Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Let's Talk Hit Points

Delta's recent post on natural healing through the editions prompted me to look back through my blog for some post or other on the subject, because I was sure I'd addressed this before (possibly more than once). However, I found nothing which means I failed to label the post, it's embedded in the comments somewhere, or else the conversation I've had was done on someone else's blog in years past. So I decided to consolidate my thoughts on the nature of hit points (and how non-magical healing works) in one place: here.

I started my gaming career with the Moldvay basic set about 36 years ago; long before the advent of video games with "health bars" (pools of points that must be depleted before "losing" an avatar), but even so I could grok the concept. Dungeons and Dragons was a game, right? And I'd played games before: different ships in the old Milton Bradley game Battleship could take different numbers of "hits" before being "sunk." A fighter in D&D wasn't much different from a battleship or aircraft carrier, a cleric or elf was more like a cruiser, while thieves and magic-users were the lowly destroyer. Easy enough to grasp.

Hit points in Moldvay are simply defined on page B6 as

...the number of "points" of damage a character or monster can take during battle before dying.

with no additional explanation being given. The reader is told how to calculate the points, how damage interacts with the points, and how they are healed (by natural rest, if not by magic). No other information is provided...but for a nine year old child, what more does one need? The PCs and NPCs are simply playing pieces in a game, no different from the plastic boats in the aforementioned game.

Even at high levels, when a character has scores of hit points, the whys and wherefores matter little, because PCs generally won't be needing to rest in bed for months to recover from injuries...ready access to high level healing magic makes sure characters are up and recovered in very short periods of time. And who cares what happens to the monsters!

But what if you have a game with little access to healing magic (for whatever reason). What if it's important to know and understand why healing takes so long? What if you have players complain that the "normal human" can recover from a near-mortal wound in a day, while the high level character can take weeks (or months!) of bed rest to feel 100%?

Okay, that's enough preamble; let's hash this out once and for all.

I've written before of the origin of hit points, as an evolution of the Chainmail combat system originally used for running Arneson's Blackmoor campaign. Gygax gives the best explanation of what hit points represent "in game" in the text of his (1st edition) AD&D books:
Each character has a varying number of hit points, just as monsters do. These hit points represent how much damage (actual or potential) the character can withstand before being killed. A certain amount of these hit points represent the actual physical punishment which can be sustained. The remainder, a significant portion of hit points at higher levels, stands for skill, luck, and/or magical factors. A typical man-at-arms can take about 5 hit points of damage before being killed. Let us suppose that a 10th level fighter has 55 hit points, plus a bonus of 30 hit points for his constitution, for a total of 85 hit points. This is the equivalent of about 18 hit dice for creatures, about what it would take to kill four huge warhorses. It is ridiculous to assume that even a fantastic fighter can take that much punishment...thus, the majority of hit points are symbolic of combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers), and magical forces.
Players Handbook, page 34
It is quite unreasonable to assume that as a character gains levels of ability in his or her class that a corresponding gain in actual ability to sustain physical damage takes place. It is preposterous to state such an assumption, for if we are to assume that a man is killed by a sword thrust which 4 points of damage, we must assume that a hero could, on the the average, withstand five such thrusts before being slain! Why then the increase in hit points? Because these reflect both the actual physical ability of the character to withstand damage - as indicated by constitution bonuses - and a commensurate increase in such areas as skill in combat and similar life-or-death situations...therefore, constitution affects both actual ability to withstand physical punishment hit points (physique) and the immeasurable areas which involve the sixth sense and luck (fitness).
Dungeon Masters Guide, page 82

One should note the implied difference between player hit points and monster hit points (this is inferred more strongly in the DMG text on combat, page 61): monster hit points represent actual physical damage that can be sustained before expiration; player character hit points represent both that AND "something more."

Leaving out the "magical forces" description which is a bit of a hand wave (oh, it's just magic, let it go), I can totally buy into combat ability and "fitness." It explains why fighters roll more dice for HPs than other classes; it explains why constitution adds to these extra hit points (and in the case of AD&D, add more hit points to fighter types). Assuming that a single successful attack roll delivers an amount of "potential damage" sufficient to slay a normal (non-heroic) human...i.e. one mortal wound...those extra hit points represent the character bobbing and weaving, parrying blows with shields and weapons, expending energy and slowly bleeding away life-force to fatigue. It's not that the constitution bonus implies a character getting beefier over time (with experience)...instead, it's the character's high fitness level acting as a "force multiplier" for the character's skill at defending herself.

[see other posts on D6 damage justification, variable weapon damageshields...even this bit about battleaxes...for earlier discussions on this concept]

[please note (regaring the battleaxe) that I am currently at peace with the weapon as presented in B/X. Apologies for the digression]

So then...back to healing: per the research presented in Delta's post, the human body can take weeks to recover from wounds; up to 12 weeks in the case of broken bones, but even 3 weeks for minor injuries. Presumably, a character with multiple injuries (i.e. a character who has taken damage from multiple sources: traps, falling, combat encounters, etc.) will take longer to heal as the body is forced to divide its recuperative ability amongst many damage spots. This "real world" study compares rather favorably to B/X healing time at high levels; for example:

  • A 36th level fighter with maximum hit points (144 for 18 constitution) would, on average, require 76 days of bed rest (just under eleven weeks) to heal from one hit point.
  • A 36th level fighter with average hit points (94, no constitution bonus) would, on average, require 47 days of bed rest (six and a half weeks) to heal from one hit point.
  • A 14th level fighter (usual B/X max) with average hit points and a 13 constitution (59 hit points total) would require an average of 30 days to recover fully from one hit point (a bit more than four weeks).

Now I understand that, while the numbers seem within the realm of reason for the human body's ability to heal, one might wonder why it takes so much longer for a high level character to recover than a low level character. For that matter, why would it take longer for a fighter to recover than a magic-user (who, of course, has fewer hit points), let alone a normal human (who can recover from one hit point in a single day!)?

The answer lies in the abstract nature of hit points: damage sustained is subjective based on the individual suffering the damage. The simple explanation is that the injuries sustained by the high level fighter are more grievous than the wizard (or lower level character) precisely because the character has the capacity for sustaining more grievous injury!

A normal human in B/X has a range of 1-4 when it comes to hit points. Most one hit dice creatures have a range of 1-8 (implying that monster constitution bonuses and "fight-worthiness" are factored into that range). In heroic fiction...the type on which D&D is based...these creatures are represented of the various mooks dispatched with impunity by the likes of Conan, Sonja, Aragorn, etc. Are they made of glass, shattering into a million pieces at the touch of a war hammer? No, but they might as well be for the gleeful way they seem to throw themselves on the point of a blade.

For such opponents their lack of hit points represents a lack of survivability...a lack of the ability to prevent the mortal blow from landing. They are retired from the fight early...whereas the experienced adventurer has greater skills of self preservation precisely because of their experience the fighter's case...their greater combat ability. The blow that shatters the arm of a high level fighter (necessitating a longer period of rehabilitation) would shatter the skull of the poor wizard, leaving her finely tuned brain slopped on the floor.

Characters of lesser ability suffer lesser wounds...or they suffer mortal ones. There's really no in-between.

And this makes perfect sense, considering the pseudo-medieval setting. Without the presence of clerical magic, the setting of D&D is not one that includes paramedics, ambulance rides, and ER visits. Chiurgy is presumed to be primitive, unsanitary, relying on leeches and superstition. In such a setting, when deprived of magic, characters have no choice but to rely on their own ability to heal and pray their wounds aren't serious (and that they don't become infected).

To me, this makes it crystal clear why Gygax caps natural healing at four weeks, regardless of damage taken (see DMG, page 82, "Recovery of Hit Points"): a character's injuries are moderate enough that they can heal them in a month's time, or they won't be healing at all. Any type of injury that would require more than four weeks of natural healing means the type of wound that killed folks back in the days before modern medicine.

B/X is largely based on OD&D and Supplement I, both for its hit point totals and its healing. As such, it has a bit more "heroic fantasy" and "game" in its system than AD&D (which was written and refined after OD&D and its supplements). It's a bit less crunchy with the unhappy truths of the medieval world (no random disease tables, no aging penalties, no real taxes or tithes) than its Advanced counterpart...and as such I can understand why it allows natural healing that might take up to three months time. However, I find it far from unreasonable to scale healing as it does given the abstract nature of hit points, damage, and combat in its system.

Certainly I find it far more reasonable than the default way health and healing is modeled in 4th and 5th editions.

BY THE WAY (sorry...almost signed off): just a couple more things.

  • On the healing of monsters: as the natural healing of a player character is presumed to be "human scale" (that is D3 hit points per day of bed rest is good for a 1 HD human), my initial thought is that any monster engaged in natural healing should recover a multiple of hit points equal to its hit dice. For example, a hill giant (8 HD) should recover D3 hit points X8 per day of rest. Though I 'd probably want to do some research into whether or not large animals (like elephants) heal wounds and injuries at the same rate as humans. If so, that seems perfectly reasonable to me.
  • On the nature of falling damage: this has long been a sticky subject. While it is possible to die from a short fall (10'-20'), most folks don't, and I've been told by rock-climbing friends that almost all falls 50' or more will kill you dead in our planet's gravity (though there have been some amazing survivals)...and I presume this would be the case even with a large creature, like an elephant. The best I could come up to model "realistic" falling damage is to assign a gradually increasing damage die, again based on "human scale." So:
10' - 1D4 damage (multiplied by hit dice)
20' - 1D6 damage (multiplied by hit dice)
30' - 1D8 damage (multiplied by hit dice)
40' - 1D10 damage (multiplied by hit dice)
50' - 1D12 damage (multiplied by hit dice)
60'+ - 1D20 damage (multiplied by hit dice)

I suppose some DMs might want to ramp the damage dice up to D% for a truly humongous distance but, as it is, a 50'+ distance fall has a good chance of killing even a high level character or monster (*PLEASE NOTE* "hit dice" for adventurers would max out at NINE for 9th (name) level and greater in B/X, providing a slightly higher level of survivability for such characters...even for falls of 60+ feet...because of their bonus HPs. I suppose we can attribute some of their staying power to "magic" after all!).

; )

Monday, March 19, 2018

That Scary New World

It's been a long while since I last wrote about Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and rereading my blog post from 2012, I see I wasn't all that flattering in my appraisal. To be fair, I was extremely tired at the time (thus prone to crankiness) with a new baby and whatnot. Today I am ALSO operating on less-than-optimal sleep, but I'd still like to revise my opinion...somewhat.

See, a couple-four weeks back I had the chance to catch most of that old Daniel Day Lewis film The Last of the Mohicans (based on James Fenimore Cooper's famous novel...but who has time to read 19th century novels these days), and I started to see how adventuring in the new world, with blade and musket, could be pretty darn cool, especially when paired with the supernatural backwoods evil found in stuff like Twin Peaks. Combining Disney's Pocahontas with Lovecraftian horror. It's a pretty heady mixture.

And while I'm NOT really a horror aficionado (certainly not of the zombie or splatter-film variety) creepy supernatural and the folks at odds - or in cahoots - with it, are something I find darn interesting. Also went and streamed that 2009 Solomon Kane film (as a follow-up), and while I found the, "less Kane" than I'd hoped for, it still had some nice little set pieces and a real call back to the days when folks were making films about the power of Christ as a shield against Satanic evil while NOT preaching to us about the need to accept Jesus as our savior.

[I mean, did attendance at Catholic Mass go up after The Exorcist hit the theaters? I'd guess the answer is "not substantially." But a lot of "Christian fantasy" the last couple decades seems squarely in the vein of proselytizing, and I'm not really into that]

[apologies to people who are, by the way]

Anyway, I went out and picked up a hard copy of Lamentations a couple days later...the latest hardcover copy (Rules and Magic), published in 2017. Wow.

Let me say that again: wow. Not only is it aesthetically beautiful, extremely practical, and the perfect size for use at the table, but it is completely no nonsense with its approach to defining its systems, The design of thing is absolutely wonderful, providing a tight interconnection with the assumed setting, and containing most everything one needs to play the game...except, of course, for the referee section.

Beautiful art; beautiful
economy of design.
Unfortunately for me, that's the whole reason I went looking for LotFP: I wanted a copy of the current referee guide so I could read about this scary 15th-17th century setting and how the adventure creation, monsters, etc. interacted with the LotFP "world." Because, as with (arguably) every edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there are unwritten expectations and presumptions of the setting to be found between the lines of the game system. LotFP is no different, but I wanted to see what Raggi had to say explicitly regarding that addition to rules interaction.

Welp, disappointed am I as Book 2 of the set isn't yet available for purchase. Yes, I understand I can get the old version, gratis, from the LotFP web site. Yes, I know there are folks writing adventures and campaigns for use with LotFP that I could pick up and use as a jumping off point (including older LotFP adventures). That's not really what I'm looking for...what I want is a beautiful little Referee Core Book to go along with this beautiful little Player Core Book. And I'm willing to wait (semi-patiently) for it.

Because the Player Core Book is a friggin' masterpiece.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Classic Rock

I've been a fan of KJR, "Seattle's classic rock station" (what my brother and I call "contractor radio"), ever since last summer when I spent 4-5 weeks hand-laying (literal) tons of stone and gravel to create a backyard "patio." Most of the station's music is square in my wheelhouse, and I can't for the life of me figure out why I never listened to it before (KJR has been around for decades) perhaps that they play too much Pink Floyd and Beatles for my taste.

[the Stones as well, and their songs are a little hit-or-miss for me. I'm much higher on other 70's rock bands]

But as the decades of my youth (i.e. the '80s and '90s) fall into the era considered "oldies," I suppose it's only natural that I'd evolve a taste for such programming. When I was a kid, you'd have to tune into the "Metal" station to hear acts like Metallica or AC/DC. Now that they're considered "classic rock," I roll with KJR when I'm cruising down the highway, looking for cheap tunes to blast out my windows.

Which is one of the reasons AD&D keeps poking its head into my brain.

I've written before how, in many cases, I associate particular music with particular games. There's a good reason for this: it was not unusual for me, in my youth, to close myself in my bedroom with both a new RPG and a new album, listening to the latter over-and-over on my headphones even as I read, reread, and learned new game systems and settings. This is why, for example, I associate Vampire the Masquerade with Faith No More (The Real Thing), and Rifts with Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. Sometimes I don't even remember (usually) what I was listening to at the's actually hearing the music that triggers the memory of a never trigger memories of music, for whatever reason.

So it is that lately I've been hearing a lot of the music from Def Leppard's album Hysteria on the classic rock station and having AD&D flashbacks.

Their best album? Maybe. It's
this or High N Dry.
Of course, I played D&D (and AD&D) long before I started listening to Def Leppard (or any music that was personally opposed to being standard pop radio fare). But by the time Hysteria came out (circa 1987) I was very, very deep into AD&D gaming. There was no B/X in those days; the transition from D&D to Advanced and from pre-published modules to our own campaign settings, story arcs, and adventures was (more-or-less) complete. Hearing its songs, I find myself constantly being surprised by the depths of nostalgia that come gushing out of me. Really startling!

You see, I haven't really listened to that music in decades. When I was a kid listening to it, I didn't even own an official copy of the album, just a dubbed cassette tape made for me by my best friend and co-DM. And can you imagine how long it's been since I've listened to a cassette tape...any cassette, let alone a copy that had been worn thin and tired by constant repetitive play? By the time I moved into CDs, I wasn't listening to Def Leppard anymore, and when music went electronic I never went out and acquired was never uploaded into my iPod or laptop.

Furthermore, it wasn't anything in rotation on the radio since the 1980s. Def Leppard put out that stupid commercial album Adrenalized ("Let's Get Rocked?!") that even my mother bought (I never did) and went onto the pop stations before fading into the background. The metal stations (of which there were never many) played Metallica and Megadeth and (later) stuff like Korn and Disturbed, while "alt rock" stations started a heavy rotation of grunge and indie bands (or later imitators). Hysteria, despite being a huge commercial success at the time, all but disappeared from public airwaves and from my thoughts, save when I heard someone doing a karaoke version of "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

Man, I remember going to Laser Def Leppard at the Pacific Science Center as a young teen (with my fellow AD&D players), almost certainly getting a contact high from the weed being smuggled and smoked by the older folks at the midnight showing. Way back before I had ANY vices to speak of.


I suppose what I need to do is pony up the cash and download the album onto my iTunes app and give the whole thing a solid listen. Probably in a dimly lit room, surrounded by copies of my 1st edition AD&D books, wallowing in nostalgia. I'm not really sure what the effect would be: would I feel transported back to my youth? Or would I simply feel as ancient as I do every time I tune into the "classic rock" station and do a mental calculation of how many years its been since an old favorite was first released.

I'm the one in the chair:
the rotting corpse.
Jeez. This must be something like what my father used to feel when he listened to his "Oldies" station, back in the day. Rocking out to the tunes of the 60's when he was living in the 1980's, complaining at the lack of decent music.

I am such an old man.

"With Great Power Comes Great Mental Illness..."

Apologies, apologies. Yes, I disappeared for a damn long time's been a pretty busy month and a half. So sorry.

[what happened to the Middle Earth "guide?" Um...let me get back to you on that]

I gave up drinking (alcohol) for Lent this year and it's been a fairly tough go. Not (just) because I'm a (functioning) alcoholic...going without doesn't give me the shakes or anything like that. It's just that I'm so used to having a drink or three just in the course of doing, watching a game, going out, streaming some show. Not to mention I've been mainlining NPR since the end of the football season and alcohol really helps take the edge off of whatever the Trump administration is doing these days...


Caught myself actually thinking about wanting a smoke the other day, and it's been nearly two decades since I last had a cigarette. Crazy. Instead I pounded a box of Girl Scout cookies ("thin" mints) over the course of three days (my daughter did help). Obviously, I'm a man who needs his vices.

So hear I sit, drinking yet another can of LaCroix (because it's cold and bubbly and, no, I don't know why I don't just drink water, dammit). But at least I'm blogging something, which is a start. Got to start somewhere. Even after you've started, sometimes it's necessary to start again.

And again. And again.

I'm going to talk about Shadowrun in a minute, but I just need to get a couple things out there first. I have been gaming a lot lately, but it's been almost exclusively Axis and Allies, which was a Christmas gift to my son, and which we've been playing non-stop for three or four weeks. We're using the 1941 rules, which are wonderful...the game is short and streamlined compared to other versions, and you can get through a game in about an evening and a half. We've played probably a dozen times, my son resetting the board after every defeat (no, he hasn't won yet, but he loves the thing and he's stubborn as hell...kind of like his old man).

We're even experimenting with our own rules. We wanted to add giant diesel-powered mecha to the board (inspired by the Japanime/manga Kishin Corps, as well as Pacific Rim), but haven't been able to decide on rules for the things. Instead our most recent game has introduced kaiju (giant monsters, a la Godzilla or...again...Pacific Rim), to act as a neutral, third party "spoiler." Jury's still out on their inclusion (we're in the middle of our first game using them), but we'll see if they'll swing the tide of the war one way or another...or if they simply devastate civilization while world's powers burn each other to the ground.

Something like this...
So, yes, I am doing "tabletop gaming" (of a sort), and A&A isn't the only one, though it's the only one worth mentioning. I was really, really looking hard at rewriting Heroes Unlimited to my own specs...and I may still do so...but when I open the book and start hacking through jungle I find it Just...So...Daunting. Hats off to Mr. Siembieda for actually putting together this thing...I mean, I couldn't (certainly wouldn't) put together these lists of gadgets for hardware characters and implants for bionic character and this system of magic, and All These Random Tables, and...and...

(*double sigh*) It's actually kind of hard deciding what exactly to keep.

But I did get a little inspired watching the new season of Jessica Jones this last week; at least, binging it added fuel to the smoldering blaze. I've decided I LOVE Jessica Jones (the show, not the character). Unlike prior Marvel Netflix shows, the new season of JJ is awesome right out of the gate, rather than waiting 2-3 episodes to find its feet. It does hit its peak about three episodes from the end season, resulting in a looooong denouement but...whatever. The show is filled with such bitterness and sadness and melancholy, you KNOW how it's all going to end, even if you're not sure the exact path the plot takes to get there. And you're already bought in, so...yeah. Tears and booze. And regrets and recriminations. Jessica Jones.

She really reminds me of a girl or two I used to know.

Even added the Whizzer!
With mongoose!
Anyhoo, the thing about JJ (and ALL the Marvel Netflix series) is how "small time" the superhero world is in the setting. And Heroes Unlimited may be...hmmm, I'm not exactly sure what I want to say.

...may be the only supers RPG that does small time(?)

...may be the "best" supers RPG at doing small time(?)

Probably something like "may be my personal favorite RPG for doing small time." And yet every revision, every supplement has seen increases in the power level of the game. Never mind Rifts and its (wholly compatible) madness. But if you dial that power creep way down, you can really start to see a good system for modeling the likes of Jessica Jones and her associates (not to mention antagonists). It's just that looking at the words "good system" makes me want to guffaw aloud as I consider Palladium's systems. So, so sorry.

SO...Shadowrun. I picked up a copy of the 4th edition the other day (I think it's the says "20th Anniversary Core Rulebook" on the cover). I did this for a couple reasons: first, it was dirt cheap ($9.99, used). Second, I wanted to see what was new and great  and "happening" with Shadowrun, thinking maybe it would galvanize me to take action with my long unpublished Cry Dark Future manuscript. However, I've yet to read page one of the tome (it's sitting in bed next to me as I type this) because...well, because I've been busy. And maybe because I'm lacking the heart (or stomach) to look betwixt its covers.

This one...pretty sure it's
the fourth edition.
HOWEVER (still with me folks? Okay, almost done)...however, even though I've been lugging this thing around in my backpack, NOT reading it, it's been on my mind a bit. And so, when I was in a local game shop Wednesday, making the acquaintance of the 23 year old store manager and found out her RPG experience was mainly with Shadowrun, I found myself not only talking about my own experience with the SR game, but about my own, unpublished, SR-knockoff. And I ended up giving her an old manuscript Thursday, and picking up her feedback Friday. AND, as was the case SIX YEARS AGO (jumping Jesus on a pogo stick!), the comments were universally positive. There is, apparently, still a market for Shadowrun (who'd have thunk it?), and one that has serious complaints about the RPG's current level of accessibility (low), and that might find real enjoyment in something a little more "lightweight" while keeping the same Shadow-isms.

In other words, publish the damn thing already.

Now for those of you who have followed this blog for...Christ, years!...for those who've been following the saga of this thing, you might recall that I basically started rewriting the whole damn book from scratch, making it much more of a post-apocalyptic fantasy game. Something like Appleseed (at least the cinematic version) with elves and dwarves. Ralph Bakshi's Wizards meets Thundarr meets Heavy Metal meets Ghost in the Shell. With pointy ears. And VERY different game systems (especially pertaining to character creation, advancement/development, and material resources). A complete frigging overhaul might be a good way to describe it. An overhaul that I have never completed.

Here's the thing I've just realized in the last couple days (as I dug up and reread both my original manuscript and the current, unfinished rewrite): the overhaul is a different game. It has the same name, and a few of the systems but the setting and theme are completely different. Hell, the name "Cry Dark Future" doesn't even fit. Dark future? Whose future? Tolkien's? It's post-apocalyptic fantasy, it's not "future" anything. Hell, even the guns are about the same as current (real world) technology...the only thing "futuristic" is the cybernetics, and those could just as easily be skinned as magical or steampunk or whatever.

What I really have on my hand are two different books. One finished and one not. Two games, not one. The finished one is even playable.

It is, though, in need of a lot of polishing. Rereading it really made me cringe in places. I kind of hate how I wrote it: my style, my wording. It does need an overhaul, but mainly in phrasing. It needs to be clearer, more succinct and useful in conveying its rules. And it needs to be more creative in how it models certain in-game systems.

So, yeah. Looks like I'm back to finishing Cry Dark Future. Just to put it to bed...finally.

Expect the blogging to be light and sporadic for the near future. Again: apologies.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The "Guide"

So I'm working on my Tolkien setting material for B/X and it's fairly loooooooong (as is usual for these types of things), and I'm wondering if folks have any preference as to how I present it. My original thought was to do something like one post per chapter...but many chapters could probably be multiple posts (and they'd still be long).

What do people prefer to read? I mean, I am going to post it in installments -- and the plan is to "string it out," rather than just spam a bunch of posts on the blog. Do you want bite-size chunks? Or 5000 word dollops of info? Keep in mind this will be coming in a "wall of text" format, not an actual layout like an actual supplement book would have.

Let me know.
; )

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"And He's A GREAT Welder, Let Me Tell You..."

Does anyone here watch House of Cards? Remember that scene where Frank Underwood (Kevin Stacey) asks Freddy (played by Emmy Winner Reg Cathey) to make him some ribs, for old times sake, and Freddy tells the President to go F himself? Remember that? Anyone?

Here's a clip I found on ye old YouTube in case you want to watch.

The first time I watched that scene, I was extremely uncomfortable. And not simply because it's a powerful scene, in a series rife with powerful drama.

No, it was because I had a sudden identification with the scene. Not with Freddy, but with Frank...and not because I've been called a motherfucker with such venom before (though I have been told off before). No, it was because I, too, have been guilty of doing this: taking people for granted.

We all exhibit selfishness and self-centeredness at times; for many (most?) of us, we have a tendency to put ourselves FIRST in our thoughts and desires, save for when it comes to our closest family members (children, spouses, etc.). Even then, though, we're rarely 100% on board with putting others' needs and desires first (we'll throw on the TV for our kids so we can tool around on our computer, or sneak off to the garage for some "me time" or whatever). It's part of our nature as humans, part of having an ego and a perception of ourselves as separate from others, that it can be a struggle to be on-point with serving others ALL THE TIME.

And, sure would be nice if those of us in a position of power considered how best we could serve the people who look to us for leadership, rather than using them as pawns and tools. Throwaway, cardboard cutouts existing for our own amusement and aggrandizement rather than thinking, feeling human beings.

You know, once upon a time, I was a real jerk (some would tell me I still me, I'm better these days). About a lot of things. And I feel bad about some of my actions in the past, both word and deed. My intention is to try to be a better person moving forward, a less selfish person. My intention is to learn from mistakes...both my own, and those of that I can be a better class of human being.

That's still (probably) a little selfish of me: I don't like being made to feel uncomfortable.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Winding Down The Rant

SO...I went to bed last night considering my "B/X Guide to Middle Earth," and all of a sudden there's nigh on 30 comments on my "tipsy rant" from a couple days ago.

[just for the record, I've posted things in a much deeper alcoholic haze in the can tell when my spelling and grammar is a slobbery mess]

But rather than reply to all those comments (and boost the total up to 50+) allow me to just say a few words and move onto the next subject.

FIRST: thank you to ALL the people who commented, both detractors and supporters. It helps me to hear from both sides, and to reexamine my own thoughts. Also, I think it's helpful to my readers who bother reading the comments to see the additional thoughts folks might have on the stuff I write. Furthermore, I often can find comments to "riff off" for future posts, especially as YOUR insights and  opinions get my own juices flowing. So...THANK YOU.

[it's also just nice to know people are still reading Ye Old Blog]

SECOND (@ Shlominus): oh, I soooooo want to play with these youngsters. I am all but salivating to show kids "the ropes," though I realize they are only "my ropes." If I was single and childless, I would be offering to run games every evening. Back before Paraguay (and my kids) I was running games every Thursday down at my local bar, and I wasn't turning anyone away...and that was back before I was even thinking about "experiential D&D" and teaching techniques and stuff (things I'm thinking about now). I just wanted to show folks the joy of the game. And while many of the players who showed up were Oldsters like myself, there were at least a handful of new players who joined my table in those days...and showing them the game (and making an impression) was a definite "perk" of the experience. I still look back fondly on my time teaching my "nephews" how to play, and I eagerly look forward to the day I can teach my own kids.

Maybe tomorrow.

THIRD (@ Alexis and Angry Monk): there is definitely a fine line between being a "cynic" and a "realist;" I flirt with it often myself. I think Alexis has the right of it (as far the point of my post), but I understand why folks like Angry (and Jeremy Murphy) might take umbrage with my incendiary (or maudlin) rambling. Does it help to scream and shout into the internet void? Maybe? It helps me a bit to blow off steam. And maybe there are some folks feeling the same as me, and who get to feel a little solidarity.

Am I having a "negative impact?" Maybe: if folks feel hurt or offended because they think I'm "looking down on their gaming," if they feel I'm telling them they're "doing it wrong." Sure, I AM being judgmental...but that doesn't mean I want them to stop gaming. Just like I might criticize a particular game or design...I've never written (so far as I can remember) that some game designer should give it up, pack it in, quit their creation process. My criticism is meant to be critique...and if that doesn't come across effectively, it's mostly due to my being a poor writer, and the limitations of the medium I'm using.

Even my criticism of WotC: it's a call for change, not a demand that they close up shop. But I recognize that calling for change to corporate policy and business plans IS a bit of a fools errand, and so strong action (revolutionary action), might be necessary to elicit any meaningful change. And sometimes strong words can stir strong action.

And sometimes they don't. And sometimes (especially on a blog, which only reflects my opinion) strong words are simply about "blowing off steam." Because a person (me) gets especially irritated and complaining to my children about something they don't understand provides zero catharsis and would only confuse them. It's tricky enough explaining to my three year old why eating candy right before bed on a school night is a poor choice. I wrote in my original post...sorry for any offense my words gave,

LASTLY (@ Ozymandius): it's a habit of my generation that we tend to give advice unasked for and ask for advice when none is needed. I try to remember this and restrain myself in this regard (that's why, when I saw young folks playing 5E, I didn't throw down a copy of Labyrinth Lord on the table and say, "here, try THIS out instead!"). I've gotten pretty good in recent years about avoiding the temptation. But this blog is the repository for my personal thoughts, especially on gaming, and I assume folks coming here are somewhat interested in what I have to say on the matter. I agree with your sentiment that we have a responsibility to step in if we see someone about to "jump off a bridge;" but gaming is hardly the same thing as eating detergent.

I don't step on folks' games (those kids at the shop were still setting up and waiting for another player or two), but people who read my blog should certainly expect to get an eyeful of opinion. Because of my own policy with regard to comments (I allow them) I understand I might have to deal with pushback. I hope that I am mature enough (at my age) to glean something useful out of the dissenting opinions.

AND...that's about all I want to say. For now.
; )

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Just For Fun...

[because sometimes things get a might "heavy" around here]

A recent (American) polling group conducted a survey of which corporate brands were MOST DESPISED as divided among (American) political lines. Here's what they found to be the top answers:

For Democrats:  Trump Casinos (of course)
For Republicans:  A TIE between the NFL and CNN (disrespecting the flag and "fake news," I suppose)
For Independents: Diet Pepsi

While these days I consider myself a "staunch Democrat" (I have several issues with the neo-Socialists in my region), I must say that I've never been a fan of Pepsi, diet or otherwise. Coke, all the way.

[and I've been a non-cola drinker for the last 20 years]

Now teach the world to sing, dammit!

The Weekly Rant

Just picking up where I left off...

Damn, I drink too much. It's a fact (I booze more than I need to, certainly more than I should), but so far it hasn't destroyed my life yet as it has with so many of my family members. I'm a stubborn son-of-a-bitch, I suppose, and I have the gift of being able to observe myself with an objective perspective, "bucking up" as necessary to keep my life on track. IPA with "lunch," a strong stout at my favorite game shop, and now I'm close to finishing off a bottle of white that I opened while cooking the kids dinner (fresh trout, pan fried, with a side of steamed green beans, the latter tossed in olive oil and raspberries for dessert). The kids are in bed so I can "shnocker" myself as I blog.

But I realize it's not good.

I'm angry tonight, and it has nothing to do with my lot in life. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm blessed. My back even feels fine this week. Wife's out of town and kids are a little melancholy, but she'll be back in nine days...and then there's our plans to travel to Oaxaca over Spring break which, if memory serves, may have actually been MY idea (remarkable, because I'm the homebody who would rather stay in Seattle, waiting out the rainy winter). Sure I should be saving for my kids' college tuition, but why not enrich their life experience while Mexico is still affordable and we have some extra cash? My parents never paid a dime for my college tuition, and I still managed to muddle through Jesuit university and pay off the loans.

[that's one of the secrets of life,'s actually fairly long and those giant bills DO eventually get paid, even though it might take a decade or two]

No, I'm not angry about my life (at least, I don't think I am; if it's a subconscious thing then shame on me). No, I'm angry about Dungeons & Dragons. Probably for stupid reasons (if being "angry about Dungeons & Dragons" wasn't stupid enough).

The kids and I drove out to the game shop tonight...not exactly local (it's in Edmonds), but certainly my favorite. D had received a Pokemon set for Christmas that he'd been wanting to exchange, and I was looking for a copy of the One Ring RPG, or the Adventures in Middle Earth game setting for 5E, both of which had been suggested to me by a Mr. T in the comments of my last post. I found the latter (both the "player guide" and the "loremaster handbook") and was fairly unimpressed...though they're nice books, they're fairly limited in scope, all things considered (I've spent a lot of the last couple days re-reading The Silmarillion, which I find simultaneously inspiring and disheartening).

Still, I was able to pick up a copy of the 4th Edition of Shadowrun (used) for ten bucks...not bad considering its $40+ hardcover price tag...which might just be the kick in the head I need to get back to Cry Dark Future (every time I see a new iteration of the game...and I realize it's on version five...I see how useful my game would be). So...definitely not a waste of time (in my opinion), making the drive to Edmonds.


As we were leaving...

Found some kids setting up for a game of 5E D&D.

"Kids," I say, but I did ask the DM her age and she claimed 24, and they all looked to be in the same ballpark. Three or four young women (I was wrestling coats onto small children at the time so my headcount might not have been accurate), ready to explore and adventure (I presume) in some...

Okay. Enough with the flowery prose.

Last week I was down at a different shop, solo, talking with an acquaintance who happens to have an "insider's view" of the workings of the industry. Let's call him "Bill" for the sake of protecting the innocent (just in case). The thing about Seattle is there are a LOT of industry (RPG industry) folks residing out here by dint of WotC's vicinity. Lots of Big Industry Names live out in this neck o the woods, even those NOT associated with WotC...and there's plenty of dirt to dig up, if one's into that kind of thing. Anyway...

I was talking to "Bill" about some o these idea I've been having lately: like how RPGs' greatest strength may be in what they offer "experientially" and how maybe the old fable of "good GMs making for good games" isn't so terribly far-fetched and that perhaps the thing we should be doing (and the thing we're failing at the most) is in teaching folks how to BE good GMs, and how the biggest names in the industry seem far less concerned with teaching new folks how to run games and far more concerned with making them dependent on sucking the corporate tit for adventure ideas.

And Bill did nothing to dispel my fears. There has been a (small to medium) resurgence in the game; more people are playing now than had been for...well, recently anyway (like, since the 80s). But the industry's response to a growing NEW fan base has been to harness technology, making "apps" that teach folks how to use the game. Because my question for Bill was: what the hell is the plan here when it comes to teaching new folks how to run games? You know what I mean: how do the publishers intend to create competent Dungeon Masters (or whatever the term is used with regard to Pathfinder, etc.). And their basic plan is: not to do so. The opposite, in fact.

Back to the kids at the game shop. After (politely, I think) interrupting them, I asked if they'd be willing to answer a few questions I had. They were (perhaps a little flustered, surprised) amiable enough. I asked how they'd learned to play D&D; they gestured to one of their group and said it was due to "her boyfriend." I asked who was acting as their DM. This particular evening it would be the same girl indicated, though they explained their campaign had co-DMs, the boyfriend being the other. I asked the DM her age (24) and asked her if 5E was her first edition of D&D? No, she'd started with 3.5.

Then I asked the young woman how she'd learned to DM. Slightly embarrassed, she explained she'd listened to a podcast (the name escapes me...I'm on my final glass of wine) about a father's game for his children. She said the "story arc" he'd described was so inspiring that she "really wanted to become a DM" to tell similar stories. She stated that she'd never DM'd in her earlier 3.5 edition experiences, but that 5E was so "streamlined" compared to 3.5, that it was "a lot easier."

I thanked them for their time and information and left. I have never wanted so much to punch an edition of Dungeons & Dragons in the face.

I find myself wanting to run a game of 5E just to rip its balls off. Really. Just to maim that motherfucker, pull pieces off it and show some young folks how stupid and insipid it is. I realize this is very tonto...very silly of me. That I am being an old curmudgeon, pissing all over the fun of people enjoying themselves (and, just for the record, I said nothing negative or untoward to these 5E players, now did I wax on about the "glories" of older editions or retro-clones or anything...I simply asked questions and listened to answers). BUT...


Those girls, those young girls (adults, sure, but I'm not sure I felt fully "mature" till age 30)...they were, well, not quite embarrassed in demeanor, but certainly apologetic. Like they felt bad about their enjoyable pastime or the way in which they'd come to it. Not just the DM, but the players as well. Like the whole thing was contemptible.

Because we hold it in contempt.

In the United States of America the greatest, most popular, most beloved sport of our nation is American Football. More Americans watch the Super Bowl every year than any other television program (not just sporting event...any program). For the rest of the world, it might be the World Cup championship...but that's only every four years. The Super Bowl is dominant in my nation. and it's growing in prominence around the world.

But did you know that professional football in the United States was once held in contempt? That it was deemed sleazy and uncouth and a terrible "profession" for any right-minded, clean-living individual? That only the lowest of the low would stoop to playing for pay (or, presumably, paying to watch paid players)? In the early decades of the sport, only the college game was revered and worthy of being lauded...until such college players as "Red" Grange started deciding to go pro.

[this, just by the way, had nothing to do with being a paid athlete. Professional baseball players, wrestlers, and fighters...including fencers in Europe!...had been around for decades before individuals decided to "professionalize" American football, and those figures were held in esteem]

American football...yes, the NFL (for it had already acquired those initials by 1922) was held in contempt by the majority of Americans for decades, even by many of those whose home town fielded a professional team. Pro players worked side-jobs and lied about their gig, despite loving the game and giving their blood, sweat, and tears to it. Despite being broken upon the gridiron and carrying debilitating injuries into their later lives. They played for love of the game...and possibly because they were (or felt they were) unsuited to better forms of employment. I would imagine that some D&D players can draw an analogy there with regard to their creative expression.

[why don't I write a novel? or poetry? why do I draw dungeon labyrinths instead of seeking employment as an actual architect? etc.]

But while I can grok that role-playing may be held in contempt by the layperson who hasn't yet been exposed to the game, what I find myself increasingly unable to abide is the contempt in which the industry holds itself.

The NFL was grown and cultivated, developed and marketed, and within about 30 years had become, if not totally respectable, at least financially stable. By the end of the 1950s, it was well on its way to becoming the most popular sporting profession in the United States.

And where is role-playing after four and a half decades? Where is the careful cultivation of our industry's leaders? What is our projected destination for this thing we call (tabletop) gaming?

Thinking about those young players at the game shop stuffing money into the pockets of a company to play a game they find "easy and streamlined" (because their only exposure has been to 3E+), who learn how to run games through random internet podcasts (because they can't figure it out from the mammoth texts), who have a desire to play, but who haven't been given the understanding or information on how and why and what makes the game so damn good, instead being fed a diet of packaged "story lines" published by a faceless corporation who holds them in contempt (save for the buying power of their wallets)...

Well, it's enough to drive me back to the bottle.

This is not another shot fired in the "edition wars," by the way. It's not a rant against 5E or Pathfinder. This is a rant against the publishers: the Wizards of the Coast and Paizos and Hasbros of the world. The folks who control the largest marketing share of the industry and thus should be held accountable as industry leaders.  Perhaps they would tell me, "hey, we're just giving players what they want...they don't know how to play, and they are crying out for new, creative adventure paths and pre-made campaigns for exploration! And our fans are voting with their wallets, buying it, and so we will continue to give it to them."

To which I'd reply: you are giving them no other choice.

It makes me angry. It really, really does.

[side note: most of this rant was written last night while deep in my cups (in case you couldn't tell). I dozed off before I could finish writing it. Welp, this morning I'm awake, sober, and coffee'd up and my mood is still pretty fiery. Sorry to any I might have offended. I will be getting back to the Middle Earth thing pretty or tomorrow, I hope]

Just trying to capture my mood...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A B/X Guide to Middle Earth (Part 1)

A lot of recent (virtual) ink has been spilled lately over the idea of adapting D&D to Tolkien's Middle Earth setting. I won't bother posting links...they're easy enough to find. Looking back through my own archived blog posts, I find a lot of this kind of thing, though I've never actually run such a campaign; much as I've enjoyed reading Tolkien's works (including the derivations from his son), I've always found Middle Earth's extensive history a bit too crowded for the insertion of new protagonists (i.e the player characters). However, it's possible I haven't given the idea enough of a fair shake.

After all, Tolkien's work has been the foundational muse for a huge swath of "high fantasy" works, everything from Stephen Donaldson to Robert Jordan to Terry Brooks to Weiss and Hickman's Dragonlance saga (substitute "Berem the Everman" for the One Ring and Takhisis for Sauron). While most of these are pretty terrible (sorry), there's little doubt they're popular, having sold millions and millions of copies over the years. Perhaps the theme and (common) story strikes a chord in people; perhaps folks just wish they could get MORE Tolkien and are willing to gobble up whatever is offered. In the end, the reason doesn't matter terribly...we know the formula works.

Even so, for a D&D campaign, few folk are interested in playing in the shadow of greatness: they want their adventures to be open, not tied to wars and battles and heroic deeds being done by NPCs. So, for those interested in exploring the beauty and wonder of Middle Earth without worrying about Aragorn and Frodo and the Dark Lord Sauron etc., the question arises: where to set the campaign? Or, more accurately, when?

For me, I'd go ahead and start such a campaign circa the year 1300 T.A. (Third Age).  The hobbits have begun moving west, though the Shire won't be settled for another 300 years...their race is still restless and adventurous, though they still display their love for simple farming life (when they can find it). There are still kings in Gondor, Rhovanion, and Arnor, though that last has been broken into three lesser kingdoms. There are still dwarves in Moria (and will be for 600 years) and Erebor ("Lonely Mountain") has yet to be founded.  Elves are found in the usual places but their power, like Gondor, is much in decline. The Istari (wizards) have entered Middle Earth, but have only been around for a couple centuries.

Using the Third Age as a setting precludes
any appearance by Morgoth. Be glad.
As far as "evil" goes, the Witch King has moved into Angmar, but has not yet become the powerful threat it will be in another century. Orcs are beginning to infest the Misty Mountains and Greenwood has already become Mirkwood. Sauron is in Dol Guldur (masquerading as "the Necromancer") but has little direct influence for a thousand years. Smeagol ("Gollum") will not discover the One Ring for another eleven centuries, so THAT's not a worry. The fall of Numenor occurred two thousand years prior, but pockets of "Black Numenoreans" remain, causing assorted mischief, and old outposts make good dungeon environments for exploring and looting. Mordor exists, of course, and despite the absence of Sauron and his Nazgul, it remains the most perilous environment in Middle Earth. And there are plenty of human antagonists to contend with, including corsairs and pirates, bandits and "Easterlings." Plenty of glory and gold to be won by adventurous types, and no worries to be had regarding final conflicts with fallen gods.

Not bad at all.

Of course, some adjustments need to be made to the B/X rules to really get a "Middle Earth" feel. There are no clerics in the style of D&D, though I.C.E.'s Middle-Earth Role Playing game includes an "animist" profession to fill this niche (it also includes a "scout" profession to fill the role normally occupied by D&D's thief class). There is, in fact, very little magical healing in the Middle Earth setting, certainly not much that is easily accessible (though food, drink, and soft beds seem to have much the same power as healing potions in the fiction).

Magic, in general, is different from that found in the D&D game, being actually more common (every race exhibits some form of "magic") while decidedly less powerful (only the IstariMaiar, and Valar display great shows of power on par with a D&D "wizard").  Magical items tend to be usable by all classes of characters (wizards wield magic swords, warriors use crystal balls, etc.) but most such enchantments can have grave consequences when wielded by those who lack the proper training, control, and/or bloodline. The setting itself is full of the supernatural, though it is far more of the dark fairy tale story (talking animals, ancient curses) and less of the Strange Tales variety prevalent in your average D&D campaign (understandable in that the latter draws upon Howard and Lovecraft as much as Tolkien...if not more so).

An interesting challenge to try to write up a campaign guide for such a setting. Interesting, but not exactly what I'd call daunting.

I think I might give it a go. It's been a while since I've designed anything, really (well, other than this thing or two I was helping my boy with...). Plus, I really have all the books on hand that one could want for such a task: multiple "visual guidebooks," the collected works of Tolkien (including the Silmarillion), Chris Tolkien's books, a copy of MERP, plus the LotR fan wiki. Yeah, maybe something with hobbits and balrogs would be just the kind of thing to get my mental juices flowing...

Let me see what I can put together.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Color of Money

Let's hit pause for a moment.

Consider (if you'll indulge me) a hypothetical universe, very similar to our own, in which the best way to play the Dungeons & Dragons game is something like the way its originators stated waaaay back in the days of yore, before it became the cornerstone of an industry and gaming empire. Back before there were published game settings and adventure paths but (instead) an idea that each individual Dungeon Master would create his or her own world ("campaign setting") and develop his or her own additional rules (to cover things that were not already covered in the limited instructions provided).

Imagine, as best you can, a reality in which the popularity of the game was driven by two, major components: firstly, it's ability to be customized to the imaginations and whims of the players (especially the referee, or "dungeon master") and, secondly, by the experience that was provided to the participants in actual play (especially those we commonly refer to as "players").

NOW...still holding this idea in your head...consider if the founding D&D's creators had stopped developing the game, only updating it by issuing a cleaned up, well edited, technically written set of instructions/rules essence...simply polished the original, amateurish product found in those saddle-stitched pamphlets, those Little Brown Books cobbled together by hand using artwork cribbed from the pages of Marvel comics. Something perhaps available in both hard and soft cover, perhaps in a box (as most table games are sold)...maybe including dice and other play aids, though probably NOT any sort of multi-volume set adding hundreds of additional pages.

Allowing that the popularity of the game might (in this imaginary world I propose) send up a hue and cry for more material, perhaps the publishers might create some type of periodical...a newsletter or magazine...that provides additional (non-official) options for use in one's home game, or that contributes advice and instruction on the two things driving the interest in playing the game, i.e. methods on how to create one's own campaign settings and on how to provide a more powerful game experience. And, sure, perhaps also the odd example "adventure."

Hell, the company might even publish the occasional "modular" adventure to be dropped into one's home campaign setting.

Ccertainly one might expect other fan-related communities, periodicals, and (later, with the internet) blogs and forums to pop up over time discussing the game and sharing tips, ideas, and material, but these would be tolerated by the publishers as helping to promote the game and keep it living and breathing.

Because the main point and industry of the designers and publishers of the Dungeons & Dragons game would be (in this imaginary universe I posit) to simply be the keepers and publishers of the game. To make it available to the public, perhaps in different languages, just as (for example) Parker Brothers was responsible for publishing and selling the game of Monopoly from the 1930s until the company was acquired by Hasbro in '91 (thus conferring actual responsibility to the latter company).

Just consider this possible, parallel universe. Roll it around in your brain a bit.

Do you think (in this imaginary universe I describe) that the Dungeons & Dragons game would have faded into obscurity after ten or twenty years? Do you think it would continue to sell, forty years today (2018), forty years after its initial publication? Do you think it could continue to hold the attention of people for decades the way other tabletop Monopoly or Scrabble or Sorry...have managed to do? Enough that parents would introduce it to their children, teach them the rules, buy new copies when old copies need replacement?

More than half a century in the same format.
Consider that until Hasbro acquired Monopoly in 1991 the board game was only published in two formats (standard and "deluxe"). While I couldn't find sales totals for Monopoly prior to its Hasbro acquisition, it was selling at least a million copies per year following World War II (according to Wikipedia anyway). Would a simple business model (like the imaginary one I propose) have allowed Dungeons & Dragons to sell even a tenth as many copies as "the world's most popular board game?"

Would that have been enough money to comfortably sustain the game's publishers?

Perhaps not. Perhaps the profit margin necessary to maintain and publish the game would have, over time, necessitated a diversification of product, the need to publish different editions, similar to the way Hasbro continues to create different varieties of the Monopoly game. Perhaps. But then, Monopoly (to my mind) is a much more static game than Dungeons & Dragons. While I prefer its classic version (duh...I'm old), I can see how folks might like to "tart it up."

Of course, some might say that Dungeons & Dragons lacks the universal appeal of a game like Monopoly. I'm not sure I agree. Thematically? Are more people really interested in playing ruthless real estate tycoons than heroic fantasy adventurers? The former smacks too much of our harsh reality, while the latter provides a pleasant diversion and escape.

No, it is the experiential gameplay of Monopoly (handling money...wisely or unwisely, wheeling and dealing, and cursing the whims of fate in the forms of dice rolls and card draws) that makes it appealing to people, and it is readily accessible: easy to learn, easy to set-up, easy to play. Dungeons & Dragons over the decades has rarely ever approached the type of accessibility found in Monopoly, being either too obscure in its presentation (the earliest editions) or two large in scope and page count (most of the later editions). For the most part, D&D over the years has relied on mentorship for the teaching of its rules rather than "out-of-the-box" instruction. And the support for such mentorship has been weak to nonexistent.

Which is too bad, for a number of reasons.

BUT (stopping our hypothetic imagining for now) that is, unfortunately, the actual reality. My little dreamscape isn't true history...and even considering such "alternative history" may seem a wasted effort. Unless, you're feeling hopeless and looking for some way out of our current state of affairs.

[I know Alexis is actually made of pretty strong stuff, but it was his post that prompted my train of thought here, even if he has since backed up from the ledge]

I don't think that the actual game, nor its potential, has been lost quite yet. In fact, if there's any good that's come out of the amorphous OSR and it's backward-looking nostalgia (and, yes, I think there's a LOT of good that has come out of it), the greatest of its offerings may have been the re-kindled interest in the "home game" that has come about because of it.

And there's more I want to say on this subject, really. I want to talk about the present reality (so much as I can) and talk about possible roads to the future. And about finding a way back to something ...some track that we wandered off a long time ago.

But that's will have to wait for the future. Right now, I've got a hot game of Axis and Allies with my boy that I simply must get back to. More later.
; )

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Need For Escape

Happy F'ing New Year.

Man, there's a lot of stuff I could (and would like to) write about. Most of it has fuck-all to do with gaming, however, and much of it is probably "too political" (and too partisan to boot)...things that many of my readers find tedious in the extreme. And I do have a few (fifty or so) gaming topics in mind for the New Year, though precious few are specific to Dungeons & Dragons, let alone B/X.

[though rest assured, I am compiling a list...for YOU, gentle readers, all for you]

In fact, my original plan for the day was to sit on down at the local cafe and bang out a couple-four posts to schedule over the coming week. This didn't happen as I ended up spending much of my morning dealing with the police and my delinquent brother and his asshole-ness. me, I know...I could go on and on about and elicit all sorts of sympathy for, but fuck, there's not much one can do with sympathy, besides appreciate it and get on with the effort required for dealing with life's realities.

Thanks anyway. Everyone has problems, and my personal ones are pretty small compared to a lot of folks out there, even those of my fellow Americans.

So, instead I'm at the bar attached to a local game store, blogging like this. I bought a beer and a bowl of chili and a game (the newly re-issued Adventures of Baron Munchausen...a beautiful book with new rules for Sinbad the Sailor-type storytelling) and I'm calming my nerves and getting ready to be a fucking parent again with my two darling children who deserve so much more than their uncle's bullshit and the future inheritance we, as a fucked up society, are leaving them.

Games, especially role-playing games like D&D, are a fantastic cure for the various ills that plague us. Don't get me wrong: I use lots of escapist means to deal with my mental stress and suffering. But alcohol (one of my favorites) has a lot of downsides to it, and video games contain few of a tabletop RPG's virtues (like requiring literacy, engaging your imagination, and forcing you to interact with fellow human beings). Thank God for games...I can only wonder at what I might have done with myself over the years if I hadn't had them for an escape outlet.

That's it. That's all I've got for the moment. Seriously, no one wants the sordid details. But I'll try to get back to posting here in the next few days. I do have other things to write about, after all.