Thursday, July 30, 2009

WTF, D&D!?

This is kind of a cop-out as far as real posts go, but I wanted to point everybody towards the WTF, D&D!? series of articles at Something Awful. Zack Parsons and Steve "Malak" Sumner offer hilarious commentary on classic D&D releases (oh, and the original Rifts rulebook, too).

Check them out here.

(Sorry for the scarcity of posts recently. I'm about to start a new job, and beyond that, have been too busy actually playing games to write about them much. I hope you'll forgive me.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Death, Destruction, Or Worse

Recently, I rid myself of some games that were either never going to be played (Lords of Creation) or actively stinking up the place (DragonRaid). I don't feel bad about unloading any of it, but now, for some reason, I feel that I must tell you what I purchased with that credit:

D&D 4th Edition: Eberron Campaign Guide
D&D 4th Edition: Divine Power
Rifts Ultimate Edition
Rifts Book of Magic
Rifts Game Master Guide
Rifts Adventure Guide

Those first two will be the last D&D 4e books I get for a while, I think. I'm a little bit burned out on the game, since I've been playing it every week since it was released, but more to the point, I have an annual subscription to D&D Insider, so I have digital access to all the crunchy bits from the 4e books anyway.

Our plan is to wrap up the campaign we've been playing since last year, and do a few short adventures with new characters, so we can try some of the myriad new classes and races that have been released since we started. We're also hoping to alternate and get in some non-D&D gaming. A few games have been pitched with no decisions made as yet - my fingers are crossed that we'll avoid anything using the Storyteller system. I'm most excited by the prospect of (possibly) finally playing Call of Cthulhu.

But to get to the point, you can probably see that my love of Rifts, which has been in remission for at least a decade, has flared up again. I know the system, clunky as it often is, like the back of my hand. Many gamers my age started with Palladium games, for better or worse, and it's tough to shake the siren call of familiarity. Rifts was my game of choice throughout my adolescence, and despite the game's many warts, it's hard to be mad at it when it provided me with inspiration and enjoyment for over six years straight.

My good friend Kent is currently considering running a Rifts PBP, with (most of) our original gaming group. As soon as he mentioned he was thinking about it, I found myself bitching about power creep, Kevin Long's Dead Boy armor vs. Vince Martin's Dead Boy armor, the Siege on Tolkeen and the relative damage capabilities of plasma cannons and the Wilk's 457 laser rifle like nothing had ever changed. I hope Kent's PBP comes to fruition. Even if it doesn't, I might end up doing something like it myself.

So, I guess this is my "old-school renaissance".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crabman Attack!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Death And The Devil

I'm pleased to report that my Dragon Warriors play-by-post campaign is chugging along quite well. Our band of heroes is now probably about two-thirds of the way through the introductory scenario, "The Darkness Before Dawn". They're holding their own quite well so far, and the players all appear to have gotten a good grasp of the feel of Legend very quickly.

I'm surprised at how well running a game via an internet forum is scratching the Dragon Warriors itch. Sure, it's not exactly like a face-to-face tabletop game, and real life can slow down people's ability to participate regularly, but the PBP format has certain strengths. Foremost for me is the encouragement for players to stay in character more consistently.

You see, I find that during my face-to-face game everybody tends to, well, bullshit a lot more than I'd prefer. I'm as guilty of it as anybody else. It's largely because it's the only time many of us hang out with each other "IRL", and so we naturally want to goof off and joke with each other, since we don't get much of a chance to otherwise. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I do often miss the deep roleplaying one could find themselves getting into in the old high school days. PBP largely removes my temptation to quote Ghostbusters and ramble about Saints Row 2 when I should be getting into the game at hand.

The other day I was thinking about future Dragon Warriors releases and what they might entail. I know the game's current steward, James Wallis, has mentioned possible books on the Fay and the Church, but for whatever reason I ended up pondering what a DW-based megadungeon might look like. I thought back to William Cobbett's disparaging nickname for London, "The Great Wen", and felt that it would be a pretty cool name for an underworld site: a great swelling of the earth, like a massive boil caused by some sort of subterranean malignancy. A place where Hell seems not far from the world. Frame it in terms of a Crusade, and have adventurers drawn to it for the same reasons people took the cross in medieval times - some for glory and profit, some for religious fervor, some because they seemingly had nothing better to do. You could have your usual shanty town - complete with camp followers, apothecaries, blacksmiths, and sellers of indulgences - sprung up around the site, to cater to those that come to ransack it.

Okay, yeah, it's vague, and possibly not entirely in the spirit of the game or its setting, but if there's any game where you could make a dungeon and put the Devil at the bottom of it, it's Dragon Warriors.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jim Holloway Makes Me Smile

The first RPG books I ever bought were the AD&D Monster Manual and Monster Manual II. I had played AD&D a little with my older siblings, but I didn't buy the books because I thought was going to use the rules. I bought them for the pictures.

To this day, I'm fascinated by illustrated, encyclopedic books that list lots of creatures or character. If you looked at my bookshelf during my childhood you'd find things like Donald F. Glut's Dinosaur Dictionary, The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and any number of illustrated wildlife guides and encyclopedias. The Monster Manuals were a natural fit.

Monster Manual II was my favorite, for a variety of reasons. First of all, it contained a lot of really inventive creatures - though they crop up on "dumb monster" lists these days, I loved weird stuff like the executioner's hood or the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing. Secondly, it had the boggle, which was a favorite of mine, since my brother's long-running AD&D character had been reincarnated as one. Third, I just plain liked the artwork more.

Now, don't misunderstand me. These days I've found plenty to like in the original Monster Manual, not least of which is the fantastically cool artwork of Dave Trampier. But at the time, the guy whose art really appealed to me was Jim Holloway. His work was clean, clear, and it popped off the page. More to the point, I felt like his monsters had personality, and as they say in Pulp Fiction, "personality goes a long way". Holloway's grippli had a serene sort of smile on its face that, as an eight-year-old, instantly made me want to hang out with him. His tasloi stepped out of the shadows with a mischievous smirk. His stench kow looked downright displeased with itself. I loved it (and still do).

I also appreciate the art Holloway's done for various adventure modules. His characters look like D&D player characters should. They carry chipped swords, battered shields, and mismatched, scavenged armor. They drink, laugh, goof off, make rude gestures, shout battle cries, chop monsters down with bloodthirsty sneers, and flee in terror. It's fun stuff.

I recently found Jim Holloway's site and while it's a bit clunky, it's worth visiting. I'm especially impressed with some of the revamps he's done of his original monster illustrations (they're about halfway down the page). Check it out.