Thursday, May 31, 2012

Read This...

I've been advocating WotC adopt this position forever, but never put it down in so thoughtful a way. You need to read this...all of it.

Barrowmaze Google+ Game Rescheduled (Friday)

Ok, so we'll reschedule the google+ game for Friday night 8pm.

I'll host it. If you are tech savvy and know how to record google sessions please drop some knowledge on me.

If you haven't created your character yet you can send me your scores via Secure Dice, 3d6 in order (Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, Cha), and 3d6 for gold. Use LL+AEC. Try not to multiclass. If I've left anything out please let me know. kilted dot yaksman at yahoo dot ca

For those of you who chimed in a couple days ago, can you please confirm if you are good to go or not? Just so I have a rough idea of numbers.

Barrowmaze Custom Dice

I received the custom dice today for the Barrowmaze II Indiegogo campaign today in the mail.

I've already bagged them up. Hey, it's exciting and it's also one less job to do down the road.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Quote of the Day

This from the comments of Mearls' most recent article: I don't want this crap. Consider me now an official 4e grognard.

Tonight's G+ Game Postponed.

A couple folks can't make it and I'm fighting a cold so I'd like to postpone tonight's game either to Thursday or Friday night. Same time 8pm. Let me know in the comments what works.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

5e: Dump/Add

I'm going to get my first chance to play the 5e playtest on Tuesday night. In the meantime I've been reading and thinking about the game in different ways and wondering 1) how I would have to change it to make it palatable, and 2) after that process would it even be worth playing it?

WotC designers want a game that isn't about resource management. They want a game where a lot of the details are simply hand-waved. That isn't cool.

So I've put a list together, let me know if I've interpreted the documents incorrectly.

The following items would need to be dumped:
1. At-will spells or spell-like powers (esp. at-will Light/Detect Magic - trying to get rid of resource management)
1b. I would accept very minor non-combat at-wills (ignite a torch/candle/pipe, close a door, call for staff, etc)
2. Inflated Hit Points (PC and Monster)
3. Death Rules
4. Backgrounds and Themes - esp. as restated feats.
5. Stonecunning, as it stands (resource management)
6. Ability scores for monsters - change that to a standard roll based on HD (or something).
7. Healing surge hit dice/Full HP after a rest
8. The word "orison" it makes people sound like weenies - and no laser clerics.
9. All DC mechanics
10. Any bonus to hit (or damage) for doing nothing (picking a class, picking a race, missing an attack roll).

The following items would need to be added:
1. Hit Dice for monsters. It is crazy not having explicit HD for monsters.
2. Ascending and descending AC (like S&W). New Schoolers can just ignore it, and it saves conversion between editions as they know we don't want to play the new crap anyway.
3 I strongly agree with the post at Weird Opera. The most important thing they need to add to the game is fear of death. In my opinion, without fear of death the game has ZERO meaning.

So this is just a preliminary list. I'm sure I will add to it after Tuesday.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Barrowmaze II Campaign Update

Just a quick update to let everybody know the Barrowmaze II campaign is moving into the final stretch. If we hit 6k I will craft a new firld of Barrow Mounds and create a Random Barrow Mound Crypt Generator that will allow Maze Controllers :) to create their own on the fly. If we hit 7k the ToH-style illustration booklet will kick-in. I know from more than a few emails that people are interested in seeing this happen (as am I). I have some thoughts of my own to help get us there, but if you have a killer idea please share. Also, I thought it might be fun to run a couple google plus games in the next couple weeks for the folks that have pledged to the campaign. Let me know if you'd be interested and we can start the ball rolling.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

5e Playtest Materials

Ok, so at long last the 5e playtest materials are finally available. I've given all the materials a cursory read.

At a glance this looks like a min-maxer's paradise. Bonuses are too abundant for my taste.

Also, HPs are way out of whack for me. It would be very hard to die in this edition given the HP and the death rules.

I really hate that the monster stat blocks don't have Hit Dice. I don't want all my baddies having exactly the same hit points, that's just gamey.

The stat blocks are cumbersome, as they felt the need to include ability scores for things like oozes and centipedes. Really?

Backgrounds and themes look redundant to me.

There are also stat discrepancies between the character sheets and the equipment list (this might just be me, but I don't think so).

How WotC would expect you to play an Old School style with this game I have no idea. It would have to be so heavily houseruled that you might as well play something else.

It still has feats, healing surges by another name, etc. that simply do not interest me one bit.

I'd play this as a one-off but it is too far removed from TSR D&D to be useful to me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

391 Glorious Days, Bitches!

Gamquistu - I could survive for 391 days in the Zombie Apocalypse! How long could you?

Gamquistu - Games, Quizzes and Stuff.

Peace in Our Time? Ok, Maybe Not...

Just wanted to post this for the peeps, in case you missed it. Good on Ethan Gilsdorf for asking the question. Gildorf's a good guy and met with one of my classes virtually last year. Anyway, I'm not quite sure what to take from this answer. Mearls could have slam dunked it, but didn't.

Gilsdorf: When I contacted you last fall, you and your colleagues at Wizards spoke about how the major goal for this rules revamp was big picture, brand and relevance stuff — how to unite all the warring tribes; end the editions wars; get older, lapsed players to play again; and get younger generations excited about D&D. The changes you’re talking about here seem a little smaller-scale. Can you point to some bigger-picture ways you are addressing these issues?

Mearls: The really big questions are, in some ways, still up in the air. Right now, we’re sort of heads down, focusing on small details for the playtest. We have some fairly big ideas we’re working on in terms of RPGs as a whole, but that stuff is still fairly far off on the horizon. Right now, we really are down in the weeds in terms of details, and you’re right that the stuff we’re talking about right now is fairly small in terms of the big picture. However, that big picture still isn’t in focus. I think a mistake we made in the past was to try to make these big, grandiose statements, but in doing that we lost track of the core elements of what people enjoy about RPGs. We also ended up touting things that we couldn’t actually execute on, and no one wants that to happen again.With all that said, we’re definitely thinking big picture. That work is taking place, but it’s not ready for prime time.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Barrowmaze Character Sheet

Zhu Bajie is crafting a swanky Barrowmaze Character Sheet for inclusion in the Barrowmaze II Indiegogo campaign. He has sent me some of his preliminary work-in-progress pics and they look great. When he is done this will be something to behold and a joy to play with at the table.

Both were rotated and saved vertically (but once uploaded changed to horizontal for some reason).

Anyway, here are a couple WIP images. If you haven't contributed to the BM campaign there's still time.

Gillespie on Mearls on Hit Points

Woke up to a strange column by Mearls this morning.

He is talking about hit points and healing. Actually I take that back, he isn't talking about hit points but rather curing magic and the desire to move away from reliance on a cleric (which by default will make the cleric obsolete).

I have never met Mearls, but boy he has strange ideas about D&D and the need to overcomplicate the basic tenets of the game.

He is suggesting using a character's hit dice as mundane healing dice. Basically a healing surge by another name. Which also has a byproduct of killing a bunch of interesting role-play opportunities, as we'll see.

The need for this is.......? I dunno, to placate 4e people?

Here are some friendly suggestions that accomplish the same thing without relying on gamey surges.

I'll start this list off and you can add to it in the comments.

The Barrowmaze Brigands - consisting of Lothar of the Hill People (Fighter), Galaxina the Magic-User, and Gutboy Barrelhouse the Dwarven Fighter - set off to make a quick gold piece in the crypts. WHAT A CALAMITY, they don't have a cleric.

Instead they decide to address their shortcomings within the game-world by:

1) Going to the Temple of Zuul and hiring the newly-minted Acolyte Vinz Clortho.
2) Visiting the gnarly local village crone to see if she has any healing salves or bandages.
3) Proceeding into Barrowmaze without a cleric but deciding on a course of action that is extremely cautious.
4) Hiring an elite cadre *snicker* of men-at-arms to walk point.

Ok. Now it's your turn. I like humour but let's take a moment to be constructive :) What else could the Barrowmaze Brigands do instead of relying on cheap/easy/dirty HD as healing surges?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gencon Event Registration

I managed to get signed up today for the events I wanted at Gencon. I only signed-up for two: the 5e playtest and a DCCRPG adventure.

When I first attended Gencon in 2008, I didn't sign-up for any events. I just took myself on an extended tour of the whole thing and observed.

The next time I went in 2010, I went with a good friend and our wives. We gamed during the day and then met up with them at night. It was good put we played too many games. I also DMed a game (TPK lol).

So this time round I'm going to play in two, run a session of Barrowmaze, and tool around the dealer hall. Initially I was going to stay for the whole thing, but with the wife going I think it makes more sense to leave on the Saturday morning and have a more leisurely drive home. It takes about 9 1/2 hours from Southern Ontario. I will also be at OSRcon the weekend before and will likely be out of steam by Saturday anyway.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thoughts on the Craft of Writing

I've been reading a few OSR blogs and their discussions of writing. All of these are helpful in one way or another but the advice should be considered just that - advice. The same goes with my thoughts below. Take it all with a grain of salt. This isn't a manifesto, rather it is just a personal reflection with the intent of helping people who are interested. Active voice/passive voice is my bag - so I'll spend most of my time focusing on that subject.

I've taught first year students at university for 10 years now. Teaching undergrads means teaching them to write from the ground up. You have to get them to look in the mirror and acknowledge their bad habits. Of course, nobody likes to look in the mirror but that's part of the process of learning the craft. At one point in time, all good writers were taken aside (and repeatedly taken to task) for their writing - it's just how good writers are made. I also believe that writing is a life-long learning skill and best taught in a mentorship-style. Reading "how to write" from a book is only valuable to a point. Also, good writers possess range - they understand writing conventions across fields and can thus tweak their language and structure to suit the needs of the medium. My learners get these messages in regular doses.

In my classes, I focus on formal structured writing - so formal argumentative essays are the order of the day. This means I need to teach the concept of authorial voice. Formal writing, in my view, requires an active voice sentence structure. What is active voice? We use active voice to sound more authoritative and confident by ensuring each sentence has a subject at the beginning, an action word or verb, and a thing (or object acted upon). This style is also referred to as SVO (or subject, verb, object) and is the basic sentence structure of the English language.

This style stands in contrast to passive voice which normally positions the subject at the end of the sentence.

Active Voice: The troll built the bridge.
Passive Voice: The bridge was built by the troll (or sometimes) The bridge was built.

The above are basic examples that serve to illustrate the point. The active voice sentence contains only five words and reads in a more authoritative fashion because we located the subject at the beginning. The passive voice sentence contains seven words and is less authoritate because the reader doesn't learn about the subject until the end of the sentence. Even worse, the third example has no subject at all.

Let me guess - some of you just said "Big-friken deal. You cut two words!"

My response: You cut two words from that sentence, made it more concise, and made it more authoritative. Now extrapolate that example over an eight sentence paragraph. How many words did you just cut and say exactly the same thing? Now extrapolate that paragraph over one page, two pages, five pages, and then over an entire manuscript. How many needless words did you cut from your writing? Exactly. In this new, strong, active form your writing will leap off the page, rather than sitting as dead letter.

So now that we understand the purpose of active voice we need a toolset to find passive voice in your writing. This is the simple part. Passive voice results from the overuse of the most overused verb in the English language - the verb "to be". So we need to conjugate the verb. When we do that - in various tenses - we get the following words "was, am, be, is, were, are, been, being".

So go examine a piece of your writing for these words. Use of these results in a passive voice construction. Experience has taught me that you have either left out the subject, or you have the subject at the end of your sentence. There are other possible reasons, but those, in my experience, are the two most common errors.

In a game-publishing context writing in active voice isn't critical. Would I recommend it? Sure. It is helpful, but the medium doesn't really require a formal voice. In contrast, my academic book "Hunting for Empire" required it - you would be lucky to find 5 passive voice constructions in over 60,000 words.

If I were to offer constructive help, I'd suggest the following: avoid double-negatives that give people ice-cream headaches, avoid starting sentences with conjunctions, avoid using "it" instead of a proper noun, avoid contractions, and avoid run-on sentences (one thought = one sentence).

Everybody you ask will have a slightly different opinion - and that's ok. If you are writing for fun, you need to decide what works for you. For my part, writing is an art not a science. There are habits that result in good writing and habits that are less good - but no objective measure exists. It takes practice and, in my opinion, a good mentor (Thank you, Nancy B).

Let me know if this post was valuable or not in the comments or if you have any questions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

D&D Five Chat Transcript

Have any of you read the chat transcript from today? If WotC was ever interested in reclaiming gamers of previous editions, it sure doesn't sound like it now. Anyway, our group plans on kicking the tires on the playtest regardless. The primary upside? I won't have to DM! WooHoo!

Indiegogo: Barrowmaze II Hits 5k!

A quick update to say that the Barrowmaze II Campaign on Indiegogo just hit 5k! As a stretch goal to 6,000 I'll add a new field of Barrow Mounds and a deluxe Random Barrow Mound Crypt Generator that will have application to BMII and beyond. Be sure to come chek out the campaign for further details!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Game of Thrones (Spoiler Free)

Is it just me or have you found that this season's Game of Thrones seems to jump around too much?

By the end of the episode you don't really feel like any single plot line has moved forward, rather it just has a plodding pace with excruciatingly brief moments of excitement.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Barrowmaze II Indiegogo Update

The Indiegogo campaign for BMII is moving along well. We are just shy of 5k with that goal adding a new "level" of crypts. The most recent excitement was James M. Selecting a perk that includes the creation of a new custom monster! That will be super fun and I look forward to working with him. I've got another goal for 6k too. If you haven't pledged yet please come and take a look. BTW I hope to have some of Jim Holloway's art rolling in shortly. So stay tuned! Ps. It's Mother's Day so make sure you are covered :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Barrowmaze at Gencon

Looks like my Barrowmaze game at gencon is all set for the Friday 1pm slot. It will be a 3 hour game using pregenerated characters. If you'd like to play be sure to signup.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Our Podcast is Up (sorta)

I've done my best with my less-than-stellar tech skills to embed last night's podcast on the blog. It works in safari but explorer doesn't seem to like it. Let me know if it's working for you in the comments.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Barrowmaze II on Indiegogo Hits 4k!

Just a quick note to say that the campaign for Barrowmaze II on Indiegogo has hit the 4k mark! It's very exciting and I'm really pleased at how well things are going. If you haven't pledged please consider joining the camapign. I will be posting an update about some goodies in the next 24 hours.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers and Recent Editions of D&D

I saw The Avengers last night. I'm not going to provide any spoilers, but I did want to say how much I enjoyed the balance between seriousness and comedy in the movie. I like the movie didn't take itself too seriously. I find self-deprecating humour very funny. When I flip through the books of more recent editions of D&D, I miss the humour. That's probably why I like images of adventurers getting their asses handed to them or depictions of characters in situations beyond their control.

Barrowmaze Podcast

Tomorrow, instead of our normal gaming session, we've decided to create podcast. We have a rough outline, but I'd like to have a segment where we answer questions about the dungeon, or our game, or sandboxing, or old school play. It's completely up to you! You can leave your thoughts in the comments or send to kilted dot yaksman at yahoo dot ca

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MEATSHIELDS! Now with War Dogs!

Cr0m and I have been slowly pecking away at some revisions to Meatshields! The Classic Fantasy Hireling and Henchman Generator.

The first was moving it to the site. The second was the inclusion of war dogs.

If you don't use war dogs you can just ignore the result, and if you do them it can be a nice way to vary the hirelings/henchmen in your campaign. They are uncommon, so don't expect them to appear on the first roll - unless the gods of the percentages deem it so.