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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Sharing the Game: The Value of the Club

My Photograph

I did not belong to a D&D club.  When I started playing in/around 1981/82 there were most certainly such things in some places, but none in my places.  Like many other kids my age at that time, I played with the few friends I had that also played. Other times I somehow accidentally discovered new friends who played.  None of us was in a club. The thought of such a thing, I think, never crossed our minds. It seemed like the sort of thing that few people were doing, many people didn’t know about, understand or far worse, were afraid of.  It was fringe, as many of the best things were (and perhaps still are). There were no clubs.

I really, REALLY, wish there had been a club.

Last night I spent my evening at a camera club meeting that was rather unusual.  Our typical meetings revolve around competitive showings of our work, discussions of trips and photo-walks, maybe an exchange of ideas or techniques.  We often have guest judges or on occasion simply a guest speaker, but last night was something far more interesting, involving, enlightening, and special.  

The club, each year (and this is my first year as a member so it was a new experience for me) hosts an evening with the members of another local club of sorts, the Stetson Shutterbugs.  A very nice article appeared in about the club, which is worth a read.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 kids from one of Philadelphia’s well known neighborhoods, though it isn’t well known for its positive qualities.  It’s easy to forget that while it can be a great city in many ways, it also suffers from many of the same problems that plague large cities across the country, and even the globe.  These were kids who come from a very tough neighborhood...a neighborhood not too unlike the one I work in every day at the pawnshop.

Xavier's Photograph

These kids showed their work, each standing up and walking over to our big screen and adding some information and context for their photos.  It was brave. It was interesting. It was wonderful. As each image flashed on the screen, an often tiny, meek, squeaky voice would chime in.  

“This is a photo of my grandfather.  I chopped off the top of his head accidentally, but I really like it,” said one young girl.

We commented on it.  The lines were nice and lead the eye to his eyes..  The image was clear and the composition was minimal, but there was some distracting items on the right of the image.

“This is a place I passed by while heading to the hospital with my mom for an appointment.  It’s a dangerous place where there are bad people and also drug abusers, who can’t always help it.  They go to rehab but them come out and come here to do their drugs again,” said a curly-haired boy.

It had great light and shadow.  The columns on the right were a nice leading line to the brightness at the far side of the image.  The trash on the ground added to the context.

“This picture I took while walking with my mom to the dollar store.  The umbrella is over the lady’s head and face, so I thought it looked cool.  We see her here sometimes. She’s homeless or crazy maybe. Once she shook a rock at me,” another girl informed us.

I had two thoughts banging around in my head.  The first was that these kids were taking great photos.  These were images unclouded and raw, emotionally open, and while not always crafted with the eye and hand of a seasoned master or professional (of which I am neither BTW...far from it) the images did what a good photo (or any art) should do in my opinion, which is share a visual moment that contains a story, emotional, visceral, intellectual...something is transmitted through the image to the viewer.  There were few photos, even before the child spoke about it, that didn’t evoke a particular thought or feeling from me.

The second thought was more of a question.  Just how important is a club like this, for children living in this place at this time?  Even if they do not carry on with photography as a lifelong pursuit on any level, how important is it right now to have a group of like-minded people and thoughtful teachers guiding these kids in this way, using photography as a creative vehicle?

What if there had been a club in my middle school for kids who wanted to play, or learn to play, D&D?

I was lucky, on many levels.  As for D&D, I found friends who played or were willing to learn.  Not having a club available didn’t stop me from playing, but how many kids who had an interest in the game were, i’m sure, not as lucky.  When I started gaming it was the time of the Satanic Panic that many of us know so well, but while I was aware of the issue it didn’t affect me.  How much easier would it have been for ostracized kids who wanted to play if their school offered a club to join, something official to legitimize and de-demonize a fun and creative hobby?

The kids I met last night were great.  They walked around taking photos of us, each other, and the event as it unfolded.  I know that if you put one of my street photos next to one of theirs, you wouldn’t know (or care) who made which.  Keep in mind that these kids were learning photography with pinhole cameras, old SLR’s, and black & white film.  Their guide and mentor wanted them to think about the photograph at the simplest level, and not worry about which setting, or what colors, or how to post-process the images they were making.  He wanted them to just slow down, see a scene, make a photo. It seemed to me the perfect approach to teaching, and the best way to learn. It is, BTW, completely the opposite way that I learned (and am still learning) to make a photo.  

If I was to start a D&D club, I would take the same approach.  Basic D&D. Simplify the learning process and find your place quickly, enjoy the game and don’t worry about rules and tables to complicate the character sheet.  The hardest part should be deciding on a name...then play.
What is more important, the game, or the sense of belonging?  The process, or the community? The group, or the art it creates?

The kids I met last night told us a story, showed us their art, and none of us left the gathering un-moved by our shared experience.

It was great to meet you, kids of Stetson Middle School. Thanks Tony Rocco, for your dedication and devotion to these and other kids who have come before, and will come after. I'm not sure if the enormity of what you do has been, or will ever be properly recognized, but it certainly has not gone unnoticed by this author/gamer/photographer.

Thanks to all of the organizers of clubs everywhere, of every kind.  Your contribution is important, and does not go unnoticed.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Friday After Report Returns!!!

Drink your Potion, and Prep your 6 Demon bag!

Welcome back to those who have blessed me with their eyeballs before, and also welcome newcomers!  Once again I’m back with some thoughts on gaming, as always energized and inspired to jot down my meager thoughts after a night of #ELITE B/X gaming with my internet friends…

Wait.  Internet friends?  Is that what they are, or have they simply become friends?  Yes, we met on the internet, but is that how I should classify folks I enjoy spending time with, even if we haven’t done so IRL?  It seems limiting and unnecessarily organized. Screw that.

Last night I had a super-fun time playing some B/X on Roll20 (not an endorsement) with my friends, and a hearty and heartfelt thanks you Kelly (twitter @oxfordgamer) for taking time from what I know is a busy schedule to run our somewhat motley crew directly into a trap, nearly killing us all.  It was the most fun I've had all week, and I certainly needed it.

Two things I wanted to cover in this (hopefully) short blog post.  

The first is DM preparedness.  It’s something I often take for granted, many times landing in the camp of ‘I’ve been doing this for so long that I can just plop my ass into a chair and run a game, as long as I have some source material in front of need for prolonged prep’.  Really, I’m fooling myself. Can I do what i think I can do? Yes. Can I do it as well as if I had taken even 1 or 2 hours out of my week to prepare some encounters, NPC’s, or a bit of a dungeon? Nope. No one can. Blanket statement. You might disagree, but you’re just bullshitting yoursel
Sometimes your Bench time is a good time to Plan
f into thinking you are far more awesome a DM than you actually are.  

There is no individual in any area of endeavor or activity that would not benefit from additional preparation.  I’m a firm believer in this. I may not always be a practitioner of this belief, but I know and feel it to be true.  If you are running a game and do so each and every week without a single moment of prep time, that’s fine. I’m not telling you how to run your game, because I know that everyone’s panties will ball up in a wad and get wedged up their asses if I do.  I am saying that if this is your particular ‘style’ of DMing, you’d be amazed at how much better your game will run if you add a bit of prep time to your practice.

Try it, don’t try it...I don’t really care.  I’m not in your game. I hope that by this time my opinions hold a small bit of water that you may find useful.  Your NPC’s will feel more 3 dimensional, the play will seem/be smoother and the moments of lag between scenes and interactions will diminish or disappear, leaving you with a game that hums along and adds to the enjoyment of all, and most certainly will reduce your stress levels.

In all honesty, after writing the above I’ve already forgotten what the second item was.  That should clue you in on the kind of week I’m having. It’s fine, I can always blog about it later, but I really should learn to outline before I begin writing.  Heh...prep.

If you are a gamer who is also into photography, I’d love to connect with you via Instagram or Flickr, or just simply have you visit my photo website or check out my podcast.  I’m not selling anything or pushing products through any affiliate links (nor do I plan to). I’m new to photography as a hobby and I’m enjoying it immensely, and so sharing it a bit with others seems a natural thing for me to do.  I’m always looking to make new photo-friends just like this blog has really helped me make some great new gaming-friends.

As always, be well….and Game on!


Friday, March 2, 2018

The Soundtrack of my Game, The Music of My Life

Childhood as I knew I felt it in the books, stories, music, and TV & Movies of my pre-teen years was coming to it's natural end, much like some sidewalks...

In or around the early part of 7th grade, in 1982, something in my world cracked wide open and all of the insanity of art popular, underground, mind-bending, and taboo flooded into my head like my own personal Pandora’s Box.  This was very close to the time I discovered D&D, all of those things happening in a 12 month stretch.

Let me clue you in on just a few of the things responsible for this violent evolution.  They didn’t all hit in 1982, but close enough to create the effect.

Magazines: Mad, National Lampoon, Heavy Metal, Playboy/Penthouse, Games

Books:  Anything Lovecraft, The Belgariad series, Elric Saga (and all of the Eternal Champions), Asimov, Bradbury, Niven, Zelazny, R.E. endless array

Movies: Alien, Annie Hall, Conan the Barbarian, Animation by Bakshi, THX 1138, The Dunwich Horror..again an endless array as VHS made everything available

Comedy: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield..

All of this and much, much more clearly created a good portion of the person (and the RPG player/enthusiast) I am today, but all of that together might not have had the collective impact that music brought to my life during that mid-pubescent moment.  I’m just going to drop a few youtube videos below.  No reason to listen or watch if you know what it is, and in no way is the individual song/album/group the ONLY reason for the was very clearly (to me) a collective impact.  

Sure, I had listened to the Beatles, the Stones, and the Doors by this point, but most of my musical exposure had been through my parents and the car radio.  Some of the more notable figures in my repertoire up to this point had been Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vinton, John Denver, the Bee Gee’s and a collection of really awful popular disco or easy listening music (some of which, BTW, I not only still like, but Harry Chapin, and yes, I do enjoy a bit of Manilow now and again).  But while this music was fine, it wasn’t mind expanding or consciousness altering in any way.  It provoked little in the way of introspective thought.  

The music below was how I felt and what I heard in my head alot of the time, and how I imagined the soundtrack of my RPG playing would and should sound.

Yes: Everything Ever

Genesis: Most Everything, Ever

Crosby, Still, Nash and Sometimes Young: Yup..all of it

Rush: Every Drumbeat and Guitar lick…

The music could go on and on, and on, and on.  I had a Stereo, I had headphones, and I had my own room.  In essence I had the keys to the spaceship that could take me to infinite worlds of wonder, other planes of existence and all of it somehow, some-way, made its way into D&D.  Heroes, Wizards, Monsters, Demons, Devils, Magical Artifacts...all of them had a song or an album or a band.

I imagine that this experience is not unique, but the time and place of each individual determines the outcome.  Kids who grew up in the 90’s had access to music and technology (like video games) in ways I did not, so their perspective and more specifically, their soundtrack will be far different from mine.  Sure, Rap existed in the 80’s, but not in the same way it had become pervasive in the 90’s.  Cd’s replaced vinyl, and so their soundtracks didn’t have that big, amazing artwork my albums slid smoothly from.  MP3 format emerges, and now music can be shared and downloaded, even garage-band recordings can make their way around the world at the speed of light and change the musical landscape.

In the 2000’s and with the rise of the internet I can’t even begin to imagine what the soundtrack is like for a millenial.  I had such limited access comparatively.  We shared our albums and made mix tapes, we borrowed and shared our books and passed around magazines in school hallways or on the weekend at the mall.  Now kids just fire up spotify, instagram that meme, text a link, or snapchat that moment...personally i’m overwhelmed but I wasn’t born to it.  I do wonder what that person’s Soundtrack is like.  Is there any stability to it?  Does it feel rooted in anything tangible or real like paper or wax or plastic felt for me?  

All of this has one common thread...the game we play.  While it too went through changes and iterations over the decades (and some might argue changes to its soul as well) , I’m fairly certain that i’m not the only one who draws a straight line from the music that shaped their youth and the way they imagine the game plays out.Sure, there are bigger brush strokes here, but let's focus in and take a macro shot of this one thing.

What is the Soundtrack to your Game, and the music of your life?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Scarcity in Your Game...You NEED it!

Creating scarcity in your game world is something that many folks, especially newer DMs, rarely consider.  Being bombarded constantly by campaign settings, sourcebooks, modules, blog posts, and a plethora of other media like novels, comic books, and movies we are often presented with game worlds chocked full of everything under the sun.  For the DM this can often be the unspoken go-ahead to make anything and everything available in abundance.

While it can be a blast for any DM to continually reward the party with gold, gems, magic items, spells, potions, and experience points, this act of ‘gift giving’ can quickly get out of hand.  Old timers like me call it a Monty Haul style game.  Like a can of Jolt cola or a ride through the Mcdonalds drive-thru, the rewards are quick, momentarily satisfying, and rapidly fleeting followed by a follow feeling, emptiness, and bloat.  New DMs fall into this trap quickly as they can see how happy players get when they find a chest filled with gold, a powerful magic item, or jump from level 1 to level 5 in just a few short game sessions.  Wanting to bring joy and pleasure to our players is natural, but this method (most will agree) is the wrong way to go about it.

Both TSR (in the past) and WotC (in the now) have profited from this behavior, as do other companies who rely on the DM to purchase new materials to feed their coffers.  I’m not saying that there’s no value in adding a supplement or ten to your personal collection, but when everything makes its way into the game world, a good game can quickly dissolve into the madness of excess.

I prefer to take an alternate path when creating and developing my game world.  I create an environment where scarcity is the norm.

There are many ways in which to implement scarcity in your game.  Let’s list a few:

  1. Make Magic, in all its forms, very rare and incredibly special: this means no magical weapons, items, etc at level 1 except the occasional Cure Light Wounds potion or scroll, something expendable and that must be replaced.  Put a premium on magic, not everyone has access.
  2. Turn your world humanocentric, pushing demi-humans like elves, dwarves and halflings into the very fringes, and act as if most folks believe they are simply stories that parents tell children to put them to sleep.
  3. If Iron is the coin, and Silver is precious, then Gold should be rare and Platinum the domain of Kings, Emperors, and powerful Mages.  Don’t leave so much of it lying about like so many rupees in a barrel or bush.  Also, make the players/characters SPEND IT on stuff.  If every bandit wears chainmail, then the PC never need buy that upgrade from leather.
    1. Also, how many armorers and weaponsmiths are there?  One in every town?  Not likely.  Sure, the blacksmith can shoe your horse or make a plough-blade straight again, but they all can’t forge a sword.  Skyrim is a lie-rim...or something.

I don’t want to dig too deeply into our cultural psyche, but for most of us the the act of wanting, having, and getting are part of the american experience.  I’m not passing judgement, cause no way would I wanna throw a rock into the glass house I’ve built and reside in, however I do think that creating a sense of scarcity in our game world can and has made my players approach the game from a much different angle.  

Patrick Rothfuss does a wonderful job of providing his reader with a sense of this sort of scarcity throughout his Kingkiller Chronicles, and if you haven’t yet thrown down a few sheckles for those books do yourself a solid and get right on it.

Level 1 PC’s have starting gold, I get that, but it’s a rule that can be changed like any other to reflect the sort of game you and your players would like to play.  Wanna throw ‘em for a loop?  Start them off in their skivvies in a dungeon with no ‘obvious’ way out, no equipment, no gold, and if you’re feeling extra wacky, no memory.  Nothing starts the roleplaying off hard and heavy like that sort of situation.

Obviously, have fun.  If you as the DM decide that you would rather just give your players anything and everything under the Dark Sun than feel one will stop you.  I once heard a quote that I will now butcher, “Hell is the place where you get everything you want”, and I can relate.  Some of the worst games I’ve played in have had a DM who simply didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘NO’, who shoveled gold and gems into our pouches, and who made magic as common as oxygen.  For me, this means zero fun.

Game on people.

Friday, February 9, 2018

1st Level is the Best Level: The Friday After Report

It seems to me that there can only be two kinds of people who play OSR games.  

The first type is new to the style, the system, or the situation.  Perhaps they have played an RPG before, but it’s been of a newer bent.  There’s no age or gender associated with this player, btw, just an inexperience with OSR gameplay.  As with all things, there are misconceptions and preconceptions many of which are turned on their head once they start playing.  It’s somewhat self-correcting, the act of playing, assuming this individual has inserted themselves into a group of players more experienced with the OSR.  The group will almost always usher the noob through the rites and rituals of the game...things like the proper use of a 10’ pole, why doors should be spiked when camping in the dungeon, and the most important combat tactic, hasty retreat.

If the system is being played close to the RAW (rules as written) then it may be a bit of a shock when their PC meets a quick and untimely death at the hands of a scruffy kobold or stinky goblin a few minutes after the party enters cave 1a on the map after having spent a few minutes building the PC and equipping him/her with the best a few GP can buy.  The rest of the group will remember to add a few henchmen and continue aon a bit while the noob rolls up ‘round 2’.

Keep in mind, this is fun.

The second type of player, of which I myself am a member, is the guy who either

  1. Never left the OSR and hasn’t moved past AD&D1e, ever…
  2. Left the OSR (or gaming entirely) and finding that he/she misses the old ways and the old days, attempts to connect with some like-minded folks to relive the past, which is fun but never quite as fulfilling as the original ride around that particular carousel.

By all the lords of light and darkness, I am B.  So B.  100% B.  A solid B. I'm so B I listen to Asia...

What is the Music you Most Associate with Gaming?  An Upcoming Post will cover this very topic...

I’m back, and I’m doing so with all the grit and gusto I can muster with this body and mind, long ravaged by time, tacos, tequila, and toking.

Welcome to the Friday After Report!

Last night we met once again with DM extraordinaire, Kelly (@oxfordgamer on the twitters) and had a blast.  I’m not the sort of fellow who enjoys reading or writing long game recaps (that shit is boring folks, please don’t do it), but  after defeating a couple of beefy hobgoblins, freeing a few unlucky prisoners of said creatures, and clumsily executing a gnoll and orc who were chained to that same wall and unable to defend, we trotted back to the Keep and sold off our booty.  Some really great role-playing went down last night, proving once again that OSR games like B/X do NOT have to be cold, militaristic bash-fests!  I can’t wait for the banquet with the Castellan next week...gonna wear my Pope Hat!

This is the fourth or fifth time we’ve played this game/campaign, and many of us are STILL 1st level.  Some folks might be super frustrated by now.  Other folks may have simply given up, dropped out, and gone looking for a game with a more generous DM...but I say that there is nothing gained by doing so and in fact, I believe that a most important and pertinent detail would be lost.  If you’ve come to the OSR game new to the hobby, or have migrated over to this side of the block from a system like 5e, than this frustration might be very real.

As a group we have struggled through great losses, learned hard lessons, and now fully back in the swing of things we push ahead as a cohesive unit, a bonded group of real-life friends and stalwart adventurers.  My PC is approximately 250 XP from level 2, and as a Cleric this means I have spent week after week NOT casting a single spell (as per the B/X rules).  It’s both frustrating and freeing.

I hope that the weeks and months of gaming ahead are just as exciting, but somehow I think that having a few more HP, a better weapon with a +1, spells to sling and a bit more gold to throw around won’t make the experience better than hanging onto the edge of my chair knowing that a single, well landed strike from an enemy combatant can end my PC with the single roll of a die.  Sure, I want to help the fighters recover some HP with a Cure Light Wounds, or Bless everyone before we head into battle, but the magic of no magic has been exhilarating!  

For me, with OSR games or really any game, 1st level really is the best level.

Game on!

(BTW Kelly, I love my new mace...please don’t take it from me.  My cleric is faithful and pious, and that mace means the world to him...and me ;) )

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My Best Friends Play D&D

friends don't let friends levitate

I know I can get pretty crazy here on the blog, and sometimes a little more than a tad bit controversial in some of my positions on gaming, and in life.  My assumption is that if you’re still reading these posts I must be hitting either a nerve or a soft spot.  I’ll take either.  Our voices are often lost amid the din that is the internet, and you D&D/RPG folks are generally an attentive and positive audience, even those misguided souls who enjoy 4th ed.

I don’t think I’ve ever covered this topic before, but I wanted to go over what really is the most important thing that the hobby has brought into my life.  While gaming has been a wonderful creative outlet, a fun way to pass many, MANY hours of my leisure time, and a fantastic escape from the drudgery of an otherwise dull and uninteresting life, it has had one effect that is so important and influential that it will forever be a tremendous part of who I am as a person.

What I’m talking about here folks is how gaming has brought me some of the best friends I could have had, even if I were picking friends from a catalog.  I’m not sure if everyone’s experience mirrors my own, but from the time I started playing as a kid with my best friend Sean, to present day online with my ‘adult life’ best friend Dennis, to my good friend Deron...I can honestly say that the hobby has always managed to connect me with like-minded, open-minded, creative and generous souls who make the framework of my social world today.  These people are the foundation of my life, even if they don’t realize it.

It's likely that playing most types of games with other people can accomplish this sort of thing, regardless of the game.  Role Playing Games however are unique in that they create an environment and an opportunity for people to really open up to one another, albeit through their characters.  Whether a player rushes to the aid of another during a combat or is simply having some friendly banter at a table over beer and bread at the inn, you really do get to know folks in a unique manner through the sort of play only these games provide.

Beyond my inner circle of truly close friends, I have met and played with some of the most decent, nicest people.  Sometimes they weren’t all that rational or reasonable depending on what was happening in-game at the time, but in the end they were people well worth spending time with.  That’s not to say that I haven’t met my fair share of assholes.  Who knows, maybe I’m someone else's asshole...I wouldn’t discount that distinct possibility.

It’s amazing that even via the internet and social media I have managed to grow that circle.  While most of my gaming occurs online now as opposed to at the table IRL, I still manage to find and game with some of the coolest cats around.  Kelly and Caleb and the entire Thursday night B/X crew are super guys, and I wouldn’t think twice about hanging with any of them were we to connect in meatspace.  Drinks and tacos and pizza are on me guys...I’ll be happy to break from my carrot-based diet to chill for an evening of drinks, grub, and continued great conversation with any of you. I've gamed with a hundred super dudes this way..and yes, I'm talkin' about you too Rich!

That gaming ‘solar system’ even extends to people I don’t necessarily play with, but interact with over twitter or here on the blog or on the Goblin Stomper Facebook page.  I’ve had some of the best conversations and even arguments regarding our hobby on social media, and it’s been a blast.  How great is it when a bunch of creatives get together in any venue, and even better with social media since you can bail out when things get too crazy.  Sometimes the distance created by the digital space is a benefit.

In the end I think my hit-to-miss ratio is a pretty good one, with far more folks landing in my orbit who were of good nature and were fun to play with, eat with, laugh with, cheer with, and dungeon-crawl with.  If I knew you, or played with you, and we don’t talk much these days I’d like to take this opportunity to say hello, and to thank you.  You’ve made my life a better one.  I hope that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing that this post finds you well, happy, healthy, and still playing if that’s your bent.

Maybe everyone should take a moment to reflect on the gaming-folk in their lives past and present.  Perhaps we should take a minute to consider that group of friends who, long ago, turned a Sunday afternoon wargaming session into something so much more.  Those people who we all know, who need no introduction or memorial, but who took the time to turn what was a good time with miniature armies into a infinitely deeper and more fulfilling passtime that connects those who play it in a more meaningful way than they could have possibly envisioned.  

Enjoy each other, and game on.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

One Reality, Many Fantasies...

I'm not currently up on my quantum theory, or have any deep understanding of what may be the multiverse, but I am sure of a few basic things.

When we game, regardless of the game we play, we have to do some things first.  We need to agree which game we are all going to play, so that we have common ground and a framework of rules by which to engage in our shared activity.  Let's just use AD&D1e as the ruleset here, and move forward.  Agreed?  Good.

So we are gonna play and then we decide who will be the DM, the rules keeper and if need be the rules changer, the arbiter, and the world creator and controller.  For this game we need him, maybe for others we don't, but we still would need to agree on how we are going to resolve conflict etc in our game.

The rest of us play.  We create our characters and inhabit those roles.  We join together (usually) and work towards some commonly agreed upon objective and then we set off on our adventure.  We encounter obstacles and either overcome them, or are defeated by them individually or as a group.  The game need not end either way, we agree that we can roll up new personas to inhabit in out fantasy game world, and we continue on.

The game never ends though.  I mean, it doesn't have to end.  The game world will evolve, and the DM will judge and create new rules as needed...rules we will all need to agree are fair and reasonable.  Hopefully we do.  If not, we always have the option to leave the game, but in my experience we usually come to a mutually beneficial agreement about most things in the game that keeps the machine running and everyone at the table and having a good time.

Sometimes, I think people are totally fucking crazy. (here we go folks, the roller coaster car just hit the top of the big hill, so prepare for the plunge)

Why is it that we can agree on some crazy, made up shit about a game we play where we pretend to be Wizards and Warriors, Elves or Dwarves but we cannot agree on simple shit in the 'real' world?  Better yet, why the hell can no one agree that we share a common reality in the first place?

What brought me here?  Well, Terminally Nerdy did it to me, though he didn't realize he was going to force my keyboard hand in this way.  No harm, no foul, I still like him just fine.  We don't need to agree on everything to have respect for one another, have a conversation, or debate the various aspects of our shared interest.

This is n't always the case with everyone I meet on Twitter, or other social media outlets.  In our current tribal state here in the good old US of A, the social and political climate as well as the relative anonymity of the internet has turned what likely were perfectly rational, reasonable people into automatons of ideology.  It's a shame that while we seem to be able to agree on what amounts to utter nonsense (aka, our games), we refuse to see the world through clear eyes and with a rational mind.

No one can create their own reality.  You can fashion your social network, you can choose what music to listen to or what movies to view, you can decide on the foods you like or don't.  The pizza, however, is still the pizza.  Slice it in squares, triangles, or just make it in little oblong disks but they are still the pizza.

This 'Safe Space' nonsense is fucking ridiculous.  You don't get to arbitrarily decide that some plot of land, building, or even room is a space where you will not be judged.  Sure, we can agree that public spaces are for everyone regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation (which is it's own hell I won't take time with here, other than to say I don't care who you wanna fuck, but I do care if you ask me to call you some crazy pan-sexual identifier that has no meaning beyond making you feel special).  Judging other people is a completely natural, human response WHENEVER you meet someone.  How in the nine hells am I ever going to decide if I like you, or not, if I don't judge you?  How will I know if you pose a threat to me, may be a plague carrier, etc. if I don't first judge you?  I assume you are judging me, especially right NOW!  It's ok.  I'm fine with it.  Judge away.

There are no safe spaces where you won't be judged.

There is only this reality, and if we don't all start to agree on the operation and mechanics thereof, reality is gonna get a whole lot more dangerous for those seeking safe spaces.

I'm not angry folks, I'm worried.  It's deeply concerning to me that everyone needs to feel special all the time, and mostly I blame the internet.  Some would say that our new medium has exposed these problems, but I'm of the school of thought that it may have created them.  I love the internet, but all of this 'I'm Unique' 'I'm Special' 'Look at Me' social media behavior is definitely having an affect, and I don't think a good one.

Not everyone is welcome at every gaming table.  I have been welcomed at many, and cast out from a few.  You may be not welcome somewhere for some reason, maybe real, maybe imagined.  That's ok.  It's fine.  You won't melt if a few people don't like you for some reason that seems silly to you.  Just move on.  Those folks aren't worth arguing with, and they certainly aren't worth the time or effort it might take to make them see things differently.  We aren't talking civil rights here, we are talking the GAME TABLE at some dudes HOUSE.  People cannot be forced to like you, agree with you, or even have to tolerate you in their homes or in their private sessions even if they take place in a public space.

You don't know me.  You don't know my political affiliations or my religion, and if you think you do you're very wrong.

What you do know is that I play RPG's, mostly old or OSR ones, and that sometimes something or someone rubs me the wrong way.  I'm not going to call out the self-centered, safe-space, 'my reality isn't your reality' moron who got this rant rolling, but I will say this, as he may be reading it.

I would love to live in a world of peace, love, and harmony, but in the world I live in we have school shooters, and wolves and giant wild cats that kill for fun, and somehow we got President Trump.  I don't have to like it, but I have to live in that world.

And so do you.

Game on good people.  Game on.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Life is Cheap : The Friday After Report

“We have the Hobgoblin chief charmed, we have four of the Castellan’s best men, and we have a wand of paralysis!  By the gods, we’ve got those caves by the balls boys!”  hissed the mage as we pressed on through the halls where only a day or so before we had lost our elf friend The Seer and the half-blind mercenary woman whose name I’d already forgotten.

“Aye,” we all agreed, but in the pit of my stomach I knew that my companions were fooling themselves.  This wretched place had blood-stained walls and echoed the screams of a thousand, thousand victims. It had stood against many a company of Man and Elf and Dwarf before and had swallowed most whole, leaving behind only the foul, dark things which can feed the soul of chaos a steady diet of fresh lives.  This was a place of pain, and of lies.

We advanced to the very heart of the Hobgoblin stronghold, bolstered by our mastery of the lord of these green-skinned, pock-marked creatures who walked and talked as men, but who fought as wild animals, monsters of the creeping chaos and who fed on the very flesh of those who fell to sword, axe, and club.  It wasn’t long before we came to a shadow-covered room where three of the massive hunchbacks stood, armed and armored beyond any we had thus encountered.

“Theeshe are friendsh,” stuttered our captive, bound by sorcery and compelled to do our bidding.

The creatures glared, then growled. “We not like them!” they yelled across the room.  “You are weak to let them here, and we not like weakness either!”  They looked to one another for answers, and then seemed to quickly decide on a plan of action as they ran toward us, blood-stained weapons in hand.  

“YOU LIE!!!!!” they screamed.

I had little time to consider my arms, my friends, or my faith as I saw the heavy blade fall across my chest, my armor offering no resistance as rusty metal cleaved my chest in twain and my heart, which had once belonged to my lord and savior, burst forth like so much offal I slumped forward into eternal darkness.

Three games in and my character, the level one Fegio (Cleric of an Unnamed God) fell victim to the bloody abattoir known as the Caves of Chaos.  Some might be predisposed to sadness at such a turn.  I had enjoyed my time playing Fegio, short though it had been.  He seemed a stalwart fellow who, though he hadn’t yet proven his faith to his patron and so could wield no spells of that deity, was quick to face his enemies with mace in hand and his ever-present holy symbol of unknown shape or size in the other.

As always, our Thursday night B/X game renders out more like a DCC funnel than anything else.  If you weren’t weaned on this sort of gameplay I can easily understand why you might not enjoy it, but we are having so much damned fun it is hard to express here in words.  

You might also assume that there is no roleplaying, no’d be dead wrong.  Most of us have found a voice for our characters, even if they had a lifespan of only one session.  I think that might be the secret sauce, the line between boys and men in this hobby, that we can find those voices at the moment of inception even IF a curtain fall may be only moments away.  The need to build an elaborate backstory in order to really get the ‘feel’ for a character is not a necessity, it is a nicety, and one wasted on a game meant to be played hard & fast like B/X.

As a group we agree on one thing almost every session.  We are playing this game correctly, and we have no clue how in the hell we played it as kids and had our PC’s survive so frequently. I certainly remember playing when there was only two of us, one filling the DM’s role and one as player, and all of us having fun without moving through PC sheets like Grant through Richmond.  We weren’t playing wrong, we were just playing house-ruled and roll-fudged in order to keep the game running smoothly.  With this group we play the ball where it lies, often a hole in none.  It takes away ZERO of the fun factor.

Was I a bit disappointed?  Sure.  I, like all my pals in this game, thought that my guy was going to outlast the others who had fallen before.  That passed quickly.  I set off to build another PC with the aid of an online character generator (OMFG, did he just say what I thought he said?!?!?) and I picked up almost where I left off.  Easy. Peasy.

Welcome to the Grist Mill, where life is cheap and ale is cheaper.  

Happy Hunting and well met new friends and old, boon companions.

Game on.