Category Archives: Family

My “LARP” Experience

The closest I have come to LARPing was make believe as a kid, usually cops & robbers, army, or cowboys & indians. I am old and that’s what we called it. This is a recollection, not a politically correct retcon of my childhood memories. But PC names for RPGs come to mind: LEO’s & Law Breakers, Wranglers & Aborigines, Military Confrontation.

Back in high school, our group spent several nights at a friend’s house who lived in “the country” outside of town, on various weekends. They had several acres with a creek, trees, hills, and more.

We played D&D around the campfire. We also split into teams, or did a free for all, so that the last one standing won. The contest was fought with “swords” and “spears” etc. Padding, what’s that? (I’m surprised fingers weren’t broken.)
We used weeds, called horsetails, for throwing spears. I had several and my brother was on the opposite team. He was on top of a hill. I threw this epic throw that would have nailed him in the back. It had to be 20 or more yards.
However, the sun was behind him and he saw the shadow of the spear, and he turned just in time to bat the thing aside with his sword.
Several of both teams saw this, so at least I got some kudos for my skillful throw.
We still mention my epic throw and his epic block.

After college, I met with a group involved in SCA, but I didn’t attend more than a few meetings. Some of that sounds interesting, but I have filled my time with things I like to do and don’t see myself making a new commitment without figuring out what to drop from my current activities. I did get to borrow a book with an explanation of how to do the marginal decorations in ink. We had a unit on calligraphy in my high school art class, and I was pretty good at it, and still have dip pens and some ink. I also have some felt tip calligraphy pens so I can “cheat” and do it the easy way. I haven’t really done anything game related with it, but I have a few ideas I may try out and share later.

The book also had a recipe for mead, which I made. It was quite tasty. I keep thinking that I’ll make more mead, but in over 20 years I haven’t done it. It was actually quite easy for anyone who can follow a recipe. As I recall, I liked my effort better than the mead I got at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo last summer when a co-worker retired. My kitchen now is a lot smaller and less room for special projects than the kitchen where I lived 20 years ago. I can put on a feast for Thanksgiving, so the size of the kitchen won’t stop me. Like most things, I just have to make up my mind to do it and make it happen.

Rule (-1)

Everyone knows about Rule 0 – “The DM/GM makes the rulings.” Or some variant to that effect. Briefly, this means that the DM uses the rules that fit the spirit of the game(s) he or she run. This can include adding new rules, ignoring or changing existing rules. It especially involves borrowing ideas for rules from other DMs.

What many don’t talk about is what I call Rule (-1). It is so simple and involves the whole idea of playing games. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”

This concept applies to any game, boardgames, RPG’s, card games, sports, computer games, etc.

This concept also applies to life. Perhaps the best example is sex. If you don’t like it, you’re doing it wrong.

We don’t eat foods we don’t like. Why should we do anything else we don’t like?

Some might point out holes in this concept of applying to all of life. Exercise – you may not like exercise, but you have to pay the price to get the degree of health and fitness you like. If you like being overweight, good for you. If you like being fit and trim, good for you. But neither should get into a war about which is better. There is an RPG, Hero’s Journey, that mirrors ” every hero’s transformation from minion to master.” That is a way to make things fun!

We may not like going to work, but we like the things money can buy, like food, clothing, shelter, and GAMES! We like our stuff, so the things we don’t like should be seen as journeys, challenges, etc. to overcome, like adventurers in a tomb or dungeon seeking treasure. The goal is the loot and experience points, even if you risk your favorite character dying to do it. I read an article a couple of years ago, that talked about people new to the workforce only working enough to support them and the things they wanted to do.

So if edition wars and railing against X because it isn’t Y is your thing, do you really have fun with that? Does putting others down bring you joy? Well, then you’re doing it wrong. Everyone knows that having fun at the expense of others in a mean and hurtful way is wrong. So take your toys and go home.

You don’t want to game with women? Well, then good luck getting a girlfriend or wife. If you already have a girlfriend or wife, good luck keeping them.

The whole essence of RPGs is true of life, we need to get along to succeed. How many hours have you played an RPG solo, i.e. no GM? It isn’t too much fun, other than as a different type of diversion once in a while, or if you are in a strange situation that it is your only option.

RPGs are about bringing people together to PLAY. I have played with people that are of the total opposite political spectrum to me, who have different ideas about ethics, politics, religion, etc. Since I don’t post about those things here, those people may not have any clue what I believe. Such discussions don’t go at the gaming table, if the goal is for everyone at the table to truly have fun. If you can’t game with people who are vastly different from you in ideas and opinions, then find a way to do that without being an ass about it. I know people on all aspects of the political divide, and just like any other topic, some of each general leaning can be total jerks to people who disagree with their position.

The specific definitions of how that fun plays out will depend on the group. A group of teenage boys is going to have fun in ways we may not approve of. That’s why we need teenage girls involved in RPGs, so that those hormone laden fools learn how to interact with females at a young age. Fathers should step up to DM/GM to show his sons how to treat a woman with respect. Or to make sure the boys in the game treat his daughter(s) with respect. Mothers should also DM/GM to keep her boys in line and support her daughters.

The OSR is partly about perpetuating our hobby to the next generation. With all the weirdos we hear about on the news, it is unfortunately asking for trouble for a group of teenagers to come to your house to game, if there are no children of your own, or other adults present. Finding a venue at the local library, or a place at school after hours, or going to one of the kid’s homes when their parents are there would be the smart course of action. (Can you tell I’ve been to multiple mandatory work seminars about how not to get sued?)

Players that talk over everyone else, and who try to be rules lawyers need special handling. Depending on their age, they may just need to have it explained to them. If they are 18+, then you should be able to talk to them without an emotional meltdown. However, age does not equate to maturity. If the person is emotionally fragile, I would suggest that RPGs where you pretend to be someone else is not always the best way for someone to deal with severe mental or emotional issues. The group should do their best to help someone with no social skills to fit in. If you have to talk about health and hygiene so others can stand to sit next to that player, then have that talk. Such a person obviously needs social interaction, and they will enjoy it more as they build their social interaction skill set. If all the players are not having fun, then there is a problem. This requires that all players stand up for themselves in a positive way. The DM/GM has a part to play her in making sure each player has their moment to shine, their share of speaking and interacting with the game world.

DMs/GMs should not be dictators that force the players to do what they don’t want to do. They should not totally ignore players’ suggestions for interpreting situations. At least acknowledge their input and move on. A good referee clearly describes things so that players make informed decisions. The referee who is a self centered, self righteous, egotistical, control freak, will have a hard time finding a consistent group of players for more than a few sessions. The DM’s fun should be had in watching how the players go off in unexpected directions, and misinterpret things, not in making them follow some elaborate script. If you have a novel to write, write the novel; don’t force your players to act out a script, when they want a world to explore. If you can’t find a way to have fun without alienating players, perhaps you should not be a DM; or go online and clearly advertise for online players that want your style of running a game.

I wrote this post a couple weeks ago, and on March 16, I ran across this article on Beer, Pretzels, and 20-Sided Dice. It is another way of saying what I am saying. Cameron sums it up nicely, “To my mind, the key is to have fun. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, find a different group or run a campaign yourself.”

Just yesterday, Tower of the Archmage, had this article, Playing With Adults, about the challenges of interpersonal interaction at the game table, and how cooperation is key. Dealing with the threats to maintaining a regular game is like facing the boss monster. It is so worth it when it’s over.

Game play options on the internet, like G+ and Roll20, for example, make it easier for those of us that can’t seem to find a local group. Also it can help us find more opportunities to game, if we have the time to put into gaming more frequently. There are more choices than one could hope to ever experience.

Similar things have been said by others in recent years. Editions don’t matter. The point is, find the rules and the group that work for you and enjoy it!

So go out there, find the RPG of your choice, and have FUN!

Gyrphax

Gyrphax is the largest dragon in my brother Robert’s campaign. He did this piece in high school, a few years before his current campaign started, or rather he started it in high school. It is pen and ink in the stipple style, that is, it is all dots.

He had the dragon and the slain warriors done quickly enough. But it took him a couple years to finish the rest. It is about 18 x 22 inches. He would be working on it and look up and blink his eyes wide, because after a while all he could see were dots.

This is a bad picture of a print I had on the wall in my home office. I wanted a picture before I had to move it. They are closing our small office with three employees and we will be working from home. I had to re-arrange my home office and move it from the wall where I had it. I now have it in a corner where it is more visible in my peripheral vision when I am at my desk.

My brother does not Facebook or Google Plus, so you won’t be able to reach him. He is very talented in many ways. If he ever finishes any of his stories, he will also do the book cover and any other art.

This image is his copyright, all rights reserved. I just wanted to share it here to show off his talent. A few days ago, I shared his maps using pictures of photocopies. If he wants me to take it down, I will.

 

My Sunday Game

Sundays had been reserved for running my AD&D campaign with my oldest son and his girlfriend. We were playing almost every Sunday for over six months. It was a lot of fun and they both kept coming back for more.

At the end of September, they moved in with me to pay off some bills and save up for a nicer apartment because they had a baby on the way. One of the selling points my son made of their moving in with me, is that we would get to play more. We haven’t had one session since they moved in. I am OK with that, Now that my granddaughter is here, they would rather spend the time my son isn’t at work figuring out how to be a family and enjoying Nikola while she is at the tiny stage of life. This past Friday she was one month old. I don’t mind. I should have done more to flesh out my campaign.

I have thoughts of perhaps getting things ready where I can run my campaign on Roll20 with Google Hangouts. Perhaps someday I will.

Last weekend I played DCC for the first time and two of the players were Roy Snyder and Jared Randall. We had a blast playing together in Adam Muszkiewicz’s first session, and Roy and I were in Adam’s second session. Roy has a group that gets together every other Sunday, and he invited me. Since I am not gaming, I decided to join in. We meet this afternoon, so perhaps I will post a play report for tomorrow. It will be DCC, so their will be character generation. I don’t know if we are doing a funnel, or if we are starting at first level. It will definitely be interesting.

I have the DCC PDF that I got for free or low price in April of last year. I was proactive and put it on my tablet and put the Purple Sorcerer Crawler’s app on my tablet too. I also downloaded and printed the blank character sheet PDF, that has four character sheets on one page. I packed up my game bag and have it ready to walk out the door.

The only thing I don’t have are all the funky dice: d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, and D24. The d6, d10, d16, and d24 are easy to emulate with existing dice. D6/2 = d3, d10/2 = d5, d8 & d6 to emulate d16, and d12 & d6 to emulate d24. For example emulate a d16, roll a d6 and a d8. If the d6 is 1-3 add 0, if the d6 is 3-6 add 8. If I had either a d7 or a d14, I could easily emulate the other. I read online that one can use a d8 and ignore rolls of d8, but that leads to extra rolling that slows things down. I guess I can use my tablet, or borrow dice until I can snag some of my own.

Simple Game with Simple Rules

Lots of arguments about rules. Games as written aren’t right, so we change them, but some argue whether they can be changed. It’s like poker. How many variations are there? I have played 6 or 7 in my life and still only make sense out of 5 card stud and 5 card draw. I haven’t ever read the rules for Texas Hold ‘Em, but watching snippets here and there, I don’t get it. Why not just stick with 5 card stud?

RPGs are the same way. Play what you like the way you like. If you aren’t having fun, your’e doing it wrong.

The simplest game my siblings and the kids in our neighborhood made up was called “Keep it Moving”. The only object required was a ball that we could throw, bounce, kick, etc. The playing area was how many ever yards we decided on, that is, my yard, the neighbor’s yard and whether or not anyone playing was allowed to play in the street or cross the street, or if old man so and so was home. There was no limit to the number of players.

There was one rule, keep the ball moving. If the ball stopped, we all counted while the nearest person to the ball went to knock it back into the area with the rest of the players, or the nearest player. We did not keep track of how high we counted. It was just a crude timer so that we could be as fast as we were able. I think we just gathered in closer and started again. No score, no time limit, no fouls, no tackling, (no intentional injury). Teenagers would play with 5 year olds. It was just fun, running, laughing, and having a good time. It was great exercise. Kids of all fitness levels and ball handling, kicking, throwing skills could play. Everyone that played that game had fun. The game ended when it got dark, or there weren’t enough kids left to play, or we all got so tired we just stopped.

There were no arguments about rules, no debates about going out of bounds, no need for referees. The older kids kept an eye on the younger kids. The older kids would get silly and do obvious major failures in ball handling to the giggles and glee of the younger kids. While no adults ever joined us, this is a game I wish I had shared with my own kids when they were younger. I guess I will have to share it with my granddaughter and get her father involved that way, but that’s still a few years off, since she is two weeks old today.

Most of us have our favorite RPG as the one we started with, like the first Doctor we watched with Dr. Who. But that’s not quite right. I started with Blue Book Holmes D&D, but AD&D is my favorite, but only the way I like it; i. e.  lots of rules ignored or streamlined, or changed in some way, or new rules added to fill gaps.

We all have our quirks and preferences and in different groups modify them to suit the particular group of people we are with. When I play with my brothers and the group we started with way back in junior high and high school, we have our way of doing it and there is little discussion only for clarification. My interpretation and preferences prevail when I DM with my sons, as they do not know all the rules, and just have fun playing. The weekly online AD&D game I’m in is fairly close to by the book, but some rules have faded from use as it just bogs things down, like weapon speed and all the fiddly bits with weapons. My knowledge and interpretation have helped with clarification, but not lead to my drothers prevailing. I am sure if I were to play with a group of experienced players for the first time, and we all agreed on AD&D, there might be questions about how the DM would do it, but we would come to some mutual agreement on how it should be done.

I haven’t played with teenagers other than my sons for over thirty years, but I would not put up with some of the immature teenage nonsense that some so-called mature adults display online. I don’t care what you are of any category, or what you believe about any topic, if we can agree to play a game with a mutually agreed ruleset in a setting that we can wrap our heads around, and have fun while doing it, then we are doing it right. I don’t have to agree with someone’s life experiences and the choices they make to play with them. I don’t always agree with my brothers, and we are polar opposites on many hot button issues, but we still love each other and can play AD&D together.

I have played with men and women, gay and straight, various ethnicities beyond my own, preteens to people in their 60’s and maybe older, in person, and online. (Don’t freak because I didn’t mention group X, Y, or Z. This isn’t a game to have the most complete list….) We all managed to have fun. However, if we all started talking about our religious beliefs, political beliefs, or sexual preferences, I am sure we would soon find out what each of our buttons are. Hopefully, we would be mature enough to have a civilized conversation and not throw it in each other’s faces and make a friendship impossible.

I find certain topics taboo in roleplaying. Acting out or roleplaying rape or sexual fantasies, or religious rituals to the point of LARPing, is too far. Mentioning that the bad guys raped, would be OK, but not go into a counseling session about it, or dwell on it. Yes, we talk about fictionalized violence and death, and killing “monsters”, but that we can put in context. I prefer a PG or at most R rating on roleplaying, and if young enough players are present, G rating.

The whole point of a game is to be fun. If the “fun” is in putting down or belittling someone else at the table, that’s not fun. I draw a distinction between sarcasm and put downs, and intentional hurt. Some who live on put downs and sarcastic humor have a hard time finding the point at which to draw the line. There are those who don’t like that type of humor, so their line is usually pretty obvious to all but the pathologically oblivious.

The internet and social media has made it easy for anonymous posters to be the ugly trolls that ruin it for the rest of us. Don’t feed the trolls is a good motto, hopefully they will lose interest and go someplace else without having to ban them, or seek legal action.

Don’t let the bastard get you down. Remember, the trolls rolled a one when it comes to having real love and real fun in their lives. We don’t have to play by their rules. I quit commenting on online discussions because my efforts to put things back on track just ended up making me a target. I just ignore commenting on things, or delete my response without sending, since the mere writing of a response got it out of my system.

I stick to commenting on RPG related stuff, and if I have something to say not about RPGs, I have a blog for that. A live, but obscure blog. I don’t link to it from here, to keep my gaming life separate from some of my thoughts and beliefs that at least one or more groups would disagree with and gum up the works here, and try to take me away from something fun.

As I said above, if you are playing games and it is not fun, you are doing it wrong.

2014/2015

I write this at just under an hour until midnight in the Eastern time zone, her in Southwest Michigan.

2014 was a great year for RPGs and me.

I went to my first Con in thirty years or so at Marmalade Dog in Kalamazoo, and I did nearly daily posting and many days multiple posting for over half the year. There was a great start to blogging with the D&D 40th anniversary in January, and the April A t0 Z challenge.

I got involved in a weekly online AD&D game every Wednesday in March and it is still going, only the DM and three players with two characters are left from the initial group, we have added replacement players and look to add a couple more when we resume play after a two week break for Christmas and New Year’s. I have only missed a couple hours of one session and family interruptions for a few others.

I finally made it to GenCon for the first time, something I had wanted to do since the 1980’s when it was still in Lake Geneva. GenCon is too big and requires much more planning. In November, I participated in UCon and had a great time. UCon is much smaller, but has enough for everyone. I would like to do GenCon again, but don’t know if it will be in 2015. I will be at UCon and plan to stay in the hotel so I don’t have to chance driving on ice and snow for a couple hours or more to get there and back. There was AetherCon and another online Con the same weekend as UCon. If AetherCon is not the same weekend as UCon, I may participate in 2015.

A personal milestone, I finally re-built my original collection of AD&D manuals when the same day I ordered a Dieties & Demigods from Wayne’s Books, my son presented me the same volume as a belated birthday present. I also had several weeks in a row where I DM’d for my oldest son and his girlfriend and built up my long designed and little played campaign world.

I also participated in several Kickstarters. So far, I am not disappointed in the ones that funded, other than the D&D movie on hold due to litigation. Follow ups are planned for the ones yet to deliver in 2015.

I also jumped in to take part in the Tenkar’s Landing OSR design project, for which I need to wrap up my hex. I had planned to have my part done before today, but life happens. Thankfully, the milestone was moved to the end of January.

The triumph of over 60,000 words towards the first draft of the novel for which I had the idea back in college in 1984 or 1985 was sweet. I finally got my winner’s shirt this past week. I still have the last few chapters to do. Since Thanksgiving, things have been hectic at home and work. A complete first draft was my goal by now, so one more thing I didn’t think would bet delayed.

Last week, I volunteered to run one slot each day at the 2015 Marmalade Dog in Kalamazoo with The Village of Hommlet. Hommlet is one of the two modules I own, however, I have never ran it. I bought it for an example of a low level started adventure. I bought the PDF from DriveThruRPG so I can read it on my tablet on lunch breaks at work. I think I will have to recruit some people for a play test.

I support payroll and accounting software, so December and January are my busiest time of year at work. Every client calls at least once trying to either do the year end procedures or process their W-2s. It leaves me little time to sneak a moment to think about something else while at the office.

January also sees my youngest son, who lives out of state with his mother, turn 18; and my oldest son and his girlfriend expect a baby any day, making me a grandfather.

I turned 50 at the end of September, wow, where did the time go!

I did make it to Las Vegas in December, for the first time. I had a lot of people incredulous at the idea of me never going there before. I don’t know why that is so hard to believe, most of the world has never been there. I did try my luck with the one-armed bandit and roulette, and lost, but only the amount I set aside, so that I could say I did it. I bought two dice that say, “Fabulous Las Vegas.” After I got home, I realized I should have bought more, as you need at least three to roll up a character. the shop in the hotel where I bought them sold them for a pair for something like $1.99, so I should have bought another pair. Oh well, something for my list if I am every back in Vegas.

2014 was a good year over all and a great one for me in the realm of RPGs. I look forward to reading the musings of others, more playing, more DMing, and building more friendships with fellow gamers both online and in person.

The only way 2014 would have been better would be to have a woman in my life, but I want it to be the right woman, so maybe I’ll find her in 2015.

Happy New Year and Game On!

New Computer

I took the plunge and bought a new computer at CostCo over my lunch break. I went their the first time Monday after work and got a few things I need for Thursday and a few extras, and saw this good deal on a PC. It is Windows 7 Pro. I could have spent a bit more for more RAM, but it had Windows 8, and I don’t want to take the time to learn where everything is. If my company wants me to learn Windows 8, they can buy me a new computer. I can always order more RAM, assuming it has another slot, or it can handle a larger RAM chip. It was under $400, so I’m not stretched too thin.

The weekly online AD&D game I play in is a go for tonight, so I don’t know if I’ll manage to get home and get it set up in time for the game.

I also haven’t started my preparations of food for tomorrow (Thanksgiving in the USA). My parents taught all their children to cook, not just my baby sister. My boys like what I fix, and I maintain the tradition I got from my parents. My oldest son’s girlfriend said that my efforts last year were on par with her father’s, so I know she’s a keeper.

I also need to focus on the last few chapters of my first draft for NaNoWriMo and wrap up my hex for Tenkar’s Landing, I mean Eilean Dubh – The Black Isle by the end of November.

Thankfully, I have the day off on Monday the 1st.

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….

 

My Son’s Music Videos (Covers)

My son recorded these today, so I got to hear them live… along with the exclamations of frustration along the way. Isn’t is fun being creative? I wish I could play an instrument….