Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It is Finally Time to Make my Own World!

For those of you who might not know, I am an educator in the public school system (half time teacher half time assistant principal). I have run our school gaming club for six or seven years now, and have loved doing it. It has been frustrating at times, but very worth it. The game club has also been my only real source of gaming in the past half decade with but a few exceptions, and this has colored much of my gaming approach as of late.

So when we started this year I was using my somewhat modified AD&D approach, which I am beginning to transfer over to a purely Classic D&D, Moldvay/Cook rules set to make things simpler and freer for us all. My default campaign for the longest time has been Greyhawk, but it's simply been a default, it is not like I have done anything special with it. I also love the B series and decided to start this new group with B1 In Search of the Unknown. One of the pluses of restarting with a new group of gamers every two years (we are a two year junior high school 8th and 9th grade) is being able to run the same modules on a two year basis.

This year as I've transitioned to a more Classic D&D ruleset, I've considered switching my campaign to Mystara. The Mystara Cyclopedia and the Vaults of Pandius have some great info on Mystara, as I don't own the Mystara supplements, just some of the modules set within it. But I was reading some the information there, and began to think again about starting my own campaign world. I've tried this before, but it just feels like now is the right time to begin a project that may carry through the end of my gaming days. I've tried this before, but always get overwhelmed several hundred pages into my creation. Yeah, several hundred pages.  I think I've been going about world creation all wrong--at least wrong for me.

See, I read the Mystara info, and I love the intricate level of detail, the storylines, the mythos, the geography, the history, the biology, the magic, and on and on. So when I try to start a world I try to put all that information in from the start. I sort of feel the need to answer all of the players questions up front. But do I really need to do that? No, of course not. In fact I know that there is another way to design a campaign. I've just never done int that way.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was Mystara, Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, Blackmoor or any other major campaign setting. Each in fact began a bit differently. Greyhawk started as a dungeon, that expanded into a city so adventurers had a place to rest and refuel between forays into the dungeon, Mystara started a simple map of the Known World, on which DMs could hang their creative hats. Forgotten Realms started as the place Ed Greenwood set his fictional stories that he wrote as a child. Only later was it used as the setting for his D&D adventures.

I think I will start mine as a town. It will be the place from which all my adventurers hail, and will be modest in size. My initial thought is to post the updates here just to let you know how things are going. It will also be using the Moldvay/Cook rules, but I may use some stuff from the B/X Companion later on. I'm not too fond of the BCMI / RC rules though, but they may make an appearance over time. I'm also going to try and create all my own adventures for this new world, so that the place is completely homebrew, except for the rules in the Classic Edition.

And my first act of creation ... the name of the town shall be ...


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Missing The Original Dragon Magazine? Check Out These OSR Mags

If you're like me you miss getting that Dragon magazine in the mail each month. It was my first magazine subscription, and I was 14 years old. Of course, Dragon switched focus as D&D did, and after 2e was retired I didn't have much to do with magazine after that. So, what's an OSR gamer to do nowadays when thirsting after some good OSR periodical bliss? Well, believe it or not we do have some options. They aren't quite as frequent or regular as good old reliable Dragon was, but they are doing a good job nonetheless. So if you get the chance check out these fine rags and I think you'll be more than pleased:

It's a podcast--but it RAWKS!
It's first issue is out soon, but you can get on their email list now!

And if you know of others, let me know and I'll add them to the list. Some of the above are for free download online, but others are available at a modest fee. I love the OSR. It's got it's issues, but overall we are definitely in a renaissance of Classic D&D gaming. Oh, and just becuase I love it and it had a wonderful old school ethic I'm going to add what I wait each month for right now:


Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Don't I Play Labyrinth Lord

Don't get me wrong, I think LL and LL AEC are great. Some really fine old school gamers are embracing them. I just write this entry in response to some who read my entry on "What D&D Do I Play" and wondered why I don't play LL+AEC. Seeing as how the LL+AEC game was designed to fit that niche between Basic and AD&D, or as they say it "AD&D the way most of us played it." Which was exactly the point of my last entry.

So they naturally wonder, why not just play the LL AEC variant? And my answer is simple -- I like the feel of the old books. Not just the feel, but the the look, the tone, the humor, the well, yeah the nostalgia. I like the way they are written, the pictures, the examples, the--everything about them. I just like the feel of knowing I'm using the old books. They are magical in their own way.

I know, I know, that's kind of a lame explanation. But it is what it is. I have played LL+AEC and it plays alot like I was used to playing. The writing there is good and the art is mighty fine indeed. I like all that too, and truly respect what Goblinoid Games is doing; but it just doesn't have the history with me. In the same way that playing D&D with new people is cool and good, but playing with my old friends would hold a special sort of magic. Same thing with my old books. They hold a special sort of magic.

I really liked some of the new games out as variants on D&D rules Most recently is ACKS whih I am still in the process of reviewing; but none quite do it for me like the old books of yore. I know it's a bit silly. And moreover, some say, it makes little sense to use them when noone else at the table has them, as is the case in my current game. But that's fine by me too. I can live with the inconvenience. If I'm DMing we use my game, my books--I'll share, just treat them with the respect they are due. They are mine; they have absorbed the power of hundreds of play sessions; they are magical; and if you look at them at just the right angle when the light hits them just right, you can see the faint glow of eldritch power they contain. I wouldn;t give that up for all the clones and variants, no matter how excellent, in all the world.

So, that's why I don't play LL.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Quote From Master Moldvay

Tom Moldvay (fist on chin) Playtesting at TSR
"The original D&D rules are a classic. They gave the first gaming system for fantasy roleplaying and, in my opinion, are still the best set of rules on the market."

--Tom Moldvay, Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rulebook, Foreword, Page B2

Yeah he said it in 1981, but he might as well have said it yesterday. Long live the dream!

Which D&D do I Play?

I've spent quite a few months now busier than I've wanted to be and sadly short of gaming. What little time I did have I spent reading gaming material--usually late at night by lamplight when the house was finally quiet and my long days drawing to a close.

I'm an old grognard--sometimes more stubborn than I would have imagined. But when it comes down to gaming, you might as well play what you love, what you have fun playing. I've spent long and many posts deliberating upon this matter. Many and varied are the games on the market these day that a gamer can choose from, but when gaming time is precious it certainly makes sense to focus on what you love.

I grew up gaming AD&D. I came into the hobby in 1981 at 12 years of age. The three core AD&D books had been released, and the world had already experienced the White Box and 3 Little Brown Books and their supplements, and by then two rewrites of the original rules: Holmes and Moldvay Basic. I was introduced to the Advanced books and admittedly a bit overwhelmed by it all. I didn't even pretend to understand all that was in the books, but I had played a few sessions and I understood the basics fairly well.

I mean the premise of the game is super simple. You need very few stats to create a character, and most of the time it takes 10 minutes or less to scratch one out on notebook paper. And GMing isn't that hard either. I started GMing by my 5th or 6th session. Now maybe I was an exception, but this game seemed made for me and I took to it like a duck to water. I don't think I really was though; because thousands of other people were experiencing the same thing I was all over the Nation and in fact the world. You needed very little else but your imagination, some dice and a few tables.

Now, I say this not to make some plea for classic old school gaming again, I've done that plenty of times before on my blog. No, I do it today, because it seems to be back on my mind again. I started our game club again, and we are playing AD&D. That is what I know and what I grew up playing. But a funny thing is happening. This has happened to me before, with our last long term OSRIC game. The more I get into the rules the more I realize that I prefer to ignore them. I've been rereading them as part of a project here on my blog, and I'm sort of stymied. I mean there are some real gems in the AD&D rules. But I'm also increasingly finding that I really don;t need them all, or I might have done them a little differently. Now, this is not really a critique of those rules, but a realization that my play is a lot simpler than AD&D as written implies.

And other little things that I sort of have ingrained in my D&D genetics like 3d6 order for ability scores. Things that AD&D began to expand and extrapolate upon. This became clear to me as I wrote another email to my brother on the nature of difference between old school and modern games. I'm more old school than I might even have thought. Even though I came to the game in 1981 after AD&D was out and taking the world by storm; I actually played a sort of modified basic game. Which makes perfect sense when one thinks about it. D&D was written as a game with those original little books. The game itself hadn't changed much. Everything else in the AD&D universe was just window dressing. You didn't need all that stuff to play the game.

The two things we probably did that were different was use the different ability adjustments in the PHB and separate race and class. I mean there were other minor things that came up, but we ignored far more than we used; we didn't even really start looking up rules questions in the hardback books until after years of play. We simply made things up when we had question arise that we couldn't answer--we were too busy playing to be bothered by such interruptions.

I've come to this realization before, but have been hot and cold about allowing myself to embrace it. After all I'm an AD&D player aren't I? But am I really? Again, a conversation with my brother required that I be honest with myself. What sacred cows do I hold onto but never worship at? In other words, what things do I hold onto as necessary, but never even use in my own play--indeed prefer not to use in my play? And what sorts of things do I embrace but that are just the first step towards a rule proliferation race to power inflation.

Because let's be honest, and call a cow a cow -- the current iteration of D&D is the power apocalypse. It's what happens when we allow this crazy power curve to run unhindered to its logical conclusion. And I know I want no part of that.

And though I wax philosophical now, I find it funny that when I started this blog I called it Classical RPG Realms. just because I considered my age of gaming the "Classical Age"; when without knowing that the style of gaming enshrined in the Moldvay / Cook and Holmes versions of D&D would come later to be known as Classical D&D. The very style of play that was closest to my own play. Synchronicity is a funny thing, aint it?