Please Make Your Table a Safe Space.

Please believe me- no one in their right mind wants to show up to game night, ANY game night from Dungeons & Dragons all the way down to UNO, and sit down to an environment where they will feel uncomfortable. It’s no different than a friendly work environment. No one wants to be around negativity, toxicity and trauma. Role Playing Games are supposed to be a fun, shared experience for the entire group. (TLDR: If ya ain’t havin fun, something needs to change and it ain’t the person who’s hurtin inside.)

It’s just a good periodic reminder, especially for new Players and Game Masters.

Content Warning: 
This article may include a lot of potentially trauma-related subjects. The image of the RPG Consent Checklist contains concepts that could be triggering for some. Please proceed with caution.
I pulled this down from Power Rangers RPG Discord. It is widely available.

Most Game Masters and Groups already do this.

Obviously, if you have a group of older adults they’re probably doing this from the start of the campaign subconsciously if nothing else. If I know my wife really hates spiders, we’re not going to run into a dungeon that has tons of spiders. I know one of my players is trans. Obviously, I check with them as a GM out of game to make sure I’m not regularly upsetting the proverbial apple cart.

However, for new players and previously unknown groups (Pugs) it’s really important to get together before any longer campaign starts to discuss definite red flags in a Session Zero. Basically, for those who may not have heard of it, is a gathering of the group before a campaign starts to break the ice; get to know one another; discuss character creation and house rules; and go over potential red flags as well as potentially sensitive topics that might come up in game.

Please believe me- no one in their right mind wants to show up to game night, ANY game night from Dungeons & Dragons all the way down to UNO, and sit down to an environment where they will feel uncomfortable. It’s no different than a friendly work environment. No one wants to be around negativity, toxicity and trauma. Role Playing Games are supposed to be a fun, shared experience for the entire group. (TLDR: If ya ain’t havin fun, something needs to change and it ain’t the person who’s hurtin inside.)

Please remember one of my other favorite sayings: NEVER EVER BLAME THE VICTIM! Submitted lovingly. Let’s please take care of one another, okay?

I know there is blowback every time the subject of Session Zero and Safety Tools comes up.

Sorry, not sorry on this one. I know a lot of older Dungeon Masters (or other GMs) and players balked at this concept when it was first introduced. A quick glance at #TTRPG Twitter confirms that some still do. Here’s the thing- it’s not going to hurt to hold a Session Zero regardless. We were doing it before it became a thing just to get characters made as a cohesive group.

Back in the day (*My kids just ran for cover.) if we didn’t know everyone at the table, we’d usually order a pizza and just hang out before the first game session to get to know each other and maybe make characters. We’d talk house rules and everyone’s take on combats, etc. It wasn’t formal. It was fun.

Fun. You know? That thing RPGs are supposed to be all about? Yeah.

I used to say things like this.

But, of course there are naysayers in pretty much every crowd on Earth. There are the bitter, crotchety, Old Grognards who will grouse and grumble. They say things such as:

“Nobody can tell me how to run my game.”
“I’m not here to hold hands and kiss your butts.”
“Bunch of mamby pamby kids don’t know what they’re talking about.”
“My game was fine before. No need to change it now.”
“We didn’t have this crap back in the 80s when D&D was new. We didn’t need it back then. Grow a spine.”
“If you don’t like it, go play another game.”
And so on…

Full disclosure: I used to sound just like that.

Lil Debbie Star Crunch. MMmmm.

I’m an OG (Old Gamer) from way back. Like 1982, to be precise. Atari 2600, Star Crunch, and cassette tapes were good times along with D&D. Basic, Red Box D&D to be exact. We didn’t have Session Zero. Safety Tools? Maybe out in the garage. We were ten and twelve year olds with funky dice. We didn’t know.

But the hobby has evolved. WE have evolved as players. No matter how old one gets, being sensitive to others’ feelings never goes out of style. Did I recognize it? Heck, I was still sounding like a crotchety old codger earlier this year.

I’ve learned. I’m trying to be more understanding. Mistakes were made. I’ll own it. That’s really the key to all of this for the Old Grognards- it’s okay to change.

My therapist likes to remind me that we ALL have baggage.

True story. Every last human being on this planet has had or will have trauma in their life at some point. Everyone has feelings and opinions formed by their experiences. Experiences shape who we are as people.

That baggage, whether we like it or not, carries over into our relationships. Yes, a gaming group is a type of relationship. Hopefully friendship. We’re there to have a fun, shared experience at the gaming table. But some of that negative junk we all have can creep into the gaming space.

We have Safety Tools, such as the consent form above, to help avoid or prevent that trauma, baggage, etc from ruining a good time. If we’re having fun, let’s keep it that way! There’s no reason to have someone going away from the table in tears because the GM was ignorant and kept going on about brutal torture.

No one deserves to show up to a game and have it add-to or compound their personal trauma. I get it. I’ve screwed up as a GM more times than I’d like to confess. I’ve accidentally stepped on toes and possibly chased one player off of gaming because I said something really stupid. I didn’t know it was a sensitive subject at the time. No flags went up because we didn’t have them at the time.

My point is, it never has to happen again. Things can come up that weren’t covered in Session Zero. That’s what X Cards and similar safety tools are for. Heck, I’d rather have a player stop me mid-combat and pull me aside than keep going with something sensitive/traumatic.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Hey, it’s your table.

Note to the old curmudgeons: It’s your table. I’m never going to say you absolutely have to follow my advice. If you don’t want to hold Session Zero or use Safety tools at your table? Trust me, there’s no right or wrong way to play/GM a game. Please, do things however you like.

I think a lot of us on #TTRPG social media tend to get tunnel vision. There is no #OSR governing body. There is no mighty #TTRPG council of leaders. No one is going to come after a GM or a player for “breaking the rules.” Please, run your game and your group in whatever way you like.

I’m just saying, you might save yourself a lot of grief, especially with new players, if you take the time out to be considerate. I know we didn’t do that sort of thing back in the 80s. It’s 2022. It’s okay to change.

Let’s have fun.

Let’s go back to the table knowing full well that it’s a safe space. Please treat one another with kindness and consideration in game and out. RPGs are supposed to be FUN. Let’s roll dice, smash monsters, and grab huge loot. Lots of pizza and yelling “Huzzah!” when someone rolls a Nat 20.

Thank you for stopping by. I’m listening. I care. I’d like to think I’m getting better at this. Have a great day!

What Are We Here For, Exactly?

We’re humble gamers. A lot of us were marginalized by our peers and picked-on while growing up. (“Nerds!”) There are a ton of emerging sociocultural topics that we are being faced with now that the hobby has grown from hundreds to thousands to an approximately 50 Million. I would go so far as to say we’re a subculture now.

Please bear with me, family. This one is as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s.

I see so much injustice in the world. I almost turned this into a poem just now because it goes deep fast. I see all these injustices, lack, and hate in the world. Is that what we’re here for?

I don’t want to come at this from a place of privilege. Yeah, I’ve had it relatively good. I’m super grateful that I got to grow up in white bread middle of the United States. It’s not like I had much of a choice.

I see so much negative crap in the world and it kinda breaks my heart.

Yes. Call me a pansy, bleeding heart, woke, socialist, or whatever. I empathize with a lot of people when they’re hurting. Politics aside, my heart really goes out to a lot of friends and family who have been stuck in the proverbial mud as of late.

Truth: Being poor sucks. Being homeless sucks. Being unemployed royally sucks. Abuse of any kind, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and hate in general are all seriously bad. I’m grateful every day that some of these circumstances don’t apply to me.

BUT, they apply to a lot of people I know and care about a lot in the real world and on social medial. I spend a lot of time in the #TTRPG sphere these days. Unfortunately, just as in almost every community on the Internet, there exists inequity, racism, and other forms of hate. It hurts. It really does.

I keep wondering what I can do to help, like really help.

Don’t get me wrong. I have my own share of health and psychological issues. But, I would really like to do more. I’m not sure what, exactly. I’m just a guy with a blog.

That isn’t to say I’m helpless. I do have a few readers according to my statistics. I love you folx. Honestly, you’re great! We need to spread the word more in the #TTRPG community when we see all these injustices.

More discourse!

The TTRPG sphere has had its share of controversies as of late. The issue with NuTSR’s extremely racist views recently came up again. Wizards of the Coast managed to shock the fan community with their recent Spelljammer flub known as the #Hadozee. Gatekeeping is becoming a hotter topic now, too. Finally, there seems to be a regular uproar on Twitter any time someone tries to give advice involving diversity and inclusion in the TTRPG workspace.

Here’s the catch: We should be discussing these things!

We’re humble gamers. A lot of us were marginalized by our peers and picked-on while growing up. (“Nerds!”) There are a ton of emerging sociocultural topics that we are being faced with now that the hobby has grown from hundreds to thousands to an approximately 50 Million. I would go so far as to say we’re a subculture now.

We should be working as a community to move closer together, not farther apart at least as a culture. We need to talk about our beliefs and values. Most importantly, we should be able to come together as a group and enjoy a roleplaying game for 4-6 hours at a time. Discuss!

We’re committing to spending time with one another once (one-shots, conventions games, etc) or possibly one night per week or whatever can be scheduled. We are going to have some different ideas as people outside the game. Public discourse is healthy for us all.

Maybe we don’t agree. Maybe we do agree. Can we compromise on something?

The Session Zero debate seems trivial enough.

Anyone mentioning Session Zero or inclusivity in their gaming group immediately gets shouted at “Don’t tell me how to run my game!”

Some of us think Session Zero is always a good idea. I like knowing what characters I’m dealing with and a little about their backgrounds when I GM. I like to talk about house rules. We discuss what might be sensitive subjects to some players. Simple enough, right?

Okay. Don’t run Session Zero. If you’ve been playing with the exact same group of people for 20 years, you probably didn’t need one in the first place. You know it’s going to be the same hot buttons and things to stay away from. Great.

Please believe me when I say, no one is trying to tell you how to run your game with your group at home.

Trouble starts when tabletop gamers start acting a fool in public or on social media (see also; in public.) Please don’t exclude people from a public game unless the group is jam packed. If you’re not running a system they like, they probably won’t stick around anyway. At least the offer was made.

Most pro level Dungeon/Game Masters know how to run for larger groups and still make it around the table to everyone anyway. (That’s a different article, though.) My point is- we’re all there to have fun. Please make it happen?

If you’re in a PUBLIC space, please remember there are going to be all kinds of people from different walks of life, countries, genders, preferences, races, and so on potentially present. It’s our job as GMs/DMs to make everyone feel welcome as hosts of a game in a public space. What you do inside your home with your own private group is none of my concern.

Back to my original question.

Why are we here? Is is to fight, bicker and complain about one another? Pffft! Absolutely not!

Are we here on planet Earth on the 4D plane of existence to discover love, peace, joy, compassion and prosperity together? Absolutely! How do we want to choose to treat one another? It’s up to us,

My final thought is, if 50 Million of us can figure out how to get along and coexist in spite of our slightly conflicting values, what’s to keep the rest of the world from following us. Please remember, no matter how bad one thinks one has it, someone else has it worse. Someone also has it better. So, please consider- Can we do it better?

Let’s please try to get along.

New Review of Another Old Book.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Let’s talk about Star Frontiers Knight Hawks.

Star Frontiers Day is August 19th. The game is 40 years old this year! To celebrate, I’m giving a review of the classic Knight Hawks Expansion to the Original Star Frontiers game. I have a lot of good things to say about this book and this part of the system.

If you missed out on the first printing, it’s okay. Wizards of the Coast has you covered. It’s still around as a reprint book on DriveThruRPG minus the maps, counters and cool box. You can still print the counters and the maps from the PDFs, though. If you want to go all out, I hear the lead miniatures for the ships are still floating around out there in the world, but may be decaying slightly.

It’s a classic head-to-head space battles game on top of being an RPG supplement.

I’ve played a lot of space games over the years. I think my favorite is still Starfire, but I also enjoyed Silent Death, Babylon 5, Battlefleet Gothic, Starfleet Battles, and Starfleet Tactical. Reading the Klingon Tactics in Starfleet Tactical prepared me for space battles later in life. Lol! I would say Knight Hawks ranks right up there with the best.

Overall, it’s a simple combat game. I kinda feel sorry for the RPG crew if their ship gets blown to smithereens during a tactical game. Knight Hawks can definitely be lethal to ships in terms of space battles.

Its rudimentary movement and damage systems are great for beginners.

For those unfamiliar with space battle games, Knight Hawks offers up a great starting point. Movement is straightforward. Ships have a maneuver rating and an ADF number to determine how much it can speed up or slow down on its turn. There are optional rules for planets, gravity wells, etc.

Shooting weapons and raising defenses requires a bit of reading. Not all guns shoot in all directions. Some have different ranges than others. Some work better against certain defenses. It pays to know the capabilities of one’s ship before the start of the battle. This system is simple enough that it can handle large fleet engagements once players get to know the rules a bit.

The advanced rules contain tidbits such as variable damage table, fires aboard ships, repairs, and new ship types. It gives a great basic spread of ships and how to fly them. The rules do not require a PhD in Rocket Science to know how to use them. Basically, make sure you read the ship’s stat block. The rest is fairly intuitive.

Cover of the RPG and galactic content half of Knight Hawks.

What about the roleplaying aspect?

This is what some of us old timers think was missing from Alpha Dawn. Until Knight Hawks, most campaigns were ground based. It was all away team missions and no real flying around, to use Star Trek as an analogy. The Campaign Book Expansion Rules fix a lot of what was previously missing.

With this expansion, ship design and construction become options. The freedom and independence every spacefaring adventurer dreams of are available at a hefty price. Acquiring a ship for the group could potentially involve mortgaging the family farming planet to the hilt. There are other suggested methods aside from buying a ship, but all of them come at some price to the characters eventually.

My biggest beef with the system so far are the skills.

Starship skills don’t require the standard Primary and Secondary classifications that the main Star Frontiers uses. That’s good because the space game came after Alpha Dawn and it would have been more confusing. However, starship skills cost more experience points. Yeesh. It’s almost as if they didn’t want player characters having a ship.

I’ll discuss this further when I talk about Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space in another article. I think the writers realized that the skill system didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately Zeb’s Guide didn’t quite fix the whole thing. Knight Hawks just introduces the starship skills. It’s an okay start I suppose.

I think there’s a bit of a divide between the tactical game and the RPG.

For one thing, ships are pricey in game. If the group’s ship gets into a battle with much of anything larger it might well not survive. That means there’s a pretty good chance the crew might get squished in the process. It makes most space combats an escape or chase situation similar to the Millenium Falcon vs Star Destroyer scenario.

The wargame portion is great for what it does. The RPG portion is great for interstellar travel and background information about the setting. I don’t know if it would run scenarios from other games well. For example, I don’t think Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 space battles would work well under the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks rules. The scale of battles ramps up very steeply and rapidly becomes more prone to Star Trek style battles with the capital ships/space stations.

I still give it 3.5-4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good start.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep rolling on the Frontier. I appreciate you!

If I Owned a Game Store Part 2

Product choices can make or break a game store. This is where business minds superior to mine can probably chime in. The most basic concept, especially starting out, is to balance overhead with profits. If it’s not going to sell sooner rather than later? Hold off on ordering it.

Then comes the fun part- Product.

Product choices can make or break a game store. This is where business minds superior to mine can probably chime in. The most basic concept, especially starting out, is to balance overhead with profits. If it’s not going to sell sooner rather than later? Hold off on ordering it.

Floor space is critical as well. A full Games Workshop spread takes up a lot of space and requires game room for tournaments. Magic the Gathering requires very little counter space (minus single,) but lots of tournament room. D&D is always kind of a gamble because of the massive amount of competition with other retail sources. If you devote a ton of space to miniatures, you lose space for other product. Then there is a matter of peripheral products such as dice.

Below is my list of product considerations:
  • The first thing FLGS owners must generally accept is it’s tough to find decent distributors willing to really work with small businesses. I mean, everyone wants to cut deal with big box stores such as Target, Walmart, or Costco. The big boys are going to order pallet loads of product and get pennies-on-the- dollar deals. The big box stores move pallets. FLGS move one or two units at at time and then reorder.

    Independent owner/operators usually get a pretty rough deal unless they have a ton of money up front. Sounds mythical, but not totally impossible. The unfortunate thing is, middle men like to make big money. Most game publishers will jump for joy at direct orders, but who has time to contact dozens of different manufacturers to secure one copy here and two copies there? The same goes for booster boxes of cards and boxed board games.
  • To GW or not to GW? That is a huge question. Games Workshop is an awesome company, and they are super helpful with retailers. BUT, if you want their support, you have to play it by their rules. Some of their rules are pretty insane. They like to make it so if you’re selling their product, that’s all they want you to sell, ever.

    If you’re a GW store, their product has to be placed prominently up front. There have to be regular events. Tournament armies must be painted. The store must order X amount of product per week. It just goes on and on.

    The alternative is to not be a GW store, but then you can’t carry any of their official product. There’s money to be made selling $250-$300 boxed sets, plus paint, rulebooks, White Dwarf magazines, terrain accessories, and tons of miniatures. Have I mentioned how they like to charge pewter prices for plastic figs? It’s enough to make a guy want to go out and buy a 3D printer/scanner and make his own. (Not that I’d be officially suggesting anyone do that.)

    It is possible not to be a GW store, but being listed as one has just as many or more benefits. It’s a similar situation to Magic the Gathering and other popular TCGs that have the potential to bring in hundreds or even thousands of dollars when done correctly. Where do you want to make the money?

    I used to be big into GW. I love Warhammer 40K. I played Necrons, Orks, and Blood Angels and dabbled in several other armies. WH Fantasy armies were Undead and Bretonnians. As a retailer, I sold a TON of Space Marine minis and Chaos everything. Boxed sets were a big ticket, especially the basic games. I also sold and played a lot of the little games like Necromunda, Blood Bowl, and Battlefleet Gothic. There’s a LOT of money in GW if done well.
  • Oh, I mentioned Magic, didn’t I? Love it or hate it, Magic is a strong seller. (The biter old school Old Grognards all cringed just now.) The most beneficial thing I’ve ever seen a game shop do is have a regular Magic expert on staff pretty much available daily. Cards sell extremely well and really don’t suck up much space.

    There’s a catch to Magic. Single cards are finicky and complicated, especially to the untrained seller. I like Magic, but the nuances of specific cards are way beyond me these days. Buying, trading, and selling cards is big business on this end of the industry. The value of single cards goes up and down monthly. Having cards specifically priced in a display case requires a heap of upkeep.
  • Roleplaying Games: Personally, this is my “why” in terms of owning a store. I’m an RPG guy in my heart and soul. But selling them for a living is not the same as designing and running games. It’s tough on the retail side.

    RPGs can take up a ton of space. The markup in terms of prices is usually not the best depending on the distributor. Turning product into profit is a big challenge when you’re competing with Amazon, other Internet sources, other FLGS, the pdf market, and even game companies themselves.

    I would love to have a good way to turn huge RPG profits in this day and age. If I’m being honest, it’s just not there right now. The smartest decision I’ve seen from other FLGS is to carry the basic, core book for any given game and signage that explains you can have the store order specific sourcebooks/modules.

    There’s a couple of exceptions. First is D&D. Again, there’s a lot of competition. Short of selling below MSRP, dealing directly with WotC, or having a ton of product that might be beautiful shelf lining for many years, I’m not sure what else can be done.

    The second exception might be local interest. If you have a solid Call of Cthulhu group that comes in regularly? It might be worthwhile to expand that section be a few books. Another exception is Pathfinder. It’s a big draw, much like D&D complete with all the pitfalls of selling it.

    Other RPG systems worth keeping more than one book on hand include, but aren’t limited to :Monster of the Week due to its small volume of product; FATE due to its narrow selection of books; Shadowrun due to popularity possibly; anything with a tv or movie tie-in might be worth having a couple of books; finally, I recommend Dungeon Crawl Classics for the OSR fans who want something cheap and endless hours of fun.
  • Wargames other than GW are another potential pitfall. If you have a local wargaming and strategy club, there might be some specific recommendations from them. Otherwise, Battletech is a really great game and crowd pleaser. It’s one of the only games to ever give GW a run for their money in the US, and it’s not that close. But, miniatures wargames can be a huge draw as long as one is careful with product overhead.
  • Miniatures in general are a big draw. They can take up a ton of cabinet and display space, sit for a long time, and sell for big money depending on where one finds them/acquires them. Back in the old days, our local FLGS in Des Moines, IA had a big cabinet full of painted minis on commission in some cases. Nowadays, pre painted figs come in a variety of ways from booster packs to single painted (usually large) figures from talented artists in the community.

    This is sort of a sticky wicket in the same way Magic singles are. One can devote tons of space, time and effort in stocking them or sell unpainted figures/boosters sometimes in bulk. Paizo, Wizkids, and some other companies also sell huge dragons and other monsters already painted and boxed. Lots of space, big sales, but also a big gamble. Always asking, “Will it sell?”
  • Pre-Owned merchandise is another major issue to look over. Roleplayers will tend to try to dump a lot of old books during an edition change. (Not me, but some people do.) Personally, I don’t recommend buying or trading for much of anything but modules/adventures. Adventures can be used with other systems or editions. The catch is not giving away the farm for things that probably aren’t going to move very fast.

    Again, TCG singles or even full collections have the potential to be big money deals. The kicker is how fast will they sell. A case full of cards doesn’t do a heap of good if no one is buying them.

    Miniatures, as I mentioned before, can possibly be a big deal. Fantasy minis never really go out of style. Games Workshop frowns on sellers peddling product other than theirs, but I think most retailers keep it quiet if they’re selling other products. Used GW products are usually a big no-no unless they’re well painted current figures. I’ve gotten jammed up on GW in the past when suddenly units change in terms of types, figure bases, and size.

Then there are all of the peripheral products such as dice, dice trays, journals, and wargaming supplies.

We’ll talk more about product tomorrow. I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years. I love that people are making their own dice, printing their own minis, creating their own dice bags, and even dice towers. Profitable endeavors are another story, especially from a brick-and-mortar perspective.

Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you. Please take care.

Old Guys Still Get a Bad Rep.

Do what lights you up. Spend energy, money, and time toward people and things you love. Life is too short to waste it on hating things. Ultimately it doesn’t accomplish much of anything.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.

Some of us have been around long enough to know this, especially in the tabletop roleplaying game sphere. I know a lot of us are looked upon by the younger gaming crowd suspiciously, questionably, even with disdain sometimes. The term “Old Grognard” has become akin to an unfortunate stereotype on social media.

I mean, I have a kind of a thick skin when it comes to social media and the internet having been a veteran of many flame wars and troll battles. My recommendation is- Don’t feed the trolls. Disengage. Delete. Ignore. But when it comes someone disparaging all of us OGs (*Old Gamers,) I feel compelled to say something.

Diversity and inclusion have to extend both ways, or at least an attempt needs to be made.

Look, I get that some of us “old” codgers need some encouragement to give up our old, tired ways and long held beliefs. Up until about seven years ago, I was a straight-up ass at times. I’ve said my share of absolutely dumb, hateful, regrettable things in my time. Many of them were unintentional. Still, there are regrets.

The important lessons here are that I’ve learned from years of mistakes. I’m honestly not a racist, homophobic, transphobic arse. I never have been. I don’t hang with Nazis. I have a pretty diverse number of friends from all over the place. Honest, as long as you’re not a hater, we can probably find common ground.

I get it. Old cishet white guys have made a mess of things.

And yet somehow we keep putting them in charge of the United States. (Don’t get me going…) I can’t fix them or their actions any more than I can change the color of my skin. All I can do is the best I can and try to teach my children to do the same.

The same applies in the sphere of TTRPGs as well as many other things in life. It’s not my place to apologize for what others have done. I can’t learn their lessons in life for them. Just like I can’t create world peace by unifying the world under one Creator/Source/Universe or set of divine principles. That’s why it’s called “free will.”

What I can do is a whole different matter.

I love life. And the day I really embraced the notion that ultimately we are all linked together cosmically changed me. My Higher Self knew this. I just had to remember it. (*This is me speaking from the heart. No, I’m not in some New Age Cult or anything.) Here’s the number one message I have for anyone who feels the need to try to influence the behaviors of others by cramming politics, religion, or hate down their throats- DON’T!

I love you, family. All you can ever do is stand up and present your views. What others decide to do with it is up to them. Yeah, it kinda sucks sometimes. But sometimes it’s just enough to help someone turn the corner.

Other times, it’s just better to walk away.

They’re here to learn, too. All of those enraged, hateful, spiteful Internet trolls? Yeah. We don’t have to cancel them. Just don’t give them an audience. Don’t buy into the product. Listen to people you do resonate with.

Do what lights you up. Spend energy, money, and time toward people and things you love. Life is too short to waste it on hating things. Ultimately it doesn’t accomplish much of anything.

“The best revenge is no revenge.”

Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten who said it, but it’s true. When it comes to social media, Unfollow, Block, and Ignore are your best friends. Heck, it’s anonymous to report people on every platform I’ve been on. If someone is being overly horrible toward others, Report them, please. It’s the platform’s job to police itself.

Wait, are we still talking gamer stuff?

Believe it or not, yes I am. I see examples from all sides of the conflict in the #ttrpg space every day. Every time I log on, I’m reminded that, yeah we have some “Old Grognards” in the community that are awful toward others for race, gender, sexual preference, and so forth. It’s not the f*ck okay!

Then we have just as many folx who want to see them canceled. Heck, some probably want to see me canceled. (I’d rather deal with them than the guys who want to tie me up in the woods…) It’s not about the crusade to stamp out everything that offends. It’s about building up a community and showing some caring regard for one another no matter who they are. (*As long as no harm is intended toward others.)

I’m not perfect. I am more than happy to make amends when I stick my foot in my mouth. Many OGs won’t. In fact, the OGs who never apologize are usually the ones who get “us” in trouble. The broader stereotype makes every action by a handful of misguided individuals reflect poorly on the rest. (*If you only knew how many times I had to retype that.)

Ready to go back to talking RPGs again.

I get pretty wound up about this topic. Sorry. All I can do is try to set a good example of being a good example. All I ask is that others try to do the same. Please, support one another regardless. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Try to show some empathy.

If peace, love, joy, and prosperity FOR ALL aren’t your thing? Well, please feel free to block, unfollow, and ignore me, too. Heck, if I’m somehow offensive, feel free to report me. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)

Thank you for being here. I appreciate you with all my heart. Love my #ttrpgfamily. Take care.

Dungeon Crawling or Role Playing.

Really we were just looking for another dungeon to pillage. These dungeons were filled with deadly traps, epic monster smackdowns and sweet, sweet loot.

What’s the difference?

There was a time, maybe back in the 1970’s -80’s when RPGs were new enough that there wasn’t necessarily a huge difference between running amok in a dungeon and “role playing.” Now I think gaming has spread out into a wide continuum of play styles. On one end, there are the straight dungeon romp for almost no reason whatsoever and on the other end it’s pretty much all character drama. (What combat? Monsters?)

That’s not to dis on either playstyle. I think both have their respective merits. The middle ground is more what most people maybe expect when they start playing D&D.

“Back in my day…”

Photo by Estudio Polaroid on Pexels.com

It drives my kids nuts when I start a sentence like that because they know they have roused the Old Grognard from whatever I was doing. I grew up in very much the dungeon crawl era of doing things right up through 2nd Ed AD&D. There was some character banter, but most of it was superficial. Really we were just looking for another dungeon to pillage.

These dungeons were filled with deadly traps, epic monster smackdowns and sweet, sweet loot. Any random system of dungeon generation we have now, such as decks of cards with hallways and rooms on them would have worked just fine. Random room, random obstacles, and random loot were the order of the day. Feelings? I’m here to smack some random monsters with a mace.

New editions, new mindsets.

Roundabout the 3rd Ed D&D days, I found more mature players who actually did spend time in character. Soon we were spending more time outside of carefully constructed underground complexes than in them. Soon interactions extended beyond finding the next catacomb to pillage or the next dragon to slay. There was still a fair share of that, but we had tons more character interactions with both the world and with one another at the table.

It was something I had experienced with other games, certainly. Ninjas & Superspies from Palladium was some intense drama at times. Most of the supers games I had run in the past had lots of character stuff and not a heap of combat. Star Wars, well, that still had some beefy combats, but was still character driven.

Werewolf and Cyberpunk 2020 were all character and very little smackdown games. But D&D? That was sort of different having lots of talky and not as much smashy. The spectrum in my D&D games began to widen considerably. Maybe it was the players, or maybe it was the game itself. By the time 3rd Ed came around, there were considerably more character options thanks to something called “Kits” in 2nd Ed. It only grew from there.

I feel like heavy, in-character RP is the “new normal.”

Old Orc by Michael Robson is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Maybe it was the pandemic. Maybe it’s that players are more mature or have more refined tastes in RPGs now. Or perhaps everyone is trying to emulate a certain popular show on the internet. Virtual TableTop platforms like Roll 20 have been a game changer, too. I also feel like the massive number of actual play podcasts might be changing up how we do things.

Let’s face it. Virtual or podcasts are way more about dialogue. Who wants to watch a bunch of players sitting around rolling dice for four hours? Where’s the drama in that? I feel like the trend is starting to lean toward heavier and heavier roleplay and not so much pillaging ancient tombs regardless. At least that’s what I’m seeing.

We went from the DM saying, “You see an orc.”
And the players saying, “Oooh! I kill it!” (Rolling of dice.) “Huzzah!”
DM replies, “Okay, 7 points of damage kills it. That’s 5XP and 3GP on the body.”

Now it’s more common to find an orc player character or a goblin. The newest batch of rules coming down the pipe is going to pretty much do away with “Monster Races” entirely and just focus on different aspects of races that are unique. How long will it be before they just eliminate the “Dungeons” from the name entirely?

5E changed the game and the way we look at it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Character options in 5E, if fully expanded, not considering homebrew, are still staggering. We’re way beyond ability score jokes and class tropes nowadays. (Gone are the days of the Level 1 Wizard tripping down two stairs and returning to character creation. Or the Barbarian who is easily confused by door knobs.) Now if we see an orc wandering down the road in the middle of nowhere, we’re likely to end up in a lengthy discussion of her tragic backstory and cool hairstyle.

I know my age is showing a lot here, but why do we need dice for that? Or even really any kind of RPG rules? Why do we want to slay dragons when we can just have a lovely conversation and the dragon has a light meal. If we’re all going to get along all the time, why even carry weapons or wear armor? We can just send the bard in to “hug” it out with the dragon.

Perhaps I’m being too broad and overly facetious.

I guess it depends on who you ask. There is no one correct play style and it’s always best to talk to the DM before starting a campaign. There’s no sense making a barbarian with tons of combat ability if the group is leaning toward royal tea parties and delicate interactions with Fae folk.

Personally, I like both. Sometimes I’m really just wanting to blow off steam with my players and crush skulls while looting things. Other days, a good royal court drama where almost no dice are rolled can be kind of fun. I know I say it a lot on my blog, but it’s just best to find what will bring the most fun to the group.

Thanks for stopping by. Have fun, regardless. I appreciate you! Have a good one!

Using the Fantasy to Its Fullest

I can’t stress this enough. TTRPGs are a great way to blow off steam. Think about a bunch of carefully painted miniatures on a battle map, slugging it out with sword and spell. D20s and damage dice going back and forth. I would dare say that is far healthier mentally and physically than, say, ambushing and beating the unholy living sh*t out of some kid who bullied us on the playground last month.

There was a time when all I wanted to do was roll dice to punch Orcs in the face and hack Skeletons to tiny bits.

Okay, if we’re being honest, that was yesterday? Earlier this morning maybe? And don’t get me wrong, rolling dice to burn things and blow stuff up still really appeals. It probably always will. (Oh, there’s a “but” coming.)

But, I think the psychology behind some of the more destructive fantasies is worthy of examination. No, I’m not in danger of attracting police attention. Rolling dice and using spells to level buildings is plenty sufficient to keep me off certain watch lists.

So, why all the harshness within TTRPGs?

Maybe it’s an imbalance in the Divine Masculine? Maybe my chakras are misaligned. Maybe it’s an imbalance in my Sacral Chakra? It could possibly be something deeply psychological, and little more.

See, your humble narrator used to get picked on a LOT from the time I was in elementary school all the way through high school. Bullies would ride up to little Jeff and steal his book bag, pull his coat up over his head, or count coup as they rode by to just punch me. Middle school kids can be the most cruel little heathens you can imagine. (I will attest to this now that I have kids of my own at that age.)

That was about the time I discovered roleplaying games. I was 8 or 9 when I was introduced to Marvel Superheroes and Dungeons & Dragons. Ah, good times. That’s where the fantasy took root.

I still got picked on regularly, but now I had a mental outlet for all the pent-up aggression.

Now that I’m older, I think I would have benefited from meditation and all the Zen Buddhism I discovered in high school. I still admire those monks to this day. But, a d20 roll and 1d6 damage had to suffice back then.

The friends I discovered from gaming were true friends. We kinda shared that common “nerd” bond. We played all manner of games where the bad guys got beat sometimes in the most brutal fashion possible. Every one of us enacted some sort of revenge fantasy on orcs (bullies,) goblins (kids teasing us,) and skeletons (general childhood frustrations.) I forgot to mention, Drow were the girls who turned us down and openly mocked us asking for a date. (I had two friends who were big on that one. <cringe>)

The good thing is, NO ONE WAS HURT IN THE REAL WORLD!

I can’t stress this enough. TTRPGs are a great way to blow off steam. Think about a bunch of carefully painted miniatures on a battle map, slugging it out with sword and spell. D20s and damage dice going back and forth. I would dare say that is far healthier mentally and physically than, say, ambushing and beating the unholy living sh*t out of some kid who bullied us on the playground last month.

I hate to use school shootings as another example, but it’s true. Teenagers tend to make a lot of heated emotional decisions that have permanent consequences. Thinking back on it, I could have been one of those kids. Literally. If we’re being totally honest, it’s not like I never thought about it. But I never did it. Cooler heads always prevailed. That was 30+ years ago.

Obviously, that would never, ever happen now. I truly weep in my heart for the kids and families who have suffered at the hands of school shooters and unwarranted gun violence in America. Thank God I and my friends found better ways to channel that aggression without hurting anyone. I sincerely wish more kids would pick up a d20 instead of a gun.

If I’ve learned anything from being an “Old Grognard” it’s that roleplaying can be a good outlet for heroic fantasy.

Supers RPGs such as ICONS are fabulous for making bullies pay for their wrongdoing and making the little guy the hero of the story. That’s sort of the nature of comic books, isn’t it? Science nerd Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gradually becomes a force for epic good. Little Billy Batson says “SHAZAM!” and transforms into a guy with powers rivaling those of Superman. It’s not just about beating up bad guys, but learning what being a hero is all about!

I think that’s the other lesson to be learned here. Our fantasies in any RPG are also a wonderful way to explore all the good things of which we’re capable. Truth, justice, friendship, compassion and freedom are all possible within a game session. Through roleplaying, we can experience life the way we desire it to be. We can try out new personas that are somewhat like our own, but in a way that helps us explore and no one gets hurt.

Have a great day/night wherever you are. Please be kind in the real world. Please be the change you want to see. Thank you for being here. I’m grateful for you.

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.)

Bringing Community Together Part 4.

Imagine how awesome it would be if we were all one big #ttrpg community working to support one another, lift each other up, and prosper together? I think that would be cool beyond words

Today we have questions we shouldn’t even be asking in the #ttrpg space.

He went where with it?

Why are all “Grognards” so bitter and jaded? Good question. The answer is: We’re not all that bitter. Many of us enjoy more games that just D&D. Most of us are even cool with having players of other races, ethnicities, genders, and LGBTQIA++ at our table. We’re here to game, not hate.

Why are y’all so hung up on old editions of D&D? Again, an unfortunate stereotype. Yes, many of us are heavy into older editions of the world’s foremost RPG. Sure. But personally I embrace anything and everything RPG related. Life is too short not to experience as much as possible.

Yes, OSR is cool. there’s a lot you can do with those RPGs. There is also a lot to be said for newer games and different sets of rules. Who cares about the politics of whoever wrote the new system. I’m here to game.

Are you MAGA or Ultra MAGA? Hmm… How about NO? Again, politics from the real world have no place at my gaming table. Gaming groups are a lot like coffee shops in Iowa- they tend to attract two specific groups of people that don’t tend to get along: The Bible-thumping religious right and the hardcore LGBTQIA++ gamers. Sometimes it’s a loud argument waiting to happen. Please leave politics and religion at the door.

It takes too much energy to hate. Think of what you love.

Imagine how awesome it would be if we were all one big #ttrpg community working to support one another, lift each other up, and prosper together? I think that would be cool beyond words. If we could ALL learn to accept each other, differences and all, we would be probably the coolest community on the Internet today.

I’m an old cishet white guy from a small town in Iowa. I’m married with four kids. I can’t change the circumstances I was born into any more than the next person. All I can do is change for the better. I love all things RolePlaying Game. If you love games, we have common ground.

There’s nothing in the rulebook that says we have to hate on Orcs or that two male characters can’t have an intense love scene together. Please do what’s fun at your table. If people have intense issues with what’s going on at the table then we either need to talk or the objecting player(s) need to leave.

Have a great week. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you!

Please be kind to one another.

Getting Communities Together Pt 3.

We have what are two separate communities under one banner. I’d love to think the RPG crowd on Twitter or really anywhere is one big, happy family. Some things happened recently to remind me that even though we might be family, we still have plenty of duality and separation to go around.

I promise I am going somewhere with all this.

I’m speaking from my own experiences as an OG (Old Gamer.) All of the opinions are mine. I’m not the world’s expert on all things Old Grognard, but I do sort of identify with that label. Labels are a lot of what this all boils down-to in the end.

We have what are two separate communities under one banner. I’d love to think the RPG crowd on Twitter or really anywhere is one big, happy family. Some things happened recently to remind me that even though we might be family, we still have plenty of duality and separation to go around.

“Those darn kids…”

Those “kids” are pretty great, actually.

I think that’s pretty much the battle cry of the Old Grognard online. “Those darn kids” or whatever synonyms are used, is usually the start of some real polarizing arguments. It’s not always wrong, but it’s an attitude that usually leads to trouble of some kind. It’s not fair to the younger generation and quite often speaks poorly of the older person saying it.

We have this up-and-coming crowd of young gamers. Many of them were brought into the hobby through an interest in Critical Role or some other actual play podcast. Many of them got with a group and discovered they like D&D as a hobby. Great!

They learn to make characters. They play their characters with zeal in many cases. They roll dice and eat snacks, too. Many times they breathe new life into old campaigns or allow us to start new ones. We should be celebrating this! “Those darn kids” are keeping the hobby alive. Screw what edition they’re playing!

Some of us old guys are figuring out that if we want new players, we have to change up the paradigm a bit.

This newer crowd/rpg subculture comes with some new and different rules, however. Not necessarily RPG rules, but socio-cultural rules. It’s similar to trying to understand today’s teenagers. In fact, my own kids fall into this category. It requires a lot of patience and understanding to get to know these “kids.”

Session Zero is a great example of this. Prior to a few years ago, I don’t remember it ever actually coming up much. Sometimes we ran a game session where we made new characters and introduced ourselves, but no one ever discussed “red flags” or “X cards.” Most of the time we discovered one another’s sensitivities after someone got offended. Turns out I actually like Session Zero discussions. They’re useful in so many ways!

“Back in my day…” redux.

Pretty sad that some people were like this back then.

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, we had a much different political, social, and cultural climate here in the United States. The AIDS scare had people paranoid about sexual relations (ironically it turns out the heterosexual community was most affected.) The Satanic Panic had people extra jumpy about RPGs. The religious right was consistently bombarding America with their often pretentious “values.” Cocaine had half of Hollywood, the music industry, government officials, and corporate executives stoned off their asses and making sketchy decisions. (New Coke, anyone? Reaganomics maybe?)

A lot of us growing up back then were taught to shame gay and trans folk. Gamers got “The lecture” about burning their books and throwing away their “evil” dice. Women were still fighting the glass ceiling and trying to be treated as equals in the workplace. Being sensitive to the needs of others was relegated to “political correctness.” Conservatives ruled the US for over a decade. Eesh.

This is not to excuse the bad behaviour of some of the older generations of gamers. There’s never a good excuse for hate, intolerance, or even really bad behaviour. But it does signal a need for change in some of us as people, and should serve as a wake up call for those engaging in such radical nonsense. If you’re old enough to become bitter and jaded toward someone, you’re old enough to figure out how to get your shit straightened out.

These “new” kids…

Respect will get you success!

Learning is an ongoing experience at any age. Change is inevitable at any age. Cultures and societies change mores and values all the time. It’s not always an instant change. For us “old” guys, some of us wonder how change occurred overnight.

If we “Old Grognards” can put our edition differences aside and sit down with these fresh-faced younger players and DM/GMs, we can accomplish so much together. Gaming is supposed to be fun! For crying out loud, have fun with it.

We should all be rolling dice together and yelling “huzzah!” not bickering over whose edition is best or whether we should be concerned over someone’s pronouns. Yes, we should be sensitive toward one another’s feelings, don’t get me wrong. But pronouns should have been agreed upon probably during Session Zero if they weren’t already established.

Please do everyone at your gaming table a huge favor- leave politics, real world religion, and all of your old baggage at the door. There’s plenty of time to find things to argue about on the Internet. If you’re playing a virtual game, it works much the same way when you sit down for Session ONE onward. The bottom line is play nice. RPGs are a cooperative experience, so uh, please cooperate okay?

There may yet be a Part 4 to this discussion.

I feel like Old Grognards still have a bad rep in the RPG community. Maybe some of us have earned it on an individual basis. Unfortunately, the labels and/or stereotypes run both ways. Sometimes we older players and DM/GMs have a hard time finding a pickup game online, at a convention or even at our local FLGS. Sometimes the discrimination runs both ways. Labels, good or bad, run both ways.

I can’t say I entirely blame the younger crowd for not wanting grandpa or grandma at the table. Sometimes we do tend to bog the conversation down with tales of the days of yore. Yesteryear was a very long time ago for some younger gamers. Some of these younger folks don’t quite get the difference between beer-n-pretzels gaming vs a serious campaign, either.

Thanks for stopping by today. I have a ton of good stuff for Power Rangers RPG, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Monster of the Week , and maybe even good old 5E in the works. This topic of the generation gap in gamers and my friend’s battle with “old cishet white guys” has been occupying a lot of my thoughts lately.

Regardless of what edition you play or who is at your regular table, please have fun. Please treat one another with kindness and compassion in real life. I appreciate you for being here. Thank you!

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