Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tables and charts in RPGs. How much is too much?



I was chatting with my friend Lee Langston after the gaming session at my FLGS last night. One of my current favorite RPGs (Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG) came up during the conversation. He mentioned that one of the things that he doesn’t like about the game is the thickness of the book. This is fair comment since the book is about two inches thick. I mean it is large. We are talking college mathematics textbook large. (I like it. It has a good feel in the hands.) Part of the reason for the thickness is the type of paper used for the pages. The book does not use the thin, glossy sheets that many RPG books use these days. It uses something closer to bond paper. It is thicker and coarser than many other publishers use. It is the kind of paper that TSR used back in the 1970's and 1980's. It also has the added effect of making the book lighter than it appears to be on the shelf.

I mentioned paper choice a major reason for the size. For example, The DCCRPG book is approximately 480 pages and about two inches thick. It is almost one and one-half times as thick as the Pathfinder RPG book which is approximately 575 pages. The Pathfinder book, when held, feels almost twice as heavy as the DCCRPG book. The difference is that DCCRPG uses more coarse paper and is printed in black & white, while the Pathfinder book is printed on glossy paper in full color. (The Pathfinder book also costs $10 more, but that is not really relevant.)

The other reason I mentioned is the spells section of the book. The spells, both Wizard and Cleric, take up about 175 of the 480 pages, or a little over 1/3, of the book. This seemed to be the root of Lee's displeasure with the game. I actually think it is quite cool. Most spells, with a handful of exceptions, take up at least a full page. Many take up two pages. Some, like Patron Bond and ESP, take up three pages. This is because each spell is fully detailed. There is a section on what it does. There is a section on how it manifests when cast. There is also a table of effects. It is this table that takes up the most room. In DCCRPG a caster doesn't just succeed or fail at casting a spell. In the game magic is... well... magical. Magic is also dangerous. Spell casting is unpredictable. The better the caster succeeds on his/her casting roll, the better the spell effect he/she creates. (Note that this "success" is not necessarily healthy for the caster, or anyone else within range for that matter.) It is also possible to fail quite badly, creating unintended effects, when casting a spell also. There is a table for this which applies to any spell.(Failure can also negatively affect the rest of the party.)

So, casting a spell requires table look-ups. For Wizards (Cleric magic is slightly different), the process is to find the correct page for the spell, roll the spell check, and find the result. If you fail, does the spell just fail, or does it misfire? There is a section for this in each spell table. (There is also a generic misfire table for spells that don't specify their own.) Does the spell just misfire, or does it also cause corruption? There is a corruption section in each spell table. (There is also a set of three corruption tables for spells that don't specify their own.) So, if the caster fails badly at casting the spell there are up to two extra rolls that need to be made to determine the outcome of the casting action. This sounds like quite a bit, but it is actually quite fast at the table, as long as the player has the book open to the correct page before his/her turn comes around. I like it. Lee didn't.

So, that overly long prelude has established the scene and brought me to the topic that I want to ponder. What do tables and charts in a role-playing game bring to the table? (No pun intended.) Do tables and charts help the game move, or do they slow the game down? Many modern games eschew lots of tables and charts. Rather many attempt to replace this material with easy mechanics which are a roll plus a skill or an attribute. Take Savage Worlds for example. When a caster wants to use the Bolt power he/she spends a number of Power Points for the spell, rolls the casting check, and on success uses the number of spent Power Points to determine the magnitude of the success (i.e. how much damage to deal). On failure the Power Points are lost. It is then up to the player or GM to describe the effect in story terms.

That is the big difference. The spell table has a set of canned effects which can be fun to read and provide a set game effect which can be embellished to the player's, or the Judge's (DCCRPG renames the GM to the Judge), liking. In the Savage Worlds example any non-mechanical effect is left completely up to the people at the table, so the descriptions will be hit-or-miss depending on how creative those players, or the GM, are feeling that day.

I realize that no single RPG is for everyone. If that was true the industry would never have grown beyond Zero Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Both methods have their place, with tables and charts tending to be a more "Old School Renaissance" sort of mechanic. I enjoy both. I like many of the modern RPGs which have been released in the last decade. I also like OSR D&D-like games. I play, and enjoy, Pathfinder. Heck I will even state, for the record, that I have played Rolemaster in the past, enjoyed it, and am quite willing to play it again. (I am even thinking about picking up the new edition when it comes out.) Maybe it just comes down to personal preference and mood?

Oh, and speaking of Rolemaster. Those of you who have never played it should get the PDF of the main book from RPGNow.com, or try and find it at a used games store. It shows just how far a game can go with charts and tables. (Many grognards like to affectionately call it "ChartMaster.")

At the end I am left wondering how much table is too much. There are games that have few to no tables. There are games that rely heavily on them. It occurs to me that it is also going to depend on setting and what the game is trying to accomplish. In RPGs system affects mood and setting. This is why universal role-playing systems are hard to get right. The game mechanics can either enhance the experience at the table, or detract from it. It is my opinion that the tables in DCCRPG, especially the spell tables, are an enhancement. They help to provide that "old school," gonzo, 1970's feel that the game designers were trying to evoke. I find them to also be quite fun during play.

So, these are just my gaming thoughts. What do you, dear readers, think? What are your opinions on the use of tables in RPG books? Do they work well? In which games do they work? Are there games that should remove them? How much chart is too much chart?

Friday, March 16, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #13

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #13: Who's the best GM/storyteller/party leader you've ever had? What
made him/her so great?

The best GM I have ever played with is Harley Stroh. I was in a game with him at a convention where he ran the whole game off the cuff. That's right folks, he improvised the whole four hour slot. It was the most amazing game I have ever played.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #12

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #12: Do prefer collaborative or competitive games? What do you think that
says about you?

I prefer collaborative games. I guess that says that I am not a very competitive person. I like to work with people and share in success. It is less fun to win at the cost of someone else having to lose. That is probably why I prefer games like Arkham Horror from Fantasy Flight Games. It is one where the players all must work together in order to survive and stop a Great Old One from returning.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

[Savage Worlds] In which I volunteer

This is really a two part-er.

First off, I recently ran my very first game of Savage Worlds! It was so much fun. My players even seemed to like it. It was Tuesday February, 28. I ran The Wild Hunt (the Free RPG Day 2011 adventure). I used the paper miniatures and the pre-generated characters. The game ran smoothly. There were a couple of times that I made mistakes with the rules, but on the whole I did them justice. SW really is a great game to GM. Prep for the adventure was easy and running was great. Now I need to try writing up my own adventures to see just how fast the full GM prep experience is.

Now for the second thing. I volunteered to coordinate the monthly SW games at my closest FLGS. I was already doing it to an extent by asking every month "Hey, who is running this month," so I decided to do it in a slightly more official capacity, since no one else was and since we are getting enough players for two tables at the events. It shouldn't be an onerous task and it is a good opportunity to help grow the SW community in Denver.

Yay for me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #11

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #11: Have you ever played a character that was morally gray, or actually
evil? Why or why not? If yes, did you enjoy it?

Yes, yes, and more yes. I like playing morally gray and evil characters, although I don't play evil all that often. These types of character are fun. It is great to get out of the "I am a selfless hero" mold and I don't like playing Dudley Do-Right very often.

To understand you need to think about comic book characters. Who do you like better Batman or Superman? I really like Batman. He is my favorite comic book character. He is interesting. He is nuanced. He is not a Boy Scout like Superman. I am not a fan of the Man of Steel.

Truly good and truly evil characters are hard to play. Morally gray characters mimic real life and are comfortable and easy to play. There is usually a touch of gray to the characters I make when I can get away with it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #10

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #10: Have you ever played a character originally from a book/TV/movie?
How did the character change from the original as you played? If not, who would you most like to
play?


I admit that I am not a huge fan of playing characters from other sources like movies, books, etc. I have played characters that are modeled after famous characters, but never actually played one. I am not sure that I could play such a character appropriately.


That being said, if I were going to play any famous character I would play Harry Dresden or Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

[GenghisCon XXXIII] My Savage Genghis

How do I condense thirty-six hours of gaming into one single blog post? I am not sure if I can do so in a way that does justice to the sheer awesomeness of the weekend. Twenty-eight of those hours were spent playing Savage Worlds. I loved it!

I played:
-Slipstream
-Deadlands
-Ravaged Earth
-Realms of Cthulhu
-Clint Black's Horrors of War
-RunePunk
-Necessary Evil

Every game was unique and very fun. The GMs were awesome. I got to meet some great people like Clint Black of Pinnacle Entertainment, Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games, and Sean Preston of Reality Blurs. They are all three amazing guys. The Rocky Mountain Savages are also awesome. The Savage Worlds players in the Denver area are some of the best roleplayers I have ever known.

It was LEGENDARY!

I can't wait until Tacticon in September.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #9

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #9: Have you ever played a character of the opposite sex. Why or why not?
If yes, how did the other players react?

Yes. I have done it at conventions and once at a Pathfinder Society game when I was playing a pregenerated character. I may have done it once or twice in home games, but can't recall any instances.

I admit that I am not a big fan of playing the opposite sex at the gaming table. Most of the time I see guys trying (and usually failing) to play female characters. (I rarely see females playing males.) The reason why I say trying and failing is that most of the time when a male tries to play a female the character ends up being a caricature of the female gender. It has been my experience that male roleplayers who like playing female characters do so not because it fits the character, but because they want to bring adolescent sexual stereotypes into the game.

There are some players who are successful at playing the opposite sex. I have seen people do it well. They are in the minority, however. This is one of those areas where I feel that doing it well is important. If you can't play the opposite gender appropriately don't play it at all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #8

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #8: What's the one gaming accessory (lucky dice, soundtrack, etc.) you just
can't do without? Why?

I don't have any specific totems which I must have at the gaming table. I need books, dice, pencils, pens, paper, printouts of character sheets, and friends. But those are always going to be there and are necessary for the game to happen, but there aren't any special ones which I need.

I guess I am just not very superstitious.

I do prefer mechanical pencils to the standard #2 wooden pencil, but the reason is because it is inconvenient to have to sharpen pencils all the time. I also like to carry loose-leaf notebook paper with me, or a spiral notebook. It is handy to have paper for making notes during the game or for blue-noting the GM.

I want to mention something that I like to keep away from the table.

I don't like using electronics at the table. I like paper character sheets and hard-copy books. I only use real polyhedral dice. I find electronic gizmos to be way too distracting from the game for most people who use them, myself included. They get in the way of the game rather than enhance it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #7

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #7: How do you pick names for your characters?


I always want something evocative. Something that sums up the character's personality in one or two words for me. For human characters I usually try for something period-sounding and a little unusual. For non-human characters I now tend to use Internet name generators for the species in question.


This is perhaps the most boring question so far. I almost wish I had a longer answer...

[GenghisCon XXXIII] I will spare you the overused Shatner line

T-minus five days and counting until GenghisCon XXXIII starts. That's right kiddies, it is almost time to pack the bags and warm up the dice for 36 hours (9 - 4 hour slots) of almost non-stop roleplaying. Caffeine and sleep deprivation here I come. W00t!

This will be the fourth Denver gaming convention which I have attended, and I love them more and more each time I attend one. These are not the first Cons which I have ever attended. There were a few small Cons in college. But Genghis is the largest. (No, I have not yet been to the RPG promised land of GenCon, Indy. Which is sad for me. I will go some year. I promise.)

This time I am doing things a bit differently. Normally I would be playing more than a little bit of Pathfinder RPG. Not this time. Since I want to start saving PF for my every Wednesday night game (I will run out of things to play if I don't), I have avoided signing up for any PF slots. This means I am going to miss the specially written Venture-Captain special being prepared by JP Chapleau (http://chapleau.us/), who is the Pathfinder Society Venture-Captain for Colorado. I am a bit bummed about this because it is a one-shot which will not be repeated, but I have made arrangements which I cannot change (playtesting DCCRPG with the DCC Expendables FTW). In place of PF, I have signed up for 2 sessions of DCCRPG (one being the private Expendables game), and 7 (Yes. Count 'em. Seven.) sessions of Savage Worlds. It is going to be (as Barney Stinson from "How I Met Your Mother" says), wait for it, LEGENDARY. I can't wait. It is going to be so cool.

I have to add in one more piece of ultra-coolness. I am in 3 slots which are hosted by special guests. I am in two slots run by Sean Preston from Reality Blurs (http://realityblurs.com/) and one run by Clint Black from Pinnacle Entertainment. Like I said before LEGEND-wait for it-DARY. That is right! I am playing in two games run by the guy that wrote Realms of Cthulhu and Agents of Oblivion.

Twenty-eight hours of Savage Worlds. RunePunk, Slipstream, Realms of Cthulhu (run by Sean Preston), Deadlands, and more.

Thursday can't get here fast enough.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #6 - Part 2

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #6: Describe your all-time favorite character to play. What was it about
him/her/it that you enjoyed so much?

This question begs for a long and descriptive answer, so it will be presented in two parts.

In part one I described the first adventure of Gareth the one-handed thief. This was the adventure in which he lost his hand. Go read it at: http://dougkeester.blogspot.com/2012/02/reverb-gamers-2012-master-list-question_08.html.

Here is part two.

After that first rollicking adventure with Gareth had ended, I was chatting with the GM (an amazingly cool guy named Harley Stroh who writes and edits for Goodman Games). He was going to be running another playtest session later that day and said that I should play Gareth again. I readily agreed.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

When I sat down at the table for that session I was told that Gareth would be the focus of the adventure. It took place a few years after the events of the previous game. He had been given a task to take the big book of evilness, which he had acquired in the first adventure, to a specific location called "The Black Gate" on some remote island. So, the game started with me hiring the rest of the group to take me and the book to said gate on said island.

When we arrived at the island all hell broke loose. We got attacked by natives almost right off the boat. While we were fighting them the island was actively trying to swallow the book. Gareth had managed to activate some sort of charm which caused several vines to come to life. They grabbed the book and started to drag it into a chasm which was opening up on the island. As soon as he was able, Gareth jumped off the cliff after the book. Amazingly he didn't die. Nor did he die when the vines took the book into the stronghold of some giants at the bottom of the chasm. Fighting giants is not a hobby which I would suggest any adventurer take up, especially in a game as deadly as DCCRPG. However, Gareth managed to survive. He really shouldn't have.

I played Gareth like a driven maniac in the second adventure. He was obsessed with the book and was going to stop at nothing to get it back and complete his quest.

If only the rest of the party hadn't stopped him. At the end the party escaped from the giants with the book through a bit of guile, a bit of luck, judicious use of swords and other weapons, and finally a huge teleportation spell. The spell took us to the gate. Whereupon the party had fulfilled its contract and hastily captured Gareth and the book before he could use the book on the gate and bring forth the Armageddon.

The first session was huge fun, but the second session was the most amazing four hours of roleplaying in which I have ever participated. The vibe at the table was awesome. It was part theater and part group storytelling. I got into Gareth more deeply than I have ever gotten into any character before. The story took on a life of its own as we played it. It was simply wonderful.

In the end you might say it was the story, not the character that made the experience memorable. I will counter that the story and that character are inextricably linked. I relive that story through Gareth's eyes, not the eyes of a gamer roleplaying a PC. He came alive for me. He and the story live in my mind almost as if I had lived the events myself.

Here is my write-up for the adventures on Goodman's forums. The thread includes write-ups from other players who were at the table. http://www.goodman-games.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=7900

I hope that every gamer has an experience that deep and that personal at least once in their gaming career. I know that I am going to try to have another one like it.

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #6 - Part 1

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #6: Describe your all-time favorite character to play. What was it about
him/her/it that you enjoyed so much?

This question begs for a long and descriptive answer, so it will be presented in two parts. Here is part one.

Hands down my all-time favorite is also the one I remember the best. That would be Gareth the one-handed Thief. I played him in two playtest adventures for Goodman Games' DCC RPG (http://www.goodman-games.com/dccrpg.html) at a local Con (GenghisCon). He was a blast to play. First off, he was Chaotic Evil. Anything in the Evil alignment category can be difficult to play. You can't just be a bastardly prick to everyone and call your character evil. You have to be self centered to, or past, the point of being self obsessed. You have to be willing to sacrifice anything, even the other PCs to get what you want. You need to be willing to use and abuse all of the characters in the game to achieve your goals.

Playing an evil character is a signal to the GM that you intend to make the game be all about you.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can make for some great stories. (In this case it did, and quite well in fact.) It can also really destroy a gaming session, or even a gaming group. DCCRPG encourages colorful characters. The description of the game from Goodman himself starts off with the line: "You're no hero." Gareth was colorful and fun to play. He was motivated by profit, personal profit. Thus, he followed a group of adventurers into a ruined temple to a dark, elder god. His hope was to use them to clear out any traps and monsters without revealing himself, but that plan quickly changed when the adventurers encountered a bunch of animated skeletons. He realized that there is definitely safety in numbers. Things didn't really get interesting for Gareth until he found the book. It was some sort of evil tome which the followers of said dark, elder god used in their rituals. It also happened to have a gilded cover which was jewel encrusted. After meeting some deformed and homicidal crusaders that had been living in the ruined temple for a century (they had sacked the temple in order to destroy this dark god and had become trapped) he decided to open the book. That didn't go well. The book retaliated and tried to suck Gareth into a dark abyss. Obviously that was not going to save him (and the other adventurers if necessary) from the homicidal cultists. The group eventually achieved its goal, to get the three jewels which were fabled to be in the depths of the ruins, but the crusaders weren't going to let them out alive. (Retrieving the jewels is how Gareth lost most of his left hand and became the one-handed thief.)

The highlight of the adventure, however, was the end battle. It was 24 cultists against 4 adventurers. 6-on-1 might be doable (probably not) in a system like Pathfinder, but is definitely not doable in a deadly system like DCCRPG. Seeing that he was probably going to die, and seeing no other way out, Gareth used what Lisa Simpson on The Simpsons called  "The last refuge of a scoundrel." For the first time in his life he prayed. However, he prayed not to the god of the monstrous crusaders. No. He prayed to the dark, elder god of the temple. A god that had been all but forgotten, without followers for a century. Using the powers of this evil deity he was able to vanquish the leader of the crusaders which allowed the rest of the adventurers to kill his followers. Thus was the group able to escape the ruins and profit from the adventure.

That was an amazingly fun and awesome adventure and Gareth turned out to be a very worthwhile PC. However, that was just part one.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #5

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #5: Have you ever introduced a child to gaming, or played a game with a
young person? How is gaming with kids different than gaming with adults?


I often end up gaming with teenagers when I play Pathfinder Society. Does that count? Didn't think so. I really don't game with kids all that often and I have no kids of my own, so this is not a good question for me.

I will say that the times when I have been at the table with children have been fun. They seem to be a bit more free with their imaginations. I will say that it does require adults at the table to "tone it down" with certain things. Some jokes and character concepts are considered inappropriate for kids, especially in this day and age. So, those should be avoided lest the parent sitting next to the kid at the gaming table get angry. It is important to keep things civil and PG or G rated. Other than watching what is said and acted out at the table, kids are fun to game with.

Monday, February 6, 2012

[General RPG] Reviewing the Reviewer

It turns out that there is good stuff on YouTube. Who knew?

Just kidding folks.

I recently found a guy who does some good reviews of RPGs. He was linked off of the Pinnacle Entertainment Group web site because he reviewed a Savage Worlds product. I found that he reviews many of them, as well as random other stuff.

I like his reviews. Please check him out. His name is Kurt Wiegel. His show is called "Game Geeks." There is an episode list at the show's website http://gamegeeksrpg.com/episodes.html.

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #4

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time

 REVERB GAMERS 2012, #4: Are you a "closet gamer?" Have you ever hidden the fact that you're a
gamer from your co-workers, friends, family, or significant other? Why or why not? How did they react
if they found out?

 I am out and proud of it! I have never seen a reason to hide it.

My parents and brother don't really understand. They always thought I would "grow out of it." (Even though they all love card games, some board games, and even some video games. Yes, my mom loves Nintendo games.) I never have "grown out of it," and hope I never do. When I was in college I surrounded myself with gamers. We were a "family of freaks" and prided ourselves in "scaring the straights." We were kooky, oddball outcasts and we reveled in it. We took pride in being weird and different.

I grew up playing games. They are something that have gone with me everywhere I go. They are a big part of my life. I even married a gamer girl. (Let me tell you, marrying a gamer is the ultimate win!)

I am sure that some people think I am strange. Not all of my coworkers share my hobby or understand it, but they don't seem taken aback by it. I get a strange look every so often. I do fall into the trap of sometimes having to explain that when I say "gamer" I don't mean "video gamer." It is nice that the prevalence of video games has made being a gamer more accepted. It seems that being a tabletop RPG gamer still has a bit of a stigma, however. Video games won't necessarily get you strange looks, but mentioning "D&D" can.

When it all comes down to it, I don't really care if people accept that about me or not. I am what I am, and I am not going to hide it. I love my hobby. I live my hobby. I love being a gamer. I am not going to be "in your face" about it, but I see no reason not to be outspoken about it either.

[Magic: The Gathering] Mmmmm... New Card Smell...

When I was in college I was part of a large group of gamers, The "Chess and Games Club." There were like 30-40 of us active in the group at any given time. This was in the late 1990's. White Wolf was huge and so was this little card game called Magic.

To give avid M:tG players an idea, I started playing with Fifth Edition.

After graduating I didn't play much until I moved to Colorado. My friends and I played a bit with some of the new sets. like "Champions of Kamigawa." Then I stopped playing. I promised myself that I wouldn't play anymore. I thought that I had better things to do with my money... like buying more RPGs.

I really enjoyed the game, but was giving up the "paper crack" (as some people call it). I was even successful for several years.

Then a new guy started at work. We went out to lunch a couple of times last week. On one occasion, we had wings at this really great local wing shop. During that outing I found out that he is a competitive Magic player. We talked in-depth about Magic; strategies, how it has changed over the years, cards that we thought were cool, etc.

That was Wednesday...

On Friday I bought some cards...

Magic: the Gathering is an addiction that will never die. This is both a positive and a negative. It is positive because the game is fun. It is a social activity that requires getting out of the house. This makes it a good addiction to have. It is negative in that the cards can get expensive quickly and you can find yourself spending way too much to support yourself playing the game. Regardless, I can't believe how much I missed breaking open the booster packs and having my nostrils inundated with the smell of new cards. It was exciting flipping through the cards to see what coolness random fate had given me in my boosters.

I bought two "Intro Decks." In the old days we called them "Pre-constructed Decks." Each one came with a booster pack. I can't wait to play these decks. I might even try attending the "Friday Night Magic" events at my closest FLGS. I even downloaded the trial version of the current M:tG video game on my PS3. I am even planning on buying more cards.

The addiction is back. Laugh if you will. (I might if our positions were reversed, so I don't blame you.) I honestly thought I was done with this game, but I have been reminded just how much fun the game really is. I am going to enjoy it for all it is worth.

Monday, January 30, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #3

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #3: What kind of gamer are you? Rules Lawyer, Munchkin/Power Gamer, Lurker, Storyteller/Method Actor, or something else? (Search "types of gamer" for more ideas!) How does this affect the kinds of games you play? For example, maybe you prefer crunchy rules-heavy systems to more theatrical rules-light ones.

This one is a bit complicated to answer. I think the answer is "chameleon" gamer. I change my play style depending on the situation and the people at the table. I tend to be the "Storyteller/Method Actor" type most of the time. I like to really "get in to character" when I am roleplaying. If I am at a table of like-minded gamers I can really get into it. For example, I was playing in a playtest session for Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. My character was named Gareth, a Chaotic Evil Thief. I played him for two sessions. I really got into character and had a blast doing it. Most of the second session revolved around me and my maniac need to fulfill my dark god's will. It was awesome. Everyone at the table seemed to have a great time. However, when I am at a table of "Rules Lawyers" I tend to become a lawyer as well. I can also become the "Lurker" if I am overwhelmed by other "Storyteller/Method Actors" who are running away with the game.

I am not sure my play style really affects my choices in the games that I play. I tend to prefer rules-light systems, but I will happily play rules-heavy ones. I love playing Pathfinder, but I think my favorite system right now is Savage Worlds. SW is a fairly simple system, but it has a satisfying amount of crunch. PFRPG is a rules-heavy system. I have played Rolemaster before and enjoyed it. I also had fun with Amber Diceless Roleplaying. Fudge was also good fun, as was HERO. Before getting involved with Pathfinder I never thought I would want to learn another heavy system, and I had a hearty dislike for the system when I first started playing it (I was never a fan of D&D 3.x). I merely tolerated it in order to participate in the Pathfinder Society. However, it has grown on me over time. Now, I am a fan of the system. I would say that when it comes to games, I am an eclectic gamer.

[D&DNext/5e] The Mid-Life Crisis Edition

Now that it is 2012 it must be time for a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Apparently that is what WotC decided, anyway. I won't call D&D 4e an abysmal failure, but it seems that if WotC is dumping it after only one term in office (so to speak) there must be something wrong.

I make no secret that I don't like 4e. Don't get me wrong it is a fabulous game. Solid and well designed with tons of good ideas. It just isn't D&D to me. That is not the whole story of my dislike, but that is my biggest hangup. As someone who once-upon-a-time played World of Warcraft, I find that it has a definite "MMO-like" feel to it. I also don't like the focus on tactical combat and the way the battlemat is handled. (No, I don't like square fireballs. Had they used hexes rather than squares I would not have an issue.) Lots of people like the game. I have several friends that play and love it. It is just not my game. If you like it and want to play it, good. Please do so. Just don't flame me for criticizing your game. I don't have to like it. There is no reason to get "Internet Mad" about it.

... Sorry, I got defensive there for a second.... Right, nothing to see here. Let's move along, shall we.

It does surprise me that 4e didn't last longer. I have heard that the game isn't selling, but that is only anecdotal. I have seen no sales figures to back it up. So, I am not sure why WotC is scrapping it after only four years. It still surprises me that they are. After all, each of the other editions had a much longer shelf life. This indicates a problem in the profit department. Perhaps sales were flagging, perhaps players were leaving. I don't think WotC is going to say and I suppose ultimately it doesn't matter. They have announced the next edition. They are moving on, and so should we.

Will this be, to paraphrase Tolkien, "one edition to rule them all" as WotC says they are trying to make? Frankly, I hope so. I hope they succeed in their design goals, because that sounds like a cool game. One that I would love to play.

It also sounds like D&D is having a mid-life crisis. The design team wants to unify the players of all previous editions into one player-base. In order to do this the team played each edition of D&D in order to find the best parts of each edition and to find the commonalities between all of them. Basically they wanted to find the "core of D&D". This could be considered to be analogous to a person reaching middle-age and looking back at their youth, and then trying to recapture it. This might sound like a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be. I want D&D to get its 'mojo' back. (If indeed it ever lost it to begin with.)

I like the modular approach they are taking. I like that they are focusing on Player/DM interactions, i.e. roleplaying before dice rolls. I like that they are keeping the classic "Vancian" (memorize-fire-forget) magic system, but are also going to include ritual magic and other magical systems. I like that the battlemat is going to be an optional rules module; that what they are calling "theater of the mind" will be the default for combat. I definitely like that that they are focusing on PC Attribute scores; making them more important and deriving fewer things from them. E.g., saving throws are (at least in the playtests reported by Enworld.org) based directly off of the ability score modifiers.

I hope that WotC makes an edition which causes the Grognards to stop grumbling. It is a lofty goal. It will be difficult to achieve. I wish the design team success in this endeavor.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #2

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #2: What is it about gaming that you enjoy the most? Why do you game? Is
it the adrenaline rush, the social aspect, or something else?

There are a multitude of reasons why I game. The social aspect is important, but I am not sure if it is most important. However if it is not number one, it is definitely in the top five. I am most comfortable around other gamers. They understand my humor. We share a similar world view. Gamers tend to be outsiders. It is with other gamers that I feel most accepted and most welcome, like the gaming table is my place in the world.

The social aspect is not the only reason why I game. I like the shared fantasy. I like to use my imagination. Roleplaying stimulates my imagination. There is also an escapist component, but I am not necessarily escaping my normal life so much as flying to a different plane of existence for a while. I can be something much greater and more important for those few hours at the table. I like my life, but I still like to play 'make believe.' Gaming allows me to be anyone or anything.

I guess if I were pressed hard to choose one reason to be my number one it would be that gaming is my favorite idea of fun. I like to read gaming books. I like to play the characters. I like to GM for others. It is the most enjoyable pastime that I have ever found and the one that has been a part of my life the longest. It is not an adrenaline rush, it is an endorphin rush. The social and escapist aspects come into this, but this one also stands on its own like those other reasons. It is fun pure and simple.

Friday, January 27, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #1

One of the people in the local Savage Worlds community, Ron Blessing (http://ronblessing.blogspot.com/), is answering these on his blog. It looks like fun, so I am giving it a try. As as aside, Ron is a very cool guy and is amazingly fun to game with. He also podcasts. Check out http://thegamesthething.com/ and http://podcast.smilingjacksbarandgrill.com/. They are both excellent.

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #1: What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it?
How did that introduction shape the gamer you've become?

My first roleplaying experience was the Frank Mentzer Red Box, also known as the Dungeons and Dragons Revised Basic Rules Set 1. (This is the box that WotC reused for the 4e Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set. Alas, my childhood has been stolen.) I played the game with my friend and next door neighbor Jason and his older brother Justin. Justin was the DM. They had received the game as a birthday present or something like that.

I don't remember the details of that first adventure, but I remember being fascinated and thrilled by the game. It really fired my imagination. I was hooked from the very first hit and thus was a gamer born. That is the biggest way that I was shaped by this introduction. There are other effects as well. The one that I am most aware of is my choices in RPGs. Fantasy gaming has always been my go-to genre. I like all sorts of RPGs but Fantasy RPGs are my bread-and-butter. When I think of roleplaying the first things I think of are swords, spells, castles, dungeons, and wandering monsters. These are the games that I gravitate towards. Another effect is that I tend to prefer the inclusion of different dice types. RPGs which only feature one die type are less interesting to me. I will still play and enjoy them, but always with the tiniest of hints of disappointment.

[PFRPG] In Which Driders Fly and Drow Warriors Die


Wednesday nights are PFS (Pathfinder Society - http://paizo.com/pathfinderSociety) night for me at my closest FLGS. I originally started playing PFRPG (The Pathfinder RPG) in 2010. My home group was having problems keeping a game going and I wanted to expand my circle of gamer friends. I realized right away that if I wanted to find a group in the area I would have to choose a game that is popular. As I understood the situation at the time, this left me with but a few choices. I figured my best choices were Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition or the newly released Pathfinder RPG. I had played some D&D Third Edition previously but had no experience with the latest edition. At the time I was disenchanted with complex systems. I had been running Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games (http://www.trolllord.com/) for a couple of years and was really interested in simple and/or 'rules light' systems. Needless to say learning and playing either PFRPG or D&D 4e was a move in the opposite direction from which I wanted to go. I ended up choosing Pathfinder because after reading the Player's Handbook for 4e I decided that the newest edition was not my idea of Dungeons & Dragons.

I played PFRPG with one short-lived group that summer which was looking for new players for an introductory game. We broke up do to scheduling concerns and lack of players, but it was very fun while it lasted. I played a Rogue who ended up taking over the Thieves Guild in a small town. It was a blast. I hope that I can play with that group again someday.

After the breakup I started looking again to find a gaming group. I was having difficulty until I found out about Tacticon, a local gaming convention held in September. I looked at the booklet and found a ton of Pathfinder games listed. They were all for this thing called "Pathfinder Society Organized Play." I went to the Paizo website and signed up for the society as was requested by the blurbs in the Tacticon booklet. I then registered for a bunch of PFRPG slots at the Con. There was a slot of HERO System and a couple of slots of playtesting for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. However, the other six slots were dedicated to PFRPG. It was the people that hooked me first. The Pathfinder players here in the Denver area are a good lot. They are a large group of mature, kind, helpful, and welcoming gamers. (As I have said before Denver has a great gamer community.) I decided to join the group and keep playing.

Later, as I played more the setting really started to grow on me. Golarion is a very complete and well written setting. Paizo has done a good job. They are committed to producing high quality materials. I can't say this enough. Paizo puts out some really high quality products and they are very responsive to their customers. This is one of the reasons why I continue to buy their products. The game itself is an outgrowth of D&D 3.5 and the OGL. At first I didn't like the rules (3.x always struck me as way too 'crunchy'). However, the more I play the game, the more comfortable I become with them. Now that I have been playing PFRPG for over a year now, I am comfortable with them to the point that I might as well call myself a fan...

Hi, my name is Doug and I freely admit to being a fan of Paizo's Pathfinder RPG.

I have another not-so-dirty secret to divulge. I have even just recently started GMing PF. That is really the point of this blog. (If you are still reading at this point, you have my gratitude.)

Wednesday night was PF night and I was the GM. The scenario I ran was Pathfinder Society Scenario #32: Drow of the Darklands Pyramid (http://paizo.com/products/btpy89ke?Pathfinder-Society-Scenario-32-Drow-of-the-Darklands-Pyramid). This was my second time running a PFS scenario and my second time running PFRPG ever. Both sessions have been high-level games. I guess I am a bit nuts because at higher levels of play the stat blocks for the monsters take up half a page each in the scenarios and I am a newbie GM when it comes to PF. Suffice it to say this is not the recommended way to begin your GMing career with Pathfinder.

I thought the game went well, all things considered. I asked the players afterwards how I did and the comments were positive. Also, after one encounter I asked if I was making it tough enough. One player said, and I quote, "That encounter was a bitch." One of my main worries is making things too easy on the players. It is not that I want to harm the PCs or kill them outright. I am not a "Killer GM." However, I do want to make them work for success. I worry that I don't think tactically enough to run the monsters well and by doing that turn a challenging adventure into a cakewalk. Apparently I did a  decent job this time, which is a load off my mind. I continue to worry, however, that I am short-changing my players a bit. I want to give them a rewarding and fun experience.


The scenario itself is really fun. I played through it several months ago. Obviously there are Drow and a couple of Driders and a pyramid, but that is all the spoiler that I am going to give. I really enjoyed running it. Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to hand-wave the final two encounters, but those are the breaks when you are time constrained. Everyone had fun which is the important part, but I need to work on time management a bit. Also, I started the game late because one of my players couldn't make the start time. I would have started without him, but we needed him to make a legal table.


I am really enjoying this game both as a player and as a GM. Pathfinder is not an easy game to master either as a player or as a GM. (To give you an idea, the core book is about 576 pages long, with no setting material included. That's right kiddies, it is all rules.) I decided to take the plunge into GMing this game because I have a great group of gamer buddies and I want to play with them more often. Now that I have been playing a while (and because Paizo does not allow replay of scenarios for credit) I sometimes have difficulty finding games to play in because I have already played the scenario. Thus I have done the only thing I could, I volunteered to GM for the Society. Maybe this makes me strange, but I like it. The high level scenarios are a challenge to run. The game itself is a challenge to run. I have enjoyed my first two experiences. I am scheduled to run a scenario next Wednesday and one the Wednesday after.Those are going to be low level scenarios, however. 


I love my gaming lifestyle.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

[Savage Worlds] Tuesday Night at the Kerberos Club


The fourth Tuesday of every month there is a Savage Worlds game at my closest FLGS. Living in the Denver area is a great thing if you are a gamer. There are several gaming stores and a vibrant gaming community in the area. I am quite lucky to be a part of it. So, here is the plug for Denver. If you roll the bones, chances are you will like it here. Denver is very gamer friendly. The scenery is great to boot.

So, Tuesday... Savage Worlds... Yeah, I am on topic, really.

There were six players including me at the table. The game was The Kerberos Club, a setting for Savage Worlds produced by Arc Dream Publishing (http://tinyurl.com/78psyon). The Kerberos Club is a supers game set in Victorian London. This was a "slot zero" game for GenghisCon (http://denvergamers.org/) which is happening in February, so I won't be giving too many spoilers. My pregen character was named Adam Frost. Frost is an American who wields the powers of cold. I must say that this game was a wonderfully fun romp through an alternate history where the American Civil War still rages and Victorian Restraint is the rule of the day.

I find that I am quite captivated by the setting. It is an interesting twist on the superhero genre. Supers games like Champions or Mutants & Masterminds tend to be very modern or futuristic in their settings. Using a historical setting for Kerberos Club gives the game a feeling of strangeness or alien-ness which adds flavor to the game. Rather than a modern setting where super powers can come to be ordinary and conventional, the archaic setting makes the supers feel out of place. That is really how it should be. Superheroes are outside the norm, so they should feel different and apart from normal society. In Kerberos Club they do. If you are a Savage Worlds fan this is definitely a book worth picking up. If you are not a SW fan, I have to ask you a question. That question is 'why not?'

I have only been playing Savage Worlds for a few months, since September 2011 to be exact. Every time I play it I kick myself for not trying it a year or two sooner. It is boatloads of fun. (It helps that there is an active and passionate SW community here in the Denver area.) SW is a generic system published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group (http://www.peginc.com/). It is based on the Deadlands RPG and the Great Rail Wars miniatures game. SW is cinematic. It lends itself to dramatically heroic actions. It can do gritty action, but it doesn't seem to lend itself well to realism. I guess many might say that it is more 'narrativist' than 'simulationist.' This is not to say that the game is not tactical. It is tactical. There are rules for mass combats and rules for chase scenes. It uses miniatures. Combat does require some thought and planning. (I am learning that the "Gang Up" rule is quite important.) So, it is tactical. It is just not tactical and 'simulationist' to the extent that Pathfinder RPG or D&D 4e are. I tend to not worry too much about labels for games. I don't care that Savage Worlds is more narrative. I just find it to be huge amounts of fun with tons of interesting support materials, including lots of content from third party publishers (like Arc Dream).

Do yourself a favor. Check out The Kerberos Club and check out Savage Worlds. I can't wait for my next chance to play.