3:00 AM Rantings of a Mad Man

Back in my day, the ancient past known as the 1980’s and 1990’s, if you wanted to meet one of the superstars of roleplaying games you had to write them a letter or go to a convention. Conventions were few and far between back in those days, at least ones that drew in the BIG names. Or you could send fan mail. Later there were Internet forums and email, but originally we had to do it the hard way.

Seemed like a good idea. Might take it down later.

WTaFH am I doing here? No really? What am I doing here?

Do I even belong here? In this space? With all these HUGE names in gaming?

I just don’t know any more. Some of y’all make more in a day than I will this year off selling RPG items no less. Should I even be here on #TTRPG social media hanging out? Seriously, I’m losing my damn marbles here.

I mean, yeah I’ve come up with some (*what I think are) fairly interesting articles..

Fell asleep on my keyboard right about here. 6:47AM

Thud!

It just stymies me how I am still somehow, in some small way, considered a part of any community on the Internet. I mean, I follow some pretty big names on Twitter. To my knowledge none of them followed me back, but I could maybe be wrong about that.

Okay, after a little research, a couple of what I consider to be HUGE names actually did follow me back. Much love for you. Y’all know who you are. Thank you!

Old timey story incoming.

Back in my day, the ancient past known as the 1980’s and 1990’s, if you wanted to meet one of the superstars of roleplaying games you had to write them a letter or go to a convention. Conventions were few and far between back in those days, at least ones that drew in the BIG names. Or you could send fan mail. Later there were Internet forums and email, but originally we had to do it the hard way.

Back then, some of the BIG names in gaming were giants because there weren’t that many of them. Artists, too btw. You were lucky if you could find Gary Gygax himself, Jim Ward, Lester Smith, Ed Greenwood, Tom Moldvay, Zeb Cook or Keith Parkinson in person. But if you did, it was awesome!

Even more fortunate was if you got to sit down at the table with one of the legends. I never had the pleasure, but I knew a few guys that actually sat at the table with Gary Gygax at Gen Con back in the really olden days. Can you imagine? Playing D&D with the creator himself. Wow…

Nowadays, our heroes are slightly more accessible.

Maybe it’s because of the Open Game License? There are far more creators out there in the world to run into than ever before. That’s one possibility.

The other, bigger monstrosity is social media. Facebook/Instagram (Meta,) Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitter among others have helped us keep in touch with friends and families all over the bloody place. Seriously, I have like, a thousand friends on different platforms and I have no clue who they are. (Feel free to say Hi any time.) YouTube is somewhere between social and a regular medium.

Then we’ve got just as many creators selling themselves on crowdfunding such as Kickstarter. One of the best ways to promote anything is on social media. YouTube videos help. Sometimes blogs like this one help spread the word, too. (*Okay, maybe not mine, but there are some. I know there are.)

Ever since this crazy new electronic age began, I’ve actually bumped into a few of my idols out there online.

I think our “greatest” technological innovation has been great for helping us connect. It’s also been horrible psychologically for some of us. One of my recent forays into #ttrpgTwitter led me to an account with almost 15,000 followers.

Holy buckets! Publishing credits with some major names in the industry. That’s saying something. I realize it’s easier these days to break in as an RPG writer, designer, editor, etc. But still, to actually receive a paycheck from Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, or even Goodman Games would be dream come true for many of us.

So, I’m out there in the Twitterverse with some of these truly amazing folx and I’m wondering. How do I fit in? What am I know for? (uh… nothing yet, really.)

I learned that I share a birthday with Matt Mercer. That’s kinda cool. I’m older, but still…

If anyone needs me, I’m going to be curled up in a ball under my desk with a pot of coffee, a bowl of homemade Chex mix, and this here laptop. You might hear me rolling dice or see me when I sneak out to go to the bathroom. I’ll figure the rest out as I go.

At least I came out from under the desk.

Thanks for being here. See you in the funny pages on Twitter. I appreciate you!

What Do We Do When the New Edition Comes?

It just seems like they’re a little conflicted. Maybe it’s a great business strategy? Strike while the iron is still hot. Start hyping up the new game with the old one still on everyone’s minds. Every RPG has its high and low trends, like any business. Maybe WotC saw the downhill slope starting and decided to act before it dropped too far.

Am I throwing all of my D&D 5E books out the window or what?

If you ever thought this one caused a stir…

I’ve been around since the old days and I have yet to throw out a gaming book, much less a whole set, so probably not. I’ve seen editions of the grandfather of all RPGs come and go. I’m still here. They’re still here.

I remember when 2nd Edition first came out. My group was only in high school and we had the old guard refusing to get on board. I was a little leery at first, but I came around as soon as I read through some of it.

The same effect occurred with pretty much every edition and revision after, too. I’m not comparing titles and I certainly don’t want to rehash the edition wars of Interweb fame. For the record, I love pretty much every edition of D&D. Each has its own merits and inherent flaws. I particularly enjoyed Basic (Rules Cyclopedia,) 2.5 AD&D, 3.5 D&D, and 5E. The other editions are fun and all. I’ll love 1st Ed AD&D forever. They are my most cherished collection of books.

It sounds as if 2024 is going to be the year of the Dungeons (& Dragons.)

Wizards of the Coast is sort of teasing that the new edition of D&D is going to hit in 2024. I’m a little puzzled that they’re telegraphing the punch this far out with 5E still riding a massive wave of success. I know some have pointed to the anniversary, and maybe that’s it.

It just seems like they’re a little conflicted. Maybe it’s a great business strategy? Strike while the iron is still hot. Start hyping up the new game with the old one still on everyone’s minds. Every RPG has its high and low trends, like any business. Maybe WotC saw the downhill slope starting and decided to act before it dropped too far.

Every edition has its life cycle of supplements.

Constantly.

Pathfinder 1E really stretched the limits of what a fantasy RPG could do in terms of supplements before moving onto another edition. 3/3.5E D&D did much the same. I literally have an entire book shelf and a half jammed full of 3.5 books, adventures, and even a couple of boxed sets. Every edition of D&D seems to evolve through three or four full length player’s guides, a handful of official monster books (or more,) a handful of campaign settings, and some interesting add-ons (Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide for example.) Starting with 3.0 and again in 5E, we also have innumerable amounts of third party sourcebooks and supplements.

Then there’s the troves of homebrew and fan sourced material for free on blogs such as this one. Magazines, either online or print are even further edition fuel. But most editions of D&D start to decline about where 5E is in 2022. It’s the longest running edition of the game, but still maintains about the same number of official core books as some of its predecessors.

New editions tend to cause as many issues as they solve.

Kits -> Subclasses. Evolving concepts.

I know WotC has expressed an interest in the way races are treated in the game. There has been more than enough outcry over the way certain base mechanics work (i.e. short/long rest, overland travel, and death saves.) The way monsters use spells is due to change. Every edition of the game finds a way to streamline something.

Remember THAC0? Remember having six or seven different saving throw types? How about Comeliness? What about d%00 for Thief/Assassin/Acrobat skills? Kits? Prestige Classes? Attacks of Opportunity anyone? Sometimes streamlining the rules is a very good thing.

It seems like they always manage to edit some of the good stuff out, too. Psionics is a debate for another time, but some would point to it. I miss the robust weapons tables in 3.5 and prior editions, including exotic weapons. At least one cool campaign setting or more seems to vanish between editions, possibly to never be seen officially again. At times some of us fans feel like they proverbially throw the baby out with the bathwater.

What will the newest version of the OGL look like?

DungeonMastersGuild.com

My biggest concern any time Wotc even breathes a word about a new edition is what will the OGL look like? I’m not afraid of it cutting into my personal profit margin, but I know some people are relying on it for income. I was around for 4E and the OGL or lack thereof. The best legal advice on third party 4E supplements I recall hearing was, “Don’t.” And I think that hurt the game and the company.

DMsGuild might be one of the best ideas anyone has ever had. It gives people an outlet for homebrew material and a real sense of community. Not to mention a bit of side credit to buy more books. It’s also very encouraging to see other people immersed in the hobby.

It would be absolutely tragic if WotC does a repeat of 4th Ed’s version of the OGL. It would hurt almost as much if they hold their breath for too long dealing with a new OGL/SRD. My biggest concern is that they would go back to actively discouraging the fanbase from contributing new ideas to the game.

What will the new edition bring?

I still have 4 projects in motion aside from 5E.

My biggest question is still what will happen in terms of retro-compatibility with 5E? A lot of people started or even discovered roleplaying on the current edition. What about all of the mountains of third party books still coming out? Will this edition have the success of 3rd Ed, or the curse of the even numbered editions in terms of sales? (That last one is a bit superstitious on my part, but I’ve seen it happen.)

I still have plenty of irons in the proverbial fire and a ton of other RPG interests to keep me going for years to come. Power Rangers, anyone? Monster of the Week? OSR, specifically Dungeon Crawl Classics, which is sort of a byproduct of other D&D editions in a way is on my list. Heck, I might even build a few one-shots for ICRPG, FATE, or GI Joe. Transformers RPG is coming, too… Hmm.

All this and more remains to be seen. I’m going to keep my 5E game going with my family until the kids go to college, at least. I’ll invest in 6E (*Or whatever they call it,) when I have the money. If nothing else, I’ll give it a good look and write a review. Every edition of D&D ends up being special in some way.

Thanks for being here. Have fun gaming in whichever edition of whatever game you love. It’s better to spend the energy on what you love, not on hating the things you don’t. Stay hydrated. Have a great week.

Is OSR Really Better?

I’ll be gettin wheeled into the old gamer’s home with my notebooks, mechanical pencils and dice in hand some day. I don’t care which edition we play.

Why can’t we love all the editions equally?

Photo by Summer Rune on Pexels.com

Old School Rules, or Old School Roleplaying, whichever you prefer. It’s really just throwbacks to older editions of D&D, usually First Ed AD&D or Basic/ BECMI. I get it. I had to buy a new copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia a couple of years ago because mine wore out.

I love all the editions equally. Well, okay… Maybe 4th Ed is just something I have a lot of respect for. It shares a lot of similarities with WoW, which I also still have a lot of regard for. Good times were had. I created a lot of neat stuff for that edition.

Then there’s 5E. We all love the Fifth Edition stuff. A lot of folx got their first taste of roleplaying through this edition. Unfortunately, some people also got turned away from the latest edition.

The Old Grognards are going to be coming at me with torches and pitchforks.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I can just hear it now, “How dare you compare the greatness that was White Box D&D with this fruity Fifth Edition of the game? Grr blargh! It’s not even the same game we had back in my day… (Old Grognard noises.)”

To which I always reply, it is- but it’s not the same game. It’s all D&D. Apples and oranges are both still fruit. But the flavor is much different. With a new edition of the game around the corner in about a year and a half, a lot more people are going to be seeing eye to eye with the OSR and Pathfinder purists.

After all, Pathfinder began because some people didn’t want to let go of the goodness that was 3rd Ed D&D. Since then, it has grown into its own separate yet marvelous empire, but its humble roots are in D&D. Pathfinder isn’t OSR, but many of the players of each share a sort of quiet respect for one another.

Old School has its place.

I love Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games, which also shares a great deal with both BECMI and 3rd Ed. I also still do get the urge to go back to when my entire character fit on one side of one page in my wide rule notebook. Heck, we didn’t even need character sheets back then.

Maybe that’s why so many minimalist games have caught on in recent years. My favorite is probably ICRPG. The whole idea that your whole character can fit on a 3″x 5″ Index Card appeals to many of us. The rules are so simple, too. (I swear Runehammer did not put me up to this.)

Whether it’s nostalgia for simpler times or an easier game, OSR has gotten super popular. I won’t ever say “better” because it’s all a matter of preference. I would show up for any of the above. I have quite the PF2E collection, too. It’s all a game to me, and I love RPGs. Please, do what makes you happy!

Thanks for being here! Regardless of what game you play, you’re always welcome to stop by. I appreciate you!

Yes you. Really!

Today’s Learning Experience was…

Being an avid tabletop roleplaying game fan has taught me a lot of things in life.

Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guild Logo c/o Wizards of the Coast.

Okay, so this is intended to be pretty lighthearted. As is probably known, and I’m not trying to brag, I have become a bit of a Renaissance man over the years. My choir director in high school used to actually chide me about that, even when I was around sixteen. Back then it was sports, electronics, photography, art, writing, Spanish, theatre and Dungeons & Dragons. Nowadays it’s UFOlogy, spirituality, Law of Attraction, self development, cooking, kids, Instagram, writing, and Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve been at this game since I was about 11 years old. They featured a guy about my age on CNN who’s still got his game going, if you want a comparison.

One summer wayyy back in the 1980’s a friend that I met at the swimming pool introduced me to this really neat-o game called “Marvel Superhero Role-Playing.” I was a huge comics fan and it only seemed natural. Sure enough, I was drawn to it like ants on sugar. My friend thought it was awesome because they passed the job of running the game off onto me. Ha! D&D was soon to follow, like, the next day. My friend thought running the game sucked and somehow that’s why I needed to be in charge.

Marvel Super Heroes RPG Judge’s Book

The joke was on him. (Sorry, Travis.) I’m still going strong 35+ years later. Obviously not on the same campaign or even the same game, but you get the point. I love tabletop role playing games. It has pushed me to become a better writer, learn journalism, sociology, and so many other things. I even met my wife at a gaming convention back many, many years ago. I’ve had the privilege of working for three game stores over the years plus a few writing endeavors.

Of course, there have been some lean years with me and the hobby. In high school, we were still in the era of “D&D is a scary satanic cult and obviously all you kids who play it are going to burn in hell.” I can’t count the number of times they tried to sell us on that one, even at school assemblies. That shit was hilarious. Obviously no one in my group of friends was remotely dissuaded from doing anything. I mean, seriously? It’s a GAME, people! Not even a competitive one. (Maybe that’s what was confusing. Who knows?) As far as I am aware, this hobby has never successfully been branded a cult, caused a suicide, or managed to summon an actual demon. It’s a burnt-out old fear paradigm… Moving on.

Then there was college. No joke, I ended up bouncing majors no less than a half dozen times before coming back to journalism and sociology. Writing + Interacting with people. It made sense to me, anyway but I’ll be honest, more than a little influenced by my love for RPG’s. It’s not like a theatre career was going anywhere from here in the armpit of the theatrical world. (Sorry not sorry. It’s true. Iowa is not known for Broadway productions.) Although ironically, D&D 5E has risen in mainstream popularity because of a group of voice actors doing a gaming podcast called “Critical Role.”

Lastly, my real moment of Homer Simpson at the Bowling Alley came when I stopped working part time at our Friendly Local Game Store because we had two kids at the time and I needed a real, good paying, full-time job. (Blech! 🤢) I know, right? (The Bowling Alley was Homer’s dream job in case you missed it.) My wife and I even had to give up our regular game sessions because my work schedule totally didn’t mesh with trying to run a regular game. That, and we’re up to four kids. What time?

BUT, never to be discouraged, I have kept up on the industry pretty well and I’m always looking for new and exciting ways to get involved. I have a second blog, second Instagram Account and I’m debating about expanding a couple of other ways once the Covid thing dies down some more. @sellsword.games and sellswordgames.game.blog if you’re curious. Not much there to look at yet, but I’m still working on it. Writing, collecting, interacting with the community, and learning a lot about self publishing have become a fascination of mine.

To make matters even more awesome, my kids are getting old enough to become interested in the hobby. Woot! Time to break out the dice and the DM’s Screen again. Yes! Under mom’s careful supervision, of course.

Today, I learned…
(Photo courtesy of Disney Jr.)

So, getting to the gist of what I was originally starting to say before I got a little sidetracked down memory lane. Today, I learned a couple of neat things. One is WordPress, (Love you guys ❤😁) was missing a command to show my other blog over on the other page. LOL! My bad for not proofing my page, not theirs.

Another thing I learned, in my research for starting a new gaming zine, is that apparently while print is mostly dying, zines are still around, sorta? Most of the major online hobby magazines have dissolved into one of about three or four different places.

The first and most obvious is Patreon. Patreon lets you choose how much content you want to give as a publisher for a certain dollar amount. I have some hangups when it comes to Patreon that I will discuss some other time. It’s cool, but at the same time, maybe not my thing? The verdict is still out on that one.

The next place I’ve seen a lot of zines disappear to is different websites and blogs. This is why I am developing a blog and eventually site pages to go with it over on my other site. Maybe some premium content eventually. It’s in the works sometime down the road.

Then there’s the App market. This actually surprised me a little. Yes, I know. Probably seems a little strange to some of the younger folks. Even the company I work for has a rewards app these days. But somehow I didn’t see this thing with the magazine coming.

Dragon+ is what has become of my beloved Dragon Magazine now an app. Sigh.
(Logo property of Wizards of the Coast.)

Lastly, and this is where my jumping-on point was originally, is the PDF market. I would have thought for sure that this was the way to go. I mean, we used to buy actual print magazines for $4.99. A lot of print books are now exclusively PDFs now. The PDF market, or rather the e-publishing marketplace is the way to go on so many other things now, right? At least if you’re looking to self publish, anyway.

I mean, I understand that the game publishing community is one of profit and commerce. Maybe not a millionaire maker, but at least enough to buy the next book from some other company that comes along or enough cash to buy a pizza. I’m not looking to get rich. Turns out a lot of the hosting sites for PDF publishing charge a pretty hefty percentage off the top of your product, especially the folks at the Dungeon Masters Guild. Go figure. It’s more about the love of the game, anyway.

But, there’s a real added value to this experience. By learning how the gaming market comes together, I’m learning WordPress and web marketing as well as so many other fun facts today. Play the clowny outro music. I’m outta here for the day. Zing!

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