Monday Points: Monday January 26th Edition

D4: James Maliszewski is famous

Over the weekend James M over posted about Grognardia in the LA Times. James asked if he was famous. He’s internet famous and it is well deserved.

The article is also important because it recognizes the creative nature of the tabletop hobby. This difference from World of Warcraft and similar games should be emphasized more.

D6:Scroll of Summoning Aspect of Kurt Russell

If you don’t understand the awesome here all I can say is “You were not put upon this earth to ‘get it’, Mr. Burton”.

D8:Second Edition Rise of the Runelords

While P Armstrong has been posting about this campaign at Ode to Black Dougal he decided it didn’t fit the old blog’s B/X emphasis and gave it a home of its own. Second edition is the only one I haven’t played. I got a campaign started once but it didn’t survive past character creation. I think it is still an OSR version through the kits but not after Skills & Powers. I’d like to play or run it once.

D10:Red Box $CITY Spreads

Red Box Calgary joins Red Box New York and Red Box Vancover. I love these games. Open games for whoever shows up both in terms of DM and players remind me of the Golden Triangle Conflict Gamers in Beaumont, Texas in the late 70s. I’d love to see this spread to even more cities (come 2011 if it doesn’t exist I’ll start Red Box Atlanta).

D12:A Tekumel Conversion I didn’t expect (warning, opens PDF)

I actually have the reprint of the original EPT and all the other published rules I know of but this one I didn’t expect: AD&D second edition. This might be a salable game in terms of finding players. I think I might download it and pass it around. The same site hosts plenty of Tekumel rulesets.

D20:A Week’s Amazon Recommendation to Me

In case you haven’t noticed from the sidebar I’m a big Andre Norton fan. Amazon’s latest recommendation is Search for the Star Stones which reprints two novels concerning Murdoc Jern. It looks like Baen is reprinting a lot of Norton which can’t be a bad thing. For me it’s as good as Paizo’s Planet Stories series.
More roles this week although I did skip one and did a December 32 version of Monday. See you with my dice bag in less than a week.

Wow…

I had my highest traffic day since I installed Google Analytics on November 30th of last year with the petition post with 162 absolute unique visitors to the blog. As of this post that post has 129 hits, the second most.

However, far and away the most read page (beyond the splash page) remains Miss Manners Wouldn’t Play D&D with 358 hits or 12% of the total.

The rest of the top five:
Not a Golden Age but a Gilded Age – 120
One in 1250 – 99
Are Horror RPGs Possible – 93

Release Classic D&D

So, over at Grognardia James M. wonders why Hasbro hasn’t added D&D to their nostalgia line.

Maybe they don’t think it will sell well enough.

While I doubt we can convince them otherwise we can try. So, in the grand tradition of the Internet I present the online petition for Hasbro to bring back the red box.

Why not, it’s worth a shot.

Inspirational Art: Frank Frazetta In Pharao’s Tomb

If I didn’t already know the title I’d have sworn this is an illustration from any sword and sorcery tale. A dark haired warrior looking up steps at shadowed men of ill-intent. Clutching him is a beautiful woman in harem like dress. The shadowed figures appear to be wearing hangman’s hoods and bear a vicious looking sword and axe. Aside the warrior is a priest or perhaps a mage brandishing a relic of some kind.

There are a few hints this isn’t a strictly fantasy story. The warrior, although wearing a scale armor shirt, is armed with a pistol and no sword. His priest companion has what looks like a US Air Force star on his chest. While that eliminates Conan it could easily from a John Carter novel or one of the many successors to that valiant Virginian.

In fact, this is one of the famed pieces of concept art Frazetta did for the original Battlestar Galatica. I think it’s a grand illustration of how in the seventies as our hobby was being born and I was discovering both it and science fiction how little artificial divisions had taken over fantastic stories.

As many people have pointed out a common trend in the OSR is science fantasy as opposed to modern fantasy. Today, most gamers wouldn’t think to use Battlestar Galatica as inspiration for D&D except in the loosest way.

Inspirational Challenge:If you are familiar with the original BSG you’ll conclude this was concept art for Lost Planet of the Gods. If you know the episode or can find the video watch it with a notepad and pen. See how many elements you can borrow for your existing or planned fantasy campaign. Not just the awesome tomb but artifacts, weapons, and even monsters.

Monday Pointers

Interesting stuff from last week’s trip through the gaming web.

D4: The Church of Lolth Ascendant

Do you want to use the official background on Lolth and Drow in your campaign but what a different twist? Tim Brannan over at The Other Side has written up Lolth as misunderstood and betrayed but not evil. The evil of the Drow is mixed of justified and perversion of the faith by mortals. While the core ideas might not be 100% original the execution is inspiring? How inspiring you ask? While Tim provides write-ups for multiple editions of D&D and D20 Modern I couldn’t help but think of Runequest, specifically second edition. If you are interested in running what used to be called a Gateway campaign in a D&D type fantasy universe converting this to a RQ cult write-up could be quite a campaign centerpiece.

D6:Building the Perfect Class

I mentioned Erin Smale’s article when I discussed culture specific character classes. It is based on the Rules Cyclopedia with both major optional rules, weapons mastery and secondary skills, in place. As such, its calculations will be a bit off if you aren’t using these rules. Also, given the actual XP values were around long before Mentzer wrote his version of D&D so I think Smale puts too much faith in the ability to extract values. That said, of the three systems I know for calculating values I like this one, with a couple of my own tweaks, the best.

D8:The Changing Aesthetics of D&D

I found Trollsmyth’s discussion of how Third Edition’s art reflected its differences from First Edition by a double back track. James Raggi IV referred to his old post on art while discussing the economic realities of his new boxed set project. In his art post James pointed to a couple of other art posts including our roll on the D8. While now over three years old I still find it informative not just about art but as a window into the mind of the OSR.

Just three die rolls this week in part because this is a spur of the moment idea. However, I’m announcing this as my blog’s first honest to goodness regular feature so I’ll be taking notes this week on where my gaming reading goes.

Cultural Specific Character Classes

The inspirational art post on Mithras wasn’t as random as it might appear. I originally saw it doing some research at Wikipedia for a new character class for my spring campaign (live in a college town and your game is ruled by the academic calendar). I wanted something interesting as an alternate cleric and like Erin Smale’s Perfect Class articles so figured I’d build a Mithric Initiate.

As I was writing it up I realized that I had the following classes either written up or to be written up as player options:

  • Humans:
    • Fighters
    • Magic-Users
    • Druids (southern human clerics)
    • Initiates of Mithras (northern human clerics)
    • Cleric
    • Outsiders (Simon Tregarth/John Carter types based on the Grognardia version)

  • Elves:
    • Female Elves (stock Labyrinth Lord Elves)
    • Elven Borders (male ranger types)

  • Dwarves:
    • Dwavern Warriors (stock Labyrinth Lord Dwarves)
    • Dwarven Marines (trade underground for sea skills)

At this point I wonder if I shouldn’t go whole hog and add a cleric for the third human culture and culture specific fighters and magic users (actually, the third culture the cleric/magic users could combine). I’m even thinking of doing away with human mages altogther. The if you want to be a wizard type you have to be a female elf but that might be a bridge too far. As it is, I worry I’m over detailing the world. What’s in the clerics, the sex selected elves, and the two dwarf classes is 50%+ of existing cultural detail, though. It would all fit in 16 pages of a 64 page rules book, if it took that much.

Is culture specific versions of the classes a bit too far? It’s the logic of Palladium and I have to say on one level I like it.

Two TARGA Ideas

Below is the body text of a message I put out on the TARGA list this morning. Given it addresses issues I’ve brought up on this blog I figured posting it here would be worth while as well:

While at the theater to see Avatar I saw two promos that could be of
interest to the TARGA crowd: the remake of Clash of the Titans and the Russel Crowe Robin Hood. Before on the blogs the idea of handing outthe S&W Quckstart at the next Harry Potter movie was bandied about a bit. Why not consider doing the same for either of these movies, but especially Clash of the Titans. Or work with the Mazes and Minotaurs gang to do a version of it aimed at that movie.

Coordinating a “TARGA night at the movies” by gathering PDFs and how to articles (such as how to get your local theater to allow it, how to work with the local Amtgard group’s demo, etc) would, to my mind, be a very useful thing for TARGA to do.

The second idea is official or recommend TARGA table rules. Not game rules, but behavior rules, such as those Chess and Bridge organizations have. We’re not tournament gamers so they wouldn’t need to be as strict. I recently posted on gamer behavior on my blog, following up on some other people’s discussion of it, and got a lot of response. I think this is another area where TARGA could take the lead and help the hobby. Simple things like being out front about not putting up with that one guy at our tables could go a long way in
setting an example.

Questions? Comments?

One in 1250

One question that has come up with my recent post on rudeness hurting the hobby is what the benefit of role playing games being viewed as an adult hobby would be. In fact, at least one poster argued it would be a bad thing sending us to the least common denominator even in behavior, which I find hard to even consider. The most interesting fire it sparked, however, was over at D&D with Pornstars claiming the hobby is about the right size, specifically the DIY part. Zak even argues more people means more assholes. While that is a truism in the same sense that more people means more eyeballs I don’t think it would increase the ratio in general.

These are all valid points so I think it’s time to take a step back and explain some of the logic behind my “grow the hobby” posts. I’m also inspired to do that by something I found in my old game collection when I went home for the holidays. I was looking through one of my favorite issues of Strategy & Tactics. The issue is 49 from 1975. The issue game is Frederick the Great which is easily one of my top five hex and chit war games and top twenty-five games periods which is why it is one of my favorite issues.

For those not familiar with Strategy & Tactics it is a military history magazine that comes with a complete wargame in each issue (or did, you could get it sans game and it is sold that way at bookstores today). In the 1970s it included a post-paid bubble card. The last two pages of each issue had a variety of questions ranging from basic demographics to opinions on existing games to game proposals to be rated. Readers sent it in and the numbers were crunched. It was probably the only genuine long term market research in the history of the broad gaming hobby. Even if not unique I would bet real money no one has been more through. Each issue reported on prior issues feedback answers with most space being devoted to how the game proposals rated and which would be put into the production cycle.

In issue 49 there was a discussion of the demographics of the hobby. I doubt anyone today from the newest gamer to the oldest grognard would be surprised by most of it. Hex and chit wargaming at the time was overwhelmingly male and young adult to early middle aged. The gamers were mostly college educated and more urban and suburban than rural. It goes on to discuss some regional breakdowns and other issues but most striking were two numbers. They feedback lead to a conclusion that there were about 400-500 people per 1,000,000 who played SPI games with about another 200-300 who played hex and chit games but not SPI products. If we add those numbers together we 6-8 hex and chit wargamers per 10,000 of population. While hex and chit wargaming still had some growth left before it peaked in the late 70s I think this number is close to the sustainable number of hex and chit gamers. I also think it is a good first estimate of the sustainable number of role playing gamers for a variety of reasons not the least of which is how many role playing gamers in the late 70s boom came from this population. In fact, D&DD would show up in the feedback list of games to rate regularly in the late 70s and SPI would produce two rpgs in the early 80s, Dragonquest and Universe.

So, when I talk about growing the hobby I’m talking about having between 200,000 and 300,000 people in the hobby of whom about 125,000 constitute a stable core of series roleplayers. More importantly, I’m talking about that stable core being composed of a group with somewhat similar demographics to the hex and chit wargamers of the 70s. While I wouldn’t want to see us going back to being as male as we were in the day I wouldn’t mind seeing us reading as much as that group. As I have said before I believe role playing is a literary hobby and that the hobby is healthier when its primary inspiration is written as opposed to visual.

The ironic thing is we had that in our grasp thirty years ago. As I argued in the rudeness post a huge reason we lost it was the marketing of rpgs to teens and tweens exclusively. A second was TSR’s mishandling of their takeover of SPI. There were others but the only one that matters today is rudeness and kid image of the game. Thanks to the internet the core of role playing, a creative gaming hobby, has a second chance to be what it could have been. That to me is the real magic of the OSR. It can be the seed of a redo that brings those members of that eighth of a million people who are currently writing novels during NaNoWriMo or painting dragons or cross referencing the Dark Tower series who think D&D is for kids back home. When I recruit for a new game these are the people I want to attract and play with for what I think are obvious reasons. If the price of bringing them to us is telling the children of all ages to grow up and behave I think it is a trade worth making.