outlining my adventures at NTRPGCON, I've done a lot of name-dropping. Please don't mistake that with some desire to make myself seem important. I'm just some schmo meeting my idols.

What I AM trying to impress upon you is that your idols are out there. The people who wrote the games that you love. The people who put that stamp upon your personality - that gaming bug - that will never go away. They are out there and they are going to these mini-cons around the world and they are wonderful people and they are approachable and will put up with you acting like squealing little fangirls.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

GET THEE TO A CONVENTION.

I certainly have no regrets. :)

- Ark

NTRPG Con 2012 - Day Three


Even more tired - if that is possible. :)

So, The Boy and I arrived back at the con in the morning to play in the finals of Circus Maximus.  Tim Kask refereed the game.  Regretfully, the rest of The Boy's team did not show up, so he was a solo player.  Everyone on the White Team showed up though.  However, it didn't help.  None of my team made it across the finish line.  it was brutal out there, I tell you - BRUTAL.  Great fun, all the same.

Afterwards, The Boy found a Battletech table.  That was lucky, as I'm sure he would have complained about going to do what I wanted to - which was to go sit in a room and listen to people talk. :)

The Artist Panel was great.  It consisted of Erol otus, Jennell Jaquays, Jeff Dee, Diesel LaForce, and Jason Braun.  During the panel, they drew monsters and answered our questions.  I really enjoyed listen to ALL of them complain about things in art that I have a hard time doing - it makes me feel better as an artist. :)

I was soooo happy that Stars Without Number won the Three Castles Award.  I'm a big fan of the role playing game, and I congratulate Kevin Crawford on his victory.

In the evening, we got to play Empire of the Petal Throne with Victor Raymond.  Jeff Dee also played, as well as John Eric  Holmes's son Chris.  I had read about Tekumel, and had wanted to play the game for decades.  I finally got my chance!

We decided to play a group of characters devoted to 'Change' - kind of like Chaotic in D&D.  We had one alien in the group.  I chose a female priestess named Merla, who was a devotee of Dlamelish.  She was sort of a religious courtesan, I think.  Odd for a courtesan to be dungeon delving, but I played her up as a spoiled rich girl who would throw away the lives of her slaves to ensure her own comfort.  She burned through two of her three slaves that way.

i had a blast playing in Tekumel, and Victor Raymond was great.  I know we frustrated him with out antics something fierce.  More the once he physically banged his head against the wall after we did or said something.  But somehow, we all survived.  Well, we did that buy sacrificing slaves to monsters and running.  Pretty effective, if you ask me.

After Tekumel, it was more Battletech for The Boy - whom I had to physically drag away from the table so we could get home.

One more day in the con left . . .


- Ark

Saturday, June 9, 2012

NTRPG Con 2012 - Day Two

Take my exhaustion from yesterday and multiply it a couple of times and you'll gt my exhaustion level right now.  But it was a great day all the way round.  I probably should go to sleep, but last year I tried to get a lot of rest before I wrote much about the con - and it backfired - becoming a jumbled mush in my head.  So I'm writing now.

Today was a bit lighter.  We hung out most of the day without actively gaming, just chatting with people, watching others game, and rooting loudly in other Circus Maximus contests.

I had a great talk with Diesel LaForce.  We discussed his time back at TSR and what he's been doing since - and he showed me his own project to recreate some of the lost works from the TSR years.  Wonderful stuff.  His work has just moved light years since Deities and Demigods.  We then went into his techniques with pen and the artists that he tries to emulate.  He's also doing sculpting these days, and The Boy fell in love with a dragon piece, so he not only bought one for himself, the Boy also bought one for a new found friend of his at the con.  My son amazes me often with his generosity.  Diesel seems like a great guy too. :)

The Boy and I sat down with Frank Menzter during dinner and we ate Schlotzsky's sandwiches together.  Frank regaled us with stories of his participation in the Gettysburg Centennial celebration - at Gettysburg.  He's been involved with some really cool stuff.  And, you know, talking to a guy who can describe what the downstairs and upstairs of Gary Gygax's house looked like - including what pictures hung on the walls - is just way cool anyway. I wasn't able to get into any of his games this time around, but it was a pleasure to get to sit down and talk to him.  Hopefully next year we'll get to play in something of his.

The evening was spend playing OD&D with Tim Kask.  Erol Otus was there too.  Tim ran us through Snakeriders of the Aradondo.  I was somewhat apprehensive about playing with Tim - as he always seem to to me as being a bit gruff and, well, a guy who didn't put up with shit from players.  And certainly The Boy and I can dish out big piles of shit.  But he was great.  I mean, still, he was a mean bastard of a DM who didn't take any shit from us, but a DM who can howl in laughter at the PCs antics certainly isn't too gruff.  We didn't complete our objective - midnight came around way too soon - so I guess the world ended (really) but officially, only two in the party died.  The first was eaten by monkeys and became monkey poo.  That will teach him to sleep in a tree during his watch, eh?  And the second death was when another player was bitten in half by a giant snake.  The Boy, Erol, I, and the rest of the team survived officially, I guess, so all was good.  I mean, as long as you don't count the whole end of the world thing. :)

So, I'm exhausted, and will crash after I strain my bleary eyes over this post to check for typos.  Goodnight.

- Ark

P.S. - Oh, and this guy here is a great dude.  We keep on crossing paths and it is always a blast.

P.S.S. - Oh oh oh.  And this guy here is great too.  He makes these great wooden dice at Artisan Dice - some of which the Boy now owns.  Very beautiful stuff.

Okay, really, time to sleep . . .

Friday, June 8, 2012

NTRPG Con 2012 - Day One

It's late and my head hurts, but that doesn't prevent me from smiling.  The Boy and I just got back from day one of NTRPG Con.

We got to the hotel earlier than I had hoped, so we were able to watch the charity game.  Well, I got to watch it.  The Boy was lucky enough to win a raffle allowing him to play in the game.  So, my son got to play first edition AD&D with Doug Rhea, Jim Ward, Steve Winter, Jennell Jaquays, Tim Kask, Sandy Petersen, and Frank Mentzer.

Jealous much?

I must say, I would have never guessed Sandy Peterson, the main author of the game Call of Cthullu, would be so hilarious playing a halfling.  All the players were great fun to watch.  Really.  Watching that game alone was worth the entire price of admission for the con.  Steve Winter as a druid cursed with pyromania against trees?  Jim Ward playing a . . . mage maybe . . . who was a habitual liar trying to get everyone killed?  Sandy the halfling and Tim Kask the gnome riding a horse in saddle bags.  Then Frank Metnzer filling the saddle bags with manure?  I mean - wow - my sides still hurt.

Regretfully, the Urutsk game did not happen.  I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I hope Timeshadows is okay.

Instead, the Boy and I played Circus Maximus.  I was kind of skeptical, since it was a chariot race rather than a role playing game - but now I know - if you ever have a chance to play that game - play it.  It's like the chariot races in Ben Hur - but nastier.  The first game was viscous, with many contestants getting splattered.  Near the end, the Boy destroyed my chariot, killing me, and winning a coveted spot on the Red Team for the Finals on Saturday morning.

Later, I fought in a match for a spot on the White Team.  I spent far too much time bashing people, and being bashed, and nearly too late realized that I would never win with speed in my crippled chariot.  So, I lurked around the track at slow speed, attacking charioteers as they raced by, hoping to win by attrition.  Oddly enough, I freaked so many people out, and they made enough fatal mistakes trying to avoid me, that I won a spot on the White Team.

So Saturday, the Boy and I will be battling each other on opposing teams in a Circus Maximus Death Match that will be remembered for all time.  Well, at least until the next con rolls around.

You might get the impression that I had a good time today - and you'd be right. :)

Now, I must get to sleep or my ears will start to bleed.  Good night.

- Ark

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Glacia Cover - Inks


Due to prepping for NTRPG Con, playtesting 5e, and generally not managing time well, tomorrow's Rather Gamey Comic will be pushed back till next time.  Instead, you'll be receiving sporadic, brain-fired con reports for a bit.

Until then, enjoy the faux comic cover I've been working on.  :)

- Ark

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

5e, Tinkering and Dragon Magazine


Well, D&D Next certainly has got people talking.  And hurling insults at one another.  So nothing really changes except the name of the game, eh?

I was sitting around thinking about earlier editions of D&D, trying to remember what it was like way back then, and comparing it to the advent of 4e, and now Next.  I think the big difference is Tinkering.

Let me give you some family history.  My father was born to an age where automobiles were still pretty simple things.  He spent most of his early years up under a hood, fiddling with engines, tweaking performance - heck - even rebuilding the body if need be to suit whatever wild hair was up his ass.  By the 70s, when I was growing up, he had the same love affair with computers, buying the home computer kits, tinkering, soldering, blowing out fuses, and spending thousands of dollars just to replicate PONG and Lunar Lander.  There was no off-the-shelf, pre-made computer that your average consumer could buy.  Even the most complete kits still had to be handcrafted with love, blood, sweat, and tons of cuss-words.

To me, D&D was the same thing.

When I was first exposed to D&D in 1981, it blew my mind.  A game of make-believe with a rules framework so people over eight could still play Bovine Tenders and Indigenous Peoples without stomping off in too much of a huff.  How awesome was that?

Actually playing D&D, well, that got me frustrated.  The rules, well, they frankly sucked.  After a few go-rounds, I found them limiting and not able to create the game I saw in my head.  Chalk most of that up to the limits of an 11 year old mind.   But luckily, there was Dragon magazine.

Every month, Dragon Magazine would come out and fill my brain full of gold.  There would be articles on game theory and design, new adventures, and new monsters.  But most importantly, there were the house rules.

It seems like in each issue, crammed somewhere, would be an article about how someone had tweaked or adjusted the rules of D&D to better fit their gaming style.  That's where I learned about concepts like Critical Hits and Misses, THAC0, Death and Dying Rules, Zero-level Characters, and god knows what else.  I internalized many of these ideas, and the amalgamation became my D&D.

It's funny that so many of those house rules from Dragon Magazine became so standard for so many people that they actually were codified into Second Edition AD&D.  If I had really understood that that's all 2e really was - AD&D + Dragon Magazine - then I would have never cursed Zeb Cook's name for two decades.

Another nifty feature of Dragon was that it would contain articles on games other than D&D, and often, games that were not even owned by TSR.  That exposed me to a lot of other game and their mechanics, without having to actually plunk down money that I did not have an a teen.

By the time I got back into D&D with 4e, Dragon Magazine was a paltry shadow of it's former self.  Sure, it had advice for DMs and such, but it wasn't chock-full of a wide variety of articles on subject ranging from game-design to how to fix a broken mechanic in your game.  Dragon had become just yet another corporate shill.

You had to look to blogs for advice on how to kit-bash 4e.

I tried - I really tried to take 4e, learn it, run it as intended, then go and house rule it until the damn game felt like D&D again.  But no, it never did.  Like Dragon, D&D was just a shadow of itself.  The remaining skeleton wouldn't even support changes I tried to make to it very well. D&D was no longer a KIT.  It was a highly tuned sports car, with a welded shut hood labeled 'no user serviceable parts,' driving in the wrong direction.  Sigh.

So that leads my thoughts to D&D Type V.  What is this monster?  Currently, from what I've been exposed to, it seems like a nice little rules light game.  It won't stay simple, I'm sure.  But the core appears to be a good one.  By good, I mean it will will stand up to a heavy amount of kit-bashing and not fly off the rails like 4e did.  They called it 'modularity,' which is kind of a pre-defined kit bashing.  I'm optimistic for D&D Next on this point.

The next step, in my mind, is let some really radical game designers in to write Dragon magazine articles that show how to take D&D Next, spin it on it's ear, and spit out marvelous home rules sets that could turn 5e into things completely different that were never intended.  Imagine letting good old Zak in and speak through the corporate-horse's mouth?  How cool would that be?  Imagine letting Monte Cook write an article on game design in Dragon.  Now.  After all that has gone on.  I mean, wow.

Okay, all of that is pie in the sky.  Bloggers serve the purpose that Dragon Magazine once did.  But imagine if it came from the horse's mouth?  Innovation and exploration and wild ass ideas.  Tinkering galore.  It would set an entirely new tone for D&D.  Well, a very old tone.

- Ark