Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gygax Test

Austin Shirra took the Hardest Gary Gygax Quiz in the World and got 70%!

You are a Gary Gygax Champion. If knowledge of the minutiae of Gary Gygax's life translated to political power, you would be the satrap of a continent-sized province, owing allegiance to no one (except maybe that Grognardia guy).

Paladin Code: You completed this quiz without using Google.

70% on my first try. Not as good as James at Grognardia, but not so bad if I don't say so myself!

What are meaningful choices?

I often go over to the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons board. This is not because I have any interest in Fourth Edition, but rather because I've taken somewhat of a liking to seeing people's head explode over the Legends and Lore columns written by Mike Mearls.

The vast majority of contractors to these columns are raving fanboys. They also presume things about Dungeons and Dragons as a brand, as well as past editions, that are quite false. Its often amazing to see how people there can be so wrong about the hobby as a whole and the role of it's flagship brand.

However, something was said that got me steaming.

  "Balance isn't just encounter balance, it's presenting players with a wealth of /meaningful/ choices, class and race might be a starting place, but you need a lot more than that."

The passage above was written by one, Tony_Vargas of the WotC boards. Now, what about this stirs me up and makes me shake my head? Well, there seems to be an implication on what 'meaningful choices' are and what they are not. To say the least, I disagree full heartedly with this implication.

So, what are meaningful choices to Mr. Tony_Vargas? Well, it seems that they are a number of feats, powers, skills and other class mechanics - and only that. I find this a repugnant notion, and one that is antithetical to role playing.

What about in game choices? Is it not a meaningful choice to choose to save the princess or not? Or to believe the begger giving you a rumor rather then throwing it away as a lie? Why must Power A or Power B be necessarily a 'meaningful choice' while others are not?

I agree that race and class are the base of the 'meaningful choices' that you get in Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the idea that more then simply that is needed. However, what those things that are needed is something that I'd dispute.

You see, the beauty of the older editions (0e, 1e, 2e etc) is that they didn't offer too many mechanical choices beyond the basics. The player would make choices based on the present action of the game, not based off of the idea of 'character build' (I shiver at the mention). Should my fighter jump up on the table to get a better vantage point? What if I cut the cord to the chandelier, and have it fall on top of my foes? What if I try to bargain with my enemies (and I don't mean some BS skill roll either)? What if I betray my employer at the last minute, or if I strike and alliance with the orc band?

Conversely, it seems that 'meaningful choices' in later editions boils down to: What feat should I get? What about power? Prestige class/Paragon Path? What mechanics should I use?

Now, I'm not suggesting that the meaningful choices as I see them are impossible to be addressed in modern games. That would be deceptive. However, it would be equally (if not more) deceptive the suggest that the focus of later editions are on such meaningful choices that involve the present action of the game (chess board battle tactics aside) rather then the "build" of a character. (By the way, characters are not built - they are developed - and that is a topic for another post)

Don't believe me? Ok, I'll give you a rundown.
When I speak with my friends who enjoy Fourth Edition about said edition, what are the topics of the conversation? It's about feats, about power combinations and other mechanics. What conversations, oh non-believer, do  you have when discussing 4e with friends? What about the WotC boards? The conversations mostly come down to, once again, mechanics.

I'm not saying mechanics is all that bad of a topic. Hell, mechanics get talked about a bit with older editions as well. However, the overwhelming focus of conversation regarding 3e/4e are on mechanics. This is not so with older editions. 

Greyhawk family session 2

So, last Friday we had another session of my Greyhawk game. Most of the time, of course, was spent in the dungeon.

The group managed to avoid holding on to coin that would eventually drive them mad, fight some orcs and see their first PC die.

Now, I'm not a killer DM. Hell, I don't always get that much of a pleasure from killing PCs. This is not because I have a problem with the PC killing in and of itself (I don't kill PCs. If it's not bad luck, then it's the PC's own actions that get him/her there), its that I dislike the whining that may follow. My main group knows not to do this, and to expect death to be fairly final (except with raise dead), but this campaign is primarily made up of my younger brother's friends.

This is not to say that they are all bad in any way. Hell, it's not even that some of them are newbies! The one guy who hadn't played before EVER was one of the better role players of the group. However, among those who had played before, I could see that they much more used to a player safe game: Third Edition and Fourth Edition.

Well, it's gonna be a learning experience for them.

So, for the lack of posts

The last week or two since I've started this blog has been a bit hectic, so I haven't been able to post much. I probably wont be able to post reliably again until the end of the week, as my work will keep me from doing so.

Now, those who know me over the net know that my work allows me a lot of leeway regarding internet activity and downtime... the problem is, my work PC filters pages, making it impossible to update from work. Had this not been the case, many more posts would be posted by now.

Keep tuned. This blog wont die so quickly.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Finally, a reader! And, Hoberton as well.

So, I knew that having a link to my blog in my signature (on various forums) would be bound to attract someone to read.

So, Havard suggests that I talk about campaigns settings. Wonderful, and so I shall!

Now, I just started running a First Edition campaign with my younger brother, a few of his friends and a few of mine last night. I started them out in a small town of my own creation in the world of Greyhawk.

The town of Hoberton was built within the last half century by simple farmers somewhere near the boarder of Keoland and the Yeomanry. The farmers lived in relative peace for a while until their livestock began to disappear. It was a slow thing at first, but grew oppressive over time. It became clear that a tribe of orcs and other creatures were the cause of this as the attacks grew more bold. Eventually, even the outlaying farms of the area have been attacked in full.

Unknown to most of the townsmen (except the local Tavern Keeper, a former adventurer himself), just ten miles north of their little village are the ruins of a small castle built abandoned for the better part of the last five centuries.

After the Rain of Colorless fire, the Suloise people escaped east into the Flanaess. One of the first strongholds they built was just north of the modern day town of Hoberton. For reasons unknown, the keep was abandoned and left to rot.

Humanoids began to take refuge in the ruins of the keep, seeking a safe shelter from the dangers of nearby civilization. To keep hidden, they began to construct a series of tunnels beneath the keep in hope of deterring adventurers.

Little do the humanoids know that the Suloise people who built the keep left more of their magic behind then they took with them.

So, this is where the PC's come in to play. There are rumors of the ruins, and of great treasure to be found among them. What harm could a little exploration do?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Some input.

So, there are a numerous amount of subjects in my head - though I often lack the ability to grasp at them and yank them out as well and as swiftly as I would like. I have my own gaming events, and other things to I could write about (and will), but I'd like some ideas.

Now, I'm sure as I write this I have yet to gain reader #1 - more out of lack of advertising this blog then anything. In any case, when you do read this blog and get to this post, I'd like to hear some input. Maybe you have a question that I could devote a post to? Maybe you have a subject? If I'm lucky, you'll give me something that I have not thought of first.

Of course, I'd like to limit these types of questions to that of gaming - and possibly literature. Just leave them in the comment section, and give me your best!

Planning Ahead

So, tonight at my job I was drawing up a map. (I have the fortunate luxury of being able to do such things on my job) This map was to a dungeon that I was going to run my younger brother through (age 18) for his first game of Dungeons and Dragons, using the first edition of the Advanced rules set. Also joining the game will be one of his friends, one of mine that I haven't seen in a while, and possibly a few others.

I originally had wanted to use the Moldvay basic rules, both out of its simplicity and out of a desire to tread untested waters for me. However, as I have four Players Handbooks for First Edition, as well as my friend having three of his own, I decided to go the more practical route and go with that edition. I thought it would be good for everyone in the group, new to First Edition (except my friend), to be able to hold the book in their hands. They could experience the texture of the binding, of the pages, the sweet-dusky smell of the pages and see the gritty art. Such things are draws to me, making the game not so much a collection of rules but a living, vibrant thing.

As for the game's content, I plan for the group to begin in a small town in one of the many empty hexes of the Flannaes. Perhaps I'd use the old, tired and true, tavern opening. After all, it will be my brother's first game. Who would I be to deny him that most iconic of beginnings?

I plan to put a few adventure hooks here and there. Perhaps there would be bandits outside the town limits. Maybe there would be a small den of goblins to the north. Maybe there's a mad hermit, giving dire fortunetelling's to those who seek him out? Of course, there will be the ruins of a long lost civilization, buried in the woods, and beneath them would be a much newer construction - one built by monsters and evil spirits. That, my friends, is where the dungeon comes in.

To construct the dungeon, I've stuck to the tried and true "Random Dungeon Generator" in the appendices of the Dungeon Master's Guide. Now, I don't use the randomness full scale. I take what makes sense out of my rolls, and whatever else I want to do.

In any case, the game is scheduled this Friday, and I still have a lot to do. Need to fill the rooms, monsters, treasure, dressing etc...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

So, what am I up to?

Well, first of all, my group's main two games have been put on hold for a bit. This is because some of the members have been busy/absent a few weeks in a row. So, to counter act this, I've decided to run The Keep on the Boarder Land, by Gary Gygax.

For those who don't know (and I'm sure all of you do), keep on KotB was a module first produced for the Holmes, and later, the Moldvay basic set around the late 70's and early 80's. Since it's induction, this module has become a classic among gamers.

Now, I've never really run too many modules in the past, although I've wanted to run some here and there. It is partly because of this that I decided to run KotB - being that it is the quintessential 'starter' module.

To accommodate the lack of party members (we only ever managed to get three player's at a time) I've allowed the players to make two characters each - as well as buy off as many henchmen as they could afford. I'm sure a skilled party could make it through the module with fewer members, but that would require a certain skill that my players lack. (This is not to say that my players a 'bad' - they're quite good role players - it's just they are accustomed to later editions of D&D where a role of the dice could replace such skill).

Now, before I go on, I'll need to explain that we are using the first edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons to play. I know that is not the system that is most directly tied to the module (Holmes or Moldvay), but it serves my purpose as I have surplus of player's handbooks - rather than the one booklet. Also, I'm setting my game in Oerth, and placing the keep near the boarder of Iuz - to explain all the evil of the caves.

In any case, the game started off with the six characters making it to the keep, and exploring the area only a little (to my frustration) before going off towards the caves. They made their way to area D, and went to a total of but a few rooms (room 17) and proceeded to put the goblins to sleep via the spell, sleep.

On the way back to the keep, the party encountered a bear on the road, and hid from it. When it came closer, the other mage in the party (there were two) decided to jump out of the bushes and also use his sleep spell. Unfortunately for him, the bear was immune as it's HD was too high. The bear proceeded to attack him, roll an 18, and get the mage into a hug. This killed him almost instantly.

The others in the party flew from the encounter back towards the keep.

More has happened since then, but I think I'll save it for another post.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What is a "Neo-Grognard" anyway?

So, for my second post, I'd like to explain a bit about the idea of a Neo-Grognard.

Essentially, in the most simple of terms, it means someone who started out with newer or more recent versions of RPG games, namely Dungeons and Dragons. For me, I started out with third edition (3.0 to be exact), and moved on all the way through a significant portion of the fourth edition.

However, after a while of DMing 4th edition, I became increasingly less satisfied with the game as a whole. Now, I don't mean to say that 4th edition is necessarily a bad game. It just happened to be not of my taste. There was too much unneeded symmetry between classes, the mechanics babied the PCs too much for my taste, and some of the mechanics just seemed to lack any sense beyond the need to "balance" things.

So, what did I do? Well, I decided I'd get a the roots of my Dungeons and Dragons obsession and see where the game came from. The main spark from this was through reading online blogs such as Grognardia and the forums of Dragonsfoot.

So, slowly in the early summer of 2009, I started ordering via Amazon and EBay the core books for both the first and second editions of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. After reading through the core books, and further blogs and forums, my taste for the game grew. As this happened my collection expanded much farther then my original intentions called for, until I had a regular stock pile of game supplies. Eventually I would posses not only a large amount of resources for the AD&D editions, but also content from more TSR editions. I currently have access to play every notable version of Dungeons and Dragons published under TSR. This includes OD&D (I got this and Greyhawk off of EBay for just over $50!), Holmes basic, B/X, Mentzer all the way up to Masters, Rules Cyclopedia, and both editions of AD&D. (I don't count many of the challenger sets in the 90's as being notable as they are more or less derivative of the RC)

To this day, I currently run a more than year long campaign with Second Edition AD&D - as well as occasionally dipping into the first edition and OD&D, and must say I am quite pleased.

So... Now that I have some time.

Well, not true exactly... I've had time to do this before. I'm a college kid working and trying to go to school, etc etc... however, I do find much of my actual free time (most of my time, funny enough) is spent sleeping, lurking Dragonsfoot (and occasionally posting under the name Rumek of Thorn), and gaming with friends. However, due to my new job (which, for various reasons I will not go into, however it does allow me to spend a considerable amount of time sitting around on the internet) I think I'll have plenty of time and boredom to actually go into the great (un)known of blogging!

Well, as you may be able to tell from the fact that I'm calling this blog "The Neo Grognard" that I'll be focusing on RPG gaming, specifically TSR era versions of Dungeons and Dragons. That will not be the only focus, though, as I plan to talk on various subjects to my interest. These include, but are not limited to: writing, fiction/literature, comics, other games, movies, and general attitudes.

So, as an introductory post, I hope this has been informative. (Although, I suppose nobody will be reading this for a while, if at all) I hope to try and get a post a day going, although some days may be too busy to do such. We'll just have to see if this experiment pans out, though I have no doubt it will to some extent.