Thursday, October 14, 2010

On Edition Wars and Games of Interest...

This post probably isn't going to make much sense (or be of much interest) to my non-gamer nerd readers, but who knows. Any, I figured I'd give a little update on the Table-top RPGs that I've been playing lately, and decided to combine that with my commentary on the ongoing "Edition Wars", since I feel the dust has finally cleared enough for me to make some personal assessment.

I follow a lot of RPG Blogs (I recommend at least subscribing to the RPG Bloggers Network as lots of great stuff is compiled there. Maybe I'll make a future post about some of my favorites). Anyway, there has been, since the release of 4e, Pathfinder, and a barrage of OSR products, a ridiculous amount of contention between the Old School Renaissance, the 3.5 or die folks and those that went with 4e. Personally, for DMing, I went down the 4e path, because it was something new. I was in the middle of a multi-year 3.5 campaign, which was my first RPG experience since my teenage years. I was looking for something different, but I wasn't quite prepared to step outside the D&D universe. 4e was fresh and new and kind of exciting.

Now that I'm approaching my 4th year "back into the hobby", I am feeling a little burned out on the modern equivalents of D&D. I've been in at least one active 3.5 campaign since January 2007 and have been DMing 4e since the Summer of 2008. In that time, I've spent a lot of time (and money) reading about Savage Worlds, Warhammer 40k RPG (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch), Call of Cthulhu, Hackmaster Basic, Aces & Eights, OSR games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Labyrinth Lord, Dark Dungeons, and Swords & Wizardry.

Both 3rd Edition and 4th Edition D&D are good at what they are and I've had a lot of fun with both games, but I'm really feeling the crunch to expand those horizons. At some level, I guess I'm interested in the mechanics of a game, even over what the intent behind the mechanics might be. I want diversity, because I don't feel like the mechanic of the game makes "the game" good or bad. That responsibility really lies on the game master and the players. Sure, there are poorly designed games out there, with lousy mechanics, and there are certainly games and gaming styles that might not be for everyone, but I'm guessing there has been some group out there that's been able to have fun with most of them.

I've been playing in a Call of Cthuhlu game for a while now, which has been a blast. We tried some Dark Heresy, too, but I was having a hard time holding it together. Only two of us really had a good grasp of the universe and the combat mechanic turned out to be a little on the complicated side. I'd love to get back to it eventually, but I'm not sure when that is going to happen. I've been dying to try Savage Worlds, too. It looks like it should be pretty fun and there are opportunities for all kinds of games/scenarios. Playing Labyrinth Lord and reading Lamentations of the Flame Princess has gotten me really excited for some stripped down old style D&D. It was really refreshing to play out and abstract combat, where we didn't need to worry about what powers we were "wasting" and whether we made the best tactical movement. Those 2+ hour combats in 3rd & 4th Editions really pull me out of the situation. It's almost like you are starting a new game or something. It has a totally different mindset from the rest of the interactions in the game.

I talked to my 4e group about taking a break from the campaign to try out some other stuff, and everyone seemed pretty receptive to the idea, so we'll see what happens. I think a few months off 4e may refresh my interest in the campaign.

Forgotten Realms [WoTC 4e]

I started running this 4e game back in October 2008, I think. It is my first experience trying to DM an entire campaign, and there have been some ups and downs, but basically, I think it has been fun for both me and the players. It has been mostly the same group (I had a couple drop out) since day one. One player swapped his Dragonborn Paladin for a Githzerai Monk. We also have a Tiefling Warlock, Eladrin Wizard, Human Warlord, and Genasi Figher/Shaman. They've just hit 12 level, which was significantly slower advancement than I anticipated going in. We play almost every other week, but only manage to get about 3 hours of gaming in, because it's a weeknight. In those 3 hours, we usually only get to tackle one or two encounters, because combat can be so slow. We've tightened some stuff up, but a lot of the fights still turn into a grind.

Ravenloft [WoTC 3.5]

Due to a very literal series of unfortunate events, this game has been on hiatus for months. Hopefully we'll be starting up soon. It's been fun playing in an evil party with totally wacky character concepts. We're on the verge of trying to start an inter-gang war so an organized crime group we've joined can take control of the drug dealing in one of the cities in the setting. Yowch.

Forgotten Realms [WoTC 3.5]

This game has had a player retention problem. Only two of the original five have made it this far. I think almost ten people have played at least a game or two. It has lead to some disconnects, but Tim is doing his best to hold everything together. Some cult or something totally wants to kill our asses, but we're doing pretty good otherwise. Going to be leaving Lantan via an airship in the next game!

Call of Cthulhu [Chaosium]

Due to some of the same unfortunate events that are stalling the Ravenloft game, the CoC has had a few starts & stops. Hopefully everything gets back in track soon. We're playing through the Masks of Nyarlathotep module. Last game, both of my characters were killed, but that's okay. I'll be returning to the table with a psychiatrist turned occultist. We'll see how he fares.

Labyrinth Lord [Goblinoid Games]

I played my first game of Labyrinth Lord last Saturday and I loved it. It's an old-school clone of D&D. Remember when you could just be an elf or dwarf? No class. Just an elf? It's like that. You roll stats, 3d6 straight. You barely have any special abilities. There is no skill list. Wizards can only cast one spell and only have a couple hit points. Anyway, it was great! The DM designed this huge dungeon and our only goal is to clear it out, keeping any treasure we find. No other long term goals. Just kill things and take their stuff. Brilliance in it's simplicity.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ooh! New stuff in the Mail

My copy of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess boxed set came in the mail today. Everything looks amazing, as expected. I can't wait to try it out.

More on the OSR, modern games, and all that stuff, eventually. Seems like everyone has an opinion, so I'm going to add mine to the fold. I'll probably get some stuff up here on LotFP, as I read through it, and Labyrinth Lord, as the campaign progresses.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

GASP Game Day Report, October 9, 2010

I went to the GASP Game Day (Gamers Association of Southwestern PA) for the first time yesterday and give it a double thumbs up...

Game Day is a FREE monthly event (second Saturday, from 11 am - 12am), held at Legions Games on Perry Highway in the North Hills. Legions is the craziest game store I've visited. Not much stock for me, as primarily an RPG player, but for war gamer types, it's totally insane. It's a giant basement room in a shopping center. Probably over a dozen tables set up with terrain for battles, tons of miniatures, and a friendly, helpful staff. They do have a pretty nice selection of board games and some stuff for RPG players, but this place is really designed for the war game enthusiast.

Anyway, I showed up around 2:30, played 4 board games I've never played, with people I've never met, then started a Labyrinth Lord campaign (again with folks I'd never met).

When I got there, one of the GASP organizers, Don, Da King on the GASP forums, jumped up and introduced himself to me, then took me on a tour of the building and introduced me to some guys who were starting a game. As the first game was ending was ending, another guy came over looking for players for another game. After we wrapped that up, two other guys approached looking for players for yet another game. Everyone was really helpful and inviting. No awkward down-time or anything.

Game Reports:


Kingsburg is a resource collection game, where you play a Lord developing a region of the country. You roll dice to influence different members of the kings court and gain resources (wood, stone, gold, military power, etc). Players use the resources to develop their region and purchase military support. Developments in the region lead to extra resources and points. At the end of 5 years of development, the person with the most points wins. It's a fairly simple mechanic, but the strategy could get fairly detailed, I assume. We played in less than 90 minutes, I'd guess. I'd definitely play again. Fun game.


Another resource collection game. I was told it was sort of like a stream-lined Peurto Rico, but since I'd never played Peurto Rico, that didn't mean much to me. In the game, you play as a business, exploring the world, looking for resources (yep, another resource collecting game). This time, there is no dice rolling. It is more directly a strategy game, removing a lot of the luck from the equation. Again, I'd play this another time. The guys played with were super nice and helpful while I was getting started. Again, we wrapped it up in less than 90 minutes, I'd guess and again, I'd play it again in the future.


I had read about Pandemic, but it sounded a bit intimidating and, to be honest, way out of my league. You play as a team of researchers from the CDC, attempting to quell 4 diseases that have broken out across the planet. The goal is to find cures for the disease before they turn into a full scale epidemic. Each player takes a different role. Some are better at curing, others are better at research or moving resources around. Once we got going, it really wasn't bad at all. The mechanic is fun, and even though we we were playing using the "easy" rules, and we lost (it's a collaborative game, where you play against the game, so either you all win or you all lose), I think we all had a blast.

Cave Troll

In Cave Troll, you play a group of adventures, looting a dungeon. You get gold for controlling squares. In your crew, you have generic adventures, other heroes, like knights, barbarians and thieves, and even a couple monsters, like Wights, Orcs, and the eponymous Cave Troll. It played pretty fast and loose and was fun. Probably my least favorite of the 4 games I played, but still cool. The game is packaged, with some alternate rules, that allow the special heroes and monsters to operated differently, which was kind of neat.

Labyrinth Lord Campaign

Labyrinth Lord is an old school D&D clone, reworking the rules for 1st edition Red Box (1981, Moldevay).

This was the reason I went out to the Games Day, and it ended up being a ton of fun. The DM, Tim Harper, clearly has a lot of experience and did a great job. Unfortunately, only 2 or the 4 or 5 players that were supposed to show made it, but Tim took it in stride. We each rolled up a character and a retainer, 3d6 straight. I ended up with a fairly dumb thief as my main character, with a terribly weak and uncharismatic wizard retainer. The other guy created a fairly dumb fighter, with a wiley halfling retainer.

The four hours blew by as we explored the buildings along Daarve's Hill. We killed a zombie and some sleeping half-demons, made buddies with a crusty old dwarf and some weird ass gnomes. Gained a bunch of XP by finding a big stash of gold and gems buried in a room, and not once did we move a mini around on the table or have to worry about using the right power at the right time.

I highly recommend checking out a GASP Game Day in the future. November Game Day is replaced by their annual convention GASP-Con, a full weekend of gaming. I'll be there!

Going to try to resurrect this here blog

I dropped the ball. There for  a while, I was watching way more than I could write about, so I gave up. I decided to give the writing a shot again, though. Still no specific plans for the direction my writing will go, but as before, expect some stuff about gaming, movies, beers...whatever I'm getting into.

Now playing?
Porno Groove - The Sounds of 70's Adult Films
Secret Stash Records and Fantasy Productions have teamed up to bring you the definitive Porno Groove collection. I grabbed this vinyl only compilation of songs from various Fantasy Productions films at Mindcure yesterday with some of the money I made that the Belvedere's record swap. The band, The Up Stroke, I assume was something of a house band at Fantasy, as they provided all the tracks here. Sure, it's got a little bit of the "wacka-chicka" vibe, it is 70s porn after all, but there really seems to be something more there. This stuff doesn't fall into all the tropes you are expecting. There is significant variety across the tracks, even if they all fall into the same general genre. I'm not ashamed to admit the draw of the comp was based on the connection to 70s cinema, adult or otherwise, over any overt interest in funk or soul. I'm really veering off my usual path here, after years of being locked down on punk and metal, with the occasional 70s-80s, usually synth oriented, horror soundtracks (Carpenter, Frizzi, Goblin).That said, I'm digging the smooth grooves. I've heard enough stuff like this in various forms of 70s cinema, that it sounds somewhat familiar, even with a fairly limited knowledge of the genre. I think this is going to be more of a download genre for me, as I really can't afford to get too involved in another area of collecting, but I'll probably continue to pick up other odds and ends, if I come across them.

If anyone can recommend some good blogs to explore more soundtrack recordings (porn, or otherwise), hook me up with some in the comments section. Thanks.