Tuesday, December 27, 2011

*Basic* D&D? Race as Class? You MUST be kidding... Nope, I'm not.

This post was inspired by two things:

  1. Dubious looks and/or eye-rolling from players when I mention my preferred gaming system and
  2. A recent re-reading of this post and this post from JB of the B/X Blackrazor OSR blog. 
JB has some very cool in-game rationales for why race-can-be-class and vice versa in B/X (and by extension BECMI) D&D.  To boil it down, he basically argues that the "human" classes (cleric, thief, fighter, magic user) are human archetypes (and European human archetypes at that!).  Demi-humans (dwarves, elves, halflings), on the other hand, are completely inhuman, alien species. Thus, the same kind of archetypes don't apply for them.  

To wit:
The only reason to “snub” the B/X-LL-BECMI “Race As Class” concept is because you consider the various species of D&D to be the equivalent of humans in rubber masks. Or real cultures thinly disguised in fantasy tropes. Or some other human equivalent. 
To me, keeping the races as separate, different, ALIEN actually increases the feeling of “fantasy” in the game. It makes humans AS A SPECIES really stand apart from the other species…their high levels, their variety of class/careers. It also makes humans more dangerous than other species.
Admittedly, while I think he raises a great point (especially the part about increasing the fantastic elements of the game), my rationale is probably a little closer to the "gamist" side of the spectrum.

See, I've been in this hobby a LONG time.  Not as long as others, but within a decade of "as long as possible."  When I rolled up my first B/X D&D character (a fighter whose name I can't remember), we were only a year or two into the first Reagan administration.  The DM, our babysitter, then ran my brother (a cleric, I think) and I through an adventure into a haunted tower where we had to rescue some relatives from goblin kidnappers.

In the few decades since that adventure, I've played a lot of different RPGs:  every version of D&D from BECMI to 3.5/Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu (a favorite), Buffy (another good one), Rifts (ugh, too much crunch), GURPS, Marvel (aka FASERIP), and more.  And you know what all of those hours of geeky dice-rolling have made me realize?  I like things simple.  For me, playing RPGs is as much about the social, hanging-with-smart-friends experience as the game itself.  More so, in fact.

I don't want to do spend an hour assigning skill points, doing more than single-digit math, or figuring out if my character really is 5% better at something than another character.  Boooring.  For me, anyway.  Your mileage may vary.

What I want to do is quickly sketch out a character (s/he's gonna change as the game progresses anyway... if s/he lives that long) and then start chasing monsters and having adventures.  If we get into a fight, I don't want it to turn into a three-hour game of Risk.  (Again, nothing wrong with Risk... if that's your thing).  I want it to be like a fight scene in a movie--fast, in-the-moment action that has as much of an emotional impact (ugh! didn't see that goblin with the spear coming so fast!) as a mental/tactical one.

Ok, fine, you say.  You like things fast-paced.  I get it.  And you hate math.  Well, duh.  You were an English major, after all.*  But basic D&D?  Isn't that the one where you can't be a halfling thief or an elf wizard?  Instead, you're just a halfling or just an elf?  And fighter, cleric, thief, and magic user** are combined race (human) and profession?  That's too simple.  And not realistic.***

True, I suppose.  But here's the thing: to me, it's mainly Just A Game.  Pretending to be a thimble, shoe, or iron in a game about real estate acquisition isn't terribly realistic, either.  But it's still fun because you're hanging with your pals and doing something together.  And for what Monopoly is, it works.  Same thing for D&D.  In the words of an immortal sage--it is what it is.

* Yes I was. But I still put in way too many commas.

** Ok, a less-than-colorful class name.  I'll give you that.  What was wrong with "wizard", Mr. Gygax?

*** I know, right? The irony of discussing realism in a game with goblins, gelatinous cubes, and fire-breathing lizards is not lost on me.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Houston, the Secret Santicore Has Landed!

Many thanks to Jez Gordon for the absolutely insane amount of work that he put in bringing this year's Secret Santicore to life.  I am stunned at the professionalism of the layout and the creativity behind everyone's entries.  The artwork is wicked awesome as well--the "floating isles" piece that accompanies my own entry ("Shards of the World"), especially.  Though maybe I'm biased... ;-)

I got some really cool artifacts for use in the Evenoria game (if it ever gets off the ground!) thanks to Valerio Di Camillis.  I almost didn't post them because I want to use them to surprise the players at some point, but they were too good not to share.

It's an amazing thing that we live in an age where forty-odd gamers spanning the globe and all kinds of backgrounds can all produce something like this without ever being in the same room.

The future is here and it's cool.

Waffle, anyone?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wyverns & Waffles

Some folks think D&D needs things like hit location tables or first-level magic users who are tough enough to survive, say, a nasty sewing injury.  Pshaw.  You know what that venerable warhorse of role-playing really needs?  Waffles.  And syrup.

Inspired by Satine Phoenix's D&D Melt / Monthly D&D Pancake Breakfast, I have decided to try for a semi-regular get-together that I'm calling Wyverns & Waffles.  It's brunch.  For nerds.

We'll have waffles, (local, organic, free-range) eggs, and sausages.  And maybe a mimosa or two.  (See Harto's "perfect mimosa recipe" for details.)  And when the crockery is washed and the carb comas begin to set in, we'll explore Evenoria and fight monsters.

Cool, huh?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Giblet Blizzard: Secret Santicore

Absolutely pumped about seeing how this year's Secret Santicore entries look.  I got a preview of my material from Jez (nice, very patient guy, btw) and was blown away by the professionalism of the design and presentation.  Ho ho ho!

Le link:
Giblet Blizzard: Secret Santicore: Zak over at Playing D&D with Pornstars put out the request, and yeah: I give you SAGE with bells. And eggnog. Same deal as before, only ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Coming soon to a tabletop or G+ hangout near you.

Wanna play in my little sandbox world?  I designed Evenoria to be a place where characters could run free, devoid of railroading, sequential quests, and other DM-laid impediments to the marginally-organized chaos that made up some of the best gaming of my younger days.  Things will get nutty.  And messy.  And it will be good.

We'll use minimal rules like Labyrinth Lord (aka B/X or BECMI D&D) to keep things fast and flexible.  We'll focus on having adventures and kicking monster ass.  We'll go off the rails in fun and surprising directions.  We'll play f2f and/or via G+ hangout.  We'll be part of ConstantCon.

Grab your hooded lantern, 10' pole, and iron rations and let's hit the road.

Where do you want to start?