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.)

Getting Communities Together.

Seriously, I really do have a lot of love and respect for Critical Role. I’m sorry if it ever looks like I’m dissing on them. Not only has it grown its own popularity, but it really does draw a lot of new players into the game.

I didn’t realize OSR Grognardia was a separate island unto itself until recently.

Things got spiritual in a hurry…

I see it on YouTube and RPG Twitter quite often. We’ve got the Old Grognards on one side of the proverbial fence and all the young Critical Role D&D fans on the other. I find it perplexing that a lot of the channels I watch never discuss the various OSR games, or on other channels that’s all we ever hear.

I get that we live in a Universe built on separation and duality. Technically we’re all one big happy family under the stars, but we inhabit different frames here on 3D Earth and we see a myriad of differing concepts go by so we can learn. There are seemingly two sides to everything. For example: you and me, light and dark, raw and cooked, liberal and conservative, dice and diceless.

Then, what really bends the noodle even further is when we get into continuums of things. Yes, Neo, I’m talking about various shades of gray. (Not the book, either.) For example, in D&D we have the early days of White Box all the way to Morrus’ Advanced 5E or WotC’s 5.5/6.0 that’s coming. We have fans of roleplaying games strewn all the way from one edition clear back to the original. And this is without getting into the infamous “Edition Wars” from various internet platforms.

“Back in my day…”

I have lots of memories.

If you listen hard enough, you can probably hear all of my kids and my wife cringing at that phrase. It is guaranteed if I start a sentence with that, they’re in for a history lesson. I love history. I’m an Old Grognard. It’s what I do. I almost became a History teacher at one time. (Ha!)

Back in the 1980’s, when the Satanic Panic was in full bloom, players were few and far between especially in small town Iowa where I grew up. We were literally playing D&D in our parents basements. Gaming was often spoken of in hushed tones outside of the group for fear that the good reverend and pack of well-meaning wackadoos would drop “the lecture” on you again.

The lecture. You know, the one that started with “Those games are dangerous…” and ended with “…burn all those books and go to church.” Truthfully, I don’t know a single gamer that ever burned all of his books and threw his dice away as a result, but maybe it happened somewhere. Who knows?

My point behind this story is that we would have given just about anything back then to have a show like Critical Role that could actually show what D&D actually looked like. It would have been amazeballs to have someone- anyone, standing up for the hobby and bringing new people in.

Matt Mercer, if you happen across this, I’m sorry I ever gave you grief! Please forgive me!

Seriously, I really do have a lot of love and respect for Critical Role. I’m sorry if it ever looks like I’m dissing on them. Not only has it grown its own popularity, but it really does draw a lot of new players into the game. It really does fall on us as DMs to keep players into the game once they’ve started. At least Matt and the CR crew got us the foot in the door.

Would it have worked with any other game? Well, there are hundreds of actual play podcasts floating around on the internet. Covid kept us locked down and inside for months on end. I guess maybe there are a few other, even OSR games out there in actual play format.

Sadly, a lot of us “old grogs” as I’ve heard us called now, don’t make videos of our sessions. Maybe we should start? I’ve literally had people ask me if I would. Geez, from there we could start running VTT sessions of old school games. From there, anything could happen… LOL!

To be continued…

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com



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.

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.

Elitism in RPGs

I literally almost started screaming at my phone recently when I noticed someone comparing casual RPG gamers to the wonderfulness of Critical Role.

Headed into somewhat grim and perilous territory.

Maybe I should just learn to stay off social media. I saw something the other night that really spiked my blood pressure. I got the impression from someone talking about the #mattmercereffect that us grumpy old “kitchen table” gamers where somehow of a lower caliber than the Critical Role crowd. I am still just shaking trying not to flip the f%*k out when I hear stuff like this.

I meditate. I pray for peace. Somehow this is one of those shadow elements of my personality that just keeps coming up for me to deal with. I have lots of contempt for statements that lead to elitism, hate, and divisiveness anywhere, but especially in my favorite hobby.

I used to get so angry back in my WoW days when I would hear anything to the effect of “Casuals are ruining the game!”

Because apparently there are people who play World of Warcraft 16 hours or more per day “professionally.” And the rest of us should just log off and close our accounts because we’re not fit to lick their boots or some junk. Whatever.

Yeah… screw that. I don’t play WoW any more because of toxic elitists. Yeah, you’re great at your game. Good for you. Moving on.

I don’t want to ever, EVER see D&D turn into that because of Critical Role or any other actual play podcast. Seriously, we’re all equal here. We’re not starting that elitism crap on my watch if I have anything to say about it.

Running a game at my kitchen table for my family every other week on Sunday is just as valid in terms of loving/teaching the game as anything on TV or the Internet. I’m not trying to disrespect Critical Role. Thanks for generating interest in the game and teaching people how to play.

Picture 1986. 14 year old me teaching the game and learning other games. 1991 college freshman at conventions running games for anyone who would sit down at the table. There were no cameras anywhere to be found. In fact, we used to be stigmatized, ostracized, and beat up for being game nerds back in the day.

Actors.

I used to be big into theatre and stagecraft back in high school. In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time running D&D. My stage days are long gone. My love of the RPG hobby and my family are still present. I do all kinds of voices and create all kinds of characters.

Critical Role on the other hand, is a performance by actors. Yeah, they have characters. Much beyond that it looks like an advertisement for Player’s Handbooks and whatever else they want to push for product. If it’s a bunch of actors doing improv under the guise of a playing D&D, that’s called, “acting.”

That doesn’t mean they’re better than anyone else in the hobby. In fact, I would go so far as to say you won’t find Matt Mercer anywhere near a game table if there isn’t a camera around. I like to pick on Matt because I know he’ll never stoop so far as to read or comment on anything I say. I’m small potatoes and he’s a big time Dungeon Master, ya know?

I think the #mattmercereffect is not so much unrealistic expectations put on the DM as it is another silly way to divide people.

I could be wrong. I stopped watching the mainstream news years ago. I stopped watching most TV and movies when I took up meditation and some other things years ago. Honestly, Hollywood has very little influence over my life these days. Yes, I still dip into TV now and again to watch anime and I did see Vox Machina on Prime. Meh? It was okay.

I’m a big YouTube fan, but I watch an absolutely fantastic variety of things on there. Yes, I’ve seen interviews between Todd Kenreck and Matt Mercer. I absolutely adore Dael Kingsmill and Ginny Di. There are a ton of RPG channels that I follow. Some are actual play podcasts, some are just random Op Ed stuff like I do on my blog every day here.

Again, no one is better or worse. I could fire up my own YouTube channel any time and talk about RPGs and other cool things until I’m blue in the face. It could happen. I think other channels probably do it a lot better. Some day I’ll put together a recommendation list of RPG YouTube channels.

My point is: just because you play D&D at your kitchen table in a casual way does not make you better or worse than a trained actor playing D&D professionally on TV. I would bet there are hundreds of DMs and GMs that would give up an arm and a leg to be running a game like that, sure. (Shit, give me a contract and I’ll do it.) But realistically, I just want to enjoy the hobby and I think most people would agree regardless of playstyle.

Onward and upward. I stopped shaking finally. Let’s look for ways to come together at the table, please? Thank you. I appreciate you.

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