Monthly Archives: March 2010

RE: Tucker’s Kobolds

On the editorial page of Dragon magazine number 127, the then editor, Roger E. Moore wrote about what he called Tucker’s Kobolds. The complete text of the editorial, either legally or illegally can be found here. When I first read it in late 1987, it sparked the idea of what I called Castle Kobold. The idea behind the dungeon was simple, kobolds, swarms of kobolds, so many kobolds even a 12th level paladin would have trouble killing them all. Some were clever, most were not, but what ultimately gets the characters was not the cleverness of the kobolds, but rather the mathematics of the game. Even if the fighter on point has an Armor Class of -5, the kobolds still hit on a natural 20, which means if 20 kobolds fire crossbows at him, one is going to do 1d4+1 damage, an average of 3.5 point of damage every time he turns a corner, or enters a room. Even a 10th level fighter tended to have between 60 and 70 Hit Points, assuming better than average roll and a decent Constitution. The kobolds will probably kill him in 20 salvos, give or take.

Granted a well placed Fireball will easily clear a room of kobolds and a simple Shield spell goes a long way towards protecting the party. But what self respecting Magic User bothers to memorize a Shield spell and how many Fireballs does he have memorized. Besides that, the clever kobolds will figure out where the Fireballs are coming from and suddenly its not the fighter in glowing plate mail who is getting the salvos of crossbow bolts. The Magic User with 20-25 Hit Points will not last 20 salvos. The bottom line is, even the weak little kobold can be a bastard of an opponent if there are a lot of them, they are entrenched in thier environment and hell bent on defending it.

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator

Product Summery:
Name: The Random Esoteric Creature Generator
Publisher: Goodman Games
Author: James Edward Raggi IV
Line: First Edition
Cost: $12.99
Pages: 32
Webpage: http://www.goodman-games.com/4375preview.html

I find the author James Raggi, to be a bit pompous, however, he is an interesting blogger and writes some very good game material. This book is one of the few must have supplement books every GM needs in his toolbox. This book helps the GM design new monsters using an impressive array of random tables. The layout and appearance of the book is easy to read and understand. My first time through the book creating a new monster only took 15 minutes or so and I was pleased with the result.

[TABLE=2]

These rare and amazing turtles are awe inspiring to see even from a distance, often getting to be 25 feet long and have 6 legs. In combat, a sleipnir turtle will attack with its mighty jaw and pummel its opponent with 2 of its 6 legs. Aegir, Norse gawd of stormy seas is thought to use sleipnir turtles as his mounts . Seeing a sleipnir turtle is viewed by sailors as a harbinger of bad weather.

Now obviously I didn’t take my rolls at 100% face value, I fudged here and there, then shoe horned it into the HackMaster rule set, wrote some clever flavor text and as I said, in under 15 minutes I had a credible monster none of my players had ever seen and very possibly could have appeared in the Hacklopedia of Beasts. The results of the table are very much rooted in the tradition of old school games, but are generic enough that you can use the results with most any game. I highly recommend going out and buying this product or buying the PDF , it is well worth the price.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 4
Game Mechanic: 4
Setting: N/A
Overall: 4

Porn, RPG’s and Politics

I hate political shit storms in places political shit storms should not exist. In my last post, I linked to episode of ” I Hit It With My Axe”, which is a boring video of fully clothed porn stars playing D&D. Apparenty, Traditional Adventure Roleplaying Games Association ( TARGA) posted a link to this video on thier blog and this caused a few of their members to drop support for them. From what I understand, those who dropped support objected to having the organization associated with the porn industry. TARGA so far has stuck to their guns and refused to remove the link or disavow their relationship with Zak Smith.

I am very pleased TARGA has stood up for what is right against these idiots with thier self righteous 1950′s morality. As far as I am concerned these prudes need to be told to shut the fuck up. Frankly, TARGA is better off without them trying to censor content. These types of people rarely stop and expand thier list of offensive material fairly quickly. The best thing to do is let these morons go, and it seems this exactly what TARGA did, good for them.

Review: I Hit It With My Axe, Episode #1

Porn Stars and Strippers play D&D, go a head, go watch it, here is the link.

I Hit It With My Axe, Episode #1

Anyone who has been to a game convention and has attempted to watch an on going game they were not involved with, knows watching strangers play D&D is really boring. Go to a game convention and see what I mean, unless there is a celebrity playing the game, you will see no crowds around any tables. I love to play, I love to GM, I love to talk about it and I love to write about it, but watching other people play is boring.

Okay, I get it, porn stars and strippers play D&D, heh heh heh. Now go back and read my first paragraph. Had they done this show naked, it probably would have been mildly entertaining, but clothed, it looses much of the appeal of porn stars and strippers playing D&D. I have as much interest in fully clothed porn stars playing D&D as I have in fully clothed porn stars washing dishes, vacuuming the floor and watching TV, which is to say none at all.

Don’t get me wrong here, I do not think these peoples only worth is in getting naked and fucking on camera for the enjoyment of others, in fact it is the opposite.  I am sure these people have fun in their weekly game, I am sure if it were not fun, they would not do it. I am sure, if I made a video of one of my games, they would find it equally as boring. I enjoy reading Zak’s (the GM) Blog D&D With Porn Stars. He is an interesting, insightful blogger and everyone who has played D&D with him says he runs a kick ass game.

However, I think even Zak realised this first episode was lacking, he posted on his blog Notes on the First Episode, which he points out some things ended up on the cutting room floor and did some clarification, but tells us things will improve as the sessions progress. I am not holding out any high hopes here.

Ebooks and RPG’s

I was reading this thread over on Dragonsfoot concerning electronic books. What I found most interesting about it was the general dislike for ebooks, some posters did like them, but most seemed at least uncomfortable with the idea. One poster even implied he would punish an otherwise good player for the sin of bringing a netbook or kindle to the table rather than a book.

As I stated in my own post in the thread, print isn’t going to be eradicated from our culture, but like buggy makers, they will become a small and expensive niche product. I have said this before, the digital revolution isn’t coming, it is already here. Goto DriveThruRPG and have a look around, they have more product for sale than any brick and mortar game store I have ever been in. Except for Wizards of the Coast, virtually every game company sells their product in PDF format. I predict in less than a decade virtually all game manufactures except for Wizards of the Coast and maybe White Wolf will derive most if not all their income from selling PDF books. Most companies will not print anything beyond core rule books and perhaps books larger than 128 pages.

The advantages to ebooks are numerous, first, they are considerably cheaper than print books. This was not the case 10 years ago when PezWitch bought her first ebook reader, a Rocket Ebook. Today however, you can expect a 20-30% discount, this is because the publisher no longer has to print actual books, which is a good chunk of what you pay for with a book. Second, especially with game books, I can carry my whole collection contained on my netbook, which fits nicely inside my bag. Third, unlike a printed book, if I loose it, I do not haver to buy another copy, if I am smart, I backed my collection up to another device or if necessary, I can download them again from the publisher.

To be honest, there are some downsides. You are dependent on technology and by extension, electricity, both of which can fail. It is also a bad idea to attempt the use of an ebook in the bath tub. Certainly the ebook technology is not all that wonderful as of yet and of course there is the DRM crap that content providers love to try and foist on unsuspecting buyers. I suspect that all these things will fall the wayside in the net couple years, as battery life get longer, technology gets better and yes, someone will make a waterproof ebook reader.

The Ages of RolePlaying Games: The Golden Age

Something I am probably going to speak of more than once is the various ages of RolePlaying Games. During the course of virtually all mediums, they go through times of resurgence and times of ebb. Usually the first  surge of any medium is called the Golden Age. Mostly, we have no idea when an age is passed or when a new one begins until years after the fact. In comic books, no one in 1940 was referring to the time as the Golden Age of Comic, and no one stood up in 1950 and said “Well that was fun, too bad its over.”.  No one even realized there had been a Golden Age of Comic until the Silver age was well under way. It was the same way with the Golden Age of RPG’s, I don’t think anyone really knew it was over until the mid 90′s.

Defining the beginning of the Golden Age is easy, it occurred in 1974 when Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson publish the Original Dungeons and Dragons and the ascendancy of D&D began. The ending is more difficult to nail down, some would place it as early as 1979 when the final core Advanced D&D book was published and D&D as a whole started to move into popular culture. Others put it as late as 1982 or 1983 when Gary Gygax gave up editorial control of TSR and the gaming industry started in a new direction. I personally place the end of the Golden age much later in 1989 when AD&D 2nd Edition came out.

The reason I place it so much later is first, I do not consider Lorraine Williams to be the viscous and evil bitch she is made out to be by the larger game community. She was a business woman who saw the potential of the industry, yes she openly disdained gamers and what she did to Gary Gygax is inexcusable, but she did take the debt ridden TSR and make it profitable, like it or not, TSR would have went down much earlier without Williams. The other thing I point out when discussing the period between 1982 and 1989 is, a lot of now classic books and modules were published like Unearthed Arcana, the Desert of Desolation series, Ravenloft and the Temple of Elemental Evil to name a few. The mid and late 80′s also saw the other publishers come into prominence, Hero Games, with Champions, Chaosium with Call of Cthulhu and Steve Jackson Games with GURPS.

Perhaps it is m own misguided perceptions of the time period which caused me to extend the Golden Age past 1982 or 83. When I went to GenCon in 1988, I knew things were changing, I remember standing in the hall where all the company booths were setup looking around me and thinking “Things are different now.”, I just didn’t understand how. Perhaps it was not the gaming industry which was changing perhaps it was my life. Maybe I was witnessing the beginning of the end of my own game group and probably end of my 20 somethings as well. At GenCon, four of us got in the car and drove there, three of us came back. Tim had graduated College and had gotten a job, this was his last hurrah, he went straight from GenCon 88 into his adult life, I never saw or heard from him again. After that slowly, one by one my friends started leaving Bozeman, they were starting college, finishing college, getting jobs, getting married and getting the hell out. By early 1990 the game group I had been playing with since 1985 was virtually gone and by late 1990 so was I. I would not seriously play RPG’s again for more than a decade.

Running a successful game group, Part 3

There is a type of player who derives his fun out of making other players miserable, there are players who love to argue about every little thing and there is catpiss man. Anyone who have played in more than one group has probably come across these players. They are the people who think being a dick is a positive lifestyle choice. If someone in your group is a constant source of annoyance, either because of bad personal hygiene or because he is an asshole, get rid of them. Don’t give them a chance, don’t have a little talk with them, just tell them to stop attending. Chances are really good, your group is not the first group to get rid of him and some previous GM has had a little talk with him before, don’t bother, he will not change. Don’t let one guy drag the rest of you down, because he will and when its all over with, he will talk trash about how bad of group you were and how he tried to save everything, but your group was hopelessly caught in bad/wrong gaming. If you have been kicked out of more than 2 game groups, please do us all a favor and stop playing RPG’s. I am sure the communities of World of Warcraft or Everquest would welcome your brilliant play style and charismatic charm.

The GM of course is the most pivotal person in a game. He sets the tone and pace of the game, it falls to him to provide interesting things to do, cool people talk to, evil monsters to kill and awesome magic items to steal. A good GM will make a game so good, it is the highlight of your week and you can’t wait for next week. A bad GM makes you stay home on Friday night and wash your dog. If you are having trouble keeping a game together, I always say do a consistency check. A lack of consistency is the biggest killer of games run by otherwise competent GM’s. If consistency is not the problem, then you need to look at what you are doing and try to find out why players keep leaving or why washing the dog is a better way to spend Friday night than go to your game. Unfortunately, that means you have to go ask them for an honest opinion and you are not going to like the answer. You should also consider that you just may not be cut out for GMing.

My own version of the ten commandments

1. Thou shalt not kill

2. Thou shalt not steal

3. Thou shalt not rape

4. Thou shalt not use violence nor threat of violence

5. Thou shalt not keep slaves

6. Thou shalt not be a bigot

7. Thou shalt not be disrespectful to others

8. Doubly scorn all those who would do any of the above to a child

9. Be mindful our great great great grandchildren must live on this planet too and act accordingly

10. Reject any person or groups of people who contradict any of the above

A different take on the ten commandments

Christopher Hitchens revises the 10 commandments

If you don’t want to watch the video, here is a summery.

1. Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or color.
2. Do not ever use people as private property.
3. Despise those who use violence or the threat of it in sexual relations
4. Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.
5. Do not condemn people for their inborn nature—why would God create so many homosexuals only in order to torture and destroy them?
6. Be aware that you too are an animal and dependent on the web of nature, think and act accordingly.
7. Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than with a knife.
8. Turn off that fucking cell phone—you have no idea how unimportant your call is to us.
9. Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions.
10. Be willing to renounce any god or any religion if any holy commandments should contradict any of the above. In short: Do not swallow your moral code in tablet form.

The 10 Commandments Vs The US Constitution

1. “I am the LORD your God, You shall have no other gods before Me…”
Unconstitutional

2. “Do not make an image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above…”
Unconstitutional

3. “Do not swear falsely by the name of the LORD…”
Unconstitutional

4. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”
Unenforceable and Unconstitutional

5. “Honor your father and your mother…”
Unenforceable

6. “Do not murder”
This one works

7. “Do not commit adultery.”
Unenforceable

8. “Do not steal.”
This one works

9. “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor”
Unenforceable

10. “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife”
Unenforceable

Constitution 8 – Ten Commandments 2