Saturday, April 5, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

The past couple of weeks I haven't done much painting. I've been working too much on other projects when I haven't been buried in the day job. So today is a bit of catch-up on painting projects. I'm working on finishing the not-so-fast speed painting on my skaven, painting some old Heritage and Grenadier minis for a friend at work, and continuing building a 1/72 MiniArt medieval fortress. Hopefully later I'll get interrupted to roll some dice or go see Captain America: Winter Soldier. Otherwise, I'll be bouncing back and forth on these projects for the day.

MiniArt medieval fortress in progress

Skaven and more on the paint table

Sorry for the blurry pics. I snapped them quickly with the cell phone so I could get this posted and get back to work.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

May light perpetual shine on him


I just found out that Dave Trampier passed away earlier this week. I have been a fan of his work for decades, and I always hoped he would eventually return to art and gaming. Sad to see that this will not be the case. My thoughts and prayers are with him and those close to him.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kurt Vonnegut and why I keep working on things I will never get to play

Vonnegut mural in Indianapolis
After growing up in Indianapolis, I have a particular fascination with things that are related in some way to my hometown. Not the least, of course, is Kurt Vonnegut, the onetime Hoosier that fled the state and became one of its most notable expatriates. I enjoy his fiction, but I mostly enjoy his appreciation for things midwestern without the fawning devotion and xenophobia that often go along with that. I also appreciate his ideas about creativity and writing. I have often heard him say that you need to keep creating, whether your creations are wonderful or terrible, simply because creation and the creative process are good for you and make you more human. They help you discover things about yourself and the world that you would not have without trying to express them.

Today someone linked me to an article about a letter that he sent to some high school students in 2006. I think it expresses this well.

It immediately made me think about gaming. I spend a lot of time writing and developing gaming ideas and material that I know will never actually make it to the table top. I paint a lot of miniatures that will most likely sit in foam trays and be auctioned off to someone for pennies when I'm gone. I draw maps and write adventures that sit on my hard drive or fill up notebooks on a shelf. I post things on here, musings, ideas, and fragments that hang in electronic limbo. Sometimes I get lucky and get to play a game using these things. Most often, I don't.

I still consider all of this activity productive, though. I am exercising my creativity and making something new that teaches me things about myself or how I see the world or lets me imagine and see the world in new and different ways. If I share that with others and they enjoy it as much as I do, great. Even if they appreciate it just for the effort I put into it, great. If they pan it or ignore it or never see it at all, it's still good. I created it and, in the creation, made something more of myself.

So even if you're not actively playing a game, the adventure is still worth the effort. Thanks, Mr. Vonnegut.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Inspirational Reading - Part 6

This time around, I want to look at the introduction to Appendix N in the Dungeon Masters Guide and see what else we can add to the list.

The introduction discusses a bit of how Gary came to his list here and also suggests several more sources for inspirational reading. This is the introduction:

Inspiration for all the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a tad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerors [sic] and dauntless swordsmen.
Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples.
Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950. The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all of their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as any other imaginative writing or screenplay, you will be able to pluck kernels from which will grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

In the first paragraph, we see a nod toward accumulating fantasy stories and folktales generally. Gary gives homage to his father for simply telling fantastic tales when Gary was a child. This kind of childhood storytelling no doubt influenced most of us to be interested in fantasy. It doesn't recommend any particular stories, but rather the idea of storytelling and shared fantasy in general.

Next, we get suggestions of possible sources outside of traditional fiction. Comics and movies can definitely be sources of inspiration for gaming. I am not including them in the list at present, but I may come back to add them later. Fairy tales can also be a great inspiration, and here Gary gives us some specific suggestions. The Grimm fairy tales are available in a lot of different editions. I am going to add them under the title of the common collection, rather than specifying a particular edition. Andrew Lang published twelve collections of fairy stories titled by the color of the books. These are also going on the list.

The reference to mythology and beastiaries opens the possibility of a huge amount of reading. Virtually any mythology can be incorporated into a game setting if you work at it. That means we could conceivably add all kinds of things to the list to account for mythology. Rather than bury everything else in a bibliography of mythology texts, I am adding the one that most of us used to discover mythology in the first place, Bulfinch's Mythology. I'll add more mythology later.

The final paragraph of the introduction states that the authors and works listed were the ones that particularly influenced Gary, not that they are an exhaustive list. I think this points to something important to remember in terms of using these sources. Anything can give a good idea for a bit for a game, some works or authors will be particularly relevant or influential, but you need to pick and choose what you use. Unless you're running a game completely within a particular fictional setting, harvest your reading and viewing for ideas that you can combine to make something new.

Next I'll start looking at the individual authors on the list in the appendix.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Madness OSR Challenge

So, there's another blog hop challenge going on and my feed is full of posts about these questions every day again. I like some of these challenges because they do give me a chance to reflect and think about my gaming history and tastes. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to get a post written every day, and I don't want to clog everyone's feeds with another post just like a dozen or more others every day. So I'm going to answer this one in a single post just like I did the last one. Here goes!

1 What was the first roleplaying game other than D&D you played? Was it before or after you had played D&D?

I played Gamma World first edition when it came out. This was after I started playing D&D. Normally we played it as an extension of D&D rather than it's own game, though.

2 What was the first character you played in an RPG other than D&D? How was playing it different from playing a D&D character?

I'm not really sure. Probably a mutant in Gamma World. Again, since we played GW more as an extension of D&D, there wasn't much difference at all.

3 Which game had the least or most enjoyable character generation?

I always liked working through the career paths in Traveller. I remember always having fun with the survival rolls.

4 What other roleplaying author besides Gygax impressed you with their writing?

I always enjoyed Ed Greenwood's early Realms material from Dragon magazine. Well before the Forgotten Realms was expanded by TSR, you could tell there was a rich background to his world and work that really shone is his writing. He was the first game writer that impressed me with developing a story behind the game material.

5 What other old school game should have become as big as D&D but didn’t? Why do you think so?

I'm going back to Traveller for this one. It is a great system and has lasted for decades as a staple in gaming. I don't think it was as popular because a lot of people were turned off that the implied setting in the base rules was not very developed.

6 What non-D&D monster do you think is as iconic as D&D ones like hook horrors or flumphs, and why do you think so?

I'm going to cheat and say the ringwraiths from MERP. I know they have D&D equivalents in the wraith and spectre, but they were so much cooler in the stories and in the ICE games. I don't think I really need to justify their popularity at this point.

7 What fantasy RPG other than D&D have you enjoyed most? Why?

Rolemaster was a big hit with one of my old gaming groups. I'm not a fan of skill-based RPGs, but we had a lot of fun with RM back in the day. Personally, I'm a big fan of the Arcanum/Talislanta system. It's close enough to D&D to be recognizably easy with enough difference to be a different system.

8 What spy RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

Top Secret was always a hit for my group. Normally we ended up playing a lot more para-military action than spy scenarios, but it was a lot of fun. Some of the mini-systems in the game were fun to play with on their own, especially the gambling rules.

9 What superhero RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

Marvel Super Heroes wins hands down just because I could actually play Captain America without having to figure out the stats on my own.

10 What science fiction RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

I played in a great Cyberpunk 2020 game for a few months in the early 90s. Our entire group got sold out by one of the players and killed by Arasaka for getting too close to some of their secrets. Best game and worst ending to a campaign I've ever played.

11 What post-apocalyptic RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

I've always loved Gamma World for post-apocalyptic gaming because it was so close to D&D in mechanics and play. I also loved a lot of the history in the early modules.

12 What humorous RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

My group had a lot of fun with Paranoia for a while. Just the right game master and players, and this is unbeatable fun.

13 What horror RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

The only horror RPG I played much of was Call of Cthulhu. I suppose Vampire and the other World of Darkness games could count, but they were never really horrific when we played them.

14 What historical or cultural RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

For this one, I'm giving the nod to Boot Hill. We had a couple fun games with this. One of them we played out a range war and the other we played out a series of grand robberies and the aftermath.

15 What pseudo or alternate history RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?

Unless you count FASA's Doctor Who or World of Darkness, I haven't played any alternate history RPGs that I can remember. Gangbusters was a hit for a few months, but I count that as historical, not alternate or pseudo-historical.

16 Which RPG besides D&D has the best magic system? Give details.

I always liked the magic system in Warhammer. Building power as you advance, with the higher threat of miscasting and the subsequent consequences as you go up, always grabbed my imagination. In Warhammer, magic is dark, untamed, and hazardous.

17 Which RPG has the best high tech rules? Why?

I like the tech rules for Cyberpunk 2020. They tied the tech into the game and created flavor along with mechanics.

18 What is the crunchiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?

Champions would have to be the crunchiest I can remember. It was enjoyable for a while, but the group gave it up fairly quickly to go back to simpler systems.

19 What is the fluffiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?

Probably Teenagers from Outer Space. We had great fun with it for a while, again largely due to having a great game master that could improvise and keep things running fast and furious.

20 Which setting have you enjoyed most? Why?

I love the setting and background for Metamorphosis Alpha, especially the Amazing Engine version. The idea of a huge colony ship drifting through space populated with all manner of things is incredibly evocative.

21 What is the narrowest genre RPG you have ever played? How was it?

Probably Gangbusters. It was fun to play but difficult. At the time, none of us really had an understanding of the period beyond what was in the game, so we couldn't do much with it.

22 What is the most gonzo kitchen sink RPG you ever played? How was it?

AD&D with Dragonlance, Oriental Adventures, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Traveller, lots of Dragon and White Dwarf articles, some Role Aids supplements, and a few house rules rolled together into a hot mess. It was a great game!

23 What is the most broken game that you tried and were unable to play?

One of the players that joined our group in the early 90s tried inflicting World of Synnibarr on us once.

24 What is the most broken game that you tried and loved to play, warts and all?

Heroes Unlimited, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a few other Palladium supers games bolted together.

25 Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?

Most of the games I love were written twenty or more years ago. I haven't seen a lot of modern mechanics that really grab me.

26 What RPG based on an IP did you enjoy most? Give details.

I started my love of fantasy with The Hobbit, so Middle Earth Role-Playing grabbed me right away. The system was clunky sometimes, but it was Middle Earth, so we worked through it.

27 What IP (=Intellectual Property, be it book, movie or comic) that doesn’t have an RPG deserves it? Why?

I can't really think of one. The world of Harry Potter might be fun to play with. If you limit it to Hogwarts-age characters, though, you really limit the story possibilities and if you open it to older characters, it's too broad and deviates too far from the source material.

28 What free RPG or what non-English RPG did you enjoy most? Give details.

Since I was able to get copies of Werewolf free for Halloween from RPGNow, I'll throw it in here. I always had fun with the World of Darkness, especially the conflicts between vampires and werewolves.

29 What OSR product have you enjoyed most? Explain why.

Everything produced by New Big Dragon is great. Buy all of it!

30 Which non-D&D supplemental product should everyone know about? Give details.

Campaign Law from Rolemaster Second Edition has a great outline for creating a campaign world with a lot of depth.

31 What out-of-print RPG would you most like to see back in publication? Why?

Talislanta always hit the right buttons for me. Again, it's close to D&D but has enough difference to make it stand out as its own system. It's available for free in PDf, though. West End Games Star Wars would be another one because it had one of the simplest systems and really captured the flavor of the SW universe.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

I'm not a big fan of the post every day challenges for a few reasons. It is hard for me to find time every day to get something posted. I don't normally write a lot of posts in advance. And I don't really like to see a flood of similar posts from all the blogs I follow every day for a month. Still, every once in a while something comes along and tempts me to join one. The latest is the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge.

This morning as I was catching up on reading the blogs I follow, I kept seeing people talking about the first D&D novel they had read. In most cases, regardless of which particular novel they were talking about, they commented that it didn't hold up to rereading now compared to when they first read it. This caught my interest, since I plan to reread a lot of old fantasy literature as part of my Inspirational Reading project. So I decided to throw together some quick answers to the questions and just post them all at once.

Day 1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first Character?

I'm pretty sure the first person to introduce me to D&D was my friend Tim. I know it was the Holmes Basic set. My first character was either a thief or a halfling. I'm not sure which. I just remember sneaking around a lot.

Day 2: First person YOU introduced to D&D? Which edition? THEIR first character?

The first person I introduced to the game would have to have been either Vince or Mike, maybe both, again with Holmes. I have no idea what their characters were, but both tended to play fighters.

Day 3: First dungeon you explored as a PC or ran as a DM.

I don't remember the first dungeon I played or ran, but most likely it was the sample dungeon in the Holmes book.

Day 4: First dragon you slew (or some other powerful monster). 

Again, I don't really remember much of the early years. Too many games, too many characters, too many monsters. I do remember playing a halfling that struck the final blow to kill a blue dragon, but that's the best i can remember.

Day 5: First character to go from 1st level to 20th level (or highest possible level in a given edition).

I never knew that the levels stopped for anyone but demi-humans. We just kept playing until we got tired of a campaign or a character and moved on. My highest level character would have been a cleric/magic-user/thief I played in an AD&D game in the late 80s and early 90s.

Day 6: First character death. How did you handle it? 

I have no idea who the character was. I don't remember being too broken up about any of my characters dying, so I probably just grabbed the dice and rolled a new one.

Day 7: First D&D Product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

Dice? I'm not sure. I didn't buy a lot of D&D stuff the first year or so that I played. I don't have much of my D&D stuff from childhood, so I'm pretty sure I don't have whatever I first bought. I know I lost all my original dice sometime in the mid-90s.

Day 8: First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

My first dice set probably came from my Gamma World boxed set. The sets I used for the longest time were a clear blue Gamescience set and a set of red TSR Dragon Dice. I lost all of these along with the rest of my original dice in the mid-90s one time when I moved.

Day 9: First campaign setting (homebrew or published) you played in.

The first specified setting I remember playing in was Gamma World. We had our D&D characters fighting robots and mutants within a day of my getting the GW boxed set.

Day 10: First gaming magazine you ever bought (Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, etc.).

The first magazine in general was Dragon. I remember seeing Dragon 31 in the store, but I didn't start buying them until around issue 50.

Day 11: First splatbook you begged your DM to approve.

I never had to beg a DM to approve a splatbook. The closest thing I can think of is asking if I could play a monk using the variant rules from Dragon.

Day 12: First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?

The first stores I bought gaming supplies from were Tom Metzler Hobbies in Eastgate Shopping Center, Toys by Rizzi in Lafayette Square Mall, The Game Preserve in Glendale Mall, and The Boardroom, all in Indianapolis. The only one still open is Game Preserve, but it has moved a few times since I was shopping there.

Day 13: First miniature(s) you used for D&D.

The first miniatures I used were the old Grenadier AD&D minis. The first ones I personally owned were some bugbears and lizardmen my grandmother got me (along with my first Monster Manual) one year for Christmas.

Day 14: Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play? (Or just post a randomly generated monster in protest of Valentine's Day).

Since I don't have a significant other, here's a random monster generated from Appendix D of the DMG:

Valen
FREQUENCY: Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1-4
ARMOR CLASS: -3
MOVE: 6"
HIT DICE: 9+4
% IN LAIR: 15%
TREASURE TYPE: B
NO. OF ATTACKS: 4 (bite, tail, two hands)
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-4/1-4/4-6 or by weapon +3 (x2)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: heat generation, poison
SPECIAL DEFENSES: immune to electricity and fire, +1 or better weapon to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 50%
INTELLIGENCE: Average
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Evil
SIZE: L
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil

Valen appear to be thin, wiry, horse-headed ogres with cloven-hoofed feet. They have tangled manes that run down their backs. Their bodies are covered with festering boils and sores that smoke and steam, emitting noxious vapours. They have two human-like arms. They are strong and attack at +1 to hit and +3 to damage when striking with a weapon. They may wield a weapon in each hand without penalty. They have heavy, barbed tails that drip with powerful venom. Anyone hit by their tail must save versus poison at -2 or die in 1-4 rounds.

They radiate incredible heat at all times, and anyone within 5' will suffer 1-4 hit points of heat damage per round. They are immune to all fire-based attacks, electricity, and normal weapons.

They are mostly found on the planes of Gehenna.

Day 15: What was the first edition you didn't enjoy. Why?

The first edition I didn't like was the Skills and Powers version of Second Edition AD&D. I'm not a fan of systems that require character builds.

Day 16: Do you remember your first edition war? Did you win? ;)

My first edition war was between AD&D and Basic back in the 80s. I played either one, depending on what everyone else in a given group wanted to play. Most of the time, that meant AD&D. Since I was okay playing either one (and most of the groups mixed mechanics anyway), I couldn't lose.

Day 17: First time you heard D&D was somehow "evil."

I started hearing this sometime around 1980 or 1981. I remember when Mazes and Monsters (the book) was released, and I also remember watching the movie on TV. I had lots of concerned friends that gave me copies of the "Dark Dungeons" Chick tract a few years later as well.

On the other hand, I was interviewed by the local paper about the game around 1983 when I was in junior high. A couple friends and I had a club that was sponsored by my 7th-grade science teacher, and we played a couple times a week before school in the library. Even with all the panic, we still had some positive support as well.

Day 18: First gaming convention you ever attended. 

The first con I attended was a one-day affair at a library in Indianapolis in the early 80s. After that, I attended and ran gaming events at InConJunction for years.

Day 19: First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.

I can't remember the first, but I can remember being annoyed by a lot of min-maxers and hyper-competitive players over the years.

Day 20: First non-D&D RPG you played. 

Gamma World became a staple for us almost as soon as it was released. We regularly combined it with D&D from the beginning.

Day 21: First time you sold some of your D&D books--for whatever reason.

I sold a bunch of my D&D stuff when I was in junior high because I wasn't playing as much. I used the money to buy some comics, as I recall. I quickly realized the error of my ways and replaced the game books.

Day 22: First D&D-based novel you ever read (Dragonlance Trilogy, Realms novels, etc.)

The first I can remember reading that was specifically written about D&D was the first Dragonlance novel. The first book I remember reading because of D&D was The Fellowship of the Ring.

Day 23: First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

"Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult. I remember this playing in the background a lot as we played D&D back in the day.

Day 24: First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

Dragonslayer is one of the best D&D movies ever made. Every time this movie came on cable my friends and I would watch it then play D&D all night.

Day 25: Longest running campaign/gaming group you've been in. 

The longest-running campaign I played in started in 1986 and ran through the early 90s. The last session we played in that campaign ended on a cliffhanger in 1994. We still talk about it but have never resolved it.

The next-longest ran from 1984 to 1989. I started late in that one and only played the last four years.

Day 26: Do you still game with the people who introduced you to the hobby?

The people I played with in the 70s and 80s all stopped playing D&D years ago. We still get together and play other games, but nobody else has gotten back into D&D.

Day 27: If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming? 

I would have kept all of my characters, notes, and maps. I wouldn't have sold any of my books over the years, and I would have worked harder to play more with my old gaming groups.

Day 28: What is the single most important lesson you've learned from playing Dungeons & Dragons?

Sometimes the best way to deal with the world is to escape from it and make your own.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Miniatures - Robots and rebirth

I spent yesterday doing a marathon session at the painting table and managed to finish all of the remaining robots - 67 in all. I also did a quick paint job on a plastic phoenix model.

Lots of robots and a phoenix

The robots were done in the same way as the others I painted before - drybrushes of old Citadel Tin Bitz and Beaten Copper, then a quick layering to pick out the eyes in red and blue.

For the phoenix, I started with a white primer glazed with some ancient Citadel Yellow Ink from the 80s-era Expert Paint Set. I drybrushed that with the Reaper Master Series fire triad: Fire Orange, Phoenix Red, and Fire Red. I painted the beak and claws with black drybrushed with light gray. Unfortunately, the pictures wash everything together. It looks much better in person.

Back of the phoenix

With my new points system for counting what I have completed, this adds another 68 points, bringing the total for the year to 103 points.