Saturday, August 12, 2023

You Do You

Man O man. Finding something constructive to write that isn't condescending or belittling is tough some times.

Life's been challenging lately. I won't get into it. "Busy." That's the usual word thrown around Ye Old Blog. I've been busy. Let's leave it at that.

Played some Marvel Superheroes RPG for the first time in...mmm...35 years? Thereabouts? Diego and Maceo wanted to give it a try. I explained (to Diego) the main issues with the game: A) it doesn't do 'granular,' and B) character creation is EXTREMELY random. Like, really, terribly so. Even with the various "fixes" found in MSH retroclones like Faserip and 4C Expanded (both of which I own) the thing is, well, a train wreck. Ah, well.

They made characters...terribly crazy, random, over-powered characters...and immediately decided they'd prefer to be super-villains and kill people. Whatever. I ran them through the final encounter of Day of the Octopus and basic (heroic) instincts took over...they were trying to save innocent bystanders and defeat the giant robot. In the end, they were (barely) successful and had a great time and decided they preferred being heroes and agreed that...yes, actually, their characters were trash, incoherently themed, and randomly thrown together. I am currently rewriting the game myself to rectify its chargen issues, because it's not a bad little game.

[I will say this, however: despite its problems, MSH is an EXCELLENT piece of game design, incredibly fun and functional and quite possibly the best thing Jeff Grubb ever did, design-wise. It is SO WELL DONE, it is perhaps the game that BEST MODELS THE SUPERHERO long as you are content to use existing Marvel characters in the existing (in 1986) Marvel universe. The game deserves its own...very post]

But that's a minor side-note in gaming. Marvel...still...doesn't hold the same long-term appeal as the (Advanced) Dungeons & Dragons game. It's just a lark...a palate cleanser. 

Aside from being "busy," I haven't been writing blog posts lately because there's so little I want to say. Or...maybe...there's SO MUCH I want to say and don't know the proper way to do so. I know that a lot of what I want to say will go over like a ton of bricks (which, is to say, won't go over at all). And why should I waste my time?  

Who was I just reading the other day? Oh yeah: this guy. After a bit of a hiatus, he decided to start a new D&D campaign 'round about October of 2022, using the Fifth edition rules. In December, he posted his thoughts on 5E, writing in part:
I have to say that I really like how D&D has evolved into a solid ruleset that is 5e. The 5e rules pretty much cover just about anything that may come up in the game. Earlier versions relied upon the DM and players to customize and build upon the somewhat vague rules. This left the game open for tons of home-brewed customizations. Having had to add quite a bit of customization to my Swords & Wizardy campaign of a few years back, I have to say that I like not having to have to do the heavy lifting on finessing the rules and balance of the game. I was able to do back in the day but I was no expert. It involved quite a bit of time that I no longer have. I want to sit down and run a game and 5e has all the rules covered.
[he also praised the "flexibility" of the game, its emphasis on "role-playing" as opposed to "hack-n-slash," and the backgrounds being great for helping players "focus" on their characters. Furthermore, he found the classes and races to have been "well thought out"]

By March, the blogger had changed his tune completely, stating his campaign was the least fun thing he'd run since 1993. "5E D&D is just not that fun to run," he stated. The characters are "too powerful." There is no "thrill, suspense, danger." The game is "over bloated with rules." He finds the game to be "not inspiring."

As of June, he's decided he's going to do some sort of streamlined, craptastic rules-light game like Tiny Dungeon or EZD6. Garbage role-playing, in other words. Because WotC/Hasbro has ruined D&D for him.


GusL, a pretty bright writing posts about the (stupid) "maxims of the OSR." For no good reason that I can ascertain. There is nothing productive in perpetuating these myths and fallacies. They are not teaching people how to play D&D..."old school" or otherwise. They're obfuscation. Just...smoke and mirrors bullshit. So fatiguing to see this same stuff hashed out, over and over again. Probably sound too harsh towards a fellow blogger. Apologies. I've been dumb like this plenty of times. 

Oh, here's another tragedy from last month: the "issue" of sharing "spotlight" in OSR games. My goodness, my Guinness. Just what is the state of Fantasy Adventure Gaming these days? 

Or is this just the state of blogging? Perhaps. But, I hesitate to state that people have run out of useful things to blog about. I think's just that the things one wants to write about (that could be actually useful) seems too banal, too devoid of sensationalism ("click-bait") to warrant consideration of effort. Maybe.

FOR EXAMPLE: a few weeks ago, we discovered that several kids in the neighborhood meet for a regular D&D game on Thursday evenings (same night as our weekly block party). Sofia and Diego were ecstatic at the chance to join a regular table...even if that table was playing 5E...just to be able to get together and throw dice with fellow enthusiasts their own age. And I was in 100% agreement that they should do so. Because playing RPGs with peers, outside the (more than cursory) supervision of adults...and learning to navigate group dynamics in such an an important piece of development. A bit like team sports for the brain.

The D&D group, especially the 13 year old DM, were as excited to have new players as my kids were to play. Because of summer travel and activities, they've only had the chance to attend a couple sessions (D. is playing a half-elf paladin while S. created an elven druid), but they've had a good time. Mostly (there are some problematic issues with the DM's younger brother...similar issues to what I remember having in my youth as a DM with a younger sibling...that can add a sour note), and they appreciate 5E for the game it is: a different game, with different rules and nuance. Their DM (Harrison) is young but competent enough: knowledgable of the rules, and running his own campaign which appears to consist of a small town and a local dungeon or two. Serviceable youth play, perfectly suitable for kids of ages 9 - 12, like my own.

Do I have any interest in running/playing 5E? Nope. Do I fault these kids for playing the current edition? Nope, not at all. Do I bemoan them "playing wrong" or some such BS? Absolutely not...these are kids, playing kid D&D. I know "kid D&D;" I played it myself as a youth. LOTS.

Other than the fact that 5E is a generally poor edition for discovering the greatest form of Fantasy Adventure Gaming (i.e. intensive, long-term, experiential play), my biggest criticism is one of accessibility (i.e. it's harder to learn the rules as a newbie then, say, reading a copy of Moldvay's Basic book). In this particular case, that latter criticism ain't an issue: both the DM and the players know enough of the rules (and have played enough) to make the game work. And at their age, they are already having plenty of intense, experiential play just by the nature of their youth and the newness/novelty of the game at hand. "Long-term" means something far different to a kid not yet out of middle school compared to a man who will be turning 50 come November. 

Different from what most adults (I'd think) would consider satisfying play.

But, then, gamers aren't "most adults"...or so I'm told. I'm not sure I believe that. The parents of these neighborhood kids are NOT gamers (at least not of the FAG variety) and most of them have never played these games. They're just glad their kids are enjoying non-screen activity and having somewhat healthy social interaction (so far as I can glean, none of them play any team sports, and most...if not all...are homeschooled). Some of the parents have even suggested they might like to try playing some D&D themselves with an adult Dungeon Master to run the game (*hint*hint*).


What is wrong with people these days? I mean...scratch that, I know what's wrong with people (at least on a large-ish scale). The same things as have always been wrong, just translated to a different time and space and circumstance from our ancestors (although with a bit less bloodshed and starvation). Me running D&D games for people...or teaching people how to play or expounding on the internet my personal perspective/philosophy on gaming and life and whatever...isn't going to make a damn bit of difference. People need to want to go out and do it themselves...just as with everything in life. 

I mean, all the information is already there for the thirsty folks seeking knowledge. 

But maybe it's still too hard to find? Okay, I understand that's a ridiculous (or coddling) thought; on the other hand, I can see that I have something in the vicinity of 2,500 blog posts here alone, few of which are "on-point," MANY of which have bad/wrong/false info (that has since been updated in my own mind), and none of which bear much semblance to any sort of organized curriculum. Such are the wares offered by an untrained, hack-writer like myself. I mean...look at this meandering post I've been trying to write for the last two-three days! Garbage.

[and that's withOUT wandering tangents about playing golf or Cobra Kai or the Seattle Mariners]

So, let's try something a little different ( many million times have I typed that phrase?). Let me try to give a blueprint...a very straightforward, somewhat succinct plan...outlining my current (August 2023) thoughts on "How To Play D&D." Because there isn't a good book on the subject...just a gazillion some-odd people flailing around in the darkness, spouting pithy axioms, platitudes, "wisdom," and blah-blah-blah OR being clueless wannabe searchers after sparkly unicorns of "good play."

Such a series of posts will (probably) change absolutely nothing. That's okay. At least it will be ONE, hopefully solid paradigm that folks can follow, should they be so inclined. For those NOT so inclined: 

You Do You. And I promise I am sending much love and prayers out to you and yours. Have a ton of fun. 

This is going to be something for the searchers who are tired of searching. That's it. Maybe it's something that I'll print up and publish some day. Maybe; a pamphlet to give to my kids for when they're a little grown or something. Yeah, it's admittedly kind of a stupid task to set for oneself...but bloggers got to blog, amirite?

And here's the thing: everyone and their mom know how to lose weight, right? Something like "eat less, and exercise more?" Maybe pay more attention to nutrition, cut out the fatty, sugary, starchy stuff and focus on the veg, whole grains, and lean proteins? Blah, blah, blah...and yet people are still fat asses. Despite having a blueprint for healthful living for, like, decades (centuries?). 

D&D is a bit more mysterious than that. 

The girl's doing a soccer tournament this weekend (the boy's tourney is in two weeks). The mother-in-law is in town for dos/tres mas semanas. The complications with my mom's estate continue. And school soccer season (when I need to put on MY coach's hat) is right around the corner...looks like I'll be handling two teams this year. So many, many things.

But I'm going to try, folks. I'm really, really going to try to get my shit together, and get something helpful typed up. So that I don't have to hear (or read) any more complaints from people about their (various) issues with Dungeons & Dragons. Or, at least, if I DO hear/read such things, I can point them to a link with some concrete answers. 

For those folks who have neither complaints, nor questions...who are "fully enlightened" when it comes to D&D, in other words...for you lucky people: You Do You. And enjoy every moment of it. Please. 

Okay, that's enough for now.


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I am reminded of my high school German teacher. One day she put her head in her hands and said, "What's the point? You'll never really learn German unless you move to Germany." Buck up; nice things happen sometimes. That's the most we can expect from life.

  2. I am looking forward to seeing what you have to say JB. Have at it!

  3. I'm looking forward to this series!

  4. The approach I've taken lately is to say "This is how I do it and here is why. Use what works for you because you are a different person with different interests and preferences " That seems like it hits the note of expressing an opinion, perhaps an informed and thoughtful opinion, while acknowledging that I don't have all the answers and the way I play is not for everyone.

    1. Yeah. It'll probably be something like that.

  5. I read that whole thing, with maybe small.miseed bits from my kids asking me questions.

    Appreciate you taking the time to ramble.

    Here are my thoughts.

    His 5e failed to be fun because he ran a module and they are balanced to be cake walks. This is more an issue of gaming philosophy than rules. Run it with a little homebrew stuff like you would 1e and the rules are serviceable. Is it the best, no? but it's not a demon scourge.

    Kids running kids is a great way to build social skills and branch out. Kudos for the kid running homebrew and not a module,

    I'm not sure you shouldn't run the adults through something. A three session adventure to pass on the art of DMing and handling a table. Use it as an excuse to codify your thoughts on the blueprint. Probably a lot of work with your busy schedule, but might help the process.

    1. Unfortunately, these days I have more issues going on than a "busy schedule." My mental bandwidth is stretched pretty thin at the moment.

      But,'s always a possibility.

  6. I loved playing MSH back in the day. We never rolled up our own characters preferring to play the comic book heroes we loved. You're right that it can't sustain a long term campaign but then in my view it manages to model a three to four issue tie in quite well. It's terrific fun to play Dr Strange and try and stop Magneto.

    1. Isn't that funny? Back in the dawn of role-playing I always wanted to roll up my own characters. I never would've thought of playing a character from the source material instead. Nowadays I'd love to give that a try. Play Mal Reynolds in Firefly, or Captain Kirk in Star Trek. That's how you really get into playing the source material. :-)