Friday, May 30, 2008

Cheap Advertising

So, yeah, I may very well have to stop selling The Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra very soon due to contractual obligations. Not 100% sure (and wouldn't it be funny if this post messed that up. :P), but looking good.

If you want a copy of this version in this format for this price with the Aino art... I'd do so pretty now-ish. If you want one that's a bit more expensive and a bit more professionally produced and perhaps available at your local gaming shop... well, don't buy it now-ish.

Buy it here.

Could someone tell the Acaeum folks? :D

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Making your campaign METAL!

This came up on some time back... "How do I make my campaign METAL?"

Most people, of course, went for style over substance and went for the look that metal is known for, without capturing anything that will make it feel metal. I saw that awful Metalocalypse show for the first time yesterday, and when most people want to "metal up" their role-playing, it's kind of like that - stereotypical and fucking stupid.

Here's a reprint of my suggestions to make your campaign HEAVY fucking METAL:

Considering all of metal's concepts solidified in the 70s through mid-80s, the most metal thing you could do to your campaign is run it using AD&D 1E. ;)

But you want to make it metal...

War pigs.

Make the violence horrible. All of the ruling class - all of them - are despicable warmongers who sacrifice the well-being of their people to wage ever more senseless and destructive wars.

If it's rich, it's evil. If it's powerful, it's evil.

The PCs serve as Iron Hippies, fighting the power in the only way it understands... violence and force. The "points of light" are not physical locations, as the entire world is a dark, dark place. The points of light are in the hearts of the true, the unconquered, those that can see through the lies.

... until one day in the campaign... it's the PCs who are rich. And powerful. And even if they've always fought well for the cause, they're going to wake up one day and find that they're the enemy they've always been fighting against. Power always corrupts, always. If it's rich, it's evil. And the PCs have killed a lot of evil, and taken its stuff, and have gotten very rich. If it's powerful, it's evil. And the PCs have gained a lot of levels, and are very powerful. They've sold out, they've come too far to truly embody the spirit they've always championed, and it's up to the next generation of oppressed, angry warriors to be able to fight the good fight.

That's fucking metal.

The LotFP Promise!

No regular blog today, but the hot topic right now is you know what.

I give you a solemn promise... I won't look at it. I won't play it. From this point forward, I'm not even going to mention it on this blog. Ever.

I mean, heck, I haven't looked at a 3.x book since 2000.

(...and I haven't listened to a new Metallica album since 1991... so... you know... I'm hardly one to bother with things I already know I'll hate. If I've missed something good? I don't give a fuck, I've already got good things, and there is nothing, nothing, nothing in all the publicity to suggest that the new stuff will satisfy like the old stuff... which was 1989 for D&D, and 1986 for Metallica, really...)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



It's art time! Here I parade what I like best about traditional gaming art. This serves two purposes - to dispel the idea that line art is for some reason inferior, and to serve as a handy primer for any prospective artists that I might want to work with in the future. I don't really care if someone is into RPGs, I care if they're good, and I can just link them to this and be done with describing the feel that I want.

First, read this. Really. It's great. Then read this, especially Matt Finch's comments. That's great too.

Onto the comments on the masters. Just to note, I normally wouldn't just copy stuff like this wholesale, but I did find it in various weird places on the internet in the first place, so this was like a second-hand swiping.


I always liked Jeff Dee's art. It is extremely clean, devoid of unnecessary lines and distractions, without seeming incomplete or empty. Some of his better fantasy drawings:

This pic from module A1 Slave Pits of Undercity is just a perfect introductory piece of art. I love that this illustration actually has a good bit of detail, and it shows that Dee is professional and proficient (I can imagine a lot of artists these days making a complete mess of a simple idea like this). No action, no fantasy, no nothing except an atmospheric location.

I believe this one is from Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. I like it for much of the same reason that I like the previous picture: It gets across the feel of a location while at the same time not skimping out on delivering a realistic quality to it all. Dee's environments are easily of "better quality" than his figures, realismly (I invented a word!) speaking.

I don't think I've ever seen a picture so... so... inspiring before. I mean, at least as far as making me want to play a paladin. Come on, this is awesome. It just explodes with righteousness. The evil black dragon has been slain, and the noble knight has suffered nary a scratch.

Although I will admit, his helmet bothers me. His boots, not so much. I mean, can't blame an artist for being a wee bit influenced by the times he lives in, even when illustrating something outside of time. But that helmet? Not buying it, man. It's not even the wings... it's the visor or whatever the hell that thing is.

Best. Umberhulk. Ever. Everything you need to know, from its preferred environment to its special power, is right there. Dude's about to get chomped.

Dee wrote and illustrated two superhero RPGs (Villains and Vigilantes and Living Legends). His love of that genre is really on display here, cape and all. Still, it does show exactly what it needs to (from D3 Vault of the Drow, I believe this is in Llolth's Fane?), as this kind of thing is better shown than described.

[Robocop voice]I like it![/Robocop voice]

From S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Note the border-busting framing of the picture. Note the completely alien (heh. heh. heh.) portrayal of the mind flayer, completely against how it's usually illustrated. It really gets across the theme of the module.

Another from Expedition, and this is the most awesome picture in the history of Planet Oerth. Pure What the Fuckery. Note the detail of the surroundings is every bit as vivid and attended to, even though surely nobody is looking at it, what with GIANT ROBOTS throwing a BULETTE out of a FRICKIN SPACESHIP and in the laps of our hapless adventurers. Cheat Commandos, Rock Rock On!


Not associated with Dungeons and Dragons at all, but Denis' work with Origin Systems and the Ultima series surely made his imagery as much a staple of fantasy gamers' imagination as anyone else's.

Solid line work, solid detail, solid composition. A shot with no action and no posing may not impress the everygamer, but it's this kind of consistent work, presenting a world that could exist, that makes me love Denis.

I wanted to marry this girl when I was 12. Note the more natural pose for a class "icon" than you'd likely get these days.

I want to marry this girl RIGHT NOW.

Another illustration of an activity that is part of every adventurer's life, depicted as it would be if it actually happened, not all dramatized and sillified.

A Loubet action shot! A bit stiff, admittedly, but still gritty. Loubet is very meat-and-potatoes in a genre where meat and potatoes are often seen as undesirable. Have I mentioned his consistency? :P


Otherwordly and fantastic. Otus has never failed to deliver amazing art that inspires imagination.

"Now with 100% less art"? GO FUCK YOURSELVES. This picture sells the roper and its fearsomeness more than anything else ever has.

What the hell is this? I don't know. Are they squabbling merchants or soon to be feuding wizards? It just exudes magical flavor. All of that stuff has a story, and this picture makes me want to find out (or make it up!) for myself. And those figures... realism be damned, they are part of another world...

Watch Otus make even the mundane seem atmospheric...

Another "every alchemist does it, and every other artist overdoes the showing of it," example where less is more. Nothing interesting is happening, but the illustration is jam-packed with interesting all the same.

That's magic.

One thing that Otus is great at doing is filling all of his pictures with the sense of overwhelming evil and doom. Even his village picture above gives the feeling that something just isn't right, and the distortions of the merchants and alchemist above give a sense of corruption that isn't obvious just from the basic composition of the piece. This gives it all - the location is evil, the action taking place is evil, and the figure performing that evil action is otherworldly, while the victim looks like a regular person. Excellent.

Erol Otus is the only person that has ever (OK, maybe also Michael Whelan) illustrated Lovecraftian gods correctly. If I'm ignorant of others, please tell me. But Otus is among the masters.


I hate to speak ill of the dead, but I was never so much a big fan of the majority of Sutherland's work in the D&D books. However, this one picture more than makes up for everything else. Talk about an iconic, larger than life illustration that brings a game out from the pages and directly into the imagination. Whereas Dee showed the nobility of the paladin and Loubet showed the piety, Sutherland captures the crusading power of the class. This is one of the few pictures that you can show all by itself and say, "This is D&D!"


Other artists have given the D&D game an atmosphere that is irreplaceable, simply by lending their style to the game. Darlene's style is in some ways complimentary and the extreme opposite of Erol Otus' work. Whereas Otus showcases the corrupt and macabre, Darlene's work makes everything into a fairytale.

Case in point.

This illustration takes an evil creature (a succubus) on an alien world (note the black sun), and turns it into a vulnerable and sympathetic creature. How awesome is that? I also like how the woman's body doesn't have so much detail beyond the outside lines, and it still seems complete and correct. Less is sometimes more, but great is always great.

I really don't have a lot to say about this one... because I don't think I need to say anything.

I love how the adventuring party is shown as unintimidating as possible. Look at the old men! I also love the detail of the background. I loves me some background. When as much detail is shown in the things you're not supposed to be noticing as is shown in the focus of the illustration, you know you're dealing with an artist that cares.


The master. No comments needed.

This last one is a Tramp work, correct? I've never seen it properly credited... anyway, this is the absolute best visual representation there has ever been, and ever will be, describing what Dungeons and Dragons is all about. No question, no argument, the end.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


This is Times.

This is Arial.

This is Trebuchet.

This is Georgia.

Standard size.

If I'm doing it right.

This Blog's Appearance.

Speaking of criticism, James, I don't suppose we could talk you into using a slightly bigger font? The one you're using is just on the legible side of being comfortable to read for me.

You people tell me what I should do. I like the eeeeevvvvviiiiiiiilllllll, dungeony look of the black background, and I hate looking at big letters. But... you're the reader. Tell me.

Right now I'm using the Times font at standard size.

What should I do to make this thing more visually appealing without goofing up the atmostphere?

We're Going To Party Like It's 1974

Disclaimer: I was born in 1974, 11 months after the very first version of Dungeons and Dragons came out. I wasn't even aware that this version existed until looking up RPG websites in the early 2000s.

I am not a D&D grognard, by any stretch of the imagination. I came in with the Mentzer Basic box, seven months after it was released, and the idea that there can be such a thing as a Mentzer grognard is just... foolish. There's even a case to be made that the word can not be properly applied to someone who didn't play wargames before RPGs even came along. The idea that there could be "2E grognards" or... damn... "3E grognards" [you] [dumb] [shits] [!] is simply offensive and a gross misappropriation of the word. Sarcastic or not. Grognard isn't an attitude or a state of mind - you were either there or you weren't.

But these days, there seems to be an OD&D resurgence, through some vocal supporters, and the movement is gaining steam. Looking at this alongside the general traditional revival, I wonder if they are concurrent developments or if one is feeding the other. This isn't a problem, but there's one curious little bit...

People are overestimating OD&D and placing upon it phantoms of respectability beyond what it actually is. That's quite a statement considering I'm talking about the game that started this entire hobby. If you follow the line of thinking followed up here and there (including the "bombshell by Tim Kask" post on this very blog), you could almost get the feeling that OD&D was the most pure form of the game and that everything that came after was some sort of restriction.

Yet people who crow about OD&D, through experience or rediscovery, seem to ignore how a lot of people actually played (whatever version of) D&D "back in the day," after OD&D was no longer in print but before we had Dragonsfoot and access to Gary Gygax on multiple forums. We didn't have a clue what we were doing, and we did just fine. So fine that 20+ years later, we're wanting to share that "fine-ness" with the next generation, and into perpetuity.

Take a look at your Dungeon Master's Guide. You want to talk about a "toolkit for gaming"?

Let's face it... we never played "
x edition" rules back in the day. That's a more recent (upon the advent of 2E, which was the first edition fully designed to bury and replace an earlier one I think - OD&D was in print and had new supplements released up through the end of 1979 - after all the AD&D rules were out, and after the Holmes Basic set was out, so neither the Basic nor Advanced lines were originally intended to erase or replace the original three booklets). We just called it D&D regardless of how we played it. If you played the Basic rules (or the whole BECMI chain - did one single group ever play a legit B -> I campaign?), you know you used some AD&D stuff, and vice versa.

We weren't restricted in what we were doing! Our focus may have been a bit narrow, but our gameplay wasn't. Even the DMG came up with specific examples of "make shit up" (chances for a halfling to bring down a human pyramid, anyone?). And if AD&D is "Gary Gygax's house rules," (which he didn't even use in many cases anyway, some of which were in the OD&D supplements to begin with!) then OD&D plus your additions isn't pure OD&D either - so who are we kidding?

Just because you played with AD&D and didn't use all the damn rules, doesn't mean you weren't playing AD&D and so should switch your base rules to OD&D. Taking ideas from D&D and applying them to the game you already like to play... well, that's something you're doing already, right?

Look, D&D is missing some very basic rules. It doesn't have it's own combat rules (the included rules are the "alternative" version - it refers to another game for that! Check out this passage:

Let us assume he gains 7,000 Gold Pieces by defeating a troll (which is a 7th level monster, as it has over 6 hit dice). Had the monster been only a 5th level one experience would be awarded on a 5/8 basis as already stated, but as the monster guarding the treasure was a 7th level one experience would be awarded on a 7/8 basis thus; 7,000 G.P. + 700 for killing the troll = 7,700 divided by 8 = 962.5 x 7 = 6,037.5.
Kidding, right? And what happens when a Fighting Man gains enough experience to cease being a Veteran and becomes a Warrior? How many hit points does he gain, going from 1+1 HD to 2?

The current understanding of OD&D is only possible because of what came after. At the time, and this is no exaggeration, some people were so befuddled by what they were reading that their attempts to fill in the holes and make sense of everything resulted in completely new games. And I see a lot of people these days, in their love for OD&D, conveniently ignoring some things while taking advantage of its less-defined behavior. They aren't playing D&D any less than I played AD&D even though I never used naval combat rules or Weapon Type vs AC charts.

Traditional D&D is traditional D&D, and it's all variations on the same theme. The same theme. And the original version of D&D has as many good ideas to mine as any version out there.

So, I think the proclaiming OD&D as the real stuff are missing the mark.

And just to clarify: The point isn't to denigrate the old D&D rules. It's just to put them into their proper focus. They are all that is, and all we've ever played. Dungeons and Dragons. That's it, that's all, doesn't matter if it's got an A or an O, came in a box or as just a book. To not feel bound by the rules-as-written is not a 1974 feature, it's a feature shared by any Gygax/Arneson iteration. Gary may have preached "standardization," but did he play "by the book"? No! And he added his own additional material on top that can't possibly be considered canon (Unearthed Arcana).

Pick your base, make your wanted adjustments, and... (must resist)... and... (no... must not)... and... (oh, what the hell) FIGHT ON!

(speaking of which, I really should finish up my contribution, shouldn't I? Monday deadline...)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Criticism is a bad thing?

James Maliszewski's review of Monsters of Myth has brought up several points.

A- Of what quality is OSRIC's license?

B- Is criticism bad?

The first point is pretty much irrelevant to most people. Only the tiniest fraction of us care about publishing details. Luckily, the argument this time isn't "Is OSRIC legal?" (it is). The argument is "How well does it do what it sets out to do?" And the answer is... inconclusive.

The truth is that all of these licenses that people are publishing under are not reaching the people who would care. Yes, our little incestuous internet groups know what they are... but who cares? By the very essence of their existence (the OGL), these games are not allowed to actually say what they are, and with what games their materials are to be played with. It's a shitty position that has no solution. Can't say "Dungeons and Dragons," and promoting one's own simulacrum as a brand new thing defeats the entire purpose.

So then there's Monsters of Myth, a book I haven't seen (and considering my own release, would it make sense to buy it?), presented by the people that made OSRIC in the first place. OSRIC in action. And you should head over to the review and the comments thereafter to continue that train of thought.

Doing so brings us to this quote:

So, what do the OSRIC creators get? Criticism from the old-school community. I will never understand this.

Now we're not talking about the "Well, this might be illegal..." stance. That's not what anyone was talking about. The discussion was on the quality of what the OSRIC guys actually did, and how useful the tool is that they've created for the purpose they gave in creating it.

Why the hell shouldn't the "old-school community" be critical of OSRIC? Why shouldn't you be critical of OSRIC? Why isn't everyone critical of everything?

"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," is a horrible, horrible bit of advice. Without criticism, there is no engagement of ideas about quality. Without criticism, there is no valuable feedback for creators of imaginative works. (an aside: "Really cool! This rules! Awesome!" is completely useless. It doesn't inspire, it doesn't tell a creator what he did right, it's just empty cheerleading that at best allows a creator to further tap his creative well to do his next project, and at worst encourages him to keep pumping out the same old shit when the natural thing to do is stop.)

Criticism causes a person to ask, "Why do I feel this way? Why am I doing it this way?" Someone giving criticism has to figure this out to say anything of importance at all, someone receiving criticism needs to consider this in order to know whether to heed the criticism they have received. Bystanders who witness the criticism can also take this opportunity to use the arguments to solidify their own viewpoints and sharpen their own critiquing skills.

All of this is 100% pure goodness. Anything that makes a person more discerning and less of a follower, in any way, shape, or form, is positive. Creators and cheerleaders may not agree, but if a creator can't take a bruised ego, fuck him. He can quit and he shouldn't be missed. If a cheerleader can't...

Wait a second. Cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are useless clumps of flesh that don't do anything, but get in line behind someone who does just to leech off of their greatness. To be a part of something and pretend they're contributing to it just by telling people how awesome it is. (and people who do things are great... to variable magnitudes of course) You can tell cheerleaders from actual thinking, or productive, people because they'll complain about criticism, will not be able to discuss the pros and cons of the issue at hand, and will be offended if you don't simply have a binary "Yes, I like it," or "No, so I'm just going to completely ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist," response to things. Cheerleaders are different than supporters. Supporters will assist and aid, but they will also criticize as harshly as they feel is necessary. Usually in private. And usually accompanied by direct offers of assistance or a referral to someone who can.

If anyone's ever said to you: "Can't you just sit back and enjoy x?," you have encountered a cheerleader. Or an insecure creator. What they're telling you is, "Turn your brain off and accept what you're given!"

The opposite of the cheerleader is the detractor. You could cure his mother's cancer and heal his baby's cleft palate, and he'll still find every reason to shit on you whenever someone talks about you or anyone that looks like you. The problem is, many people confuse critics for detractors, and cheerleaders purposefully conflate the two. The difference between a critic and a detractor is often very simple: Is there a solution implied with the criticism? Or is the message simply, "Fuck you and go away!"?

Think. Think. THINK. Think and engage, with everything, always. Anything worth experiencing is worth analyzing. Is the experience worth trying again? Why? Can it be better? How? What exact parts of it did I like? What exact parts didn't I like? How does it compare to similar experiences? Is one clearly superior to another?

So... this "old-school" renaissance, or, to better put it (because I will not be passive and just accept that kind of wording :P), the "traditional revival," or "the return of actual quality gaming," is in dire need of criticism. And that criticism will flow freely in this scene, considering every single person in it is already exercising their critical qualities to reject (or un-prefer, if you're wanting to be nice about it) more current forms of THE BRAND NAME just to be in this scene. Which creates another cluster in the grand clusterfuck of simulacra issues. The projects are borne out of communities all loving something, and building something to express their love and to make it easier for other people to come join their love-ins. Or orgies, whatever verbiage you prefer.

So the people that are simply enjoying whatever is current and "mainstream" in our hobby, through passive enjoyment or active acceptance, hear this mating call. Maybe they just haven't experienced the traditional styles on their own. Maybe they're intelligent, fully functional human beings that just prefer other systems, other styles.

But that's not most people. No. I get the impression that many people these days (especially younger people) grew up hearing “discrimination is bad” for so long that they believe that critical thought is actually morally wrong. And they see this critical scene being critical of each other, nitpicking at each others' styles of play, not to attack, but to refine and improve.

But all that these humanoids see is unpleasantness. Effort. (same thing, right?)

Which is where we need to note that "criticism" is different than "abuse" or "attacks." "What you're doing there is ILLEGAL!" is not criticism. "I think you might have legal trouble here and here because of this," that's criticism. "This is useless because I can't do this, or this, because of that," that's criticism too, and it should be considered. An intelligent creator, and intelligent bystanders of discourse, know(s) the difference, and welcomes negative feedback as being of the utmost value.

So we need to make a decision. Do we put on a happy face, and walk hand in hand to bring a "new age" of "old style" to the role-playing "masses?" Or do we just be who we are, and be selective, and picky, and honest, and risk the apathy of the general "just enjoy yourself, it doesn't matter how" crowd?

I don't think one of those choices are even possible. TSR had the advantage of, well, being TSR and gathering around the vision of one man (while kind of discarding the vision of another man along the way...). When that singular vision was clouded, the monolith started its long and slow fall. Now we're in the post-apocalyptic age, amongst the ruins, trying to put the monolith back up.

Sound pessimistic? Maybe. But I don't think we have anything to gain by being evangelical or putting up a false front of unity. We are who we are, and if we compromise that in the name of growth or acceptance... we might as well just go buy 4E. We're selling our passions to the common crowd either way.


(like this is some big academic essay or something)

See the elitist attitude running all through this post? It's intentional. It's not simply a matter of empty "stick it to the man" posturing and feeling like I'm better than "the humanoids" and all those people who I perceive as not engaging in critical thought. There's a reason behind it.

Any movement, any organization, any anything becomes more repressive as it gets bigger. Individual ideas are more difficult to be heard in a scene owned and operated by large public corporations, and anything inconveniencing those corporations are more easily squashed. Mob mentality is a real thing, and it can influence gaming preferences as well as the decision to lynch some poor fucker that doesn't deserve it. One person is usually reasonable. A large mass of people, not so much. These ideas influence every thought that I have. I think that power itself is unethical, and giving up individuality, in any way shape or form, for a common cause or common good is a great way to be marginalized by your own cause when your goals are achieved.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to question everything. Everything. (and listen when answers are given, will you?) Be critical!

Right now, you have the opportunity to make a difference. You can recruit new players, not into the movement, or into the style, but into your game, where you show, and not tell, all about your preferred style. You can publish an adventure and make it different than anything that there's ever been, and it'll gain a bit of notice just because there's not all that much in the way of new adventures out there. Everyone is just one good idea away from being someone.

And we're all creators here. Not consumers. Role-playing is a creative exercise on both sides of the screen. Everyone is constantly creating, and modifying, material for their own games. Even people who never post or publish a thing. Even those who publish for free and not for profit. This is a community of creators.

So up with criticism! Let your voice be heard! Demand that it be heard! And make it happen in a valuable way - don't be a cheerleader or a detractor! Do something!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A few notes...

The ridiculous onslaught of content that this blog has started with will be more scattershot... just moved to a new city, and am playing the couch-surfing game for awhile until I get settled. I do want to say I'm amazed and thankful that people are reading (and commenting, and linking!), and it feels good to feel like I'm connecting with a larger community. I'm so used to my ideas being so outside-the-box that people look at me like a guy fling his own poo at the walls. (is it more or less weird if a guy is flinging someone else's poo at the walls?)

Long, long blogs? Not every day.

Checking email? Several times a day.

Writing for the next project? Probably more focused. :)

Funny that one of the people I'm staying with is an old AD&Der that hasn't played in about a decade. mwahahahahahah.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Collaborators Wanted - Apply Within

You know, loneliness is the worst drain on creativity on Earth.

I need collaborators. I need people to bounce ideas off of. I need creative people to feel creative. Right now, I don't have any around me.

In gaming, this is easy. I create an adventure, and there is an audience for it... or more accurately, there are a bunch of critics at my table that tear it apart. ;) I just need a few notes and I run from there.

But publishing? I'm not in it for the money, and the possibility of making money is really slim anyway. I tend to self-destruct businesswise, as in any financial success just means I can spend more on the next project and still break even with it.

But the creation of publishable material is hard work. That work is just interminable if I'm sitting in my room thinking and typing with the idea of releasing something some months in the future. Yeah, the stuff I write gets tested at my table first, but there is a large difference between what I need to write to run a game myself, and what I need to write for other people to use.

I need shiny happy creators to bounce ideas off of, to test out descriptive text, to look at imbedded in-jokes to see if they work. I need people to say, "Coooooooooool!" and "You are a wild man!" and "Wait a minute, are you sure about that?" and "Stuuuuuuuuuppppppppppiiiiiiiiddddddddddddd!"

I need people to deliver feedback on my blogs, suggestions for things to write about, and general critiques of all my ideas (I know I know, stop swearing so much.) I love critiques. And arguments.

Apply via the instant messaging method of your choice. :D

Friday, May 23, 2008

How I Run a Game

Everyone's got their own way of running games. Here is how I generally handle things these days, and how I will handle them in the future, in my AD&D 1E and BFRPG games:

The dice are God, carrying more authority than any player and carrying more authority than the guy running the game. Just picking up the dice is a sign that nobody at the table knows what's going to happen. No fudging. Ever.

If a "story" would be ruined by an "incorrect" roll of the dice, then we're playing wrong. The story is only apparent after the playing is done. It's not a goal in-game. Sort of. More on that later. But if I want something to happen, then I'll say it happens and not bother with a dice roll. I'm in charge only to the point that I pick up the dice. Then I'm not in charge anymore.

I make almost all my rolls out in the open. I have a referee's screen (or sometimes just a clipboard), but that's mainly for hiding maps and location notes. There are only a few rolls that I make out of sight of the players:

Searching for secret doors. Sure, they may miss something (and I've driven players nuts when they don't know where else to go), or they may search for a million years because they're sure something is there when there is not, but they'll never know because they never see the roll.Searching for traps. This will change... it is a ridiculous drain on play flow to stop at every door and every little thing and make people say, "I'm listening at the door." "I check the chest for traps." My new way of doing things is that they never have to say they are doing these things. It will be assumed. When someone says, "I open the chest," if there is a trap there, the thief gets to roll to see if he found it ahead of time. But someone has to commit to the deed before this happens. "I open the chest." "Thief, roll your find traps." "Damn! Failed!" "umm, wait, no, I'm not opening the chest after all." haha, the hell you aren't! :P Now if there is a suspicious setup and the thief wants to check something before anyone commits to anything, then I make that roll. I also like the ideas floating around the net right now about not hiding any traps, and instead putting them in plain sight and making the players puzzle through them. I'll do some of that too.Move Silently/Hide in Shadows. But only if failure isn't immediately obvious. "I hide in shadows to set up a backstab next round!" might as well be a roll made by the player, as he's going to know right away if it worked or not. I use the Burning Wheel "Let it Ride" principle as well - one roll is made and stays in effect until circumstances change. No 'making a roll for this room... you're not noticed. And into that room, another roll..." No.Wandering Monsters Checks. There is a penalty for sitting in a room and checking every square inch of wall for secret passages, and wandering monsters are that penalty. Adventuring environments are dangerous. There's the argument that "random encounters weaken the party too much for the real encounters!" Ah boo hoo. Reaction rolls. Sometimes it's obvious how someone feels about you, but sometimes it isn't. Did I miss anything?

All monster attack and damage rolls are done in the open. Sometimes I make the player roll for their own misery. "Roll d4 to see how many of these things attack you this round."

The dice are really unforgiving, too. Lately there have been multiple character deaths every session. It's low-level play, so no bother. The players cheer upon leveling, I tell you that.

... funny story... I got a bit busy and unable to prepare the weekly sessions, so I set up a "magic portal" that everyone went through... so week to week we're rotating GMs, as the characters pop out of the portal in different places. And I get to play, yay! It was noted that I do absolutely everything I can to make sure the dice are not rolled in combat... I'll go to any means to avoid a fight as a player, because fights are deadly, and I like the idea of keeping a guy alive. "Let me tell you about my character..." My guy's unwillingness to fight ended up getting a fort full of bandits to empty out and chase a caravan that didn't exist, so we could search their place. My guy took prisoners because there was no reason to kill those few left behind. My guy died falling into a pit when we missed the "sword's arm" clue about going down the right-hand passage. The GM laughed maniacally because I had established my character as left-handed so I had no chance to get the clue. (he was running from a published adventure, it's not like he was a dick to mislead me based on handedness... on purpose, anyway).

OK, maybe only a funny story to me. But "Let me tell you about my character" shouldn't be annoying. Well, not in moderation anyway. Telling stories about what we actually do in this hobby shouldn't be a bad thing, should it?


I like low-level play and magic-poor worlds. I give out as much non-combat magical treasure as I can when it is time to give up the goodies. But I always screw it up. Last campaign, I goofed it up by running Keep on the Borderlands as-is. Another monumental goof was confronting the players with a main villain early on, and equipping the guy to be able to get away. He didn't get away. He didn't keep his equipment. They didn't kill him though, and he ended up being a thorn in their sides for a long time afterwards. (another goof... I gave the group a Wish scroll, because one of the dwarven characters had hit their level limit and I allow a wish to raise the limit by one level. (per wish) The bastards swerved me by instead wishing for the Dwarven Thrower that they knew one of the villain group possessed. I bet the look on my face was priceless.

But even though these two items disrupted my plans, I went with them. The players are allowed to get one up on me, they're allowed to completely trash my "plans." Because we have no pre-set story. I know what will happen if the players take my "nudge nudge" clues, and they know they should be sporting and not say "Fuck off, we're heading to the east out of the country" for absolutely no reason at all at the beginning of a session. Generally when we finish something at the end of the session, I'll ask them what they're wanting to do next time. I always trail all sorts of little adventure hooks. They'll tell me what they want to do, and then I can prepare the adventure based on their wishes, and I can decide what events happen because they do that instead of these other things. If they want to say "Fuck off, we're heading east out of the country," at the end of a session, I'll put it together for them, without trying to steer them back to my glorious campaign plot cycle (OK, I'll try... "The little girl cries, telling how she's an orphan because of the great evil you're fleeing from." But they are under no obligation to comply.) And none of this "The adventure will happen on the road no matter which way the characters end up traveling." That's just bullshit if they're specifically trying to get away from the adventure. I mean, setting up a "... and at the next inn..." adventure is valid, but if the players figure something's up and just move on, don't throw flying monkeys at them until they return to the inn for shelter, and don't make the adventure happen at whatever inn they stop at next if they already avoided it.

That's another thing. Avoidance. I set up a lot of encounters that the PCs can't possibly defeat in combat. Hell, at 5th-6th level they were running a gauntlet of goblins mounted on dinosaurs to get into a city of the dead in order to steal a lich's treasure... and ended up involved in a web of intrigue between Githyanki, drow, and illithid that were trying to get the Dead King on their side. Could our fearless players have openly confronted any of these factions? Hell no. And it worked because my players knew I'd have no problems slaughtering their characters and using their skins as a drow war banner. But they decided to go there because that specific treasure would help them in defeating this other enemy... but in traveling here to do that, they were absent while another force took control of their home area, so when they got back everything was a mess...

I also allow characters to utterly fail. Protect the mayor of the town? OK Whoops, the assassins got him! ha ha! And then what happens as a result of that is indeed different based on whether the guy got killed or not. There's no expectation of success or failure.

Not that this means I'm continually kicking my players around or that it's a antagonistic stance at the game table. I just set things up as makes sense to me at the time, and in play I just play whatever NPC or monster to their fullest ability. A smart, experienced assassin isn't going to make stupid mistakes and a lax party isn't going to be successful at playing bodyguard. That demon you let out of its magic prison is going to fuck you up (Why did you do something stupid like that for? Released a demon? ay ay ay... :P ), and of course those low hit point wizards are going to die when they flee together, and then the thing teleports away from the general melee to cut these guys off. But they have every chance of success as well, and I'm not here to present a tragedy either. Even handed, with no interest in the outcome, that's my goal.

Not that I always stand behind that. The last full dungeon I ran had a big tomb treasure that was the ultimate goal. The tomb had two false bottoms. The PCs found only one, so they left the dungeon thinking they weren't getting any loot. There was a very real danger that the players were going to think I was just fucking with them for the past two or three sessions, however long this dungeon took. So I compromised. I had a 'tweener (neither friend nor foe) NPC show up and offer clues to the tomb's treasure... for a price. Half of everything they take out of there. They were still pretty pissed when they figured out what they missed, and hated giving over half of it, but they at least got something and as players knew I didn't just run them through a decent sized crawl that had no point and no reward in the thing.

This is turning into more of a "Let me tell you about my campaign..." than a focused blog about how I run games, isn't it?


Wake up! More procedural stuff now!

Ability scores in my current BFRPG campaign... 3d6 down the line, exchange two scores with each other if desired... ability score bonuses must add up to more than the penalties. It's resulted in characters that have multiple bad scores with penalties. Players hate it when they have AC and damage penalties. :D But everyone starts with the same chances.

I require players to keep track of encumbrance, but I'm really bad at checking up on them, and I'm sure they don't bother to figure out if they can fit all that stuff into that backpack and one sack they have. (and where is that sack, if you're also carrying a shield and a sword AND a torch?) I should keep better track of torch use and duration. Little details.

And dammit, it's 4am, and I'm rambling... badly. See you tomorrow. Let me know if there's anything in particular you want me to talk about. That'll help me stay focused!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Holy Shit!

Check out this bombshell exchange between Greg Ellis and Tim Kask.

"I can't find any players!"

I'd say that I hate whiners but for the fact that I like whining.

Still, it's amazing how many people across the internet complain that they only would be role-playing if they had some people to role-play with.

What are they doing about it?

Jack shit, apparently.

If you are a referee and you want to start running a game, it is easy. If you're a player, it's more difficult. I can't help straggling players find a group. I just know how to get other people to gather around my creative vision.

The easy steps to starting a game group:

1. Decide what game you will play, and when you will be playing.
Don't be wishy-washy. You will get nowhere if you are thinking about getting an RPG group together and then deciding what to play and when. It won't work. If you're going to run a game, you need to make these decisions up front, before searching for players. The referee is the most important member of the group. If a player doesn't show up, the game can go on. If the referee doesn't show up, the players are SOL.

The game to be played should be decided by the referee. He's the guy that has to come up with all the ideas and create adventures after all. The referee knows what he likes, what he feels comfortable running, and what he can sustain creatively for a period of time.

When deciding when to play, remember that running a game is a serious time commitment. If you're doing this as a lark or know that you'll be blowing off gaming at every opportunity to do something else, just don't bother. Don't waste other people's time that way. Regularity is the best way to keep people coming back time after time. If players know that a game is happening every Sunday, they know not to make other plans on Sunday. If the game doesn't happen every Sunday (if, for example, you're traveling to Helsinki every other weekend...) people are going to stop thinking of Sunday as "game day" and then good luck keeping a regular group together on an erratic schedule. Choose a time and be prepared to game at that time, every time. Emergencies will happen, but if they happen all the time then I suspect they aren't really emergencies at all.

Decide how many players you want before starting to look for them.

2. Contact gamers that you know, and ask your non-gamer friends if they'd like to play.
This should be easy enough. A lot of gamers know other gamers already. A lot of gamers even have friends. Present the game + time you've decided to them.

Some of them might say "Well, I'd love to play, but I'm free on this day, not that one." Well, if several people say the same thing, and that other day is good for you, consider changing it.

Some of them might say, "Well, I'd play if you ran this other game instead." Tell them you're sorry, and that they're welcome to the table if they change their mind. Don't bend on that one. At all. If you want to run OD&D, then don't be talked out of it by people who probably don't even really know what it's like. If you want to run FATAL, well, you're weird, but you're not going to get to do that if you listen to players whine about the games they'd like to play. Of course when you stay firm in your decision to run the game you want to, these same people will still be the ones complaining on the internet that they don't understand why they can't find a game.

OK. About the "asking your friends." Ask them. ALL of them. Even people you don't know all that well. Co-workers. Classmates. One of the lamest things I see on the internet is that they only game with friends, and none of their current friends game, so that's that. GET NEW FRIENDS. It's a funny definition of friend that keeps you from doing things you enjoy because they don't enjoy it too. But when asking the acquaintances, don't act ashamed of gaming by doing things like cornering "certain" people away from everyone else, or things like that. Don't feel the need to ask a lot of leading questions ("So, how bout them Lord of the Rings movies, eh?") or things like that. Gamers get all self-conscious about their gaming when in the presence of non-gamers. Why? People don't act like they're doing something silly when they ask people to join them for Friday night poker, do they? Or to come over and watch the game? No, they don't! So just ask. Chances are, you're not going to get very many bites from this. But you shouldn't get any funny reactions if you don't act like it's something unusual to ask. And if someone is rude, such as asking if you're too old to be playing games like that, then that should tell you what you need to know about them. You're not doing anything wrong. That person is just a fuckin' asshole.

And if someone says "I might be able to show up now and again," don't count on him at all.

So maybe you've got some people that want to play. Maybe you don't. Maybe you just moved to a new area and don't know anyone, much less gamers. Not a problem. In fact, it may be preferable. It's always good to meet new people that have something in common with you.

3. Make a flyer.
It's time to start advertising for players. Flyers need to have a few vital pieces of information on them: The game to be played, when and where, contact information, and most importantly, a flashy picture. Here's the flyer I used to find an AD&D 1E group here in Vaasa in 2006:

Now, at the time I didn't realize the importance of listing the time to be played on the flyer. This resulted in a lot of wasted time dealing with people that wanted to play but were only available at times I had classes, and an infuriating amount of time coordinating with the load of people that end up did playing before we figured out a good meeting time.

I put this together in photoshop, but it doesn't require high-tech know-how. Just cut and paste something together. Use some image from the internet that fits the atmosphere you want your game to have. The image must stand out! Make little tear-away tabs with your contact information; that's what all that little writing is at the bottom of this flyer. (don't forget to cut the tabs before placing the flyer, too!) Now run down to your local copy shop and get 20 copies run off or whatever.

4. Getting the flyer out there
Now you've got the flyer. Where to put them?


Do you have a local game store? Put a flyer there, of course. Comic book shops might be a good place for the fantasy-inclined. General hobby shops, especially those that carry Warhammer stuff, even if they have no other gaming material, are excellent for finding people. In my experience book stores often have bulletin boards, and that's always a good bet. Libraries! Here in Vaasa all of the grocery stores have bulletin boards so I just canvassed the town and made sure as many stores as possible had my flyer up. If there's a bulletin board in your area, get a flyer up on it.

Note that while some places may be better for snagging gamer-types (bookstores and comics stores), you're not looking specifically for gamers. You're looking for people who might be interested in playing in your game. That's going to be rough if you're trying to play a very complicated game (half the people I recruited for a HERO game using a flyer never came back after the first session... why go through all that trouble to create a character if you're not going to actually play the game? :D), but what are you going to do?

Unless you live in a tiny village with nobody in it, you're going to get responses. I currently live in a crappy-ass small town of about 55,000 people, and I didn't speak the native languages AT ALL (as opposed to speaking them VERY LITTLE now) when I first flyered, and I got plenty of responses.

This works.

5. Screening potential players.
Once people start contacting you, you'll want to start arranging 1 on 1 meetings. Go out for a drink, or something. Kind of like a date. In fact, the goal is the same as a date, but perhaps with less at stake. You're attempting to see if this person is compatible with your ideas for a fun time. Gathering a group of complete strangers together and expecting everything to go smoothly is rather optimistic. Be sure to do this somewhere other than your home. Neutral territory is always good for meeting new people, especially when the entire point is to figure out if you want to be around them at all.

No, this isn't perfect, and no, you won't screen out all the complete freaks. In fact, your house may be full of weird people if everything works out. Role-players tend to be a creative, idiosyncratic bunch of people. Putting aside your personal prejudices would be recommended. You're not looking for people that you want to be "friends" with - that's nice if it happens, but what you're looking for here are people that you can game with, and this screening is just a way to make a basic effort to find out if these people are fuckin' idiots. What you're basically looking for is a person that can be respectful around strangers. Who cares what religion they are, as long as they aren't going to go all Biblical (or blasphemous) at the game table. If someone doesn't bathe (yeah, you know, that stereotype), best to find out before gathering your players. Come up with a few conversational queues that will bring up a few sensitive things. If someone is homophobic or racist or sexist, you want to find that out before exposing a group of strangers (who may include women, gays, or ethnic minorities) to them - that's the best way to kill a group before it gets started.

Also talk about your gaming goals - a completely reasonable, pleasant, respectful person could still be a complete disaster and drain on your game if he's showing up with one thing in mind and you're presenting quite a different thing in your game. Do talk about what games you've played, what problems you've had at the game table in the past and how you've resolved them. See what experiences like that this other person has had. Find out how committed they're willing to be about the game and what potential responsibilities they would have that could pop up from time to time on game day.

This step is a fair bit of work and a pain in the ass, but you'll be seeing a lot of this person, and if you're shy about meeting and talking to them, I wonder what kind of game master you're going to be. It's a job that really doesn't work with shy people with no people skills. Hell, I'm about as anti-social and odd as they come, and I can get this done. It's not an issue.

(yeah, I know I'm playing to gamer stereotypes with that rather condescending attitude, but these people are out there. Doesn't mean you have to be one of them, or include them. That's why you're screening in the first place.)

Do not have a strict idea of who you want to be answering your ads. You might get the unemployed, the underage, and the disabled. You might get people that have never role-played before and have no real idea what it is. Be patient with them all, and don't immediately dismiss people without actually talking to them.

A note about some things. I'm in my 30s, and my group here has always included teenagers. I remember when I was a teenager and me and a friend found this group of way-older guys that let us play with them. We did some D&D, but that's also where we got introduced to Justifiers and Bureau 13. Holy cow they scared the shit out of us with Bureau 13. :D And now it's my turn to groom the next generation of gamers. (scary, isn't it?) I'm not saying that babysitting little kids is your job, but a lot of these kids are the bookwormy types that are quite capable of contributing in a game environment. Their outbursts are going to seem childish (let me tell you about the one player who actually said "LOL" when he thought something was funny, instead of, you know, actually laughing), but it's my experience that adults do the same thing in the same way, but using more dated expressions. It's the same damn thing. Not saying you must include any damn person that wants to sign up (and certainly if you're the type to enjoy a beer or fifteen at the gaming table, kids shouldn't be there... no sense in getting in trouble with the law over a game) but don't dismiss out of hand.

I guarantee that with enough responses, you're going to get a completely unsuitable freak or two, but you'll also have a good pool of promising players to work with. And because you were up-front about game-day on your flyer, it's even a pool that can show up to game with you.

If the number of appropriate people are equal to or less than the maximum size you've decided for your group, then great! You can go to the next step! If you have attracted more interested people than you want to have in your group, you're going to have to make decisions of who to not invite to the game. Do contact the people that you do not select, very important, don't just ignore them or not let them know. If it's someone you'd be interested in gaming with if not for group capacity issues, do let them know and do be ready to contact them if there's a chair becomes free at your table. Reasonable people will understand, unreasonable people you don't want around anyway, and if you connect up to a larger gamer community around you, you can get a bit of a good reputation if you have a "waiting list" of people wanting to get into your game.

6. Start Playing
This is all a fair amount of work, but then so is conducting a role-playing campaign. If you want to play and there's no obvious pool of players, you are going to have to make an effort. Everything in this world requires effort, but few things pay off in the end like making that effort for something you do for no reason other than enjoying it. The important thing to do is never cancel the game if you can help it. There will be weeks when people don't show up, or too few people to continue the regular game. Have a a small variety of card and board games (gamer related rather than mass-market stuff if you can find it) just to help establish that "This day is game day" to establish attendance habits from the people that can be there every week. Those people are the core of your group and you do not give them a reason to think they better always have other plans ready in case the game is canceled again.

Make the game area as pleasant as possible. Be a good host. Clean the place up. Bake fresh bread or rolls for the group - it's a simple and inexpensive thing to do but if you're group is filled with younger people or single guys, home-cooked anything will impress them to no end. When I had 9 people showing up every week, I'd make the bread while we gamed. Perhaps a tad disruptive to the game, but fun and bond-forming all the same, especially when asking some of the players to make GM rolls because my hands were covered in flour or dough.

Yeah, I'm assuming the game location will be at your house because that's how it's always worked - the game is played at the home of the person organizing and running the game. Even if you're playing elsewhere, the referee is still the group leader and he should act as a host wherever the game is played.

Now go game!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grognardia reviews The Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra


Holy crap!

The Old School People's Front vs The People's Old School Front



Lots of talk (here, here, and here, just for starters) in recent days about some sort of association or organized effort to promote traditional role-playing games. There is movement happening in various quarters.

There's also a lot of non-direct communication happening via blogs and message boards (and I'm sure direct communication happening that I'm not privy to), and I have a blog myself, so what the hell, I'll go ahead and offer my thoughts on the situation.

First, the elephant in the dungeon: It's a very rough thing, because for all the talk, there is one inescapable reality: Our common bond is Dungeons and Dragons, and without being able to use the name Dungeons and Dragons, we're crippled. Not that being crippled is the end of the argument, but we need to be clear: We are talking about Dungeons and Dragons, and not all sorts of traditional games like Runequest and Traveller and such.

Second, the focus. Everyone thinks the way they play is the One True Way. At least everyone offering an opinion. We need to forget this way of thinking. OD&D is not the way. AD&D1e is not the way. Frankly I don't see very much difference between all these versions. It's D&D, and no matter which version you play, you're houseruling it, so as far as I'm concerned any discussion on this front is silly. You're just being divisive when the entire point is unity. D&D is D&D, it speaks the same language. Up to a point.

But we do need to decide what we're talking about. When we say "D&D," we are not talking Attacks of Opportunity, Prestige Classes, or Per-Encounter powers. So what do we mean?

Gygaxian D&D. Only versions of D&D that have direct input by Gary Gygax should be considered here, and all versions of D&D that have direct input by Gary Gygax should in included. OD&D, AD&D1E, and the Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer versions of the Basic set. That's it. Nothing else. Sorry 2E. (although if everything comes together, 2E is quite compatible with everything else, so...) We need to define a focus so we're not at cross purposes with our activities, and I defy anyone to come up with a better focus than "The versions that Gygax was involved with."

Third, the Goal. Why are we doing this?

I can't speak for anyone else's motivations, but I will offer my perspective:

Is it to enable play? No! Not a single one of us needs any sort of association to play these games. The materials are out there, they aren't scarce, and they're dirt cheap on pdf.

Is it to create a market for new products? Oh god I hope not. I know I'm a "publisher" now, but if there is any great traditional renaissance, I won't be cashing in on it. I'm not a businessman, I don't want to be a businessman, I just have some ideas and a near pathological need to publish stuff. I don't have the discipline nor basic desire to turn my passions into a proper business, so I really have no stake in the "industry" angle of this. It might be nice to have an environment where I can pretty much count on making my costs back, but I'm going to publish what I'm going to publish whether anyone buys it or not. I'm dumb like that.

My belief is that the only real purpose of a traditional renaissance is to re-establish the cultural line between the beginnings of the hobby to the present and ensure that they exist into perpetuity, and to promote the idea that "older game" does not mean "broken,"or "unplayable," or even "out of date." We have to defeat the public perception of editions, trends, and branding, not work with them. These are the weapons of the enemy that put us in a ghetto in the first place.

We need to promote the idea that the traditional games were not simple empty-headed dungeon bashes, and to engender an environment where stunningly ignorant opinions like these and these are removed from gamer consciousness. (yeah, the more ridiculous assumptions were challenged there, but I just have this sinking feeling that people don't listen)

We need to make it seem normal for current and new gamers to pick up one of the traditional games and play it, for fun, and not for any sense of nostalgia, irony, or historical value.

That's the goal. Not to take the gaming world back, not to rule the world, but just to make sure there is that timeless quality to RPGs that never goes away.

"Right now we're disco, a garishly out of style trend from decades past, when we should be Deep Purple, or Black Sabbath, or Iron Maiden - classics that never died, no matter what the "reality" of public perception was during the darkest days, and are now again increasingly listened to by the young. An unbreaking continuity that cuts right through four decades of development."

I like that line. :)

Fourth, The Methods. This is the tough one. No one can agree on this. But I have a few ideas.

PLAY. Each and every person involved in this "Renaissance" had better be involved in a game at home. Seriously. If you're not actively playing one of these games yourself, I don't see how you have anything to say about wider popularity.

Publish. If you're so inclined. "Out of print" = "Dead Game" for the majority of gamers, and "out of sight, out of mind," is human nature. That sucks, and I believe that fighting this thinking is the first thing any movement needs to do. D&D was formed out of unfashionable influences in the first place, so bowing to current mindsets is a betrayal of what D&D is in the first place. Getting new stuff out there brings the idea that these are living games to the consumer at large and brings current thinking into the pool of traditional ideas. Traditional doesn't mean static or untouchable, it's merely an understanding of how to do things and how not to do things. But traditional also means that people make their own stuff up, and all the tools are already out there. Everyone has material they can publish, and nobody needs any of it. Get it out there however you like, and search out what you might want, but "publish" does not equal "consume." The goal is to get more people playing the games and to dispel ignorance (15' radius), not to sell stuff. Any movement that requires consumption just isn't worth it. If you don't want to publish on your own, contribute to Fight On! or something. But the creative should create.

Educate. When you see someone defaming traditional gaming, or are merely ignorant about it, correct them. Don't be a dick. Ask for specific sources for a viewpoint. If someone that has never read a single word written by Gary Gygax is spouting nonsense based on what he's heard from D&D haters, he needs to be exposed.

Come up with a flyer that can be downloaded and photocopied locally, promoting traditional gaming and maybe even newer products and stick them in local gaming and comic book shops and such.

Those are things that anyone can do. But there is a next level.

Organize. This is what's being attempted right now. Some people have ideas that they are moving forward. My big idea concerning organization:

We need some sort of central distribution/publicity equivalent to IPR. I believe that site helped "indie" games tremendously and we can learn a lot from that. This central point would be an online shop and a new outlet, linking to all sorts of things like reviews and such. (something like this is badly needed, since OSRIC's site hasn't been updated since January 2007 and is a dismal, dismal failure as either an information source or rallying point). Acting as a one-stop, it would be easier for everyone involved to get into retail. If individual publishers start seeing any sales at all from such a thing, they'll be more enthusiastic about it than we can stand.

NO MESSAGE BOARD or comment capabilities. The one thing that will kill this movement DEAD DEAD DEAD if it does indeed gain larger traction is to have casual gamers see our internecine squabbles. If someone sets up an "umbrella" type site, it needs to avoid all of that. Heavy moderation creates ill feelings, so just leave it out. In fact, it's best if the people running the thing aren't active on message boards and such at all, just because traditionalists are so damn sensitive.

Fifth, the branding. The common language of D&D isn't copyrighted. If it was, half the computer games of the 80s would have been targets for lawsuits. "Armor Class" and "Hit Points" have been used all over the place. "Strength" and "Intelligence" and "Wisdom" and "Dexterity" and "Constitution" and "Charisma" have been used in different games for decades now.

If we follow the thinking that a proper "revival" has to include a retail presence of traditional games, and I'm not sure it can, even if it should, then that's going to take money. Instead of developing a clone rulebook to sell in stores, couldn't that investment be put towards an IP lawyer who could be consulted to create a document that would detail what you can and can not do in a product for the purpose of slapping "COMPATIBLE WITH DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS" on the cover? (I do wonder if a worthwhile goal isn't to make enough noise and make a movement big enough that WotC releases a "D&D: Classic" line... or that it becomes a big enough bother that when they transition away from tabletop gaming altogether, they just release the IP. OK, that last one's a pipe dream but we should set our goals where we want them, not just where we maybe think we can somewhat achieve.)

The OGL "retro-clones" use the OGL to achieve their goal, and that's fine. The OGL is awesome for this purpose. But is it necessary? One thing the OGL does restrict it the ability to denote compatibility. You can not use the OGL to say that it's Dungeons and Dragons or that it can be used to say Dungeons and Dragons. Which to me is a problem with the goal of creating a generational cultural continuity from the origins of D&D (and role-playing in general). Sure, we know what's going on, but what about all these new (and especially young) gamers that we're trying to bring into the fold?

But if we believe that traditional games need a commercial face, and if we are giving up on using the D&D name directly, then something new needs to be made, or one of the existing simulacra needs to go fully commercial. There's a problem there - how can these things, especially if they're manufactured POD, compete commercially against the multitude of dirt cheap copies of the original D&D books floating around out there? I think there's a good reason they were made to be free.

Take the case of Castles & Crusades. It's basically AD&D, with some mechanical fiddliness that's pretty inconsequential, and certainly it's compatible beyond reasonable expectation with traditional D&D. They had Gygax and Kuntz and now have Jim Ward working for them. And it isn't good enough for traditionalists. (Hell, you could say the simulacrum movement was in large part a reaction against the failings of C&C.) Why? That needs to be examined and dissected before we think about throwing in with a new brand on store shelves that would replace the D&D name.

One thing the "proper" simulacra did that C&C did not is make everything OPEN. You don't need permission to use the OSRIC name, you know? There's a possibility for a movement there because there's the freedom to do it. C&C? Proprietary property, closed, not for the community. And the "Renaissance" is about the community, or it's about nothing.

We do need to come up with a collective name for these things that doesn't use the word "old" or "retro." Anything that directly states that these things are copies ("simulacrum" or "recreation") is probably a bad idea as well. It's tough, as we can't actually call these things what they are, but someone has to figure this one out in a way that doesn't misrepresent the games, but doesn't make them seem like museum pieces or cheap knock-offs either. I suggest OSRIC change the acronym to mean "Original System" rather than "Old School."

Sixth, What Does This Mean To You? This is the problem. It means nothing to you, because, as noted, you can play what you like without any regard for what's happening in the gamer community at large. Hell, doing that is what defines us in the first place. If there is to be a movement, it's going to be initiated and enacted by busybodies who are concerned with what everyone else is playing. We really are screwed, aren't we?