Competition Dungeon Crawls?

I’ll be the first person to tell you I’m not a competitive person by nature. There’s plenty to go around in the world as far as I’m concerned. I love me. I have nothing to prove gaming or anywhere in life, really.

Is that still a thing?

Geez! It’s still a thing!

I was poking around recently under Dungeon Crawl Classics and I noticed something peculiar. I know I’m an Old Grognard and a hermit by nature, so maybe it’s just my living under a rock, but… Are people still doing competition dungeon crawls?

I’m just kinda scratching my head on this one. Maybe it’s just enough before my time that we never got into it? Or maybe because I grew up in backwater middle-of-nowhere IA where we just didn’t have the “big” conventions or fancy gaming stores. I dunno.

Brief history lesson incoming.

It’s the Internet. I’m sure there’s more to this story. Lol!

Back in the day, as I understand it, when Gygax and Arneson were first starting out, RPGs grew out of miniatures wargaming. For those who may not be familiar, miniatures wargames are known for tournament competition. Well, somewhere in those early days, someone decided that hacking, slashing, spell-throwing and in-game thievery needed to be a tournament, too.

It’s important to remember that competitive roleplaying is not the same as pvp. It’s more of our party at our table vs some other party at another table running the same dungeon. It’s kind of mind boggling if you think about it. Almost like an alternate reality. Sorry, my urge to insert plots and story gets the best of me.

I remember the glory days of the RPGA. A lot of the things we still do in RPGs today are based around some of their tournament concepts. We still run in 4 hour blocks, especially at conventions. DMs are handed premade modules. A certain degree of table etiquette and decorum is still expected at conventions. Heck, even some of the modules being reprinted now were spawned back in those old RPGA Tournament days.

Surprisingly, some of the earliest and most popular modules that still stand the test of time were tournament modules at Gen Con. In fact, entire series of BECMI modules were based on/used at tournaments. Needless to say D&D has mutated considerably since then. I’m sure someone somewhere is probably still trying to D&D competitively even though the rules and the atmosphere of the game have changed completely.

My heart literally goes out to anyone brave enough to act as a “judge” for one of these tournaments.

It honestly still kinda blows my mind. Wargaming judges have it easy when it comes to being impartial. A rule is a rule. Rulers and tape measures don’t lie. Things are either painted or they’re not… It’s straightforward.

But a dungeon crawl? Oof. I honestly don’t think you could pay me enough to referee what could go very sour at any given moment. People go bonkers over the smallest detail on a regular day running a regular adventure. If you put the time and score elements on that? Eeek! No thank you.

Surprise of surprises. It’s still a thing.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

I checked Goodman Games’ website and sure enough, people are still doing tournaments. I am stunned. I would have thought such a thing would have died out ages ago. DCC is better structured for such a thing, I guess.

There’s a neat game called X Crawl that I played years ago. We were actually in a tournament, but it was very beer-n-pretzels, tongue-in-cheek style gaming. My group had a blast with it. We got beat out by a couple of other tables because we ran a little short of finishing the module. Probably because we were all rolling on the floor laughing for half of it. I promise most of us were even sober.

X Crawl is basically competition dungeon bashing. The conditions are more controlled to keep the different parties on an even keel. The loot, traps, monsters, room positions, and riddles are the same at every table. Time, party cohesion, combat survival, loot collected, rooms discovered, etc all play into your party’s score at the end. It gets kind of intense.

It was fun to try out, but I don’t think I could run one.

I’ll be the first person to tell you I’m not a competitive person by nature. There’s plenty to go around in the world as far as I’m concerned. I love me. I have nothing to prove gaming or anywhere in life, really.

As I like to say, if it’s your jam, that’s great. Please, go out and do it. Have fun.

All I’m saying is, it’s never been a “sport” I care to participate in. I’m interested in challenging myself to write such a module to see how it goes. It’s interesting as a writing challenge. I’ll probably circle back around to that sometime. Could be fun. The biggest hurdle I see is keeping it objective.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you!

(*I made it through an Old Grognard article without poking fun at Critical Role or Matt Mercer. I’m behaving, honest.)

Anime RPG is Mindset as Much as Ruleset.

My point is, you can slip a little of that anime flair into just about anything. Ask my college writing professors. It can be done. (*Pretty sure one of them retired early. I’m not saying it was my fault, but…)

With Dyskami dropping Anime 5E on us around June 1, it’s time to briefly discuss Anime as attitude and game system.

Dyskami Anime 5E

Btw, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m a bit biased toward this particular genre and anything Big Eyes, Small Mouth in general and have been for many years. I actually had the privilege of going to a Gen Con seminar with Mark MacKinnon all those years ago. I learned a lot about RPGs in general and anime/manga games in particular. I also think Lemmings in Space would be a hilarious but short-lived RPG. Mark and the team at Dyskami have delivered a wonderful new spin on this genre, attitude and rules.

*Note, if fantasy is less your jam and you want more cyberpunk/mecha/space anime action, I highly recommend BESM Fourth Edition from Dyskami. Anime 5E is very much fantasy genre oriented, being based on the 5E D&D rules. All of the races, classes, monsters, magic and other tropes are based around fantasy stuff.

But enough shameless promotion, on with the show!

Just as a writer can pick up different tones and perspectives while writing, RPGs can come with differing attitudes for GMs and players. If a writer is working on a horror novel, for example, the tone might be dark, gritty, and have almost a feeling of hopelessness hanging in the air. Where as a horror RPG might have rules for insanity; penalties for PCs casting dark, creepy ritual spells; and foreboding, unfathomable, undefeatable old gods and monsters.

What does one think of when we hear the term “anime” or “manga?” It’s a pretty broad genre. Japanese animation and comics cover a pretty large spectrum of subgenres such as horror, science fiction, fantasy and cyberpunk to name a few. Personally I think of giant robots and cyborgs followed by high flying fantasy martial arts and determined samurai. It’s a different flavor of roleplaying gaming all together.

If it’s an attitude, won’t any old RPG system work?

The short answer to this is: I guess. Mileage may vary.
The long, complicated answer is: Nope. Don’t do it. You’re trying to force a square peg into a triangular hole. There’s an easier way.

I love a lot of basic European style medieval fantasy RPGs. Pathfinder 2E, D&D, ICRPG, DCC, and dozens more. Orcs, elves, dragons and labyrinthine death dungeons are the order of the day for me. Good stuff. I can certainly approach those with the anime/manga mindframe. But, then the rules fall a lot short of the mark.

How do you pull off a 50′ anime character leap while wielding a Bisento as an unarmored samurai? How do we set the scene for a brief chibi moment during a long rest? What do you mean I can’t play a cat girl ninja? It’s just not in the rules. (In fairness, I did stat out cat folk and ninjas for ICRPG, but…) If you want anime rules for a “classic” game, it’s going to end up being heavily homebrewed.

If I’ve learned anything from being a GM/writer over the years, it’s don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If someone else has done the legwork for you in terms of an RPG system, by all means- beg, borrow, or steal as much as you can for your game. If another system does something better than the one you’re currently using it’s not like you’re married. Switch to what works or adapt bits as needed. If that means switching to a new ruleset, then by all means.

The question is always how far to go.

If your D&D game is running just fine with a few anime moments, then maybe stick to D&D proper. If you’re just borrowing a few tropes here and there with the Monk, Fighter (Samurai) and Rogue (Ninja) characters and the players are cool, stick with it. Maybe the characters yell a lot. There are some chibi character moments that don’t detract. Dragons are worshipped as gods in the campaign setting. Certain weapons and armor are re-skinned. Maybe add some homebrew rules for unarmored defense?

OR- things are crazy overly stiff an rule dependent and you’re dying to be able to do more cool stuff. Try an actual anime RPG and setting! As a GM, boot whatever seems too outrageous or unreasonable. It’s still your game!

The main thing is do what you, as a GM, and the players will have the most fun with. Typical fantasy settings don’t do mecha and/or firearms at all. Anime games have to such restrictions depending on the GM. Giant leaps are very possible in anime. Ninjas are more Naruto and Ninja Scroll than historical black pajama party. Stuff blows up more in anime games. Trust me.

Complicated Relationship Table.

Another advantage to anime games is the amount of character drama. I once drew a very complicated flow chart for myself to map out all of the very complicated relationships in an anime supers game I was working on. This person has a crush on this person, but is secretly liked by this other person who they want nothing to do with and so on. It ate a couple of entire pages of my notebook and looked like one of those crazy conspiracy theory board memes by the time I was done. It ended up being useful for dealing with specific character interactions, though. It made for a fun game, despite over 20 pages of NPC backstories. I might have overdone it a little.

Anime fits in with so many other tropes and themes.

SCS mecha by Zsolt Varga is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Anime does very well with several subgenres either as a separate game or as part of a preexisting one. Many anime videos exemplify this.

Horror- easy. I’m sorry, have you seen some of the scarier anime? Eesh. I don’t want to give video examples. Just… it’s the internet. Feel free to explore, okay?

Supers- Sentai, giant robots, psychic cops even four color heroes. Again, it’s an easy catch. Power Rangers, Patlabor, Witch Hunter Robin and Tiger & Bunny are great examples of video anime supers. In fairness, I have to mention Sailor Moon, which is the premiere magical girl supers anime. It’s also one of the older anime RPGs.

Fantasy- Such a broad category by itself. Fantasy anime covers things such as Record of the Lodoss Wars. (Fantasy anime emulating a fantasy rpg emulating Tolkien. Mind bending.) Ninja Scroll is serious fantasy anime, and brutal. Rurouni Kenshin is great fantasy samurai anime. One of my personal favorites, which is also sorta shoujo, Inu Yasha makes for amazing rpg fodder. I also highly recommend Princess Mononoke. I should also mention Full Metal Alchemist, too. Again, they’re all fantasy anime, each with its own unique angle.

Mecha and cyberpunk are more or less ready made for anime games. These two subgenres pretty much started out as anime. Masamune Shirow was a pioneer in both genres with Appleseed, Dominion Tank Police, Black Magic M-66, and Ghost in the Shell. Mecha anime would not be complete without a mention of Macross/Robotech just to start. I should also mention Gundam in all of the many series on video. There are a lot of other cyberpunk anime on video, many are ultra violent in nature. Likewise, I’ve barely scratched the surface of mecha anime on video. The RPG potential is almost unfathomably deep for both subgenres.

Action- Last is all of the action anime. This would work with any modern type RPG. It could be martial arts, detectives, pirates, demon hunters, or any other number of action tropes. There are more anime video examples than I could list. I would recommend Gunsmith Cats if you get a chance.

I realized I barely dove into inspirational videos.

Anime 5E Magical Cat Girl

I’m probably going to write more articles in the coming weeks/months about anime RPGs. I didn’t even mention many of the anime I’ve taken inspiration from over the years.

I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but I’m not sure how it would float as an RPG? I’d also recommend Big O and Giant Robo as both mecha and superhero anime. There’s also A.D. Police Files, Bubblegum Crisis and Bubblegum Crash. These series were all a mix of police, mecha, supers, and cyberpunk anime with a tiny bit of psychic stuff thrown in. Last, Starfinder fans especially would benefit from watching Iria: Zeiram the Animation.

Like many otaku, I could go on for hours mentioning tasty videos to watch. Bringing character concepts and tropes over to RPGs is a subject to approach with your GM. Likewise, GMs probably shouldn’t expect players to just jump blindly into an anime series if it’s not what they’re expecting.

More, much more to come. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Thanks.

May 4th…

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since 1977. My favorite toys were the Kenner action figures for Luke, Ben, C-3PO, R2 D2 and the landspeeder. Such simple times.

The Force should have hit the snooze bar and rolled over for another century.

Photo by Jay Johnson on Pexels.com

I’ve held back my opinion on this topic for a number of years now. I used to be the absolutely biggest Star Wars nerd on my block. Not just the movies, but the RPG and the novels too. (See what I did there?)  I cherish every memory of those days. Then Disney f*k’n came along and killed the franchise for me.

I’m serious. Anyone who knows me knows I was the biggest Boba Fett fan of my friend groups. I have a Darth Vader shrine as well as one dedicated to my hero, Boba Fett. I cherish my autographed picture of Jeremy Bulloch. (R.I.P.) And then Mandalorian happened. Then this new Boba Fett series. Yeah. yeah… <disgruntled fan noises>

Enough sadness. Let’s turn to the part of the franchise I loved more than anything. The RPG.

Seriously, I ran the RPG all the way through high school and a long time in college. (*Old Grognard moment incoming.) I remember when D6 Star Wars RPG from West End games first arrived at my doorstep. I remember how excited I was when THE Star Wars Sourcebook came out. Back then if I wasn’t running AD&D, it was Star Wars. (Then DC or Marvel supers…) Star Wars RPG was a major part of my life

I had to laugh when the 30th anniversary reprints came out. I still have my originals where I can easily find them. I also have the other D6 editions. It was so amazing attending the WEG writers panel at Gen Con. I learned so much that day.

One of the happiest days of my life was meeting and getting to play in a Star Wars game with one of the original D6 Star Wars playtesters. Really amazing barbeque after we extinguished the fire in his yard, LOL! Ahh… Old gamer memories.

We ran the heck out of the D6 game in college. I met a girl that I dated for a long time through D6 Star Wars. I had this other friend that was into Star Wars in general and the RPG almost as much as I was. He and I talked Star Wars so much and connected so well that my best friend said it sounded like we were speaking binary together. It almost literally sounded like ones and zeros with some giggling thrown in.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

I ran it at conventions. I ran it at home. I role played it solo many times. I had some of the best groups I’ve ever run any game with in Star Wars or any game. Star Wars is the only RPG is one of a handful of games I’ve roleplayed solo. I even found a Clone Wars campaign that I was building for D20 written in a notebook about twelve years ago when I was stocking groceries. (You have remarkable amount of time to think when you’re stocking shelves.)

Not joking- I still have ALL of my old convention game notes, and a couple of entire campaigns I ran for the D20 game still sitting on an old laptop and on paper. My wife will tell you there was a time, before I had kids that I ate, drank, slept and breathed Star Wars. So many good times.

Star Wars D20. Better than people gave it credit for.

I was okay when WotC introduced the d20 Star Wars RPG. I bought every sourcebook that came out like the drooling fanboy that I am. I met the man who performed our wedding looking for Star Wars players online.

The WotC system was based on D20 which was basically a revision of D&D. It was a little clunky in places. Jedi powers were a little tricky, or at least trickier than the old game. Combat was okay to run. Very minis based, not so much theatre of the mind which is what I was used to.

I’m not kidding when I say the RPG is a big part of my life. Or it was, rather…

Welcome to the new era, I guess.

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

I probably would have breen okay if Disney hadn’t made the third trilogy. Star Wars could have feature at Disney World and they honestly could have left it alone. They could have even dropped some more cool animated stuff like Clone Wars and I’d have been okay with it. (I absolutely love Ahsoka Tano, btw.) Mark Hamill is one heck of a voice actor and they could have done so much.

Ya know, it’s not even the characters in the new movies. I even like the fact that we get to see Jedi being Jedi more than ever. What had me literally screaming at my TV was when they started killing off Episodes IV-VI characters in the most horrible, stupid ways possible!

I get that Harrison Ford asked to be written out. We will all miss Carrie Fisher, may she rest in peace. But why the actual flying flaming f*ck did they bring Luke back just long enough to portray him as a miserable failure and kill the character? Someone should be dragged into the street and flogged with a gaffi stick for that one!

If that’s what Lucas originally intended for Luke Skywalker, then I’m sad. I’d like to blame Disney. After George Lucas handed the rights over, it was all on Disney to do whatever they wanted (their worst) to the franchise. Admitedly, at least we don’t have warm, fluffy revisions of everything where everyone gets along and nothing bad ever really happens. At least the franchise hasn’t been overrun by Ewoks and Gungans holding hands and singing “Yub nub” everywhere.

The only really nice thing that has come out of the last trilogy is the roundabout way the Zahn novels have more or less become canon. That’s a plus because the Zahn books are some of my favorites. Yay, Boba Fett came back and most of the Clone Wars animation was also made canon.

I was still pretty pumped to run the RPG until-

So bummed out about the game these days. I can’t believe where this has gone.

The movies really deflated my interest in the whole franchise. Sorry, friends and family. I don’t know if I can bring myself to run it again knowing what Disney and their crew of assorted hack artists did to the thing. If I ever did run it again, I’d have to rewrite three movies (or more) worth of canon. Then players get confused and complain. Not sure if it’d be worth it even as a writing exercise.

I was all happy that Fantasy Flight Games got the nod to do Star Wars again. I have a couple of friends that work there. It’s a good company. They make a ton of cool stuff. Except they’ve now FFG has canceled the entire line and another Star Wars RPG is in the works from yet another company.

That’s also sort of a downer. (I Sense a disturbance in the Old Grognard Force. Rolled an 18.) Who knows what will happen next or how many dozen sourcebooks will follow. Time will tell. I’m sticking to the old D6 and D20 stuff (plus tons of homebrew) until then. Old Jedi shakes fist at corporations.

So, May the Force Be With You, Always. If Star Wars is still your jam, I’m happy for you. It will always have a special place in my heart. Or Episodes I-VI will, anyway. The D6 and D20 versions of the RPG will, anyway. I kinda miss chopping battle droids into tiny bits with a lightsaber.

Thanks for being here. I appreciate you. See you tomorrow.

Laughable Old Grognard Moments.

I’m still pretty committed to keeping things positive and this is by no means a jab at anyone in the RPG community. I’ve heard a few things recently that make me chuckle in a way that only some of us older gamers can really relate.

Y’all kids make me laugh.

I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I’m still pretty committed to keeping things positive and this is by no means a jab at anyone in the RPG community. I’ve heard a few things recently that make me chuckle in a way that only some of us older gamers can really relate.

Btw, when I say “kids,” I really mean some of you younger Players and Game Masters that are in your 20s and 30s. Again, not dissing on anyone, it’s all good clean fun. Some of us just don’t remember the glory days of D&D as well and it makes me laugh.

Someone on YouTube said, “When a cleric switches domains, they might lose touch with their deity for a session or two.”

Ravenloft 2E. The campaign setting so potentially brutal it nearly required a change of underwear.

This comment had me rolling on the floor. Anyone remember getting dropped into Realms of Ravenloft (*Not just the module with Strahd) as a cleric from somewhere else? Or a paladin? Congratulations! Your cleric just became a second rate fighter and your paladin just became a fighter with a holy symbol that meant absolutely nothing! Rangers and druids didn’t have it much better.

See, Domains in Ravenloft (*The setting not the specific geographical domain Ravenloft, where Strahd lived,) didn’t have a standard pantheon of deities and demigods per say. The Mists were controlled by an unknown element (*Who we always suspected might be the Old Gods of R’lyeh, but could never confirm due to IP reasons.) The Mists were renowned for grabbing adventurers from other realms such as FR, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and elsewhere, and dropping them off in a suitable realm where they could be tempted toward evil. The Mists would also rarely spit adventurers back out if they proved to be too incorruptible.

The healing magic in Ravenloft… Let’s just say the healing you wanted you weren’t getting and the magic healing you received was usually at a terrible cost. Remove Curse? That ain’t happening. Raise Dead? If you did have access to it, did you really want to see what happened? Eesh.

Dragonlance has been teased.

Picture of my copy of the AD&D 1E Dragonlance hardcover.

Oh, y’all thought Ravenloft was tough on clerics? At least they had clerics. OG Dragonlance didn’t even mention clerics!

It got better. Mages had to make a critical choice of which Tower of High Sorcery to serve. Spells were limited accordingly. Oh, and Tiamat’s illegitimate sister was on the list of things you could possibly run into at high levels. Paladins and cavaliers had it kinda rough, but not really. (Knightly orders ftw.)

Races played a huge role in old DL. I’ll be curious to see what they do in the new WotC paradigm of warm and fuzzy races everywhere. I will say Minotaurs, Wild Elves and Kender were pretty friggin sweet, though. (Love my Kender thief.) We’ll see what happens.

Someone mentioned they hadn’t been born when the last edition of Spelljammer was new.

Old Spelljammer. Let’s bring back audio cassette tape adventures while we’re at it. (Yes, that really happened.)

Okay, I’m old. I graduated high school in 1990. Spelljammer was first released in 1989.

I was not the first kid on the block to avoid this thing. I remember the Forgotten Realms comic even mentioned it. Great comic series, incidentally. The group in the comics actually had access to a ship with a spelljamming engine.

Despite all advertising efforts, I just couldn’t get into it. For me, sci-fi is its own separate entity. If I wanted to do space fantasy, there’s always Star Wars or Rifts. Nowadays we have Starfinder.

I go back to the notion that there’s nothing wrong with Spelljammer per se. It’s just not my cup of tea. It’s worth a shot, just like Strixhaven and Candlekeep Mysteries. Maybe it will turn out better in 5E. Who knows?

What puzzles me the most about 5E right now is-

Why did they choose to bring back Spelljammer and Dragonlance? Why not Al Qadim or Dark Sun. For crying out loud, they brought back Dark Sun in 4th Ed. It wasn’t that bad.

Or better yet, Greyhawk, Birthright, Oriental Adventures and Mystara are completely untouched by the newest editions. Why not? Are all these old campaign worlds a tough sell for the Mighty Matt Mercer? (Yeah… Old Grognard still poking at Matt. Sorry, kid.) What? They can’t be reimagined for today’s audiences but Spelljammer can? What’s next? Chronomancy?

Here’s a deep thought: If 5E spawned as many or probably several more homebrew campaign worlds than even 3E, why not tap into one or two of them? I mean, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of homebrew campaign settings and ravenous hordes of fans looking to become the next Ed Greenwood or Keith Baker. Why won’t WotC tap into a literally untapped landscape of campaigns with no real IP attachments or potential lawsuits?

Food for thought, anyway. I hope you’re having a great week so far. Take care. Thank you for being here.

Why I Can’t Do Vampire RPG.

Bad guys do bad stuff like sucking the blood out of peoples’ necks and stealing their money. Good guys drive stakes through the bad guys hearts and leave them out in the sun to dry.

For the record: I don’t hate it.

Vampire the Masquerade Second Edition.

I’ve actually been a fan since it first came out. In general, I like World of Darkness. I’m a bit puzzled as to why Hasbro has taken an interest in it indirectly through Renegade Games, but at least it’s in good hands there.

The original game wasn’t bad. I’ve played a lot of LARP in that world. I’ve also done a few tabletop sessions playing as a Malkavian. My personality for that character was Bugs Bunny meets Hannibal Lecter. It was kinda cool, but I still feel kinda queasy even discussing it. That character took my mind to some hella dark places.

That was many years ago, however. I’ve had a lot of therapy and a spiritual awakening since then, so I’m okay now. My point being, like a couple of the other World of Darkness games, it can get dark and depressing pretty fast. That is just not my thing these days. But hey, if Vampire is your jam, that’s cool.

World of Darkness and Vampire the Requiem produced some really fabulous books.

Vampire: the Requiem

I ran Werewolf: the Apocalypse through much of my college career at ISU and it’s still one of my favorite campaigns of all time. But my players and I made it clear from day one that it was to be a strictly Werewolf game. Werewolf is not White Wolf. As in: thou shalt not drag Mages, Vampires, or Wraiths into it. The campaign worked beautifully. It was really a lot of lighthearted fun with the occasional growling, snarling bloodbath mixed in.

A few years down the road, Vampire: the Requiem came along and a new World of Darkness with it. I’m still a huge fan of those books. The revised WoD still sits on my shelves because I love the system. VtR had some of the most wonderful source material ever written, in my opinion.

I still keep the Chronicler’s Guide and Damnation City handy for worldbuilding in modern campaigns. They had some of the best advice for running any sort of horror game and worldbuilding in those books. I liked all of the WoD books from that era, but oddly VtR had the most standouts.

My issue, aside from the darkness, is politics.

No, I don’t mean Democrats vs Republicans. Masquerade suffered from constant bickering amongst the clans and that’s before the Hunters, the Sabbat, and the Antediluvians started getting involved. It just gets really stinking complicated really fast to the point where I’d rather play Diplomacy or Axis & Allies all night instead.

Requiem has its share of politics and groups, too. I just feel like it focused more on local events and less on inter clan rivalries. There were a good share of groups and organizations in that game as well, but it was more foreboding and less overwhelming in terms of horror.That’s just my perception, though.

I’ve never been a fan of drooling, slobbering monster characters.

I had the same problem with World of Warcraft, oddly enough. I just can’t get into playing the nasty undead, orc, goblin, vampire kinds of characters in any game as a player. As a DM/GM, we take on all of those roles and more every game session, just for a shorter time. If it’s your jam, cool. I just don’t do the whole let’s-be-evil-PCs thing.

At the end of the day, I’d rather play an elf. I like games where there is a lot of black and white. I’m not as big of a fan, from a GM perspective, of massive amounts of gray. Bad guys do bad stuff like sucking the blood out of peoples’ necks and stealing their money. Good guys drive stakes through the bad guys hearts and leave them out in the sun to dry.

Truth be told, I’d rather run a campaign based on John Carpenter’s Vampires, which would truly be a Hunters game. Not to mention the really epic dialogue in that movie… lol! Grizzled and gritty can be fun sometimes, but I actually prefer warmer and fuzzier characters as a player.

Thank you for being here. I appreciate you! Take care. Enjoy the sunlight and fresh air today if you get a chance.

Birth of a Dungeon Crawl?

DCC/MCC project is intended to be a work in progress. I’ll be posting one or two dungeon rooms at a time here on my blog, useable in OSR games. I’m also looking at popping out some items, spells, classes and races for both DCC and MCC.

I’m contemplating a new series of articles.

I recently got turned onto Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) and Mutant Crawl Classics (MCC) by Goodman Games. DCC has been around in its current form since 2012, but its roots extend back to the good old 3rd Ed D&D days. (*Editor’s Note: I still have many of the old modules and treasure them dearly.) DCC in its current printing is very much in the vein of Old School Revival (OSR) as it looks a LOT like old B/X D&D. (*Editor’s Note: I’ve written more about it here.)

MCC is a little newer (2017?) and is a throwback to Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World in so many ways. It also reminds me a little bit of Palladium’s Rifts with its mix of magic and technology. DCC and MCC are fully compatible with one another, which is awesomesauce when designing creatures. While I’m not huge on post apocalyptic genre games in general, I like MCC because of its old school charm and simplicity. It also uses the same character funnel 0 Level play as DCC only AD Terra style.

One thing that really jumps out at me about both DCC and MCC is the incredible amount of third party support that exists for both games. Goodman even goes so far as to list many of them in their books. I have not begun to dig through the various websites to look for what am looking at creating. I have ideas for several character classes/races. Much like other OGL endeavors, I’m certain anything I come up with is going to resemble material that already exists somewhere.

It will be a work in progress.

Similar to my Power Rangers RPG campaign, my DCC/MCC project is intended to be a work in progress. I’ll be posting one or two dungeon rooms at a time here on my blog, useable in OSR games. I’m also looking at popping out some items, spells, classes and races for both DCC and MCC. Anything I put on the blog is always free to use anywhere. I might eventually cobble together an entire book for pdf publication on DriveThruRPG or my Ko-Fi Page.

My plans from there in regards to OGL endeavours is to either do more on DriveThruRPG or possibly consider starting up something on Patreon. There are a staggering number of RPG startups out there. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s going to set my work apart just yet, but I’m going to do it anyway. Because DCC/MCC are an OGL venture, I may eventually veer off into other systems such as D&D or ICRPG.

What can I say? I love RPGs. I love monkeying with different systems.

Thank you for being here. I appreciate you. More to come. Take care. Have a great week. Game on!

Five Board Games That Would Probably Sell in a New Edition.

Taking a little stroll through my board game closet and reminiscing about the good old tactical board game days. I’d sure love to see some of these make a comeback.

Okay, in a world of mobile phone games, virtual consoles and high end PC games, maybe not?

I’m an old wargamer and tabletop roleplayer from way back. I promise this isn’t just another Old Grognard thing where games were better back in the olden days. (I mean, some of them kinda were, but…) Since I’ve seen some real classics come back on Kickstarter recently, I’m wondering why some of the classics I love haven’t made a comeback yet.

(*Editor’s note: Please correct me, oh ye Interwebs, if I have erred in my thinking and some of these are available in newer editions and I missed the boat.)

Advanced Squad Leader: Okay, I suspect I know what happened to this one. Since corporate mega-giant Hasbro, the Disney of the gaming world, owns ASL’s parent company Avalon Hill. They cherry-picked the titles they deemed marketable and just slap the name “Avalon Hill” on any old board game they like now. As far as ASL goes, the game’s just dead and not coming back any time soon.

Avalon Hill made some really awesome cardboard chit and hex paper board wargames back in the day. ASL was one that most of us old guys remember fondly. With all the 3D printed minis and printable pdfs available now, I think Hasbro is missing out. (*Warning* Incoming cheap jab at my pal Matt Mercer.) I suspect the marketing Wizards at Hasbro are aiming at a much younger audience and could not get their poster child for popular gaming, Matt Mercer, to make it cool for the kids.

There was a Squad Leader PC game many years ago that was above par. Tactical elements aside, it had logistical and psychology elements. The guys would sometimes get Dear John letters and desert randomly mid-battle. Ammo was counted rigorously and you had a random chance of not getting replacements or reinforcements if characters died. Unfortunately time and trademark got the best of it and no one has picked it up since. <sniff.>

Starfire/Imperial Starfire: Task Force games made this really epic starship combat game that played on paper maps with cardboard chips. (Okay, I’m an Old Grognard, sorry. There’s a theme here.) The game featured starships that were coded by letters so once you crossed off the last box, the ship went kablooey. An entire fleet could fit on one 8″ x 11″ piece of paper.

A sample small fighter would look like Sh, Sh, Hu, Hu, LG, En, Co. So, Shield x2, Hull x2, Laser Guns, Engine, Cockpit. And then kablooey. It was a fast moving, easy space wargame that took maybe ten minutes to learn. I loved it.

Imperial Starfire was fleets battling over planets. You had an overall campaign map, resources to manage and then the fleet battles were carried out using Starfire. I remember people doing this game in Play By Mail (PbM) games. Do people still do that any more? These days, one could probably do the whole thing as a mobile app or computer game and still make it pretty cool. Or even as a board game with plastic minis. Or possibly as a printable pdf file. Easy, really.

Centurion: Dear gaming godz. Please hear me out on this one. You’ve brought back Interceptor. Now please bring back the grav tank game? Please?!?

FASA, back in it’s glory days, made this really slick game that involved tanks and infantry. Ironically, the boxed set came with the basic Battletech maps which was FASA’s mega-hit back then. The original Centurion came with cardboard box minis you had to assemble yourself. The newer edition came with plastic grav tanks. I raided my Axis & Allies sets for infantry, wheeled, and tracked tanks.

This game had the potential to change Battletech by way of rules, featuring a unique armor system and cool damage templates. Once you determined what part of the tank you hit, you used the template to shade the outline of the damage on the vehicle’s data sheet. Obviously rounds that penetrated vital components caused a kablooey.

Again, pdf files of do-it-yourself tank minis or stl files for 3d printing and some maps along with the tank sheets, templates, and rules. You remade Interceptor! Why not Centurion?

A-10: by Mayfair Games. I still have my copy of this thing. Yes, it was complicated. Yes, cardboard chits on a paper map. (Achoo! aww jeez all that setup…) I thought this game was brilliant, but it had a lot of moving parts to keep track of.

I think a simplified version of the game would go over well as a board game. The A-10 aircraft itself is just now finally being decommissioned, but with things going bonkers in the Ukraine, it may not be gone for good. The aircraft itself has seen active use for decades and is one of the best military planes ever built according to many pilots.

Mutant Chronicles: Fury of the Clansmen: I Siege of the Citadel, the runaway Mutant Chronicles hit was originally from Pressman Games. It had really nice plastic minis for its time. There were multiple scenarios included and even two spinoff games- Blood Berets and Fury of the Clansmen, made by Target games, but used the same minis.

The tactical combat and unique dice along with sharp looking plastic minis could have easily given Games Workshop a run for its money had these two games survived and expanded. I see Modiphius and Fantasy Flight are doing a remake of Siege, now if I could just convince them to bring back Fury or Blood Berets.

Picture Heroscape with square maps instead of hexes. Fury had all of the tactical ingenuity of Necromunda or Warhammer 40K only set in the Mutant Chronicles Universe. The only game I think ever rivaled it to me was Living Steel.

Yes, they need to change the name of Fury of the Clansmen to something a bit more friendly in the American market. Great game, kinda weak title. It actually has nothing to do with anything racist. But I think with some fresh marketing, it has the potential to be a great tactics game.

Back to RPGs tomorrow. This little stroll down memory lane was fun. I also just remembered four or five more games that would be spectacular if they came back. I hope someone higher up in the gaming community hears my pleas. LOL! Feel free to steal my ideas, just send me a copy when you’re done?

As always, thanks for being here. Take care. Have a great week. More RPG stuff on the way tomorrow.

3 More Alternatives to D&D You May Not Have Heard of Yet.

Three more alternatives to D&D you may not have heard of.

I may have mentioned before how much I love Indie games.

Easy rules based on the humble d4.

I want to start with a very special RPG by our friend Titanomachy. It’s called Caltrop Core. (If you’ve ever stepped on a d4 in the dark, you know why we call them “caltrops.”) It runs off of d4’s. Super easy going system. Lots of fun. Adaptable to almost every genre. Available on Itch.io. Find it here. FREE!

I like open, generic alternatives to D&D because you can adapt them to any genre, any campaign, or any concept. You can also convert other games to them. Don’t like Savage Worlds, but still want to play Deadlands? Here you go! Keep as much of the Deadlands text as you want and add Caltrop Core. Easier than eating pancakes.

*Editor’s note: I don’t get any kickbacks for recommending any of these systems/games. These are purely from my collection and experience.

OVA by Wise Turtle Publishing.

The second game I’m going to mention might fall under the obscure and extremely loveable category. It’s called OVA The Anime Roleplaying Game. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a big fan of all things anime, especially RPGs. I’ve only seen it in PDF so far.

OVA stands for Open Versatile Anime. As you may have already guessed, it’s another core rule set that is adaptable to any genre, much like an anime series. Space pirates, martial arts action, mecha, monster trainer and high magic samurai fantasy are all doable under one set of rules, much like Anime Hack and Big Eyes, Small Mouth which I will discuss more elsewhere.

OVA sports some very nice artwork. I feel like art can make or break a game and in this case it really sells the concepts and draws the reader in. It shows that a lot of time and love was put into making this game happen.

You get to raid the family Yahtzee box for this one as it uses d6’s. The system itself was designed to appeal to both anime fans and new players alike. If you can describe your favorite anime character, you can probably emulate it with these rules.

*Editor’s note: None of the games I talk about are necessarily better than D&D or any other game. They’re just alternatives. Look into them. Your mileage may vary.

Bare Bones Fantasy by DwD Studios.

The last one I’ll mention today is a game called Bare Bones Fantasy by DwD Studios. I was actually drawn to this one by another game from DwD called Covert Ops, which I will also discuss elsewhere. Bare Bones is a good fantasy game. It’s rules lite. My favorite thing about the system is that it is so freakin easy to build on!

The system is based on 2d10 (Percentile) but don’t panic. It’s not Rolemaster or Palladium’s system. Bare Bones is rules lite. There are also times when the game calls on you to roll 2d10 added together.

Character creation is probably faster than D&D by a fair amount. If you have a fair idea of what you want your character to do, it’s easy. Character creation takes around 10 minutes if you’ve done it once or twice.

The thing that appeals to me about Bare Bones is the amount of source material I was able to adapt to this game. Within a day or two of getting it, I was able to create a bunch of new character classes, spells, and pull over an entire campaign world for D&D. Some day, I might even go back and create my own monster expansion.

Speaking of expansions for Bare Bones, there is a ton of support material for this game on DwD’s website. I also recommend Flesh & Blood, which adds a ton of new races and a new class for the game. You can also very easily add your own material to this game in a very short amount of time.

Overall, the game has a lot of old school charm. It has the feel of a white box game without a lot of unnecessary baggage that comes with a lot of other fantasy D&D alternatives. It’s worth a look if you want to do fantasy flavor without tons of bells and whistles.

As always, thank you for being here. Take care. Game on!




Some Lesser Known Alternatives to D&D Fifth Edition

This is a short list of lesser known, less discussed generic rules lite RPGs. If you like D&D, but want to try something new, these are worth a glance.

D&D 5E is a great game and a wonderful introduction to the hobby of roleplaying. Here are some new ways to branch out:

FATE by Evil Hat Productions
  • Index Card Role Playing Game aka ICRPG from Runehammer Games. This is a simple set of rules similar to D20/D&D. It has fewer things to keep track of, which is why your whole character fits on an index card. It’s handy for multiple genres, but excels at fantasy.

    The print copy of the Master Edition is available from Modiphius. I’ve bought into the Second Edition of the game and I absolutely love it! It’s easy on the GM and fun for everyone in the group. If you like the items and monsters in D&D, it’s definitely worth looking at ICRPG.
  • FATE. from Evil Hat Productions. This game has a lot going for it and cool artwork. If you love the roleplaying element of D&D, then this is probably a good system for you.

    It’s easy to learn, easy to run and has cool dice. Honestly, any D6 can work, but their plus, minus, and blank dice are pretty cool. It’s another rules lite game where you can go as in depth or as vague as you’d like. I love it for its simplicity and adaptability as a writer and as a GM.

    I’ve discussed FUDGE on my blog before here. It’s FATE only simpler and a little more adaptable yet. You can literally play any world or campaign you can imagine or steal from. Best part is- It’s FREE! It’s a little older, but very fun.
  • ICONS by Steve Kenson. This is my go-to superhero game these days. It’s got some elements of FATE in the ease of play and dice mechanics. The character creation and abilities have been expanded upon a few times during its run as the Assembled Edition.

    As Steve Kenson once admitted, it’s not even the first RPG he’s ever designed. It’s not even the first superhero RPG he’s ever written. Mutants & Masterminds is a classic and genre-defining game worthy of mention elsewhere. ICONS is a labor of love, as far as I can tell.

    The thing I love most about ICONS is it takes most of the mechanical elements away from the GM so all we really have to focus on is good storytelling. It can be played as campy or as serious as the GM and group desire. The Dan Houser artwork is loveable and very comical.

    While it is a superhero game at heart, I’ve seen ICONS adapted to some pretty interesting subgenres within supers/comic book gaming. Just because it’s intended as a four color comic book world, doesn’t mean it can’t adapt to sentai anime, fantasy supers (He-Man,) spacefaring heroes, or steampunk dystopian post apocalyptic roleplaying. (*Yeah, that’s a thing.)
  • What’s Old is N.E.W, N.O.W, and/or O.L.D. from EN Publishing. There are actually three core books in this series depending on which genre you might be interested in. OLD is fantasy. NOW is modern. NEW is science fiction. All three combine to get some very interesting genres/campaign settings.

    EN World is a D&D fan site from back in the day. Morrus, WOIN’s creator, is a crack game designer on top of everything else he does. He’s definitely got his hands full on any given day. I sometimes wonder how he does it all.

    The mechanics of WOIN are simple enough. There is a ton of free online support for the system. Much like FUDGE and Open Legend, you can pretty much piece the game together for free if you want to. Character creation is about as complicated as D&D 5E, but with fewer homebrew sourcebooks.
  • Open Legend by Brian Feister and Ish Stabosz. Like FUDGE, this game is community based and basically FREE. It’s another generic system that does fantasy extremely well. You can certainly emulate other genres with it, as shown in the core book. Mixing genres is easy and practically encouraged.

    I was attracted to this game because of its, well, openness. If you want to create your own sourcebook for it, they encourage it! Just make sure credit is given where due. It takes the idea of Open Game Licensing to a new level.

    Again, it’s a fairly rules lite, easy to learn game. If you can master D&D 5E, Open Legends is easy and fun to pick up. It’s got the wholesomeness of Essence20 and similar games going for it. Roll 1d20+other dice vs Target Number. The spells and equipment are a bit more fluid in this system. It really does look like what a generic set of core rules should look like.
This is what the Open Legend website has to offer. They really go all out.

This is the first of these D&D alternative articles I’m working on. There are so many games that don’t get enough press or really any press outside of the company’s own meager promotions that I think they deserve some press here and elsewhere. I intend to discuss some lesser known game companies in my next article in this series. Lots of indie publishers deserve more screen time.

Until then, stay safe. Stay hydrated. Be good to one another. Thank you for being here. Please go out and try something new today!

Has WotC Plum Lost They Minds?!?

Why is WotC rehashing the same old not-so-great campaign settings when they could be coming up with some new material.

Still trying to decide what to make of this year’s release schedule so far.

Wizards of the Coast is almost trying to shoot themselves thoroughly in the foot this year, in my opinion. First, they drop a box set containing one new release and two books most of the fan base already has. Then, another Matt Mercer ego balloon, because we all need another Critical Role book. Bleh. Next on the hit parade is the return of an old classic, Dragonlance. Later this year they’re talking about the return of Spelljammer. I hear Planescape is on the horizon, too. Why WotC? Why?

In fairness, I don’t hate any of their releases other than that whole three book collection nightmare at the start of the year. They really didn’t think that one through. Obvious money grab. I would have thought they would be beyond it, but… sigh.

Dragonlance returns!

Glad they seem to have worked out their differences with Hickman and Weis. The latest Unearthed Arcana contained info on some of the Dragonlance classic material all the fans will undoubtedly be clamoring for. I don’t oppose this idea. I can’t say I’m going to buy into it, though. There’s nothing new here, guys.

Kender? We already kinda have that figured out. Draconians? Uh, we already have them. Several ages of lore where there doesn’t seem to be any room for any characters outside of the novels to really do much? Again. We have FR for that.

I think WotC is banking on the fan appeal, but I think they’re missing a big hunk of their target audience. Yes, the Dragonlance novels are epic. No one is denying the greatness of the old material. Heck, I still have my old 1st Ed AD&D Dragonlance book along with the 3rd Ed stuff. It’s all good, but not really what 5E needs at this juncture.

Spelljammer?!?

What the actual flying fish f*ck made them decide to resurrect this technicolor nightmare? Seriously? Are they that desperate? What’s next? Chronomancy?

I’m sorry if I’m trashing on someone’s favorite campaign setting. Please accept my apology. But I don’t seem to recall Spelljammer being all that terribly popular to begin with. I fail to understand why they can’t just let that one stay dormant.

Have they finally run out of ideas for D&D 5E?

If they were going to dredge up campaigns from the past, why not go for Birthright, Oriental Adventures (Kara Tur,) or Dark Sun? Yes, there are all the accusations of racism and gender bias in the old campaigns. So what? No offense to anyone, but the same kinda thing exists in just about every campaign setting from the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Okay, Greyhawk, Mystara, Masque of the Red Death, Al Qadim, and Jakandor all got passed over for their own 5E return so far. I can see it. Truthfully, I can see the same apologist mentality that’s being applied to Birthright and Kara Tur going for a lot of the old settings. Agree with it or not, that’s how they’re running things.

Here’s an original idea- why not build an all new, original Fifth Edition setting? Maybe something that doesn’t have Critical Role attached to it in any way? Sorry, I’m picking on Matt Mercer again. But how hard can it be for WotC to bring some fresh ideas to the table instead of trying to bring back the same old, somewhat nauseating ideas that played out in 1989?

There are dozens if not hundreds of campaign settings floating around out there in 5E already. You can find a setting for just about anything you’d ever want to run. Cowboys, undead, ninjas, pirates, and dinosaurs are all over the place in 5E. Why does WotC insist on rehashing old second rate titles?

Maybe I am an Old Grognard?

Yes, I do occasionally chuckle at poking old Matt Mercer’s fanbase with a stick. Matt would never stoop to reading my blog or contacting me directly, so I don’t worry. I don’t mind Critical Role, as I’ve said before. But CR is not the end-all and be-all of D&D campaigns. Trust me. They can do better.

Is WotC trying to cash in on the OSR movement? Maybe. Although I see OSR as more of a response to all of the “new” rules changes that have come out since 1st Ed or 2nd Ed AD&D. I know us “old” OSR folks have a bad reputation for being what one younger gamer described as “racist, homophobic and fascist Nazis.” While I DO NOT espouse any type of hatred based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, I will say I’m “old.” I also don’t embrace fascism, socialism or communism, to be honest. I don’t do extremes. Not in my games, not in real life.

So, what is WotC’s angle here? Why are they bringing back RPGs that were left of the Best-Left-Forgotten Shelf? (Gratuitous Rescue Bots reference.) I’ll be watching for something new and improved to happen hopefully before 2024’s new edition.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week. See you again soon.

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