Friday, February 24, 2012

Another 20 Questions

This is a good idea. I'm interested to see what different options people present. I've already answered some of these in my house rules document, but here goes:

1. Ability scores generation method?
Roll 4d6 and total the top three dice six times. Arrange these scores as desired. You must meet all minimum ability scores before adjustments to choose a particular class. For example, you must have rolled a 17 and assigned it to Charisma to be a paladin. Ability score adjustments are allowed as described on LL p. 7 and AEC p. 6. Ignore the different ability limitations based on gender.

2. How are death and dying handled?
Characters reduced to 0 or fewer hit points have a chance to avoid death. Make a saving throw versus Death. If you succeed, the character has 1 hit point but is incapacitated. The character may have scars or other repercussions from their brush with mortality.

3. What about raising the dead?
It is possible to raise the dead. If you have an NPC cast a raise dead or resurrection, it's expensive.

4. How are replacement PCs handled?
Create the character as normal. Any new character joining the party will start at first level or one level below the level of the lowest-level current party member.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
At the beginning of each combat round, each player will roll initiative using 1d10 plus their character's DEX modifier for initiative. High rolls will act first.

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
There are no critical fumbles. On a successful to hit roll of 20, you have the chance of scoring a critical hit. If a second to hit roll (including all bonuses to hit) is successful, you have scored a critical hit and automatically cause maximum damage with that attack.

7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
The combat option rules for helmets, parrying, subdual damage, and two-weapon fighting will be used as written on AEC p. 142.

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
Yes. Any shots fired into melee that miss have a chance of hitting an ally.

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
Run. Run fast.

10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?

11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
I don't keep close track, but you're not climbing through the Crystalmists with a wagonload of gear in your backpack.

13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
Gain the xp and gain the level. For things like new spells, you need to go somewhere that makes sense to get them - a mentor, library, guild, etc. Clerics and druids may need to learn new prayers at an appropriate temple.

14. What do I get experience for?
Defeating or overcoming monsters, acquiring treasure, carousing, good roleplaying, solving puzzles or problems, and achieving or advancing plot points.

15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
If you describe something that would locate a trap, your character finds it. If you don't describe things in detail, it goes with the dice.

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
You can have retainers if you like. Base morale is according to their employer's Charisma. Check morale as indicated in the LL rulebook, p. 56 or when appropriate.

17. How do I identify magic items?
Try to use it, hire a sage or alchemist, or use an identify or legend lore spell. If you have the appropriate command word, you can use most charged items without knowing specifically what they are. You can try to identify potions by tasting a bit of them. Magic-user scrolls must be read with read magic. Clerics and druids can read clerical scrolls. Anyone can read general use or cursed scrolls.

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
Sure, but they're going to be expensive and only available from a few people in the largest cities.

19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
Sure. Do some research, gather the right components, have the components and materials crafted, then enchant them. Expect to spend a fair amount of money and time to do it.

20. What about splitting the party?
Go ahead, but expect to only get to do about half as much during a session. If the party splits into two or more groups for more than a session, I will probably run them as completely separate groups until they meet or rejoin to keep people from being bored and me from being crazy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I like D&D Next

I like D&D Next. I'm not really talking about the game, because I haven't seen it yet. But I like the name.

I started thinking about this a while ago, when the kerfluffle started over the announcement of the next edition. It was also inspired by the various timeline graphics posted over at Roleplay-Geek and the musings over at Grognardia.

I laid out some of my thoughts about the problem of editions and the evolution of the game when I kicked the hornets' nest the other day and suggested everyone wait until we had seen the game to comment on it. In that post I laid out the various editions of the game, as I see it, but I didn't give them numbers. If I had to, here's how I would lay it out (in order of publication):

-1: Chainmail and house rules for individual adventures
0: The three little brown books published in 1974.
0.5: The LBBs plus supplement(s) (Greyhawk; Blackmoor; Eldritch Wizardry; Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes; and/or Swords & Spells)
1b: Holmes (may include rules from 0/0.5 editions)
1a: Advanced D&D (Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual, Deities & Demigods, Fiend Folio)
2b: Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic and Expert Rules (B/X)
2.5b: Mentzer Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortals (BECMI)
1.5a: AD&D plus Unearthed Arcana (UA) and Monster Manual II (MM2)
1.75a: AD&D plus UA, MM2, Oriental Adventures, Dragonlance Adventures, Dungeoneers Survival Guide, Wilderness Survival Guide, Manual of the Planes, and/or Greyhawk Adventures
2a: AD&D, 2nd Edition
2.6b: D&D Rules Cyclopedia (RC)
2.75b: RC plus Wrath of the Immortals
2.5a: AD&D, 2nd Edition plus Players Options and/or DM Options
3: D&D 3.0 (Wizards of the Coast)
3.5: D&D 3.5
4: D&D 4E
4.5: D&D 4E, Essentials
5: D&D Next

And here it is by line:


-1: Chainmail and house rules for individual adventures


0: The three little brown books published in 1974.
0.5: The LBBs plus supplement(s) (GreyhawkBlackmoorEldritch WizardryGods, Demi-Gods and Heroes; and/or Swords & Spells)

1a: Advanced D&D (Players HandbookDungeon Masters GuideMonster ManualDeities & DemigodsFiend Folio)
1.5a: AD&D plus Unearthed Arcana (UA) and Monster Manual II (MM2)
1.75a: AD&D plus UA, MM2, Oriental AdventuresDragonlance AdventuresDungeoneers Survival GuideWilderness Survival GuideManual of the Planes, and/or Greyhawk Adventures
2a: AD&D, 2nd Edition

2.5a: AD&D, 2nd Edition plus Players Options and/or DM Options

1b: Holmes (may include rules from 0/0.5 editions)
2b: Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic and Expert Rules (B/X)
2.5b: Mentzer Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortals (BECMI)
2.6b: D&D Rules Cyclopedia (RC)
2.75b: RC plus Wrath of the Immortals

3: D&D 3.0 (Wizards of the Coast)
3.5: D&D 3.5
4: D&D 4E
4.5: D&D 4E, Essentials
5: D&D Next

Using this nomenclature, I can easily justify why WotC called their first version 3rd edition. Whether they were deriving that number from the Advanced D&D line or from the Basic D&D line, it makes sense in some ways. And carrying on from there it made sense to call the next version 4E. Whatever they call it, though, 4E isn't the fourth edition of the game.

If you only count the whole editions as I lay them out here, there's 0 (the LBBs), 1b (Holmes), 1a (AD&D), 2b (B/X and BECMI), 2a (AD&D 2E), 3, and 4. That puts 4E as the 7th edition of the game at least. Since most people consider B/X and BECMI to be separate editions, that could push 4E to 8th. If you consider all of the intermittent reformulations listed above, 4E could be as late as 15th or 16th edition, depending on whether you're talking about the original 4E or 4E Essentials and whether or not you agree with the distinctions I've made. Regardless, there's no clear designation by number we can use for what edition we're currently playing or talking about. Even if we're playing with just the three little brown books published in 1974, we would need to decide whether to call it the zero/null edition or first edition.

This all may seem like a spurious argument, but here's the point. The gaming community continues to argue over what exactly constitutes a new edition of D&D and where to draw the lines. That disagreement causes no end of discussion and argument over which D&D camp we're playing in. The reason for that is very clear - Dungeons & Dragons has evolved and changed continuously throughout its entire publication history. It has never been a static set of rules, and it never will be.

The designers at WotC are working on the next iteration of the rules and trying to be as descriptive as possible about the new edition without encouraging the divisions that currently plague the community. So they got rid of the numbers and called it what it is - D&D Next. I like it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Your next stop...

For the past couple months I have been watching the original Twilight Zone episodes through Netflix. They have all of the available episodes there, except season 4 for some reason. Even without those, there  are a grand total of 138 episodes or about 58 hours worth of classic TZ!

Watching these shows takes me back to when I first saw them on syndicated TV, about the same time I started  playing RPGs. In the 80s a couple of local stations in Indianapolis would show these old shows either on weekend days or late at night to fill time outside of the prime time. I remember catching TZ, lots of old westerns, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Dragnet fairly regularly. Seeing them again now brings back a lot of fond memories, but also makes me think about some of the hallmarks of my early gaming style.

When I started gaming, I was really young. At the time my friends and I weren't interested in long campaigns or continuous adventures. We were more interested in flashy combats and quick scenes. Even though we played through published adventures, we had very little continuity between sessions. We would forget where we left off or what the characters were doing at the end of the previous session. So we would almost always have to revert to the standard, "Ok, your back at the keep, and it's a new day. List your spells and let's go." Unintentionally, we had adopted a style of play for our games that mirrored the episodic nature of the TV shows we watched. No long, continuous, dramatic plots. Simple hooks that either played out by the end of the episode or faded into the background. A lot of that had to do with our age at the time, but I think just as much had to do with what we (and the designers of the game) were using for entertainment.

A lot has been said about the pulp fiction roots of the hobby. How the serialized and short fiction of the pulp magazines and their derivatives created the literary background for D&D. But I also think their form, and the way that form carried into radio and early television, had as much to do with the development of the hobby. Twilight Zone is a great show, but it is really just a televised version of a weird stories pulp mag. Have Gun Will Travel, The Lone Ranger, and other early westerns are the western mags, and Dragnet is like the procedural crime stories. Just like the radio shows that preceded them, these shows gave us small bites of adventure that either put a spin on our experienced reality or take us out of it for a while.

They are not like modern shows. Most modern shows rely more on continuity and personal and story development. What happens in a particular episode or season has lasting consequences for the characters and the stories. Instead of simply dropping in on a character for a while, we live with them and see them develop and change.

Old serials may have the same characters and continuous story lines, but the changes happen in the environment, not the heroes. In The Phantom, the main character has a past that determines who he is, but who he is doesn't really change much as a consequence of his adventures. The challenge for him is new enemies and situations, not how he interprets events and grows and changes. In The Cape, the main character also has a past that makes him who he is, but he changes with every episode. The challenge here isn't a new villain, but the character's own feelings. Old serial entertainment relies on situational factors, while newer entertainment relies on personal factors.

This brings me back to thinking about gaming styles. In the 80s, we weren't worried about developing our characters' personality as much as we were trying to see what new challenges we could overcome with them. We would approach each session like a new episode of an old TV show. Like an episode of the Twilight Zone, it all looks fairly straightforward in the beginning. Then you either see the hook or the twist or you don't. Either way, by the end of the session, the hook or twist reveals itself, you find out of you were right or totally missed it, and you see if your character survived. If they did, we got ready for the next session. If not, we rolled a new character. Our characters had fairly transparent motivations, because it wasn't about the characters. It was about taming the wilderness, solving the puzzles, and beating the bad guys. It was simple and pulpy.

Over time, things shifted in entertainment, and gaming styles followed. Gamers got interested in stories and characters more than cunning situations. There were a lot more Drizzts than Conans, and Louis took the place of the Lost Boys. Now it wasn't enough to take out the orcs that were infesting the caves. We had to do an anthropological study to figure out which of the orcs were worth integrating so we didn't needlessly slaughter those innocent, ignorant savages. Everything was nuanced, and we had to know how our characters felt about everything instead of what they were doing. Games, like our popular entertainment, had to have emotional depth and development and evoke pathos. And because it takes time for a character to develop depth, we focused on rambling story games with complicated plots that could take months or years to develop and come to fruition.

Old school games tend to be more episodic. Old school games are more closely associated with situational development. The level of crunch and complexity varies, but the focus is mostly on doing rather than being something. New school games tend to be more developmental. They focus on developing character, personality, and relationships. They are as much about being as doing something. I am definitely not going to say that either form of play is better or worse than the other, but they are different.

Different gamers prefer one over the other, just like different people like different TV shows. And we may like both at different times. Sometimes we want to watch Twilight Zone or the original Star Trek. Sometimes we want to watch Lost or Battlestar Galactica. And some people may just want to stick with one or the other.

For now I'm having as great a time watching the old TV shows as I am playing the old games.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sign on the X

Thank you to everyone that has been reading my stuff here. I've not been as consistent or prolific as I would like, but I post what I can when I get the chance. I certainly appreciate all of you that read it.

Over on The Other Side, Tim made the suggestion that people that leave comments also leave a link to their blog if they have one. I would like to extend the same invitation here. If you leave me a comment, or have left one in the past, feel free to drop me a link to your blog. I've got dozens of blogs in my blogroll on all kinds of subjects, and I'm always on the lookout for other interesting things to read. And odds are, if you're reading my stuff, you're probably interested in some of the same things I am. So let me know where you're blogs are so I can return the favor and check out your stuff.

If you want to see an easy way to include a link in a comment, check out the Other Side post.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Updates, New House Rules, and Resources

Last night my group had a quick interview with the Castellan, Sir Reynald, and then another successful foray into the wilderness outside the keep. They still haven't even approached the caves, but they've still done quite a bit to establish their reputation at the keep. They've managed to kill or capture most of the members of a small group of bandits, explored a mysterious tower that was being used by an orc warband, and driven off an attack by some lizard men and a giant lizard. In the tower they found a portal that led to another, similar tower located in the midst of an ancient ruined fortress or castle. When they first entered the second tower, they encountered a sleepy giant snake. Yesterday they returned to the tower and dispatched the snake. Most of the hooks I built into the start of the campaign are already starting to pay off, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next. Pretty good for just a couple of sessions.

Last night I also got the players' input on some new house rules. They agreed to add the Big d30 Rule, my old hit dice acquisition rule, and some counterspelling rules I adapted from Michael Shorten, aka Chgowiz (posted below). I updated the house rules doc if anyone wants to see everything we've got running in play at the moment.

One of my players also turned me on to a Labyrinth Lord Wheel Chart for combat. I tracked it down and added a link to the post where you can find it to the DM Binder list on the left sidebar. I'm going to print one out and see how well it works during the next game. There's a similar wheel available for Swords & Wizardry there, too.


A magic-user may use his or her arcane knowledge to attempt to neutralize an opponent's spell. This is referred to a counter-spell or spell duel. To engage in a duel a magic-user must be able to see the attacking magic-user and he or she must have at least one magic spell, of any type and level, memorized. Cleric spells cannot be countered. Any condition which would prevent a magic-user from casting a spell would likewise prevent the countering of a spell by that magic-user.

To resolve a spell duel, compare the level(s) of the countering magic-user(s) with the spell-casting magic-user; then consult the table below and roll 2d6. Your roll must equal the number from the table or higher to succeed.

Counterspelling Magic-User is (compared to casting Magic-User):

Equal or higher level
7 or better
1 level lower
8 or better
2 levels lower
9 or better
3-4 levels lower
10 or better
5-6 levels lower
11 or better
7 or more levels lower

Attempting a counter-spell fully occupies a magician's powers and concentration. Engaging in a spell duel negates any further action or spell use by both participants for the remainder of that round.
If the counterspelling magic-user succeeds in his attempts (makes the roll), the cast spell is negated. The original caster "loses" the spell as if he/she had successfully cast it and must make a saving throw versus spells.

If the counterspelling magic-user fails in his attempt to counter the spell, the original caster successfully casts their spell. The counterspelling magic user must make a saving throw versus spells.
In either situation, if the save is unsuccessful, consult the table below. Add 1 to the dice result for each 2 levels the casting magic-user has higher than the countering magic-user.

2d6 Roll
Result (+1 for each 2 levels that casting MU's level is higher than countering MU)
Unconscious 1d4+1 rounds
1d4+1 points damage
Charmed - under control of winner of the duel
Confusion (1d4+1 rounds)
Forget one spell (randomly chosen by DM)
Forget all spells
Feeblemind (equivalent of 3 INT until next rest, all spells forgotten)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Can somebody hand me a torch?

I've been reading a little about the next version of D&D, including the posts on the Wizards site, a couple of forum threads, plenty of blogs, and Google+. Most of what I have read is along the lines of "whatever the design team does, it's not going to please everybody, so I'm going to shred it sight unseen on the internet" or somesuch. A lot of that vitriol is coming from the usual quarters, but some is coming from people who I thought were more reasonable than that.

I wish I could say that was an observation and not a criticism, but that would be out-and-out lying. I do want to criticize everybody who is tearing into the statements from WotC and the design team about the game. I do want to tell people to just wait until the new version is released, at least in beta form, to assault it. Speculation is fine, but lambasting something that you haven't even seen yet is both counterproductive and mean. And by mean, I am thinking of every meaning of that word as an adjective - cruel, malicious, small-minded, and undignified. There is no reason for it.

Dungeons & Dragons has been under constant revision since the beginning. It started as house rules for medieval minis in Minnesota. Then it moved to Wisconsin and got interpreted a little differently. It was published in 1974 as three little books. Then it was changed (twice!) in 1975 by a couple of campaign supplements. In 1977, more was added to it by way of the Monster Manual and a new "basic" boxed set. Then in 1978 it Advanced. In 1981, there was a new basic set and we got to become experts. Then in 1983 we split the basic players from the DMs and got some companions. In 1985, we unearthed some arcana and became even more advanced. Then we got proficient with some survival guides in 1986. In 1989, we took a second shot at the advanced side of things. In 1991, we checked the Cyclopedia, and in 1992 we started on the path to immortality. Then we got some options for players and DMs, starting in 1995. In 2000, we got it all back together again, but we made some changes to strengthen our core in 2003. In 2008, we added some power to the mix. Then in 2010 we went back to the essentials. Now we're getting ready for the next evolution.

People talk about the acrimony between adherents to each edition of the game. They talk about the grognards (including the co-creators of the game!) that stick with a preferred edition or way of playing instead of grabbing the shiny new books. They lament that they won't be able to introduce people to the game if the rules change too much over time or if they can't get books with their preferred rule set. They use these and all kinds of other arguments to criticize any change to whatever iteration of the game they love.

Here's what I have to say - the game has never been, is not now, and never will be static and unchanging. No edition or rule set will appeal to everyone or address every play style. Nobody is going to be able to build the "Rosetta clone" that bridges every edition and allows for seamless transition between games or editions. But nobody is forcing you to play with a particular set of rules, either.

I have played every edition of D&D I could get a group for. That includes everything up to 3.5 and Pathfinder. I currently play in a Pathfinder game every other week and a Labyrinth Lord game every week. I would probably try 4E if I could find a group to play it with.

I play Pathfinder because that's what my friends play. In Pathfinder I'm never sure if I have all of my points right. I have to constantly look up feats, spells, skills, and other things. But I still have a good time playing it, because I am gaming with my friends.

I prefer to play Labyrinth Lord because it's easier for me to wrap my head around. I don't have to look things up, and I can concentrate on the action of the game instead of the mechanics. I play in a group online with people that I may never meet in real life. We discuss rules interpretations as we need to, making decisions about things as they come up in the game. We haven't had any disagreements, because we know what kind of game we signed on to play.

The same people that I play Pathfinder with play in my LL game on alternate weeks. They play LL because I like to run it. They seem to enjoy it as much as playing Pathfinder. They have the same attitude as the  players in my other LL game. They're willing to roll with a simple ruleset for the game and work things out if necessary.

None of us expects one game to play like the other. We know what we're getting when we sit down to play each one. And if we want to change something, we talk about it as a group, work out a solution and get on with the game. That's the way I've always done it. It's the same way we handled incorporating rules changes when the Players Handbook was released in the 70s, when we saw something we liked in Dragon or White Dwarf or somewhere else over the years, or when any of the new editions came out. Just because something is released by whoever currently holds the rights to the game doesn't mean you have to automatically incorporate it into your game. If something changes, talk it over with the people that share your table. If everyone agrees they don't like it, leave it out.

Looking ahead to what is coming and being critical of it sight unseen is wasting time and energy that is better spent on other things. Sure, give some feedback to the designers. Let them know your preferences. Answer the polls at the end of the articles. Drop comments and let them know how you think things should run or how you use different things in your own games. But save the criticism until you actually see what they have planned. Lay off the trolling, play the game the way you and your other players like, and wait and see what the designers are actually going to release. After that, you can complain about it.

In the meantime, I'll be over here rolling some dice, shooting goblins, and setting trolls on fire.

80s Crush blogfest

It's been quite a while since I posted here. I've been diligently working on several projects, interviewing for jobs (finally!!), and gaming. In fact, between prepping and running my LL game and playing in another LL game and a Pathfinder game, I'm finally getting close to the amount of gaming I want to be doing. I've also been keeping up with the blogs and a couple forums, and the former has paid off handsomely and prompted this particular post.

The other day, Tim Brannan has a contest for people to guess his 80s crush in anticipation of the Tumble 4 Ya Blogfest about 80s crushes. I correctly guessed that his crush was Stevie Nicks, based on a couple of posts he did months ago and won a $10 gift certificate for RPGNow. I turned that into an order for the Dungeon Alphabet (finally!!), a book of geomorphs, and a pair of story dice pdfs. I'll have reviews for these sometime soon. Who would have ever thought Stevie Nicks would get me some cool gaming stuff? Thanks, Tim!

Like Tim, I tended to gravitate more toward musicians than movie stars for my crushes, favoring Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos, Pat Benatar, Cindy Lauper, and Lita Ford. My real 80s crush was in the center of all the rock goddesses without being one, though. Martha Quinn.

Martha Quinn spent ten years as regular VJ on MTV, from 1981 to 1991. While all my other crushes came and went, Martha was right there on MTV, day in and day out. She was cute, vivacious, and perky. She was like somebody's kid sister down the street. She introduced or interviewed all of the big names of the 80s and stuck around after most of them faded into obscurity. She's since done a few movies and several TV shows, but she'll always be my favorite VJ from back in the day.

Here is an interview she did last year. And here's a video of her with Pat Benatar on MTV back in the day:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another questionnaire

I've been away from the blog for a bit trying to clear up some projects and take care of things offline. I'll be posting some new material soon.

In the meantime, I ran the second session of my new LL game and created a character to play in another LL game using Infrno. I also threw together some quick answers to Barking Alien's question list:

1) What is the most common type of environment or terrain encountered thus far in your current or most recent campaign?

I've only run two sessions so far, so it would have to be either forest or a pair of ancient towers.

2) What is the most exotic or unusual environment or terrain encountered thus far in your current or most recent campaign?

The closest thing in my current game would be a magical gate between a pair of ancient towers. The PCs haven't found anything too exotic yet.

3) What environment or terrain type have you never used but always wanted to? Why haven't you?

The lake of elemental fire pictured on the back of the first printing of the 1E DMG. None of my players has gotten a character to the plane of fire yet.

4) Do you have a combat rule or mechanic from another game system you are using in the game system you currently play, played recently or generally play?

The only adapted combat mechanic I use is critical hits. On a natural 20, you threaten a critical. If you make a successful attack roll, your attack does maximum damage.

5) In your opinion, what genre has received too little attention in regards to RPGs based on that subject?

I've seen games for every genre I can think of right now. I'd like to see better mechanics and systems for some, but the games exist at least.

6) If a quality RPG on the aforementioned neglected genre came out tomorrow, what would make you buy it? What would prevent you from buying it?

For any game, solid mechanics, an imaginative setting or story twist, and personal interest in the genre or setting make me more likely to buy it. The things that would prevent me from buying a game are games the opposite of those things and poor design, editing, and layout. If you can't take the time to properly proofread and edit your game, I don't want to take the time to read it.

7) Do you find it easier to learn the rules of a game by reading the rule book or by sitting down and just playing it?

I usually do a combination. I read the rules to get a general sense of the game. Then I make a character or two and run some mock combats and skill or mechanics tests. Then I play it and see how it works overall.

8) Name a currently available artist not normally associated with RPGs who you'd love to see do some RPG work.

I have no idea. The current artists I know have all done at least a small amount of game work at some point.

9) What one book, movie, video, etc. that is not an RPG that you think should be.

I'm not a fan of RPGs based on branded properties. I prefer to adapt things from different properties into something unique to the group I'm playing with.

10) Can you think of an RPG you've run or played in which the GM (be it you or someone else) used/referenced non-game related books to run the campaign more often then game related books?

There are thousands of references that I and my fellow GMs have used for games, but none have been referenced more than the actual game rulebooks.