Day 10: First gaming magazine you ever bought (Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, etc.).

Dragon Magazine. I had a subscription starting around #70 and past #200. I was a poor college student and couldn’t afford to keep up the subscription. I traded my box of magazines to my brother, Robert, still with their original envelope to protect the covers. I think it got destroyed when my parents water heater went out or maybe it was the washing machine. I wish I still had them.

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Day 9: First campaign setting (homebrew or published) you played in.

This would by my brother, Robert’s, “Quest For The Dice Of Destiny.” We did not finish it, but we did have a lot of fun up to that point. Prior to that it was someone made a dungeon and those that didn’t make a dungeon bought modules.

There was a lot of build up as to what we would do, but the game stalled and we never got it going again. We were having fun with it. As I recall, Robert got bored with it and dreamed up something else.

It would be best described as a complete world with ecology, weather, calendar, places, plots, NPCs and lots of ideas with lots of materials to back it up. There are lots of places we have never explored, and only one character has ever gone off the map. The area is about the size of France and Germany. It also has a sandbox quality as Robert has planned out enough of it that he does not have to make it all up as he goes along, but he is creative enough and go with the flow enough to make it all up as he goes along. I have a hard time telling when he is making it up as he goes and when he is going off planned information he has in his head.

I can sort of do that with the campaign I developed for my sons. It surprised me how ideas just came to me to fill in the gaps and make things happen. I still find it a challenge to scale things to be appropriate for low level characters, but we are having fun with it.

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Marmalade Dog 19 – Part II

Last night I wrote here that I found out that the local gaming convention at WMU in Kalamazoo is this weekend.

It started at 9:00 AM and due to waking up way early, I lost track of time working on something since I was up, then having a hard time figuring out where to park to avoid a ticket from campus police, I got there just before ten.

I figured there would be a line to sign up to place D&D Next, so rather than going to the sign-up sheet first, I looked around then tried to find the table. I could not find it, so I went to the sign up sheets and no one had signed up, so I signed up and went to the table, no one was there. There was no note nothing, just a long table and the chairs around it.

I went and said something to the registration staff and the DM for all the D&D Next sessions, all using the Temple of Elemental Evil, and they said he ws not there. One of them mentioned that this was one of their smaller years. The whole event fit into one ballroom/auditorium.

There were less than a dozen vendors. One vendor advertising himself as a travelling game shop. I take that to mean he does from CON to CON. He had jewelry, used games, dice and trinkets. Most of the vendors appeared to be focused on Magic The Gathering. I never “got” the Magic card game. I still don’t so I skipped over those tables. There was one local used book store there and their had their rule books, and Science Fiction and Fantasy books there. The rules they had were “new rules”, probably for D&D 3.0 or 3.5, I did not look closely. I mentioned that and they said any OD&D and 1e books went straight to their eBay site.

There looked to be two tables of board games for whatever enough people wanted to play. There looked to be two tables where two games of Blood Bowl were going on, and there was room at the tables for at least two more games at each table. I played Blood Bowl when it first came out, my brother, Robert had it. That was over 20 years ago.

There were a couple groups playing miscellaneous games, Call of Cthulhu, a magic/fantasy RPG I never heard of, and maybe a couple others. The bulk of their RPG offerings were hosted by the PathFinder Society and there looked to be 6 or 7 PathFinder games. The PathFinder Society or else it was a vendor had three tables with two workers for selling rules books. I am not interested in laying out a bunch of money to GM another game system.

They had eight double tables set up for Warhammer miniature wargaming and it looked like two or three tables were setting up to play.

They had some big screen with some sort of Star Trek game that one worker said he was excited about, but nothing was happening yet.

They also had 8 immersive stations, basically boxes with doors for MechWarrior, but nothing was happening with that. There was a big screen TV to show the action once it got started.

One of the workers said that some people usually had pickup games, but I did not see anyone else who was not involved in something. I brought my Player’s Handbook and ACKS soft cover (I helped with the Kickstarter so got my name in the acknowledgement.) and my tablet with the AD&D PDFs, and the final D&D Next play test rules. so I could have ran an impromptu or played in one had there been others there.

Since the first session went until 2:00 PM, and I was not feeling into any of the other offerings, I decided to go run some errands and pop back home to drop stuff off and let the dog out. Due to my waking really early, once I got home I felt how tired I was, so I elected to take a nap. Of course, I slept until after 2:00 and the next session started at 2:30. So I planned to go to the next session, but something personal came up and put an end to that. A day that was a good one, even though it was not going the way I had hoped, took a turn due to some real life drama.

It continues tomorrow, but I put off things I planed to do today that I have been putting off too long. My computer room is a mess and it is driving me nuts, so I need to clean up so I can focus on some campaign planning and other real life things.

I had never been to a strictly gaming convention before. Obviously it was focused on playing, which is a good thing. There were no panels or guest speakers, etc. My impressions of the whole thing are pretty neutral since the one thing I wanted to experience wasn’t happening when I was there.

I did get some good out of it. I learned of some other SW Michigan conventions, one in Grand Rapids, only about an hour away, I don’t recall where the other is at the moment. On my errands I stopped by my FLGS and picked up three spare sets of dice, if I ever manage to get some players that need dice for a session. I also looked at their board and got a picture of a group that meets regularly at WMU that might give some local leads. Local colleges should have some RPG players that might let an old Grognard play. I now know where to park for next year’s Marmalade Dog and can watch for it next year. If I sign up early, I can run a game and get a t-shirt and discounted admission.

For now, I will continue the quest to find locac players for face to face play, and explore the options for online play, like Google hangouts or Roll20. Of course, more posts about those endeavors.

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Day 8: First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

Yesterday when discussing the first D&D product I ever bought, the blue-box set, I mentioned that I still have the dice that came with it.

Their utility is limited.  The d4 is the only one I still use. The d20 is nearly a sphere from all the edges chipping off over the first couple years of play. The d6, d8, and d12 have also had a lot of chipping and aren’t good at a roll. The d4 does not really roll, so I still use it.

These were the ones that the numbers were not colored. We drew the numbers with the crayon provided, but it did not work well. I remember a couple of years ago reading on other old school blogs that you were supposed to run the crayon over the numbers like a cheese grater to get them filled in. I never understood that from what I read. Since I don’t have that box anymore, I can’t re-read it to see if it had it or not. That would have been a lot better. I think we ended up using a red felt-tip pen with a fine point. It still managed to fade easily, so new dice were soon purchased.

See this picture to really understand. At the moment I can only find the d4. The d6 is orange, the d8 is green, the d12 is blue and the d20 is white.

D4 From Blue Box
D4 From Blue Box

[EDIT] Now I am not so sure if the dice came in the box or what. I located the rest of my old and worn dice and I have two sets. I do not recall if one set came with the blue box and I bought a second set so my brother, Robert, and I would each have a set, or if I bought two sets, etc. It is hard to tell from the pictures just how rounded the d20s are.

My Original Dice
My Original Dice

I also found the second dice a bought, two all-whited d20s and two all-white d10s for d100 rolls. The d10s and d20s are badly rounded. I quit using them as soon as I got some clear dice with sharp edges. I don’t recall exactly where I got my current dice.

My second set of dice.
My second set of dice.
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Marmalade Dog 19

While attempting to find players within close driving distance, I checked the area D&D Meetup and they had pictures of play at a prior Marmalade Dog gaming convention, held by the Western Michigan Gamers Guild (WMGG). I knew they had it in the first few months of the year, so I checked and No. 19 is this weekend, Fri., Sat., Sun. I have always remembered to check when it is and learn it happened a week or two before I checked.

Most conventions are on the eastern part of the state in Ann Arbor or Detroit, or in Chicago, or Indianapolis for GenCon. Detroit and Chicago are both about two hours from where I live. I always wanted to go to GenCon, but never have. Not sure I can make it happen this year. Real life gets in the way. I’m trying to not talk myself out of things that might be a once in a lifetime experience when they are things I can realistically accomplish and afford to do.

It’s within 20 miles of where I live and Saturday only is $20.

I haven’t been to a gaming convention in decades, so I may go check it out. They have Pathfinder and D&D Next for RPGs. Never played Pathfinder, I understand it is a D&d 3.5 clone. I never did 3.5. I have looked at D&D Next via the playtest downloads and have the last download. It looks to be what I can tell is D&D based on my blue Box and AD&D experience. They only have 3 sessions of D&D Next, all Temple Of Elemental Evil, which I never played, all run by same DM for 6 players.

I’m not up to learning a new game or laying out the cash for new books. They start at 9:00 AM and go until 11:30 PM. I’m not up for that long, but will go check it out. Who knows, I might meet some other Old School Grognards like me for future gaming.

I will post a follow up of my experience.

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Day 7: First D&D Product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

The first D&D product I ever bought was the blue box basic set with rules up to 3rd level. I never bought the white box set as we had the opinion that it was “old” and not the same thing.

This was before the AD&D Player’s Handbook came out, the first of the three main rulebooks. We had the idea that “advanced” was better. I think a lot of that was judging a book by it’s cover.

I got the Player’s Handbook for Christmas the year it came out, then it was wait and wait for the Monster Manual to come out and go plunk down twelve dollars. Then wait and wait for the Dungeon Master’s Guide to come out and it was the expensive price of $15.00. When you made $10.00 for an hour or more of mowing one lawn in the hot and humid Missouri summer, that was a lot of money. What I remember was that there was never a huge line for the release of these books and they were always available when you went to buy them.

I don’t remember when I did it, but I gave my blue box set to my brother, Kent. He may still have it. I did keep the dice that came with it, see tomorrow for that story.

I still have my original Player’s Handbook, but it is worn from use. My ex is anti-D&D so I left my stuff boxed up most of our marriage. It was boxed up when we lived in an apartment in Kansas City, Missouri. There was a small water leak that we did not discover until it had damaged a lot of my gaming stuff. My DM Guide, Monster Manual, and Dieties & Demigods with the Melnibone mythos, Unearthed Arcana, Monster Manual II, Fiend Folio, one of the two DM Screens (The one with the combat tables and the fighter and the dragon.), World of Greyhawk Gazetteer and map, and some other game materials for other games, like Metamorphosis Alpha. The information on my characters and ideas for my own games were undamaged.

Thankfully I have managed to rebuild my books with both hardcover and PDF copies from before Wizards of the Coast stopped the PDFs. I have updated the PDFs as Wizard has updated them since they resumed allowing them. eBay has also helped in rebuilding my collection.

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Day 6: First character death. How did you handle it?

I don’t recall the first character that died. I think we had so many characters trying to be successful and have someone survive that we weren’t too attached to them.

My favorite character Griswald did a lot of solo adventuring and had not played with the other players for a while. One player, Daryl, had a character Gwale with a +1 handaxe, and was known as Gwale of the Axe. He helped Griswald. They encountered some orcs and Gwale died. I don’t recall if Griswald witnessed it or learned of it. Unfortunately, Gwale was eaten, but Griswald went to the orc lair fireballed it and retrieved the axe.

Another character played by Daryl, James Forrester, a human magic user, who is now the highest level character in the game, 18th level due to an ioun stone. The first arch-mage in a game where magic is not overly common and a 5th level magic user is very tough, and the people view a 1st level magic user as a great wizard. He was helping Griswald fight some orcs, long story. James died helping Griswald, but he was raised.

Griswald was later helping James on a hit and run on a high level evil wizard. We disguised ourselves, applied protective magic, teleported in and started blasting and fighting. We took out all his bodyguards, etc. but the evil wizard managed to kill Griswald. That was quite a shock, but I took it well as I was sure he would be raised. Thankfully, he made his system shock survival roll and reduced his constitution by one.

Later on an adventure that had all the players in the game involved and their high level characters went on an adventure together. I don’t recall the circumstances, but Griswald was killed. Daryl had not told any of the other players that Griswald had died in the raid on the evil wizard, so everyone was shocked as Griswald had this reputation of being the player who had gone the longest without dying, and to their knowledge still had not died. It was funny to see the look on their faces when I revealed in an out-of-character moment that that was not the first time he died.

I think it was inspired by an article in Dragon Magazine, but the rule in Robert’s game is that you get 1,000 experience points for being raised from the dead as a consolation for the loss of all the experience from the adventure.

This led to a saying among the players in the game when we were faced with a very difficult and dangerous task for our next endeavor, “You only get 1,0o0 experience points for being raised.”

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Internet/Database/Web Host Issues

I host my own Word Press blogs on a site a started for a side computer business. It has a lot of information on it, so I just keep it going.

Last night I was adding a graphic I located to my post for yesterday and in the middle of updating, something happened.

So instead of uploading the notes I made for five or six new posts over yesterday’s lunch break, I dealt with a problem. “Joy”.

I got on the control panel at the web host and it looked like all my databases were empty, no tables nothing. Then it go to where I could not even see the front page of any of my 3 blogs, RPGs, genealogy, and one for the side business. It was not an outage and after logging a call and getting into a web chat, I was told it was being escalated. I tried one more time before I went to bed and it was working. If my web host did anything on their end, they did not tell me.

That just reinforces the concept: BACKUP YOUR DATA. Thankfully I had most of it backed up, but while I waited, I backed up all the static pages and once it was working again, made sure I had backups on my PC and in my email. I was a little stressed to think about all the posts for the D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop might be gone, and my efforts to prepare for the April, 2014 A to Z challenge. I’m a tech guy, so I “know” better. I did well enough that I would not lose anything. But I also know you have to VERIFY the data.

In my day job, the company that I work for has a remote backup service we offer our clients. There have been too many times that I have had to point out to clients that because they refused to use our service, that because they did not verify their backups BEFORE their server crashed, there is nothing I can do. A year ago, I had a client whose best backup was 15 months old and they had to re-build 15 months of accounting data. Their raid had a drive fail, and their IT person in charge did not know what he was doing and got it so messed up that a data recovery service could not get any newer data, mostly because they never made sure the data was actually backed up. A couple months ago another client had a server failure and the only copy of data was 4 years old. Thankfully, $5,000 later, they had their most recent data recovered by a service.

If you use an online blogging tool, like Blogger or a WordPress hosted blog, be sure you backup too, just in case.

I have had my own share of oopsies. About ten years ago I installed Linux in a dual boot configuration, and I did something wrong and lost my Windows partition. Of course, it was not backed up. I lost a year’s worth of email because at the time you couldn’t store that much email online.

Are you a techy and know better? What is your best, “I shot myself in the foot.” story?

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2014 One Page Dungeon Contest

The 2014 One Page Dungeon Contest (OPDC) deadline is April 30, 2014.

You can download PDF collections of all prior years’ submissions. I used one map from 2012, I think, for a Kobold warren in my game.

If I am going to be serious about this RPG blogging thing, I feel that I need to at least make a submission instead of thinking about doing it.

I have an idea that is way too generic, or could become a one page dungeon for every genre. That’s my challenge rise up from being a mere “idea man”, to actual execution of the details. How hard can it be right?

If you are interested and never heard of it or never looked into it, check it out here.

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer