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.

Do I Have to Do it “Their” Way?

If the world was open? If it had its own OGL? If it were free to distribute AND had a good system? Heaven!

Pathfinder Second Edition vs Dungeons & Dragons 5E

Please forgive me. This post is not intended to start an online donnybrook over whose system is best. **Disclaimer:** Play whichever system you like. Decide for yourself what you prefer. Thank you!

Yesterday I was discussing whether or not one should play/run/create content for D&D 5E strictly for rules-as-written or homebrew. Homebrew is awesome! But with 5E being the top dog in the industry right now, it’s also the one most people are playing with/creating material for. I love 5E for this reason.

I used to dog on Pathfinder pretty hard when it started. BUT…

Yeah. I’m guilty of that. I’m sorry family. It’s true. I used to think it was strictly intended for all the Third Edition D&D players that couldn’t handle Fourth Edition. BUT! I came around. Just in time for Pathfinder Second Edition.

Lessons learned, I LOVE Pathfinder 2E! The mechanics are great. The classes are pretty cool. It’s flexible. Paizo learned from their previous edition. The main rulebook is heavy enough to defend my home from burglars… It’s all good. Some day I might do a full review.

There’s another catch with PF2E, though.

If you are playing D&D 5E as written, you’re playing in the default setting of Forgotten Realms. There’s also Eberron, Ravnica, and soon I guess they’re releasing Spelljammer and possibly Planescape. If you go online there are literally hundreds of other campaign worlds and settings along with conversions of older settings. Please don’t panic. There is plenty of room for more. The Open Gaming License literally opened the floodgates for more world building than anyone ever imagined.

Pathfinder 2E, not so much… While Pathfinder Infinite has opened their world to creators, it’s pretty much their world. I don’t mind this, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for world building. That’s unfortunate. So, yay, I can homebrew PF2E, but then I have to figure out how literally everything translates into PF2-ese. So, yay Golarian.

I will say Starfinder, which is more or less Pathfinder in space, just opened up considerably with the Galaxy Exploration guide. That’s cool. Space is infinite. The Universe is literally infinite and that’s without alternate dimensions. It would be foolhardy to lock players into one star system or one planet for a space game.

I see this happen with other games.

I collect RPGs like mad. I love games. I love mecha and anime games especially. Alas, many of them seem to fall into one of about three categories. 1. They have their own very specific campaign setting/world. Again, yay, but it’s not what I’m looking for. 2. They’re too generic. A lot of games have great mechanics, but just don’t go far enough into what I was looking for in their game. 3. Last, they don’t have any kind of OGL attached. Which means they’re literally the only source of material for that game.

I understand companies having exclusive rights to certain properties. Ask anyone who used to work for T$R or West End Games about Lucasfilm. They’ll probably cringe. Star Wars was especially tough to work with, from what I hear. Ugnaughts anyone? Margret Weis Productions had a deal with Battlestar Galactica RPG. A lot of established properties don’t want people willy-nilly adding to their setting and then publishing it, which thoroughly wrecks the official canon and creates all kinds of plot holes. Seems fair to limit creative access, right?

But why lock an indie game possibly with its own unique system, into a specific setting? Seriously, I would love to work for just about any game company on almost any system. (I have a few disclaimers, but we’ll leave that for another day.) But if the world was open? If it had its own OGL? If it were free to distribute AND had a good system??? Heaven!

I might not exactly love D&D 5E for certain mechanics.

But at least the OGL lets us create our own worlds, classes, characters, and so on with an established system that actually does work pretty darn well. Ironically, PF2E is based on roughly the same mechanics. There are a LOT of d20 based games. At this point, if I’m publishing on DrivethruRPG, my intention is to do something d20 based or a superhero game like ICONS. The only other generic systems I’ve really enjoyed so far have been FATE and Open Legends. Again, I’d have to spend some serious time developing within those systems because there are certain things kinda missing that I’m looking for mechanically. (Again, that’s another discussion.)

I love Paizo’s take on d20. I think the Starfinder/Pathfinder mechanics are well thought out. I think PF2E is loads of fun. I almost taught my kids to play it before D&D 5E. PF2E has not become the runaway train of supplements that its predecessor did. I look forward to their upcoming releases and writing some adventures set in Golarian probably just for fun. Maybe not for publication. Starfinder Infinite material might be a possibility, depending…

I love D&D 5E because I’m building my own very odd, wacky, very fun (hopefully) campaign world. With some help from the Universe, I might even publish it. And I have some “generic” fantasy stuff that I’m again planning for DMsGuild hopefully in the near future. Pathfinder Infinite might be another story. I don’t know yet.

I’m also working on a more solidly constructed portfolio to show off some of my writing talents. In the meantime, if you are interested in hiring me as a writer I am quite available. Heh heh. No seriously! LOL! Please hire me? Heck, if you’re local I’ll even walk your dog or something.

Until next time, take care.

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.

Game World Creation Journal

I won’t lie. I start a lot of projects. I don’t necessarily finish them. I get sidetracked rather easily. Okay, more like derailed.

And I have a TON of ideas. Heck, I’ve got ideas for getting more ideas. Creativity fountain for days. I have that in spades, hexagons, even. Heh heh… makin up my own card suits. See?

My latest venture, among others, is creating my own D&D Campaign world. I have some challenges to overcome. I also have a ton of cool stuff I want to do, probably more than I can fit into one book or even one world. I get really excited because they’re all things I’ve wanted to do for years and years.

I have all these cool plans for kingdoms. Challenge: Mapping
I have all these neat ideas for various race/culture combos. Challenge: Fitting everything on a map
Races have become the new hot topic in D&D as of late. Do we even call them races any more? Some folks are struggling with gender and pronouns. Where do we draw the line?
I want to rewrite the weapon/armor tables. Challenge: Players are going to freak out. Possibly in a good way, but still.
Classes are one of my favorite things to tinker with. Challenge: How will players and DMs react to certain traditional classes being tossed out?

I think world design and campaign design should break certain rules and go outside the guidelines. Creativity isn’t about stressing over who’s getting offended today. Maybe coming up with new ways of not-stressing the audience out, sure.

So my plan here is to simply start the damn thing and see it all the way through. It may take me 20 years and be published after my death, but hey- we’ll get there. More to come as I develop it. Prepare to be freaked out, possibly.

As I Stare at a Blank Page

I haven’t written poetry in a couple of decades. Enjoy.

This isn’t poetry exactly, more just my thoughts expressed here.

Love my Bitmoji.

As I sit here and stare at a blank page,
Admiring it, in all of its pristine glory,
Looking all clean and neat,
Like a pond with a calm breeze,

I sit and wonder,
“Where to start?”
“What to say?”
It comes naturally.
In this space,
I can say almost anything I like.

No one lording over me here.
Never a deadline or a single care.
I’m my own editor,
So I say whatever I dare.

Sometimes the rantings of a madman come.
So I unleash them upon the page with reckless abandon.
Consequences be damned!
Care and caution in the wind.

I appreciate you!

Rant mode is a dangerous place.
Would I say that to someone’s face?
Yeah, probably.
You’d be surprised what I’m capable of.

It’s not like I can’t self-edit.
I have the skill set and all.
Maybe I just choose not-to.
My choices are what matter in this space.

The question is always where it ends,
To reach some sort of positive conclusion,
Pray tell, what is my point to all of this?
Pretty sure there’s something to tie this all together.

Sometimes calm, loving thoughtful passion strides in,
So I choose carefully the words that come forth.
Love and Light to you all.
Let’s come together as family.

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