NaGaDeMon – 2014

On Wednesday, I wrote about my considering whether or not to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2014. I had mentioned thhat I had seen things online about similar ideas for designing games. Well, I ran across an article at The Savage Afterworld that discusses NaGaDeMon – National Game Design Month, also the month of November.

While I don’t have a game idea, I thought I’d mention it here, in case anyone else has the inspiration for a game idea and just needs a little push to get started.

I would recommend that anyone contemplating a Kickstarter for a game, use NaGaDeMon as an opportunity to either develop your idea, or to polish your game, so that you have something that you can be proud of and people who support such a Kickstarter will be glad they did so.

I will be signing up for NaNoWriMo 2014 and will be cranking out my first draft of a novel. Just writing about it on Wednesday caused some ideas to bubble up, so I have some things that have solidified in my idea of the story. Not specific dialog, but plot points, or turning points in my story that have to be hist along the way for it to work. I have also identified points that are critical for the success of the story. Some resolution of points that are required to bring it to a successful closure.

For me, a successful closure for a short story, novella, novel, or series of books is where the how and whys are answered sufficiently to leave the reader satisfied, yet still wanting more. How many of us have read a book and when we get to the end are left scratching our head trying to figure out what happened. Some books are this way intentionally, and a well crafted one, you can tell. But if you have ever read a story where the author just couldn’t wrap it up and make it make sense, you know what I mean.

In my story idea, I know how I want it to end, but there is a big hole of how to make it make sense with the rest of the story. This is one of those things that as I write, it will gel and it should not be a problem to make it work. However, if I can’t make the why does this need to happen in the story work, I will have to change how I envision the story ending. If I can pull off the ending I envision, it could lead to a second story/book. That is not my goal, but is an idea that has occurred to me.

I also have tons of other ideas coming to me about my hex in the Tenkar’s Landing Crowdsourced Sandbox Setting. I will have to add those ideas as either drafts or full-fledged ideas to my blog, since some are worthy of an article others may find useful.

I am glad that the ideas are flowing, but it would be nice if they would get in line so I could get them all down before they fade into the ether….


Old Age And Treachery

An old saying, “Old age and treachery beat youth and skill.” I didn’t spend enough time on Google to find who said that originally. I did see that there is evidently a Waylan Jennings song either by that name or with that line.

My boys and I have wrestled since they were little. It has been a long time since I could wrestle them both at once, but one at a time I can also still out wrestle them. Not bad for a fifty year old bald fat man who once broke his back. Although my youngest is built like a linebacker and probably equals my weight, he’d be a challenge. My oldest is a bean pole that I have at least 50 pounds on him, so I can move him and pick him up as needed.

I haven’t taught them all my moves, and they didn’t really wrestle and get into the fights like my brothers and I did. What’s the other saying, “I taught you everything you know, I didn’t teach you everything I know.”

Magic users and sages will guard their information jealously. Sages are more likely to part with their knowledge for mere coins, but more likely for more information to add to their knowledge. Wizards and illusionists will want to add to their spell books or acquire items that will help them. If mages need money, they will make that seem like they are making an exception to take a larger chunk of coin since the character(s) don’t have any magic they want or can use. Wizards and their apprentices would not be on equal terms until the apprentice nears parity with the master. If the player characters become wizards, will the former 7th level master also advance? In my campaign, I have the classed NPCs gain levels unless I have determined they have retired from adventuring, and their earning of experience is very slow.

Thieves, assassins, monks, druids, and some fighters might have techniques and skills that they reserve for use when they are moving up the hierarchy, assuming AD&D 1st edition rules. I don’t know the newer editions and if they had the same combat to advance rules.

Rangers and Paladins would tend to guide and train each other, but could hold back some skills for personal or personality reasons.

Good Clerics would only hold back mysteries that their fellows were not ready for. Evil or chaotic clerics might hold back information that threatens them being the most powerful cleric of X in the land, world, universe.

I don’t know specifics of how I would use this idea in my game, so far, not a table or some mechanic like that. I have vague ideas of personality quirks, like the guy at work who won’t share what he knows because he thinks he’ll lose his job if others know how to do it.

What ideas does this generate for you?

RPG Game Design

My thoughts lately are on RPGs and their design. It occured to me that there are certain aspects that need to be accounted for in such games.

Genre – This should be in some ways, perhaps most ways independent or not the major driver of the rest of the game mechanics. The mechanics should provide a clear and relatively simple way to convey the various “standards” of the genre that require game mechanics. The flavor or story for the genre should be independent of the mechanics. For example, one can use any fantasy rule set to play a dungeon delve.

Parameters – This is the guts of the game. How does one represent the reality of the world, the situations, the crowds, and the abilities of the characters?

Characters need to have ways to interact with the physical world, such things as strength, dexterity, constitution, charisma, and movement. Can you move something? Cone you do it gracefully? Can you take a hit? Can you influence others? Can you run away, or catch someone?

Then their is the internal world, of intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, etc. that influence what you know and how well you can express or use it in the game.

Will the game ever need combat? I can’t think of any RPG that I have played that didn’t have some sort of rules for combat. How detailed do they need to be? Does combat make time stand still and it take hours of real time to determine what happens in a few minutes?

Will the game strive to mimic certain aspects of reality and to what degree?

Will role playing be used as a cornerstone to get past the need for rules on every little thing? Can the game be played and enjoyed without a serious commitment to sticking to your character role playing?

Will an in-depth example/instructions be needed to explain how to play this game?

How will actions that are not a given be resolved? Coin toss, drawing from a deck of playing cards, standard six sided dice, or the usual trope of various types of dice?

Will characters advance in power, abilities, or levels? How is this to be determined?

Will the rules be simple enough that anyone can quickly grasp them, or do they need a serious understanding of the game world and have multiple books to make a session even feasible?

Most RPGs rely on the same structure, abilities, levels, combat tables, dice, etc.

I have read many various discussions of RPGs and rules of newer RPGs, some go the lightest of all possible rules, like Risus; while others seem to go for making a roll out of everything and take the need for any role playing or creativity out of it.

Fantasy games have magic and so forth. Science fiction has exploration, nuclear or other apocalypse, etc. Horror, like Cthulhu has everyone going crazy. There can be westerns, spies, superheroes, or any other literary or movie genre that you can think of.

The best rules are ones that your gaming group can get behinds and use to make the experience of a game session fun, enjoyable, and worth repeating. I started with Blue Book Holmes Basis D&D back in the spring of 1978. It got us started. When Advanced D&D came out, we understood that it was better than mere “basic”. I have learned over the last few years online, that there was a lot to Basic D&D that I missed out on, mostly ideas and so forth. It really isn’t that different than AD&D. There are a lot of rules in AD&D that I ignore, especially relating to combat. In general, if it doesn’t make sense, or unnecessarily complicates things, I avoid it, or come up with something simpler. If it is all about paper shuffling and consulting the rule books, it gets old fast.

As I say often, if it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ll Never Get Out Of Debt Now

I did it. I saw that Wayne’s Books is having a sale, so I found a Dieties and Demigods with Cthulhu and Melnibone for 99.00 and bought it, the coupon lowered the price to 84.99. I went with the free shipping, so it should be he in 3 to 4 days. So there is a minuscule chance I could have it Saturday, November 1st, but more likely, Monday, November 3rd.

Once I have that book, I will have completed re-building my set of AD&D books lost to the bust water pipe so long ago.

I can’t wait to look at the art again!

I’ll post pictures of my re-built and expanded collection, when it arrives.

NaNoWriMo 2014

I first attempted NaNoWriMo in 2010. Wow, that’s four years ago! My how time flies. I got a good start on an idea I had over 20 years ago in college and never wrote it down. It is one of those ideas that keeps percolating to the top over the years. However, it was a hectic time, and I did not maintain any regularity in my writing.

I debate this every year, of whether to dig in again. The last three years, November has always seemed to sneak up on me.

This year, I have known it was coming, and I have been more regular in my blogging, mostly on this blog, but some on some other topical blogs.

I also write a lot for work, but it is mostly emails, writing up support calls or logging bugs, and some technical writing for how-tos, knowledge base articles, and help files. Not quite the same as creative writing.

I want to blow the dust off and crank out this novel to get it out of my head. That’s how a lot of my ideas work, or thoughts that burden me. If I write them out, I can let them go.

Of course, I want my great novel to make me rich. Enough to retire my debts so I can have the kind of retirement my Grandad had would be enough. He always had enough and paid his bills and didn’t have to resort to being a Wal-Mart greeter, although he had the kind of personality that he would have excelled at it.

I know some people have used it to write their RPGs and board games. There have even been game design contests to design a game in a set amount of time, some in 24 or 48 hours, others in the course of a month.

I have remembrances of games my brother and our friends made up, but I don’t think I have anything close to rules or even a character that has survived the 30+ years since then. I’m not sure I have any ideas for a “new” game that would gather much interest. I would be better at writing a module, a supplement, or maybe my own maps to an existing game or genre of games.

So, I hem and haw and delay my decision. Just over 1,600 words a day, about four times as many as in this post. That’s not unreachable. I easily crank out posts on this blog over 2,000 words. The idea is to kick start a first draft, which is the hard part. Once that is out there, the editing, honing, and rearranging can begin to get the second draft and something worth sharing with others.

Part of me really wants to do this, part of my flurry of blog posts that I am building up in my buffer tonight is avoiding another creative project. So, I must get the blog post ideas out of my head, so I can focus on the other project.

If I get my other creative project out of the way before Friday, I will do NaNoWriMo 2014. I must focus and persevere!

Delving Deeper Has Arrived

Last week, in response to various postings about the Delving Deeper on Lulu at less than $5.00, I ordered it. I don’t recall the day I ordered it, but it shipped on the 21st, and was waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home today, the 28th.

The box is much larger than the book itself. When I opened it I found out why. Instead of being packed to bursting with newspaper or packing peanuts, it was wrapped in a piece of thin Styrofoam and that was shrink wrapped to a piece of cardboard so that it would not move. The cardboard is sized for a snug fit in the box. This was my first book ordered via Lulu. I must say I am impressed with the method of packaging and the fine condition that my new book arrived in. I am also impressed by the book itself. I am now much more interested in ordering books of other rules sets, like Swords & Wizardry and OSRIC, to name a couple. The softcover is very good, I’m almost afraid to read it so I don’t damage it.

Delving Deeper Packaged Well
Delving Deeper Packaged Well

So far I have only skimmed it, but I did read through the free PDF, from Immersive Ink. I also looked at several articles and followed along with the week review of Delving Deeper by Adam Muszkiewicz. There is also a Delving Deeper G+ Community.

I like the simplification of the original basic rules. It boils everything down into one book of 130 pages. The print is easy on the eyes, and I look forward to reviewing the whole thing in depth. I like some aspects of these rules. I can see this as a basis for introducing players to the game. I’m not a dig deep into the statistics kind of person, but I like that the author, Simon J. Bull, knows OD&D and Chainmail, and took the time to correct the combat tables to be more statistically balanced. I’m not the kind of DM that gets that deep into the rules to know all the kinds of details and many would consider trivial. When I play a spell caster or a multi-classed character, I look more in-depth at the rules to see what I can do with a character, but still not to this level of detail.

The cover is also much more impressive and clear than the image in the PDF. It is a pen and ink drawing, which is fitting for the name of the publisher, Immersive Ink, and is also dark and does not photograph well. My picture of the cover below looks better on my monitor in a photo viewer. It did not scale cleanly when I did a test preview of this post. The cover is full of action, and you can’t fully appreciate it without having a copy in your hands to peruse closely for hidden gems, like in many of Dave Trampiers ink drawings in the TSR rule books and modules.

Delving Deeper Cover
Delving Deeper Cover

I am curious to see the next iteration of these rules. If nothing else, there are lots of little tidbits that I can use to inform my own style of play.

Arcade Games

Pinball was the only game in town until about the same time I found out about D&D.

A restaurant in the small town where I grew up had Pong. Simple, a dial to make the “paddle” on the screen go up and down to return the ball. Many quarters went into that machine.

Then Space Invaders came out and was at a convenience store about a mile from school and we would go a put in more quarters.

The annual fair with a carnival had a tent full of all kinds of games. I loved Battlezone with its 3-D tanks, terrain, and projectiles. I would blow through twenty dollars in a weekend. That was back when I charge ten dollars to mow a lawn.

The movie theaters had games, where we’d take turns or play cooperatively in Galaga and Centipede, and Asteroids.

There was an arcade near the closest movie theater about 20 miles away. We could get our parents to drop us off and play all the games we wanted, and as we got old enough to drive, we’d all pile in the car together.

About the same time, the big mall that was closer than the arcade, had an arcade with all the same games.

Also about that time, Atari came out with its first game system. Kids might laugh at all those games now, but they were cool because that was all there was.

When I got married and had kids of my own, they had games with so many buttons on the controls that when we played in player vs. player, they had me dead just as I was finally figuring out which button did what.

I got my revenge. When those joysticks that plug into the TV with several old games came out, we got to Galaga and Centipede, and I kicked their butts! When it comes to those old fashioned “simple” games, the old man rules!

I can play those games with all the buttons, etc. but it takes me a lot longer to figure out which buttons do what and where the buttons are, then the game system changes or become totally obsolete.

I had the most fun with Asteroids when someone put out a Java version about 12 or 13 years ago with the source code. I fiddled with the source code and made the bullets as big as the screen, so no danger of anything hitting my ship. I have that around here somewhere on a disk, if the disk is still good and I have a drive that works…. Ah the joys of obsolete tech.

I’d rather spend my money on a game that I can play without electricity or the internet. If the internet went away, I could still play RPGs. I have enough sets of dice for at least 5 or 6 players. I also have real old school games like chess, checkers, and backgammon, and a few board games that might interest more than a niche.

In person is the best way to play a game, but I do like the ability to mimic that feel with Roll20 and Google Hangouts. I have been in a weekly Wednesday night game that just passed 30 sessions. I keep toying with taking my campaign world for a spin online, but I have a lot of polish to make it flow online like what I can do in person. I am sure that assessment will change after a few sessions. The biggest hurdle is figuring out when I could do it…. Someday….


The Challenges Of Game Prep And Game Design

Both preparing for a major area of a campaign, or parts of an adventure, or developing something to publish, or as part of a collaborative project, can encounter a lot of inertia.

Getting the initial ideas together, whether bullet points, semi-detailed notes, sketches, or miscellaneous bits and pieces can often be the easy part. Yet, for me at least, finding a big enough block of time to make sense of it and compile all the pieces into an easily usable whole is challenging.

I can wing stuff in a game, but some things take just a bit more time to plan out. For example, I placed an NPC in my campaign that sells treasure maps. His caveat to customers is that they are real maps to real treasures, but he can’t guarantee that any treasure is still there. He goes to markets and bazaars far and wide and generates a collection. He then disappears to rebuild it, when it gets thinned out. I made the brilliant decision to let him have 39 maps (a randomly generated number), most for the general area when the players are running around with a few for the ruins of the ancient city nearby. The rest being scattered far away, and a couple for Ogre Island, the home of a famous archmage who really only wants adventurers coming there if they have slain ogres. The players bought all the area and ancient city maps, and the couple to locations on Ogre Island.

I then had to figure out details about these maps they bought. I made them pay quite a bit for them, but not so much to stop them from buying A LOT of maps. I like the d30 Sandbox Companion, and a couple other resources I tracked down for this. I came up with the size and condition of the maps, the landmarks around the treasure, whether the treasure in whole or in part was there, or if it was buried nearby, and the skill of the cartographer and the language it was written in. That was not too difficult. I then had to figure out where to place all the maps. Finally, I had to sketch out the maps.

I spent several hours on this and ended up with extremely rough sketches of maps. I figure that I could just describe them and go from there. I still have some ruins and a couple dungeons to plan.

After all that work, the players were focused on other things and haven’t tried to find one treasure.

Another example is the ancient city. I had a name and a vague idea of a layout in my mind. I dissuaded the players from going to the ancient city by having a trusted NPC tell them that it is very dangerous. I would have been fine if they went there, but they realized they needed a bit more experience. Especially when random undead traveled north along the ancient road to the large town/small city with their base of operations. So I took time to plan out some details of the city and figure out which locations where described by the treasure maps of the ruined city.

Again, after all that work, not near as much as for all the treasure maps, we have not played.

The good news, I have a lot planned and can deal with most situations, and have several ideas if the players decide to do something else.

I know that I shouldn’t plan too far ahead of my players to avoid burnout, but I like the design. It is fun to figure out certain details, however, it is the most fun to watch the interactions of my players with the ideas I present to them.

Working on a collaborative effort in cooperative sandbox design, I want to do my best so that my part is not the weak link in the whole.

As with general preparation as a DM, finding enough time in a large enough block to do more than nibble around the edges can be a challenge.

The lessons I have from this are manifold:

DM prep for my own game can be snippets that I can wing as needed. Often only a name for an NPC, a location name, and perhaps details of spells they have are usually enough. Many details can be generated on the fly.

Tables to help fill in the gaps. Good, bad, or indifferent – you can wait until they discover a treasure with gems and jewelry to roll what it is. It can make the players wait a bit, and can result in some enormous gems – if you let the results stand.

Maps only need to be good enough for me to know what is going on. If you play old school with theater of the mind, you don’t need miniatures and terrain maps. I haven’t made the players do mapping, and so far they have not been in a scenario where it makes sense for them to be lost. They have yet to find a ruin big enough to be a classic dungeon.

Players tend to want to know names of people, locations, taverns, businesses, and stories behind magic items. In addition, personalities of NPCs and monsters are needed so they are not all the same. More effort in these things can avoid delays at the table coming up with a new name. NOTE: I generate several NPC names and cross them off when I use them in game. I haven’t generated enough names to feel like I should re-use them. Tables and online generators can help with this.

I have a few memorable NPCs that the players most encounter. I have different city guard personas, some are matter of fact about their job, “just the facts”, ma’am types. Others are more laid back and just make sure things are not too far off from the rules. There is one who points at people with his spear and swings it around when pointing at the next person he talks to. I haven’t named all the town guards, just the captain and lieutenant. The players haven’t asked for lots of names, I just say, this guard acts thus and so, and if they need a description, I give it. The guard that waves his spear was a fun twist I came up with on the fly, and the players loved that twist. I rotate them, and understandably, the other guards don’t want to have to work with the spear swinger.

All of the things that work well to make a campaign that I can run effectively and give enjoyment to the players are usually far less detailed than required for either an online game, where time is usually more limited than an in-person game; and obviously not what is required for something that is part of something to be published for use by others. While game prep can be done in a pinch, preparation of something to share for others as a basis for an adventure or add-on area in their campaign requires enough detail that the DM only needs to tweak it for use in his game, and not spend hours trying to figure out what you mean or what pieces were left out.

As with a school paper, or other similar project, a collaborative OSR project or something you wish to publish can be done in smaller snippets of time, unless there is a hard and fast deadline.

I think we might all have dreams of making and publishing our own materials and selling to the world of fellow gamers. Many of us know we don’t have the skills, some know that we have the skills but not the drive to finish what we start. While one can use their campaign as a basis for a published project, one should make sure anything they publish is polished.

After reading about failed or terribly botched and nearly totally failed Kickstarters related to RPGs, this has come to mind. Who wouldn’t want all the money that goes with a hugely successful Kickstarter? Most don’t realize the true level of detail involved. In addition, the tax implications and record keeping required are far beyond what the average person expects.

If you want to do a Kickstarter, get your feet wet and participate in a collaborative effort and see how well that goes. Dare to publish some tables or a module and make it available for free. If it is done well and hits the target market, then maybe you have the knack to share something to sell. I’m no expert on the how to do it, as I have not done these things, but I have seen what other people have done. Some obviously have a knack for cranking out good stuff consistently. However, I have also seen a lot that I could do better slapping it together, some of it for sale. I also would be hesitant to risk negative criticism that comes with such things, so thick skin is probably helpful.

So I dabble and continue to share my thoughts on my little blog. It is nice when others recognize my small contributions, but I get more out of it as I get in my writing, and crystallize my own ideas. That is more valuable than money, but  if anyone wants to send me a Dieties & Demigods with Cthulhu and Elric, et. al., I’ll let you. Cash also is the perfect gift, since it always fits. 😉




10 Tons Cement Reveal Ant Nest

After filling with ten tons of cement and moving 40 tons of earth an ant nest covering 50 square meters and 8 meters deep is revealed.

Use this to help plan your next nest of giant ants.


 [EDIT: 10/28/2014]
I changed the link from a Facebook page to a YouTube video of the same footage.
I also found this link to the full documentary.
I also forgot to add a link for this chart/table to generate a giant ant’s nest to the original poster.