Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Call of Cthulhu: The Great War

Partially at the insistence of Mr. Slusser (and partly due to my sentiment that I've been waiting until his children were old enough that they could entertain themselves so we could play a horror RPG again as we did Back In The Day), I've started to run a Call of Cthulhu play-by-post game. The aforementioned Mr. Slusser has quite familiarized himself with Lovecraft's work recently, and for the longest time I've wanted to attempt to run a full CoC campaign. Whether this is a lofty or misguided desire remains to be seen, considering the infamous mortality rate of CoC Investigators, but I've long has a document on my hard drive putting published and amateur CoC adventures I own into chronological order. I've also got notes on their respective geographical locations and people/circumstances that said scenarios use to hook the PCs with. CoC scenarios are also well-known for MacGuffins like "You have a distant uncle who..." or "An old school chum writes..." so I thought it would be a good idea, were I to run a campaign, to have a listing of them all in order to more easily fit them into his character's background.

The other thing I've long wanted to do is begin the campaign with what must have been an event looming large (psychologically, if nothing else) in many 1920s Investigators' backgrounds: World War I. I long ago purchased the tournament scenario No Man's Land, which takes place in the Ardennes Forest in 1918. As it happens, I tried to run it - suggested props and all - for Slusser's bachelor party. We only got about a third of the way through the scenario, and because I insisted on keeping the windows open to let in the cold (as the scenario also suggests), he ended up with a sore throat. But I think we had some fun.

...and yes, I am a huge nerd, thank you for asking. I had the silly notion that a night of gaming with the groomsmen would be more representative of our bachelorhood than a night of uncomfortably avoiding each others' eyes as a San Bernardino stripper offered lapdances in a voice ragged from nicotine, with a grand finale of drunken vomiting in the parking lot at 3am.

Anyway. Despite the scenario's faults (and there are a few), I thought No Man's Land would be a great introduction to a campaign. So now I'm getting my chance. He's also agreed to use one of the pre-gen characters from the scenario, which I've tweaked in spots to better accommodate the aforementioned scenario hooks, relatives, etc. Since one of NML's more glaring faults is, ahem, the artwork (which, apologies to the artist, is the worst illustrative work I've ever seen in any RPG product), I've taken the liberty of re-drawing the characters. That part has also proven to be lots of fun for me.

We talked about possible methods to play this game. Since Skype's been totally unreliable lately (delivering messages hours after they were posted, not informing each other when we're both online, etc.) and using it would require some schedule juggling, we opted for play-by-post. Despite using some fine sites for gaming in the past (Roleplay Online, Rondak's Portal), we thought that Google Docs would work well enough.

We've only just begun, but so far it's done a nice job. The newest iteration allows you to post comments in Post-It Note format off the right side of the document, highlighting the part of the text you're specifically commenting on. So I have text and pictures/illustrations either posted in the body of the text or linked to from these Comments. I can also post requests for dice rolls and rules discussions there. And, of course, when you share a document with your player(s), it lets you know when someone's updated the document (that is, posted their turn) by boldfacing the doc title on your Google Docs main page (it can also send you an email).

Where Google Docs is currently failing me is in regards to posting images. It used to allow you to wrap the text around your images, like one usually sees in books. However, in the latest version, this feature seems to have been removed for the most part. Now the picture you want to post has to sit on one line of text, meaning big, gaping blank spots. I don't understand how anyone at Google would think this was an improvement.

So now we're off, beginning in a foxhole on the Western Front in early October, 1918. We'll see how far our burgeoning Investigator gets!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick Post

Just a brief few words for right now. I'm about to drive back home for the evening, but the weather forecast looks pretty bleak for the rest of the week: snow, snow, and in case we didn't get the memo, snow.

The last few times it's snowed, our power has gone out (so if you don't see any new posts from me in the next day or two, you'll know it's because I'm cut off from the rest of the planet). My wife's grumbling aside, I've always enjoyed our power outages. Yeah, it sucks not to be able to go online or use my computer for longer than an hour before the battery dies, but I always enjoyed doing stuff by candlelight. Also, everyone comes into the living room to gather around the fireplace as the rest of the house gets cold, so it's a perfect excuse to, you know, interact with each other. And play games.

Nothing reminds me of Old School gaming like power outages, because they force me to remember what I used to spend my time doing before we had computers more advanced than a Commodore 64 and consoles better than an Atari 2600. And as much as I love my computer, the internet, and all the goodies those two combined give me as a gamer, there's nothing to compare with the feeling of writing up an adventure or drawing up a dungeon on graph paper by candlelight. That's some straight-up nostalgia there.

This time, we're going to be ready for the inevitable blackouts. My wife and I are stopping at Target on the way home to pick up a new edition of Trivial Pursuit. We played our old copy with my parents last blackout, and as it turns out none of us remember 1981 with much degree of clarity. This might surprise you to learn, but things that were considered trivial in '81 only become more trivial after three decades. Sadly, a cursory Bing search shows that Hasbro doesn't make the cards-only specialty sets for Trivial Pursuit any more, so we're going to have to buy the full game again if we want new questions. Oh, well - hopefully that'll set us up until 2041.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wyzards - 1st Session Report

I ran my first session of Wyzards for the boys last night, and they seemed to have a good time. We started a bit late for a variety of reasons, which is par for the course in my experience. Best the boys get used to that now. They had already been giving some thought to what characters they wanted to play. N created Kodo Sanslasher, Brass Mage, and C created Slando Klindoran, Red Mage. They seemed to enjoy describing details about their characters' personalities, appearance and assorted quirks, though there was some initial disappointment that I wasn't allowing anyone to play a werewolf or a wolf beastman (which had been the plan for the original game I was going to run, in a different gameworld). I explained a bit of background about the Order of the Ivory Citadel - having pictures helped immensely, as I suspected it would - but once again I was reminded of the fact that, while the boys may have been more interested in the background information than I believe my sister's kids would have been, it's still tough to get across all of the information I'm used to trying to convey. And the fact of the matter is, it's better to convey those details through gameplay rather than giving an infodump before anyone gets to do anything. I need to bear that in mind for future games, and not just the ones I run for the kids.

Anyway, once stats were rolled up (3d6, assigned by choice) and important details written down, we finally got underway. Our 1st-level Magi began a brief adventure within the walls of the Ivory Citadel, being fetched by a Green Robe apprentice they knew - named Sarai - who breathlessly asked them for help. She and her friend Ardil had been exploring the Lower Catacombs of the Citadel, a place clearly marked as off-limits, when the floor gave way and Ardil fell into a chamber beneath. The boys dutifully ran off to help. Dad created a Boggart character (more about this in my next post), but had to put his daughter to bed so he didn't play for long. After some time spent running up and down the massive Spiraling Stair (which I decided on the spur of the moment was the central connecting structure of the Citadel), visiting the laboratories and workshops of their respective masters, the Magi hammered an iron rod into the floor, tied a rope around it, and descended into the pitch-dark tunnels beneath. Finding that Ardil was nowhere to be seen, they explored further into the darkness. They spotted kobolds, avoided confronting any of them, and then discovered a giant fungal forest, lit by luminescent growths. By the end of the session, they had found that the missing apprentice had been somehow abducted by mushroom men (Myconids), who had him in some kind of hypnotic trance. Through use of their magic and stealth, they freed Ardil from his trance, but the myconids released spores of alarm, and bats began to descend from the darkness between the stalactites. "...And that's where we'll stop for tonight!"

The boys were eager to use their spells, of course, and there were many moments where they thought to use spells to aid them only to discover that their spells didn't quite work the way they were hoping. For example, N wanted to use his message spell to tell Ardil they were looking for him, but unfortunately this would have required them to know where Ardil was. But N used his magic creatively and often; the next big challenge for him is going to be when he runs out of Mana Points in the next session, as he'd spent over half by this session's end. I don't recall whether C cast any spells at all this session, and for a guy playing what was basically a combat mage, he was always the first to suggest turning back and avoiding trouble. But perhaps it might make sense for a combat mage to realize the best way to win a fight is not to get in one at all...?

Two things cropped up that I wanted to note here because I've encountered them in all of the games I've run for kids.

First, the boys have a tendency to describe not only what their character does, but what happens after that. They've been made aware of the distinction between the role of Player and the role of GM, but they still slip every now and then and begin narrating results. This was something that my sister's kids did, too, and I had to keep reminding them that this wasn't how the game was played. There's a little indy gamer voice in the back of my head that tells me I shouldn't come down too hard on that desire, and to be honest I've tried to remain open-minded about that sort of thing. Once or twice I've taken some narration that they "suggested" and said, "Yeah, in fact, that's exactly what happens." But as Mr. Slusser pointed out to me a while ago, the boys are used to just narrating themselves out of story complications, and so playing in the traditional RPG mode should give them a bit of problem-solving discipline.

The other thing that came up - more with the Slusser boys than my sister's kids, though I've encountered it with other children as well - was a desire to roll on a stat for the sake of rolling on a stat, rather than just doing so when the GM called for it. I think what was happening was that, because I had called for them to make stat-based rolls in order to accomplish certain tasks, they got it into their heads that the key to dealing with failure was simply to roll again and hope for a better result, as opposed to trying something different. I don't mean that they weren't willing to try something more than once; I mean that they were slipping into metagame thinking, right down to the terms they used in describing what their characters would do: "I'm going to Dex-roll to get across the forest of mushrooms." Perhaps if I were to resort to die-rolling less often, it would encourage them to think in problem-solving terms? Yet everybody likes rolling dice, and I don't think I'm being excessive about it. I'm not certain, but it's a tendency I am curious about.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mana Points

I've had some thoughts about magic in my Microlite20 games, especially in light of the Wyzards setting I came up with.

As written, M20 uses a spell point system of sorts. It allows Mages access to all the spells in their level, but levies a point cost on every spell cast, to be subtracted from the Mage's Hit Points. I see how that can work conceptually, especially if you view Hit Points as a narrative abstraction - casting spells makes the Mage weaker, and if you cast enough spells he'll be utterly spent, falling unconscious. It reminds me a bit of hermetic magic in Shadowrun, where mages channel spell energy from the Astral Plane into the material plane by shooting it through their central nervous systems, an act which often results in physical trauma or Drain.

However, I can't say that I've ever been crazy about that rule in M20. Yes, it offers a limit to how many spells a Mage can cast in an encounter, but... I'm not sure. Something about it rubs me the wrong way, and I'm having a difficult time putting my finger on what it is.

So instead, when I ran M20 for my sister's kids, I introduced the concept of Mana Points, drawing from GURPS Magic and World of Warcraft. It's a spell-point system in which you have a number of Mana Points equal to your Hit Points, though they're tallied separately from HP. Thus, you can expend your personal reservoir of magical energy but still be on your feet and able to fight or run as the situation demands.

It's possible that this introduces a game-imbalancing element. I'm not really mechanics-savvy enough to know, personally, though right now I can recall reading an early interview with Gary Gygax in which he expressed his dislike of spell point mechanics for precisely that reason. Having said that, this doesn't bother me overmuch. My players generally care far more about character concept over mechanical advantage, so if they have a Fighter character in mind, that's what they're going to play, regardless of whether a Cleric might perform better, for example.

Continuing with the concept of Mana Points, I thought that my Wyzards setting, with its emphasis on Mage characters, could benefit from a few more options.

Mana Points are primarily recovered through rest. In the world of Wyzards, there are other methods by which one can acquire MP.

Drawing inspiration from WFRP, GURPS and Ars Magica, and supplements like Ronin Arts' 101 Arcane Spell Components Revised, here are some of the possibilities I came up with:

Mana Regions. Certain areas "generate" more mana than others; in in-game terms, they are magical places: secluded waterfalls, ancient standing stones, deep dark forest groves, etc. A Mage can draw mana from these places to fuel his spells. Some regions are aspected toward one particular college of magic or purpose - a mouldering graveyard under the light of the full moon might offer mana only for Necromancy spells. The site of a historic siege might yield mana for Abjuration spells.

Material Components. I've always liked the idea of material components, though I've never actually run a game in which I forced a player to keep track of such things. This option adds it as a possibility that a player might want to take advantage of, since it would improve his character's spellcasting ability. Like mana regions, certain items and artifacts attract mana to themselves, which can be withdrawn by a Mage. They might operate much like mana regions, with aspected mana and so on, but it might be more fun to add some other effects, like increasing spell duration or range, or just snazzy special effects. Like material components in AD&D, the items might be consumed in the casting. I'll probably decide that on a case-by-case basis.

Unraveling. Mages might be able to draw mana out of their own souls, doing damage to themselves in the process. This is kind of a last-ditch effort to get mana, for use in those times when you're down to 0 MP and something's about to cave in your skull. It would cause Hit Point loss as per M20 RAW, but to make it more interesting it might also cause other problems, such as troubling dreams, a weakening of the constitution or will, an increased susceptibility to enchantment or possession, or something else.

In regards to spell choice, since I'm going with an organization that stresses the different Colleges of magic, I think I'm going to need a greater selection of spells to begin the game with. I want to be sure that someone who specializes in, say, Abjuration, doesn't end up shortchanged compared to a Necromancer or Evoker. I've certainly got enough supplements to find the spells necessary to fill that need, so I doubt that will be a problem. In M20, Mages can cast any spell of a level equal to or below 1/2 their class level, rounded up. The RAW specifies that just because a Mage can cast any spell, it doesn't mean he should, and I embrace that philosophy. I want a Mage's spells to reflect his College/Order of choice, just as I would want a Cleric's spells (prayers, miracles, whatever - I've never liked the terms "cleric spells" or "divine magic") to be appropriate for their patron deity. So adding to the list of available spells should assist me in accomplishing this.

I decided in my last M20 game that Mages would begin the game with a repertoire of spells equal to half their Mind score, and I think I'll stick with that. Magi of the Ivory Citadel always begin with arcane mark, detect magic and read magic; the rest of the spells are up to the player. However, for the purposes of running this game for Slusser's sons, I think I'll choose their spells for them ahead of time. This time around, I'd like to get the game started as soon as possible, and I know they could easily get bogged down in spell selection. There'll also be the temptation for the boys to select the same spells as each other - which admittedly may be less of a possibility in a Wyzards game than it would have been in the straight M20 game I ran for my sister's kids - so I want to be sure that each character will have their own specialties and "signature" spells to make them feel unique and complimentary to each other. Maybe next time I'll let them look over the spell lists and choose their own.

One of the things I'm looking forward to doing with this game is inspiring the PCs to look for spellbooks and lost lore in order to obtain new spells. I've always liked that idea, but again, I've never really been in the position to introduce that into a game.

I'm considering one last change to the M20 rules, which I did with my nephew and nieces. Instead of the three attributes Strength, Dexterity and Mind, I think I'd like to have the full six attributes of regular D&D. Part of the reason is that I like the granularity (if that's the right word) that mechanically represents a more varied range of personalities and traits. The other part of the reason is that I remember RPGs - AD&D especially, with its Gygaxian prose - being responsible for increasing my vocabulary. I'd like to encourage the kids to learn words like "Constitution", "Dexterity" and "Charisma".

I'm also going to stick with the Old School Style rules, eschewing Skills for Primary/Secondary/Minor skill rolls, based on the descriptions of the characters' interests, hobbies and specializations. This should encourage the boys to think more about their characters' identities and personalities (which has never really been a problem for them, in my experience) and further avoid the homogeneity that could arise from both of them playing Mages.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


My friend's sons have been getting into the Harry Potter books.

We had a snowstorm last weekend that knocked out our power for a few days. My sister's kids (ages 9, 9 and 6) came over and I ran a Microlite20 Old School Style game for them (though I just called it "Dungeons & Dragons" and felt quite good doing so), which we all enjoyed. Well, I enjoyed it up until they started getting goofy and sabotaging each other's attempts to escape a cell they'd been imprisoned in. But we'd been playing for about four hours by then, which is a pretty long time to get a 9 year-old to focus on one activity aside from watching TV or playing video games, it seems to me, so I count the experience as positive overall.

Anyway, having had this experience, I've been in the mood to run the game for my friend's sons. We've roleplayed before - Teenagers From Outer Space and Earthdawn - though I don't think I've actually run a game for them yet. When Cataclysm came out for WoW, they got excited about the idea of playing Worgen characters. They've also been interested in our fantasy LARP, which includes animal-based Beastmen, so it made sense to me to run a game for them set in Xaria, the setting of our LARP. That way, they could become more familiar with the setting and thus be groomed for the day when they're ready to start as LARP players*, and they would also have an in-game excuse for being anthropomorphic wolves.

Anyway, back to whatever this has to do with Harry Potter.

While I was toying with the idea of running said D&D game for the boys, I was made aware of their recent interest in the Potterverse and so I began to think about a fantasy setting in which the primary focus was an order of Wizards.

I liked the idea of different Houses, each with its own character, history, philosophy and so on. I looked at a variety of games and settings that include this concept: Redhurst Academy of Magic, Ars Magica's Order of Hermes, WFRP's Imperial Colleges of Magic, to mention the ones that influenced me the most.

(I also looked at GURPS Witch World's color-based colleges of magic, but in the end I concluded that I specifically wanted a D&D world, and so the division that made the most sense was along the lines of D&D magical schools. This is not the time to go fiddling with the D&D magic system...)

I went back to The Complete Wizard's Handbook for 2nd Edition AD&D, and began scouring that book for its suggestions of what the personality types of different specialist Mages would be like. I incorporated those ideas into the ones I'd already started developing based on my own preconceived notions and the inspirations I'd gotten from WFRP and Ars Magica. A couple of the names, like Aegis and Mordant, are straight from Redhurst.

I'm not 100% happy with it yet (for example, Volkheart sounds too close to Voldemort for my liking), and I haven't decided anything about the world in which this order would be set, whether I would use something pre-made, modify an existing setting I already have, or make something out of whole cloth, etc. The cosmology so far is heavily cribbed from Witch World, with its palpable presence of Light and Shadow (I'll probably include Quan Iron, as well, just because I've always liked the idea), but still requiring a few other details to flesh out. Something else I need to consider is whether this means that the vast majority of Wyzards are specialist mages, and mages which draw from all of the colleges of magic are rare prodigies?

Granted, it's not necessary to come up with everything right now, and if I were to run this for my friend's sons, I don't know how much the boys would even be interested in that kind of background stuff. I feel like those details would certainly have been lost on my sister's kids, who played characters like "Merlin, Jr." and "Harry Potter the Girl" (yes, that was what Niece #2 named her character. I'll have to make a post in the future about that game session). But it does make me happy to create it.

Also, as I was working on this stuff, I happened across this analysis of alignment in the Potterverse written by Sandy Antunes, and came to realize how well it works. As much as I like the ninefold alignment system of AD&D-3.5e, I have to admit this four-fold system intrigues me, and meshes nicely with the Four Humours...

Nonetheless, here are the results of my brainstorming, for your perusal:


Wyzards is a D&D game world centered around the exploits of the Magi of the Ivory Citadel and their fight against their ancient enemies, the Shadow-Brethren of the Eldritch Oath.

The Magi of the Ivory Citadel is an ancient order of wizards devoted to protecting the land from all manner of non-political dangers. It was formed ages ago by a council of independent wizards who believed that magic was too volatile and dangerous to be learned without being accompanied by a guiding philosophy. And so these founders - the original White Magi, the Archmagi of the White Robes - created the eight Colleges of Magic, though each College came to be associated with their names. The Magi wear different colors to signify their House affiliation, though individual fashion choices vary widely between idiosyncratic and eccentric wizards. The one color they do not wear, however, is black; black signifies the Shadow. House Mordant once wore black robes, but after a great betrayal rent the order, they renounced them forever, wearing humble brown robes instead.

The Magi of the Ivory Citadel
The Magi are a collection of Orders - sometimes called Houses - governed by the Archmagi of the White Robes. Each Order is represented by an Archmage of that house; when one retires or dies, the other Archmagi elect the most appropriate member of the old Archmage’s Order to replace him.

Each Order is named for its original founding member.

The Amaranthine Order of Aegis
Also known as the Violet Robes, House Aegis specializes in Abjuration, protective magic. They are responsible for the protective magics that shroud the Ivory Citadel. Violet Magi think of themselves as protectors, with a heroic mindset but an unfortunate tendency to try to control others "for the greater good." On the whole they are thoughtful, orderly, gentle and soft-spoken, going out of their way not to attract attention. They care a great deal about family, compassion and selflessness.

The Xanthous Order of Fabricae
The Golden Robes specialize in Conjuration. They are often the mouthpiece of the Order to the outside world, assisting in travel, carrying messages to far-off places and acting as ambassadors to the nobility. They tend toward arrogance and smugness, but are also confident, courageous and bright. They show a definite tendency toward laziness as they grow further along in their studies - anything worth doing can be accomplished through the use of summoned creatures and teleportation.

The Cerulean Order of Oculus
The Blue Robes specialize in Divination. They are quite knowledgeable in many lores, cautious and deliberate in their actions, and strikingly insightful into the workings of men's minds. As a result, House Oculus is best known for its Inquisitors, who police the Ivory Citadel for wrongdoers. Perhaps the wisest of all wizards, Blue Magi are loners at heart who do not make close friends easily, and many have succumbed to cynicism and distrust due to the things their divinations have revealed about the nature of men. But all are respected for their ability to see what is yet to come.

The Verdant Order of Ynamor
The Green Robes specialize in Enchantment. Ynamor was an Elf, and his legacy lives on in the Verdant Order, which maintains close ties to the mysterious realm of the Fey. The Green Magi tend to be charismatic, physically attractive people; sensitive, passionate and caring, but given to romanticism that easily leads to hedonistic tendencies. They believe in the sanctity of life and nature. They are commonly one of the voices of reason in the Order. They also share ambassadorial duties with the Gold Magi.

The Crimson Order of Volkheart
Also known as the Red Robes, House Volkheart specializes in Evocation. The Crimson Order produces many powerful magi, the most respected of which are the battlemages known as the Knights of the Staff, or the Wizards Militant. They are serious-minded, intense and determined wizards, but are often overeager to prove themselves in combat. They are natural leaders, fearless and authoritative; however, in terms of personality they tend to be introspective and emotionally distant.

The Mazarine Order of Chimaeron
The Indigo Robes specialize in Illusion. They are known for two things: their extensive spy networks and their boisterous parties. They tend to be flamboyant and outgoing, remarkably creative and well-versed in the arts. Though possessed of sharp minds, they are not particularly deep thinkers; pragmatists by nature, believing in little but the impermanence of all things.

The Umber Order of Mordant
Also known as the Brown Robes, Mordant Magi are Necromancers. They are often misunderstood and blamed for evildoing and corruption even within the Ivory Citadel. In truth, they know better than anyone the dangers that the Shadow poses, as they are tempted by it daily but also see its pitfalls firsthand. They have a spirit of competition which leads them to seek out conflict, much like the Red Magi, but their pride has been laid low in the past. They fight against the Shadow-Brethren with greater zeal than any other Order.

The Ocherous Order of Thauvissus
Traditionally House Thauvissus has been named for their Saffron Robes, but in recent generations they have tended more and more toward the wearing of Brass, taking on a steampunk appearance. They specialize in Transmutation, and are typically curious, sharp-minded and deeply analytical. They are natural tinkerers, more interested in objects than people. The Brass Mages are alchemists and inventors without peer, obsessive collectors and clear thinkers, but they do not much care for discussions of morality and ethics, seeing such things as entirely dependent upon existing conditions which are seldom permanent.

The Shadow-Brethren of the Eldritch Oath

The Shadow-Brethren, also known as the Shadow-sworn, are the dark reflection of the Magi of the Ivory Citadel. They exist in opposition to the philosophies of the Magi, seeing them as tyrants, meddlers and misguided fools. Though they are often scattered across the known lands, forming cells, cults, covens and coteries to avoid detection and infiltration, they generally operate with a loose hierarchy, as they all serve the Twilight Court of Shadow.

The Eldritch Oath to which their full title refers is an ancient dark pact that each member of the Brethren has taken. They have pledged to serve the Twilight Court, the Shadow Masters, demons and devils who inhabit the realm of Shadow and long to cover the world in darkness. The Shadow-Brethren are their eyes, mouths and hands, always doing their bidding even when they believe themselves to be acting of their own volition.

The Shadow-Brethren often possess personality traits that are the skewed, sinful versions of their Ivory Citadel opponents (something akin to Antitribu from Vampire: The Masquerade - as I understand it).

*It should be noted that they have actually participated in our LARP, but only as NPCs.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Go Play OSR!

Yeah, it's been over a year since I posted here. That's not because I haven't been gaming, I'm pleased to say, but blogging has taken a backseat to living life.

That's the excuse I'm going with, anyway.

The truth of the matter is that when I first began blogging years ago, I did so because I had moved across the country from my friends and family in order to attend art school, and blogging was a pleasant way to let them know what was going on in my life. Since I've graduated and returned to my home state, I haven't felt as much need to type lengthy descriptions of my day-to-day life. With Facebook and Twitter, I feel even less of a need to devote time to such efforts.

But the nice thing about having a game blog is that it gives me a place to put my thoughts where others might see them. Yeah, sure, part of it is sheer vanity - every gamer has a desire to share the fruits of their creativity with others and receive some kind of recognition for being the innovative genius they always thought they were. But also, quite sincerely, I don't know if I'll ever use a lot of the ideas I get, so hopefully by putting them out here in the ether, someone will find them and get some use out of them even if I don't.

Anyway, back to the look of things. Blogger has made some nice changes since the last time I was here, so I've cobbled together a new banner which is probably too big and doesn't show any gaming paraphernalia. I've changed the body font to something with serifs and the title fonts to some pleasantly Warhammer-ish typefaces. I'll probably get around to updating my links before long.

One other new thing is the "Freak Flags" I've hung up in the top right corner. The one on the right is an older one: it's the "Go Play" logo, which identifies me as a roleplaying gamer, inside an icthyus symbol, identifying me as a Christian. The basic philosophy of Go Play (which is discussed at some length here; the last post on page 8 is a fine summary) is essentially this: games were meant for playing, so go play them! It's not meant as a slam on those who are discussing their favorite games, or those who are prevented from playing due to their circumstances, but rather it's a light-hearted reminder of what we were meant to do with these things. It's also a kick in my own pants to remind me not to get caught up in the potentially endless process of game prep, the irrational "stage fright"-like fear of pre-game jitters, and other mental traps. No game will be perfect, and the games in which I have to improvise usually end up being the more fun and exciting ones. So go play!

The symbol on the left is much newer, and might require a bit of unpacking. OSR means Old School Renaissance or Old School Rules (or a dozen other terms); Bing it and you'll find a slew of blogs written by people who are playing older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as a lot of other "old school" games, like Runequest and Classic Traveller. Recently a discussion began within these circles, spearheaded by the likes of Dr. Rotwang!, Jeff Rients, Thomas Denmark and others, in which the future of the Dungeons & Dragons brand is considered an entirely separate, unconnected entity to the game itself. WotC can do what they like with the brand, but what we're playing - be it the original white box D&D, BECMI, AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition, or even 3e/3.5 - is no less "Dungeons & Dragons" than the edition currently in print.

I happen to agree with the sentiments in this discussion. As I discussed to some small degree in an earlier post, I didn't buy 4e when it came out, and I'm still not really interested in it. When WotC abruptly ceased selling older edition material in PDF format, it really felt like they were telling us they weren't interested in our money any longer. As others have stated, it felt like they fired us as customers. I'm not saying this to stir rancor with newer players or people who have made the jump to 4e and have never looked back. I'm totally uninterested in Edition Wars. If you enjoy playing 4th edition, awesome - more power to you.

Like the Go Play symbol, the OSR logo isn't meant to be a slam against those who play and enjoy 4th Edition D&D, or any edition that may come after it. Instead, as Thomas Demnark outlined, it's meant to represent that:

1. The product is compatible with the original white box (or wood-grain box) edition of the worlds first and most famous fantasy RPG.

2. That's it.

As he explained in the comments section on that thread,

I see it as a group of people still passionate about the game they fell in love with as a kid. The only unifying factor being that it all sprouted from that little white box published in '74.

The symbol was originally created by Chad Thorson, who generously suggested that anyone who wanted to use it or modify it was free to do so. The version I have here is one I modified to my liking, with a parchment background and some graph paper within the letters OSR to represent the dungeon-crawling, mapping, graphic roots iconic to Old School gaming.

My posting it on this blog basically means I prefer to play older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as being interested in other out-of-print games. The material I post here may be for any number of game systems, though admittedly the majority of what I post will be system-agnostic. I'm not really a crunch-and-mechanics guy.

To me, though, the OSR symbol also embraces an underlying philosophy, as Rotwang! said: games which are no longer supported by the companies that published them aren't "dead." So long as you keep running your old game with your friends, that game is alive.