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Saturday, April 23, 2011

What I Hope You Won't Find on This Blog

I assume that patrons of this fine establishment expect certain things when they walk thru the tavern door and pull up a barstool.  RPG talk, some personal thoughts, rarely comments about a current newsworthy event, maybe some updates in the personal life (adult beverages you must supply on your own - this is a BYOB tavern).  Going to the tavern is supposed to be a good time.  I try to leave my Rants that aren't game related off my bog.  (Yes, you will still suffer from my occasional Gaming Rants)

I don't think anyone really wants to hear my political views on my gaming blog.  I could be wrong:  Screw the Libs, F' the Conservatives, damn leftist Democrats, evil Right Wing Republicans - maybe if I could write a balanced article turning the above into OSR devils and demons it might be post worthy... otherwise, does anyone really want to hear that kinda shit from me?  Holiday dinners start going downhill the minute someone mentions politics in my family.  The last thing I want to do is bring that kinda crap into the tavern.

Same thing goes for religion.  For the most part, I'm going to try to avoid discussing anything resembling real life religion, unless its good wishes for a Holiday or something else in passing (oh, or if I can find some good gaming mileage out of it - gaming mileage = less offensive).  When I stumble across a post dealing with real life religion on the gaming blogs I read, it's never a positive post.  It's always lambasting one group or another.  You don't go to your neighborhood pub expecting or looking for such and my intention is you will never find it here.

I'm the last person that thinks a gaming blog needs to be 100% game related.  I do think there are certain topics that don't fit comfortably with the rest.  Each will do with their own as they see fit, which is the beauty of blogging.  I'm just voicing my opinion of what fits on my blog and what doesn't.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Back From the Vacation Within a Vacation - Still Stirring Up Muck

I never expected to get much of a response to my little rant last night.  Boy, was I mistaken.  Thanks to all you who let me blow off some steam at the (minor in the grand scheme of things) injustices I vented about last nite.  Those that follow this blog know I'm usually laid back.  Sometimes shit just needs to be said.

Anyhow, I'm still way behind with my reviews.  I'm going to need to stea... "borrow" some time at work next week to catch up.  Heck, I eat lunch at my desk.  I may as well use that  time for something useful.

Oh, my little girl found a new hiding place yet again (as she didn't want to leave the country living vacation).  At least when I find her she doesnt run and look for a new spot to hide.  She just waits patiently for me to pick her up.

Before I forget, A.C. Moore has a 40% sale on painted plastic figurines... I picked up some dragons earlier tonight.  I'll try and post some pics tomorrow.  The 2-Headed Gold Dragon Rowks!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When Did Our Hobby Become Controlled By a Bunch of Elitist Pigs?

Alright, maybe "Controlled" is too strong a word.  Still, when did we decide that to be part of the "in crowd" we had to conform to a bunch of rules that aren't written in stone (or really, written anywhere), but are subject to the whims of whoever is enforcing said rules.

Case in point #1:  RPG Bloggers Network - If a blog from a company that writes adventures and Fantasy Grounds 2 modules isn't RPG enough, then what is?  What is with the elitism?  Besides, 95% of the blogs there I've never even heard off.  So, if you don't qualify to be a member of the network, is it really a strike against you or a point in your favor?

Case in point #2:  RPG.net - It's a place I never post at, and rarely visit.  The number of self designated authorities on any subject I find annoying, and in general they don't seem to be very receptive to new posters.  The permaban (nice word) of Greg Christopher is interesting, as it seems to be more of a reaction to his stated purpose of creating controversy to generate traffic for his blog then the actual post.  His blog generates no income, his games are released for free - where is the commercial aspect he was banned for?

Another day, another reviewer or moderator, either of these would have passed inspection, yet we allow people with their own biases and agendas one crapload of control over this hobby.

Or do we?  I never tried to join the RPG Bloggers Network.  I always figured I'd never make the cut, not because my blog isnt decent (I hope it is) but because I refuse to conform to some arbitrary and indistinct set of rules just to be part of the club.  Screw that shit!  I've got my own club - just look at my blogroll on the left.

As for RPG.net?  I never liked those forums for the reason I stated above.  I'd get myself permabanned too just to make a point, but I'd have to sign up for an account first and what's the point in that? ;)

Whereupon the Kitty Became a Tigress

This morning was the yearly vet visit for my kitty Ashley (who as graced this blog in the past).  I'm up here in the Poconos, where the vets are nicer (and cheaper) then the Big City.

The appointment was for 1050 - by 0950 Ashley was nowhere to be found.  My mother's 2 cats didn't have a care in the world, but mine somehow read it was vet day, and promptly found herself a new hiding spot.  It took me nearly half an hour to find her.

I knew it wasn't going to go well as Ashly tried to take a swipe (through her case) at a 200+ pound pony that the owner insisted was actually a breed of mastiff.  Yep, my kitty was primed.

She handled the vet tech well that weighed her - 9.7 pounds, and seemed to calm down as we awaited the vet.  In comes the vet to sweet talk her and her hiss was fairly impressive.  The vet tech went to get a towel to try to restrain her for the exam and shots and then quickly moved up to the leather gloves that went past her elbows.  I wasn't going to ask for the usual nail trim at that point.

Just what I look for in my mornings... feline stress.  Once we were home, my weretiger was back to normal, no stress and no grudges for her ordeal.

Just think, last year the vet was so impressed with Ashley's markings she must have brought it up three times during the exam.  This year, they couldn't finish the exam quickly enough.

This post alone will probably keep me off the the RPG Bloggers Network as being too little game related.  Trust me tho', this incident will find its way into a game session in some form or another ;)

The Draconic Archeologist - A Final Look at the Strategic Review

ChicagoWiz asked in my comments to my previous post for my opinion on the Strategic Review run, now that I've read them.  My feeling is this:  it makes for a very telling snapshot of TSR during the time period.

Over the course of 7 issues, it goes from 6 pages to 20 pages - and it about to be reborn as The Dragon.  Initially, it was little more then a newsletter.  In the end, it was a magazine.

It gave us first view of new classes, races and magic items.  At the same time, it shared space with war games.  As TSR saw that D&D was turning into it's cash cow, they needed a magazine that could be devoted to it (and have a name that was a bit more reflective of it's contents).  Strategic Review was a fine name for a war gaming magazine but not really appropriate for a magazine devoting more and more space to Dungeons & Dragons.

First and foremost, one must remember that EGG was the primary voice of the company, and when he felt vocal on a subject, he surely let himself be heard. As an example, here is a snippet from the editorial of issue 2:  Donald Featherstone once said in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER that he believed Arnold Hendrick’s chief talent and claim to fame lay in his “pinching” of Fletcher Pratt’s Naval Wargame — alluding in all likelihood to similarities between Mr. Pratt’s game and the set of rules for naval miniatures authored by Mr.
Hendrick. I concurred with what was said in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER, and when the good Mr. Hendrick “reviewed” CHAINMAIL in a highly uncomplimentary manner I ignored what was written, for surely most hobbyists could be assumed to be able to read this “review” for what it was worth and in light of Mr. Hendrick’s talents otherwise. As an example of the comments he made regarding CHAINMAIL, the most amusing was his assertion that heavy cavalry was rated too high, imagine! In a period where the armored horseman dominated the field of battle, heavy horse are too strong! Anyway, the learned Mr. Hendrick subsequently “reviewed” DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, again in a very uncomplimentary manner — after all, he had gone so far as to play a game of D&D as a Cleric, completely armed with such edged weapons as spear and arrows . . . Again, this so called “review” was so obviously inaccurate and biased that I ignored it completely, although numbers of letters and telephone calls from irate D&D fans who had read the comments and wished to let me know that the “review” outraged them assured me that Mr. Hendrick would not escape totally unscathed. Eventually the magazine which retains Mr. Hendrick as a “reviewer” did print a contrary opinion — how could they ignore a counter-article written by Mr. James Oden, President of Heritage Models, Inc.? This brings me to the point of this editorial. The axe that Mr. Hendrick has been grinding so loudly and long has been exposed.


I don't think you can get more Gary Gygax then the above piece.  Classic.  Simply classic.

I enjoyed my reading of the Strategic Review.  It was like reading a piece of history.  The fun kind of history ;)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist - Closing Up the Strategic Review With #7

Strategic Review #7 (or Vol. II, No.2) is the last issue of Strategic Review before morphing into The Dragon.  This last issue clocks in at 24 pages (including covers, so really 20) which makes it about 3 times the size of issue #1.

So, what does issue 7 offer us, the OSR or Old School gamer?

Well, EGG gives us an article on D&D magic, but really, its more then that.  It's a critique of the magic-user class and it's early players.  Heck, it could even be seen as a critique of power gamers and rules lawyers that try to distort the meaning of a rule.  That being said, EGG states that a Magic Mouth spell can cast spells that are solely verbal.  I think I missed that first go round.

Joe Fisher gives us Part 1 of a series of articles - Hints for D&D Judges:  Towns
In it he gives the starting Judge (when did Dungeon Master become the "in" title?) some pointers on providing a starting town for the new party of adventurers.  We would consider the hints very basic these days, but those were very basic days.

Mighty Magic Miscellany gives us some artifacts this time around:  The Cup and Talisman of Akbar, The Staff of the Priest Kings and The Brazen Bottle.

The Creature Features gives us a first look at the Catoblepas and the Denebian Slime Devil (of which the less said, the better).

EGG gives us a second article:  D&D is Only as Good as the DM - Let me quote from the opening paragraph: Successful play of D & D is a blend of desire, skill and luck. Desire is often
initiated by actually participating in a game. It is absolutely a reflection of the
referee’s ability to maintain an interesting and challenging game. Skill is a blend
of knowledge of the rules and game background as applied to the particular game
circumstances favored by the referee. Memory or recall is often a skill function.
Luck is the least important of the three, but it is a factor in successful play
nonetheless. Using the above criteria it would seem that players who have attained
a score or more of levels in their respective campaigns are successful indeed. This
is generally quite untrue. Usually such meteoric rise simply reflects an incompetent
Dungeonmaster.



To summarize - slow down the advancement if character level is going too fast.  Don't give away expo like its a xmass bonus.  Remember:  By requiring players to work for experience, to earn their treasure, means that the opportunity to retain interest will remain.  Words of wisdom.


And thus end our review of the Strategic Review.



A Short Vacation on My Vacation

Yep, I've actually gone away for a few days on my vacation.  Got to the Poconos a little after 2 pm (I left 2 hrs later then planned, as my kitty found herself a new hiding place).  Still, she was good on the ride and happy to be up here.

This is the first time I've brought absolutely no reading material except what is on my iPad or laptop.  Definitely made for lighter packing, and the laptop coming in at 11" doesnt hurt either.

I expect to get some decent reading in from my "to read list", but as I am heading back to the city in time to prep for Easter, its a short getaway.

God bless my father, he has my 2 birds and the kid's 2 cavies to take care of for the next few days ;)

Damn it!  I keep trying to touch my laptop's screen, and its not a touch screen.  Damn you Apple!  Damn you to heck!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Draconic Archeologist: Sing It To Me Baby! - Strategic Review #6

Strategic Review #6 (or if you are following at home, Volume 2 #1) gives us the first view of the Bard class for D&D.  If you have your AD&D Plater's Handbook, you might want to refresh your memory– or not.  The AD&D Bard broke more rules... lets just say it broke many rules and was a fairly broken class.

The D&D Bard was a jack of all trades.  He fought as well as a cleric (but without the weapon restrictions), he has the abilities of a thief half his level (rounded down), get's access to magic-user spells (but at a much slower pace), can charm, legend lore... he really is a jack of all trades.

We get some magic instruments for the ladies man too.  Not bad for his first showing.  Too bad it went down hill for the class with AD&D.

I barely remember the old Dungeon! board game.  One of my non-gaming friends had it in junior high, and the few times I played it was with him.  If you still have a copy, Dwarves and Clerics are added to the mix in this issue.

Sage Advice gives us  some corrections for the Greyhawk supplement.

Crap, almost forgot the Alignment map that I skipped over in my Bardic excitement.  Apparently Werewolves are almost (but not quite) Lawful Neutral.  Even better is Liches are on both the LG and LN side.  I could really dig being an all powerful undead Lawful Good Lich Paladin.  Hmmm, Paladins are REALLY REALLY Lawful Good, Liches are just Lawful Good.  Ah well, there goes that hole in the alignment chart I was hoping to drive a semi thru...

Tuesday Nite Netflix - From Paris With Love


I feel like I'm watching a runaway train and the wheels are about to come off.  I hope it gets better.  Maybe.

I can't stop watching.  I think the action scenes are blinding me to the general stupidity of the whole thing.

God help me.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Beta Coming on Free RPG Day


Goodman Games is releasing the Beta Rules for the DCC RPG in digital format for Free RPG Day.  They will also be releasing a free print Adventure Starter, which will include one low level and one high level adventure.

I'm actually excited about this year's Free RPG Day now (basically because I have no idea what anyone else is releasing).  All that and a look at the rules in Beta.

You can read more about it at Goodman's site here.

The Draconic Archeologist: Catching Up - Strategic Review #4 & #5

I'm a bit behind, so today we will start with a Double Feature – Issues 4 and 5 of Strategic Review are up for viewing with my OSR / D&D Goggles.  Let's see what useful stuff Gary gives us, shall we?

Hmmm... it looks like Greg Costikyan planned to publish a D&D fanzine.  I wonder if that ever got off the ground.  He even asked TSR's approval before starting and got a thumbs up.  Whoda' thunk it?

Gary's Castle & Crusade column features a few more pole arms.  It's a nice history lesson, but how many do you really need for the game?

Hey, look... over there!  See it?  No?  He must be invisible cause he's the first Illusionist.  Yes, the first view of the Illusionist class.  Remember: "Although severely limited in the number of magical items they can employ, Illusionists make up for this restriction by the power of their magic."  That's why it's always been such a popular class... so much more powerful then Magic-users.

For the fans of Empire of the Petal Throne, M.A.R. Barker has a three page article called Tsolyani Names Without Tears.  It so you can create authentic sounding Tsolyani names.  Oh, and a chart for the new alphabet.  If you are an EPT fan, this probably rocks.  If you are not...

The Creature Feature introduces the Clay Golem.

Might Magic Miscelleny (spell check says it should be Miscellany) gives us "Ioun" Stones.  Pretty cool background on these: "Seeing that we offer so many new monsters herein we thought it only fair to occasionally include unusual, extraordinary, and useful new magical goodies also. FLASHING SWORDS! #1 (Dell, 1973) contained four excellent swords & sorceryyarns, including “Morreion” by Jack Vance. In this tale there was a magical item of highly unusual value — IOUN stones. Mr. Vance was kind enough to allow us to enlarge somewhat upon his creations and list them as a D&D “Miscellaneous Magic” item."

Thus ends SR #4 for our purposes.  Let us move on to SR#5.

Ah, yes, Finally an issue with a proper cover.  It might be a wizard in a goofy hat, but its a cool looking wizard in a goofy hat.

We start with some short autobiographies of the major players at TSR: EGG, Brian Blume, Robert Kuntz, Theron Kuntz and Tim Kask.  Interesting stuff.

Sturmgeshutz and Sorcery is a mashup of WW2 wargaming and D&D.  This is set up where neither side initially  knew there was a cross-genre encounter going on.

Just to give a peek, I'm going to give you the background that the SS and D&D sides were given:

SS side: "There has been unusual resistance activity in this area, and in the last few days a squad of Security troops were wiped out in a battle with them. Only one old man, bearded, and with no weapons, was found at the scene of the battle. From his dress and general appearance it would seem that he was a Russian clergyman — probably there to incite the troops to greater bravery as the Communist commissars have failed in this respect."

D&D side: "Your able lieutenants Grustiven the Warlock and the Lama Goocz have failed to return from an exploration of an area of unusual nature — just west of your castle a thick fog sprang up and has been obscuring vision since then. Dispell Magic failed to affect the area, and your henchmen were ordered to investigate, for it is possible that some Lawful enemy is at work, using the mist to screen gathering troops. Unfortunately, your strongest fighters and 200 orcs are elsewhere warring with a Neutral Lord who insulted you, so you will have to make do with the forces on hand. An orc detailed to patrol the edge of the fog area has just reported that unusual sounds have been issuing from the area — he  described them as: “low growls, the clanking of chains, and a deep humming,” but who can trust a stupid orc?"

I could see this scenario as a blast to play out.  D&D didn't go far from it's war-gaming roots.

Mighty Magic Miscellany (they corrected it!) gives us the Robe of Scintillating Color and Prayer Beads.

The Creature Feature gives us first looks and future classics: Rakshasa, The Slithering Tracker and The Trapper.



Monday, April 18, 2011

Things to Do... Later

Let's see:  I wanted to talk about the Synapse and Errant RPGs - they'll have to wait.

Next installment of the Draconic Archeologist?  I'll do a double entry tomorrow.

Peeking at the Woodland Warriors?  They'll have to come out and play tomorrow.

Watch the latest Chicago Code at 9pm?  I'll catch it on Hulu+.

I'm almost done downloading Blood Bowl via Steam on my PC... time to relive the board game moments in computer gorefics...er, graphics!

Your Highness - Reviewing the Movie as a Gamer

I am reviewing it as a gamer because apparently the critics hated it.  Rotten Tomatoes was iffy on it, but Moviephone users gave it a 91% thumbs up.  Who to believe?

In this case, no one.  I do think it one of the better (if not the best) D&Dish movie we've been given in years.  It's just that it seems like it's not sure what it wants to be.  Is it a foul mouthed, sexually perverted comedy aimed at the folks that go see the Scary Movie series, or is it a well thought out fantasy movie with pretty nifty effects and sweet action scenes?  It's both, which makes it weaker then either a pure goofball comedy or a serious fantasy genre movie (after the LotR series, I think we can expect serious fantasy movies on occasion).  It does however, do a decent job of being both... it just would have been stronger picking one and sticking with it.

Is it better  then the 1st D&D movie? Hell yes.  Is it better then the 2nd D&D movie?  Without a doubt.  Better then Army of Darkness?  I think so.

On a scale of 1 to 5 pints, I'll give this a 4.  I'm grading a bit on the curve, because there were some moments where the movie just shines from a gamer's point of view (like the hired barbarian dying a gruesome death in the first and only trap in the maze).

I think I'm in love with Natalie Portman, but don't tell my lady ;)

Monday Morning Musings - April 18th, 2011

When is Tax Day not Tax Day?  When it falls on April 18th (and you've already filed an extension so that the refund arrives around the next stage of renovations).

Ashley, my cat, has two favorite places to be when I'm on my computer - my keyboard or in front of my monitor.  Why have I given her a padded perch when she would rather lay on top of papers?

Will Your Highness meet expectations?  I'll find out at 12:40.  You'll find out later this afternoon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where's the REAL Magic in Your Campaign?

As I was driving thru the streets of Manhattan earlier tonight I let myself soak in the wonders of a modern city.  Traffic lights, cars, trucks, public transportation, running water, sewers, phones, electricity, paved  streets - the list goes on.  It struck me.  Where are these conveniences in the fantasy campaigns we run?

I know that, for the most part, I've never had a chamber pot hap-hazardly dumped on a party member that just happened to be walking down a street, but it used to be fairy common before indoor plumbing.  So what takes care of the stuff that we take for granted in the real world in our fantasy worlds?

Magic.  The real stuff.  Not the stuff of adventuring.  The stuff that lets a city thrive.  It helps take care of the sewage and water supply, keeps disease under control, allows for the city's refuse to be dealt with... all the things we take for granted in a modern word we take for granted in our fantasy worlds.

When we game, we look at the world thru the eyes of our adventurers.  We look for adventurer supplies, and adventurer magic.

The magic that keeps the wealthy lord comfortable will not be the same as the magic that keeps him safe.

The question then becomes, are there spells that our PC casters never bother with, because they have little to no application in the adventuring professions, or is the magic that makes the world truly move belong to a whole other class or classes?

Amazing what comes to mind as you sit in traffic on a Sunday evening.

Sunday Afternoon Matinee - Four Lions

I've been waiting to catch this movie since I first heard about it.  It's a dark British comedy about a cell of incompetent home grown British Islamic terrorists.

It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be, but then again, how funny can a movie about terrorist be?  ;)

I enjoyed it tho'.  I cringed and laughed (guilty laugh, but laugh none the less).

Come to think of it, if there was an RPG about playing home grown terrorists, this movie is pretty close to how it would play out.  Not sure if that is funny or scary, but  its accurate.

Four Lions is available on Netflix on Demand

Not the Way to Start One's Vacation

I had a birthday party to go to in Connecticut yesterday and I would have done myself a huge favor by not going.  The party and family were great to be at and see, it's the drive that did me in.

I knew the rain was going to have picked up for the ride home, but I had no idea how much.  Between the rain, low lying fog, wind and the mist kicked up by other drivers I had near zero visibility at some points.  The hour and a half ride became nearly 2 1/2.  The real shame is that drives like this are usually great blog fodder, as part of my minds is freed from the normal distractions of life and works out some nice post seeds.  Didn't happen.

Last night I needed all my brain power just to avoid hydroplaning cars:  note to SUV drivers - yes, you too can hydroplane - size does NOT matter.

Time to prep the front rooms for painting.  Fun fun.