Friday, January 29, 2010

Fantasy Friday

What can I say about Jeff Jones. His fantasy art speaks for itself.

Starting with his black and white illustrations for the likes of Creepy and other black and white horror comics, he later moved on to the paperback book cover market, even rivaling Frazetta's savage fantasy.

In the mid-seventies he founded the Studio along with Berni Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith and Michael Kaluta.

And just 'cuz....

Check out more of Jeff Jones' Sci Fi and Fantasy art visit his website

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reflections on Session VI

Though we have finished the 6th session of our campaign, I felt that I was a little off of my DMing game. The pacing of the game, to me anyway, seemed more erratic than usual and though I try to stay loose and improvise as much possible, I also feel that that aspect was off as well. On paper (the recap) it sounds fine, and maybe it actually was, but, in practice, it seemed to me to be a bit rough. As we all know, the game experience is much different for each player as well as for the DM.

Now, am I just being over critical as a DM? Was I seeing boredom in some of the players eyes or was that just paranoia? I felt that I didn't engage all the players as much as I think I may have in past sessions. Room for improvement there? Yes, no doubt.

Upon reflection, a big part of my impressions at the table was that I felt that I, as DM, was moving the story along more so than letting my players command the game. I think that came down to having more of an agenda than in the previous sessions. Dare I say I railroaded the session a bit? I always have some idea of what might happen within a session, but I have tended to let things flow where they may.

Also, once the characters step out of the dungeon and into the city or wilderness the game tends to spread out a bit. PCs head their separate ways to accomplish their own tasks and goals. Sometimes it's a challenge to handle that aspect of the campaign. I think, when I was younger, that was my biggest fear of DMing, loosing control of the game. When you think about it, DMing is all about a controlled chaos, an improvisation at the table where nobody knows what the next turn of the page will hold for the characters.

Now there wasn't as much action or battles in that session, and there were a lot more hooks and pieces of story. Perhaps I overdone that a bit. In my zeal to give a broad-stroke of a larger campaign picture, perhaps I bogged the game down a bit.

Whether this is all true or just in my head, I can at least take what I felt were slow points or errors at the table, examine them and try to improve my skills as a game master to avoid those 'mistakes' in the future.

As I've always said, everyone at the table should be having fun and getting what they want and need out the the gaming experience and that goes for the DM as well. But players and DM should be open to improvements if something misses the mark.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Session VI: The Road To Brakken and the Tomb of the Iron God

SPOILER NOTE: This portion of the campaign deals with the adventure module The Tomb of the Iron God and will contain spoilers. If you are planning on being a player of this module, avoid reading at all costs. Your DM will know if you are cheating and will not hesitate to deal out the most harsh and painful circumstances for your characters. Ahead lies doom. You have been warned. My players and all others, please read on.

Our party headed back to the city of Caladan with the body of Arvin Ardmore, acolyte of Mithra, along with their prisoners Sgt. Morak, a city watch-guard and a pirate. Escorting the mourning Lady Lemunda, they also carried back the body of Capt. Conik . Upon entering the city they were escorted to the Merchant Guild quarter and Lord Osric.

As the news traveled through the Merchant Guild, a servant was found murdered and one of the guild members, Uthari, could not be found. Osric believed that Uthari may have been behind the overall kidnapping plot and is believed to be allied with Kushanna, the Stygian Witch of the Southern Empire who's ambitions are to gain influence in Caladan.

Father Halford of Mithra is called to tend to the body of the fallen cleric. He is accompanied by a good friend of Arvin's, Gnarly Blunderbrush. They will bury Arvin Ardmore within the Crypt of St. Vergan beneath the temple of Mithra.

Morak and the conspirators were imprisoned in the dungeon. A grateful Lord Osric rewarded our heroes and asked if they would accompany him and Lemunda to the town of Brakken to lay to rest the body of Captain Conik within the Tomb of the Iron God.

The party returned to the Cloven Hoof Tavern and spent the next two days recovering. Joined by Gnarly, they all toast Arvin's bravery. Gedleesmote is approached by a number of rough looking characters who were seeking repayment of the Dwarf's gambling debt. The confrontation is taken outside where the largest thug, Moar who is sporting a tattoo of a black hand on his shoulder, and Gedleesmote prepare to duke it out. Slick Vinny, down from studying his magic books, enchanted the gang leader who then proceeded to buy the party a round of drinks. Needless to say, after the evening of drinking, both parties broke into a brawl after Tibag tried to pick the pocket of one of the thugs.

The next morning the party sets out with Lord Osric, Lemunda, and Tero and escorts Capt. Conik's body south along the Great Coast Road towards the city of Brakken. Along the way they meet a couple of travelers, Barnabas and his mother Anna. They are bearing the body of Artemas, Barnabas' uncle who fell in battle while exploring the Endless Tunnels of Enlandan near the town of Nibblet, to the Tomb of the Iron God as well.

They all decided to travel together and, at dusk, arrived before the gates of Brakken. There they learned that the Tomb of the Iron God, which has stood for thousands of years, is no more. It was destroyed by a violent storm, with some thinking it was the wrath of the Iron God himself.

After checking into the Chalice and Bucket, Geedlessmote and Tibag head over to the Shrine of the Iron God and find that it has been abandoned. They opened the sacred doors that lead through a tunnel and to the steps that switchback up the mountainside towards the temple itself.

Meanwhile, Slick Vinny, Gnarly and Wolfheir sought out the old Gypsy woman hoping to buy some magic items. They didn't find any items for sale but the Gypsy read Slick Vinny's fortune. She reveals that he will speak directly to the Iron God himself and she gave them a warning about a fountain that can protect oneself if they are pure and good and to not harm the Guardian in the Darkness.

They all met back at the Inn and discussed their findings. They were interrupted by Father Harris, a follower of St. Mellon. He says that some of the priests may have been corrupt and that the temple was obliterated, but the priest's chambers, where they embalmed the bodies, and the catacombs themselves were below ground and possibly intact.

The party decided to head up to the Tomb the next morning. Father Harris asked to accompany them as well.

They wound their way up the ancient steps to the top of the steep hillside and into the Iron Hills. By midday they approached the ruins of the Temple of the Iron God. There was nothing left but blasted stone and ruin. The party discovered a shuffle of tiny booted footprints leading down to an opening below the ruins. Descending the stairs they enter the Tomb of the Iron God.

SPOILER ALERT: You have been warned

Upon entering the large dim hall, they observed an object in the center of the room that rose up off the floor and warned the party that they enter their doom. Ignoring the warning, like a good party of adventurers would, they crossed the chamber and stood before the statue of the Iron God who was depicted holding an axe and a large bowl. Placing various objects into the large bowl in the hopes of triggering something, it is the dwarf Geedleesmote that placed himself into the bowl. The bottom of the bowl opened and dropped the startled dwarf below. Calling down to him, the party discovered that he was alright and proceeded to follow him down.

In the chamber below, they find what appears to be an embalming room. After going through a couple of storerooms they came across a library where they found a book which talks about animating the dead. The party began to figure out that the Priests of the Iron God were selling the offerings of the dead for silver and gold as well as other dark happenings.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Avatar, Superman and Mars

It looks like I've got a busy couple of weeks ahead of me so posting might be a bit light. I've got a session this evening and I'm preparing for my first public DMing session at the Tucson RPG guild (more on that a bit later). I'm finishing up some illustrations for a classic fantasy adventure module and real life is getting busy with work and a leaky roof at home as well so I've got a lot on my plate right now.

There's an interesting post over at The Secret Sun about the synchromysticism of Avatar, Superman and Burroughs' Mars and Venus stories. Check it out.

Speaking of which, that planet Mars is at it's closest point to earth this week in our two year long infinite dance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fantasy Friday

With the shambles that Hollywood is making of Howard's brooding barbarian I thought I'd go this route today for our Fantasy Friday feature.

What is pulp fantasy?

Hollywood doesn't seem to have a clue.

The images are cover paintings by Jeff Jones whom I'll be talking about a bit more next week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Role Up, Unplug, and Step Out

"The analogy I make is that pen-and-paper role-playing is live theater and computer games are television"
-Gary Gygax in a 2006 interview

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To Mini Or Not To Mini

A question indeed!

A couple of recent posts at Chgowiz Old Guy's RPG Blog have got me really thinking about using minis in my game. I haven't yet used minis in our sessions and in fact, I rarely used minis back in the day once I figured out how to play the game correctly. In a practical sense, they always seemed to get in the way of playing, I felt that they became a focal point and distracted one away from the imagination of the game. But, on the other hand, they do look good on the table! But is this a rabbit hole that I really want to go down?

Miniatures in the RPGs that we played disappeared quickly. Some of the players who moved on to wargames continued with miniatures but only in their wargames games, be it fantasy or historical and not the RPGs. It sort of came down to really not needing them to play. Dealing with minis always put a pause in the game action while they needed to be manipulated and placed. This was all before battle mats so even using miniatures, the game was still abstract enough, but a distraction nonetheless. In many instances the original rules mentioned that miniatures were just an optional game aid but for some reason, they have always stuck around.
From Men & Magic (pages 3 & 5)
It is relatively simple to set up a fantasy campaign, and better still, it will cost almost nothing. In fact you will not even need miniature figures, although their occasional employment is recommended for real spectacle when battles are fought.

The use of paper, pencil and map boards are standard. Miniature figures can be added if the players have them available and so desire, but miniatures are not required, only esthetically pleasing; similarly, unit counters can be employed ― with or without figures ― although by themselves the bits of cardboard lack the eye-appeal of the varied and brightly painted miniature figures.
In our current game sessions, we've had some pretty small combats that we were able to just talk through without much of a problem. Our final combat in session 5 was a bit different. It took place in a very large cavern, and PCs and NPCs were scattered all over the place. Once combat began, I think it was a bit hard keeping everything in everybody's heads; what characters were heading in what direction, how far everyone was from what target, speed and distance, etc. I had sketched a map of where everyone was at first, but it was still pretty abstract. Don't get me wrong, the battle moved along nicely and there wasn't much complaint or anything. I think that this would have been an instance where miniatures would have enhanced that portion of the game.

Now if I go that route, I don't want the game to devolve into battle-mats and constant manipulation of the figures. I guess I'm seeing it as just a gaming aid to be used only when needed. But if that's the case, is it worth the effort? The money? The time to paint them? I mean, I do love minis. I love the way they look when they are painted. I love them standing there on the table ready for action but how will this affect the gameplay which I feel has been going pretty well?

I'm still going to mull this over in my head. I've already picked out a handful to purchase and paint but I haven't yet made up my mind. Though I might add that my wife is a bit wary of me going down that path even though she would enjoy painting them as well. Who knows, it may even get her into a game or two?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Session V: Beneath the Tower of Zenopus

The Fall of Arvin Ardmore, acolyte of Mithra

It has been well over a month since out last gaming session. There has been much going on with everyone's personal lives and holidays and all, that it was really impossible to squeeze any gaming in. So when the time came for us to regroup once again, everyone was quite ready for some dice throwing role-playing adventure. Oh, and we had our first character death this session which you can read about here and here.

When we last left our party, they had just finished off an attacked by a trio of crypt crawlers. They explored the large chamber with a channel of deep running water cutting through it. Sending a lit arrow across the water they discovered that the channel was over 50 feet wide and that there was a landing on the other side. After discussing that this channel may be used by the pirates and trying to figure out a way to get across but not coming up with anything, they decided to leave the chamber from the way they had come and continue down the hall.

At the end of the hall the party found steps leading down to a door. Throwing caution to the wind, they entered the room. Inside was a stone throne ornately carved from the floor and walls itself. Opposite the throne was a gong floating between two stone pillars.

Tero, of the town watch (skillfully played by Max, whose regular PC, Slick Vinny the Medium was back at the Cloven Hoof Tavern studying his treasures and spells), wanted to press on and discover what Sgt. Morak was up to and possibly find a clue to Capt. Conik's whereabouts. The others explored the throne and gong. They all felt that the gong and the chair were connected and speculated on what would happen if one was to sit in the chair while the gong was hit. Death, teleportation, or increased skills were all discussed.

Tero was getting anxious to get moving once again but as Gedleessmote the dwarf sat in the chair, Skwanky the halfling, in a fit of mischief tapped the gong, and in a rippling of reality, the Dwarf was gone! Much yelling at the halfling ensued and it was decided that one by one they would each sit in the throne and be dealt the same fate as the dwarf, but Tero wanted nothing to do with this and instead wanted to press on. As the debate when on, one by one each character sat on the throne and disappeared until Tero was the only one left.

Tero pressed on by himself and opened the opposite door to find the hint of damp salty air coming from the natural stone southern passage. He followed to the opening and heard voices coming from the large cave. Fearing that he would face alone what was beyond, he quickly made it back to the throne and tossing a dagger at the gong, felt an odd sensation as the world around him warped and twisted and he was pulled beyond.....

Gedleessmote the dwarf found himself in a pitch-black room. Lighting a torch, he found that he was standing in the middle of a 15 foot circle scrawled on the floor in chalk. As he explored the room, one by one his companions appeared with Skwanky wanting to 'ride the throne' again.

Heading through one of the openings they found an open chamber. As four skeletons charged at them from the darkness, Tero materialized in the center of the magic circle just as a zombie burst through the opposite door.

Arvin held the skeletons at bay with his symbol of Mithra while Tero battled with the Zombie. The skeletons were beaten back and the zombie was finished off with the help of Gedleessmote and Skwanky (who accidentally pegged an annoyed Tero with a slung stone).

Exploring the hallway from where the zombie cam from they entered a chamber where they had been once before. The chamber with the 3 stone statues and where they had fought the buccaneer captain and chased the wizard down a secret passage. They knew where they were once again!

Pressed by Tero, they quickly retraced their steps and made their way back through the gong room (having to drag Skwanky through) to the opening into the large chamber. Peering around the the corner they saw an expansive natural sandy cave with a shoreline and an underground lake. Pulled up on the shore were three rowboats. One had two pirates sitting in it, outside another there was little Jack tied up. There were two pirates digging a hole in the sand. Across the chamber was Sgt. Morak and two of the town watch talking with a half-naked man hanging by chains from a large outcropping of rock. The man was none other than Capt. Conik!

It was decided that Tero would pretend to have captured the Halfling snooping around and was bringing him down to Morak while the others would slip around behind the rocks and try to ambush the pirates by surprise. When Tero stepped out with the halfling and announced himself, the pirates and guards were taken by surprise. The watchguards stepped forward towards Tero as Morak ordered the guards to kill the two witnesses.

Just then, from hiding, Tibag and Gedleessmote let fly their arrows surprising the two guards. Two of the pirates let fly their crossbow bolts hitting Tero and the halfling in the backs as they tried to run back to the cave opening. The dwarf and half-elf fired their arrows, killing the two pirates digging in the sand and pinning down the two guards. Morak raised his sword and killed the helpless Watch Captain and makes for one of the boats. Meanwhile, Arvin, lighting a flask of oil, with Wolfheir run around the rocks to try and outflank Morak and the guards. Arvin lets fly his flask, missing the first boat but igniting the second, setting ablaze one of the pirates who splashes into the water dead. Tero rushes back to the last pirate to make him surrender. Tibag fires arrows at Morak while Wolfheir and Arvin engage in melee, with Wolfheir taking on the two guards and Arvin fighting the treacherous Sergent. It is a savage battle and the viking was close to death before defeating one of his foes. Gedleesmote rushes to aid his companions.

The pirate, surrendering, helps a woman out of the burning boat. Lord Osric's daughter Lemunda! Skwanky and Tero helps the woman ashore. Morak and Arvin battle. Arvin is knocked back into the water and, Sgt. Morak, towering above him, delivers a fatal blow, killing the cleric. Tero yells to his fellow watch member to surrender, his cause lost. The watchman, seeing that he is becoming outnumbered, lashes out in anger at Morak who tumbles into the water. Wolfheir dives in after Morak and lifts him up in a full nelson that the Sergent tries in vain to break out of.

With Morak and his watch-guard companion and pirate captured, Lemunda in tears over the death of her beloved Conik, Wolfheir mourns the death of their brave companion, Arvin Ardmore, Acolyte of Mithra. Gedleesmote and Tibag lift two treasure chests out of the hole that the two pirates dug and discover the pirates booty.

Tibag exclaims that with Arvin dead, there's more treasure to go around!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fantasy Friday

I love calendars and for the past number of years I've been picking up calendars of pulp fiction covers, for obvious reason. So this month's cover is from Planet Stories, a pulp magazine that was published for about 20 years starting in 1939.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going Down Swinging

We had our first character death at Monday's Swords & Wizardry session. Arvin Ardmore, adept of Mithra went down swinging against the treacherous Sgt. Morak of the Caladan watch. Now, we've had some very very close calls in the previous sessions but all the characters pulled through, albeit quite bloodied and worse for ware. But now we've hit that infamous milestone. There was, indeed, a hush around the table.

There is nothing that really puts an emphasis on character mortality than the knowledge that death can be lurking around that next corner or through that next door. That, after all, is what makes the game exciting. With great rewards come great risk. And how much sweeter the reward than to escape the clutches of death by mere inches! The chance of character death is a grand necessity in most any RPG, otherwise there is no real tension, no real accomplishment and no real reward.

The player, Corey (Level 1 Gamer), took it in stride but there was definitely a pause at the table while it sunk in. I think everyone realized that each character is fragile (at least at 1st level) and the dice (fate) are a fickle thing but this event really puts an exclamation point on it. In fact, I was talking with one of my players last night and he said that he thought it couldn't happen. I like that. This is definitely no video game with a click to 'respawn' button.

We're all sorry to see Arvin go but at least he went down swinging. Well, get those d6 warmed up, time to roll up another character!

Full session recap coming shortly...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Diversity of RPGs

Over at The Word from the Outpost, a blog from Imperial Outpost Games in Phoenix AZ, they have an interesting post on their RPG sales breakdown. They have charted and broken down the genres and RPG game lines with some interesting results.

Let's take a quick gander at which genres are selling the most.

Now, this isn't much of a surprise. Fantasy RPG's are the market staple. (thank you Mr Tolkien, Mr, Howard, and Mr Lieber). In the store we have D&D and Pathfinder taking up much of the burden of fantasy RPG sales, but there are a few others contributing to that. Earthdawn, Exalted, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and a couple of the Indie games also added into that. SciFi games came in second with sales of Traveller, Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader and a few other minor ones.

Now for the chart that probably will be a big surprise. I know that it was for me.

Yep... not only was D&D NOT number one, it wasn't number two or three either. It came in at number 4 and from the looks of the chart, it sure wasn't too much higher than the number five, Savage Worlds.... (read more)
It would be interesting to see how this trend is across other gaming communities, but I have a feeling it would not be too much different.

Back in the day (and by that I mean the late 70's) RPGs were few and far between. Of course there was D&D, Tunnels and Trolls, Gamma World, Traveller, Boot Hill and a few others. It was generally a broad-stroke of medieval type fantasy, Sci-Fi or Outter Space. Of course there were a few others out there that people would play or buy but just a handful were the staple of most gamers repertoire. For the most part, D&D was king of the castle. The gaming community grew up around this powerful core, the roots of this great tree. As time passed, the roots grew deep and the branches tall. The one thing about these games, though, was that they could be altered or tweaked to fine-tune them into something more specific to the players tastes. But under the hood, they were all, generally, from the same game.

As RPGs evolved over the years (for better or for worse), there is now practically a RPG rule-set for just about any sub-sub genre of horror, sci-fi, fantasy or 'other' that exists or doesn't exist. This diversity, although good in and of itself, creates a splintering of players and groups. Cross-pollination of ideas or interests is less apparent as groups and genres become more isolated from each other. Though the world-wide gaming community is perhaps larger than ever, it also makes it smaller with everybody in their own little niche.

What does this all mean? Who knows? Perhaps it means that RPGs will just go rolling on for many a year but I doubt if we'll ever see that big wave of a unified interest where one game 'rules' them all.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Campaign Review

So after a long break it looks like we're all ready to get back into some dice rolling. It's been over a month since we've gotten together. With all the time that has passed I have to refresh my memory and go over my campaign notes before we get back to the table. So here's the links for all the campaign journals to help us all get back up to speed.

Campaign Journal on Obsidian Portal

I'll be getting back to posting more game related material after we start playing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Evolution of the Old School Revival

There was an interesting post over at the Swords & Wizardry Forums talking about the past, current and future trends of the OSR. I've actually been thinking about this for a while. I think it's a good discussion to have. I mean, we (by we I mean the community as a whole) can't be putting out revisions of the same game over and over again.

The way I see it is that the past few years have been a process of defining what we all enjoyed about the 'classic' style of gaming that has been missing or has been 'forgotten knowledge' for decades now. Things like sandbox, megadungeons and free-form play have sort of fallen into the forgotten corners of gaming. That's not to say that it wasn't out there, it just was forgotten.

So during these past couple of years we got the 'OSR' and all the retro-clones and all the products and blogs and things out there that support these rediscoveries so to speak. It seems to me that we've recreated the atmosphere of the origins of the game, the excitement and explosion of creativity of those times. The trend that I feel it can move into now is evolution. Evolution to what the game (in our vision (and by our I mean the community as a whole)) should/could have evolved into. Moving it into different realms without falling into the traps of complicated and over structured rules yet expanding the original intentions, the freedom and pulp aspects, of the game. I think we are starting to see that with the new 'supplements' that have come out, Carcosa and Majestic Wilderlands as well as Planet Algol and Savage Swords of Athanor and many others. Enhancing the (other) worlds in which the game is played without complicating the (rules of) the game as a whole and keeping the rediscovered elements. I think that's the underlying trend.

There's really no 'bottom-line' or 'investors' that will define the direction. It will be defined by an 'open-source' community whose love and care for the game will direct it's evolution.

We all know where one path leads but I think now is an opportunity to forge a new path. One that could have been taken 30 years ago.

Fantasy Friday

Today's Fantasy Friday brings us one of animation's fantasy masters, Ralph Bakshi with his film Wizards. Pure Gamma World, D&D, Mutant Future mash-up which no one has topped since. Classic cell animation, beautiful organic background paintings and trippy effects enhance the other-worldly atmosphere that modern CGI animation has yet to even tap.

Bakshi called this his "family film" and yes, there are elves and faeries and funny looking wizards but there is also mutant goons and Hitler and dark animated demons. It's got some pretty dark and heavy themes but Bakshi believed that kids can handle that. He felt that you didn't have to 'dumb' things down for kids (something that I tend to agree with).

I watched this again over the holidays and it's still inspiring. You don't see this type of animated feature anymore which I miss greatly.

This film would lead Bakshi down the road to his next feature "The Lord of the Rings" a year later.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can D&D Ever Be Played Wrong? - Answered!

Role playing games have become so common place these days that it may be hard to imagine or even remember that there was a time before funny looking dice and charts and rules defined any type of fantasy world. But it was just that way once long ago and when the abstract concepts of Dungeons & Dragons trickled into our consciousness it was something a bit bewildering.....especially to a ten year old boy!

As I've mentioned before, Holmes' Blue Book was my gateway drug, so to speak. Now the only games that I or for that matter my family ever played up to that point were your typical boardgames; a six-sided die or two, a playing board, some game pieces and maybe some cards or fake money. So when I opened the rule book for the first time, that is where I was coming from. I didn't have a big brother that had played the game before, the hobby shop had only just begun carrying the basic game for a couple of months testing the waters (I don't think they even knew what it was but that soon drastically changed), no internet to guide the way, and my parents couldn't believe there was a "game" with a 48 page rule book. I had Holmes' rules and that's it.

It might be argued that the Holmes rule book may have been a bit unclear and contradictory at times, and that is a valid argument, but I have to admit, being only ten years of age, I did pretty good with the rules. I understood rolling up characters and even combat was fairly easy to figure out. Even the descriptive exploration of the dungeons I was able to understand. But what threw me was the concept of Turns and Miniatures.

Games had pieces, right? Miniatures are pieces, correct? Therefore you need minis to play. So my brother and I went out and picked up some minis; some skeletons, a couple of fighters and a five headed hydra (also at our local hobby shop). Those were our game pieces for our game and that's what we played with. My brother's 1st level fighter would always run into the same skeletons and, if he survived that, a five headed hydra! Needless to say, his characters died all the time. It may sound like it wouldn't have been that much fun but it actually was. Oh, did I mention that we also played it on a chess-board? Each square was 10 feet!

So, with characters dying so very often, I read the rules attached to the B1 module "In Search of the Unknown" concerning Henchmen and Hirelings. Ahhh, no more failed battles with that dreaded Hydra! Time to hire an army of men to be paid upon any recovery of treasure, after the fact of course. That eventually began the cycle of Henchmen death. So it was off to the hobby store to buy some more minis and the next thing you know, we had an army of grunts battling skeletons and hydras. Now it was getting interesting!

Now to branch out with some more players.

The only concept of turns I had were with other board games. No one worked together, you competed to win the game and took turns doing so. So when we got the other neighborhood kids together to play this crazy game, game turns played a huge part.

Each player would roll up a character.
Okay, not bad.

That character would hire a virtual army of henchmen.
Hmmm, getting a bit strange now.

And each player would take his character and army of henchmen and explore the dungeon for his turn of 10 minutes. Then, he would stop playing and the next player would take his character and army of henchmen and explore the dungeon for his turn of 10 minutes! This would go on and on for hours. Of course we needed minis for all of this. So we all went out and bought tons of these little lead minis. And if there was a monster in the dungeon that we didn't have a mini for it would be replaced by one that we did have. All of this would eventually lead to one player killing some monsters and finding an over abundance of treasure (don't even get me started on trying to figure out the treasure charts!). This inevitably would bring the players and armies together for one complete classic pulp blow-out battle with the surviving player and henchmen gaining all the loot. Of course, the player would then proceed to kill all his henchmen to take the loot for himself.

It was absurd, yes, but crazy fun for a bunch of little kids.

It wasn't until later that summer that some of us joined a introductory game at the hobby shop (by this point they went from a typical hobby shop with models, etc. to a full fledged gaming store circa 1978) where we experienced the correctly played game for the first time. Oh boy, did things click! All the little odds and ends suddenly fell into place. We were all even more excited than we were before.

So, can D&D ever be played wrong? Looking back on it now, I don't think so. We just took what we understood and made up our own game. In other words, we "imagined the hell out of it". And that is part of the spirit of the game!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

Yes, that's us apparently.

This is not a review but just a shout-out to those of you who may enjoy this topic. Author Ethan Gilsdorf has written a book about gaming and fantasy culture called "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks". I ran into it at the book store a couple of weeks ago and decided to pick it up the other day. It's a pretty easy read and I've only just started but I'm enjoying his experience and take on this sub-culture.

Many people, myself included, have returned to gaming after many years of real-life adventures. It is interesting how the fantasy game that we grew up with has never really left our consciousness and many of us are revisiting this game once again. Gilsdorf explores that as well as the fantasy loving/living culture as a whole.

If you get a chance, check it out. It's not a bad read.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Whet The Appetite With Deathstalker!

It looks like our campaign is going to be starting up again. I'm looking forward to it as well as my players. It's been a long break and to get us back into the right mood, tonight we have a special gathering. It's a gamers night out at our local movie-house here in Tucson called The Loft. Tonight's Mondo Monday feature just so happens to be Deathstalker! What better way to get the group back into the campaign!

(edit: BEWARE THE DEATHSTALKER! I was expecting bad (it's a Roger Corman film after all) but this movie turned out to be pretty awful. Not much in even the kitch/fun factor. It's just horrible. Unless you're a fan of Barbie Benton, avoid like a rust monster)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fantasy Friday

First I want to wish everyone a healthy and happy new year. May your dice roll well in your favor!

I wrapped up the year with Edgar Rice Burroughs' first Mars book; "The Princess of Mars". For the first Fantasy Friday of the new year, I thought I'd dish up Gil Kane's 'John Carter Warlord of Mars' put out by Marvel Comics Group in the early 70's.

Gil Kane was known for his classy silver-age illustrations for DC comics which helped revived the the super-hero genre in the early 60's. It was when he moved to Marvel that his characters exploded with a dynamic power that rivaled even the great Jack Kirby. He became one of Marvel's preeminent cover artists of the early 70's defining the tone for the era. Beyond super-heroes, Kane was best know for his fantasy work which included Conan and John Carter for Marvel as well as one of the first graphic novels, Blackmark.

Some of Gil Kane's Conan Covers

Gil Kane left us on January 31, 2000 at age 73. Though he is gone, his lifetime of work will live on for years to come.