Power Rangers RPG Campaign

I looked at the character sheet for the new Power Rangers RPG and I can’t help but to want to build a campaign.

I just saw the character sheet for this game…

And like so many other character sheets, it got me thinking. There is so much potential for this particular RPG to be outstanding in my collection as a GM. I have four kids who are all huge fans of the series, plus my wife is a huge fan of the original Green Ranger played by Jason David Frank.

I’m going to walk through some of my design process without a system attached on here just for fun. The first thing I want to consider is the version of Earth’s timeline or alternate Earth. This happens in several Power Ranger series and is referenced throughout some seasons. Personally, I love cameo appearances by rangers from older series. Megaforce was probably my favorite for this reason.

The opportunities presented by this new RPG are just too juicy to pass up.

Looks very familiar. Similar to D&D.

Needless to say, we’re going to probably start with an alternate timeline to Mighty Morphing. I mean, the original characters were cool and all, but why not kick it up a notch? Think about it. The Time Force Rangers knew alternate Earths exist. What’s to keep our old original arch enemy, Rita Repulsa from doing the same? What if she cast a spell that broke the time/space/dimensional barrier?

I’m going to start out with Lord Zed as the main bad guy in Season One of Power Rangers, uh… ooh. We need a name. Power Rangers Lightning Force. Okay, I can work with that. My 12 year old already has his character designed, like the minute I mentioned it. He wants to play Blue Phoenix. Can you tell he’s excited?

The idea here is not to just replay the old scripts.

Hence an alternate timeline. We’ll keep a few things here and there, but let’s mix and match. Gonna try to go slightly more serious than the Bulk and Skull type characters, but not as dark as the 15 minute remake with Katee Sackhoff that got banned. (Loved it for what it was, but yeesh. Dark…)

The characters are still going to start out as high school students in detention together. We’ll have a Breakfast Club type opening with them all in weekend detention together. My wife will probably want to play Tommy Oliver as a girl, if I had to guess. Tommi Oliver it is. I want to minimize the use of NPC rangers, but so far I’m betting I’ll have three or four solid players at the most with my wife and oldest popping in and out. My youngest is still learning how to play games and sit still, so he might get relegated to GMs helper to begin with.

I’m going to plan on the team only having four colors starting out.

We can always add more later, right? The original team for Lightning Force will be Red (Dragon) Blue (Phoenix) Black (Chimera?) and Green (Pegasus?) I may have to recruit a player or two online and adjust. Again, we’re in the development phase, so nothing is locked down. I’m feeling a very magical flying monster vibe so far.

We’re going to leave the gang in Angel Grove but I’m thinking the population might change. Ever notice how monsters regularly rampage through the town, smashing buildings and crushing cars? Why don’t we ever hear about innocent bystanders during these battles? I want there to be some kind of consequences to not leading the giant monsters out of town whenever possible. Who’d want to live in that town? Can you imagine the real estate nightmares? But I digress…

In the next installment of this campaign building series, let’s talk about the bad guys a bit. I want something more than a gold monkey with wings. I’m kinda considering borrowing extensively from a gaming company that is no stranger to trademark lawsuits. Think of it as a tribute to 40K. But if I’m flirting with danger, why not go all in?

Til then, take care. Please stay healthy. Eat your vitamins, drink plenty of water, get some exercise, get some sleep, and avoid giant monsters rampaging through your town if you can. Game on.

Obscure RPGs

There are tons of RPG systems out there besides the standard D&D and fantasy. Go out and explore. Find something new!

“Obscure” being a relative term, I guess.

Today I realized I collect and love a lot of offbeat RPGs. You know, things that aren’t mainstream D&D. I’m not knocking the grandfather of all RPGs or anything. I still love D&D from BECMI on up. But there are so many other RPGs outside of D&D. Heck, there are plenty of genres outside of fantasy to explore.

I see a lot of posts/articles to the effect of “Alternatives to D&D.” I always chuckle at the notion because some of us have embraced this idea for years now. I don’t just mean Pathfinder or Middle Earth, either. I mean alternatives to fantasy rpgs.

Life can be scary away from spell slinging elves with swords.

Personally, I love the mecha genre of anime style games. Good luck ever finding players for that, btw. (I guess they exist somewhere but not around where I live.) WWII gaming has some appeal, but again players seem to be few and far between. (Check out Operation White Box!) Most people go toward Star Wars in its many incarnations because Space Opera is kind of like fantasy’s futuristic cousin.

I think a lot of sci-fi and modern games get a bad rep because “guns are icky.” Truthfully, many of us have had negative experiences with firearms to the point of not wanting to roleplay characters that use them. And there’s also the percentage of the population that knows little to nothing about guns. Swords and spells are easier to figure out, I suppose. The same can be said for modern horror as well, although Call of Cthulhu is still thriving.

I recommend looking into one’s own favorite genre of books, movies, or tv shows for inspiration. Chances are, there’s probably an RPG out there on the market for it or a way to adapt a current system. Generic, universal RPGs are fairly common these days from the d20 System (OGL, D&D rules,) to FATE, D6, Open Legends, Genre Diversion, and dozens more. There are too many to list here and most are adaptable to anything from gritty historical realism to far flung psychedelic future utopian fantasy.

DrivethruRPG is chock full of alternative games.

Full disclosure: I am NOT a spokesman for OneBookShelf or any subsidiaries, but I’ve been a customer for years. It’s a good RPG shopping site for indie games. There’s also a lot of good reviews there if you’re on the fence about buying a new game or game system.

I could go on all day naming good systems and specific RPGs for people to try out, but it might be easier just to go on Itch.io or DrivethruRPG and look around for yourself. Your local used bookstore might also be a good resource for RPGs off the beaten path.

Please consult your group before launching a new campaign or system.

I want to emphasize that some groups may not be ready to do something other than good old D&D. I have friends who absolutely refused to do anything besides D&D. It was the only game they knew. It was the only genre they were comfortable it and you could not get them out of that comfort zone for love or money. To those friends, I said, “Cool. See you next week for D&D.”

Challenging though it may be at times, one can always find a group online somewhere for almost any game imaginable. It might take some time, persistence, and effort to find said players or GM. If lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that there’s a niche out there for just about everyone on the internet. Failing that, I would recommend trying some solo roleplaying. More on that here.

Whatever your game or system of choice is, please do enjoy. I hope your weekend is full of good friends and superb die rolls. Game on.

Table for One?

Yes, I am guilty of rolling dice and talking to myself, mostly at home.

Should Role Playing Games Be a Solo Endeavour?

Okay. Please hear me out before I get branded a heretic in the RPG community. I think it’s okay, but with a few stipulations. No, a mental health waiver isn’t one of them, although you may want to keep your solo RP activities at home. Moderation is always a good thing with anything. It’s also probably better to go out and socialize occasionally if you can. Just sayin…

I’m not crazy, but I used to spend a lot of time alone.

Yes, I am guilty of rolling dice and talking to myself, mostly at home. As far back as high school I ran scenarios with my 2nd Ed AD&D characters to work out combats and anticipate what would probably be said by an average party. It filled a lot of lonely Friday nights in high school with Dr Who playing in the background. Back then, I didn’t have minis, so I used painted thumb tacks and push pins on a piece of graph paper tacked to a piece of wood. It’s okay to laugh, really.

Solo roleplaying evolves into story writing.

It’s a great writing exercise!

As I grew older, I really found a fondness for writing. I still generated tons of D&D characters, but I started writing their stories out as they leveled. It became more about fantasizing and less about rolling dice for random outcomes. This is something I still shamelessly do today with games such as ICONS and ICRPG. I even have a Pathfinder 2E character that’s kind of going this way.

I’ve written a lot of good fiction for myself this way. It’s a good way to kill time if I’m stuck at my kids’ practices and I’ve already done my meditation for the day. I shamelessly carry a bag of dice and a notepad around for just such an occasion. I also come up with a lot of interesting plot and campaign ideas this way.

These Days, It’s More Common Than Ever.

Thanks to the Icky Cough-Coughs (as my oldest calls it,) a lot of games went indoors, out of the public and online. If online isn’t your thing and your family doesn’t like dragons, giant robots or magical girls, there aren’t a lot of other roleplaying options. Computer games don’t require dice rolls. Most console games have relatively simple characters and no dice rolling.

Luckily, a few companies easily found on DriveThruRPG have you covered. They have tables for NPC reactions to simulate roleplay, approaches to solo combat, and even some adventuring tips related to exploration. Most of these are oriented toward fantasy RPGs, but not all of them. I’m particularly fascinated with solo ICONS and solo Operation White Box (WW2 RPG.) There aren’t a lot of modern or supers solo games, but they aren’t impossible to find.

Again, most of my focus these days is on writing, so I sit down and make a lot of notes or just start banging out stories. It works the other way around, too. Sometimes I make a D&D or Pathfinder character based on something I’m writing. It can help fill in some character blanks that I might not have considered yet.

One of my characters from a novel I was writing has actually showed up as an NPC in three different systems/worlds. It’s the end result of knowing a character inside and out, I suppose. It helped me acclimate to PF2E and WOIN.

I recommend solo RP for writers, GMs/DMs, and game designers who are struggling to work out character design challenges or just looking to boost their creativity. It also helps with designing interesting combats and traps sometimes. If you’re stuck inside on a rainy day and just want to roll some dice because you’ve already made over a hundred characters, it’s good for that, too.

I’m sane. I promise! 😅🤪

Art for this article is courtesy of the Bitmoji app. Too much fun to be had. Have a great day. See you again very soon. Game on!

Hex Crawl Adventures

This style of play isn’t for everyone, but one thing I recommend for players and GMs/DMs who get burned out on the same old campaign world is to drop the player characters onto a brand new planet or sub-plane/demi-plane after an adventure or two in the old world. Much the same way the mists of Ravenloft used to abduct entire groups of adventurers, the PCs could literally just wake up in a new world and have to explore to try and find a way home, if they ever want to go back.

Exploration at its most fun!

Many gamers from back in the day probably still remember the old Expert Set adventure, Isle of Dread. Which is now reprinted here as a deluxe hardcover. My copy came with my original Expert D&D Blue boxed set. I have spent hours pouring over this module. I love it for its simplicity and charm. Not to mention several terrifying adventure sessions running around dodging dinosaurs and cannibals.

Without too many spoilers, X1 Isle of Dread sets up as a shipwreck. Or at least that’s my preferred way of running it. From there, the PCs have to salvage what they can for supplies, pick a direction, and start exploring. Assuming they have time to choose wisely because they’re not being chased by something. Thus, for many of us, began what is now commonly referred to as a “Hex Crawl.”

Small Hex Grid

If you’re running a game, this can be a fast way to put together a campaign world on the fly. Or, for a completely random campaign of fantasy adventure, you can literally roll as you go or roll for any blank surrounding hexes next to the one the party just entered.

This style of game is a hoot because the person running it doesn’t necessarily even know what’s coming next. Personally, I recommend rolling for the adjoining hexes at the end of the session just so the GM can prep accordingly. That, and some landmarks are going to be dead obvious to the group, especially if they can get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area.

I’ve seen all manner of distances applied to hexes from one mile to ten miles across or more. Some people like to draw on them with colored pencils or mark key land features for future reference. If you’re running a game based on random hexes, you can also have tables for encounters in any given terrain type, or even preset adventures for when the group enters “X” hex space. Ruins are a great example.

Example courtesy of Shieldice Studio’s Realm Fables: Hex-Worlds

This style of world generation is also very useful if designing your own campaign world, especially if it’s set in a time before modern or magical global cartography. (There’s an adventure seed there for someone- Imagine a mage’s guild whose entire job is to teleport to random places, make a quick map, and teleport back before they get eaten by the locals…) I use this generation method myself because I don’t want to give away the whole map at once. Usually, I have a page of the larger hexes as my starting campaign map and then make more map pages as my group ventures out from their current hex.

I usually have some vague, general idea of where I want them to end up and what’s around it, but I certainly don’t have the whole thing lined up all in one week. That’s one distinct advantage homebrew worlds have over premade settings. The group can legitimately say, “We don’t know where we’re going yet. No one has been there yet as far as we know.”

How do I (h)explore if my group is in a premade world?

This style of play isn’t for everyone, but one thing I recommend for players and GMs/DMs who get burned out on the same old campaign world is to drop the player characters onto a brand new planet or sub-plane/demi-plane after an adventure or two in the old world. Much the same way the mists of Ravenloft used to abduct entire groups of adventurers, the PCs could literally just wake up in a new world and have to explore to try and find a way home, if they ever want to go back.

Once they’ve been transported from the old familiar maps they may be used to, the group is going to have to become somewhat more resourceful. If you think about it, food might not look the same. There are no familiar landmarks to go by. Heck, the stars aren’t going to look the same, if there are stars. Different planes have different rules. Maybe there’s perpetual day or night. Maybe there’s no metal as far as the locals know. This makes exploration one of the most valuable pillars in any RPG where the group is engaged in a hex crawl.

One word of caution for using this style of play- You may wish to limit certain types of magic if you’re going to have a good hex crawl. At low levels, it’s not a huge problem. Teleportation can be a regular game wrecker for hex crawls. So can certain divination spells. Even basic flying can get out of hand if the GM doesn’t find a way to reasonably limit it. (Freakish thunderstorms, flying monsters, antiaircraft flora…) Obviously technology can make things rough on the GM and super easy on the party. Look how far humans got with just a telescope and a few simple navigational tools here on Earth.

The nice thing about dropping the group onto a whole new world is they can hex crawl for a few sessions or the rest of the campaign. I do recommend if you’re going to turn the game into this style of play that it be mentioned before characters are made. Obviously someone’s 100 page backstory is going to deflate completely if they’re no longer anywhere near those places and events mentioned therein. Artificers, Clerics, and druids are going to be extremely useful or completely hosed depending on where they end up. It’s also a good time to introduce any major rules changes the GM might wish to impose due to the new environment. Please make sure everyone is on board before the hex crawl begins.

Hope this little foray into the worlds of hexcrawling was useful. I may drop another article similar to this one down the line explaining how to set up the random tables with more examples of adjudicating a hex crawl game. Have a great day. Take care. Game on.

“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.

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.

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!

Breaking Into the Industry

I’ve been getting turned away by publishers since Gygax ran T$R and the RPGA was still around.

I saw an article today that really made me stop and think.

I guess it’s not your grandpa’s TTRPG industry any more, but still. This article from Flagons and Dragons really is cause to pause. Here’s the article: https://medium.com/@FlagonsNDragons/is-money-destroying-ttrpg-91627fd8981e

I have several points in the article that caused me to raise an eyebrow, but I’ll just touch on a couple of points from my old guy gamer point of view. Yeah, I’m “old” officially. I turn 49 in June. Sigh. My last trip to Gen Con was almost 20 years ago. Dude… But we’re not here to discuss that.

Yes, D&D in particular has become big business since 5th Edition happened.

With Critical Role and D&D 5th Ed causing quite a stir and pushing the game into the limelight, we’re no longer just nerds rolling dice. Obviously Hasbro has money to go around from years of action figures and board games. It’s truly sad that the lawsuit baggage follows D&D around like a hungry revenant or a pack of ghouls. This has not changed since, um…. ever? Those new to the game might not be aware the #TTRPG world is littered with bitter lawsuits from way back in the day.

I don’t think it’s fair to say “money ruined the game” so much as greedy people are ruining the game. That’s been the case for a long time, as the article mentions. D&D 2nd Ed was a result of Gygax’s divorce. You can’t even hint about a lawsuit in front of certain Palladium folk. Same thing with Paizo if I’m not mistaken. The current debacle over Dragonlance is probably going to kill whatever chance we had of the 5th Ed official setting. It’s sad.

What hope is there for the future?

There are a lot of fresh faces in the #TTRPG field. Again, it’s not just all of us old farts sitting around a table laughing and rolling dice. Yes, books have gotten pretty pricey. As the article mentions, you used to be able to outfit your entire gaming library for less that $50 USD. I think my 1st Ed PHB was $15? Maybe? Now you can’t even get a pdf sourcebook for much less.

And who thought it was a good plan to charge paper prices for PDFs? Seriously, if you want to talk about greed? There you go. Bless One Bookshelf for their creations, DriveThruRPG, DMSGuild, etc… They’re great sites and they help new designers get pdfs out for (usually) reasonable prices. Which is not to say I approve of certain industry giants who dominate the market and charge the same for pdfs as they do for print.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” –Snake Pliskin, Escape from L.A.

So, I tracked down one of these $35,000/year jobs the article mentioned. Then, I sighed the old familiar sigh when I read the requirements:

Not naming the company who posted this. My goal is not to shame, just to educate.

“Previous published game design experience.” Gosh, it’s like 1985 with T$R all over again. It’s like saying, “We won’t hire you until you’ve been in the industry for a while,” but then no one will hire you to give you the experience you need to get into the industry.

Solution: Self publish a pdf or know somebody with their own company. Only back in the day, there were no pdfs. It’s still the same old, tired, song and dance. Pretty sure the people you’re looking to hire already have jobs. Just sayin.

The rest isn’t all that surprising or hard to come by even for someone fresh out of high school or more likely college. Although I would be curious to hear what “Deep hobby or professional experience” looks like sometime.

And as another side note, the preferred qualifications made me sigh the same old sigh again. A year or more self-employed or freelance game design work and “Experience as a game designer and writer without formal guidance…” Seriously? No offense intended to whomever wrote this description, but I think you’re reaching considerably. Without formal guidance? So, no editor. I mean, I get it, but if I was doing all of this as a self published writer, why on Earth would I want to drop everything and work for any other company?

We’ve had other recent events in the RPG industry that really make me scratch my head. Paizo employees just formed a union because they wanted better pay, benefits and working conditions. Jolly good for them. Interestingly enough, Pathfinder Infinite and Starfinder Infinite started at about the same time. There is no such thing as coincidence, folks.

What are the odds?

Do I personally think I have a snowball’s hope in Hell of getting hired? Not really, but what’s the best that could happen? I did apply for the one quoted above, btw. The problem is, and I suspect this for many of us, is that my actual resume and my gamer resume look nothing alike. Gaming has been my hobby for the most part and my side hack at best.

Is being a game designer/writer my dream job? Ya think?!? Of course it is! I ate, slept, ran and played RPGs for years before I “settled down.” My college degree is in Sociology/Journalism. Think about it. People + Writing/Editing = RPG Industry. There were no classes in 3D printing or Diceology back then. Heck, I’ve watched the publishing industry go from print and hand-drawn layout to completely online publications and I still have the border tape and Pica ruler to prove it.

I’ve been getting turned away by publishers since Gary Gygax ran T$R and the RPGA was still around. Gen Con was still in Lake Geneva for crying out loud. The first two RPGs I ever ran both came from T$R and came in a box with dice you had to ink yourself. I remember Star Wars RPG before it was a 30th Anniversary reprint. I used to play with one of the original play testers for that game.

Writing for RPGs has literally not changed in almost 40 years. You need a good imagination, a grasp of game mechanics, and a certain degree of map-making as well as writing skills. It hasn’t, sigh, changed on the publisher end, either. As I mentioned above, it’s pretty much easier to start your own company before you can get hired by the big guns. If you’re going to do all that, why not just stick with your own company?

I still drive by the abandoned building that used to be The Game Shop (Yes, that was literally the name.) where I bought my first books, minis, and dice. I still have the dice, too. The thing that amazed me the most about old-time game stores was the cottage industry that sprouted around the various game products. People sold minis they painted for resale. Writers sold copies of rulebooks they printed and stapled themselves. Art and jewelry used to be sold right alongside comics in many places.

Grouchy old men used to talk about 14mm scale Historical battles in front of the same counter where us nerdy kids went to buy the latest copies of Dragon and White Dwarf. Anyone could make a game with little cardboard chits and plain paper hex maps and get it published locally if they had a little startup cash.

The RPG industry has the greenest of grass roots. Only the labels and the technology have improved. There was literally a company here in Iowa that started in a little old abandoned schoolhouse. They published the most epic and phenomenal D&D 1st Ed adventure modules. Why did they break up? Beer in the vending machines. Even if that were legal, the fistfight that ensued because the employees were drunk wasn’t. Tis sad, but illustrates a point. Indie RPG publishers can turn a few dollars even off of licensed properties. Just maybe no beer in your office vending machine?

What’s the takeaway?

The original article is basically correct. The RPG industry is a cottage industry first and foremost. Big corporate mentality might work for games such as Magic: the Gathering and Warhammer 40,000, but the RPG industry has always been and industry by fans, for fans, and primarily made up of fans.

I hate to say it, but D&D may be the top dog forever, but the massive wave of popularity the game is riding currently will eventually die down. WotC is already gearing up for a new edition as early as 2024 in anticipation of this happening. If you look on Kickstarter today, the number of 5E products from indie publishers is phenomenal. (Hey, I’ve backed some. I get it.) Looking at DMSGuild.com, the number of published alternate rules, adventures, and supplements puts good ole 3rd Ed to shame. That’s quite a feat if you think about it. (Yes, I went there.)

I’m not even anticipating people getting burned out on the hobby. The fire has been lit. RPGs aren’t going to up and vanish overnight. The hobby will still be going years, if not decades from now. Board games have been around for, um… ever? RPGs can probably expect good longevity. I think the large corporate mega-giant RPG companies may never become a thing, however. The industry will probably keep going, just more spread out and diverse.

Also, if by some fluke a game company exec reads this:

Stay safe. Game on!

Near Brush with Imposter Syndrome.

I take my writing very seriously, even for the hobby.

I’m plugging away on my latest sourcebook idea and I started doing a little research in an effort to avoid too much overlap with what others have done and make sure I covered most/all of my bases. I made a discovery that almost derailed the whole project. I froze in my tracks when I noticed a fairly big name in the industry did a sourcebook on almost the exact same topic. The. Exact. Same. Topic.

My thought process spun out for the better part of a week. I didn’t even have the heart to keep going. I was pretty bummed. I mean, who am I to compete with that guy? My book isn’t going to be nearly as cool or sparkly, right?

After agonizing for days over this, (because I take my writing very seriously, even for the hobby,) I finally broke down and spent the two bucks on DMSGuild to pick up a pdf copy of the book. Surprise!

Much to my surprise, it looks nothing like what I’m working on! I was actually kinda shocked that this came from what I consider a leading writer in the industry. I mean, yes, it’s clean, thorough, and well-composed. But it’s way shorter than I expected for the money.

*Side note, I’m not naming names because I don’t want to cause any undue ill will toward this person or sound like I’m trying to brag. He’s got some good stuff. I’m continuing on doing what I know how to do without borrowing a word from it. All’s well.

I learned something today. Actually a few of things, to be honest. First, I do belong in the tabletop RPG industry. This is my jam. Second, there’s more than enough room for newcomers, even at this point in 5E’s development. Third, it’s not a competition. We’re all crazy. Maybe a better way to say that last part would be, there’s plenty of room to stay competitive without stepping on one another’s proverbial toes. It can be done.

So, on that cheerful note, I’m getting back to work. I have tables to craft and flavor text to write. If all goes well, my new sourcebook should be getting uploaded to the DMSGuild in a couple of months. No more brushes with Imposter Syndrome. I promise.

%d bloggers like this: