Friday, March 27, 2009

Can we bring AD&D back to press? And do we want to?

So I've embarked on a preliminary endeavor to see if I can't approach the commercial world to pick up AD&D as an active line again. Sheer folly you cry? Tomfoolery or fool's errand? Well, I'm not so sure myself.

The natural thing to do would be to approach WoTC and find out their reasons for transforming the game in the first place. Was it really just due to waning sales of 2e? Or the oft-cited need to convert the system to WoTC's d20 system? And if the former is the culprit, then it goes a long way to explain why 4e came out. It's nothing but the big business model of creating obseletion in order to keep sales high. We see it in the video game industry all the time. It goes something like this:

1. Create a new system that everyone has to have because it's so cool.
2. Start development on the replacement product.
3. Release new system and charge a lot to cover initial startup and make back your money.
4. Continue to charge a lot for awhile to pile up the coffers and pay for those pricey programmers
5. Come out with a whole slew of new games that cost $50.00 a pop
6. Drop prices as sales wane to bring in the secondary market
7. Finish development on your new toy that is not backwards compatible
8. Advertise the new, better and improved model
9. Release new product, drop support for old product
10. The cycle starts all over again.

Gimme a frackin break. The thing is we are stupid enough to buy into it. Now, the main difference between vid-game systems and RPG's is that the technology actually improves. That is most decidedly NOT the case with RPG's. The mechanics are changed in RPG's but it's usually for the worse.

Now, I'll grant that I could be wrong here. There are probably subtleties I'm missing. But why not continue to support old systems if those systems continue to have a fan-base. Is it the overhead? Or something else entirely?

Well, allow me to put forward a possible suggestions. Run the AD&D division of the company like a small press. Maintain one full time editor, and a few adjuncts as a submission board, and take submissions from part-time writers and designers all over the world. That way you pay a one time writers fee for the submission and viola'! No more overhead. Printing runs could be either kept small, or based on e-book distribution or even print on demand. Focus on world-books and their associated modules and support. Publish novels set in said worlds. As well as more generic world-free books that extend the panoply of magic, spells, etc. etc.

The point is the abandonment of a selling product just doesn't make sense. I do hear quite frequently from gamers sympathetic to the problems of business that we should be thankful there are still game publishing companies still around. The market is so small, they say, that their profit margins are minuscule. We should support whatever they come out with or the entire commercial game industry is likely to die.

Hogwash. We are the market. We dictate what is required. And the fact is we either continue buying or stop buying based on whims more often than calculated rationale--by and large anyway. If we want something the market will provide it.

Okay, now why should we NOT lobby for a resurrection of the commercial AD&D entity? One word: Dragonsfoot. Is that two words? Seriously though, they are doing an excellent job at producing 1st and 2nd ed stuff for free on their site. I'm not sure how they are avoiding violating copyright, but I love it. Maybe the future is a Linux-like grass roots AD&D support system such has Dragonsfoot. They offer an open forum for publishing quality material to any and all who are interested. There has been talk that the future of art may lie in this direction. Which makes on wonder about alot of ethical issues--but noone questions its nobility.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lejendary Adventures, Hackmaster and Castles & Crusades, Oh My!

Are they classic? Well, they certainly have an old school feel. So much so that hordes of AD&D gamers are transitioning (okay maybe hordes is too expansive a word) to these new-old games.

I must admit I've been giving them a look myself. Doing a lot of preliminary feeling around for their tone, what people's opinions are and what the fans and critics are saying. I will say most who are reviewing them aren't giving much in the way of negatives. So one can't help but wonder what's behind this new generation of throwback--or revivals if you like?

Well. Hackmaster is probably one of the oldest, and the one with the most direct AD&D lineage. We all know it came about as a longing for a real game to fit the parody mentioned in Knights of the Kitchen Table. It's been my experience that gamers, more than most, love to laugh at themselves and their culture. Sure there's always a few closet gamers that are afraid of being too closely associated with anything nerdy or geeky, but to the core, we love laughing at ourselves. So it was only natural that given the smash hit of KOTKT that we would soon be begging to actually play Hackmaster.

Since Hackmaster was a direct allusion to AD&D it was also natural that AD&D would provide the rule-set. Now, mind you I've never played HM and probably never will given the precious nature of my gaming time. But the feel I get is that it can be indeed a serious game that simply contains ripe material for parody ala Robert Asprin et al. And let's be honest given the above average intellect of most gamers we all love throwing in the abstract jokes, esoteric anachronisms, occult Monty Python allusions and liberal puns whenever possible. So I'm sure we get enough parody without a game specifically designed for it. Of course there's no accounting for the smashing popularity of Steve Jackson's Munchkins.

So why even lump it in with AD&D? Because given the void left in the aftermath of 3.0 there was simply no one doing AD&D anymore and HM is one of those games that filled the void. And for that reason there are many gamers who use it instead of AD&D now. I suppose this has to do with new material coming out as opposed to the system itself as the systems are evidently very close.

And what about Castles and Crusades? Well, this I believe was a valiant attempt to offer frustrated AD&D gamers somewhere to go to actually play a game somewhat like what they used to play. I don't know how successful it's been, but it certainly has its proponents. The game itself is not a core AD&D mechanic. That has fallen to the d20 OGL which I must admit boggles my mind somewhat. I think the general dissatisfaction with the quirks of the AD&D system (i.e. AC goes down instead of up, separate combat tables, saves and attacks go down while checks go up, etc. etc.) led the charge for a single mechanic that could be applied across domains.

On the surface this is appealing, but it worries me some. Changes have the potential to change more than the structure of roll mechanics. Change the rules and you risk changing the spirit of the game. Now, I'm not saying C&C did that--again, I've never played it, and I'm thinking about giving it a shot. Maybe I'm just so nauseated by 3.0+ trying to be D&D that I'm afraid I'll need Pepto if I get to close to it : ) But then again they say Gary approves.
So lastly--Lejendary Adventures. This one I will buy--if for no other reason than Gary wrote it. And more for the fact that from what I hear it sounds like a good system. I am interested to try Gary's newest creation. His revisioning of what a game could or perhaps should be. Now, having said that I get the feeling from various of Gary's posts, particularly on Dragonsfoot that he is still saddened by what happened to TSR and the game he so lovingly crafted. I think he would have picked up the AD&D torch again in a heartbeat had someone given him the chance. But score one for big world corporations and greed, score ten for Gary. Because they lost a lot when Gary left and what they ended up with was something fundamentally different. I'm not going to say a lot of people didn't play 3.5 or are now playing 4e but they aren't playing AD&D. I suppose they had to create something more proprietary. So the first thing to be changed was the entire system to the d20 mechanic.
That's a lot of water you just chucked out, you are there wasn't a baby or two in there?
More like a hundred babies. Such is life. We move on and when given lemons we make lemonade. That's just what Gary did. LA (Lejendary Adventures) is a completely new start. Same spirit? I couldn't tell you. My thoughts are no, because there is so much change to the rules. Bu then again maybe that's not what he was aiming for. Maybe he was going for something different but just as good. I'll have to wait and see--because I haven't even begun purchasing yet--but I will.
I'm keeping an eye on Gygax Games and waiting for the new publisher to come on line--hopefully they won't do a re-write. ... Argh.

Interpersonal Problems in RPG's -or- "I can't stand him, or the way he plays!!!"

Most Interpersonal Problems in games can be solved by following a few simple rules of RPG ethics:

  1. Don't disrupt the game: The DM is in control, he should be doing most of the talking; don't hold side conversations; don't throw dice across the room; keep your attention on the DM until it is your turn.

  2. Don't cheat: It should go without saying that you should be honest at all times; make your rolls where everyone can see them; don't pick up dice right after a roll; don't fudge your stats; don't fudge your xp; etc. etc.

  3. Respect everyone: In character and out; don't denigrate others; don't put anyone down; don't make fun of others in their attempts to role play; don't intentionally harm another player's pc without their express permission--and don't threaten to do so.

  4. Watch what you say: joking is fine, but don't be stupid; don't say your character is going to do something just to get a laugh and then say--oh I was just kidding--it's annoying.

  5. Roleplay: get into your character and the spirit of the game; be as serious as the game requires; contribute to the game through actively playing your character.

  6. Communicate: with the DM and the other players; don't make role-play disagreements personal; let others know what you're doing unless there is some reason for secrecy; let others now when you have to miss, especially the DM.

Roleplaying is a social activity. That means we have to get along. If you are having problems talk about them and make an effort to smooth things over. Apologize even if you weren't wrong and move on. Be nice. Compliment others. Work together. How are your characters going to succeed through cooperation if the players can't?

To assist the DM in handling such problems he can try any the following suggestions. Mind you these are not foolproof and they don't always work, they are just suggestions.

  1. Use a talking stick--only he who holds the stick gets to talk

  2. Keep records of each pc so you are aware of the changes in pc stats

  3. Require all rolls be in the open and viewable by everyone--even most of yours

  4. Make the rule: What you say your character does

  5. Extra xp for roleplaying

  6. Have frequent dm-player conferences to talk about their character the game's progress etc.

  7. Make everyone "roll" for treasure--highest wins. Once you've won once, you can;t roll again until everyone has gotten something then it starts over.

  8. You take over treasure division

Now, these won't solve everything. Sometimes people just can't seem to get along no matter what. Sometimes its the annoying whine in someone's voice. Or their inherent bossiness or self importance. Or they way they kiss the dice before every roll. At other times we just have a personality clash. The point is interpersonal relationships are never easy. They take work and they take sacrifice. Worse case scenario is to either go play in another group or *shudder* ask someone to leave.

Now, I would say to be VERY careful with asking players to bow out. Some real hurt feelings can result over that. And not only that if a player is voluntarily staying then he or she is probably willing to try and change. And it is a much more human thing to do to try and help a person improve or lead them to change than to just exclude and ostracize them. Most of us have been there and that is no fun, moreover it's just wrong.

Yes, there are certainly cases which require us to ask someone to leave. But I would say that warnings and conferences are due long before you reach that stage. Let the person know what they are doping and how it affects others and the play of the game. 9 times out of 10 they aren't even aware. If they fail to change, let them know this is sort of the last straw and if they can't at least try and change they may not be invited to the next game. But also keep a careful watch on everyone else's mood. The problem player may be driving out others left and right. Before your gaming group dwindles to nothing you better make an effort at either requiring a change in behavior or asking the recalcitrant player to be excused--permanently.

Lastly, it is always worth considering just what exactly is the problem. It is an annoying trait? Those are usually quickly dispatched with a few reminders. Or is it personality? we can always learn to appreciate others and make an effort to get along. Or is it that the player is inexperienced, doesn't understand the game , its spirit or its rules? Make allowances for that and teach by modelling and directly that fledgling gamer the better and more correct way to play. We were all there once, and some of us learn more slowly than others.

If you've been reading any of my recent posts, you know I've been struggling a bit with this lately. I'm not sure it's resolved either, but I'm working at it. Have I wanted to hang up my dice bag with this group? Yes. Have I wanted to kick some people out? Yes. Have I wanted to quit altogether? Yes. But I haven't. It only takes a few moments for these thoughts to run their course through my mind and then I start thinking about how to deal with it. Every situation is different and requires a thoughtful and sincere approach. I have found that that is usually the key to successful resolution of interpersonal differences. Oh, and prayer helps alot too.



Monday, March 23, 2009

AD&D and the Spirit of Role Playing Games

So, what's all this rhetoric Chris keeps spouting about the "Spirit" of role playing games? Alright here it is.

First, as Gary Gygax put it, the Spirit of the game is what everybody knows and yet cannot quite capture in words. So any attempt to do so is fraught with dangers and potential errors. Some might say that which cannot be defined must not exist; and therefore all this talk about Spirit is a nebulous swamp out of which there is no return. But such a position, that the idea can just barely be defined, did not stop the greats like Gygax from trying to do just that. Now, I will be quoting Gary Gygax a lot in this essay, and I do that because he is one the founding fathers of RPG's. Founding Fathers are in a unique position to give us a perspective on the work they began or intended, and not the way in which we may have interpreted it. Also keep in mind that Gary Gygax apparently contradicted himself at times. I personally have no problem with this because I also tend to believe that Gary did not mean to imply that RPG's were a dead, frozen endeavor, but a living and growing thing. It's just the way in which it grows that causes us to question if we are faithful to the original spirit. So, with that out of the way let us jump into the fray

Let's begin with Gygax on Spirit:
"...the understanding extends not only to the written rules but to what lies between the lines as well. This is the spirit of the game. Spirit is evident in every RPG. To identify the spirit of the RPG, you must know what the game rules say, be able to absorb this information, and then interpret what the rules imply or state about the spirit that underlies them." (Gygax, RPM pg 26)

Now, this clears up a few things. The spirit of a game is never spelled out--it is implicit. And evidently the best route to understand the spirit is to _know_ the rules. As in know and understand the rules. Which in my opinion would require that you play the game for awhile in order to really come to know how those rules work in play.

To continue:
"The spirit of the game cannot be expressly defined in a sentence or a paragraph, and any game designer who attempts to do so is defeating his own purpose. The spirit of an RPG pervades all the statistics, mechanics, and descriptions that make up the actual rules; it is everywhere and nowhere in particular at the same time. A game master or player who simply absorbs all the rules and uses them to play out a game adventure may be able to achieve expertise in the play of the game, but in the final analysis, he is doing no more than going through the motions--unless he also perceives, understands, and appreciates the spirit that underlies all those rules." (ibid emphasis mine)

Lots here to mention. Much of it reinforces the idea that the spirit lies within an understanding of the rules that transcends the rules themselves and approaches what the rules are trying to achieve. This quote also makes clear that someone can play for years or more in a game and never really understand that spirit. I believe that is what leads people to make changes that they think are cool, or fine, or creative, when in reality they violate the spirit of the game. The real mystery here is why attempting to spell out the spirit of a game defeats the game designers purpose. I would reason that because it is in the nature of the spirit of a game to elude simple definition that a game designer who attempts to spell out what the spirit is will inherently limit or perhaps even change what that spirit actually is. This is because the spirit is within the rules; it "pervades all the statistics, mechanics, and descriptions that make up the rules". The game master can do best by creating rules that capture that elusive spirit.

An analogy might help here. Think of a well built recipe. You can spell out each of the ingredients and in what quantities and how to mix them together to get the perfect concoction every time. But then try an actually describe the taste of that brilliantly baked souffle, or elegant chocolate cake. You can't do it. It's like describing the color red. We know what wavelengths make up the color, but we can't actually describe the experience of redness. It eludes definition. Trying to capture that essence is confounding and can actually impede the achievement of the spirit of the thing itself. If all we were to say is something like: to bake the perfect chocolate cake aim for the smoothness of silky velvet, with the smoky toasted richness of cocoa beans over an open fire, suffused with the immersive dip into a lake of crystal clear sugarcane juice. What the heck does that mean? And even if it does in some small way replicate the experience of a chocolate cake it will not help the cook make one. Not unless he is so intimately familiar with the parts and proportions of the recipe and how their elements combine and chemically meld to create the experience itself. That is simply hard to capture in words. And an attempt to do so can actually be counterproductive to producing the end product.

And now for the AD&D punchline, in Gygax's own words:
"For example purposes (and despite already having made the point that the spirit of the game cannot be defined in so many words), I shall attempt to characterize the spirit of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. This is a fantasy RPG predicated on the assumption that the human race, by and large, is made up of good people. Humans, with the help of their demi-human allies (dwarfs, elves, gnomes, etc.), are and should remain the predominant force in the world. They have achieved and continue to hold on to this status, despite the ever present threat of evil, mainly because of their dedication, honor, and unselfishness of the most heroic humans and demi-humans--the characters whose roles are taken by the players of game. Although players can take the roles of "bad guys" if they so choose, and if the game master allows it, evil exists in the game primarily as an obstacle for player characters to overcome. If they succeed in doing this, as time goes on, player characters become more experienced and more powerful--which enables them to contest successfully against increasingly stronger evil adversaries. Each character, by virtue of his or her chosen profession, has strengths and weaknesses distinctly different from those possessed by other types of characters. No single character has all the skills and resources needed to guarantee success in all endeavors; favorable results can usually only be achieved through group effort. No single player character wins, in the sense that he or she defeats all other player characters; the goal of the forces of good can only be attained through cooperation, so that victory is a group achievement rather than an individual one." (ibid 26-27)

Wow. doesn't that paragraph answer tons of "questions" and so-called "problems" that we supposedly "find" in the AD&D game? We can immediately see why racial level and ability limits were imposed. We are given in one fell swoop that entire purpose of the game--to defeat evil by heroic action, principally dedication, honor and unselfishness. and why the class system was in place with its very specific game-balancing skill set narrowly defined by class. These weren't arbitrary limitations or mistakes. They hit to the heart of the game, the very spirit of what we are taking part in. While the game doesn't exclude monster characters, or characters of evil alignment it makes it clear that such additions, modifications or "changes" should be done carefully with an eye to the spirit of the game. Indeed well-played evil assassin or thief or 1/2 orc fighter might be a challenging and ethically complex PC to play exactly because of the spirit of the game. Wholesale or wanton changes to the game twist it into something it was never meant to be and in fact make it a completely different game. Gygax made this clear when a little later in the next chapter he says about adding new material to an existing game: "Acceptability [of the new material], though, comes with a caveat: The new material must operate within the scope of the game as defined by its rules and spirit." (Ibid pg 30)

What I see as a trend in RPG's is a trend to power at the expense of actual story telling and role playing. And I'm not the only one. Gygax said of 4e "The new D&D is too rule intensive. It's relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. " (Gamespy Interview, Pt 2, 16 Aug 2004) When role-playing and storytelling take a backseat to the opportunity for players to become power mongers and rules-lawyers you have a game that is more decidedly a strategy based game in spirit and not a role playing game. It is closer to a video game or a game of risk than an actual game of role playing a mutual story. Now, I'm not saying this _shouldn't_ be done. To each his own. But such changes to games like AD&D have fundamentally changed the game into something it was never intended to be.

Again, from Gygax:

"Too often, new material purporting to add to a game system is nothing more than a veiled attempt to dominate the game milieu through power, not skill. Such creativity, if it can be called that, amounts to a perversion of the game. It is much like cheating at solitaire. Understanding the scope of opportunity offered to PC's by the game system will certainly discourage the intelligent players from such useless activity."

*ouch* Well, he's not really attacking people who want to do things differently, he's recommending that you don't add add material that changes the nature of the game. Go play a different game if you want to do that--or create a new one. And I, frankly, agree.

Lastly we have the idea of the cooperative nature of play. This shows up in the divided roles of characters, and party balance being required to overcome the greatest amount and type of obstacles. Here, I would ask a question: can a party(and gaming group for that matter) game successfully together if they don't understand and agree on the spirit of the game involved? It might be best to leave this question as a rhetorical one, but I can;t help but opine here: I don't think so. I believe one of the quickest ways to ruin a game is to violate its spirit. Another is to allow interpersonal differences to impede game play--but that's for another essay. A group that is pulling in different directions might as well sit down and agree on terms, play something else they can all agree on or split up.

In the end I think we can all agree on the fact that spirit is what makes a game what it is. Each RPG has one, and some share the same spirit. But let's not say it's irrelevant, or that it doesn't exist. Understanding this principle will help us immensely in our own gaming and make us more universally capable gamers. It can act as a metric against which games can be measured, and one which I believe is more useful that crunchy or lite or soft or hard or cinematic or realistic or a dozen others. While it might be more challenging to utilize such a metric because precise definitions don't exist--I do believe it can be done.

The method of course involves rules and comparison of core rule sets and optional extensions used so often as to be considered core. Such discussions pose the danger of rules debates--this will miss the point. This is not a debate, as much as it is an endeavor in comparison and contrast. Much like a Venn diagram that can correlate what rule sets have in common and what is different. This gets to the heart of where the spirit lives--in the rules themselves.

Okay let me explain how I REALLY feel about werewolves. . .

Okay, so earlier today I complained about being bit by a werewolf. So what? You say. Big deal, quit being a whiner and suck it up. That's what werewolves do after all. And that's the kind of risk adventurers encounter in just about every adventure they undertake.

Yeah. You're right. But that's not what I was torqued about.

First werewolves are cool monsters for exactly that reason--they tick people off. They get you mad, or they make you afraid. In fact, come to think of it the second emotion probably engenders the first. For players there's the risk of immediate risk of having your beloved character ripped into shredded elf, dwarf, halfling or what have you and having your entrails serve as a lycan's spaghetti entree. That's enough to make anyone shudder. But that's not the real threat of a werewolf.

Werewolves are madness incarnate. Indeed clinical lycanthropy is an actual mental illness that causes its victims to truly believe they turn into animals and act accordingly. But the werewolves of legend are the worst of psychotic killing machines, evil to the core. The reasoning behind this logic was their direct connection to the devil, with only one recorded ancient exception claimed by Theiss in 1692 Livonia. But with that one questionable incident to the contrary werewolves were either voluntarily or involuntarily subjected to madness, contagion or curse of becoming the bloodthirsty murderous fiends that were known as werewolves. Etymologically the word is connected to the Old Norse term Vargulf. A Vargulf is the kind of lupine predator that slaughters numerous animals in a flock without feeding on them, as if out of the pure joy and thrill of killing for its own sake. In fact children and maidens were a favored part of their diet. That is the fate that awaits the hapless soul condemned to lycanthropy in the true fantasy genre. So the real horror, the real danger is losing yourself to an insane madness where nothing matters anymore but the madness and the urge to kill.

So when a character becomes so infected it is a thing to be fought at all costs. Even the cutpurse or fighter of lowest intellect can see the awfulness of losing ones sense of self and purpose and being to the madness of lycanthropy. There is nothing good in it. The power, strength and abilities one gains is nowhere near the price one has to pay. The cost for one's immortal soul is far too high as well. So who would want to become such a beast? If one desired such a thing they would be already near insanity or so clearly evil they should be destroyed long before they become infected. Serial killer psychology comes to mind.

Such is decidedly NOT the role for heroes to play. And not the fate anyone would wish for their character as a player, let alone as a character in role. So are werewolves to be despised? Yes. Shunned? Yes. Pitied--only in as much as the soul locked within the curse can be saved. Destroyed? Yes--as a scourge upon the realm of men and a danger to all things good, especially the innocent upon whom they often prey. If they can be destroyed by divine healing magic, the alchemical magic of herbal remedies, or by blade--destroyed they must be.

So all that's cool--but is that what made me mad? Nope. Not anymore than the clear danger it posed to my good aligned wizard Imnyr and his fellow party members. No that is not what made me mad at all.

What really ticked me off was the attitude of the DM. One: that he was using the exact same "scenario" that had been thrown at me before and aware of the frustration it had engendered in me before. Two: that his "logic" (exactly that of the previous scenario I had struggled against) was that it was cool to be a werewolf--that characters would love this "boon" bestowed upon them be a "creative" DM. That it would be "cool" to DM a bunch of superpowered were-characters.

First this whole concept that werewolves are "cool" in the sense of making your character "better" is so completely against the spirit of AD&D it made me want to puke. It not only makes me what to puke it makes me want to scream out loud to anyone that will listen "CAN'T YOU IDIOTS SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING!!!!! YOU ARE RUINING WHAT THE GAME IS ALL ABOUT!!!!!!!" . . . sigh . . . big breath . . .

And that, my friends, is what made me mad.

I'll continue this spirit of the game in a later post. I've actually already written some about it, but I should clarify again to place my rantings in context. So, don't think I was whining about the werewolf--I can handle werewolves. It's the iffy DM's I struggle with.



Why only AD&D?

Not too long ago I posted a lament for AD&D and those halcyon days gone by. I must admit, it was written in a fit of pique at the modern gaming industry and my own dissatisfaction with the rest of the gaming world. Then I came down from my nostalgia-ridden plateau of gaming nirvana back to the cold harsh world of my current gaming activity and went back to gaming with my gaming club.

At the time I was also tinkering away at a GURPS Space campaign I hope to some day start (it takes up where the Conspiracy X timeline leaves off); and working up a Supers campaign that has come into demand due to the resurgence in popularity of Watchmen. What with the movie and all that.

Heck, I was collecting Watchmen when it first came out; back when getting a #1 issue of X-Men was still a real possibility. Am I just old or what? Anyway, So there I was tinkering away at those games, and still DMing the current demand--4e D&D and playing in an FR 4e game--I know *gag me*. And I'm gearing up to start this Supers game when half the group that was playing 4e started to defect from the club at the prospect of playing Supers. Now I have a strong ethic of a DM supporting what his players want in a game (within limits of course) and following through on a campaign to give a sense of completion and satisfaction to those experiencing it. So it was obvious to me that Supers wasn't going to happen any time soon. I was a little torqued, but relieved. As much as I contemplate running a Supers game, or a Space campaign it isn't where my heart lies.

Okay, so I'm dealing with my present less than pleasant 4e reality when I run into another situation in the FR campaign. My good-aligned Wizard is trying to take his fallen comrades back to the local city temple for a decent burial when we are followed and eventually attacked by a mysteriously large, intelligent-acting, black "dog-like" creature. We are bit, and the animal runs away as the sun rises. Okay, so I'm pretty sure this thing is a Lycan of come sort so I go into town to seek healing at the Temple or at least some wolvesbane at the town. But no, the DM foils us at every opportunity; it becomes obvious that the DM wants to turn us into werewolves! So, I confront him about it and it is also clear that he thinks this will be cool, and we will be pleased. I let him know I am most decidedly NOT pleased.

Needless to say this led to some unpleasantries between he and I and the party in general. He, the DM, argues the old saw that not all werewolves are evil, etc. etc. I say bull 4e lycans are evil and upon checking the 4e disease tables wolve's bane is worthless. I say some things I regret, nothing inappropriate mind you, just a tad judgmental and perhaps a bit mean. But you have to understand I had already told this DM about a previous campaign (2e not 4e) I was in when this very thing happened--how it was extremely frustrating dealing with a DM who didn't seem to understand the basic rules from he DMG about monster characters or lycanthropy--not to mention the spirit of the game. Then this DM turns around and does the same thing to me? How uncool is that? Is he just trying to get under my skin?

So I'm home thinking it all through, and feeling a little bit guilty for maybe being a little immature myself. So later that night I call the DM and apologize, and as I'm talking to him several things come to me. One: this is an extremely inexperienced DM. He had just spent the last session killing 6 of 10 party members in fairly butcherly fashion. He often denigrates certain players and berates their playing style. In short he's not perfect and he's learning. But aren't we all. Two: it also comes to me that the more I play the more I understand the basic nature of RPG's. I recall Gygax's book Role Playing Mastery, particularly what he has to say about the "spirit" of a game. That's one of the princial things about 4e that annoys me and what I'm annoyed at with this GM. But how do you explain that to a young DM? Could anyone have explained it to me when I was young and learning? Probably not.

So here I am contemplating all of this when I was overtaken by a sense of futility at trying to really capture what I preferred to game and expect others to simply understand it. You have to understand it through the game. So I began to feel like the best way to do it was to game it. That means DM it. So I thought--you know, I should just stick to only AD&D. That's what I like, what I do best, and the best way for me to communicate what I think gaming should be.

Yes, I'll admit there's a lot out there that is different than AD&D and a lot of people who like that they're different. They don't "want" the spirit of AD&D--they want something else. Cool. But it's hard to capture that spirit with something else. I've heard Hackmaster does it, albeit in a sort of parody, and others hail Castles and Crusades as the inheritor of AD&D. I often wonder about Lejendary Adventures that Gygax created. But I'll say that most of Gary's responses to questions about the relationship between AD&D and LA leaves him a little sad. It _seems_ given the chance he would pick up AD&D again in a heart beat; and that he is doing LA because he has no legal choice. AD&D is just off limits to him. And frankly, now, to everyone else. Because what is being marketed as D&D today surely aint.

So do I stick to AD&D? Oh, I'll probably pick up other games occasionally, and probably even GM them. But the game I'm most comfortable "mastering" is AD&D. In fact as soon as I can I'm going to run it again as my preferred and "central" game. What about the players? Well, I say build it and they will come.