Monday, April 1, 2024

Hard Stuff

Happy (belated) Easter! Got through Triduum with flying colors, though Easter Vigil went long this year and not much sleep. Whatever. Sunday was a glorious, sunny day...quite enjoyable.

Also nice to drink beer again.
; )

The wife and daughter are out of town this week...flew down to Mexico to visit the fam, so Diego and I are "batchin it." Played Space Hulk for the first time Sunday afternoon. Lost horribly. Game is a lot harder than it looks. Hopefully we'll be playing some Axis & Allies and things will go better. Hopefully...we'll see. 

[D&D is probably on the agenda, but Sofia being out of town puts a bit of a crimp in things...she doesn't want us playing without her. Maybe some side adventures]

Watched Secrets of Blackmoor tonight...finally. Fascinating documentary.  Recommended. Wish there was video of Arneson GMing. For that matter, wish there were videos of Gygax. Just for context. You hear great things from their players. Would like to see them in action.

Afterwards, watched an episode and a half of a "celebrity lifestream D&D" series. It was terrible. And depressing. Even more depressing because it featured Deborah Woll (who I've praised before) and Marc Bernadin (who I haven't, but who I respect immensely). Just...terrible. But professional actors need to work and earn...I get it. Just sad they they're playing shit D&D. Sad.

So sad.

Since it's Easter, and I'm joyful, I won't say anymore about it...or 5E. Maybe later. When I'm feeling ornery. Like I was the other day.

Speaking of which: asked my son what HE would like to see in a "How to DM book," i.e. what would he find helpful in such a book. He told me the following (in this order):
  1. Explanation of how morale works in AD&D.
  2. Explanations of encumbrance (specifically, how encumbrance, armor and movement...particularly wilderness movement...interact and work within the game).
  3. How to write an adventure, ESPECIALLY a "low level" adventure. 
All good topics, none of which were discussed in that book I referenced the other day.

[to be clear, I did not provide him with any context other than "I'm thinking about writing a book explaining how to DM; what would you hope/expect to read in its pages?"]'s late and I need to sleep. More later.


  1. Seriously dude, in all your frustrations there is one book you have consistently described: Justin Alexander's "So you want to be a Game Master." This one is solid. 500 pages of real advice on how to be a dungeon master. If you are going to spend $20 on a book on how to GM/DM, I would highly suggest this one.

    I have never considered the "collected essays" format as a real instructive method. It misses coverage, and allows for too much rambling nonsense as you have noted.

    And hey, even Venger Satanis has a how-to guide - and look that one is Platinum too. But yeah, this is a solved problem. Unless you don't like Justin's book.

    1. I have not looked at Alexander's book. I've never been a fan of his is rare that I've found anything interesting or helpful on it. 500+ pages of largely unhelpful text sounds...uninspiring. But perhaps I should check it out.

      [hm. Just looked at the sample text available at Amazon. I am seeing a lot of nothing or, rather, very rudimentary info for 5E. Which is not my concern. Wish there was a table of contents available]

      Venger's book is a little scattered. I want something more systematic. Also, it's filled with "Venger-isms" (which is to say more style than substance) and rando story-type stuff unrelated to running a game. Venger and I have very different approaches to D&D, and I'm not talking about "taste;" he prefers a much more free-wheeling, "rules lite" (or "rules optional") method of GMing.

      So, no: I do not consider this a "solved problem." But, hey, it sounds like you're satisfied with the offerings already are perhaps NOT my target demographic.

    2. Fair enough about Justin Alexander, I can see his authorial voice not being for everyone, and there are a number of posts that are neither here nor there for me also. He does have his greatest hits though, and those build the framework of his book. I would encourage you and anyone reading these comments to look a little deeper as the preview (the first 65 pages) creates the mirage that the book is rudimentary. It is anything but. That section has a very specific purpose of drawing in people who have heard of D&D, found 5e, and want to learn how to DM. It is designed to get them going as quickly as possible and assumes they know next to nothing. Because there are a lot of these people it is the section that is simplest and used for the preview. The real meat is after. Steps to follow, examples, tools (like tracking sheets and methods) are in each section. It is very systematic. I will revise my statement that this is a solved problem. No one book can do that. The kind of utility delivered is key and this book may or may not provide that utility. However I will say it is definitely a major step forward in the field you are describing. If you can get it for cheap, I would suggest picking it up. It most likely will be the book that is going to get compared yours and taking a deeper look might help develop your project accordingly. Maybe you don't like how he talks about hex crawls and seeing that gives you a great idea on how to teach hex crawls.

      In other news, after seeing the pics from Cauldron I am pretty sure I have run into you at the FredMeyer back when we were both in the same neighborhood. :)

    3. Ha! Probably (re Fred Meyer): I am making a run across the street most days of the week; just picked up some banana, berries, and beer today. Hunchback in a Seahawk beanie…that’s me.
      ; )

      RE J.A.’s book:

      It ‘s not his authorial voice. Really. Lots of ways to communicate info…so long as info is being communicated. As I wrote, I wish there was a TOC: it’s not the price of the book that’s the put-off, it’s the length. But…well, late edition D&D seems to require a large word count to describe most any concept and (perhaps) he didn’t want to write Volume 1, Volume 2, etc.

      Regardless: I have severe doubts any book of MINE will be mentioned in the same paragraph as his, even by comparison…Mr. Alexander appears to have quite a larger footprint than Little Ol Me. But I’ll take that as a subtle compliment.
      : )

    4. Dang it! I missed the most important part of what I was saying above. After page 64 JA drops the 5e stuff and the rest of the book is agnostic.

      And blogspot ate a couple of my paragraphs breaks... weird.

      Here, rather than me try to explain it just go here and view these in 2x:
      You can skip ahead to different parts and get a better idea of what it is. For example, from this the reviewer points out how on page 74 JA talks about how to use the the OD&D/BX reaction table. The review does it much more justice than myself or the Amazon preview.

      OK, all done.

    5. aaaand I just realized that JA does reference DCs throughout the book. But other than that mostly agnostic. Mea culpa.

  2. Very interested in points 2 and 3. If I can add to your How to DM list, I'd love to hear all kinds of stories and tips about D&D outside dungeons: wildenress, town sessions and domain level

  3. First of all welcome back to beer. April is my get "fit" month so I always stop drinking. I gave up chips for Lent and am trying to keep it going to hit my fighting weight by May.

    Encumbrance and morale both make great framing devices on why running a more realistic game creates a more enjoyable experience. Encumbrance and Morale both creates more player decisions, problems to solve, and grounds the game in realism that helps create more player engagement. Both have been basically abandoned in latter editions to the detriment of the game.

    1. Later editions are not concerned with grounding the game in speculative fiction based on reality; they are, instead, grounded in the hyper reality of anime and cartoon.

      These days, that's not the kind of thing that holds my interest.

    2. Agreed, but honestly I feel 1e downplays morale.

      Because I learned on B/X I always played with it but not including a morale score in the monster stats for 1e makes me understand why your son would have questions. it's not front and center.

      Luckily 2e brought back the morale score and B/X mechanics.

    3. I’m not sure 1E downplays it, so much as reducing the mechanical impact of the rules. There is a LOT of ‘squishy’ DM fiat to morale in AD&D…and I’m not sure I like that approach.

      I, too, am used to the ease of use of morale in B/X…very cut-n-dry, and leads to valid tactical choices (for example charging low morale opponents…like goblins…because even if they outnumber you, you can break them by killing one or two).

      On the other hand, it can lead to unexplainable, unintended consequences…like individual monsters fighting to the death. Or ANY monster(s) fighting to the death (after a couple passed morale checks) despite facing overwhelming odds.

      By contrast, the 1E rules give more wiggle room with its rough guidelines (which function even for single monsters)…and, yet, because the DM is allowed to make his/her own decisions based on circumstance, I find that I almost never need to roll a morale check…I can decide how the monsters act based on the situation.

      It’s not a bad subject for discussion.