Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fork in the road

My recent post regarding my view about OSR gaming caused varied responses. I blame myself for laying my thoughts out in too strident a fashion for good general discussion to take place.

So to remedy and clarify:

Revisiting the past to park in it, rather to learn and then move on does not further, nor build upon the great works of the past. I am not saying there is not fun to be had nor, much to learn. Clearly given the breadth of blogs, and products, surrounding OSR materials there is much to be loved. I too share the love, and support it by purchasing many of the great OSR products out there. They are a great resource and nice mirror to the past, but they are not the end of the road.

Change is the essential part of long term survival for anything. Those people, systems, and cultures that fail to adapt and changes are relegated to the dustbin of history. Our own lives are one series of changes leading to (ideally) our own betterment. Sure its nice to have a mom around doing housework, fixing dinner, and making the bed, but it sure puts a crimp on the old love life. It's great to go back and visit the folks for a few days, but once you have made your own way in the world, and live your life your way, being home really isn't being "home." Home is a nice place to visit, but I don't think you'd want to live there anymore. Even if the basement is spacious. So however naive that may sound or seem, I think it is also true for gaming.

One can still play an enjoy the old Atari 2600 today and many of the games are still fun. In fact compared to the hottest Xbox 360 games, some 2600 games are even better! The old school Nintendo games from the 8 bit era are still fun, and clearly have play value as even Nintendo lets you buy and download a lot of those classics again! The old game are fun and have value, but they are not the end of further development. Wolfenstein 3D is a great first person shooter, and from it came Doom, which led to Hal-Life, and then to Halo. Each is still a first person shooter and you can have fun with any one of them, but I would not stop at any one of them, and I look forward to playing what comes next! New does not always mean better. That is true for anything from a new system grown out of the OSR the OSR material currently being produced. I beleive new does mean a stretching of boundaries and a reshaping of what we know or expect, and that to me is a good thing.

From wargames and miniature war games came role playing games. The various systems of RPG gaming has changed from the three little brown books into a thousand or more variations and off-spring. I like the OSR movement and its revival of the core elements that got people playing originally: the sense of wonder, freedom, exploration and fun! All this from a few tiny books and a handful of dice.

The OSR movement is a grass roots counter, or reaction to the current vogue of multiple 200 plus page tomes of rules from major publishers. I think this is good for the hobby and good for gamers. I voice my concern in saying, I hope it simply does not stop there. I hope the core elements of game play rediscovered from a less rules bloated system can lead to new games and systems expressing it without being tied down to, constrained by, or pigeonholed mechanics from using the OGL/D20 centric system.

If one is happy on the path of OGL/D20 OSR game play, terrific for you! You found your chest of gold at the end of the quest and need never look further. You chose that path that suited you well, but I my friend, am not so lucky. My feet are still restless and I think there is a lot of trail left to cover. I like where your path has lead you to rest, but I should like to walk further on, and I do not believe I will travel alone.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 20
--Robert Frost

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I call shenanigans

The current Olde School Renaissance movement reminds me of the emperors new clothes, so I'll go ahead and be the mouthy little brat who says as much. There is some strutting about of I created this or that, but is it original and new? Nope, decidedly not. It is new material for an abandonware system. In some cases its a simple new coat of paint on the old jalopy. For sure there is a lot of good material and excellent resources being developed for a much beloved system...but where is the original? Where is the new creation from the old framework? OSR is simply a back tracking down a well worn path. Reprinting older material as new in an effort to rediscover the RPG has as much depth as a Texas puddle.

Using what's come before as a foundation to build something new makes sense. I do not see the new creation though, at least yet, from the seeds of the OSR movement. I see a lot of folks rediscovering the simpler game play of yore, and in some cases new eyes seeing role playing in this new light. That's all though, and honestly that's not enough.

It is not enough to sustain or to even grow interest in RPG gaming as a hobby. Revisiting the past to move forward makes sense, but revisiting, then settling in for a nice winter's nap is foolish. It's like peeing yourself in a navy blue suit, sure it makes you feel warm, but nobody really notices. Right now I see a lot of pleased fellows in blue suits, and it makes me nervous.

So will the OSR movement give birth to a new lite RPG rule set for the masses to enjoy? A "from the people, by the people, for the people" system that is rules lite, accessible and expandable? I like to think so, and I am working on my own stab at it. Otherwise there are going to be a lot folks standing around in wet navy blue suits stinking up the joint. Pardon me while I go change...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Are you not entertained? Are you willing to pay $99.99 to find out?!

I was surprised that after getting the Warhammer RPG Fantasy flight games did not reprint the main book and many sought after source books. Turns out we now know why. Just when I thought Hasborg had done what it could to make RPG's less inviting to new players with 4th edition, turns out they were only the canary...enter FFG with the whole damn coal mine.

Your next RPG will be a 4 player boxed set...a $99.99 boxed set. Yup if you want to add players you get to buy a character's toolkit to play for each additional player. I do not doubt the value or fun that one could have with FFG's Warhammermer. There is a big question that remains unanswered: What new player will risk $100 to try an RPG?

Especially when they could get 2 (or more) video game RPG's for the same price? How do you expect to get new people into the hobby with a $100 barrier to entry? WotC failed to lower the barrier to entry in the RPG market by maintaining expensive rules intensive hard backed text books. FFG one upped them by making what appears to be a card based $100 rpg boxed set.

In the golden age I could risk $5-$15 and try a plethora of games like Ogre/GEV, Car Wars, Melee/Wizard, D&D, Tunnels & Trolls, Flashing Blades, Champions, Villains & Vigilantes, Boot Hill, Gang Busters, Top Secret, Gamma World, etc.

It was a small sum and a slim investment. The rules were easy to digest and I think for a lot of kids at the time, that was true. The closest parallel today may be TCG games. About $12 for a deck, and $4 a booster pack, so for under $20 you can check out a new game with little risk. Anyone have a RPG equal? Nope me either. Instead the rules have grown into fat text books by rules lawyers for rules lawyers.

Does this $100 represent the dawn of a new era of RPG's? The death of the genre? A bold new step in a bold new direction? None of the above really. Instead this "new boxed set for a new century" represents old school thought trying to become relevant and hip to a new generation. So they stream line game play and focus it all on quick reference cards and specialized dice, but pack it into a box with 4 rule books, 300 cards and 30 dice which is the kind of old school over kill OMG it's bigger than your cranium kind of game nerd over kill.

How about breaking it down into $15 character or class or race specific "deck" boxes and a separate $20 GM tool box? Pack them out like TCG decks in a display so you can get placed into Target, WalMart as well as hobby.

How many retailers will be able to buy multiple $100 boxed sets? Certainly no Mass retailers or even book stores would do this, so you cut out 99% of the retail market. So you are marketing a $100 boxed set to a slim section of the gaming public who probably already has a metric ton of RPG materials. Will folks buy it? Sure! But will it still be played and supported in 2 years? probably not.

Without further peanut gallery rambling...

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a new, exciting way to experience the popular Warhammer Fantasy setting. It is a grim world, constantly at war. As a hero, you will take up weapon, spell, or prayer and do your best to combat the might of enemies terrifying to behold. As the Game Master, you will make the lands of the Old World real as you craft the story, the people, creatures, and the mysteries the other players will encounter during their adventures.

Everything your group needs to begin its adventures in the Old World is included in the Core set. This Core set is an excellent way to bring new players into the fold, as well as to reward experienced roleplaying with new and exciting innovations.

  • 4 comprehensive rule books provide all the knowledge you will need on the Old World
  • Over 30 Custom Dice give you unprecedented options for story-telling
  • Party sheets provide new skills and abilities to keep everyone engaged
  • 40 different careers and 4 different races offer a multitude of character options
  • More than 300 cards keep you in the game, no need to look up skills or abilities
  • Three character keepers designed to hold everything your hero will need each session

Rolling up a story
Using a new task resolution system featuring custom dice, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay gives you unparalleled story-telling options. Every roll of the dice has a story to tell, providing far more information and flavour than just “you hit” or “you miss.” These dice represent the abilities and skills your characters will gain, as well as include the whims of fate. With each roll, players will be able to see how the check succeeded or failed. Did they make it through based on their natural skills or did they just get lucky as fortune intervened? There are more than 30 custom dice included to help you craft your story.

How much will you risk?
With every decision comes a risk to assess. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, heroes will decide how they wish to approach any situation. Do they rush in, swords drawn, in an attempt to quickly overwhelm their foes? Do they advance cautiously and appraise the situation before entering to gain advantage? Your stance, reckless or conservative, will guide your actions and the bonuses they provide. As stances can be changed on the fly, players will have new levels of control over situations.

Action at hand
Mighty warriors perform mighty deeds. You can quickly reference the full-colour action cards to see what your abilities and innate skills can accomplish, allowing players to spend more time focusing on the task at hand. From spells, blessings, and attacks to social gambits, and reactions, and acrobatics you will have the actions you need to tell your character’s tale.

More fun in a group
Every hero is powerful on their own, but when combined, heroes interact in interesting, new ways. Each party will be able to select a party sheet, which helps track and manage the group as a whole. Will the dwarf and high elf be able to put aside their differences in order to work as a cohesive unit, or will the ancient grudges be too much for them? Can the human overcome the arrogance of the high elf, and can the high elf overcome the brashness of the short-lived human? Each party sheet also provides special abilities for the party members. In this way, every group becomes far more than the sum of its parts.

More than a job
Straight from the world of Warhammer, there are dozens of careers for heroes to choose from. Every career provides valuable skills and abilities that will give adventurers a definitive advantage in their exploits. From the resolve of the Witch Hunter and the deadliness of the Dwarf Troll Slayer to the keen eyes of the Wood Elf Waywatcher, or the fiery magic of a Bright Wizard, there are many exciting paths to follow.

Quick and easy clean up
Inside the Core set are three character keepers designed to hold everything your hero will need each session. From your dice, actions cards, and character sheets to any wounds, items, or skills your hero acquires, you will have a convenient place to store everything after a session.

How do I start?
These innovations are brought to life in the Core set of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Inside you will find four full-colour books. The main rulebook introduces all the mechanics and key information you need to get started. Also included are three tomes to provide you with more information on the world, and give you new opportunities for character creation. The Tome of Mysteries is your guide to wizards and the winds of magic. Follow along with grey wizard Gavius Klugge as he gives you insight into this powerful career path. The Tome of Blessings provides information on priests and the gods they follow. Information on the Cults of Sigmar, Shallya, Ulric, Taal, and others are contained within this volume. The Tome of Adventure is a book for the Game Master, and provides valuable information on running sessions, background and statistics on a variety of enemies, information on how to get the most out of your roleplaying experience, and a complete introductory adventure.

This Core set is best suited for a group of four players – one Game Master and three Player Characters. Adding more players is easy! You can find more careers, party sheets, action cards, and components in the the Adventurer’s Toolkit.

One player gets to be the Game Master. The Game Master is responsible for crafting the story, and giving life to the adventure the heroes are about to undertake. Setting up the encounters, adopting the role of the non-player characters (often referred to as NPCs), and acting as the ruling authority for how the rules apply to the game at hand all fall under the Game Master’s sway.

Three players form the hero party, seeking out adventure and glory. They will be the protagonists, and act together towards a goal. As they perform mighty deeds, combat foul enemies, and exercise their diplomatic skills they will gain experience. This experience allows players to upgrade their skills and abilities, as well as gain new options and help define their characters’ roles within the world. As the PCs gain experience and become even more powerful, the Game Master will craft more challenging stories.

Over the course of the story, the Game Master and the hero party will perform a variety of actions, make skill checks by rolling the custom dice, and keep track of any information related to their characters.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is an experience like no other. Custom dice help you to tell the story with every roll, the stance system provides greater depth to the decisions the GM and the PCs must make, action cards keep all your options close at hand, group party sheets give each party a reason for existing and unique abilities to draw from, and the wide variety of careers give each player a variety of options when creating their character and even more options when they advance their hero.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monkey Auto Races, a classic considerd

Growing up we were not a wealthy family. Our fun as children came from the odd mud puddle and various sticks, rocks, broken glass, and wild animals (living or dead) we might come across. Games like "Grab the rattle snake" and "How long has this been dead?" were the common games of my youth.

That is until a social worker brought us MONKEY AUTO RACING!

Originally the thought of monkey navigated automobiles stirred something, dare I say, primal in us? The size of the box, and the lack of movement from inside, left us wondering if "how long has this been dead?" might actually be our game for the day.

Removing the outer plastic wrap (and carefully saving it for use as a diaper for the baby) my father of the week handed us the game and gave us all a loving backhanding to send us outside.

With great glee we opened the box to monkeys? Not a single simian dead, alive, or navigating any automobile in the box? Instead four brightly colored vehicles were enclosed along with 4 small hammer like "mini head sticks." Not a monkey to be found anywhere? My brother seeing the weird hammer like mini-sticks swiftly took a blue colored one and rapped me soundly about the head with it!

If you have not seen 2001 a Space Odyssey, there is an opening scene wherein monkey like creatures discover that a bone may be used as a weapon. Then they beat to death, out of new found glory, a fellow monkey. That shining moment (with more natural lighting, no slow motion, and a soundtrack provided by the rumble of 18 wheelers on the interstate) replayed itself thanks to discovery of the mini head stick.

A stunned moment of silence followed as we realized what great fortune we were given. Swiftly removing all the head sticks from the box we proceeded to run around and beat each other senseless. At this point, a mental image of Mint Valley Primary Schools 2003 production of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is an appropriate visual.

The neighbor seeing the boyish romp beginning to turn serious called us over during his mid-afternoon respite from auto repair in his front yard. We brought over our new treasure and with oil encrusted hands he made sense of the wiggly lines, angles, and circles we now know as letters and words! By strapping the small hammers to our heads, rather than the original vogue of the right hand, we could push the small cars through a flag lined obstacle course.

At this point, he unstrapped the hammer (mini stick) from my right hand (Mjolnir my friend we savaged many, wait for me in Valhalla!)and wrapped it about my head. Placing a plastic car from the box onto the ground he bade me push it with the mini stick on my head. Dropping to my knees I placed the hammer behind the car ready to see what sort of game this might be. A sharp kick to my hind quarters sent the car and myself flying. The rough guffaws of the neighbor and my brethren from that moment echo through time and haunt me to this day.

Standing, covered in axle grease and grass stains, I slowly removed the mini stick from my head. I then wrapped it around my right hand as nature intended. The Mighty Mjolnir had returned! With a Thor like barbaric YAWP from my eight year old lungs I proceeded to savage the laughing throng.

Whether it was the noble power of Mini-Mjolnir in my tiny right fist, the weight of my foot and the physical might of it striking my neighbor in the nether regions, or the power granted by the burning rage of discovering not one simian navigating the tiny vehicles withing the game, I will leave for my biographer to sort out. Regardless, the neighbor crawled like a dog back into his house writhing with pain. The field of battle emptied quickly I was left alone victorious with only one causality that day...Mjolnir, though mighty in the victory had given its all and broken in the day's combat.

Wistfully those days comeback to me now and though a lingering ache remains at finding no monkeys in the game, I can think of no finer game for instilling in youth today the lessons I learned playing it in my wilder days of yesteryear!


Ancient Treasures soon discovered...

I am a big fan of board games as well as RPG's. In fact I think a great way to get people into RPG's is to start them gaming with rpg-esque board games. So is the center of my board gaming universe. Reviews, images, variants, discussions and all sorts of goodness can be found on golden moldies as well as hot stuff coming soon. I have posted a couple of my own games up there, my module I did for dark City Games, as well as variant stuff such as unique counters for Ogre/GEV.

Well after years of discussion and promises...the beta RPG geek is rolling. Yup the chocolate to the peanut butter of the gaming universe is about to be added...and man is it sweet. So jump on the bandwagon before it departs the farm my friend and enjoy the ride. Geekdo is here!