Saturday, June 4, 2022

Other Games

Watched the first episode of the new Stranger Things last night (well, this morning...around 1am) and now I am annoyed. Like, really annoyed. Not because of the new characters or plot developments or story arc, all that stuff is neat, interesting and welcome. Well done, intriguing, makes me want to watch more.

No, what has annoyed me to no end is the new D&D player boasting about her 14th level rogue 1986. Three years before 2nd edition would introduce "rogue" as general class specification of thieves and bards, and 14 years before 3rd edition would introduce "rogue" as a specific, playable class in lieu of the thief. 

Color me the brightest color of nerd on the planet...fine. For a series that prides itself in grounding its setting in a particular time period, this is an annoying, gross misstep that I simply cannot unsee. It has tainted my enjoyment of the show; it's broken my suspension of disbelief. It's lowered my opinion of the Duffer Brothers' "D&D cred;" born in 1984 did they ever actually play the brand of Dungeons & Dragons their protagonists do?

*sigh* The things that annoy us. Everyone has their pet peeves...this is just one of those things that really chaps my hide.

[the idea that ketamine...i.e. "Special K"...would have been available to a casual drug dealer in '86 in as small a town as Hawkins also seems a bit dicey, though that may simply be my naivete regarding 80s drug culture (it wasn't on my radar till the 90s). But THAT particular anachronism bothers me a lot less...go figure]

Moving on to other, non-"nerd rage" topics: I weekend (maybe?) that I wanted to introduce my kids to some new RPGs, particularly Gamma World and Top Secret. Top Secret it was (or, as my kids call it, "super spies"). My son's British MI6 agent, "Chad" caused me no small amount of amusement (mainly due to his name which, to him, sounded "very English") though his antics were a bit more Johnny English than James Bond. In the end, he was KIA while trying to rescue the U.S. president (Operation: Executive One, from the TS Administrator's screen)...having his foot shot off by a shotgun-tripwire trap.  

Fun, but not as much fun as D&D (that cleric magic can really mitigate missteps, you know?). And I'm afraid Gamma World wasn't even tried, and probably won't be any time soon. There's a LOT that I dig about the GW game...just reading the 1E rules or early adventures like Famine in Fargo and The Albuquerque Spaceport are a JOY. But I'm not a huge fan of the GW's just so...

Mm. I don't know the word I'm looking for. It's kind of immune to planning or manipulation. It's too "swingy;" there's no mastery of design, really. Okay, how 'bout this:

Gamma World, unlike other RPGs, is poorly done when it comes to character generation. Not because it's poorly themed (I rather like the PSH, Humanoid, Animal selection), but because...outside the first choice of "character type" are a slave to the random die roll. It is possible to create an Uber-mutant...or a complete genetic dead end. And it's all based on a random throw of the bones. Vast discrepancies in effectiveness are possible between different players' characters...and the success of the PCs adventures largely comes down to how heavy a hand the GM is willing to take.

Such is not the case with D&D, for example: 1st level characters have their different skill sets, but they are largely comparable in power...and experience/leveling gives a good indication of what types of challenge/obstacle are appropriate for a party of a particular size. That's ain't GW, where a beginning mutant may (by dint of fortunate rolls) come out as a powerhouse while her amigos are all primitive weenies. I saw a lot of this, Back In The Day (when I used to run 2E)...more than GW setting nonsense, this is what eventually turned me off on the game. Somehow, I always seem to forget this aspect of Gamma World, right up till it's time for chargen.

[and I'll probably forget about it in the future as well. Dennis Laffey's GamMarvel World idea remains an intriguing one...something I'd love to run with pre-gens sometime...]

Other games:  I picked up the latest version of Twilight 2000 a few (three to five) weeks back. It continues to sit, unopened and shrink-wrapped, on my living room coffee table. I don't know why. I don't know what I'm waiting for. I'm going to open it. Soon. One of these days. 

Ugh. I'm scattered all over the place this morning. Truth be told, there's nothing burning terribly brightly on my mind this morning, other than the sunshine streaming through the window. I'd like to go for a bike ride today, I think...a little exercise, a little fresh air. That's what I need...not more games. 

I already have/own/run the BEST game. The session with the new kid went well yesterday. I won't bother to bore folks (more than I already have) with tales of the party's exploits, but great fun was had, and much success as well.  I don't know why I need to collect and hoard other RPGs.

All right, this post is going nowhere...maybe I'm just tired (still). Going back to sleep for a bit.



    It's hardly the show's only error.

  2. Wow, I'm letting down the side... I didn't even notice the rogue anachronism!

    I was too worried about whether or not someone could "play too much Nintendo" over spring break of 1986, and the answer is "probably not, but maybe". The NES was given a test release in Los Angeles in February 1986 followed by a nationwide release in September. So it is just barely possible for kids in southern California to have one during Spring 1986. Now whether the guy from Hawkins should have that phrase at the ready is another story, and later on when the girl in Indiana with the 14th level rogue says she wants "a goddamn Nintendo" I think that is really pushing it.

  3. We unboxed the new T2K, appreciated the contents and I promptly rolled up a character. And it has sat, unplayed, with no other characters rolled up, for months. Like other Free League games it's just bland, like grits with no salt or butter. Classic Traveller (or Cepheus Engine Modern War) would be a much better system for it.

    1. Ugh. That’s what I’m dreading. Thanks for the candid review.

  4. I guess my nerd came out also when I heard the 14th level rogue. But I've tried to not let their D&D references spoil the show. Although I don't give much gaming 'cred' to the Duffers. I think they are worse in some ways, they have a little knowledge of the game. They know some of the terms and characters, but I don't feel they have the understanding. But they made Stranger Things.

    I'm interested in what you think of the Twilight 2000. I've been on the fence about getting the updated version.

    1. To be fair, the show really isn’t about D&D…
      ; )

  5. It is the little details that wreck things. I caught the rogue thing and was irritated by it as well. The other one was the DM and his tattoos, having and comment about, kids did not have them in 86. I am perceiving the show as a veneer, they are writing in costume. Lazy.

    1. Yeah…that, too. Jeez…I could do a whole post on tattoo protocol of the 80s. Like, if you had a tat you were probably in the military, or else you were very purposefully opting out of normal society. And how tats would be on the arm only (usually upper arm where it would be covered by a shirt sleeve) and how there weren’t all that many tattoo parlors…especially in small towns (had to go someplace with a strong Navy presence), and IIRC you had to be at least 18 if not 21 to get inked.

      Tats were a huge part of west coast rock culture because A) these were booze-swilling bar bands with nothing else going and B) they had access to the parlors. But I can remember my uncle (a hard rock drummer/artist from Missoula) not being able to get his first tat till he was in his early 20s (circa 1986) and having to come out at least as far west as Spokane…if not Tacoma…to get it.

      Hawkins, Indiana? Come on.

  6. "14th level rogue 1986." Eh. I can completely ignore this. Like you said the show is not about D&D/AD&D. They did the Kas/Vecna stuff correct and they have gotten a lot of new people into it.
    I have picked up a few copies of the D&D 5 set for people at work, all coming to me asking about D&D and Stranger Things.
    So a couple of anachronisms? I can get past that.

    1. In general, I I said, this is just me reacting to having my particular nerd-rage button pushed.

      On the other hand, when they go out of their way to show kids playing with 1E books (rather than a combination of different books from different eras) and *I* know there's no "rogue" mentioned in those books...yeah, it bugs. Especially because I have hang-ups/issues about the evolution/development of this particular game and the transition from "thieves" to "rogues" is indicative of some of the worst parts of this development. each their own. The average Stranger Things fan probably cares not one iota. To me, it's as dissonant as watching a WWII film like "Midway" and listening to Kenny Loggins sing "Highway to the Danger Zone" during the fighter sequences.

    2. I hear you. But I'd avoid "Peaky Blinders" if I were you. ;)

  7. I was hoping that T2000 would have a better sand box setting. It's sort of there but not really enough. I just glanced through the system but read must of the setting stuff and it's 20% of what you would need for a full campaign.

    If I was going to fix Gama world I think the way I would do so is assign each power a point value. Startung characters get 100 points of mutations. You roll randomly until 50 of your points are determined the pick the rest of your points. So let's say you roll one really great 70 point power, then you pick one or two lesser powers. Or maybe you roll three lesser power and have 45 points left an can pick one big one or more small ones. Players don't necessarily build there characters but they can customize them some.

  8. I always say I watch Stranger Things just to point out historical innacuracies ("That song didn't come out until 1987!", "There were no Gap stores in the Midwest in 1985!")

  9. I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Tunnels & Trolls, the second RPG ever published and the first to feature rogues as a playable class. T&T rogues were, in my opinion, cooler than D&D thieves. They had a stronger Cugel the Clever/Grey Mouser/Jack of Shadows vibe.