Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hopeful for the 27th! And some random thoughts...

First off, I am a huge fan of the PvP webcomic.  And, I also love Penny Arcade.  And, their D&D podcasts they did.  Yeah, it was fourth, doesn't matter.  They did a great job and made the game sound fun!

They are doing it again at PAX Prime.

Looking forward to it and I'm sure it will be great.

The random thought is about getting what I want as a DM out of a campaign.

I listen to the Fear the Boot podcast often.  One of their shows, found here, was about how to make the campaign a success.  I found it very interesting and I thought it was time to write them down.

An epic campaign: A game that allows for the characters to grow from nothing.  From zero level all the way to level 18-20.  Or even higher.

A poor campaign: This might sound harsh, but I think many of the modules around throw gold and silver around like it is nothing.  Will I still insist on training?  Yes.  But, I will have a different scale for what the PC needs to get training.

A deadly campaign: Not one that means the players need a stable of characters to play.  It means death is going to be a part of the campaign.  That the risk of death will be there and I will not be pulling any punches.

This might seem like a strange list.  Yet, there it is.  Anyone want to give me their list?

Podcasting again

Here you go, a short post.

Here is your weekly podcasting goodness.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Random vs. old school gamers

Recently, I have had the chance to play with people are are familiar with systems that promote role playing more than D&D.  At least that is what they believe.  In my opinion, even the old Metzer and Moldvay OD&D promoted role playing.  It was just of a different type.

It is not a problem that these new players, in the sense that they haven't had much exposure to old school gaming, don't like the old style.  That is their choice.  But, I think that it can cause a problem with the what is being played.  Currently, I am in three games.  One is the old school 1st ed./Hackmaster mash-up of Temple of Elemental Evil.  There is a excess of role playing in that game.  We role play with each other, with the NPCs that we meet--that aren't trying to kill us--and even with some of the monsterous NPCs as well.  That is Sunday's game.  (Tonight, I think we are facing off against a dragon.  Oh goodie.  More on that later.)

Monday, we play a 3.5 Faerun game.  I have my own issues with 3.5 D&D.  Mechanically, the numbers get stupid far to quickly.  Yet, there is a great deal of role playing in that game as well.

The game that is sort of floating is a Wheel of Time game.  It is a 3.5 game, that I am running.  One reason is I am the only one, until recently, that read the books and now anything about the setting.  However, I am not above crushing down canon in order for the the story of the game to work.

We tried to run a Lamentation of the Flame Princess game.  It lasted one session.  Then, I ran a Raveloft 2nd ed. game.  It lasted one session.  If you are a fan of the podcast, you heard someone spewing hate and vitriol all over James Raggi IV.  I don't share his opinion.  Nor, do I think he is some new god come down from on high and is the greatest thing since Gygax.  There are several reasons why I think the new school gamers dislike the old school games.  This will be a topic for the podcast, I know.  But, I'm getting out some of my thoughts now.

The reason so many of the newer gamers dislike the older editions is the sparseness of the sheet.  At least this is my opinion.  "Where are my other skills?  All that is there are weapon slots?"  Granted I might not have stated it, yet there is a unwritten rule about old school stuff.  You don't need those numbers.  Within reason, you can make things up.  I know I have several creative people in these games, the new players have shied away from anything old school.  And, I think that isn't good.  I might have done them a disservice, yet I am going to try and win them back to playing something with dungeons, with low level characters that suck and with things that you need to run away from.

Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Random thoughts...coinage and gaming

The way that my mind works, I have been thinking about coinage and the way to use it game.  Part of me wants to come up with all of these strange names, or use the names from the past to describe a coin instead of saying, "You find a bag with twenty gold pieces."

I think there is a certain verisimilitude in using that kind of coinage.  Yet, I think that my players will just look at me, again and again, and ask, "How much gold is that?"  or "What is that in gold pieces?"

I am a world builder.  I want to breath life into the campaign world.  It is a way to make it a little more vivd.  One way to do that is to have different coins, and even to have different values for them in different kingdoms.  Yes, this gives me more work, but I think it is worth it.  IF my players actually pick up on it.  I am curious if this is something many GMs go through?

So, which side do you fall on this issue?  Should I use sovereign, crown, mark, shilling and drab?  Or should I just say gold piece, silver piece, copper, electrum?

The DM Challenge...

A fellow blogger named ckutalik over at Hill Cantons posed a question and challenge.  The rules are thus...

1. Name three “best practices” you possess as a GM. What techniques do you think you excel at?

2. What makes those techniques work? Why do they “pop”?

3. How do you do it? What are the tricks you use? What replicable, nuts-and-bolts tips can you share?

I have read many of the blogs that have tackled this topic and I will try to as well.  However, I must say that I feel like I can't answer this very well.  I can give you a few reasons:

1) My campaigns fall apart fast.  Two separate games that I thought could get off the ground lasted one and only one session.

2) I don't feel like I follow my own advice half the time when I try to run these games.

3) My players sometimes take advantage of me.  There is one whole campaign in particular that I feel--was actually talking about this with one of the players earlier today--like a substitute teacher.  (I felt like since I was not well versed in the rules, I would allow things that helped to "break" the campaign.  I am not saying it was entirely my players fault.  I take some of the blame myself for how I set about trying to make this Star Wars Saga game "pop" but in reality I feel like I made it groan, wheeze, then finally settle back and begged to be taken out of its own misery.)

HOWEVER, this dreary note does not mean I can't try and answer these questions to the best of my ability.

1) Creativity.  I am a bit of a frustrated novelist.  I have another blog about it here if you wish to read that one as well.  However, I do know that I have some creativity.  It is one of a few compliments that I have received on my games.  I try to focus on what will make this game fun and what might be exotic or interesting to the players and try to bring it in and show them.  How do I do it?  Well, I read as much as I can.  I carry a notebook with me everywhere.  Not just to write down ideas for stories, but for games as well.  Also, as much as some will comment that the medium is dying, TV and movies are full of great ideas and not so great ideas.  Look at something that tickles the DM bell in your head and twist it and turn it around.  Ponder on what will make this better.  And, ask the next question.

2) Allow for a more free-flow game.  I have found that the more the players can seek out and do what they want, they will enjoy it.  Have a story, yet don't ever railroad.  That is a mantra I think most good DMs have.  Let the PCs have some freedom.  With freedom, comes action.  They will love the fact that they don't have to doggedly continue to go into the dungeon time and again, getting to the point where it feels like punching a time card as they come in and sit down, ready to grind through the next level of dungeon.

3) Learn from your mistakes.  I think one thing I have learned in my ten plus years of gaming is try not to make the same mistake.  (I know, I am still a newbie in many ways with only ten years of gaming and DMing under my belt, but write what you know.)  Some of my first campaigns were dreadful.  Nothing but a linear point A to point B progression.  I remember there was one game where the players, through a critical and the shouted out want to use a critical hit table, decapitated my main NPC, my Baron Von Badass for lack of a better term (I suggest you look up Fear the Boot and listen to some of their podcasts, they are free and funny!)  I was so stunned, I just closed up the book and said we are done.  And, I walked away from the game.  I learned several things.  One of them is that you always need a plan B, and another is to allow the players to kill that big bad.  Why?  Because and even bigger bad is always going to be out there somewhere.  And, since then I have made many many more mistakes.  And, I have learned from them all.

I hope that this has been enlightening for you.  If not, no worries.  Either way, feedback would be great.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Here is the link to the podcast, unless you have iTunes.  It is on there now, I believe.

Hopefully, I will come back later for more updating of the games I am in.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Podcast...up!/Game update

God gods great and smaller, it has been awhile since we did a podcast.  Well, PlayerDave and I, along with a friend named Josh, got together and finally knocked one out.  I am going to make a promise that we will start posting them at least twice a month.  The podcast is on iTunes and here.

In other news, my group started a Wheel of Time game.  I had nothing planned, everything was off the cuff and we all had a blast.  I have decide to use my idea of taking canon and throwing it out the window.  The same main story is going, yet the PCs might stumble into things.  Or not.  It all depends on them as well.  I will let them have a chance, yet it won't be forced.

Doing more gaming tomorrow.  Keep you up to date.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thoughts on Vampire and Wheel of Time

I know, very different games, yet hey, it happens.

Earlier today, I went to a Vampire LARP.  Now, hold on.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  Yeah, there were guys running around pretending to be vampires, but that is kinda the point.  It was very much a political game, talking to each other and a few points of high drama and tension.  It was not what I expected.  Which is kinda a good thing.

Would I go back?  I might.  I am not completely sure what I am going to do.  Still processing the night.

Then, the guy who took me to the larp was at my place and pulled one of the many many role playing books I have--I am a collector.  I have many systems, many out of print now.  The big thing is that he pulled out the Wheel of Time book.

This is a single volume game book.  Everything you need is in one nice volume.  I have read it more than once and have wanted to run it, yet I have never had much interest.  I have read all the books and loved them--most of them, books 4 and 5 were horrible.  I am still waiting for Memory of Light and can't believe that it won't be out until 2012.  But, I digress.

The main thing that came up was he wants to play a male wilder.  (A male mage.)  If I go by straight canon, he will either be someone who has gone mad and is a False Dragon, been gentled by the Tower or was picked up and becomes an Ash'a'man.

But, if I don't go with canon, then the sky's the limit.  So, how about you?  Where is the line between canon and the game you want to run?  Is it very close?  Or is it like what I have planned for Faerun, a complete slash and burn?

Friday, August 5, 2011

This is not a flame war...I swear/Faerun

My friend, and when I say that I don't mean a guy I've been talking to online for ten years I mean I know this guy in real life, has a blog that he just started.  And he and I have gone back and forth about Heroes vs. Adeventurers.  I'm gonna stop now with going back and forth with him, cuase that is not what this blog is about.  It isn't about how I have a better opinion.  I'm just giving mine.  I also think he and I can continue our little debate--which I know will never really end--in private.

I have been reading more than a few articles and posts put up by this guy.  I think he makes quite a bit of sense.  I have stolen many tables from him.  Same with this guy as well.  I love looking around the blogsphere of the OSR and finding crunchy and not-so-crunchy bits of information and wisdom to use in games.  Sometimes these are contradictory, yet mostly they work.

In fact, because of something I read at Jeff's Blog, I think I'm going to put up an idea or two I have been kicking around.

First off, you need to know I cut my teeth on 2nd ed.  I came to gaming later than most of the old school guys.  I got a taste of it in college, yet not enough to want to try more.  But the first actual campaign I played in was 2nd edition.  I know that is on the outskirt of the OSR, it is mostly OD&D and 1E, yet I still think it is better than anything WotC put out.

Second, I both love and hate Faerun.  I love it because it was the place of the campaign.  I love some of the locations, some of the NPCs and the fact I have access to maps of the region.  I hate the high magic of it, the Uber-powered NPCs, the way some of the realms are set up and the glut of novels that have made every reader an armchair DM who thinks they know the world better than I do.  (They might, but that is besides the point.)

So, here is what I am going to do to my beloved/hated Faerun.  I'm sending down a cleansing balefire and wiping out the world and starting over.  I might allow the gods a saving throw, yet that is pretty much it.

I want to use the map of Faerun and maybe the cities, and a few of the gods.  Yet that is all I'm doing.  The magic level is going to be cranked way down.  (I'll use a pipe wrench of Gond if I have to.  He is staying, regardless of who else does or doesn't.)

Why you ask?  Why do all of this?

Two reasons:

I want to.

I can.

Granted all of this is going to be a massive undertaking in and of itself trying to repopulate cities and making up my own NPCs, not to mention facing some of the weepy stares of and mewling cries of "What did you do to MY game setting?" But, hey, this is my game and I can do what I want.

And, now I am off to start those rolls for the gods.  Hmm, this should be fun...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hero vs. Adventurer

A buddy of mine has started his own gaming blog here.

He also got me thinking about Heroes and Adventurers.  Read my comment at the bottom of his blog, unless he deleted it.  (Which I seriously doubt he will.)

The brass tacks of his post are Heroes are people like John McClane and Bruce Lee, guys that can do epic level stuff.  Adventurers are guys who have a little training under their belt, maybe a serviceable weapon or two and brave the dark and creepy passageways of catacombs and tombs to find loot.

Continuing from my little post, I think that Heroes are fine and dandy.  Your own PC can grow to be like him.  Yet, Bruce Lee wasn't always a kung-fu master.  John McClane was a cop for 11 years before the events of the first movie (thank you wikipedia.)  The thing is that Heroes are what the PCs should be after they have gained a few levels.  By the time they are 8-10th level in my mind and in my games (which I must confess, have never been able to get a game going that long to have characters get that high.) is when the characters become Heroes.  Until then, they are Adventurers, guys that need to crwl through the muck, deal with the hordes of kobolds and rats and a few wolves.  Survive long enough and you can be a Hero.

My friend's blog also made it apparent he wanted to start the game out as a Hero.  He wants to play something larger than life.  That is fine with me.  Just not something I can really grok myself at least wanting to start off.

Yeah, everyone wants to be cool and have powers.  But, to me that means you should go play super hero games.  A fantasy rpg means you are an Adventurer for a long time, getting yourself up that ladder of experience until you can go toe-to-toe with a vampire or lich.  That is when you are a Hero!  Now you can start being the cool guy.  Until then though, until you have worked for it, you are an Adventurer.

Star Wars...a card game?

SO, I just learned that Fantasy Flight Games got hold of the Star Wars deal.  Here you can find all the news.  The thing that doesn't irk me, it doesn't hurt me, it just makes me wonder why is that the first two things to come out for Star Wars is a card game and a miniatures game.  I think we were all kind of hoping that they would bring out a few more books for the game.

OR, they could be hard at work redesigning the game and the system so that it is no longer a d20-esque game and is going to go with a different "game engine."  I will be watching out and seeing what they do.  Here is hoping they do something great!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gamer Bias

In my last post, I said some things about World of Darkness.  I might have offended a few people.  Yet, that was my opinion at the time.  And, I was also a little vague one whether or not I would ever play it.  I will try to play it, yet if I was going to be playing one of those supernatural creatures, I would have a very hard time wrapping my head around it.

This will probably be a podcast episode in the very near future, so hang around for that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Games, games,games

I apologize for the long post.  I was unable to write down much until today.  So, you get four days of gaming crammed into one giant post.

Finally, I can come back and talk about my weekend.  Earlier Sat, I posted something, an inchoherent ramble I believe, about running a game at 1 in the morning.  I had started a game, which is starting to look like a one shot AD&D 2E Ravenloft game.  I was thrust into the role of DMing without much prep time.  Yet, I knew a module I had always wanted to use, Raggi's Death Frost Doom.  I had fun running it, the payers, two of which had never played anything remotely classic D&D before, hated it.  All of them thought it was a bit railroady and that, when they found out the "secret" of the plant" got pissed off saying the module is shit.

I completely disagree.  Death Frost Doom is a perfect example of characters being hoisted by their own petard.  They were so greedy and reckless, these three half-Vistani, (Yes, all three of them were half-Vistani.  None of them thought to do any checking, searching or study before heading off to the mountain.  Even Zeke screamed at them, as he always does, "It is EVIL.  DON'T GO UP THERE!")  Granted, most players see him as a old loon, yet I think Zeke is there for a very specific reason.  To make a smart player go, wait, what the hell is up there?

You could blame the time, we didn't start actual play until one in the morning.  It could have been that I had two neophyte gamers, in the sense that they had never played anything before 3.5, it could have been that it was Ravenloft and there was little in the way of villages besides the inn that the group found themselves in before night fell in Nova Vassa or it could have been that I was so tempted to run this module that I might have pushed them to go.  Yet, I still claim that it is a great module and I will run it again.  Maybe only use bit of it for other things, or try and run this in another campaign setting.

Moving onward from that, the next day we played CoC.  It was fun, though again, one fo the neophytes to "classic" gaming didn't enjoy it very much.  He is a World of Darkness gamer and there is nothing wrong with that system.  However, I find that particular style of game to be very power gamer oriented.  I will explain.

In World of Darkness, old or new, you aren't playing a typical human, or even a human or demi-human with any kind of "class" based training.  You are a vampire, a werewolf, a person who can re-shape reality or--in rare occasions--a mummy.  This is NOT typical gaming.  I have never been able to truly wrap my head around that kind of concept.  The idea that I am playing a vampire that has just been turned, I might be able to do.  Yet, the amount of power at my fingertips, even for a new vamp is, in my opinion, huge.  There is a whole new level of power that as a human, I could never do.  There is little appeal to me to play something that has the extreme advantages of a supernatural creature.

I don't apologize for my opinion.  You are welcome to your World of Darkness craziness.  I don't think I could ever really play it myself.  I will say that one of the players from this weekend of gaming has given voice to doing a fantasy based game with the "engine" of WoD.  I will try it once, expect a play test whenever it does happen.

Sunday rolled around and I went to my standard 1E/Hackmaster mash-up of Temple of Elemental Evil.  It was fun.  Our characters are still stuck in the Water Node and my character died twice, yet was brought back with some nifty magic and the help of the DM.  We also took out the dragon turtles that are the "big bads" of that node.  Yet, we still need the gem of that node before we can tackle the main temple.  That and find the golden orb.

Yesterday I would love to report more on the LotFP game.  Yet, it was shelved because some players didn't like it.  Enough people from my gaming group have shown interest to continue it later, I think I will attempt to set up a day for it.  Yet, we instead made characters and started a 3.5 Faerun game.  I have never been a huge fan of 3.5.  I tolerate it because the guy running it is brutal, I know he can make 3.5 deadly.  Which was always my problem with it.  (Well, that and the crazy stuff characters can do at first level that makes me think of a 4th or 5th lvl character from the more "classic" editions.)

One thing playing 3.5 again makes me think about.  My own tweaking of the game system.  Also, thinking of mashing different systems together and seeing what happens.  Not Hackmaster and say 1E.  I mean something like CoC and 1E?  Or 3.5 and taking the idea of decreasing the power level of characters a little.  Characters getting only a handful of points, even at 1st level.  Re-writing the skill lists.  Or using the CoC for skills.  Hmmm, interesting melange of ideas.

I have much to think about, hope you allhad a great weekend, and have an amazing week.