Here’s a little nugget I stumbled across in a book on wargames. Georg Leopold von Reiswitz, the man who made the original wargame table for Friedrich Wilhelm III, and who also developed the rules in concert with other military staff.  He committed suicide for professional reasons* and his son later developed the rules further.  Anyway the interesting thing is:

A year after his death [i.e., 1828], a supplement** appeared that built on Reiswitz’s war game instruction manual without a single mention of it or him. Among the innovations of the supplement were the exceptional roll of the dice and an emergency die. If an improbable exceptional roll succeeded, the emergency die decided whether the exception took effect.  Because if the point was “not to exclude any case that is possible in war, even so improbable a case, the game must also permit exceptions to the rule that must, however, have their own rules in turn.”–War games : a history of war on paper / Philipp von Hilgers; translated by Ross Benjamin.  MIT Press, c2012.

So as early as 1828 game designers had the idea of ‘confirming’ improbable events.  This reminded me of ‘confirming’ criticals in WotC D&D.  I had no idea this rule had such a long pedigree.

Actually, the talk of “exceptions to the rule” “hav[ing] their own rules in turn” is pretty much a thumbnail sketch of 3rd edition as I understand it.  I’m beginning to wonder: is the divide between ‘old school’ and ‘new school’ D&D really a divide between which of the roots of D&D is more important (old school perhaps preferring the free-form Braunstein and new school hearkening back more towards the Prussian Kriegspiel)?  Maybe the influence of MMOs and collectible card games that old school edition warriors bemoan is less essnetial to WotC D&D than the echoes of Kriegspielers…

*That is, not over the game, but because his superiors passed him for promotion and gave him crummy assignments.  I will try to use the phrase “committed suicide for professional reasons” more though, it makes me smile.

**The anonymous supplement mentioned is cited as: “Supplement zu den bisherigen Kriegspiel-Regeln.” Zeitschrift für Kunst, Wissenschaft, und Geschichte des Krieges 13(4): 68-105. 1828.

Published in: on December 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm  Comments (5)  
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5e playtest intial thoughts

The group was down to just four guys but we went ahead with the plan to try out the “DnD Next” playtest.  Three of us had played pretty much every version of D&D at some point.  John volunteered to DM it, and we went with the two clerics and the fighter as PCs.  Strolling into the caves of chaos, we heard some barking coming from a cave and thought, “kobolds,” and sauntered in.  We clung to a wall, thinking kobolds would probably have some traps laid and that they’d most likely be set towards the center of the rooms and halls.

When we found the first monsters, we realized they were not the 3′ kobolds we expected but 7′ gnolls.  But with the courage you get using pregenerated characters, we pressed on, and in 2 and half hours fought three or four combats (there was a certain amount of ‘rolling encounters’ as we’d defeat part of a group and one gnoll would get away to call for reinforcements).

The combat was very fast; comparable to earlier editions of D&D (basic or 1e).  However, there were elements clearly carried over from 4e, like the fighter’s ability to inflict damage on a miss and the “at-will powers” (called orisons, like 1e/2e cantrips) of the clerics.  I played the cleric of Pelor, which I’ve seen criticized as being “the laser cleric” because of the at-will laser beam radiant lance spell I could rely on to inflict moderate damage every round from the back rank.

Our take-away was: yeah, this is pretty much D&D.

  • The concerns we had about hit points being too high did not seem to be a real problem; in the end we almost lost the fighter and everyone was heavily wounded — in fact we managed to withdraw and go back to the ‘keep’ for healing before finally ‘clearing’ the gnoll caves.  (In fact we didn’t ‘clear’ them, since we did not look for or find the secret doors on the map!)
  • The at-will cantrips/orisons gave us the most concern.  Having magic-users and clerics who can ping away forever with magic missiles, radiant lances, etc. definitely imposes something on the ‘game world.’  We thought it would probably be better to make only non-combat cantrips available (detect magic, mage hand, etc., even light) in the default game, and let people house-rule the laser cleric/magic missile launcher.  We get that some players expect the magic user to cast all the time, and that’s fine, but it should be an add-on rather than default.  D&D is in part a game of resource of management, at least for old-schoolers, and at-will missiles like this give you an unlimited resource.  I guess reintroducing material components for these would be another way to impose some limits.
  • We really liked the themes and backgrounds.  In fact, Tom & John couldn’t resist thinking of ways to tinker with backgrounds and themes.  Tom & I have house ruled, or at least discussed, lots of variations on the idea of reducing the classes to about two, and letting a menu of background options  distinguish fighters from assassins and clerics from magic-users.  It seems as though mainstream D&D thinking still likes four base classes and I suppose I can live with that.  But anyway we all like the themes and backgrounds and this would be the main thing we want to see more of.
  • The advantage/disadvantage rule is indeed elegant and we all like it.
  • The removal of “scaling” from the rules is a BIG positive too.   The idea of everything being level-dependent and characters and monsters existing on ‘tiers’ was the thing I hated most about 3e and 4e; good riddance. (I guess they call this ‘bounded accuracy’ in the WotC forums.  I was just over there and am a little surprised at all butthurt about it among new schoolers, who seem to be saying ‘everything scales with level, that’s how D&D has always been,’ and who are outraged that ‘a mob of low level monsters can take down a 10th level hero,’ as they put it.  Shrug. And who’s actually seen a 10th level character in 5e anyway?)

In other words, pretty much everything I’ve read online by people who have played the playtest seems to be fairly accurate.  If you are committed to a particular edition, and love it, just keep playing that.  If you are open to changes, the playtest is very appealing.

Of course there are probably many things that will be added and removed over the course of the playtest so there is no use in having a settled opinion it.  I’ll try it again when they release more. It doesn’t make me want to drop C&C or B/X as go-to games but has several neat ideas and may actually meet the stated goal of providing something for everyone. Stay tuned.

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 10:00 am  Comments (5)  
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Rules updates

Another rambling post; sorry.

Right now there are three revisions of rules sets going on that I’m paying attention to.

One is the ‘next’ edition of D&D, which is the most opaque of the three processes.  I hear bits and pieces about what the designers are going for, and see some polls on the WotC web site which are both uninformative and relatively uniformed — the questions tend to be very vague and the pool of respondents appears to be a tiny slice of D&D players (the ones who spend a lot of time online debating D&D).  Whatever D&D “Next” looks like, I’ll probably try it out but I don’t really need it, both because I have more than enough players and because I’m pretty happy running older versions, homebrews, and clones.

Another game undergoing a revision is DBA — De Bellis Antiquitatis, my go-to war game.  Truth be told, I probably haven’t played it at all since I began running D&D a couple of years ago.  Before that, I played DBA a few times a year, with a brief period when I played it a lot.  I only played in one convention tournament, and that was seven years ago.  So the rules will be the third edition, although DBA went through various minor tweaks — I think the official versions, with amendments offered by the author, would be: 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2.  The revision process has been fairly open, with drafts of the rules offered for playtest, comments accepted, and lots of discussion.  In fact things took a fairly ugly turn in the last few months, with some rifts in the online community, at least, among those who like the 3.0 changes and those who’d rather just tweak 2.2 a bit.  Honestly I don’t find the changes to be all that radical, but partly because DBA is very popular as a tournament rule set, there is a lot of angst over what changes will be made.  Also, the changes will certainly include changes to army lists, which may make some existing DBA armies ‘out of date’ and require some changes for tournament play.  This does not really affect me, and I have my perfectly serviceable 2.2 rules.  I may buy 3.0 just to see what is changed, or may wait for the long-promised introductory version which is supposed to include some illustrations, more detailed explanations, and perhaps some modeling advice for new wargamers.

Lastly, a rule revision that is likely to affect me is not a game at all but the cataloging rules which libraries will most likely adopt in the coming year or so.  To some extent this revision of rules is of interest only to librarians, although I suspect they will impact library users and information seekers generally for a long time, whether or not they are aware of the changes.  The current Anglo-American cataloging rules (which were adopted more or less universally in the English-speaking world and very close in principle to most European cataloging conventions, as they are all tied to an international standard for bibliographic description known as ISBD) are perfectly serviceable, of course, but there are some concern that all that ‘metadata’ created by publishers, internet users, advertising firms, and so on could be more easily imported into library catalogs (and library data more easily ported to the metadata formats used outside libraries), and the new rules are purported to do be able to do this.  Having seen the current version of the new rules (called “RDA”) I am aghast at both how technical and  jargony they are on one hand, and how loose they are on the other.  This is one set of rules that I think it would be nice to keep standardized…we’re not talking about a game here!  Leave game rules open to options and house rules, fine.  But if you are creating a standard for a professionals to use for collaboration…well how about making them standards.  You know, in the sense that we all actually adhere to the same set of rules.  The chief author of the previous set of rules offers a hilarious and devastating critique of the new rules here, although this essay is a few years old and based on a more incomplete version of the new rules then being floated.  The unfortunate thing is that while input on various drafts has been solicited from the library community, some of the most important criticisms have been largely ignored so far (e.g. revising the rules will cost a lot at time when libraries are already very strapped; many new terms are introduced that confuse librarians and will be impenetrable to library users; the rules fail to actually address some of the ‘big’ concerns that led us to want to update the cataloging rules in the first place; academic (college & university) libraries have disproportionate influence because public librarians generally have much less time and support for engaging in the discussion; and much more…)

So these three rules revisions — two to games that I hold pretty dear and one to professional standards I work with every day — are very interesting to watch, although it’s rather distressing to me personally and professionally to watch the cataloging rules being revised, with limited input from those most affected.  It’s fascinating to see these three very different processes, as processes, too.

The DBA rules are being tested by a fair sized group of players, and largely incremental rather than wholesale revisions, and have been freely available for all to see at each iteration.

In contrast the D&D revision is hidden behind an NDA, although have still felt free to discuss what they think is, should be, or is not in it, and the design team has frequently editorialized on the process albeit without giving any clear examples nor disclosing any actual rules.

The RDA process has been open to the extent that sections were released for comments as they were completed, although at the time it was difficult to comment on incomplete rules, and many of the public comments seem to have fallen on deaf ears.  Following that there were extensive ‘tests’ of the still very incomplete rules, conducted at various libraries including the Library of Congress.  It is a little shocking that despite years of work on the rules, some of the most critical parts (e.g. subject analysis) have still not been released and much of what is there basically rephrases the old rules with slight emendations, many of which are rather dubious attempts to fix display issues by entering different data (e.g., not everyone knows what the English and Latin abbreviations in the old rules mean, but rather than asking for an interface that displays them spelled out, RDA eliminates abbreviation!).

The reception of each set of rules has been very polarizing too.  This really shouldn’t surprise me; some people hate change because it is change, and some people love change because it is change.  Apart from the purely emotional responses (aka nerdrage), each constituency can expect to be affected to some degree by whatever the changes are, and we all hate have changes thrust upon us without our input.

I think the D&D players are actually the least affected — we can just keep playing whatever we were before.  Of course the newer generation of players doesn’t realize this and there are cries of “betrayal!” by loyal 4e players and a great deal of angst about how their preferred verison will be ‘supported’ by WotC and which pre-packaged settings will continue to be ‘supported’ because obviously you can’t just make up your own stuff. o_O

The DBA players have tournaments so they are a little less free to ignore new editions. Depending on the particular tournaments, they may be asked to use the rules and/or army lists, which may involve some re-basing of minis (a legitimate concern).  Indeed one ‘rogue’ group who in past published a lucid and popular guide to understanding the very terse and brief rules of the game has stated their intent to publish their own amendments to the current version of the game, which has angered the author of DBA and created enough vitriol (between ‘loyalists’ who want to adopt the new edition and ‘rebels’ who want to keep playing 2.2 with a few amendments) that I’ve dropped out of even following the discussions.  As small and mature as the DBA community is, it has all the appearances of the sort of ‘edition war’ we saw in D&D over the last few years. 😦

But obviously catalogers will be the least free to ignore RDA — in the US, as the Library of Congress goes, so goes the whole cataloging world for the most part.  A few attempts to delay or derail the RDA train have largely failed to stopped what I see as “a solution in search of a problem,” but life will go on.

So, interesting times.

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (4)  
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No 15 minute adventuring days in Telengard

There’s been lots of discussion about the “15 minute adventuring day” around the blogs and forums lately — the situation that arises where the party leaves the adventure site/dungeon/etc. to rest and recuperate after every encounter, because they want to re-memorize spells, heal up, regain once-a-day abilities, etc.  It’s a problem because it disrupts the ‘momentum’ of an adventure, and kills some of the excitement and peril.  In fact the issue it has come up in discussions at our gaming table too!

The “edition warrior” answers to the problem tend to be either:

Old schooler: 15 minute adventuring days happen because the players don’t know how to conserve their resources, and you can solve it by preventing recuperation (wilderness adventures, remote dungeons you can’t just leave at will, etc.), or by learning to manage resources better (avoid fights, use better tactics, etc.).  In other words, the 15 minute adventuring day is something you work around with better DMing or better play.

New schooler: 15 minute adventuring days happen because the rules are poorly designed, and you avoid them by adding more resource-restoration between encounters (healing surges, non-Vancian magic that doesn’t require re-memorization, etc.).

Really, either your players suck or your rules suck? Please. Why can’t it be both?

Actually, I think there is some merit to both views — it is an interaction of player choices and rule design.  I don’t think you can blame players for taking advantage of any and all opportunities to recover as fully as possible from every fight.  Combat is war,* after all.  At the same time, you can tweak the rules a bit to make resource recovery a little less disruptive to the ‘adventuring day.’   My solution, which the players seem to be pretty happy with, has been to attack the problem on both fronts.  In the current Telengard campaign, a number of factors make it easier to maintain ‘adventuring momentum’ — some are rules tweaks (up to me) and some are player options (up to them).

  • The d30 rule. This is a once-per session thing, so it does no good to rest up between encounters to get another d30.  Players still have to conserve their d30 (and some do so well, that they have not even used it yet!)
  • The Adventurers’ Guild has negotiated free healing at the temple.  The players can decide to join the Guild, and pay a small “tax,” and get their HP restored at any time in town.  This actually reduces downtime because…
  • The “dungeon” is the town.  Some actual dungeons are in the ruined quarter of town, and the ruined quarter itself is filled with dangerous humans and monsters.  The party is slowly ‘clearing’ this area and will eventually have to venture beyond the town, but they could easily spend their fragile low levels in town-based adventures that are fairly forgiving.
  • Ritual magic.  The spell casters have access to their spells outside of combat and can heal up, use utilities like Detect Magic, etc.  There is still a lot of resource management, but not the kind that requires leaving the adventure to recover.  The ritual magic system is a little complicated so I’ll leave the bullet list to explain it.

Each spell-casting class has the option to spend one turn per spell level to cast a spell they know ‘ritually’.  This does not tap their memorized spells.  But it does consume resources: time, and one other resource, depending on the class.  Note that one turn is the usual interval for Wandering Monster rolls.  You can try ritual casting if you are in a fairly secure spot in the dungeon, but you are risking another encounter.  The other resource is class-dependent:

  • Magic-Users: gold. M-Us need special chalk to draw magical diagrams for their rituals. It costs 10 GP for one ritual’s worth of chalk.  (I don’t bother with most other material components, except the ones that have rules-defined costs, like Find Familiar and Identify…100 GP each.)  Since they need to draw on the floor/ground, there are some restrictions on where an MU can ritually cast, although dungeons are usually fine.
  • Clerics: gold and stealth. Clerics must burn 10 GP incense cones.  The smell may attract monsters, and being smoky there will be a limit to how many ritual castings you want to try in an enclosed space.
  • Elves: stealth.  Elves who ritually cast must sing, recite epic poetry, or play an instrument.  Sure it’s free, but it may attract monsters.  Also this can only be done outdoors (somewhat reducing it’s usefulness, but hey elves can fight too).  Elves may also attract nuisance animals (birds, squirrels, racoons, coyotes, and other woodland creatures) with their singing, which will sing/chirp/howl along with the elf during the ritual and possibly attract predators, begin following the party, beg for food, etc.
  • Druids: No-one has played a druid yet, but my vision is for druids to be likewise limited to outdoor ritual casting, and whereas elves can count any open area as outdoors the druid must actually be outside city limits.  This does not fit quite as well with ‘resource management’ idea but it will make the druids the king of wilderness casting.
  • Paladins: They get spells at higher levels, and will possibly get ritual casting, but i have not decided how that will work.  I’d like to make them sacrifice something of their own (HP, memorized spells, daily abilities) but I’m not sure how to make that work.
  • Illusionists: I’m not using illusionists currently, but I suppose they would need either an assistant and props or some consumable materials like the MU.

Also, ritual casting has risks.  Casters can safely memorize a few spells a day, and rituals basically exceed their normal limits. Rituals involve bargaining with supernatural forces, and possibly annoying them.  Every time a caster casts a ritual, he must roll a d20, adding his INT mod and level, and subtracting the spell level and also subtracting one for each spell ritually cast that day.  Spells of higher level can also be ritually attempted, but at double the penalty.

0 or less: disaster (probably one of these, depending on spell level)

1-5: burnout, no more ritual casting today

6-10: spell fails

11+: success.

I have not actually implemented the failure risk, but will be playtesting it in the future; it may change.




*The ‘combat as war vs. combat as sport’ post has rightly been mentioned a lot lately as a good analysis.  Another really interesting thing about it is that if your read the comments, a LOT of people on ENWorld seem to read it, then comment that CaW or CaS is badwrongfun.  After the OP explained that they are two different ways approaching the game suited to different tastes. This is why I don’t read ENWorld.

Published in: on February 11, 2012 at 9:14 am  Comments (2)  
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Lots of talk today about the announcement of 5e.   Jeff Rients said the most intelligent thing I’ve read so far: if they really want gamer opinions, please get informed opinions, by re-releasing the old editions in pdf. 

Beyond that I don’t have a dog in this race and wish them luck.

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Marathon man

Here’s a film story I heard (& I think it’s probably apocryphal) which also seems, to me, applicable to RPGs.

During the filming of Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman stayed awake 24 hours straight and ran and ran and ran to be out of breath for certain scenes that take place during and after an epic running scene.  His costar Lawrence Olivier asked him what he was doing.  Hoffman said he wanted to be exhausted for the scene.  Olivier supposedly said, “Why don’t you try acting?”

This kind of sums up the communication breakdown in new school/old school edition war (which I sometimes fan the flames of here, being irascible myself).  The old schoolers are more like Olivier, I think.  For them, everything that happens in the game (characterization, awesome stunts, etc.) can be achieved by playing your character.  You don’t need something on your sheet to let you swing on a chandelier or whatever.  You don’t need five pages of character background and hooks to feed your GM.  You just play.

The new schoolers are more like Hoffman.  They want to prepare before the game (“building” a character, writing up goals and motivations, etc.) and want something in the game to specifically enable the awesome stuff they want to do.  Hoffman runs and runs to get sweaty and out of breath, so his character will be convincingly out of breath.  New schoolers want a  list of feats and a complement of combat options so they don’t “have to do the same thing over and over.” (OK, maybe the analogy is breaking down here.  But my idea is something like this: Hoffman wants his performance to be convincing, so he wants real beads of sweat … new schoolers want the results of their actions to be predictable, so they want skills and feats etc. written down on their sheets… capiche?)

Doesn’t mean either is a bad actor.

Published in: on December 4, 2011 at 8:00 am  Comments (11)  
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I am a hater and you should not drink and blog

So I just drank a 2 pint bottle of “Three Philosophers” beer and it is 9.8% ABV and apparently I’m a lightweight because I’m presently reposting an email form a local “DnD” yahoo group I joined when I was trying to recruit players.  The email is from the DM to his players, subject line “Wish list”:

Hello All,

Please remember to send me your magic item wish list if you have not already done so. You can include items up to 4 levels above your current level. Pick a range of levels because I rarely give our the highest level!

It’s a Type IV game and in Type IV you are encouraged to write a wish list to Santa your DM and detail what magic items you expect to “find” because they will optimize your character build.  (Pardon me, I just threw up in my mouth a little.)

Which reminds me of the time we were playing Type IV and our DM reluctantly asked us for “Wish lists” and here is what I sent him, somewhat in-character for my half-orc brutal rogue Big Swifty:

Dear Satan Claws, I have been a very roguish half orc.  Please see to it to that some of my next victims are stocked with lots of magic loot, or I will hunt you down, disembowel you, and decorate a tree with your innards by nailing one end of your intestines to the tree and chasing you around and around it until all your guts are festively strewn about the tree.  Then I will rape Mrs. Claws and some of the elves. Then I will burn down the workshop and piss on the ashes.
Where was I?
Oh yeah, please try to get me:

1) L1 a restful bedroll (this is different from the High School Musical sleeping bag Lock asked for!)
2) L3 A duelist’s rapier +1
3) L3 Staunching leather +1
4) L4 Flaying gloves
5) L5 Cape of the mountebank

A talon amulet (L3) would also fit in my stocking.

Thank you Satan Claws!

Hugs & kisses,
Swidthef (aka Big Swifty)

So I guess I got into the spirit of the “wish list” idea pretty well.  To his extreme credit, the DM, my brother Tom, ended the Type IV campaign with a TPK shortly after this.
So while I would never criticize others for playing type IV, magic item wish lists (which are apparently recommended right in the type IV DMG!) pretty much say everything that needs to be said about why it is not for me.
Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm  Comments (10)  
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D&D & philosophy: a call for papers

Confession: I was a philosophy major in college. I was drawn to it since high school, and it had pretty much nothing to do with D&D. Maybe my reading skills and vocabulary benefited from reading Gygax.

So I know how little most people think of and care about philosophy. I got the weird looks when people asked the inevitable question they ask college students. I taught philosophy to the ignorant savages known as college students for several years. I think it is terribly interesting but if you aren’t interested in logic or metaphysics that is fine and I don’t feel the need (anymore) to evangelize for Mill or Marx or Nietzsche. (more…)

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 11:12 am  Comments (6)  
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Daddy, did YOU fight in the Edition Wars?

I started playing D&D back in about 1981, maybe a little earlier. I was 9, my brother was 11, as were the friends who introduced us to it. I remember the first Dragon Magazine I bought was issue # 54, and it or the following issue had a review of the “new” AD&D book, “The fiend folio,” so when I started playing D&D, AD&D was already more or less the default game. I actually tried the Basic set a little later (it was probably a Christmas present), and I vaguely recall seeing what must have been the “Holmes” revision, as our friends who introduced us to D&D had a softcover booklets that included the nine alignments, so they definitely didn’t have the “original” Little Brown Books/White Box. We were kids then and instantly assumed that “Basic” D&D was just an introduction and AD&D was the “real thing.” I don’t think we ever tried more than a session or two of the Basic set, but I did occasionally look it over for the great Erol Otus art.

We played AD&D for years, snatching up every Dragon Magazine we could, and all the “Official” rule books (we never actually played with anything from Oriental Adventures, the Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide, or the Wilderness Survival Guide, but still we had to check them out). We found Unearthed Arcana a little weird, since the new classes & races seemed overpowered, but did adopt many of the new spells, rules regarding racial level limits, and fighter specialization.

We still played some, but when second edition was released, D&D lost its shine. No more half-orcs, no more assassins, no more demons. Cumbersome non-weapon proficiency rules, tons of “extra” sourcebooks for character class kits and subraces. Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and especially Dragonlance were suddenly the “default” world for all TSR product. It became limiting. We had also been trying more “realistic” combat rules, skills-based systems, anything new. We played Rolemaster, MERP, Palladium Fantasy, Shadowrun, and mostly GURPS, actually starting with the “preview” Man To Man rules (around 1985 or so?), which are still probably the best gladiator miniatures rules out there. In GURPS we really opened up to the wider range of genres, like the Old West, science fiction, horror, many historical campaigns including several epic “pirates” campaigns that eventually incorporated a combination of GURPS and the Man o War rules for naval engagements, cutting to GURPS “cinematic” boarding actions. (We sank many ships we should have tried to loot first, because the naval broadside rules were so fun.) We played a semi-historical campaign in Norman England but involving continued depredation by Vikings, and many supernatural elements like magic using the GURPS Voodoo ritual casting rules. I wrote a campaign history, adding each week we played, in the form of a saga, and while I never completed it, it was a blast and I still enjoy looking it over. We were really getting into games again. Then college was over and we didn’t play much. After several years hiatus, we got a 3rd edition D&D game going, and enjoyed it but saw problems, which seemed to be fixed in the 3.5 rules. But character creation had become a chore, requiring strategizing and rules lawyering. Thieves became rogues, combat machines with a few thief skills. Half-orcs were back, but as stupid barbarians, not conniving scoundrels. But role playing sessions became largely hack-and-slash combat fests, because the complex rules for combat were so central to the game. Still I loved the game for requiring miniatures, which are as big a passion for me as RPGs, obviously.

We tried 4th ed. when it came out, and ran many sessions; enough to know it wasn’t what we wanted. It is a great game but it is not D&D. Just not interested in it anymore.

Dungeons and Dragons is more than year into it’s fourth edition. And the online D&D community (if EN World was any indication) had its panties atwist like never before. (I emphasize online — I take it the vast majority of D&D players continue to play whatever they’ve been playing without paying any attention to all the ruckus.)

For my part I’m completely fascinated by the so-called “Old School Revival” (link is to a free .pdf). There are “retroclones” that recreate long out-of-print versions of D&D and other games, partly relying on clever use of the Open Game License of 3rd ed. D&D. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of blogs devoted to sharing ideas, dungeons, and campaigns. Most are offering their work for free, and those that aren’t are selling what appears to be incredibly high-quality material. And they are hobbyists, not subsidiaries of Hasbro (although a number are published professionals, and some both offer freebies and sell things.)

So we’ve been playing Castles & Crusades, which is very similar to AD&D but with a much simplified action resolution system. It has been a blast. The energy we haven’t had to expend learning rules has gone into character backgrounds, session summaries, etc. Our DM, my brother, keeps a log on a calendar. I haven’t gotten a close look but I think events we players don’t know about are also on that calendar. That is cool. We use figures like we did in AD&D — to show marching order, to make melee more concrete, and to show off my painted figures.

I am seriously considering running an original rules D&D campaign, or perhaps a retroclone, or just C&C. I have a lot of war-gaming figures, so I’d probably work in opportunities for the players to take part in tabletop miniatures battles at times. I have a ton of ape-men, including a HOTT army of them, so there will probably be an Ape kingdom. I’d love to run a siege — a friend of mine built a 25 mm scale castle out of matte board, pretty much identical to the castle Games Workshop was selling when they released their first Warhammer Siege rules in the late 1980s. I painted it and built some siege equipment, and I have never gotten around to using them for siege! I have tons of monsters I’d like to put in dungeons, and am thinking about assigning a particular NPC to each of my “townsfolk” and “henchman/hireling” figures. I have ideas about a hexcrawl for wilderness adventures, and as part of uncovering & creating the world map. Possibly in Hyborea, or a similar pastiche of fantasy/adventure archetypes. My brother, the group’s current DM, has said he’d like a break from DMing anyway, and perhaps it would run parallel to the current game, or something like that.

If I have the time. There’s a lot of figures to paint.

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 4:21 am  Comments (2)  
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