Dec 182006

Despite all the bad reviews my little gaming cabal went and saw Eragon yesterday. Now I really think that most of the reviewers went completely fair to the movie. It had a big budget, some name brand stars and didn’t totally suck. It’s not making my list of all time bad movies. It just will never make the list of good movies. It was a better D&D movie than the D&D movies.
I mean that quote from the very beginning says it all: “I suffer without my stone.” You just gotta see it. OK, let’s make this simple and painful, just like all the exposition. Exposition is when a character explains what’s going on. It’s a little talking head dance. Of course when rehash the same information about three times, it gets real old, real quick. Yes, we understand that the kid is mythical dragon rider returning. We get it. You don’t have to explain it over and over again. Did explain to you what exposition is?
And then there’s the whole Star Wars angle. Yeah, it’s pretty much the Star Wars story. No. It IS the Star Wars story.
Farm boy hero destined to restore ancient order of magical/mystical knights. Check.
Mentor who is fallen member of said order who dies saving the hero. Check.
Parents disappeared. Uncle/Guardian murdered by evil goons. Check.
Leader of Evil former member of aforementioned knights. Check.
Princess gets captured by Evil Overlord while transporting vital chattels formerly in the possession of the Evil Overlord. Check.
Rescue Princesses from Evil Overlord. Check.
Fashionably dressed rebels who seem to avoid the Evil guys but not much else until the hero shows up. Check.
Mysterious and roguish sidekick. Check.
Take out Evil Leader’s primary Can of Kick Ass by exploiting a small but vulnerable defect during a climatic battle. Check.
Do I really need to go on? I will say this I haven’t read the book. And this is one case where the movie doesn’t inspire me to do so. But I do take my hat off to Christopher Paolini, I know that I never could have written a novel when I was 15.

 Posted by at 5:31 pm
Dec 072006

The folks over at White Wolf officially annouced it today and there’s all sorts of speculation about what it’s going to be. Some think it will just be a reworking of WoD 2.0 (I don’t care that’s what I call it.) which in my opinion needs it. I just get the feeling that WW had designed each of the games in vacum. You know some suit shouting at frenzied game designers, “Vampire team, you’re over there. Werewolf, you have the garage. Mage guys get back in the basement, and all of you Other Line folks need to share the bathroom.” I remember when they announced the WoD 2.0, they initially claimed compatibility. Well, yeah same rules but just no real cohesive metaverse. I thought the Chicago book would help, but not really.
Then there is OMFG, it’ll be OGL/d20! This is both screams of terror and joy depending on which side of the arguement you are on. I read one whiny goth fanboy’s rant about being scared that the D&D munchkins would move in on his game, beat him up, steal his dice and all the hot goth chicks. (OK, the rant really wasn’t that bad but my version is much more entertaining.) The d20 fanboys are mostly happy at the prospect of playing a vampire that’s not just template from the Monster Manual.
My theory: D20/OGL. I’ll tell you why. I bet some accountant at WW looked at their sales realized that they were selling more d20 stuff than WoD. The suggestion goes out, “So how do we capiatalized on that?”
Another accountant scratches his head and says, “If we could just find somebody who is great game designer and really knows that d20 stuff?”
You get the picture. Any that’s my theory. Either way it’s going to be good. Monte Cook is one hell of a game designer and an incredibly creative man. We’ll see in August 2007.
Final thought: Folks are already starting to call it McWoD. I love that.

Oct 172006

With all the news about some idiot doing something or another. Crazy lawsuits. People trying to legislate what foods you can and can’t eat. Political correctnes. Insane elections. Terrorists. And the list goes on. You get my drift. I got to thinking of the good old days of my “youth” and the fun with old school D&D and how games and life were so much simpler then.

I remember one time when I was in the Army. I was stationed at Presidio of San Francisco for language school. (Berfore you even think it. They were teaching me German, not English. ) The Army had converted an old VA hospital into the school. By converted, I mean they took out most of the medical equipment. I was lucky. My two roomates and I ended up in what used to a set of old examining rooms. Although we were in one “room” we had sliding doors for some privacy. That was pretty cool for back them. The best part was the waiting area was just outside our door. This turned into D&D central on the weekends.

This was in the old days. Before there was anything like a “designated smoking area” or laws having to enforce a business owners right to chose to allow smoking or not. So we drank beer and sodas. We ate chips and pizza. And we smoked. Every time I told the players, “Roll initiative.” There’d be the sound of Bic lighters being flicked from around the table. Even people who “didn’t smoke”, smoked when there was combat. Folks would even chain smoke through those long combats. And it even got out of hand once.

Remember this was an old hospital and still most of it’s hospital innards. That includes the smoke detectors and fire alarms. Yes, combat in D&D got so intense that we set off the fire alarms. In this day age, we would have been drawn and quartered. But back then, the sergeant just shook his head, laughed and told us to open a window. Yeah we had a few folks mad at us. But it was a Saturday night, so everybody was either out or drunk.

Yeah, those were days. Got me a six pack of Jolt, a pack of cigs and a bag full of dice. I’m gonna go kill me some Orcs!

 Posted by at 6:18 pm
Oct 112006

Every now and then you come across something that just deserves special mention. This time I’m talking about the joy brought to us from Cold Blood Games. They got two great games. Dog Town and Bust.

First and foremost there’s Dog Town. This ain’t your daddy’s D&D and it ain’t a cainine version of Bunnies & Burrows. It makes the World of Darkness look like a costume party. Your characters don’t have any supernatural powers, no spells, no Swords of Ultimate NPC Slaying. This game brings alive the feeling of every good gangster movie out there. You’re just a thug on the mean streets of 1970’s New York trying to make a name for yourself and go for that one big score. You’ll do anything from busting heads to running numbers. And if you think you’re tough, there’s always another dog who’s tougher and hungrier than you.

Now for the crunchy bits. There’s lots of primary and derived attributes. But don’t worry all of these help build the mood of the genre. Sometimes your character will things that aren’t in his best interest but that’s the breaks. You chose an archetype or possibly two which give you some directed bonuses. Then you’ve got the other neat tricks and drags (AKA disadvantages) to finish out your character. Game mechanics are mostly clean. They just break one of personal commandments of games design. Charts are evil. There’s one chart to resolve most actions which isn’t bad. I just wish it was a roll of the dice and go.

Bust is a free form RPG using a normal set of playing cards. If you’ve ever played FUDGE, Over the Edge or Risus then you got the idea of a free form game. If you haven’t then here’s the primer. There are not set stats or skills. You just say what your character is good at. But what’s my Strength? Are strong? No, then you’re average. It’s that simple. The only things you have to worry about are what your character is good or bad at.
Bust rules are similar to Black Jack. Challenges are rated by the number of cards a character has to take. Of course, this gets modified by circumstance, traits, flaws and so forth. That’s basically it. Clean, simple and fast. Just like I like women, er I mean games.
I wish I had this years ago when I was in the Army. It’s easy to pack away a deck of cards when you’re out playing GI Joe, much better than say trying lug along your D&D books in your rucksack along with everything else that’s supposed to be there. Fun. Quick. And FREE!
Go check ’em both out

 Posted by at 5:57 pm
Oct 042006

It can happen in any RPG but sometimes there are just some campaigns that just go south. Just like my most recent one. You have to realize that it may be necessary to go all “Old Yeller” on your campaign.
So I did the only thing a good GM should do. I asked the players. And did nothing. Just listened. No excuses. No explanations. And none of that “You just don’t understand my vision” crap. Just listen.
I know there’s some young gun GM out there pulling out his greasy hair screaming, “No. it’s my world. It’s my game.” I have one thing to say to those folks. Shut up you retard. It is not “your game” it is everybody’s game. Both the GM and the players. Just sit back and listen to the players and just take what they say to heart. And for God’s sake be honest with yourself. Remember your players should be your friends too. Respect them and their opinions. Then move on to the next game. And have some fun. That’s what games are all about.

 Posted by at 5:32 pm
Sep 252006

I took the trip up to Dallas this weekend to attend FenCon. I had two goals up there. Meet Jim Butcher and plug Gamers.
Jim Butcher is a great guy. I had the chance to have lunch with him and his Shannon of Friday. It was a quick meet and great with some folks from the Jim Butcher message board. Due to scheduling only the moderator, his girlfriend and me were able to make it.
Jim is so excited about the Dresden Files TV series. It was amazing to see his light up every time he talked about it. Let’s hope the producers let him get his “Stan Lee nerd points” and do a small walk on role as “guy in background whose laptop blows up as Harry walks by”.
The showing of the Gamers went well too. About a dozen folks showed up. They laughed. They applauded. And no one got up and left until the end. Everyone there had nothing but good things to say. My favorite comment: “I need therapy, now.”

 Posted by at 1:33 pm