Where 5E of the World’s Most Famous RPG Loses Me. Part 2

Maybe you (Wizards) have overlooked the demographic of the 30+ year old gamers, many of whom were around for the older editions. Yes, it’s extremely important to continue to bring new players into the game. However, it’s also important to have people who want to be a DM. Some of us old guys are perfect in that role. Teaching younger generations is something we (“Old Grognards”) very good at.

Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast,

Thank you for coming back. Yesterday I discussed that the current edition of the game has become very player oriented. The Dungeon Master is slowly being pushed out of the process. Anemic creatures, the death of experience points, and a solid lack of encounter building guidelines combined with the official over-buffing of Player Characters is pushing long time DMs away and discouraging people from wanting to DM.

“Just wing it” worked in the early days of the game. Dumping everything in the DM’s lap was fine then when the game was in its fledgling state back in the 1970’s. One D&D is supposedly aimed at getting rid of the concept of editions. Yet, you (Wizards) have seem to have completely forgotten everything before Third Edition. I don’t think it’s a coincidence and it’s the reason why a lot of us “Old Grognards” have gone back to the Old School Renaissance which (no surprise) is based on Basic, B/X, BECMI, 1st Ed AD&D, and 2nd Ed AD&D.

Maybe you (Wizards) have overlooked the demographic of the 30+ year old gamers, many of whom were around for the older editions. Yes, it’s extremely important to continue to bring new players into the game. However, it’s also important to have people who want to be a DM. Some of us old guys are perfect in that role. Teaching younger generations is something we (“Old Grognards”) very good at.

Wizards, you’re growing to the point where you’re forgetting the name of the game. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is the name of the game. So, why are you getting to a point where there are practically no DUNGEONS and the DRAGONS are toothless and weak? But that’s okay, because players have tons of options

Seriously, it’s as if we’re talking about two completely different games now. There’s good old D&D with monsters to fight and underground complexes to explore. There are magical treasures to be found! You can slay monsters, explore forgotten pyramids, and gain fortunes.

Then there’s this kind of weird, overly dramatic, almost completely character focused “game” we see on Critical Role. It’s almost as if it’s scripted. As I stated in Part 1 of this article, if I wanted to watch drama? I wouldn’t be a DM. I’d watch TV, movies or read a book. This newer, evolved version of D&D is more like acting class with some dice.

D&D came from a time when we didn’t have computer games, cell phones, tablets, or an Internet to play games on. I see where One D&D is heading. Virtual Table Top (VTT) gaming is the wave of the future. That’s great. Connecting people via the Internet is a good thing. PDF books, cell phone apps, and conference call D&D became a way of life in 2020 and continues today. Great.

But please remember the origins of D&D. No electrical components needed. It’s about books, dice, pencils and paper. This hobby was born from miniatures wargaming. The original creators of D&D did not have cameras aimed at them while they were playing the game.

People play D&D on camping trips. People play together in person in their parents’ basements, in the back of the Friendly Local Game Stores, and in classrooms. That’s not going away, especially with families of older gamers bringing their kids and students into the game. Please remember the rest of your audience?

Sorry, I know this was kind of a long rant. Thank you for being here and bearing with me. I’m going to put out a Part 3 to this series of articles, but more from my own perspective and my own benefit. I appreciate you. Thank you!

Where 5E of the World’s Most Famous RPG Loses Me.

Dear Wizards of the Coast,
Okay, I’m one of thousands of Dungeon Masters who have experienced A LOT of frustration with 5E. I know your new not-an-edition is coming out and you’re looking for feedback. I don’t think you’re asking the right questions.

An Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast,


Okay, I’m one of thousands of Dungeon Masters who have experienced A LOT of frustration with 5E. I know your new not-an-edition is coming out and you’re looking for feedback. I don’t think you’re asking the right questions.

From Day 1 of owning 5E, I’ve wondered where the rules for creating fair and challenging encounters are. The Dungeon Master’s Guide failed us in that regard. Other roleplaying games and other editions of D&D had mechanics that get it done. Why wouldn’t I play those instead?

This is also why I think so many DMs have switched to Milestones as the preferred method of character leveling. Experience points seem to be dying as a concept. Other games and editions still use XP.

A lack of effective encounter creation guidelines is accompanied by the rather anemic Monster Manual. Why do you think there are so many monster books on DriveThruRPG.com/DMsGuild.com? It’s because many of the basic core monsters are easily overcome at low levels.

This leads to another problem. Why do most campaigns seem to drop off at about 10th Level? Could it be there just aren’t a lot of good challenges at higher levels? Many DMs are just plain frustrated with the higher end of the game.

Let’s talk about what I feel is the most basic issue in the game as of 2022. The D&D game has become too player-oriented. The DM, that person running the game? Has been completely overlooked. And from what I hear about One D&D so far, it’s only going to get worse.

Don’t worry about new DM’s right now. Worry about retaining people who want to be a DM at all! If you don’t have people wanting to run the game, it’s going to fall apart. Yes, thank you for bringing more players into the game. Now focus on DMs a bit more, please?

Players are constantly seeing character buffs and very beneficial class revisions. That’s great for the players. Please bear in mind, this is not about the DM having an adversarial relationship with the players. It’s about the DM having the ability to challenge powerful character builds with monsters, otherwise the game devolves into a game of one upmanship among the players.

If I just want to watch characters banter among themselves, I’d watch TV or read a book. Yay plot! Yay description! I love telling great stories, but we’re starting to lose the game part of roleplaying game. I don’t need to be a DM just to give a few prompts for the characters to play off-of. Why have game stats at all?

As this letter is getting rather long, please see Part 2 of this article. Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by. You rock! Game on.

So, I Woke Up to This Video Yesterday…

I’m an OG (Old Gamer) fighting an uphill battle, starting with my own mental health.

Here’s the video from Gamers on Games:
He can be found on Twitter here, which is where I met him: https://twitter.com/YTGamersonGames

Strap in, family. This is going to be a LONG article. There’s a lot to unpack here.

He makes a lot of good points. Well worth listening.

When I woke up to this video yesterday. (literally, not “Woke.” Although that’s an issue, too.) I wanted to argue initially. I agree with most but not all of what was said. We’ve got some people in the Old School Renaissance community that regularly make embarrassing, bigoted comments.

We are literally seeing the tides of racism turning the other way within the RolePlaying Game hobby. Older cishet white (Caucasian) males are rapidly on our way out. (I say “our” because I’m sorta in that category.) There are still plenty of us around and the camps of bigots/everyone else are rapidly dividing.

The tragic irony is Dungeons and Dragons was created by a bunch of older white guys who were originally miniatures wargamers. Minis wargames were traditionally dominated by older white guys. It’s getting better. #warhammer is seeing a broader audience despite the gatekeeping in that community. The OSR RPG community is struggling with racism.

Racism is not possible in the face of Universal love and peace.

Get it right. It’s “Awakened,” not “woke.” This is NOT directed at Gamers On Games. I know all too well there are members of the OSR community who will cringe when I start talking about spiritual awakening. Right wing Christians, racists, transphobes/homophobes and others call it “woke.” My eyes were opened by the Universe.

Maybe racism has always been present in the RPG community. Maybe the spotlight has finally shown upon the dark corner that is racism in the RPG hobby/community in general. I’m Old School. I’ve had some pretty sketchy players in my groups before which were okay at the time as long as they kept their mouths shut about race, politics, and religion.

Over the years it has gotten better. The hobby has changed. I have changed. When one awakens to the Source of all creation and realizes we are all one at the end of the day. We are all a miniscule speck in the greater Universe. When one realizes we are effectively God experiencing all of creation, perspective on race shifts dramatically. How can one look at another person and hate when one is effectively hating on oneself?

I believe in forgiveness. I believe in a benevolent Creator. Yes, there is bad shit out there. There are very difficult people in every community, not just RPGs. These people (racists, -phobes, haters) are a challenge placed in the path of anyone who seeks to love all beings (in the spiritual sense.)

I’ve made my share of dumb mistakes in life and said some pretty horrific, regrettable things that I can’t ever get back. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I intend to do better. We’re ALL in this together. Some of us have bigger burdens to bear than others, especially in the RPG community.

#DropDaveCon is a legit hashtag.

Long spiritual rant aside, The nice folks at DaveCon, a premier gaming convention in the Midwest needs to either drop known bigots from their Guest of Honor roll, or lose attendees and vendors. There needs to be a clear, obvious message sent to the organizers of this convention that these old school bigots need to hit the road or radically change their views.

This hashtag, this convention makes me sad. I live in Des Moines, IA. It’s pretty much a gaming convention deadzone. We have one or two piddly conventions per year. I’d organize my own, (*And I KNOW how,) but it’s a lot of work and a lot of money to put a convention together.

Minnesota, on the other hand, has a ton of conventions. Davecon is about a three hour drive from where I live. I’d love to go. Except, money aside, their guest list includes some people I just can’t hang out with.

Sorry. Imagine driving all the way to Bloomington, MN just to be turned away from the table because of the color of your skin or your blue/pink hair? I can’t let that go. That would suck. Why not support conventions that encourage inclusivity and diversity instead?

Having an entire hashtag telling people to boycott a convention? Ouch. That’s bad press for any convention. Losing attendees can kill a convention for good. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not pretty.

Let’s talk Gygax for a moment.

Learn a little more about Ernie.https://g.co/kgs/Ger99Z

We all know and love E Gary Gygax, creator of the original T$R Games and specifically Dungeons & Dragons (Along with Dave Arneson and others.) Gary was an amazing man. Unfortunately, he did have some quacky views of women in gaming, but every big name game designer has a few skeletons. But Gary is still revered and loved by the most of the RPG community.

His son, Ernie Gygax (Jr.) is another story entirely. He has aligned and embedded himself in what we call NuTSR. For those who might not know, NuTSR has nothing to do with the old company beyond buying up the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum in Lake Geneva, WI, birthplace of D&D.

I’ve listened to interviews with Ernie. Some of them make me cringe because of some of the just ignorant things that roll out of his mouth. He’s kind of the face of the OSR in some ways, being the son of Gygax. His brother, Luke Gygax is still involved with the hobby to some extent, but not nearly as vocal.

Truthfully, I want to side with Ernie on one concept and only one. He is honestly trying to keep his father’s dream/legacy alive. I’d support him more if he hadn’t fallen in with the likes of Dave Johnson and Justin LaNasa. I’d be a fan if he hadn’t openly spewed a lot of negative comments about the LGTBQIA++ community and some pretty racist comments.

Having Ernie as a “Special Guest of Honor” at any convention? Ouch. I seriously question the judgment of the convention organizers at this point. #DropDaveCon. Yeah. Let’s say no to racism.

None of us are getting any younger.

The video, getting back to the original point, makes a very obvious, true statement about a lot of us OGs. Here in the next 20-30 years, most of us older (white) guys will be gone. I’ve got diabetes, fibromyalgia, obesity, bad teeth and bifocals. The video really makes me feel my mortality.

I’m just one example. I know a lot of OSR gamers have their share of health issues and none of us are getting any younger. However, I happen to know a younger generation of gamers that are starting to embrace a bit of that OSR goodness. It is possible for that part of the hobby to survive in much warmer, more sensitive, caring hands.

Take a look at a game called ShadowDark. It’s an OSR game if I’ve ever played one. If one were to talk to Kelsey, you would know she’s not one of us OGs. She is a brilliant, hard working RPG designer. @thearcanelibrary. on Twitter. I’ve written about her before here. (Yeah, I’m a fan.)

Yes, there are parts of the OSR that will vanish from the Earth eventually. Maybe they need to as a natural course of the hobby’s evolution. It saddens me as a RPG aficionado, writer, and lifelong GM that our legacy as gamers is so tarnished by a pack of loudmouth hate mongers as Gamers On Game’s video suggests.

I wish he (Dave/GamersonGames) was wrong. I would love to say, “Let’s just get back to gaming.” For the Love of God, I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t bring myself to ignore the hate and negativity in OUR (as in ALL of us) gaming community. We need to heal. We need to grow.

I love my hobby with all my heart. I love humanity in the eyes of Source. I won’t just sit here and let the racist crap go unchallenged any more. We have to live on this Earth as a family. Skin color, gender, sexuality, age, and so on has to be something we ALL have to accept as people. If Jesus and Buddha (or some other deific figures) wanted to sit in on your gaming session, wouldn’t you let them?

I’m not making excuses for all of the NuTSR crowd, Venger Satanis, and Evil DM. I think a lot of things that have been said and done at this point that are inexcusable. The sad part is, the actions of a few have spoken for the many in the OSR segment of the community, if not RPG enthusiasts in general. It stinks. I hate it. It’s up to the rest of the RPG community to pick up the pieces and try to repair the damage that has been done to the hobby’s reputation.

I feel for the companies that could potentially go belly up as a result of the OSR movement going away.

The one last point I want to make about the video is I have a lot of concern for companies such as Goodman Games, Necrotic Gnome, and the Arcane Library if the OSR movement in the RPG hobby goes away, which we most assuredly will someday. I love those companies that are putting out OSR/D&D retro clones. I have high hopes that some or all of the OSR producers will survive.

Wizards of the Coast is kinda the elephant in the room. You can’t swing a dice bag around in the convention scene or a game shop without hitting something touched by Hasbro. Wizards of the Coast and Renegade Game Studios are huge right now. That’s probably not going to change. However, that means the RPG community has to deal with their corporate culture for better or worse.

Wizards of the Coast profits from pretty much all of it, and they don’t seem to care much about the OSR.

WotC also controls the rights to most or all of the original TSR trademarks and copyrights. This is especially true of D&D. I know they want to push their new products. We’re going to hear no end of rhetoric about One D&D for the next approximately two years. When 2024 rolls around, we could very easily see WotC pull the plug on all of the reprints, DMsGuild, and pretty much anything in the various Open Game License content that they don’t like.

WotC could end up being the dreadful gatekeepers of PDF products, especially TSR reprints, that some of us were always afraid they would become. I’m sure they’ll find some clever McCorporate way to put it to the fans like, “We don’t see editions any more in One D&D. Come buy all the new stuff.” All the Indie creators that rely on OGL products could have to move away from DriveThruRPG in the coming years. That will also fuel the demise of the OSR because we rely on reprints and a lot of independent content providers for our games.

Imagine a world where no one plays original D&D, BECMI, 1st AD&D, 2nd Ed D&D or anything that remotely resembles them ever again. Imagine entire conventions shutting down because attendance fell off. What’s it going to be like when WotC presents their virtual platform and all their new, young 5E/One D&D crowd flocks to it, consequences and side effects be damned. Yeah, I’d say a world without an OSR is possible.

Remember, RPG family: your hobby is being judged by the actions of some loudmouth, hate-mongering stooges.

WotC was smart to file an injunction against NuTSR to stop production on Star Frontiers New Genesis and other reprint products. An inferior product produced by a pack of known, very vocal bigots would not help the hobby. It would make us ALL look like idiots. It’s bad enough we OGs have to try to shake the stereotype applied to the OSR.

That’s my final thought on the subject. It was pointed out in the video. All of us old, white guy gamers are being stereotyped and judged based on the actions of loudmouth racists. I can’t stop stupid. Duct tape can’t fix it. Please forgive those of us who don’t think the way they do and don’t behave the way they do. Thank you!

I appreciate you being here. More on this topic to come. It really hit home between the old white guy/OSR stereotype and the mortality bit. I’m not lying when I say I’m pretty bummed out right now.

Books Full of Challenges and Traps for Fantasy RPGs. Dungeon Room Design Part 1.

So, you’ve decided to maybe bump off a few of the PCs in tonight’s game, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re using anything in the Grimtooth’s Traps collection. These traps books have been around a while in various forms. Some of us OGs might just happen to have the original Flying Buffalo versions lying around. I prefer the collections because they put all or most of them in one place.

There’s a good reason for keeping some of the old Grimtooth’s Traps (among other) books handy.

Can’t think of traps without good ol’ Grimtooth coming to mind.

So, you’ve decided to maybe bump off a few of the PCs in tonight’s game, huh? Well, you’ve come to the right place if you’re using anything in the Grimtooth’s Traps collection. These traps books have been around a while in various forms. Some of us OGs might just happen to have the original Flying Buffalo versions lying around. I prefer the collections because they put all or most of them in one place.

There is also a 3rd Ed D&D book called the Book of Challenges that comes in handy for designing dungeon rooms, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. We’ll discuss it further in another article. There are countless other resources throughout the years, too many to effectively list here.

Some DMs/GMs shy away from the use of “death” traps. Like they’re afraid of mangling a character or something.

I’ve always had a very light-hearted, easy going approach to traps. I’ve ground up a few characters in them. Not all of them are an instant TPK, but a good number of them do require the attention of a skilled healer afterward. That’s something you just don’t get in the newest incarnation of D&D.

If I’m running a game and I say, “click,” everyone had better be prepared to roll a saving throw of some kind. Mechanical traps are the easy ones. When we start mixing in magic- that’s where things get really exciting. Oh, plus boobytrapped/cursed items. I might have a sadistic streak in my personality? (LOL!!!)

I used to build dungeons around the notion of being a gauntlet of traps with a few creatures strewn in for good measure. Some of those dungeons had some really sweet loot, though. I find that one has to entice the characters and even the players to a certain extent. Gauntlets of Ogre Power, +5 Holy Avenger, +3 Sword of Sharpness, and the occasional +1/+3 Dragon Slayer serve as good treasure should the group survive. (*Back in the day we had a lot of Fighters, Barbarians, and Assassins in the group.)

This is a trap I’ve used before. It’s a meat grinder.

But what about the ones that get squished?

Back in the old days, if a character ate it in a particularly brutal trap, Grimtooth’s or something I made up, we let the player roll up a new character two levels lower than the party. We let the new characters roll for loot plus whatever the group salvaged off of the squished character. Usually the group was pretty cool about helping out if someone lost a character in a dungeon in such a grim way.

Then it was just a matter of working the new character into the party as soon as they left the dungeon to sell treasure or replenish supplies. I recall a few rare occasions when the new characters wandered into the dungeon and rescued the preexisting group. Most of the time cherished, long term characters would miraculously survive certain doom with clever thinking and lucky rolls.

Proper prevention is worth a pound of premade characters.

Of course, the best way to prevent character death was to be on the constant lookout for traps. It was sometimes hilarious watching the group meticulously checking every square for pressure plates, tripwires, shifting floors, subtle inclines and holes in the walls. Sometimes they’d get lucky and find a secret door or a concealed room instead.

I had a player take a dwarven miner into a dungeon once who managed to circumvent several traps and monsters by tunneling straight through the walls of the dungeon. I was caught off guard by this maneuver and really had no counter for it the first time it happened. I’ve also seen high level spells used to flood, gas, or detonate some dungeon areas. (*Note, above-ground structures are particularly vulnerable to kabooms from the sky.)

After death traps really started taking their toll in the game, a couple of players got really smart and started playing Thieves. They’d warm up the percentile dice and then we didn’t see as many characters die in trap dungeons. Monsters, on the other hand…

After 3.5 or 4th Ed, traps fell out of style.

The pillars of adventuring: Grimtooth style.

Dungeons in D&D just ain’t what they used to be. Or at least in 5E people are slightly more attached to their characters. 4th Ed was fun because of the timing elements and the way the action economy worked. 4th also saw a lot of monsters get nerfed pretty bad.

Nowadays players tend to put a lot of thought and careful background planning into their new D&D characters. It makes the DM look bad when someone’s prized Tiefling Bard of Twitch and Instagram fame buys the farm in the most awful corridor trap the DM could find in Grimtooth’s Traps. It would upset the cosplayer/player horribly, and we just can’t have that.

OSR games usually aren’t hampered by such unofficial restrictions, of course. Most of us OGs are used to the possibility of being reckless in a dungeon being the end of a character. A lot of us don’t get overly attached to a character for just that reason. Some GM/DMs are more kind than others, though.

The best advice for handling traps in most games:

Talk about it before characters are made. That way someone might want to make a Thief. The group might want to hire some added help. (Alas, poor Jimmy the Torchbearer, back for more dungeon romps.) Knowing death could be lurking around any corner, the players may wish to brush up on Dungeoneering 101 somewhere. There are some key survival tactics out there if you read up.

On the other hand, if the prospect of traps that can literally swallow a character whole terrifies or slightly concerns the group? Please refrain from using them? Especially new players might be turned off of gaming if one of their characters runs afoul of one of the Grimtooth style character grinders.

The other rule I’ve incorporated into my game over the years is the “Click” Rule. If the DM/GM says “Click!” while the group is wassailing around in a dungeon, we go around the table and each player gets to describe one action before the trap goes off. I forget exactly who came up with this rule, but I love it. It has made traps far more interesting when players do all kinds of crazy, paranoid things because they think the trap is on them.

Remember, as a GM/DM you always have the option to not use traps or nerf them.

You can always select a less lethal option or just omit the trap all together. When I make a Five Room Dungeon, (*See Johnn Four’s Five Room Dungeon Guide for more.) I like to make at least one of the rooms some sort of trap element. There’s also usually a room with a puzzle or special lock.

The idea, of course, is to make the players think on their feet a bit more. If every room has a trap, the group is likely going to get bored. Or start finding ways to set everything off without their precious characters getting greased. (Alas, poor Sparky the Squirrel familiar. May he rest until summoned again.) But, if carefully planned and executed, traps can be a heap of fun.

I hope you found some use of this article. Traps are one of my favorite dungeoneering aspects to any fantasy game. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you. Game on!

Disclaimer: Never build or use any traps in real life. Someone could be seriously injured or worse. In short- It’s just not worth it. Be kind. Talk it out.

Spelljammer.

#hadozee controversy and a heap of bad reviews. One D&D is around the corner in 2024. Why would I want to buy the new Spelljammer? Space Hamsters?

I kinda saw this coming.

Why didn’t they learn from this?

I’ve heard multiple reviewers say, “Save your money.” Or, “Maybe look at buying other products.”

In other words, even some of the hardcore YouTubers and other Wizards of the Coast/D&D rah-rah reviewers aren’t into it. I mean, it looks cool. The art is amazing. But the content? Like the actual meat and bones of the campaign setting? Having a good concept does not make for a good game.

RPG family, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but the thing pretty much sucked the first time around. What made us think it was going to be better for 5E? The old content wasn’t that great. Fam, a turd by any other name is still… You can’t put a dress on mule. (Original) T$R made so many other good campaign settings.

If the first time around was bad, (and let’s be honest, it was BAD,) what made them think a remake would fix it? I’m sure someone will quote sales numbers, but I was big into this hobby when it came out and I seem to recall a lot of people panning it then, too. The new version seems to not have gotten any better.

Industry timing leaves a lot to be desired on this one.

New! In a shiny package.

It didn’t help that they announced that in 2024 One D&D is coming. So, basically here’s a new edition that is supposedly going to be retrocompatible with 5E, or at least that’s what they’re saying. They want us to keep being good consumers and continue buying things such as Spelljammer and Dragonlance. WotC also wants us to “playtest” the new rules and provide them with so-called feedback. (Anybody else’s bullshit detector going off?)

If I know WotC, they are eventually going to try to get us to switch completely over to this new edition like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Right now they (WotC) doesn’t want us to sell off our 5th Ed books because Half Price Books can only handle so much. DMsGuild has to stick around long enough for D&D Beyond to evolve.(*I have a feeling being a third party D&D creator is going to change.)

I feel bad for Dragonlance fans right now. Their book is going to be ill-timed at best. Lord only knows what 2023 is going to look like for D&D releases. I mean, we know physical products are no longer high on WotC’s release priorities as far as we’ve heard. Unless we’re talking about Magic cards, then yay physical stuff. Books? Pfft!

What’s the point of releasing products for 5E when it’s going to be on its way out at the end of the year in 2023? Is the next generation of fans going to want to convert all of the 5E material they own into this new shinier One D&D package? What does that say for Spelljammer, Dragonlance and whatever they do in 2023?

One D&D hasn’t even been released and they’re already contradicting themselves.

I know I’m pretty hard on WotC sometimes. They’re the leading company in the industry. With a few brief exceptions, they’ve always been top dog. D&D is pretty much the mother of all roleplaying games. Some would say the industry looks to WotC for direction.

So can someone at WotC or anywhere explain the whole debacle with the Hadozee? Please look up #hadozee on Twitter for the full details. Fair warning: possible racist content. This isn’t the only mistake that was made with the new Spelljammer, but this one came at a really poor time.

Anyone who has been following the sordid tale of Star Frontiers: New Genesis playtest documents knows this isn’t the time to get a bad rep for racism in game publications. It’s bad enough when certain nuts are our there trying to make the hobby look bad. Now the biggest name in the business has to show an utter lack of sensitivity to the topic? Really?

I thought WotC wanted to be progressive. I thought they wanted to set the industry standard. What happened to doing away with negative racial differences in D&D? #hadozee

Anybody remember this little gem from DriveThruRPG/DMsGuild?

Update: D&D Beyond revised Hadozee.

The Hadozee errata.

Good for Wizards of the Coast! They’ve heard the uproar around the slavery element of the Hadozee and removed it on D&D Beyond. At least they’re not completely oblivious to the rpg community. I’m not sure that goes far enough, but it’s a great start.

The only thing that I noticed right away is that it’s still out there in print. Digital media are easy to change. Push the delete button, rewrite a few lines, and poof. Fixed it. But several thousand print copies of the physical book? Oops.

Basically, they deleted all of the content that referred to slavery, removed some offensive art, and issued an apology. Good for them. Better than nothing. I’m sure a LOT of people would have been happy if the offensive text had never made it into the book in the first place.

The other catch is there are still hundreds of print copies out there. It’s still kind of a Public Relations nightmare. Yes, they apologized. The question remains: have they learned anything? At least they’re launching an internal investigation, though…
The apology statement can be found here.

I’m glad no one at WotC actually reads my blog.

Because I’m incredibly disappointed with that company right now. Say what you want about the Old School Renaissance in gaming. At least we knew mistakes had been made well enough to steer clear of them. Call me an “Old Grognard” all day, but I think the kids that put this latest Spelljammer together were seeing dollar signs and little else.

This mistake with the Hadozee has been in print since 1982 by their own admission! How could they have let it slide by? Yeah, I hope WotC’s internal investigation is fruitful.

What are they going to do? Fire the writer from 40 years back? Fire an editor that let it all go by? Pat themselves on the back for a job poorly done? Probably that last part. “Oh, well. Oops. Silly us. Hee hee. Now go buy Dragonlance.”

Editing failure.

I know I drop my share of typos, grammar and punctuation errors here on my blog. I’m not claiming to be perfect. And as an editor, I’m not… uh… Let’s just say dealing with people isn’t my strong suit.

But Spelljammer? C’mon. Really?!? WotC pays these people how much? These “design teams” are so effective. Someone could have walked in off the street and questioned the Hadozee, and yet…

If the McCorporate cultured world of WotC learns anything from this, it’s that the more crap you try to do in committee, the more likely it will FAIL outright. You can hold all the meetings you want. You and have all the little social gatherings in the office you can muster. You can hold hands around the campfire after work. Do you know what matters at the end of the day?

THE F*CKING PRODUCT!!!

It’s lucky for WotC that they have no worries about sucking a loss on Spelljammer. Yay for them. Any smaller company would probably be shitting bricks by now. Not our WotC. They can afford to sweep the whole ugly #hadozee incident under the rug, pretend it never happened, and put out the next piece of trash for all their people to hype up.

DID anybody on that staff stop to think, Hmm. Maybe it’s just possible “Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. ” because they like to remind us of it on DriveThruRPG every chance they get? Seriously? That doesn’t warrant some damn editorial review time??? Which “team” screwed that pooch on this?

I can’t do it anymore. I’m all but done with 5E.

I’m more ready than ever to embrace my old school roots. Pretty sure I have enough OG Dragonlance material to last me a long time should I decide I want to run with it. Don’t even come around me with that Spelljammer business. I’m really looking hard at Old School Essentials again. I think WotC can go a few years without my money again. See you next “edition” on that.

Star Frontiers is welcome. Alternity is welcome. Heck, I’d love to run Amazing Engine again sometime. I won’t be touching Spelljammer with a 10′ space pole any time soon. (*It’s like a regular 10′ pole, only in space.)

I want to find a nice, quiet, smaller company to work for where my work might be appreciated. Give me the peace of mind that I never have to sit in a meeting with a bunch of freakin strangers ever again. Oh, and never will I ever reprint something from the 1980’s without at least reviewing it first.

Onward and upward. Back tomorrow with more gaming excitement. Thank you for stopping by.

Is this me? Is She Speaking to Me?!?

That’s actually very good advice! Note she said “project leads.” I would take that to mean likely larger companies. Yeah, at this point in the year 2022, we have better options than all-male, all-white RPG design teams at Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Renegade, and other big game companies. I agree.

WtAF did I walk into this time?

Okay. It so happens I followed this person before this post on #TTRPGTwitter .

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Here’s the link if you’re on Twitter.

**WARNING!** Before anyone freaks out- There are parts of this statement that I wholeheartedly agree with and a couple of things that I think require careful examination and discernment. I’m not offended by any of it. (Some of the comments on Twitter were another story.)

I’m a “Male creator in the #TTRPG community.” (Sorta-ish.)

Okay. So far so good. No secrets there. I’m a pretty standard issue older white guy. Tabletop Roleplaying Games are very much my jam for 40+years now.

She’s calling on me “not to work…” Whoa. What? Let’s stop the bus for a second. I’ve been unemployed for a year and a change now. Um- I’m sorry. But if someone offered me a real, cash-paying job at Wizards of the Coast or some other game company? At this point I wouldn’t argue.

Now, obviously people aren’t beating down my door to offer me a job. I’ve never gotten to hold one of the rare, highly coveted writing jobs at one of the “real” established game companies. Make no mistake- It’s on my vision board. It has been my dream for 36-ish years. I believe it will happen eventually.

Make no mistake, I have zero issues working with anyone on an RPG. (*Okay, except bigots, homophobes, transphobes, haters and other such -ists.) But People of Color? Women? Trans folx? Sign me up. Awesome. It’s about the GAME! (and maybe a paycheck.)

Now to unpack the more of this statement.

“…not to work with project leads who consistently lead projects that only include white men and the occasional token non-man.”

Okay, cool. I think people took the ball and ran toward the wrong end zone with this statement online. I think what she means is don’t go work for white guys who only hire other white guys and the occasional person of color or woman/trans male/trans female. That’s the lengthened version if I read it right.

That’s actually very good advice! Note she said “project leads.” I would take that to mean likely larger companies. Yeah, at this point in the year 2022, we have better options than all-male, all-white RPG design teams at Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Renegade, and other big game companies. I agree.

The negative, harsh criticism from this post is unwarranted.

I’ve seen too many comments of “Don’t tell me who to work with” and “Don’t tell me who to hire.” Those comments are all for nothing. Guys, she’s not speaking in absolutes. She’s not trying to force anything. She’s trying to promote diversity and inclusion in game design teams. Good for her!

I would personally have said it a bit differently in an effort to keep things positive. I might not have the perfect phrasing, either. If I posted a similar statement here on my blog, it would look like:

Hey, if you’re looking for a job on a design team, please look for project leads who work primarily with diverse and inclusive groups. There’s plenty of work in large companies such as Wizards of the Coast to go around.

If you have the option to work on a project with a manager that encourages diversity and inclusion of ideas from all the people from every walk of life, culture, climate, condition, whatever- that’s awesome. Please do that. I think most people would argue that an abundance of varying ideas from different sociocultural perspectives is a good thing.

I have issues with the last part of the statement again.

“There are so many better, cooler, more fun projects to work on.”

Sure. I can start my own game company. I can struggle for years to get noticed or get my product noticed. Can I come live in the world where all of these amazeballs options exist, please? I guess if I’m doing shit for fun, maybe? (*I mean, yay fun, personal projects, but those don’t pay so well.)

Sorry, RPG family/community. It’s not that I have issues with @wildrosemage (Hannah) Quite the opposite. She’s an accomplished editor and designer. I admire her success. (*Law of Attraction rule: Never disrespect someone for their being prosperous. Positive success is a good thing.)

Oh, and damn near 15,000 followers on Twitter! Geez! What am I doing here? At least there’s almost zero chance my comments will be noticed once again. LOL!

Hannah’s very impressive Twitter bio.

The issue I have with there being supposedly being so many other projects to work on, like I have all these amazing options in front of me, is that the statement comes from her worldview. Obviously, she has options.

I can put good ol’ Matt Colville or Matt Mercer on blast on this blog any day of the week. No one will give a hoot. Why? Because I’m small potatoes right now. I could disappear from the internet tomorrow and very few people would notice.

Game companies are not beating down my door to hire me. Yes, I am very picky about who I work for these days. I’m also very reluctant to deal with criticism. In short, I’m a hot mess of a human being. I’ll own any/all of my shortcomings. Obviously, some folx have it a lot better.

Yeah, I’m still barking in the dark. Sigh. Nothing like a major case of imposter syndrome to end my day much the same way it began. Not even sure where I belong any more.

I am so happy and grateful for every last one of my readers.

Thanks for being here. I may be taking a social media break after this. I appreciate you stopping by. You’re a wonderful and kind audience. Thank you!

THANK YOU!!!

One? D&D. Only One, Huh?

I can only say what I think of this new edition of D&D. For the record, I don’t love it or hate it more than prior editions. It’s just another edition change.

I’m struggling to stay positive with this “One”

I listened to the Wizards of the Coast announcement of “One D&D.” Okay, I tried. Honestly, I skipped the Magic: the Gathering announcements and some of their other corporate Mcdoublespeak. I like the spokespeople they had for D&D Beyond and the new rules.

I’m not going to talk about everything that I took away from this. I have a couple of main concerns. First, is the supposed retro compatibility. Second is what it sounds like might happen to retailers. Last, aside from their announcements I’m not really keen on all the hype.

I’m very skeptical about the idea that editions are going away.

We’re told by WotC that everything we’ve purchased previously (for FIFTH Edition!) will still be compatible. Okay. Waitaminute. What? Then, someone at WotC went so far as to say “we don’t see things in terms of editions.”

Yeah, because if you acknowledged prior editions, you’d remember there are actually six editions prior to this “One.” Basic/BECMI, First Ed AD&D, Second Ed AD&D, Third Edition, Fourth Edition, and then Fifth Edition. For some unexplained reason, the nice folks at WotC always seem to exclude all of that content prior to Third Ed, unless they can bring it back to make a quick buck or two on it. (Spelljammer, Dragonlance, etc.)

I appreciate what Fifth Edition has done for the hobby.

Some people saw Fourth Ed D&D as basically the “New” Coke for RPGs. For those to young to remember New Coke, it wasn’t very good and it gave Coca Cola an excuse to bring back the old formula and make more money off all of the grateful Coke drinkers. In terms of advertising and marketing, it was brilliant. That said, in terms of being on the consumer end, it sucked. D&D Fourth was sort of the same way.

Fifth Edition is when WotC supposedly started listening to the players and incorporated feedback and merged some of the better concepts from prior editions. That’s true for the most part. But how do they explain the OSR movement?

Fifth Edition also introduced thousands of new players and DMs to the hobby of tabletop role playing games through Critical Role and other actual play podcasts. I think we’re all truly proud and grateful for that. As much as I kinda jab at Matt Mercer occasionally, he did do ALL that, and it’s a genuinely good thing. (And I know Matt would never read my blog. LOL!)

They think they have a solid lock on their demographic.

You know some marketing goobs at WotC sat down and asked, “What does a typical D&D player look like?”

Because that’s how marketing works. Make no mistake, WotC is still part of a very large corporation, HASBRO. Their job is to make their brands profitable. If it ain’t making money? It’s gone.

None of us want to see D&D go away forever. So, they sat down and figured out that their target audience is mostly between the ages of about 14-35, primarily in English speaking countries. They want people who are either completely new to the game or came in during the Fifth Ed craze. They’re also likely assuming the new players are somewhat tech savvy, phone constantly in hand, social media users, and accustomed to virtual play.

They admitted in their announcement video that the game is 50 years old. But they’re really only looking at about half of that demographic. In my opinion, it’s like they’ve completely turned a blind eye to the rest of us. They’re not going for any compatibility beyond Fifth Edition for the most part. What about the OSR crowd?

Then there’s their fancy virtual platform.

Yes, we’ve been asking WotC for years to bundle PDF copies with physical rulebooks. Yet if you go on D&D Beyond currently, you’ll notice they’re still charging print prices for digital products. Want the print book? That’s double the price for both. At least DriveThruRPG sells the PDF and physical book together for the price of the physical copy plus shipping and still gives you the PDF.

I kind of suspect with the recent merger of OneBookShelf and Roll 20 VTT, we might be seeing WotC/Hasbro winding up to buy them both. DMsGuild is a joint venture between WotC and OneBookShelf already. I don’t think it’s going to be a big surprise if they are assimilated. It’s only a theory for now.

What concerns me the most is what the new D&D Beyond platform means for retailers. Right now, if their announcement is to be believed, they will be selling the physical copy and bundle it with the digital copy ONLY if you buy it directly from WotC. They sound to me as if they are going to cut physical retailers out of the process as much as possible and only sell directly from their website. Great for WotC, bad for your Friendly Local Game Store. We’ll see, I suppose.

As a famous rapper once said, “Don’t believe the hype.”

I already see the official/unofficial hype folks on YouTube and Twitter talking about One D&D and the playtest materials. Oh, it’s going to be great. Just listen to what they’re telling us and don’t use any discernment of your own.

WotC has made One D&D an open playtest from now until 2024. You can download the latest playtest materials and read them for yourself. Surveys for the first round were due to open September 1, 2022.

I suspect, much like any survey research, this is being done primarily as a public relations tactic. They want us to feel like we had an opinion to contribute this whole time. However, in the corporate world, that input does not matter for squat and we know it. In all likelihood, they’ve already got this new edition in the can. They’re just appeasing the fan base and making sure they’re reaching their target demographic.

Hey, what do I know? I’ve only been around since 1972 and gaming from 1982 onward. I’m just a guy with a blog, right?

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Keep playing the games you love.

AD&D, But the “A” is Not What You Think Part 4.

Reminiscing about the old items from editions past.

Before I get going, a bit of a rant.

If you’re new to this series here on my blog, I’m talking about Amalgam Dungeons & Dragons. Nothing advanced here, except for the older editions from which some things are derived. Every edition has something to contribute, and this is not an attempt to rekindle any Edition Wars of Internet infamy. My thought exercise with Amalgam D&D is to try to bring together the best from all editions. (It’s just my opinion, y’all.)

Please indulge a short rant here. I think a lot of us OGs tend to react similarly when we see the announcement a new edition of one of our favorite games.We knew this was coming. It was inevitable. 

I'm trying to remain positive about the upcoming changes to the mother of all RPGs. The biggest company in the industry is once again doing a makeover to one of its flagship products to bring in more revenue. I can respect that.

While I get somewhat annoyed at Wizards of the Coast at times, they are doing very well with what they do. We still have an OSR movement for a reason. I seriously doubt that's going away. We "Old Grognards" will still have our old books and reprints with plenty of fun to be had for years to come.

As far as One D&D goes, maybe it will turn out to be pretty cool. Right now it's not worth getting too worked up over. Let's check out the playtest material and see what changes are implemented in the final draft.Anyone "reviewing" it now is just doing Public Relations for WotC. Once the dust settles, then maybe form a lasting opinion.

This will be the last article in this series as Wizards of the Coast has announced the next incarnation of D&D called, “One D&D.” Supposedly their designers don’t see different editions, even though everything before 3rd Ed seems to disappear into a vault unless they think they can make a quick buck on it.

They’re allegedly keeping 5E fully compatible, but then why is this new edition coming exactly? Wasn’t 5E supposed to be the amalgam of prior editions and retrocompatible? Supposedly they listened to the fans, but I think they really only listen to the ones who say what the writers already wanted to hear. (Okay, getting off my soapbox now before I go full vent mode.)

We haven’t discussed one of my favorite topics yet.

Magic Items! Honestly, I think I invented more items I was happy with in Basic and Fourth Ed than anything else. 4E had a well defined action economy, making artifacts easy to pace in terms of recharge times and abilities. Basic was where I started and it has a pretty wide open stage for cool items.

I’d also throw in tidbits of other books. I mean, +6 Holy Avenger. Am I right?

I would love for WotC to do another official series like the Encyclopedia Magica (but they won’t.) For those unfamiliar, it catalogued nearly every official item T$R ever printed through AD&D 2E. I still go through that set of books looking at all the items.

I can create a new magic item any time I’d like. I think the magic item section in the Dungeon Master’s Guide should have an in-depth step-by-step item creation process to determine cost and possibly components for creating powerful artifacts.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. I’m not sure what to think of this new official edition coming up. I think I’ll be more excited when it rolls out in 2024. Like prior new editions, I think there will be an adjustment phase. In the meantime, there’s plenty of OSR action to be had.

Thanks for stopping by. Short of squishing some players together into some kind of weird amalgam, I’m not sure what I forgot to cover. I appreciate you. Game on!

Happy STAR FRONTIERS Day!

August 19, 1982 Gen Con XV saw the release of T$R’s Science Fiction Classic: Star Frontiers.

40 Years Ago at Gen Con saw the birth of an new Science Fiction game called “Star Frontiers.”

August 19, 1982 Gen Con XV saw the release of T$R’s Science Fiction Classic: Star Frontiers. Within the first four months, it went on to compete strongly with Traveller, the other big name in sci fi games at the time. The game featured four brand new alien races and a unique percentile dice system. The skill system for the game was also new and unique.

While it has not made it to a second edition yet, the races would later be reprinted for D20 Modern/D20 Future. Several fans have done extensive add-ons and fan magazines for the game. Wizards of the Coast currently offers the game, expansions, and all officially published modules on DrivethruRPG in reprint at prices comparable to the originals.

The base set was rebranded Alpha Dawn once modules began coming out.

While T$R eventually abandoned the game to focus even more effort into D&D, Star Frontiers never died in the hearts of the fans. Tom Verreault at Tabletop Tap Room on YouTube is one such fan. Bill Logan, formerly from DwD Studios was another such fan. DwD did an RPG tribute to Star Frontiers called FrontierSpace.

If one were to scour the Internet for Star Frontiers info, thousands of blog posts, reviews, articles and fan sites pop up. While T$R would go onto publish other sci-fi games, notably Alternity and Amazing Engine: Galactos Barrier, Star Frontiers was probably the most notable one.

As a side note, T$R’s Gamma World RPG was a sort of spinoff of Star Frontiers. Gamma World was a sort of post apocalyptic setting where a planet similar to Earth was ravaged by nuclear war and hundreds of years later was repopulated by mutants, robots, and bunker-dwelling survivors. While it would later go onto earn accolades and reprints of its own, its origins are still with Star Frontiers as a planet one could visit on the frontier.

Fans would later convert Star Frontiers to various other systems including D&D 5E. It’s pretty clear that the setting, the core races and the game itself are going to be around for a very long time to come. Although Wizards of the Coast has not officially announced any plans for the intellectual property as of yet, interest from the fans and community around this product is on the rise again.

Long live the Frontier!

Brought to you by OSR: Only Show Respect in gaming.

Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

New Review of Another Old Book.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Let’s talk about Star Frontiers Knight Hawks.

Star Frontiers Day is August 19th. The game is 40 years old this year! To celebrate, I’m giving a review of the classic Knight Hawks Expansion to the Original Star Frontiers game. I have a lot of good things to say about this book and this part of the system.

If you missed out on the first printing, it’s okay. Wizards of the Coast has you covered. It’s still around as a reprint book on DriveThruRPG minus the maps, counters and cool box. You can still print the counters and the maps from the PDFs, though. If you want to go all out, I hear the lead miniatures for the ships are still floating around out there in the world, but may be decaying slightly.

It’s a classic head-to-head space battles game on top of being an RPG supplement.

I’ve played a lot of space games over the years. I think my favorite is still Starfire, but I also enjoyed Silent Death, Babylon 5, Battlefleet Gothic, Starfleet Battles, and Starfleet Tactical. Reading the Klingon Tactics in Starfleet Tactical prepared me for space battles later in life. Lol! I would say Knight Hawks ranks right up there with the best.

Overall, it’s a simple combat game. I kinda feel sorry for the RPG crew if their ship gets blown to smithereens during a tactical game. Knight Hawks can definitely be lethal to ships in terms of space battles.

Its rudimentary movement and damage systems are great for beginners.

For those unfamiliar with space battle games, Knight Hawks offers up a great starting point. Movement is straightforward. Ships have a maneuver rating and an ADF number to determine how much it can speed up or slow down on its turn. There are optional rules for planets, gravity wells, etc.

Shooting weapons and raising defenses requires a bit of reading. Not all guns shoot in all directions. Some have different ranges than others. Some work better against certain defenses. It pays to know the capabilities of one’s ship before the start of the battle. This system is simple enough that it can handle large fleet engagements once players get to know the rules a bit.

The advanced rules contain tidbits such as variable damage table, fires aboard ships, repairs, and new ship types. It gives a great basic spread of ships and how to fly them. The rules do not require a PhD in Rocket Science to know how to use them. Basically, make sure you read the ship’s stat block. The rest is fairly intuitive.

Cover of the RPG and galactic content half of Knight Hawks.

What about the roleplaying aspect?

This is what some of us old timers think was missing from Alpha Dawn. Until Knight Hawks, most campaigns were ground based. It was all away team missions and no real flying around, to use Star Trek as an analogy. The Campaign Book Expansion Rules fix a lot of what was previously missing.

With this expansion, ship design and construction become options. The freedom and independence every spacefaring adventurer dreams of are available at a hefty price. Acquiring a ship for the group could potentially involve mortgaging the family farming planet to the hilt. There are other suggested methods aside from buying a ship, but all of them come at some price to the characters eventually.

My biggest beef with the system so far are the skills.

Starship skills don’t require the standard Primary and Secondary classifications that the main Star Frontiers uses. That’s good because the space game came after Alpha Dawn and it would have been more confusing. However, starship skills cost more experience points. Yeesh. It’s almost as if they didn’t want player characters having a ship.

I’ll discuss this further when I talk about Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space in another article. I think the writers realized that the skill system didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately Zeb’s Guide didn’t quite fix the whole thing. Knight Hawks just introduces the starship skills. It’s an okay start I suppose.

I think there’s a bit of a divide between the tactical game and the RPG.

For one thing, ships are pricey in game. If the group’s ship gets into a battle with much of anything larger it might well not survive. That means there’s a pretty good chance the crew might get squished in the process. It makes most space combats an escape or chase situation similar to the Millenium Falcon vs Star Destroyer scenario.

The wargame portion is great for what it does. The RPG portion is great for interstellar travel and background information about the setting. I don’t know if it would run scenarios from other games well. For example, I don’t think Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 space battles would work well under the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks rules. The scale of battles ramps up very steeply and rapidly becomes more prone to Star Trek style battles with the capital ships/space stations.

I still give it 3.5-4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good start.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep rolling on the Frontier. I appreciate you!

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