Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DC Heroes wins..?

Alright, so I re-read the Mutants and Masterminds-based DC Adventures again last night and while the game certainly seems appealing on many levels, there are some things that are problematic for me. This is in light of going over MEGS again and again, trying to find out where it failed as previously stated. Essentially, DCA takes some of the best ideas from MEGS (logarithmic scale for instance) and implements them in a stupid d20 way. I'd go so far as to call DCA an actual clone of MEGS using the OGL. Maybe it's just the flat d20 roll that bugs me so much; 2d10/reroll doubles has a nice distribution with some extremely improbable results, just like the comics.

Anyway, I finally decided what I wanted specifically, and DCA doesn't give me that, for whatever reason. DCH, however, is the perfect system mechanically but I could do without the hero creation process. What I want is DCH with more open-ended powers (like MSHRPG), randomly determined. For the longest time I thought DCH was a bit limited in power selection, but really, you can implement any comicbook power, some of them are just non-obvious at first. Case in point, I saw a write-up for Colossus and thought, that works but it's not apparent from reading the rules. Anyway, the solution was pretty simple: come up with random tables, like Marvel, and couple them with DCH. That's it. This is easier said than done, but essentially all I need to do is come up with some sort of reasonable distribution for AP assignment to attributes based on character background. The powers themselves will be taken directly from the Ultimate Powers Book, probably using the same exact random generation charts. A further consequence of doing this is blurring the powers themselves. I think Invisible Girl/Woman is perfect for spelling out exactly what I mean. Invisible Girl, yeah, she could turn invisible. And that was about it. As time progressed and Sue became a Woman (deflowered by Mr. Fantastic, no less), she began to exert more and more control over her powers, including force fields, limited telekinesis, weapons of "force", etc. In DCH/Champions/point-buy terms, she probably has Invisibility, Force Manipulation, Ranged Attack, etc. In Comic terms she has "invisibility powers". If Invisible Woman were a PC, her player was extremely creative in coming up with all sorts of plausible uses for a power that could be pretty lame.

Another thing I like about DC Heroes is sub-plots. These are basically player-directed plots within the game. It allows the player to dictate the action as long as it is fun and comic-like. Hero points I think should stay, but only usable in "dramatically appropriate" situations. It would be obvious when these situations occur, and the GM should be able to tell a player that their hero points are unavailable. The players should revel in failure; embrace it and encourage it.

I wonder who would actually play this game...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Superhero stuff part II

This is a follow-up to my previous post (ignore the rant about rpg.net). I began to wonder why I've never been satisfied with superhero rpgs, as a whole, compared to something like D&D. D&D itself really doesn't simulate Conan or Tolkein very well (if at all), but it can simulate the feeling of utter futility found within those works. A major trope of fantasy gaming is the notion that player characters are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. This is sometimes subverted and the PCs made primary focus, but generally, there are all sorts of insanely power beings duking it out with the characters playing a minor role. Old School gaming in particular is more about looting dead lizardmen, killed in random scuffles while searching ancient tombs than it is about saving the world. I've seen the term "fantasy Vietnam" a few times when referring to D&D, and it fits. Of course, you can certainly play a different style, but the mechanics of D&D are better geared for this sort of stuff. Killing monsters and taking their stuff is D&D.

Different mechanics suit different gaming styles, so when I want a dungeon crawl I'll use D&D (wow, what a great leap in logic, right?). When I want a superhero game I'll use...now this is the issue I've run into. What system would I use? The previous systems I outlined before all lack something, but I couldn't quite figure out what. In an effort to fully understand what the comics are all about, I undertook a massive research effort these past few days. What follows are few things I discovered. (I do realize these are obvious; sue me)

1) I played Champions Online (it's free now, if you're interested) quite a bit. MMORPGs and superheroes, yeah well, good luck with that. It was fun for a while but devolved into yet another carrot-n-stick game. A major, major discovery though: being able to detail the physical appearance of a comicbook hero is paramount to true enjoyment of the genre. When I play D&D, I generally really don't care what my character looks like, other than the basics. In fact, most of the time I don't even bother to describe them. But superheroes...looking good while kicking ass is half the fun. In fact, it might be the most important part. As comics are an extremely visual medium, this makes perfect sense. I suppose I never completely rationalized this concept fully until I literally spent an hour perfecting my hero's costume in the character designer portion of CO, even though I had no real plans to play very much. After getting to level 5, I deleted that same character and made another due to not liking a particular physical attribute. Not even kidding. I'm not exactly hung up on aesthetics, but for a superhero, it's ridiculously important.

2) I read around 30 issues of Marvel comics, mostly Captain America and Spiderman, and watched the first two seasons of Justice League. First of all, the Justice League cartoon is definitely geared more for adults than kids. It also follows the continuity of the comics pretty closely from what I could tell; I looked up some of the plots afterward and they were almost all contained within previous books or alluded to those books. Anyway, it's pretty good, worth watching for sure. The primary discovery here: heroes regularly get beat-down. Constantly. It is rare for heroes to win any battles and in fact, they regularly lose until the very end when they finally overcome the villain or situation. But the heroes don't run away, either. They take their beatings and keep coming back for more, even against hopeless odds. Their powers are generally ineffectual against whatever challenge they face and they have to come up with alternative means of fighting.

3) Superhero teams are often comprised of heroes who have disparate levels of power. How do you rationalize Batman's utter lack of superpowers compared to Superman? Well, Batman is the most intimidating guy in the universe (seriously...) and pretty much by force of will gets shit done. To use a similar example, Robin/Nightwing is head of the Teen Titans/New Titans yet possesses no superpowers. Starfire is stronger, faster, can fly and is arguably a superior hand-to-hand combatant, yet Nightwing is still in charge. Batman and Nightwing are insanely popular characters, much more than Martian Manhunter who basically has every power there is. Comics are less about "power level" and more about being a hero. It could be argued that Batman's competence in battling ridiculously powerful villains while utterly lacking in those abilities himself makes him that much more compelling.

4) I pulled out all the superhero rpgs I own and re-read most of them, or at least gave them a cursory glance. All the games fail on some level, some much less than others. I culled a few ideas:

  • Point-buy systems allow for customization, but random system are closer to the medium. Spiderman didn't choose to be bitten, nor did he choose all the ridiculous complications in his life. Nearly every single hero has powers by circumstance, not choice. Still, if you want to play the Hulk but get stuck with Emma Frost, as a player, you might be a little disappointed. There has to be a way to combine these two.

  • Simplicity in play leads to faster battles which leads to more battles. This is important, as there are usually no less than three encounters between the primary villain (or his minions) and the heroes before the heroes win. Conversely, having a wide variety of options available during those combats is just as important because it differentiates the characters. Whereas Superman or Hulk simply throw punches, Captain America and Batman are much more tactially inclined. Speed vs. options.

  • Going back to point 3 above, power level is arbitrary. Why is super strength almost always overpriced compared to something like force of personality? Neither is more or less useful in the comics, but fully dependent upon application. The usefulness of abilities and powers should depend upon the competency of the player and their aptitude for using them in-game.

  • Hero points or similar mechanisms for altering die rolls seem to be a meta-tool that allows a player to dictate an outcome. I'm on the fence about this one. I like the concept but do not like how they can be used whenever a player wants. Act III vs. Lex Luthor, yes, Superman can overcome the kryptonite ray by spending a ton of hero points. But in Act I, no, Superman becomes a crumbled heap and Lex gets away. How can this be rectified?

It should become apparent I'm seeking a panacea that probably doesn't, and cannot, exist. Just like games based on novels really don't capture the essence of the story, comics might be impossible to represent in a gaming medium without making concessions. Still, I have a few ideas, which will be in yet another post.


It's entirely possible I wouldn't be too dissatisfied with playing Emma Frost, now that I think about it...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why I don't read message boards (mostly)

This post on rpg.net begins a tangent about the stupidity of hit points and healing in D&D. I think this quote from a subsequent post sums up why I don't bother to read message boards most of the time: "D&D and that type of game should have gone with, I don't know, 'heals 1D4 x character level' from day one". Does this make any sense at all? Trying to impose some modern sensibility onto the way a game was originally implemented is fucking idiotic. Cure Light Wounds is called CLW because it CURES FUCKING LIGHT WOUNDS. Period. And, yeah, hit points for characters aren't exactly wounds. So what. I really don't know what to think about this stupidity. It is a game. Abstraction of reality is a part of a game. A spell that cures "wounds" doesn't make any sense due to the fact that hit points aren't technically wounds..?

Jesus Christ. I read a post on Grognardia today about being obsessed with the industry. Perhaps gamers are far more obsessed with being obdurate, pedantic morons who nitpick constantly instead of just playing. I know D&D has a lot of flaws, but these sorts of arguments are like saying the Model T sucked because it didn't have an independent suspension or disc brakes. I get angry when I read this sort of stuff. Not because they are making disparaging comments about a game I like, but because the comments are baseless and stupid. In closing, fuck you rpg.net.

Superhero games and stuff

I was never the most avid comic book reader, but I certainly do enjoy the genre. My favorite character is a toss-up between Captain America, Dr. Doom and Lex Luthor; Doom comes out on top for overall awesomeness, though. What's interesting to me regarding the whole DC vs. Marvel debate is that the Marvel Universe, as a whole, seems to be "more interesting", yet individually DC has the best heroes. I suppose it's the difference between enjoying team sports vs. individual sports.

Anyway, there are a lot of superhero rpgs out there, and I own nearly all of them. My exploits in the Jeff Dee-run V&V game at NTRPGCon were described earlier, and yes, I own all the editions of that game. Here's a quick run-down of what I have actually played (or play tested) and a few thoughts about them:

Champions (old)

I'll lump in the 2nd - 4th editions here, before Steven S. Long took over development. A lot of fun, really, and not to unwieldy. The point-buy system is good, but honestly, I got way more mileage out of the 2nd edition rules when I was a kid than I ever did out of the more unified approach taken by the BBB. Less is more, perhaps. It's fun to create characters, combat can take a while.

Champions/HERO (new)

I have 5th edition, 5th edition revised and 6th. Production values of 6th are top-notch, but the gaming system itself...geeze, what the fuck happened here? The writing isn't bad, but a lot of the flavor is gone. I do realize the intention was to create a tool-kit or something, but this really isn't a roleplaying game so much as it is a system for tactical combat. I keep wanting to play this, but after spending an hour trying to make a character, just seems like a pain in the ass. Creating a character with a Multipower is harder to me than the old 2nd edition way. Still, the wargamer in me loves this "game"; the fun part is creating powers and crap. Playing it, eh, no real interest.

DC Heroes (1st - 3rd)

My favorite superhero game, didn't really change much between editions. Attributes and powers are quantified in a logarithmic fashion which means you don't need to define Superman's strength in the billions. Another point buy, but much more limited in the sense that the powers are much more defined. You want to teleport, buy the teleport power and that's it. No modifiers and other stuff to add. This leads to more description and less worry about implementation within the system, which is a gripe I have with HERO. A major advantage over HERO is no SPD chart: multiple actions just reduce the APs of an attribute/power. In comic terms, it means Batman can beat the shit out of 8 thugs in one round with a good chance of success.

Blood of Heroes

This is essentially DCH 3rd edition with a few updates. How they managed to take a wonderful system and turn it into a pile of shit is beyond me. The actual game is fine, but the writing and art is awful. I think this pissed off a lot of DCH fans, with good reason.

Villains and Vigilantes

The first superhero game I ever played with random character creation. Part of me likes designing characters, the other part likes random generation. V&V makes the base hero YOU, then adds random powers. You're literally playing yourself, somehow altered with super powers. Definitely a different feel, but I liked it. Some of it was clunky, and I never have been completely satisfied with how combat was handled. The 3rd edition preview at the con led me to believe there was some emphasis on cleaning up the rules, and I'm curious to see how that goes. Overall, fun game.

Marvel Superheroes RPG

Random character generation and a quick-n-dirty approach to handling combat and power usage makes for a fast, fun game. Where the DCH system itself implies a more somber tone (much like the comics), the MSH system feels pretty much like a Marvel comic. Does that make any sense? Hell if I know, it's hard to explain. Essentially, trying to create Spiderman in DCH doesn't really work, just like Superman is hard to do in MSH. The Book of Ultimate Powers...now, this is easily the best book for superhero gaming out there. I'm on the fence about MSH, mostly because I think the character creation is great but the system isn't granular enough. The same could be said about DCH, but I think that game does a better job at implementation.

GURPS Supers

I'm throwing this in there as a way to point out what a terrible job GURPS does for superheroes. I like GURPS a lot, but the 3rd edition failed miserably for simulating comics. 4th edition is somewhat better, but I'd never play it. Sort of like HERO, making characters is fun, but playing isn't something I'd care to do. Combat in comics is fast and furious, GURPS and HERO get bogged down with all sorts of minutiae.

ICONS

This game is new and by that I mean first published a year ago. I had such high hopes for ICONS after reading reviews of it, but honestly, it isn't that great. I don't particularly care for how the powers are handled, nor for the non-open ended approach to attributes. I haven't played ICONS beyond a short sample scenario, so it might actually be better in implementation than what I've read, but I'll probably never get around to it.

Silver Age Sentinels

Based on Guardian of Order's Big Eyes Small Mouth system. When I first got the book, I thought, wow, this is great. But after playing a few sessions, it just felt a little stale to me. Tri-Stat always fools me into thinking it's a great system to run games, but the reality sets in during play that I was in fact mistaken. Honestly, characters are almost as difficult to make as in HERO, so what's the point? I don't regret the purchase, but most likely I'll never play SAS again.

Heroes Unlimited

A Palladium game, so that tells you quite a bit. I still think the TMNT RPG is one of the best games every written, even if the Palladium system itself is kind of wonky. HU is fun, has a lot of cool, interesting powers, especially if you use the Villains Unlimited supplement, and is fast as hell to run. For low-level type games, HU works great. It breaks down instantly when you start trying to play a character like Superman or Hulk. I'd play HU if given the chance as I have nothing but fond memories of my Invulnerable hobo-turned-superhero getting his ass kicked by a villain countless times before the villain finally gave up due to exhaustion.

Mutants and Masterminds/DC Adventures

1st edition was a good try, 2nd edition was alright, 3rd edition tried to fix things and uses the DC license. How this game manages to fail is beyond me. It reads great, has a decent point-buy character creation system...but fuck, it literally sucks. I cannot get engaged by this game because it doesn't offer anything I can't get from another game with a lot less bullshit. If I wanted to create my own power frameworks, why not just use HERO? I don't mind that Fighting is a distinct stat, but MSH does it better. M&M/DCA seems to take all the good parts of other games and marries them to a simple, linear d20 roll that sucks all the fun out of playing a superhero. It's possible I'm exaggerating, evaluating the game based on what I think it should be vs. what it is. Well, if you're going to call yourself DCA, you should probably be able to accurately model DC superheroes. Of course, I bought all the stuff and pre-ordered the stat books.

Superworld

Uses Basic Roleplaying as the base system, which means it is good for gritty comicbook games but not for higher powered stuff. I like Superworld but wouldn't play it for no reason other than it seems rather flavorless. I'd rather use GURPS if I wanted low power, to be honest.


There are a few other games I know of but have never played (Brave New World, Wild Talents and Godlike come to mind). I don't have any interest in those games as they seem to be geared for a specific setting that doesn't appeal to me. This post has a purpose, follow-up to come soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NTRPG Con Report (Part V)

Raffles and whiskey

When we showed up to the Con, I had already been drinking quite a bit. Let me clarify: quite a bit for a normal man. My liver processes toxins at a rapid rate, meaning it takes a lot to get me drunk. It may be from years of abuse, training my liver for the Alcholympics, but I suspect my mutant power might be the metabolization of poisons in general; even as a child I was highly resistant to the effects of drugs. Anyway, so yeah, I was already through a flask and working on a handle as we pulled up. I was not drunk. Doug Rhea and Michael Badolato greeted us as we wandered into the registration area. It was at this point that Mr. Rhea began explaining the contents of our registration packets. At the time, I did not comprehend the purpose behind this explanation as I really didn't care at all. In retrospect, that was an immensely stupid decision for reasons that shall become apparent.

We were given a variety of tickets in various colors. Red, green, blue, etc. All primary colors to keep it easy for the guys to know what was what. "You need to use the puce ticket" would most likely have been met with looks of incomprehension. Saturday night I was given a complete rundown of how at previous Cons, some of the limited items were bought wholesale by nefarious eBay scammers who sold the wares at greatly escalated prices. Some of the minis, for instance, were selling for upwards of $75 on the Internet. BADMIKE WOULD NOT ALLOW SUCH TRANSGRESSIONS, ALL CON GOERS HAD FIRST DIBS! Anyway, the tickets were somewhat of a commodity at the Con as there were individuals who had friends who couldn't attend but wanted a mini or module. Had I known this I would have freely given mine away to anyone who asked as I did not care about any of the Con swag. The reality is that I would have bought all of the stuff but couldn't find my stupid tickets and then justified this to myself as a sign that I should focus on more important items such as two copies of OSRIC. Reports of an individual trying to sell his tickets for $50 are not apocryphal: that actually happened. Once again, dear reader, I remind you that some of the people in this hobby are jackasses, well beyond my naive inanity in social situations.

One of the tickets was unlike the rest, a perforated double ticket oft found at bake sales and Cub Scout meetings. Yes, ladies and gents, it was a raffle ticket for entry into the raffle where items of dubious to wondrous quality would be raffled off. Raffle. Mr. Rhea at given me the details of the raffle, but alas, I made my way around the Con, looking for something to do that Friday night. I was accosted by an individual offering free beer to play in a game. I obliged and made my way to a room where Bill Webb was running Swords & Wizardry for anyone who was able bodied late at night. Mr. Webb was a fine DM and seemingly full of infinite energy, although he did try to murder half the party when they traversed an innocuous log bridge. Not even making that up. My character, an idiot fighter of some sort (the details were lost after Mr. Webb took my sheet stating I could play him again in the future) with low skill. I blame the player, mostly, as he continued to drink heavily. Saturday night I wanted to buy some more raffle tickets and walked by the main Con room on my way to the cash register. Well, who would have known…the raffle was actually taking place AT THAT VERY TIME. And yours truly hadn't torn his golden double perforated ticket (it was gray with red lettering but whatever) in twain, submitting half for the opportunity to be considered and possibly blessed by the gaming gods, leaving NTRPGcon with some cool, free stuff. Again, I blame the player and the whiskey.

I made it through 3/4 of a handle by mid-Saturday night. Even by Andre the Giant standards this is quite a bit. I'm not even counting the gin I drank before smashing the glass or the couple shots of Jamesons I stole from Jason, feigning ignorance when he mentioned his bottle being empty. I'll point out that I had forgotten about drinking any of his booze until now, but I vaguely remember opening the freezer, seeing that tasty beverage, and chugging back a couple shots before heading back to bed. The Handle only cost me $20.56 after tax, being the cheapest part of my Con experience. I do remember my fighter's name was at one point Epimetheus due to some dumbass crap I did and I renamed him mid-game. Didn't die, though, even trying as hard as I might. Stupid snakes...that's twice within the last two games I played that my characters have almost been done in by giant snakes. Perhaps I offended a serpent deity in my past.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

NTRPG Con Report (Part IV)

After smashing a glass of gin and insulting the waitress, we headed back to the Con when I made it clear I had to be back to play in a game. Actually, at this point I was feeling fairly inebriated and didn't know if I gave a crap about another game. I did know Allan Grohe was running it and decided that, yes, I wanted to attend. Jason had told me Allan was a great DM so I was looking forward to some AD&D. I guess. There was a lot of ambivalent thoughts going through my mind at the time and I began contemplating heading back to the restaurant and flirting with the waitress some more. My guess is that I had a 50/50 shot with her, even after the rampant stupidity. But, gaming beckoned and I heeded the call; there would be plenty of opportunity to get snubbed by waitresses in the future at other eateries.

I showed up 20 minutes late and asked if I could still play. Allan was going over some characters and indicated there wouldn't be a problem, as long as I played a cleric. He said, "You might consider a cleric." Which meant, to me, play a cleric. Two other players said they wanted a cleric. So I played a cleric. First of all, what's with all the cleric hate? Why doesn't anyone ever play clerics? How many short sentences can I write with cleric in them? Clerics cleric cleric cleric cleric! Maybe that only works with buffalo. WHATEVER. I say, no problemo, cleric it is. What did I care, I was the one who was late.

Allan gave me a choice of pre-gens, one 6th level and one 8th. Even when drunk I am not a complete moron, so I selected the 8th level cleric. Female. I asked about this and it was made clear that changing the sex to male might have repercussions with casting spells. Apparently Wee Jas doesn't particularly care for male followers, much like waitresses and your writer. I had to select a name: Lindsey. This was offered by someone at the table after I said I'd name her after an ex-girlfriend I hated. No idea who Lindsey was, but hopefully she was hot. I then selected an unpainted mini, it being the only one that resembled a cleric in any fashion. Lindsey the Gray was ready to go, her previous career in the adult entertainment industry left behind for a life of adventuring.

It was around this time that I asked for everyone's name. I made clear I meant real names, reminding me that this hobby is ambiguous when it comes to identity (especially where blogs are concerned if the comments on my past few posts are any indication). The gentleman to my right said he was Erol. Erol fucking Otus. What the hell? I had my Red and Blue books (Moldvay/Cook/Marsh) with me and he signed the covers after the game. Mr. Otus was nice, laughed at my stupid jokes and overall seemed like a cool guy, even if he looked nothing like I imagined. I don't even know what I though he'd look like, but maybe that was his plan: totally mindfuck all the gamers.

Anyway, I thought I played fairly well. I cast a bunch of utility spells, one of which was Locate Object. I found some coins and the party set out on a boat in an elaborate dungeon to find the loot. Yes, we were exploring a dungeon in a boat. The party then split up after killing a bunch of crabs, everyone but my character and a dwarf fighter using Water Breathing to investigate an underground lair. Of course the characters left in the boat were attacked. Dwarf died, my cleric somehow killed a sea hag. Cleric retrieved the body from the water and waited. Waited and waited. The other characters had found her lair and were gathering loot. The cleric decided it was taking too long and left, leaving up an unexplored stairway. Allan was nice and allowed me a small chance not to die, and of course I botched the roll. Party stranded, character dead, con goals achieved.

EROL OTUS SIGNED MY BOOKS! Three for three, suckers.

NTRPG Con Report (Part III)

Herein Lies The Douche

Apparently, not only do I exhibit douchey behavior on the Internet, but also in Real Life. There were many incidents of my sociopathic behavior on display during the Con; all the ones that stand out in my mind follow. I'm sure there were plenty of other instances I seemed like a fucking retard, but I'm probably too stupid to remember them.

Saturday morning, during Jeff Dee's game, I sit next to a guy wearing dark sunglasses. Oakleys or something similar. Now, it is 9AM, I am hung over myself so I too had sunglasses with me ($3 Walmart variety, left at the gaming table), but I took them off as I figured it was appropriate. Who the hell wears sunglasses inside in the morning? I immediately think to myself, geeze, this kid is a dick. It was after 10-20 minutes of his wife reading die rolls aloud and his fumbling with a cup of coffee a few times that I realized: hey, this guy is blind. Did I ever feel like an ass. We had a break for lunch, and after I returned I introduced myself to the fellows at the table, not having the opportunity when we started. The blind kid says his name is Mike Stewart, which I recognize as being one of the Castles & Crusades contributors and at one time a fairly prolific poster on Dragonsfoot. I relate my previous transgressions as a way of pointing out my own stupidity, but it comes off as me being even more of an asshole, if that was possible. Mike has a decent sense of humor so it's possible he didn't take anything personally. A little later in the game, he asks me about the copy of V&V I purchased and I say it's worth buying and offer to let him look at it. He sort of shrugs and I apologize for being unbearably stupid. Whiskey-fueled dumbassery would be my excuse, as I had used ye olde hair of the dog to placate my hangover. Mike still seemed nice enough, though, so kudos to him.

During Allan Grohe's game (which I'll detail later), there was a guy playing who introduced himself as Bob. Bob seemed nice enough and the session went pretty well until he had to depart. The next morning, I saw Bob at a gaming table with two individuals and apparently he was to run a game. I said hello and chatted a bit with him, never realizing HE WAS PLAYING AT THAT EXACT MOMENT IN TIME. It was probably the case that Bob was too polite to tell me to shut the hell up and chalked up my lack of social skills to mental illness and/or booze. He was right on both accounts. Turns out Bob was none other than Bob Reed aka Cyclopeatron. Little did I know…great blog, nice guy, had to put up with me. Sorry.

At some point during the gaming day, I wanted a drink and had seen the serving wench walking around, asking if anyone needed something. I got up, spotted her in a game and asked her to get my a drink. I BLAME THE WHISKEY, OKAY? She was affable and led me to the cooler, which was literally 10 feet from my chair. At this point I felt even dumber than usual and tipped her $5 in hopes she wouldn't post nasty remarks about me on her Facebook.

And I was sorta drunk, flirting with the waitress at the restaurant before I smashed my glass of gin & tonic sending shards of glass all over our table. Another douche move. I took this opportunity to admonish her academic choices and bribed her $20 to sing for me. Thankfully I had places to be before security threw me out.

THIS IS ALL TRUE

Monday, June 6, 2011

NTRPG Con Report (Part II)

I just edited my last post for some spelling mistakes and realized that I didn't specifically say Jeff Dee was exceedingly nice to sign my books even though he had better things to do. So I'll say that: Jeff Dee was exceedingly nice to sign my books at the expense of his breakfast. I honestly didn't know what to expect from those guys, celebrities within a small circle. Here's something that happened (leaving out a part for later) that demonstrates my feelings better.

Fan Boy Fantasy

I'll state it once again, and as many times as I have to: the Mentzer Red Box was the first rpg I ever played. The very first. For around 6 months I didn't know any other version of D&D existed, and even when I was introduced to AD&D I preferred the Red Box. At least until I began tinkering with the rules myself; after that, all bets were off. Still, your first is oft fondly remembered, in a light that doesn't objectively evaluate the significance of such an experience. Okay, enough innuendo...I still think the game stands up today. I like it now and would play it if given the opportunity. It's good, objectively. Just like Star Wars pretty much defines my generation's pop culture, Frank Mentzer defined my roleplaying endeavors. Given that playing rpgs ranks in the Top 5 of my favorite things to do (reading, lifting weights, playing music...and you can guess the other one), it's no surprise that a great majority of my life was directly influenced by him. So, yeah, I'm a fan. No doubt about it. I knew he'd be at the Con, so I took my Basic Player's book and the Expert Book with me on the off chance I might see him. Walking down the hall after narrowly avoiding success in Allan Grohe's game, around midnight on Saturday, I saw a man with a ponytail heading toward the exit. He was alone, wearing a t-shirt with his name emblazoned across the back. Frank Mentzer. I closed the distance, asked him who he was, and the idiot fan boy took over. I really didn't know what to say to the guy, honestly. He indicated he was going for a smoke so I offered to go with him. Sure, he told me, come on. Mr. Mentzer talked to me at length, asked me questions, spoke about things rpg related. I felt like a moron and didn't have much to say. I did however manage a few dumbass questions before telling myself to shut up, but he was laid back and honestly interested in talking to me. I said something about signing my books, he said sure, but made his way back to his game, interrupted for far too long. After signing my books, he began running the game, and I faded into the background, knowing full-well that he had things to do, people had paid money to play in that game and I wasn't about to intrude.

The next morning, as I was getting some coffee, I saw Mr. Mentzer sitting alone in the lobby. I asked if I could join him and again he was nice beyond reason. I talked to him for a while, this time much less stupidly, but still somewhat star-struck. Jason Braun showed up and sat down as well. Mr. Braun was a loud-mouthed jackass with little talent; it's a wonder anyone pays him for his ridiculously shoddy "art". (If you're reading this and aren't in the know, Jason is a drinking buddy so the guy code forces me to insult him.) Mr. Mentzer and Jason and I talked for a while, interrupted by another gentleman who sat down. Turned out he was Jim Ward. So, yes, I was bullshitting with Frank Mentzer and Jim Ward at 9AM. Mr. Ward, too, was super nice and chimed in with some interesting stories and facts. As Mr. Mentzer got up to leave, I said I was very glad to have met and spoke with him to which he said, "Thanks, and also thank you for knowing who I am." This was said somewhat sarcastically, but also with appreciation. I understood what he meant. He also told me he wasn't trying to blow me off the night before, and I told him that I knew what was going on and I didn't think he was being rude in any way. Then Tim Kask showed up with doughnuts. True story.

I've been in a bunch of bands before, and I've met music industry people, a few somewhat famous musicians and some musicians of incredible fame. I bring this up to point out that I'm familiar with how people act when they get a little exposure, some fans, etc. I was never anything but happy to have people tell me they enjoyed the show. Some bands I knew expected the admiration and acted accordingly, even though they were less popular. What purpose did that serve other than stroke fragile egos? I know what it's like to have people bother you and to feign interest because you don't want to offend them as you realize they are your fans, people who require nothing more than a few moments of your time for excessive happiness. Fame can go to one's head and create total assholes. Frank Mentzer and Jim Ward are two of the nicest guys I've ever met, and I think that's pretty cool. I have ranted endlessly that this hobby is full of social misfits and idiots, how the gamers themselves have undermined accessibility for "normal" people. It makes me happy to see that the few Big Guns left from the original rpg movement are great ambassadors to the hobby.

I'm going to finish this post before I start oozing more stupid fan boy nonsense, but Frank Mentzer signed my books, told me cool stories and acted like an 18 year old kid in a 60 year old's body. His enthusiasm for gaming made me feel a whole lot better about spending a couple hundred bucks to play D&D with a bunch of adults.

NTRPG Con Report (Part I of however many it takes)

Let me preface this post with a few facts:

1) I've been to exactly three cons that featured gaming prior to this one, and I simply perused the dealer's room and bought a ton of crap.

2) I don't particularly enjoy playing roleplaying games with people who aren't my friends.

3) I'm currently writing this post from a hotel room in downtown Kansas City, about 850 miles from my house.

There are a lot of things that happened over the weekend, some of which Chris touched on over at his blog. While he took the semi-satirical route, I thought, for once, I'd offer my honest thoughts on what transpired in a somewhat narrative form. I haven't had a chance to blog hardly at all the in the past month but there's a lot of stuff I'm been ruminating over since Sunday and it needs to be documented somewhere. Probably not for posterity if Blogger's outages are any indication, but at least some people need to be aware of what they missed. This is done completely at whim, so the order of presentation is no indication of importance or sequence.

Dealer's Room and Superheroes

Since I mentioned this already in item 1 above, I might as well spell it out instead of doing some ridiculously lengthy parenthetical: I fucking love the dealer's room at cons. This is the primary reason why I avoid cons, in general. Other reasons include non-interest in playing games with people I don't really know (number 2) and not wanting to go alone. Not buying a bunch of crap tops the list, though. I have an unhealthy addiction to making excessive purchases when it comes to rpg materials, and my experience at NTRPGCon (how do you shorten an acronym?) was no different. There wasn't even a huge selection of stuff to buy.

I had corresponded with John Hershberger at Black Blade Publishing a while back about getting OSRIC. The abnormally high shipping cost between the continental United States and South Texas prompted my query as to if the product would be available at the Con. John was affable and informed me that, yes, OSRIC would be there for purchase. However, I got some indication via email that there wouldn't be many copies available, and thus I began questioning my decision to wait a month. Friday night, I met John who was rather cordial even though I was more than slightly inebriated. I found out BBP brought several large boxes of OSRIC, which meant they were dirty liars and my fears were unfounded. They would not sell out! Actually, I started to think that it was possible they were anticipating selling huge numbers of the book and I was itching to get one right away. I had to wait, though, as John had a game to attend and Allan Grohe no where to be found.

11PM that Friday night, something had to be bought within my first hour. More like first 5 minutes. Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Grindhouse Edition. There it was, in a nice looking box. I missed my chances to get the previous edition and sort of fell off the rpg buying map when I was in Arizona, so I didn't pre-order. Instantly I bought it. Fast forward to 3AM, I am drunkenly complaining about full-frontal male nudity on page 81 to anyone who would listen, all the while standing around in my underwear drinking bargain whiskey. I'm glad I got LOTFP, but I could do without the dick pics.

The next morning, I get up to see the breakfast buffet obliterated by hordes of nerds, all of whom were smart enough to wake up before me and fill their gullets with mass quantities of mediocre breakfast foods. Oddly enough, the coffee was pretty good. I sat down with Chris and my copy of Villiains and Vigilantes, pining for a signing by Jeff Dee. I figured I'd get Mr. Dee to sign it before his game that morning, one I was unable to pre-register for. 1 minute prior to sitting down for breakfast, I met Mr. Dee in the elevator and mentioned I would like his signature. He said of course and then shuffled off to the buffet. A few moments later, he sat down with Chris and I, as it was the only available seat. Fortune smiled upon this stupid fanboy. Mr. Dee then shilled the new release of V&V while his partner prepared his breakfast foods, and of course I obliged by purchasing everything he had. His partner returned with food as he pulled out his pen, ready to sign my books. At this point I felt bad for interrupting his dining as I knew he was in a rush to make it to the game, so I told him that it could wait. Mr. Dee informed me that, "this [was] important," signing my books, ignoring his morning meal. I made the right purchasing decision, obviously. Mr. Dee made room in his game for me to play, and I had a good time. It was sort of a playtest of the V&V 3.0 rules, which I thought went pretty well. I'll definitely be getting the new ones to be sure. Unfortunately at one point in the game, I was required to make a "cloth-related analogy" and failed miserably as I hadn't thought enough ahead of time. The next instance where such an analogy was appropriate I spent a few moments to type it out on my iPhone, prepared. "A yarn is to be spun, have your raiment cleaned and grasp your chapeau for what is about to transpire shant not suit the tailor-made fleecing of this soon to be mothballed vessel." Certainly not my best work, but what do you want from a hung-over meathead? My character was the only one to go unconscious, by the way, which made my goal of sucking ass at con games closer to fulfillment.

Soon after, OSRIC was purchased! Two copies, mind you. First of all, I own something like 10 complete copies of AD&D 1st edition, so OSRIC really isn't even a purchase I should worry about. Product is product, however, and I am insanely addicted to buying rpg product. Saturday night, as the con was winding down and I was even more inebriated than before, I bought something called Malevolent and Benign, a monster book I'll never use. I stopped myself from getting another boxed set of Runequest, HARP, several Star Wars RPG books and a full set of 2nd edition AD&D books. I think I was able to curtain rampant, idiotic spending due to the fact that the box I brought to carry stuff in was already full and I didn't want to lug around more books that night. Oddly enough, I got OSRIC to play in an AD&D game later, conveniently forgetting about my PHB in said box. Oh well, the book is exceptionally nice and now I have multiple copies not-to-read. One for the bathroom, the other for my coffee table, perhaps. Never know when you may need to look up the effects of a Geas spell, right?

More to come as I align some of these thoughts...