Can We Just Get Back to Gaming?

If something is making you or someone else uncomfortable at the table or even out of game, please speak up. Throw up a red flag. Use the X card. Hopefully we covered it in Session Zero, but if we missed it, PLEASE SPEAK UP! Even if you have to pull the GM or another player aside in the middle of play and stop the game. It’s better to halt play than suffer in silence. As a GM, I’d rather kick one bitter old veteran player than have a new player go home in tears. I’m not in the RPG hobby to make people uncomfortable. No denial. I just want to have fun.

I’m probably going to get called all kinds of “-ist” and “-phobe” for this one, but hear me out, please?

I saw someone today whom I was following on Twitter blocked me presumably for political reasons. This person claimed to be a gamer. The account was actually listed under “So-and-so” Games. (Real name kept confidential.)

Yet I would constantly read this person’s post about how someone is a transphobe because they refused to acknowledge a specific pronoun. And how this other person was a racist because of this political affiliation. Furthermore we shouldn’t follow @X, Y, or Z because they’re one of those reviled Republicans.

Sorry, not what I signed onto RPG Twitter for.

RPG Twitter still makes UFO Twitter look like a government run haunted house, but lately things have been getting a bit touchy over in RPG land, too. Admittedly, it’s not as serious as infiltration by a three letter government agency, but it’s getting about as bothersome at times. Folks, I left my baggage over in UFO Twitter. I only go back there to visit a few friends.

I came to RPG Twitter to talk tabletop roleplaying. I want to talk punching Orcs in the face and slaying dragons. I want to talk mecha battles and starships. Sign me up for my Morpher or my cape and armor. Maybe it’s the “Old Grognard” talking, but when did rpgs become about transgender politics and political parties?

I’ve said before, I should come with a trigger warning.

Look, I can’t help that I was born the was I was born any more than the next person. Here’s the thing- I don’t care if you’re Black, Lesbian, Trans, Neurodivergent, Atheist, Disabled or much of anything else as long as you’re not hurting anyone. As long as your whole thing isn’t hate, harm, or abuse of some kind, you’re probably okay to come game.

Republican? Who cares? Democrat? Same. Green Party? Dude. Nazi? Stay the Hell away from my family. It’s easy. We just don’t discuss real world politics in game, EVER! It’s a rule.

Same with religion. I’m spiritual, not religious. There’s a difference. Sure, we have clerics in fantasy roleplaying. But that’s different than real world religion and spirituality.

I might slip a moral into my story occasionally as a GM, especially when I’m gaming with my kids. If they pick up on it, we’ll talk about it. Easy enough. My wife does life lessons in her classroom, too. I promise she has no sinister agenda at school or in our gaming sessions.

I don’t come to the gaming table or rpg related social media to discuss that serious real world stuff. I’m a married old white guy with kids. I don’t vote Republican or Democrat. I don’t try to hide it, but I don’t try to push it down anyone’s throat, either. You do you, okay?

Let’s talk about what we’re for, not what we’re against, okay?

I’m all FOR Universal love, peace, understanding, prosperity for all, and joy. Let’s all get along, even if we disagree on some points. Let’s thrive together and have some fun along the way. Now you know where I’m coming from.

That’s one of the biggest problems in the United States right now. People, especially our politicians, are in a hurry to tell you, “I stand against this because my opponent stands for it.” But never, “I firmly stand for this because I believe people will benefit from it.”

Contrary to that, I will definitely say, “I’m NOT here to offend people.” Trolls and haters can go for a walk and self-reflect. If I manage to cheese you off, please come talk to me?

So, what do people stand for, exactly? Be proud of who you are in the real world. Great. I certainly hope you are as long as you’re not extremist about it. I stand for being kind, gentle, generous, loving, and decent to one another. Love, joy, and prosperity should be very high one everyone’s priority list on any given day, but I can’t force it.

Honestly, family. I get that we have a shit-ton of problems in the real world. There are plenty of communities out there that are far better equipped to deal with some of them than the ttrpg family. My best advice for rpg groups where everyone isn’t familiar with one another:

In Other Awful RPG News…

I know we’ve had a major problem on RPG Twitter come up where a guy abused his power as a GM and social influence for sex and that shit is NOT OKAY! This person was an actual play streamer and GM for several groups. He welcomed a lot of us, me included, into the RPG Twitter sphere. He used his influence/authority to try to get sexual favors from female players. At the very least, he was making some very uncomfortable advances toward his female players. We’ve had a few other people stand up with him. Again, there is no part of his/their behavior that is okay.

Don’t defend the abuser. Don’t attack victims. NEVER BLAME THE VICTIMS! How many times do I have to say that on this blog? It’s not just ET contact experiencers. It’s anyone who has experienced major trauma.

If something is making you or someone else uncomfortable at the table or even out of game, please speak up. Throw up a red flag. Use the X card. Hopefully we covered it in Session Zero, but if we missed it, PLEASE SPEAK UP! Even if you have to pull the GM or another player aside in the middle of play and stop the game. It’s better to halt play than suffer in silence. As a GM, I’d rather kick one veteran player than have a new player go home in tears. I’m not in the RPG hobby to make people uncomfortable. No denial. I just want to have fun.

I stand in SUPPORT of the VICTIMS. Likewise, I stand with my trans, gay, and lesbian friends, too. Yes, Black Lives Matter. So do Asian lives and Jewish lives. This all goes back to one basic thing. Can we all just please be good to one another on this planet? We’re all we have.

I love you all. I’m grateful for you. Please be good to one another this week. Please stand in the good and the light wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Take care. See ya soon.

Casting Call for an RPG Campaign?!?

Take it from someone who has run a lot of convention games in a dozen different systems and never received a dime in cash or been in front of a camera doing it. Take it from anyone who survived the “Satanic Panic” era of Dungeons & Dragons when everyone was gunning for the hobby to be shut down. Heck, take it from someone who was bullied, insulted and rejected for being a gamer on a regular basis by the church, the school, the parents and his “peers.” Y’all kids have it lucky now. Trust me.

Sayyy whaat???

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

I’m kinda passionate about this, so please bare with me? I was passing by a post on #RPGTwitter today that almost triggered me. They were holding auditions for a Blades in the Dark campaign. Auditions? For the cast? Like a TV show? WTAF?!? Okay, I’m triggered.

Not at the folks running the Blades campaign. Your game. You run it your way. Cool. It’s also an Actual Play podcast. I get that.

Matt Mercer and his crew of wannabe gamers are taking it too far, In MY Opinion!

Look, at first I thought Critical Role was a novel idea. Matt Mercer who is a poster child for Wizards of the Coast/D&D hosts a cute “game session” for a bunch of voice actors. Some of the actors are actually quite famous for their roles in anime, American cartoons, and video games. But here lately, I think it’s just gotten completely out of hand.

You know how many game sessions I’ve recorded and/or broadcast? That’s right. NONE. EVER. And honestly, I may never do it. Nor should I have to. I’m still perfectly capable of sitting down at a table in a game store or anywhere else with live human beings and rolling some dice and running original adventures that I have written myself- FOR FUN!

Congratulations, Critical Role. You flushed out this Old Grognard out of his basement. Now look what you’ve done!

And I should say kudos to Matt Mercer for putting D&D 5E on the map. Yay for him and his Critical Role efforts for that. The show has also spawned hundreds of Actual Play podcasts and dramas all over the Internet. I guess that’s cool if that’s what you’re into? Maybe?

I want to make two points about this whole thing and then I promise I’ll move on quietly; peacefully even. First, you don’t need an Actual Play broadcast of any kind to run your RPG. I can’t stress this enough. You need friends, dice, books, pencils/pens, maybe some minis. Cameras, batteries, and laptops not required. No fancy casting needed. No fancy character voices needed. No animators required afterward. Play the GAME for crying out loud!

Second, Dungeon/Game Masters don’t have to be Matt Mercer. I know a lot of people are calling this the “Matt Mercer Effect.” I think they’re giving him too much clout all around. Folks, I’m sure Matt’s a nice enough guy. (He’ll never see this and I’ll never hear from him. Ha ha.) But the one thing people forget, is that he is basically on WotC’s payroll.

Watch what happens when the game switches editions here in a couple of years. Do you think the entire cast will receive all new shiny copies of the latest PHB? Yeah… probably for free. Say what you want about the game and the show, but the people in charge are not stupid. (They do make some serious blunders at times…)

I’m not Matt Mercer. Likewise, he’s no Jeff Craigmile. (*Again, he’ll never see this. I’m small potatoes.) If someone rolled a truckload of money up to me to hang out with voice actors and pretend to roll some dice occasionally? Heck yeah!

But good old Matt will never run anything that’s not made by WotC, such as ICONS, ICRPG, or Starfinder. You’d certainly never get the “Mighty Nein” to sit down and play Dungeon Crawl Classics. I bet money their characters would die so fast in an old school dungeon crawl with a different DM, their heads would spin and we’d spend half an hour watching them all roll new characters.

They know how to make cartoons. They know how to do the voices. But are they gamers? Take it from someone who has spent a lot of hours sitting around a dark basement with five other guys who play RPGs as a hobby- Critical Role’s cast are almost the opposite of that. Yay. They make it look like fun…

Take it from someone who has run a lot of convention games in a dozen different systems and never received a dime in cash or been in front of a camera doing it. Take it from anyone who survived the “Satanic Panic” era of Dungeons & Dragons when everyone was gunning for the hobby to be shut down. Heck, take it from someone who was bullied, insulted and rejected for being a gamer on a regular basis by the church, the school, the parents and his “peers.” Y’all kids have it lucky now. Trust me.

Critical Role might look like they’re playing D&D, but the sweat equity in the game and in the industry just ain’t there, folks. Love em for it, but what you see is what you get. Play the game for yourself. It might not be as glamorous, but it can be a lot more fun. Hey, no cameras- no pressure.

Good for you if you’re only 20 something and just getting into D&D. Good for all the new players. I hope you stick with the hobby, even if times get rough again. If Critical Role inspired you to play or even DM for the first time, hallelujah! Just remember a lot of folks who will never see as much recognition came before Matt Mercer and his cast.

Okay, getting off my soapbox now.

I promise I’ll behave. Rant mode off. Luckily for WotC and their advertising department, I’m a small time blogger with a little bitterness toward their prizewinning show pony. Guess I’m lucky and blessed with a small audience and I can still be grateful for every last follower. Thank you, family!

Take care. See ya soon.

“Old Grognard”

I don’t consider myself to be a grumpy old man gamer, aka “Old Grognard.” Rather, I’m an older, slightly more mature, experienced gamer.

I don’t find this term offensive. Do you?

Yes, I’ve been around a while. Back when I first started using the Internet, there was this thing called “Usenet News” that I got all of my RPG news and reviews on. It was a forum like any other. Many of the same truths and toxic attitudes still prevail today. Thus began my love-hate relationship with forums.

I love Instagram. Every community I’ve joined over there has been helpful, supportive, and fun. I love you guys. Keep up the good work.

My Facebook RPG experiences have been somewhat limited, as have my forays into Reddit and Pinterest. Really not much to comment on there. Is YouTube considered “Social Media?” If it is, I watch a lot of videos on there. Again, I like pretty much all of the content I consume, or I wouldn’t be watching it.

Then there’s Twitter. After the Ufology community showed its true, very ugly colors, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be deleting my account. So I started hanging out over on the #ttrpg side. Thus far, I have found it to be a warm, supportive, positive group of peers 98% of the time I interact with anyone. (Okay, I’ve had one less stellar experience, but it was mostly miscommunication.) I love all you beautiful people over there #ttrpgfamily. I’m grateful for all of my followers.

I’m not that old.

I mean, I’m 49. My roots go back to T$R Marvel and BECMI when it was new. I’ve been in the hobby for almost 40 years. Yes, there were good old days.

But that doesn’t mean I’m stuck there. Yeah, I know guys older than me who will never give up their lead minis and boardgames with cardboard chits. They’re reluctant or downright intragnizent when it comes to learning/playing anything new, even if it’s a reprint. Change is truly frightening for some folks. That’s before we start adding technology to the works. Yeesh.

D&D has plenty of throwbacks, and so do I.

Lately, I’ve been encouraged by a friend to get back into more rules-lite, Old School Roleplaying. I’m monkeying around with Dungeon Crawl Classics, Mutant Crawl Classics (Goodman Games,) and Frontier Space (DwD Studios.) I really like that kind of old world BECMI, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers feeling.

That’s not to say I’m abandoning 5E D&D, Pathfinder 2E, or anything. Still tons of fun to be had with any game. If nothing else, playing older games makes me appreciate both eras of play and those play styles that much more.

RPGs have evolved over the years, and so have I.

Beer and pretzels was a style of play back when I started. We did some goofy things running around in dungeons just for the fun of it. We hacked and slashed our way to finding incredible treasures and fought freaky, sometimes bizarre monsters. Some of those dungeons made very little logical sense to begin with. I enjoyed those games as much as I imagine people do Critical Role now.

As the years progressed and we matured as people and as players, some games turned more dramatic. We still talk about those with the same affection and fondness as we do about the half-crazed dungeon romps. Characters and stories mean more nowadays. That’s cool. I think there’s room for both yet.

There’s room for all.

I don’t consider myself to be a grumpy old man gamer, aka “Old Grognard.” Rather, I’m an older, slightly more mature, experienced gamer. I’ll allow pretty much anyone at my table. I’m here to have fun however that comes about. I don’t hold any grudges, and I don’t begrudge any particular play style. Just enjoy the game. That’s what we’re there for. No worries as long as someone’s not ruining it for everyone else at the table.

Yes. I’m sure I’ll still get lumped in with the other old Grognards. I’ll still gladly play Man O War or whatever else they want to pull out when I’m hanging out with those friends, too. Likewise, if I’ve got a group of 20-something 5E players, we’re going to probably be a bit more character intensive.

On the other hand, I’ll offer up some Old School concepts to my younger audience. It’s fun to watch younger players racking their brains to come up with solutions to old school traps and puzzles as long as I don’t overwhelm anyone. There’s also some oldie-but-goodie treasure to be given out and even a few bizarre, somewhat goofy monsters to fight that may not appear anywhere in the newer books.

Lots more to come. I’m going to be putting out some add-ons to old school games that came to mind recently. I’ve also got a few newer projects I’ve been working on for fun that I’ll be putting up somewhere here eventually that are kind of old new school or new old school…however that’s supposed to work. (You know what I mean.) I’m still contemplating various aspects of FATE, Pathfinder 2E and Starfinder, too. The RPG world is never boring.

Next time, let’s talk a little about Hex Crawls. What are they and what do we do with them? Game on!

Surprise!

Just checking in. Giving more thoughts to rebranding everything completely. Someone gave me food for thought on more Indie RPGs we should all be looking into.

Just when I thought I’d seen it all…

Someone approached me on Twitter today with a handful of RPG’s I wasn’t overly familiar with. Admittedly, a couple of them were variations on d20 system and one was kind of a loose Shadowrun/D20 Modern setting. Still, I was pretty impressed. One of my goals going forward is going to be to brush up on more Indie RPGs.

Also, heading into the new year, I’m looking into a couple of FATE related games. Part of me is really starting to miss running Call of Cthulhu and other modern horror type games, too. I see where there is a FATE Horror toolkit and I happen to have a couple of generic zombie apocalypse games that I like. I’m also interested in possibly creating a sandbox style mecha campaign using FATE or The Mecha Hack.

So Many Groovy Ideas,

And I actually have time to work on some of them. Unlike some of my very wonderfully talented friends on Twitter and Instagram, I have yet to land any sort of meaningful employment. My family isn’t in danger of starving in the street and we’re happy, but I’d love to be getting paid for something I enjoy.

I’ll keep everyone posted on my re-branding thoughts. I’ve been considering moving all of my blogging activities over to my main site, Jeff’s Thoughts I’d be separating my gaming ventures out from my spiritual/Law of Attraction/Ufology/conspiracy/self improvement blog over there. The main advantages are I have a better WordPress plan for that site and more tools at my disposal. Plus, I’ve had some branding ideas that have been running around in my head for 20+ years that I’ve been sitting on.

No, it’s nothing crossing over my two very diverse foci in life. There should always be a healthy balance between one’s gaming activities and one’s other beliefs, I think. I mean, the Ufology/spirituality/conspiracy community refuses to take one seriously if they don’t think I can tell fantasy from reality. The gaming community probably doesn’t want me sounding all positive to the point of preachy, either. And we all know the underlying D&D rule about never mixing real world religions with rpgs. I try not to overtly mash spirituality into my games, either.

Anyway, more to come. Happy gaming into the new year! See you again real soon.

Does It Have To Be “Official?”

No one, and I mean NO ONE should ever tell you what you can and can’t do with your campaign, your world, your ideas, or your content. If it’s your table and your world and they don’t like it, they can go kick rocks.

My friend Elzie recently posted an interesting thread on Twitter that I wanted to comment on in depth. Sometimes replies and Tweets don’t cover it all.

So, my short answer to all of this is- Absolutely NOT!

My long answer is: there are a LOT of variables here. If you’re trying to publish official content on www.dmsguild.com, then yes, you need to stick to the rules as written for the most part. Otherwise, if it’s your campaign, at home, or published anywhere else under the SRD, then- freakin party on!

Seriously, if you want to re-skin your orcs to look like pink bunny-eared primates, then go for it! No one, and I mean NO ONE should ever tell you what you can and can’t do with your campaign, your world, your ideas, or your content. If it’s your table and your world and they don’t like it, they can go kick rocks. The Tolkien people are not going to sue you for altering orcs and neither is Wizards. Run the game you want to enjoy.

Descriptions go a long way!

I have mostly new players. I’m pretty determined to ban access to the Monster Manual and other such books during play these days. I’m going to describe the creature the party is facing in detail and let the group decide how they want to handle it.

The trees around the road go dead silent. The group’s horses stall and become skittish looking toward the large tree with a long, thick branch over the road ahead. They see a large beast, perched in the tree, with the body of a panther only having leathery, bat-like wings, and a long spiky tail. It stares out through the dusky twilight at them with its red, glowing eyes and long, protruding fangs gleaming in the last little bit of remaining sunlight, watching them approach. Its talons are spread wide and its tail is wrapped around the tree for balance. This predator looks like it means business. What do you do?

That description will probably have the intended effect much better than “You see a Wyvern perched atop the tree over the road ahead. What do you do?” Because if I ran it as an official Wyvern, it’s not going to be nearly as memorable or potentially terrifying. Not to mention it’s a re-skinned Wyvern, with a few added features that aren’t listed with the original.

Now, my wife, who loves all things feline both in character and out, is probably going to try to tame, befriend or otherwise not kill this creature seeing it isn’t overtly evil or aggressive. Which, I’ll possibly allow the attempt because it’s good roleplaying opportunities and more fun than a straight combat encounter.

In the past, I’ve had groups that would have dug into the Monster Manuals trying to find out how much XP the thing would be worth. I mean, it’s literally XP with wings! Heck yeah we go all murder hobo on it.

Then again, as a DM, I get to have fun with a large, winged, apex predator with stealth and a breath weapon in mostly open ground in poor lighting conditions. That’s going to suck for the murder hobos. Especially if it flies off and comes back to torment them in the dark. Gook luck trying to take a long rest with that thing lurking nearby. heh heh heh…

Who’s to say what’s considered “official?”

Even the designers of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons could sit at your gaming table and play a character fully aware that it’s not Rules As Written, and be just fine with it. Are we there to have fun or bicker over official content? Again, if you’re not attempting to publish anything, does it really matter? Personally, I think not.

Now there are a few exceptions and exemptions. Obviously if you’re running a game for Adventurer’s League set in a specific world you probably want to stick to “their” descriptions as written because those players are likely expecting “official” content and will go onto other games in the series. The players could get lost if you change/alter the settings and descriptions too much in an official module. Convention games are also kind of a sticky wicket depending on the expectations of the players.

That having been said, if you tell your players at your table for your home game, “Hey, my world is different than anything in the published settings. Here’s some of what you can expect…” Then, yes. Absolutely homebrew whatever you like. I know I do it all the time.

I regularly adapt all kinds of things I will never attempt to publish.

I watch a lot of anime. I’ve been a huge fan of Rouroni Kenshin, Inu Yasha, Chrome Shelled Regios, and Ninja Scroll for years. I’ve had players come to me and ask for homebrew versions of Sango’s boomerang, the Tetsusaiga, and the giant wolf demon from Inu Yasha and I gladly obliged. I’ve statted the Wing Blade Sword among other things in the past from various samurai anime. I’m absolutely in love with the dite concept in Chrome Shelled Regios and will be resolute when it comes to implementing that style of weapon in the campaign I’m working on.

Heck, I have plenty of ICONS characters that are knockoffs of DC, Marvel, Image, and various anime characters. I’ve translated my own personal DC Heroes (First Ed) character into a half a dozen different systems. His concept was based on Marvel’s Iron Man. Admittedly, I’ve had my own spin on the character for 30 years, and he looks very little like Tony Stark.

I’ve used and borrowed from Avatar: the Last Airbender and Satelizer Bridget in the past, too. Had an absolute blast with it, but could never “officially” publish any of it for fear of getting sued. I’ve even created derivatives from Super Why (Kids TV show,) Teen Titans, Young Justice, and the Outsiders. Nothing is off limits at my table when it comes to creating adventures and settings. However, there are plenty of restrictions when it comes to publishing.

Publishers, designers and media lawyers expect you to respect their copyrights and trademarks. It’s much the same going the other way. Obviously I want my ORIGINAL material to be mine, to my own credit and never stolen. It’s only fair to everyone to do your own thing and get credit for it. But this all applies to published material, not what goes on at your table at home, or even during an actual play podcast.

So many good points!

This is one of my favorite topics, if it’s not obvious. I’m not even a lawyer, but I have found this topic to be fascinating ever since I took Media Law in college. It’s amazing what you can and can’t do.

Again, if you’re working on something for dmsguild.com or planning to publish your material anywhere, you have to be somewhat compliant to the “official rules.” If you publish to the DMsGuild, then yes, you are literally doing R&D for Wizards of the Coast and they can/will take whatever they want, rewrite it, publish it, edit it, whatever and they >might< even give you credit. If you publish elsewhere as a third party publisher under the Open Gaming License, WotC can latch onto your work and/or tell you to cease and desist if you’re violating the OGL and/or going beyond the bounds of the SRD and trying to pass it off as “official.”

Personally, I love the notion of publishing to the DMsGuild because it gives us a chance to show off. You can put work out there in an official way as a portfolio piece. Everyone, WotC included, gets to see what you’re capable of. You might not get hired to be one of the big guns in their office, but wouldn’t it be terrific to be acknowledged and asked to work on more, possibly commissioned projects? There are benefits to proving you can do things in an official capacity.

My personal goals are to get to that Electrum and Mithral rating on both DMsGuild and DriveThruRPG some day. I would love to get an email from any company that effectively says, “Hey. We really like your stuff. Come work with us.” I can do all these things. Name a system. It doesn’t have to even be D&D. We can play within whatever official rules you want to name. I’ll make it work.

Anyway, until next time. Take care.

Found a Community

People on #TTRPG Twitter are KIND to one another!

I came to #ttrpg Twitter at a time when I was pretty frustrated with the internet in general, social media in particular, and Twitter specifically. We had a lot of a fiasco over on #ufotwitter that really left a bad taste in my mouth when it came to community participation. The Añjali drama was just too much and the UFO Twitfologists proved to be by-and-large a toxic, egotistical bunch. Truthfully, after the last few months in my life, toxic people are not something I choose to include in my life.

So I went back to my roots in the world of tabletop roleplaying. Do you know what I found? A LOT of very warm, welcoming, caring people who look out for one another. They don’t judge. They don’t get nasty. They support one another. They’re kind. Read that again.

People on #TTRPG Twitter are KIND to one another!

I have found it to be a safe space even when people are having a rough day. We’re all-inclusive of neurodiverse, LGBTQIA++ folks. I regularly see people lifting each other up and doing shout-outs to one another! Holy buckets! I’m home! It’s a real community. Other groups on Twitter could learn a lot from the #ttrpg family.

THANK YOU ALL for being so AWESOME!

Game on, my friends!
%d bloggers like this: