Category Archives: Play

Collaborative Roleplaying

At Marmalade Dog this past weekend, I played in two sessions of DCC ran by Adam Muszkiewicz of Kickassistan. I went into some detail of how he ran the sessions in my post with a follow up on Marmalade Dog 20.

To sum up, he used the DCC rules and had us use a 3×5 index card. We rolled for our prior profession and our birth augur. We then went around the table and used those to pieces of information for different people to say why we were trying to get into Ur-Hadad. Then depending on our characters, we rolled our stats the first time we used them. For spell casters, we chose two spells and rolled for two spells. For random effects of spells that were generic, but could use some color, such as the memories of a dying god, Adam had a different person around the table explain what memories it was.

I believe that all roleplaying is collaborative. The DM/GM prepares some sort of setting, and sets the basic parameters, and the players buy into that and work with the DM to navigate the world. In my usual experience it is more one on one between each player and the DM or among the players as their characters.

However, this style of collaborative roleplaying involves the whole table in figuring out some piece of each character’s story. It is not in an invasive way that hampers or constrains the player, unless the player is not open to that style of play. Not having done that particular style of roleplay at the table, I was not sure I would like it. Having a DM, like Adam, who is very skilled in this style, and players willing to jump in the deep end, made for a very enjoyable time.

The use of the rules was minimal. Adam only had a huge number of dice and a notebook, and his phone to refer to the DCC app if he needed it. We relied on other players that brought their big fat hardcover DCC rule books. There was minimal consulting of the rules, usually only for spell casting, for the mercurial magic table and the specific effects of spells. Once spells were determined, we could have gotten by with the mercurial magic table and a copy of the effects of each spell among the players.

It was clear that Adam had a firm grasp of the rules. I could also tell that the basic mechanic of the DCC rules is one that makes it easy to jump in and play once you understand it. I think I picked it up well enough that it would make reading the rules come together that much faster. I do have a copy of the PDF that I picked up almost a year ago when it was available for one day for free or one day for PWYW, I forget which. I have not had time to read it, but I may do so now.

Adam is also comfortable with running a group of experienced gamers who know how to run with crazy ideas. We had a blast and much laughter. This is the kind of good time I remember from long ago when I started gaming with my brother and our friends. I don’t get to game with my original gang hardly ever, because I moved to Michigan, but I would gladly game with these folks!

I discussed this with Adam, mentioned that this style would only work with a DM that understands the rules thoroughly, or with a very simple ruleset.  Then we both said that Delving Deeper, by +Simon Bull, would be the rules to use. Adam mentioned his series on Delving Deeper, and I was able to tell him that his series convinced me to buy it. $5.00 for a physical set of rules, from Lulu via POD,that are basically OD&D with better organization and clarifications and table progressions that are consistent, such as for combat.

This could be done with any rule set with a DM versed in the rules and capable of improvising the whole thing, and players open to being creative. In the sessions that we played, it was mostly theater of the mind, with a crude map the first session so we understood how to move and rough locations. This style of play is fast with minimal consultation of the rules, and almost all of the by players for things related to spell casting.

Advanced preparation of the table for mercurial magic and then marking the location of each player’s spells on the first such session and copying them later would nearly eliminate the need to refer to the rules.

I liked playing this style of game, it was both entertaining to see the ideas of the others and fun overall. There was much laughing and kidding about the table. I would call this rule -1. Rule 0 is the DM/GM makes the rulings. Rule -1 is if you aren’t having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I am not sure if I would be the best DM for such a style, but I think I could at least make it work. I definitely have to up my game in terms of off the wall ideas.

I did pretty good in our session on Saturday. Since my character had been struck by lightning, flaming hands and color spray looked like lightning. So each time I cast color spray, i did something different with the color. When the last time I used it I said it looks like plaid lightning, Adam paused for the briefest of seconds, and said something like, “Alright, that’s good!”

For this style of play, those who aren’t good with on the spot improvisation could use a notebook to record wild ideas for describing interesting things. For my wizard who has a new memory of a dying god each time he uses one spell, I am keeping track of each memory invented by the other players. It will be interesting if I ever get to play this character again to see what other off the wall ideas I or others can come up with.

This type of role playing with rules only for some basic structure is as close to the make believe type stuff we did as kids with cops & robbers, etc.  Although with this, we are adults who know it’s a game and don’t get made when someone says, “You missed!”

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.

UCON 2014 Impressions

I had fun at UCON and wish I had had the ability to be there the whole weekend, instead of the whole day. I did get tired and ran out of steam at about 7:00 pm, so I made the 2 hour derive home. Thankfully, the worst of the weather did not impact the interstate. This was my third con for 2014. Before this year, I had not been to a con in about 30 years.

I got there about 7:45 registration opened at 8:00. I took a chance and asked if I could get my stuff, and they were kind enough to accommodate me. I had pre-registered and prepaid for the day, so all they had to do was check my ID and have me sign something. I ordered a UCON bag, in case I needed it.

I then looked around to find where the two games I had signed up would be, they were in the same conference room at different tables. I had about and hour to kill before my first game at 9:00.

At 8:45 I worked my way back to the conference room, which was by now open, and found the table for Keep on the Borderlands, with S&W Rules. I had never player this module, or had no recollection of it, if I did. I started with Holme’s Blue Box, and modules were not a thing my brother and I could afford, so we only played modules when friends provided them. We had a father, John, and his ten year old son, Jack. This was Jack’s first con game. The other two players were friends Frank and Michael. Our DM was Forest Ray. We had a good time. We were given max hit points and our magic user, John’s character, was allowed to be third level. the magic user also hired a lantern bearer. Other than the power boost from the magic user and lots of sleep spells, we did very well in combat and the DM could not hit us for anything. We did have a couple of people get hit, but it was not knock down damage. Even if we had not had the extra spells of the magic user, we would have still done very well. Jack got the UCON token to redeem for a prize since this was his first game at a con. It was fun, but I can see where a lot of younger players would misunderstand game design and every player end up with a magic weapon or item of some sort. If there is a closet with a magic sword for every fighter in the group and other things, why aren’t the orcs using them on the players? In three hours we rolled up characters and got past the bandits, kobolds, and orcs. It was fun and I would have liked to keep going.

Next I viewed the vendor area. It was not very big at all. I had expected there to be more vendors there, but there was a bit of something for everyone.

I bought some things that I had not planned to by, but isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be at conventions? I had to have something to put in my UCON bag.

I picked up Gygax Magazine No. 2 at the Pacesetter Booth, that’s all they had. I have the PDFs but like having a real one. I wished I had the chessmen covers, those are too cool and remind me of the ones on Dragon, by the same artist. I wish I had my old collection of Dragon Magazine.

At Newera Enterprises, ran by Roy B. Snyder, I found a Blue Box Basic D&D Manual. This is what I started with. I gave my original to my youngest brother. But over the years, found myself wanting one.

I also picked up some things that I never owned back in the day: the red box basic rules that has a module in it – Keep on the Borderlands; the blue cover Expert Rules and red cover Player’s Manual with a Dungeon Master’s Handbook.

I spoke with Roy for awhile and found out that he live in Kalamazoo, and that one of the police officers in the village where I live has written for Castles & Crusades. It’s a small world. I had no idea.

UCON 2014L oot
UCON 2014L oot

While in the dealer room, I way a guy with this awesome shirt, and he was kind enough to let me take a picture of it.

Call Chulhu
Call Chulhu

I then introduced myself to Tim Snyder, of The Savage Afterworld, who was manning the Goblinoid Games booth. Tim sums up our conversation on his blog. Yes, Tim, it was good to meet you. One thing I will mention, is that it was priceless to see Tim’s reaction that I played Keep on the Borderlands for the first time that morning. [Tim – The Village of Hommlet is the module I was struggling to recall the name.]

From 2:00 – 6:00 I played in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, DM’s by Shawn Dry. This was ran as three four hour sessions, so one player could go through the entire adventure, if they signed up for all three sessions. I played a high level priest of Odin. I had played this module once way back in high school, so I remembered bits and pieces. As the DM showed us pictures of the creatures and other things we were finding, I recalled more of it. This was the middle session, and we had done well. I was having such a good time, I wanted to play in the next session. We had one character die, and mine got knocked down. We thought for sure we had a TPK on our hands, but we prevailed and survived for the next round of players to finish the module.

My only real complaint, it that on the website for UCON when I signed up, it was not clear playing through the Peaks module was an all day thing. I did try to sign up for the third session online before I knew this, but it and the first session filled up before the second. I did go downstairs and try to sign up for the third session, having forgotten it was already filled. I did not think to ask about an “alternate” ticket, in case someone didn’t show up. The person assisting me did not ask if I was interested in another session at that time, and I did not think to ask. It didn’t help that some guy came up asking her about shirts in the middle of her helping me, so she was well distracted, as was I. (What is it about people and their social skills and waiting their turn? I find this in places other than cons, usually at convenience stores all the time where the person behind me is putting their stuff on the counter around me, before I can put my change or my receipt in my wallet and put away my wallet and grab my stuff and get out of the way.)

I would suggest that the website show filled sessions in red or whatever color it is that works for color blind people, so one can see at a glance which ones are still available. That doesn’t mean one can buy the “alternate” tickets in case someone is a no show. Also if any games have the potential to be an all day thing, make that clear, so one can decide if they want to play the whole thing or just a portion. I would gladly play another module with Shawn as DM.

My plan was to meet others I have met and followed in online RPG settings, but I ran out of steam too soon. It is hard to fit all one wants to do into a single day at a three day con.

I was impressed by this con. It was big enough to have lots for everyone. For the board game set, the ball room was filled with tables. I would say 50+ tables. The venue was big enough to accommodate the attendees with only momentary crowds in a couple of places and not the press of a horde, like at GenCon. There were all kinds of RPGs, many I had never heard of. I loved that they had an OSR track. There were several DMs using their Dave Trampier cover AD&D DM screens.

I am already looking to next year. I plan to get Friday off so I can be present from the beginning, and to get Monday off so I have a day to rest. I will also get a room, so I don’t have to deal with all the driving and weather. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until January to put in the request at work.


Gaming Convention Clearinghouse

I was thinking of attending the online AetherCon game convention. Easy, free, and I don’t have to go anywhere. It is November 14-16, 2014.

I then found out about UCon, a convention in Ypsilanti, MI about 90 minutes from where I live, near Kalamazoo, MI. It is also November 14-16, 2014.

Because I get my basic itch to play scratched in a Wednesday night online AD&D/OSRIC campaign, I am still wanting in person play time, so I signed up for Saturday the 15th. This does not preclude me from also taking part in Aethercon.

Today, while searching for something else (instead of working on my novel for NaNoWriMo 2014), I learned of another online convention for the same weekend, BrigadeCon. It is billed as a Benefit.

I then turned to Google for online gaming conventions, and discovered the helpful website Game Convention Central. It has an option for showing all online game conventions, like the above mentioned AetherCon, and ConTessa, both of which I had already heard of, and many I had not. I noticed that BrigadeCon is not on the list at Game Convention Central, and it is in less than two weeks.

What I like about Game Convention Central is that it is divided into regions so one can find a physical convention near them. The regions are USA, Australia/NZ, Canada, Europe, UK/Ireland, and World. Each of these regions is further subdivided into regions, so one can easily find conventions closer to where they live. It also has a link to Submit A Con, for any not on the list. There is also a Google+ page.

What I find really useful is a list of resources to help one find games and players “in between conventions”. There are a lot of such resources that I did not know about. I will have to check those out later.

The only thing that I would like to see handled differently is to have a calendar that one can search. For example, I would like to see a calendar that will show me all the conventions in the USA and the online conventions. This way I can say, plan my vacation to go to a con I didn’t know about in an area of the country I always wanted to visit.

I find this site to be so helpful, that I am adding a link to it on the front page of my website.

I also suggest that if you know about a gaming convention that is not on this site, to submit it.




The Good Guys Are Not Stupid Wimps

Rick Stump over at Don’t Split the Party has an excellent article:

Good Isn’t Stupid, or weak, or nice.

Paladins don’t have to be simple, weak minded, naive fools. They can have depth and edges to them that makes them both interesting and far from an easy kill.

They should be a threat to evil and a threat to anyone who stands in their way.

Just as the evil villain is a threat to the forces of good.

Any DM who allows paladins, and any player who has, is, or wants to play a paladin should read this.

Play Time – June 1, 2014

My son and his girlfriend came over and we played all day and until 10:30 pm.

Most of it was role playing as they managed to catch the baron in a gap in his schedule and they presented him a magic longsword, shield and silver circlet they recovered from one of the tombs they looted. It surprised me that they did not keep the magic items, since one of them is a half-elf fighter/magic user, she could have used the bonuses. They were thinking larger and wanting favor. They also gave a 5,000 s.p. (I use the silver standard) necklace for the baron’s bride to be. I determined that the sword and shield belonged to a long-dead knight, and named them “Foe-Bane” and “Defender”, which I determined before they decided to give them away. The captain of the guard would not allow a gift until either the town wizard or the town sage ruled on them, because security was so tight.

After they found out what they were, they go to see the baron, and get in to talk to the captain. The captain has heard of these items as a boy. He sends word and the baron is available. So now they get to meet the baron. I rolled and the baron was available. I rolled again and he invited them to the wedding, etc. The baron did advise them to get better clothes, since they were running around in their ratty battle worn and blood stained clothes.

It is funny how I determined the course of events, and how they decided to insert themselves into the narrative. The King and court, ambassadors, nobles, etc. all showed up because the bride is the king’s niece, and he was he guardian as she was orphaned young. The king elevated the baron to a marcher lord over the peninsula and the ancient city. The baron’s role of keeping the nasties from going north into the kingdom has expanded to subdue the nasties and expand the kingdom.

The PCs were able to watch the ceremony through the doors of the temple.

They managed to get to meet the baron and his new bride after the ceremony, and were then introduced to the king and queen by the baron, and spoke with a couple of other powerful NPCs.

There are now so many plot hooks and red herrings that they know about, that the players can’t do more than I am ready for without abandoning their plans and leaving the area for parts unknown. Since they have declared their plans, “To take over the world.” With their cleared kobold warren as their base, I don’t see them going outside the present boundaries of the sandbox.

This is great as it further limits my focus. I need to fill in a few things here and there, but it feels so much more manageable now that I know where they plan to go.

It is so cool and fun to know that they have enjoyed our sessions and want to do more.

I can’t wait to do more planning and preparation AND the next session!

Text – Game On!

My son texted me last night asking if I was up for another game session on Sunday. Like he had to ask? I think it was to make sure I didn’t have other plans.

I have been working on things slowly for the next session, because it will involve a lot of role playing, I am trying to make sure I don’t generate a lot of new hooks, which I tend to do when I really get into it.

I got in a couple hours of organizational stuff.

Today, I just need to fill in the gaps of things I left open ended and undefined.

What are the NPC’s up to that don’t have time for the players? (I think I really had them going that it was some big plot point. Who knows, it might be….)

What are the names of all the major NPCs that will be in town for the baron’s wedding? I know who they are, I just need names. For a few I need stats, age, and descriptions. For the ones that they won’t end up in combat, I think I can glide over the stats.

Oops. I just realized that for certain classed NPCs, I need to think about henchmen, which there will be some….

This is one way to flesh out a sandbox, have a big event with lots of powerful people.

Well, I better quit with the writing and get on with the planning.

Tombs, Riches, and a Troll

My son and his girlfriend came over yesterday to play D&D.

They hired more men and bought tools and another wagon and team of horses and went back to the tomb that they needed tools to open. They opened it and found a pristine tomb, but the treasure of ancient swords and shields had lost its luster after finding so many more of the same in other tombs in the general area. They have a buyer who will pay for each piece they find, but they decided that only coins, gems, jewelry and really shiny items are what they want.

They rolled really well and I rolled very poorly and they defeated a gelatinous cube with a large treasure. I had only determined the number of gems and jewelry. I waited until they beat it to figure those things out when we took a break. I rolled exceptionally well and had several gems worth 5,000 and a huge ruby worth 10,000. I rolled really well on several of the items of jewelry. Their characters are both multi-class half elves, one a Druid/M-U and the other a FTR/M-U. My son’s druid/magic-user was 3rd/2nd level, and his girlfriend’s character was 1st/1st. I limited them to halfway to the next level, but they easily had enough to level up in both classes even after splitting XP by two and then each dividing by 2 again.

They had to go check on something they had let slide, when they learned they would be in hot water if kobolds or something else got back into the kobold warren they had found and cleared with the help of some NPCs. They got busy and did not go back and pay the guards they hired, so it was abandoned. The druid put firetrap on one door, the others were barred from inside. They went back and found 5 dead kobolds around the door and re-trapped the door, got their new troops that helped with the tombs to guard it. They returned and nothing had bothered the fire trap and the place was empty. They brought plenty of food, spears, arrows, and water barrels and buckets to go to the stream to fill them. Next they plan to fortify the place and make it very comfortable for a base of operations.

They left their troops, all eleven of them, to guard their base and headed back to town each driving one of the two wagons. I rolled an encounter, and used the table from the DMG and rolled TROLL. I rolled a d12, and the Monster Manual says 1-12 appear. I rolled a 1. They had never encountered a troll. I was afraid they would die. They wanted to stand and fight, but lucked out.

The druid entangled it, but it made it’s save, so he was only slowed. The druid ran, but the troll killed those two horses. The druid had time to run back to the other wagon. The druid used his bow to shoot the troll. He had nearly 80 arrows. He rolled several hits, but not enough to knock it down. It hit the fighter/magic-user, but did not drop her, and it hit the other two horses, but did not kill them. They managed to run and after a few rounds pulled far enough ahead. They drove to town as fast as they could. They used all the arrows they had, and it still kept coming. Finally, they saw the walls in the distance. When they got closer, they saw the city gates close and heard horns blaring and saw flags waving. Once they got close enough the catapults and ballistae on the guard towers fired at it and knocked it down.

The druid wanted to take it’s head as a trophy, not knowing the regeneration thing, even though I kept saying the mangled corpse kept looking better. The guards riding out with torches from the city gate were hollering and blowing their horns. The characters decided to just keep stabbing it until the guards got their. They then learned that it was indeed a troll and that they regenerate and require fire to kill them.

They were then ordered to report to the captain of the guard. The baron of the town is getting married in just under two weeks and security is high, because he is marrying the king’s niece. The captain was concerned because a troll had not been that close to the city in years, and they had not had to fire the siege engines for other than practice for years.

They learned that something is up with the town wizard and town sage, who usually have had time to at least talk to them. They assume it is related to the wedding, but they are curious.

We had a blast and they were very glad I rolled so poorly in combat and so well on the treasure.

They did not inquire further about the treasure maps that I prepared, but they are excited to play again. I had a lot of fun.

A few hours here and there to fill in some names of people and places, generate some stats for a few, and plan out the events of this wedding. I thought they’d blow through time and I’d just wing the wedding, but they are interested in power and influence, and want to get in good with the baron, so I have to do more than a joyous celebration, etc. I could wing it, but having names and some other bits planned out ahead of time will make the improvisation smoother.

We seem to play every two or three weeks. It is summer in Michigan, so I don’t blame them for wanting to spend it outside and enjoy warm toes and fresh air while they can.