October 29, 2013

RPG Tech Wish List

If I were to win one of the huge lottery prizes (I'm talking millions), I would create a rock'in rpg game room with all the bells and whistles that expendable cash can buy. I know most of us would as well. But what if you could only get one tech item for your game? What would it be? And by this question I am really asking, what is the most important technological item you could get for your game?

For me, it would be a high-end printer and enough ink to keep it going in perpetuity.
I find I am buying a lot more PDFs than ever before. But I like paper products so I need to print them out to make good use of them. There are paper map tiles, paper miniatures and other table accessories that you can print out these days. Also, I am a big fan of giving my players pictures of what they encounter from pictures of loot (weapons, necklaces, rings, etc) they find to locations (castles, wilderness, etc) they visit. I actually do a bunch of printing at work but it's all in black & white (and I'm limited by how much they allow me to print for personal reasons). I would love to be able to print everything out in glorious color.

Getting a high-end printer is actually an attainable goal without having to win a lottery - assuming someday I can talk the wife into letting me do it. But what tech item would you want for your table? Many people want such things as high-end computers to facilitate game play, a more portable computer such as a pdf reader for ease of use, a high-end projection system for running mapped encounters and other such items. What would you like if money was no obstacle?

October 22, 2013

The Real World Dungeon Delves

The underground dungeon complex has been a staple of D&D and fantasy games for years. It is a wonderful way to allow for player choice ("do we go left or right?") while still restraining the options the players have ("we can only go left or right"). However, the dungeon complex has always felt artificial and contrived to me. I mean, who really lives in underground lairs? In the past, I have always hand-waved it, usually saying that monsters, the normal dungeon inhabitants, simply prefer such locations and its okay since they are not bound by human predilections.

However, I could not have been more wrong. Underground cities have existed within our real world. And I'm not talking about a few caves carved into the side of a mountain either, I mean real cities that go deep beneath the earth.


This underground city was built sometime in the 7th century BC within modern day Turkey. It has at least 8 levels, was 280 feet deep and could house up to 20,000 people and their livestock. It contained food stores, kitchens, stalls, churches, wine and oil presses, ventilation shafts, wells, and a religious school. Access to the city was closed off with large round doors, that also could close off each level. Of further interest is the fact that Derinkuyu was linked to another underground city 4 miles away, Kaymakli, through an underground passage.

This underground city has 4 levels and nearly 100 tunnels with various rooms off of them. This one was also meant to be lived in and included stables (on the first level), a church, storage, dwellings, a wine press, and a copper smelting area.

The region where these two underground cities can be found has over 200 underground cities each with a minimum of 2 levels; 40 of these have a minimum of at least 3 levels. Many of these are open to the public, though not all of the cities have been fully explored. To know that there really do exist underground cities is fascinating.

October 19, 2013

Kickstarter Shout-Out: Warlords and Sellswords

Turns out a friend of mine has his own Kickstarter going. It's for Warlords and Sellswords, a card game where you have 10 turns to build the best army. Check it out.


"Warlords and Sellswords is card game about building an army to impress the local king so that he will hire you to fight his war. You will compete against other new armies over a ten turn game. The king has outlawed open combat between all armies applying for the job but subterfuge and trickery are viable options. You can murder, steal, and disrupt the other army’s troops to make yours look the most appealing for war."

October 15, 2013

Elysium - A Cyberpunk/Shadowrun Film

Elysium is a film released here in the States on August 9th and by the time this article is posted will likely be out of the first run theaters (though it might still be around in second run theaters). It stars Matt Damon and was produced/written/directed by the same person who did the sci-fi film District 9. It is billed as a big budget summer action film. From the trailers this looked like another straightforward sci-fi film. However, as I watched it I quickly realized this was very much a cyberpunk genre film.

It has so many of the cyberpunk tropes in it. Cyberware, datajacks, hackers, street docs, fixers, wage slaves, corps, gangers, street samurai with swords, SINs and big guns all make an appearance. However, it goes beyond simple tropes. There is also the feel of a cyberpunk dystopia. There are the sprawls and then the rich areas. And the best part is that the characters actually go on runs, much the same way my players did when we were playing Shadowrun.

If you want to see a movie that captures the look and feel of a cyberpunk adventure, Elysium is a really good one to go and see. And for those who have already seen it, what did you think?

October 8, 2013

I Missed Old School Because I Was Doing D&D the Right Way

Last month I took part in the 30 Day D&D Challenge (and had fun doing so). During the process two things struck me as odd. When it came to answering Favorite Gameworld and Favorite Adventure You Have Ran
I realized I have never run any of the old worlds or modules. Sure I was playing D&D back then and I actually have all the worlds and modules. I have the Greyhawk setting material; I have the Judges Guild Wilderlands. I have the Tomb of Horrors, the complete Giant Series, all the B series (and A and C and etc) - all the modules from the days of "old-school". I read them all and enjoyed reading them. But I have never run any of them...ever.

There are a couple of reasons for this...
1) When we started playing D&D, sessions consisted of throwaway bits of dungeon exploration. There were no campaigns, no worlds. None of that mattered to us.
2) Because we were kids we didn't have a lot of money. We shared whatever gaming books we got. One of us would buy a book, we'd photocopy it and give everyone else a copy. Thus it is was understood that everyone had read all the books.

Thus it was that when I started running games I would create everything. I would write the dungeon adventure myself from scratch. When we eventually "grew up" and wanted more "realism" I created my own game worlds.

I did what D&D was meant to be; I created everything myself.

For me, at least in the early years from which "old-school" is based, published material was used as a way to show us examples on how it could be done and as inspiration. Therefore I missed the days of gaming in Greyhawk nor did I ever hear the battle-cry of the kobolds in the Caves of Chaos (I was running the 5E Caves of Chaos Playtest and one of my players did it and then had to explain what it was to me). All too often I see "old-school" grognards mention playing in module X or why they love world Y, but I missed all that. Maybe that's why I am less nostalgic of the old days. Maybe that's why I don't feel tied to the OSR beyond having some fundamental play styles in common and playing in the same time period most of the OSR came from.

All that being said, I did eventually start running published material, mostly as a way to cut down on prep time. But it came later, after the early days of old-school. Do I feel like I played D&D better than people who used published material? No, just that I may have missed out on some common ground. But really, all that matters is that the players had fun and I had fun making my worlds of adventure.

October 1, 2013

30 Day D&D - Wrap-Up

So, I had fun this month writing up 30 days of D&D related questions. Sure, some of the questions were inane (with bad spelling and grammar) and of little interest to my readers. However, it was insightful, even some of the more generic questions.

For instance, there was a slew of Favorite Monster days by type. At first glance this was fairly basic and uninteresting. In the end they often come down to nostalgia or personal flavor choice and that makes them more personal than informative. However, I found my reasoning for my choices to be of interest. I am predominantly the DM in my group. Most of my monster choices were made by how they can affect and challenge my players. Also, I tended to prefer monsters with variety to them; monsters that could be used in different ways either in location or presentation.

So, in the end, it was less about what answer I gave and more about why I chose that answer.

It was actually interesting reading the blog posts from everyone else who jumped on this blog bandwagon. There was a fair amount of variance in the answers which kept it refreshing. It also goes to show how diverse rpg gamers can be.

d20 Dark Ages kept a list of which blogs were participating if you want to check some of them out.