Sunday, May 13, 2018

Pre-School Gaming - Before 'Old School' and 'New School"

Still suggested.

A while back, during the comments on Google+ over my 'open letter', I mentioned what I'd been playing in RPGs back in the day. I got an interesting comment on that, which I think really points up the huge cultural gap that exists between me and 'modern' gaming.

I mentioned that I've never really 'played D&D'; I've played "something called Blackmoor with Dave, something called Greyhawk with Gary, and something called Tekumel with Phil"(Note One). Back then - and this was a few years ago, remember, and back then none of these three world settings had built up the mass of materials that they have today. There was, forty years ago, a relative dearth of published information on these worlds, let alone the plethora of sets of rules that we now enjoy in our hobby.

One had to 'explore'. Get up, walk around, ask questions, have adventures. It was taken as a given that we'd all read a lot of the same books and seen the same movies; see also Gary's 'Appendix N'. We all knew what we were supposed to be about, and so we sharpened our swords and our wits and got on with our adventures. "Doing it by the book" was impossible; the book - and the game rules - hadn't been written yet. The GMs of the day came up with adventures and worlds that they were set in, and we played our Faferds, Grey Mousers, Conans, and Belits in these new worlds with all the gusto and swashbuckling vigor that we could.

It was, as I've suggested, 'lighting in a bottle'. We learned to run our own campaigns by being apprentices, and we in turn had our own students. And we didn't have much worry about our roots in what's now called 'wargaming'; we moved from one to the other seamlessly, with games being 'sized' as needed by the events as they unfolded. Even the term of art, 'the campaign', is taken from the kind of gaming that we did; we played princes and kings and generals, and off we went on adventures. Xenophon's "Anabasis" was one of our 'adventure paths', for example.

I think that the biggest difference between our 'pre-school' gaming and today's hobby is the shift in reading habits I've seen in gamers. People don't read books; they read games.  Now, this does sell a lot of game books, and does keep game stores in business, but the 'books' section of my FLGS is noted for what I'd call 'a lack of turnover' in the stock.

Well, all right. I can understand this. It does astonish me when gamers visit the game room and are baffled as to why I have lots and lots of books on all sorts of subjects and very few sets of rules on the shelves. They don't read, and they do not understand why I do.

So, next up: Gary, Dave. Phil, and books...

Note One: It's not even my phrase;
Chirine: "Dave, what are we playing?"
Dave: "Oh, something called 'Blackmoor'."

Saturday, May 12, 2018

*My* Play Style - "Lighting In A Bottle" - May 12th, 2018

Have a look; you might just like it.

Real life events around here have finally calmed down to the point where I can get started on the series of posts that I've promised (threatened?) on how I game and why I game that way. I'll try not to be boring. I am also working in a new browser, here at the computer, and I seem to have all of the regular functions of this Google+ platform back. (We shall see.)

As I mentioned, I had been doing an interview with a reader a while back, and he asked what sets of rules I play. I had to stop and think about that, as I really don;t play 'sets of rules' in my gaming; I play settings, not rules. Rules, as one of the recent Google+ commentators on my 'Open Letter To Mike Merles' noted, are platforms; I think he's right about this, as they should be our springboards to adventure, more then anything else.

In a very similar vein, the esteemed author of "Blade and Crown" had a post that I think everyone should read - and to which I strongly subscribe:

we had a very good example of this philosophy in our recent 5e session here at The Workbench, where I took the time to set out the scene of our adventure, and the GM had the time to pre-roll the NPCs and stats; we had a great time socializing while all this happened, and having everything ready for the actual game in advance made it a really fast, tense, taut, and downright exciting game session. No number-crunching, no looking up tables, no fits and starts as obscure rules were unearthed from dusty tomes of ancient lore.

It was, in short, the kind of game session I love to run and play, and what I got used to when I played with some guys named Dave, Gary, and Phil. What I took away from those game sessions, all those years ago, was that I - GM or player - needed to take the time to get my act together before we started play. Take a little time, develop the character or the setting, and then run like crazy during the game session.

A friend of mine, who's played in some of my games, calls this "Chirine's 'lightning in a bottle'." I'd agree with that; he's not sure if it's possible for other people to do it, but I think that it is. So, in the next set of posts, I shall try to Reveal All...

In the meantime, head over to NJW Games, and have a look at some of the brilliance that's happening over there...

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Aftermath: The Ancient Philosophy Of Gaming - Weekly Update, April 30th, 2018

I can now sit down and relax...
Here we are, the day after, and I'm doing my usual post-mortem on the event. I normally do this to figure out what worked and what didn't, to learn for the future.

On my end of it, everything worked. And worked well, first time out. So, as a 'dress rehersal' for what I want to do in my gaming in the future, it all went just fine.

Nobody seemed to have any issues with being 'off the grid', and playing on 'natural' terrain. We only had to use a 6" ruler once, and this was one of those close-range 'hugger-mugger' fights where getting enough fighting room was the biggest issue.

This game was a pretty good example of how we used to do things; the person hosting the game would set up the table, maybe provide the bulk of the figures, and the GM would do the rest. This applied to all our games, because we - not knowing any better, back in our mis-spent youth - didn't know that there was some sort of huge difference between RPGs, board games, and wargames. We just played.

Which is, as you've probably guessed, the transition to my series of posts on game style and philosophy...

It was a very good weekend.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Battle Joined - We Nearly Got Slaughtered, Not To Put Too Fine A Point On It...

Our 1st Level Fighter approaches the shed, while our Cleric (me)
gets jumped from behind by a swarm of snakes.

I go down, and the Warlock casts a spell to save the Fighter.

The Fighter tries to help the Cleric, and nearly goes down.

The Ranger tries to help the Cleric and the Fighter, and goes down.

It was just one of those days, here in the woods, as we got jumped by a swarm (of snakes, of all things) from the rear while starting to investigate the shed / shack we had seen through the trees. The two guards were dealt with by the Warlock's spell after they went after our Fighter, who nearly got killed by their sudden attack. The rest of the party had their collective hands full dealing with the swarm, as the GM was rolling spectacularly well and we were all rolling spectacularly badly. It turned into a struggle of our tactics vs. their brute force, and we did finally win through and rescue some prisoners we found in the shed.

This turned into a very tight little fight, with a lot of mayhem in a small space. It was a challenge, but we did it. We had about half the usual group present to play, due to other commitments in real life, but we managed. This D20 adventure is, if you were asking for my opinion, too lethal for a smaller and lower level party like ours; on the other hand, if we'd been up to full strength, we'd have had a much less difficult time of it. So, you pays your money and you takes your chances - such is the life of an adventurer, after all.

The table went over well, as did the scenery and miniatures. Everybody had a good time, and we'll be back here on June 10th for the next installment of this saga.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Eve Of Battle - D&D 5e, Here Tomorrow!

The night is quiet...
...too quiet, perhaps...
A clearing in the forest, with the adventurers awake.
We're set and ready; all I have to do is put out the snacks.
And put out the chairs, of course.

Well, I'm as set and ready for my very first ever D&D game session here at The Workbench. I've set the table in my usual 'classic' style; it'll be interesting to see how the players handle gaming on a table without a 1" grid on it. The fridge is stocked, the chips ready, the buffet in place, and the dice all washed and buffed.

It's been kind of a long haul to get to this point - I had to swap out the 52" plasma screen for the 52" LCD screen due to a pixellation issue, and each of the things weighs nearly 100 pounds each -  but the game room is now in what will be mostly it's final form. I still need to wire the place up for video and podcasts, but that will come in due course. We're out of 'warehouse mode', and back into 'gaming mode', and The Missus says she's looking forward to having guests again.

The terrain system worked perfectly; the table set-up took a whole fifteen minutes, from unlocking the storage shed to having everything ready to go. These are the 'temperate' tiles, with the set of 'temperate' trees, as this is one of the elven forests of Blackmoor and not one of the less-inhabited pine forests that one often encounters. Trees by Lemax, underbrush by Life-Like, mayhem by Dave Arneson.

So, we're all set up. I'll have some fun stuff on the DVD players to fill in the time while we're stuffing our faces on the buffet, and I'll make sure to take pictures for you to ponder as we play.

More to come!!!