Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mechwarrior: A Time of War (it sucks)

So we used to play Mechwarrior eons ago and it was fun...little did we know the game system sorta sucked. Whatever. I recently got (6 months is recent) the new Mechwarrior game called A Time of War, which is supposedly a serious revision of MW 2nd edition, not based on 3rd. No real interest in it at all until I saw some posts about the free quickstart rules being passed around for Free RPG Day. Of course this forced my hand and I actually read the book. All I can say is: okay. Yeah, it's Battletech, so what. The system is uninspiring and way too much work for a game that essentially boils down to giant robots beating the shit out of each other. Don't get me wrong, the BT universe is extremely well fleshed out and compelling (if you ignore all the stupid crap that happened in Jihad and Dark Ages), especially if you enjoy war stories, but ATOW sucks. That said, the book itself IS worth the money because there is so much good information. This might be heresy, but BT is one of the more realistic scifi settings if you can get past the idiocy of duels between multi-billion dollar robots to determine the fate of planetary politics. It's not even the dueling part, really, it's just how stupid the robots are from a pragmatic approach. But like I said, it's cool as hell so pragmatism be damned. And I stand by the "realism". There are no aliens (with few exceptions are usually rubber suit-types in most rpgs anyway), all the tech is justified by at least a reasonable scientific explanation (yes, even the mechs), and the politics are reasonable and interesting. It's unfortunate the rpg is crappy, which is why if I was going to run a Mechwarrior/BT game (maybe...) I'd use another system. But which one?

The biggest question would be how to convert Piloting/Gunnery to the tabletop game were that necessary. Of course it's necessary: really important battles should use BT to play out, not some roleplaying system. I thought for a bit, and decided that the D6 system would be the best to use, not because it's the best system (it's pretty good though), but because the learning curve is essentially nil and conversions between the board game and the rp-system would be trivial. Take the Star Wars rpg, change a few skill names, create a couple templates, done. To determine the relevant mech skills if playing out a battle:

Skill LevelBattletech Equivalent

Most competent starting mechwarriors would have 4D or 5D in their relevant skills to start, which would put them in the 5/4 range in BT. Which is exactly where they should be. Yes, it's really this simple. When those battles did come up, they could be played out relatively quickly in MegaMek. Coupled with the ease and speed of D6, this makes the whole idea of a MW/BT rpg viable for someone who isn't a 14 year old kid with infinite amount of time over a summer vacation.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alternative die-rolling methods for fighters

I'll get back to the other NTRPGCon stuff tomorrow (probably). I'm debating on posting some of the things I heard due to the content and the individual who said it. Not to be cryptic, but sometimes it's better to not add any fuel to an already burning fire.

Anyway, an idea I had earlier concerned the notion that fighters are mechanically bland in D&D-like games, generally because they have no real special abilities. Except kicking ass, of course. DCC adds the Mighty Deeds mechanic, which is great, but I wanted an option easily backported to simpler games that gave fighters something tactically interesting to do in combat. The full blown 3.X D&D tactics system is right out for obvious reasons (namely that it's a huge pain in the ass unless you also use feats) as is something like GURPS or HERO. Drawing inspiration from BRP (and DCC [seriously, buy that game]) I came up with the following:

At 1st level a fighter uses 1d20 (like all other characters) to determine attack rolls which increases thusly:

Level 1-3: 1d20
Level 4-6: 1d20+1d10
Level 7-9: 2d20
Level 10-12: 2d20+1d10
Level 13-15: 3d20
Level 16-18: 3d20+1d10

This sort of follows the multiple attacks table in AD&D (sort of) and is easy to extrapolate. The use of the d20 is obvious, as should be 2d20 or 3d20: at 13th level a fighter can make three attacks, rolling a d20+STR bonus for each. At 4th level, a fighter may make two attacks, one using a d20 and one using a d10, adding STR bonuses to each roll. Thus a 4th level fighter with a 15 STR (+1 bonus) would roll 1d20+1 for his first attack and 1d10+1 for his second attack.

Fighters (and only fighters) can split their attack die roll during combat as they see fit. This means specifically they may make multiple attacks, albeit at a lesser chance for success. d20 attack dice are split in the following manner:


d10 attack dice cannot be split.

At 1st level, instead of rolling one attack using 1d20+1, a 15 STR fighter could instead choose to perform two attacks, both at 1d10+1. Or three attacks at 1d6+1. It should be obvious a 1st level fighter has little to no chance of hitting using d6 (or even d10 in many cases), and a 20th level fighter can mow down hordes of goblins rolling a handful of d4s.

This system really only works well if you use combat tables (pretty much all of the old versions of D&D). Open-ended AC systems make it more difficult to determine the mathematical advantage of multiple attacks if there is an implicit "a 20 always hits" rule. If you do use that rule, even with combat tables:

When using attack dice less than d20, if the attack roll and damage die both come up as maximum values, then the attack automatically succeeds.

This does require both dice (hmmm..if die is singular and dice is plural, do I still say both dice...both dies is obviously wrong...English, how does it work?) to be rolled simultaneously to determine hits which we all know is Extremely Difficult (tm). At the low end, this gives less than 1% chance of success, with a high end of 6.25%. If high level fighters want to run around with daggers so they can gain a bit of an edge, so be it.

If you use crits, the same system can be applied as generally a 20 results in a critical hit. If you use some other system, work out your own math. Actually, say the crit is a "confirmation", per 3.X. The confirmation can merely be a success on an additional attack roll of the same die. It's mathematically equivalent (not precisely but close enough) without adding any more complication.

Some general examples to explain better:

1) A 1st level B/X fighter with 16 STR (+2 hit) and a +1 sword (obviously a Monty Haul campaign) faces off with two goblins. The player realizes he can split his d20 attack into two d10 attacks, with a 10% chance of hitting the AC 6 goblins with each attack (attack roll total 13 necessary). Or he can roll one attack against a single goblin with a 55% chance of success. The player is not stupid and elects to attack one goblin.

2) A 6th level AD&D fighter with 18/00 STR (+3 hit) and a +2 sword (that damn Monty Haul DM) squares off against three orc bodyguards with AC 4. Knowing he will hit the orcs on a roll of 12 or above (40% chance), he decides to split his d20 attack, giving three attacks using d10, each directed at a different orc.

3) Douglas the 10th level Mentzer D&D fighter with 17 STR (+2 hit) and a +1 sword (part of a much more reasonable game) is confronted with an adult white dragon and two orc minions. Douglas' player begins questioning his DM's rationale behind this encounter, but figures what the hell, XP is XP. Douglas didn't get to 10th level being an idiot and does a quick calculation. He has a 40% chance of hitting the dragon using a d10, or 70% using a d20. As the orcs do not pose much of a threat, he attacks the dragon three times.

4) Bill the 18th level AD&D fighter with 18/51 STR (+2 hit) and a +3 longsword is attacked by 20 orcs. The DM has extrapolated the idea about "20 always hitting" above and decided to make "1 always misses" a rule as well. If both dice, attack and damage, (stupid English) come up 1s, the attack is an automatic failure. Otherwise, Bill would never miss the orcs (needs a -2 to hit). Bill's player is annoyed at such a stupid encounter and chooses to split his 3d20 into the maximum number of attacks. This gives him 12 attacks using 1d4 and one attack using 1d10. If any of his attack rolls come up as 1 and the longsword damage for that attack is also a 1 (little over 3% chance), the attack misses. Otherwise Bill will obliterate the orcs in about two combat rounds. Bill's player asks why he's rolling so many fucking dice.

5) Robert the 3rd level B/X fighter with 10 STR (+0 hit) and a normal longsword (3d6 down the line!) is attacked by two earth elementals with AC -2 (only a natural 20 will hit as it is the second 20 entry in the table). Robert's player complains to the DM about not even having a magic weapon, much less being attacked by multiple opponents of a ridiculous power level relative to his character. The DM says he rolled it up that way, but if Robert can hit the elementals, he'll damage them, even without a magic weapon, because he's feeling nice today. Knowing he has no chance to win, Robert splits his d20 into three d6 attacks, one at the first elemental, two at the second. Getting a 6 on each attack, he rolls d8s for damage, getting two 8s. Both elementals are hit for 8 points of damage, pissing off the killer DM.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part IV

The Art Panel

After narrowly avoiding being roped into an exceedingly long Battletech game, I headed to the pool to collect my thoughts and sober up. You know you hit the bottle a little too hard when you wake up 10 hours later, still drunk. Prior to the swim, however, we ate breakfast at Taco Cabana and Jason told a story about Sergio Aragones killing Marty Feldman in Mexico. Any story involving Mexico and death usually contains alcohol abuse, donkeys, prostitutes and stabbings, but this one was much more innocuous in content which led me to question its veracity. Jason used Wikipedia as his proof which didn't help convince me in the least. He also said Aragones was a huge asshole; I can buy that part.

Much of the time following the "pool experience" was spent browsing through Carcosa...I'll post a review sometime this week, but I can honestly say if you ever need a diet aid, the book works wonders on appetite suppression. Wanting to heckle Jason was at the top of my list of things to accomplish, so I headed to the main conference room to do just that. The art panel was made up of Erol Otus, Jason Braun, Jeff Dee, Diesel LaForce and Janelle née Paul Jaquays. The premise of the panel was to discuss careers, art and to draw some monsters submitted by select con-goers.

First, the drawings were pretty good, given the amount of time the artists had to work with; I can honestly say I was impressed at the production quality. Some of the descriptions were long, some short, and a few of the people present who submitted ideas agreed the end results were excellent. I guess that's  why they're pros. Still, the discussion was much more interesting, to me anyway. Diesel (a nickname due to his initials: DSL) was the most vocal of the group, Jeff Dee being the most subdued. His (Diesel's) stories were extremely informative and gave a lot of excellent insight into the halcyon days of TSR. He also stated that Virgil Finlay was his biggest inspiration, a name I had never heard before. Looking up some of the art on the internet, it's easy to understand why. Otus said he liked Trampier, and I was waiting for someone to ask what he was doing but no one broached that subject. Unfortunate because he did some great stuff. The artists were also asked their favorite thing to draw, to which Jason replied, "Children are present." (it's dicks, case you care...he can say it's not but I know it's dicks).

One of the more interesting questions concerned "favorite medium", mostly because four of the five all preferred pen/ink/paint, the Old Way of doing things. I was actually surprised at that answer as I thought more of them would like the speed of using a computer, at least during the editing process. Jaquays definitely liked the digital medium much more, which makes sense given her extensive work in computer gaming. Dee did state he preferred to add color in Photoshop after scanning the image, Diesel liking pens most of all. Speaking of pens, Jason had to let Erol borrow his pen to do the drawing as he didn't even show up with anything sort of drawing apparatus. Celebrities!

After the panel ended, I went to get a beer at the bar, and saw Erol Otus once again. I told him I always liked his art but it was extremely creepy, to which he replied, "I'm very happy to hear that."

Raffle Time

Last year I talked about how I didn't even submit my ticket to the raffle because I was 1) drunk and 2) stupid. This year I made it a point to put my ticket into the hopper and get drunk afterwards. This worked to my advantage because I actually won. I didn't want to be in the room while the raffle/auction took place, hence my drinking beer at the bar as it went on. A text from Jason simply stated I had won the "free raffle", which was cool because I never win anything. He told me he'd get the stuff from Mike for me, which was even better. When I told Mark (someone I haven't mentioned yet but who was pretty much with me the whole time; no, it's not like that) that I had won, he thought it'd be awesome if I got one of the battlemats and I agreed. I wanted one of those for eons.

We headed back up to the room and I saw a battlemat on my bed which caused great excitement. Fuck yeah, I won exactly what I wanted! As we made out way back down to the dealer's room, Mike asked me if I had got the rest of my stuff from the raffle, a question which puzzled me. You mean there was more? Hell yeah there was, a rather hefty bag filled with a bunch of OOP Judge's Guild Traveller modules and other miscellaneous items. Perusing through the bag, I added more $1 Traveller modules from Mike's table, getting a massive haul of crap I'll probably never use. I have to run a Traveller campaign now, lest those books go to waste.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part III

More memorable names

After Norm had convinced me to buy Carcosa, he asked what I was doing for dinner. I told him the hotel bar was open and the kitchen would start serving food in an hour, so I suggested we get a beer. Norm bought the first round and began reading out of Carcosa, which made my already meager appetite nonexistent. I did end up ordering some food after a few beers, not really sure what it was. By this time I was drunk and it wasn't even 5:30PM. Around this time Erol Otus stepped up to the bar and ordered dinner, turned to me and said, "Didn't we play in a game together last year?"

If memory serves, I was quite drunk during that game which worked in my favor as alcohol-related memories are hard to retrieve unless inebriated. In other words, I was able to remember what he was talking about due to the booze. I think I said something stupid (just assume that's true in every case) and he laughed, probably at my condition, not the content of my words.

After finishing my beer, I headed back up to the room to drop off the games I had bought. Mike and Jason were there, perusing through the box of crap Jason had brought to sell at the con. Most of it was worthless (according to Mike), but he did buy a rather sizable portion of it. Jason offered an adult beverage, Mike refused, then I threatened to punch him if he did not take one before departing. I never got the sense that Mike was stupid, nor impolite, and he graciously accepted a mixed adult beverage, avoiding my rising belligerence fueled only by the love of whiskey.

As they were both going back downstairs, I decided to tag along, carrying a drink for someone else along with my own. There was a large, bald man who turned out to be Sandy Petersen in the main game room, boisterous and jovial. I didn't get a chance to talk to him, which is unfortunate as he was the author of many of my favorite games. My notes are completely illegible here, but I can only assume I was insanely drunk. There is a remark of interest: "@18.10 (I'm guessing 6:10PM) there won't be any VISUAL EXCITING." I say of interest because I haven't the faintest fucking clue what that means whatsoever.

I walked back into the main game room and saw Allan running his game. He asked if I wanted to play, and of course I said yes, even though I was wasted and have a habit of sucking at con games. Someone was leaving so I'd be taking over his character, a fighter of some sort. Easy enough to play even for an idiot like me. My notes for the game were made later and simply state, "Do not remember anything". I have a vague recollection of talking to Mike Stewart about random crap while the party was decimated by a gelatinous cube, and this year I didn't insult him to no end. I did offer to buy him a beer; he declined due to the unknown reaction of the beer with his elephant-grade prescription pain medication.

At some point I bought Allan a beer with the hopes that he'd let my character live; it worked. Somehow my fighter did not die and in fact made it out alive, a first for me in con games. Vague recollection of complaining about that, but I cannot be sure...

Steve Winter

If you don't already know who Steve Winter is, I'll be succinct and use his own words: "Yeah, I don't have my name on anything prominently, but my fingers were in everything." He DID co-write the Marvel RPG, which is braggable, and did a ton of stuff for TSR during the 80s as an editor. As anyone can tell you, an editor can make or break an author, and Mr. Winter by definition was/is a good editor. The products under his watch were pretty good. That said, he's an even better human being. One of the nicest, most outgoing people I met at the con, he was extremely positive, even talking to a drunken fool about the dumbest crap possible. At one point I offered to get him a beer, and he declined until the next day, so I made a mental note (and a note in my journal: Steve Winter: really cool, owe one beer). I did end up getting him that beer and he was thankful. He looks like somewhat Moby, the DJ guy, just a bit older, and that's alright.


What did you expect? A full day of hard drinking with hardly any food (or sleep) without shenanigans? Surely you jest! After talking to Mr. Winter for a while, the booze flowing like the Mississippi, which is to say slowly but in mass quantities, it was sure to happen: someone getting hurt. Unfortunately this time it was me. I will not say I was entirely without fault, threatening everyone in a playful way with fisticuffs. Personally I do not think I'm intimidating, but I can understand that sober individuals might not want to be fucked with by a drunken idiot who is physically stronger than he realizes. So it happened: I started goofing around and pushed Jason. He took none too kindly to this and ball-tapped me. The perfect shot. Holding a can of Miller High Life, I started to hit the deck, albeit very slowly. I tried to correct my descent to no avail, finally realizing I would be biting it momentarily. Thankfully, a large wooden bookshelf hit my temple, breaking my fall slightly; it careened over and dumped its contents on the floor with a loud thud. Sitting next to a pool of beer, holding a crushed can, I lamented my plight and possible brain injury as thousands of dollars of out-of-print materials were in danger of outright destruction. Doug picked up the books and the shelf, corrected the mess and asked me if I was okay. My only response was, "Ow my brain hurts". Or something to that effect. It was around 12:30 and I decided to tuck my tail between my legs, polish off the rest of my beer, and make my way to the room. Somehow I climbed into bed, both inebriated and concussed, into a slumber for the ages. I did wake up at some point to regurgitate the contents of my stomach (mostly beer) before passing out again until the morn. It is hazy, but I distinctly remember offering Doug $35 for a book that was damaged, as if that would cover the price. "That's why I put these things in plastic," he said, leaving out the implicit, "So fucking drunk morons don't destroy them." Again, what did you expect?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part II

A most excellent hotel

And by most excellent I mean most horrific. We arrived at the Bedford DFW Airport Area West Holiday Inn for the North Texas Roleplaying Game Convention at half past noon, give or take 5 minutes. Jason went to the front desk to check-in, but was told his room wasn't ready. As check-in time is usually 3PM, this wasn't entirely unexpected, but given that many people would be arriving from out of town for the con at the hotel, it was a bit suspect. We decided to head to lunch, even though my lunch plans were to lift weights. I was dropped off in front of LA Fitness with a bag of weightlifting equipment while Jason and Mack headed to a restaurant close by. One comment about the gym: the douchebag ratio was directly proportional to the hot girl ratio, and there were numerous hot girls if that tells you anything. We returned to the hotel around 2PM to attempt another check-in, this time Jason stating he was in fact a priority member with Holiday Inn after being told the room still wasn't ready. 10 minutes passed as the desk girl looked at her computer, and our denial to entry seemed eminent. She then informed Jason he could sign up again for free, which would allow us to go up to the room. That wasn't ready. The same room magically became available to us after Jason was a priority member in the system.

I'm not one to question the whim of a hotelier, but this hoop-jumping was a foreshadowing of things to come. I took a quick shower, changed clothes, and we headed down to the con. After drinking a few, of course. I hadn't eaten anything since noon the day before, but was not hungry in the least, thirsting only for alcohol. More foreshadowing...

Numerous faces

Drinks in hand, we saw Mike Badolato and Doug Rhea manning the desk area for NT12, and chatted with them for a bit. Mack and I got con badges and packets, then roamed around to see what we could see. Jason apparently had a lot of catching up to do with Mike and went back to the room. I did not question this hypothetical homosexual interlude, instead deciding to talk to Allan Grohe about not needing another copy of OSRIC. By this time I was feeling the effects but didn't let it stop my incoherent ramblings. Bill Barsh was hocking his wares and I made a comment or two, noticing the individual sitting at his booth: Frank Mentzer. Of course I had to say something, and Mr. Mentzer was nice enough to entertain me with a few stories before I left, seeking crap to buy. On the shelf was Adventurer Conquerer King, a game I have bitched about on this blog before. The book did look nice, though, and I picked it up. As an off-hand comment I said, who is Tavis Allison? Sitting only 10 feet away a man raised his hand, and made a statement to the affirmative that he matched that name. I asked why I should buy it, his answer being, "Because we're playing it now." $40! I wasn't going to spend $40 on one book, I thought. I only had $80 total to spend on gaming crap so wanted to look around a bit. Bought some con dice for no reason and a copy of Horror HERO for $3 because hey, why not?

Standing a few feet from me was a short, white haired man I had never met and Norm Harman, a guy who blows more money in the dealer room than me if that's even possible. Norm was trying to convince the man to buy Carcosa, that weird, pulp supplement previously for D&D, now for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. As has already been recorded, I ranted at length about LotFP last year, and full frontal male nudity, so getting Carcosa would be a hard sell. However, the arguments Norm made were pretty good, possibly better due to the rapidly increasing inebriation level I was experiencing at 4PM. I finally realized that the short man was none other than Steve Marsh and he was seriously contemplating buying the book. Not one to let some D&D author show me up, I decided to buy Carcosa if only to rub it in that old man's face. I grabbed the book, threw money at Doug and grinned smugly, having bested Mr. Marsh. WE KNOW MENTZER IS THE TRUE D&D EXPERT, SIR. Then I punched Tavis Allison in the face. That last part isn't strictly true, but apparently I wrote that down in my journal so I must report on it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NTRPGCon 2012 - Part I

Last year when I posted my experiences at the North Texas Roleplaying Game Convention (I won't spell it out again, I promise), it was done in a rather haphazard manner, mostly because I just wrote down a list of things I remember occurring, hazy recollections due to alcohol abuse. This year the alcohol was in fact abused just as much but I thought ahead and decided to carry a journal around to record things as they happened. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately if you're into stream of consciousness writing), it took me a while to figure out half of what I wrote. Some of it is exceedingly detailed, some nothing more than a barely legible name followed by exclamation points. You can probably determine what parts were done sober and which under the influence...anyway, it took some time to go over all this stuff and make sense of it. That said, I plan to give a chronological account, in narrative form, of my time at the con, broken up into a few posts.

The Waffling

I had planned to attend NTRPGCon 2012 (okay, since I have to refer to this damn thing numerous times I'm just going to use NT12 from now on) after the one last year as I had a lot of fun. Unfortunately I never did get around to registering for it, figuring I could do it whenever I wished. Mistake one, preregistering means registering for games which means having an actual schedule of crap to do. Oddly enough, I didn't want to go to a gaming con to play games, mostly to just hang out with like-minded gamers and hear some good stories. Then some financial issues arose and I put off registration again and again. I always planned to go, figuring things would work out eventually. St. Patrick's Day, Jason Braun (a Special Guest at the con) were at a bar in fabulous downtown New Braunfels, TX, inebriated beyond all comprehension. Mack Harrison apparently showed up and we talked about the con, he expressed interest, and plans were made. We were all going to ride together in Jason's economical vehicle, saving everyone money and fostering nerd conversation along the way. Yeah, I didn't remember that at all until about two weeks ago when Jason mentioned it to me again when we were eating steaks in the same bar. The very one where I ate ghost chilies last year and lamented my intestinal health. NT12 was brought up, I said of course I'd go, done.

Maybe. I kept thinking about it: why would I want to go to that stupid con? I knew I couldn't register to play in any of the games I was interested in, couldn't spend a lot of money there and was more interested in watching basketball anyway. I asked Jason when he'd be leaving, when I should meet up with him to leave, he tells me, I then say I didn't know if I was going to go. A day later I got a windfall of cash which would be enough to buy crap in the dealers room and eat dinners. Would Jason be able to help me with alcohol during the trip? He made a statement to the affirmative, apparently having purchased two 1.5L of Jameson's. With the most important ingredient for a road trip provided, I had no excuses other than laziness and an anti-social attitude. Arrangements were made, and I arrived at Jason's place on Thursday night, ready to get up early in the morning and drive to DFW.


I decided to pare down considerably from the previous year and took only a few books figuring any game I'd play in would be either D&D or the rules would be provided. Or the most likely situation: I'd buy them at the con. That was in backpack #1. In backpack #2, a much larger Adidas backpack with multiple large storage areas, there were clothes, toiletries, electronic devices, a .380 handgun and workout clothing, including knee-braces and athletic tape. The gun because I never go on a trip without it and also because I live in Texas. That second part makes sense to Texans, and any reading this post are probably wondering why I even bothered with a token explanation. The workout clothes are most likely more interesting to gamers, so I'll explain that part. Since Jason was going to depart early Friday morning and I didn't want to lift weights at the crack of dawn before driving to his house, I called the hotel and was informed they had a "fitness facility" on the premises. Knowing full well what sorts of fitness facilities hotels are known to have, I found out I could just get a guest pass at an LA Fitness two miles away. I figured when we got to the hotel, we'd check in, I'd change into my gear, Jason and Mack could drop me off and eat lunch, done. It's probably a fair guess that I was one of the few people who would be attending the con worried about missing a powerlifting workout.

As part of the pre-trip festivities, Jason and I sampled some of the Jameson's, ensuring quality and the accuracy of its ABV. I am still of the opinion that it is vastly underrated at 80 proof given my proclivity for idiotic behavior when drinking it. That night I got no sleep on his couch, for a variety of reasons, but I wasn't complaining. I woke up tired, hungover, ready for a four hour car trip to the con. As part of my role as the girl on the trip, I requested we stop by HEB so I could buy a few jugs of distilled water before leaving town. We picked up Mack, loaded his gear, and began our trek up I-35, the sound of nerdy gamer chatter drowning out the road noise.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A few thoughts before NTRPGCon talk

I got back from DFW a few hours ago, and was going over my notes (probably 10 pages filled in my composition book), working on the post I was going to make about the NTRPGCon. I had fun, but it's nice to be back home, sleeping in my own bed. Anyway, got a bunch of good ideas to work on the next few months so the blog posts might become more regular; Left 4 Dead 2 is reaching its limits of playability.

Speaking of fun:

Seriously...seriously? I suppose he felt the need to defend his comments after my call-out, but this is really all I'm going to say: after reading that post, I wonder if Alexis has ever read anything dealing with this subject, specifically within the realm of Utilitarianism and quantitative/qualitative analysis of pleasure, because everything he says is based on an extremely limited, ignorant view. For all his scholarship, he seems to ignore a massive body of work that deals directly with perception and value-judgment of this very topic.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Easy way to spot an idiot

"Look, I know I'm smarter than a lot of people."

Followed by several paragraphs explaining what "fun" is. Okay. I would tend to think this was simply some satirical nonsense, but I know better: he honestly believes that tripe.

Good luck with your Dumbfuck Goals of Summer 2012.


mikemonaco said...

Are you saying D&D should not be played *solely* for laughs? I can't think of anyone I played with, or anyone's whose blog or forum posts I've read, who does that. A game can be very funny and played partly for laughs and still have fear, pride, bravery, brilliance etc. too. So what I'm trying to say is, it sounds an awful like you are explaining a why a scarecrow plays D&D so stupidly and badly...
On the other hand my idea of fun can include fear, pride, etc. too so I guess I just don't get your point here. Are you defining 'fun' as the qualia we get from something that is 'funny'?!?

June 6, 2012 1:30 PM

Alexis said...

Shit, mike. Are you actually asking me if I used words I didn't actually use? Because I think it's fairly obvious that if I didn't write the word "solely" in the fucking text, then your comment looks pretty fucking obtuse.

June 6, 2012 1:47 PM

Hilarious. I must ask how this tool manages to coexist with humanity given its utter lack of comprehension of his vastly superior intellect.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Yeah, yeah...I realize the internet is abuzz with reviews about DCC from people who are arguably more intelligent than me, better writers than me, with more readers than me. But, hey, I have something they don't: an undying loyalty to being as blunt as possible. If you've read more than one post on this blog, you know I don't give one fuck about pissing anyone off, making friends or towing some party line with sycophantish nonsense. Hence, what follows is my honest opinion. Very very honest.

Okay...DCC is one of the first D&D-like rpgs I've read in a long time that makes me want to play it. When I read Labyrinth Lord, or Swords & Wizardry, I really want to play D&D. Not necessarily THAT iteration of D&D, but the real thing. I've stated numerous times that I'd rather play AD&D over OSRIC (and don't understand why anyone would choose the latter to be honest), B/X over LL, etc. I realize the rules-sets are cleaned up, but essentially they offer nothing I can't get, with more flavor, from the original. DCC is not like that whatsoever. Yes, it is a D&D-like game, but it's actually unique. Wow, someone wrote a new game with D&D roots that simply isn't a ripoff with a couple house rules bolted on. I am impressed. Seriously. When reading the book, I didn't evaluate it as a source to provide more options to an existing B/X game, instead seeing it a its own entity, meant to be played as written. It's telling that in the section dealing with attribute generation there's a passage about differing die rolling methods, stressing the use of 3D6 down the line, with the admission that this will be one of the first areas to be house ruled. The author understands people immediately want to create "more powerful" characters to aid in survival, which defeats the whole purpose of the game. Before house ruling anything, the whole book must be read and digested; it's a moral imperative. The underlying premise is that characters will die, and die often. Fucking with attribute generation does nothing more than fuck with this premise, which undermines the whole game.

I don't make that last statement lightly at all. The game assumes characters will die like flies in the beginning, hence the creation of many for every player. Roll up three or four level 0 guys and send them into a dungeon. Whichever ones make it out, well, they're destined for greatness and get promoted to level 1 with an actual class. It's hilarious to think about, really...sending a bunch of bakers, blacksmiths and bankers into a dungeon to gain fame and fortune, mostly fortune. Where D&D (and nearly every other rpg in existence) sort of glosses over why a character would be adventuring in the first place, DCC addresses this fact head on. For whatever reason, a bunch of incompetent rubes make their way into a dangerous situation with the survivors making a career out of it. DCC calls it the funnel, aptly named. I doubt anyone will get more than one or two characters through the first adventure. If so, you are one lucky bastard.

The classes are standard fare, clerics and wizards and warriors and thieves, along with the usual demi-humans (race-as-class, because that's the only way). But the spell casting, that's new for sure. Talk about pulp...I don't know if I'd even want to cast spells as a wizard in DCC as the possibility to mutate into a demon or get eaten by one is way too high. Refer to previous comments: THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT. You want power, DCC gives it to you. In excessive amounts. And power corrupts, right? Sure, cast spells as much as you want, just be prepared to deal with the consequences. Each spell is unique in the specific meaning of the word. Every single spell description differs from the others in all conceivable ways. Cool concept, but the first knock on the game arises...where's the index? I love the mechanics behind spell casting, but how can you quickly find the effects without an index? In this modern age of publishing the lack of an index is unforgivable and it sucks. Still, like any good wargamer, if I was to play a wizard in DCC I'd just print out the relevant spell pages from the PDF and put them in a binder for easy referral. Not everyone is as anal as I am, so I can definitely see where massive irritation would arise. You cannot play the game without referring to the rules so no index sucks ass. Whatever, I got by with my index-less PHB in the past, just something to deal with.

Other nifty parts include the skill system (literally one page; 99% GM arbitration), warrior deeds (make up cool shit to do) and burning attributes for bonuses. There is plenty of reason to play every class, even halflings. I cannot stress enough how pulp-y the game feels. Alignment is ye olde law-chaos axis, but the choice is extremely meaningful to everyone, especially spell casters. Thief abilities are defined by alignment, with chaotic thieves becoming essentially assassins. A nice way of handling that old problem. I saw the physical copy in my FLGS and have another major knock besides the index: the quality sucks. Reminds me of the OSRIC books I got last year at NTRPGCon, and that's not a compliment. It's hardcover, with some colored inserts, but the paper feels cheap, even though it's sort of thick. The cover itself looks like it'd fall apart at a moment's notice. No idea where Goodman Games got this printed but my suggestion is to find somewhere else for the reprint. I'll probably just get my PDF printed out somewhere instead of spending the money on hardback. Overall, a pretty great game that I really want to play.