Sunday, August 31, 2014

Leaving Off the "R" in OSR

Sometimes I think we as a hobby are too big on labels, especially the labels we put on ourselves and the corner of the hobby we love.

I thought we were going to have a Donnybrook yesterday on a G+ thread related to the first episode of the Tenkar & The Badger podcast, simply because a listener went off on a tirade that none of the definitions of the OSR put forward in the episode was right - we were all wrong and only he had the proper definition of the High Orthodox Church of the OSR. Which just went and proved a point - it is a fucking nebulous thing to define as we all bring our own gaming baggage into the pew with us.


Old School... Revolution... Revival... Resurrection... Regurgitation... Retread...

Maybe the "R" should be for Resolution. The resolution to keep Old School gaming alive, whether it be D&D, T&T, RQ, RM, MERPS, WFRP, Traveller, Bunnies & Burrows, Empire of the Petal Throne, Champions, GURPS, FASRIP or whatever your old school game of choice is.

In the grand scheme of things, our hobby is a small one. We should be embracing our commonalities, not excluding those that may have cut their gaming teeth on a system that came out a year or two after a white box (or more accurately, wood grained box) that very few of us actually had a chance to play with back in the day.

That my resolution.

Well, that and keeping the extra crotchety grognards off my lawn ;)

Audio From the Hangout with David Wilson Brown / eXtra-Dimensional Publishing is Live on iTunes

While episode 2 should be posted by the end of the week, +Jason Paul McCartan has uploaded the audio from the interview with +David Wilson Brown that we conducted earlier this month via an On Live Hangout on G+.

Now you can listen without the need to look at my goofy headphones ;)

We present to you Tenkar & The Badger, Special Episode #1

Roll For Initiative Podcast - What To Expect When Playing RPGs in Different Settings - Your Bartender is a Guest Host ;)

Earlier today I sat down at the virtual gaming table to discuss the differences in play and expectations between conventions, organized play, home gaming and G+ gaming with +Vincent Florio and +Glen Hallstrom.

May we present for your listening pleasure Roll For Initiative Podcast Vol 3 Mini Issue 1.

I had a great time. Hopefully the three of us can get together and do this again sometime in the future ;)

Looking at Some of the Differences Between Convention, Organized and Home Play of RPGs

+Vincent Florio and I have had some recent discussions about the differences between Convention, Organized and Home play of RPGs and we will probably be discussing it more today.

As I see it, some of the basic differences are as follows (this is by far not a complete list):

Convention Play - in convention gaming, the adventure itself is what the players are invested in, not so much their characters (which are general pregens - there are exceptions to this, such as the Mythus Tower sessions run by +Matt Finch and +Bill Webb at NTRPG Con). In a convention set up, the classic Tomb of Horrors or +James Raggi 's fairly recent The Monolith Beyond Space and Time work much better than in a home environment (and would never be part of organized play). If a convention adventure results in a total party kill, it doesn't kill a campaign. Houserules are rare and always announced prior to the session.

Organized Play - in organized gaming, groups across the world are playing through the same series of adventures. There will be no house rules, because it is designed so that players could theoretically move from one group to another with ease. Adventures generally have a rigid structure to ensure similar play across different groups. Adventures begin and end in a self contained manner, and the links between adventures are pretty much on rails - there is little if any opportunity to "sandbox" in organized play, and sandboxing would make similar play between groups running the same series of adventures near impossible.

Home Play - home play is probably the most traditional sort of play for most player. It is also the hardest of the three to apply a general definition to, as some groups run sandboxes, some run linked adventures (muck like organized play), some run episodic campaigns (where adventures or adventure arcs have little connection to each other.) Character development plays a large part of home play (and to a lesser extent organized play.)

The above is certainly not complete. There can be some bleed over between the three basic types of play and I'm sure I left of a crap ton of wiggly bits that would make the above definition less well defined.

I'd love some thoughts and input on the above.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Draconic "Magazine" Comes Online

If there is one thing I can say for sure about +Venger Satanis ' Draconic "Magazine" is that it isn't a magazine. It's a hub, a blog, a website but it's not a magazine.

At first glance, it reminds me of Gnome Stew, which itself is more than a blog but less than a magazine. Well, that's if Gnome Stew had black and red demonic goat's heads (or are they demonic goat-dragon mongrelations?) on the front page trying to play off the OSR by branding each head with "O" "5" "R" respectively while using the classic Dragon Magazine font for it's title (much like Gygax magazine does, it an attempt to be what it is not).

Therein lies my first issue with the first "issue" of "Draconic Magazine" - what identity is it trying to portray? Is it an OSR blog? A 5e blog? A "D&D is satanism blog? Is it the reincarnation of the Old Dragon Magazine, assuming it went the way of the dracolich?

+Venger Satanis is a Satanist (or Cthulhuian now) priest. I get where the "demonic" trappings come from. To each their own, but for me, such overt trappings are a turn off. It's not prudishness. I'd have similar feelings if the trappings were crosses or stars of David. My preference is to keep "real" world (as in not created by modern fiction) out of my gaming.

As for the actual content? No better and no worse than the average gaming blog. Which in the end is what Draconic Magazine is - a blog with mostly posts by Venger with a few others in the mix. Again, similar to Gnome Stew but with a satanic tilt to the trappings and an attempt to cover a wide base of D&D editions.

Is it worth the read? It's a gaming blog. There should be something worth stealing.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Looks Like There Will NOT be PDF Versions of the Core D&D 5e Books - But There's an App for That ;)

It doesn't look like there will be PDF (or epub or mobi) versions of the 5e core books. Part of the argument is that we've already been given the 5e Basic Rules for free in PDF, so why butcher sales of physical books even more. The other argument against it is piracy. Last argument? They've given digital rights to the 5e rules to the company behind the DungeonScape application from Trapdoor Technologies.

Alright, first a little background. ENWorld has an interview posted on their site with Mike Mearls that addresses just this topic (conducted by Mike Evans).
Mike... because we know that gamers love books… and we’re gamers too, we love books! And then it’s not just a game manual, it’s an artifact Because if you like D&D enough that you want to spend money, we’re are going to give you reasons to spend your money. But if you weren’t going to spend money and just pirate it, that’s easy, there’s already a free PDF out there. 
I suppose I’m kind of editorialize this… there are plenty of people out there who can justify the economical necessity of piracy, and just as many who say here’s the solution to piracy and I’m going to sell it to you. I mean I look at it that when I was a kid and I pirated software, it’s because I only had 50 dollars a month I could spend on games, so all that would mean is I’d skip stuff, I’d never play Ultima V because I could never buy Ultima III. But instead, I played a pirated version of Ultima III, and then when Ultima V was announced my 50 bucks went right to Lord British. But really, if there was no piracy to play the earlier game, I wouldn’t have spent money on the later game when I had it. And I think it’s easy as a creator to say, oh this piracy it’s killing me! Instead, I see it, and I think you have to approach it because it’s a challenge, how can I make you say, you know what I want this [book]. I gotta have it. But there is still a market for the PDFs… 
Yea I was going to ask about that [PDF sales]…
Mike: You know we haven’t announced anything official yet, but I’d be surprised if we released the PDF to be exactly as the book. Because I think that we’ll sit down and look at a PDF format of the book and say well what’s the best format that could take? It really does make good sense to have it sort of stripped down and in a utilitarian layout.  
Because you know what? I’m actually just using this because I just want to get some rules at the table. Maybe I just want to be on a plane or just sitting around and want a quick reference that’s a quick read and just the information I want. So what does that do to the [PDF] design? We strip out a lot of the art and make it utilitarian. Or we break it up and actually the ebook version is actually three books, we’ve broken it up into three parts, and each topic is now a separate book. So maybe I’m playing a Wizard, and I’m just using the Basic D&D, but I want more spells… so I’m just wanting the spell chapters, so maybe I spend 5 bucks or 2 bucks just so I have that indexed or bookmarked and can quickly reference my spells. You know, what is the usefulness of that? Just as a bibliophile wants the whole book as a physical artifact, the digital only user, well, what is the best way for them to get access to the game. 
So there is nothing concrete yet, but those are just some of the possibilities being discussed? 
Mike: Yea exactly. Especially with the Dungeonscape Tool that Trapdoor [Technologies] is working on, and how they are going to approach things and what features they are going to have, could that kinda feed that need? Because we asked that it be iOS, Android, PC, so maybe you can just download the app and then buy the say Fighter packet and however we’re breaking it down, so are we really going to need to sell a separate PDF because actually the best way is to buy the tool, and the tool is also populating my database and I can make characters, then maybe I just don’t necessarily need the PDF. So a lot of it is just trying to figure out where things are with what they’re [Trapdoor Technologies] is doing, and we just don’t want to rush into something and then you’re like but I just bought the PDF and then the tools came out, and now I’m paying twice for the same content, that would make you upset. So it’s really just figuring out what is the best thing for the gaming audience at this point.
and here is part of today's blog update at the Trapdoor Technologies site:
Being the digital distribution licensed partner for Wizards of the Coast and the D&D TRPG, we had to consider a whole different set of challenges around who could access content, how they could get it, and what they were allowed to do with it.  Physical books simply don’t have the same problems as digital books (i.e. you can’t attach a physical book to an email and send it to a hundred people with a click of a button.)  However, we also had to recognize the foundation of tabletop roleplaying games: friends, sharing information, imagining epic drama, and of course, rolling a natural 20 (amirite?)... 
Right now, the answer is that we simply can’t give people the ability to share full books with one another, because it would open DungeonScape up to a level of potential exploitation that we aren’t prepared to handle.  In digitally distributed content, given the capability, there’s no limit to who people can share with, or how the system could be abused. The limitations of paper just aren’t there.  In DungeonScape, taking advantage of the full suite of player-based tools (i.e. character creation and character sheet) requires the digital version of the PHB (Player’s Handbook) to be unlocked for each account/player.  To help soften the cost impact, as we’ve mentioned in other places, content will be broken out to support smaller incremental purchases. 
However, once the PHB is unlocked, it is permanently yours under that DungeonScape account.  The supported tools will improve as we update them, and errata will be automatically included into the book when released.  Players will have access to all of that at no extra charge.  The PHB in DungeonScape is *the* core rulebook to the player experience, and will be for the next several years (until 6e), and it’s available for a one-time purchase (or set of purchases). Once it’s downloaded, it and the tools are yours forever. 
When it comes to DM’s materials (i.e. DMG, MM, campaigns, adventures, supplements, etc.), this is where the sharing function will shine.  Great DM’s often use supplemental materials to support the story they are weaving.  This includes things like maps, descriptive text, illustrations, quotes, and personal notes.  These will all be able to be shared within the app, and players won’t need to buy these things to get the benefits of them.  In addition, the app will allow for sharing information that paper can’t easily provide; things like secretly giving that thief character a magic ring they pickpocketed, or sending messages in complete secret.
To be honest, if it were to work at they are discussing it, I'd prefer this over PDFs. Heck, I'd want to see something similar that was cross platform and open sourced, so I could one day run S&W or the DCC RPG with an app like this.

The Wilderlands Land in my Mailbox!

I snagged some Wilderlands goodness on eBay earlier this week: High Fantasy, Fantastic Reaches and Fantastic Wilderlands of Beyonde along with many (but far from all) of the relevant maps. All the above for less than $60, which is damn good for Judges Guild era Wilderlands product.

Fun times!

Of course now I need to fill in the missing maps and Wilderlands of the Magic Realms.

Kickstarter Reminder - Designers & Dragons Has 11 Days Left - $1 Gets You the 70's in Electronic Format

Designers & Dragons has been my go to book for both bathroom and bedroom reading recently. I've been using the Kindle app on my Samsung phone to enjoy the history of our hobby whenever possible. It is fascinating and an amazingly pleasurable read.

If you consider yourself a part of the OSR, you really should spend a buck on the kickstarter to get instant access to the 70s, not just in PDF but .mobi (Kindle) and .epub format. For as little as $15 you can get all four books in electronic format. A better bargain on the history of our hobby would be hard to find.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amazing Original Doug Kovacs Art Arrives in New York!

My wife +Rachel Griffin fell in love with the above piece when it wasn't even finished at NTRPG Con+Doug Kovacs was kind enough to allow me to put some money down to reserve it for after Gen Con deliver. Guess what was waiting when I arrived home today?

It's Rachel's Anniversary Gift, but I don't think she's complaining about getting it 2 months early ;)

Doug does some really amazing work with his art. You can find a small sample of what he has for sale at If you enjoy truly good art from the fantasy field, Doug is the way to go and his prices are more than fair.

Doug, Rach and I can't thank you enough :)

How Detailed do You Like You Campaign Setting?

On the one side, you have settings like The Forgotten Realms, Harn and the like. On the other side, you have Blackmarsh and similar sandbox style settings.

Detailed to the level of knowing the privy cleaner in the tavern or a light touch, where it's up to the DM to determine whether or not there is a tavern in the village or not.

I'm on the Blackmarsh side of the discussion, with maybe a desire for just a wee bit more detail. I don't need more detail, but I'd probably like it.

Where do you stand?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Latest eBay Pick-ups - The Strategic Review #6 and The Dragon #22

I grabbed The Strategic Review # 6 and The Dragon #22 for about $26 shipped.

While SR #6 has a coffee stain on the back cover, Dragon #22 has very white and crisp pages. This is the issue with the DMG preview, and I suspect you could have survived without the DMG for a good long time with the preview alone.

Very cool pieces of history.