Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars

#RPGaDay2021 Day 29: System

Day 29: System

So when it comes to selecting a role playing system to play, which is better? Learning something new or going with a system you are already familiar with that has been adapted for the universe you want to play in?

For me, it’s sixes. Recently I had the option to play in an online game and the game master gave us the option of a D20 system (Starfinder) or something else. I don’t even really recall what the second option was because I was more worried about trying to learn how to use the online virtual table top application (another post for another day). While I was happy for the easy of the D20 system, I also discovered that Starfinder (and I later found out that Pathfinder was the same way) was just a little too crunchy for me. It seems like it has taken the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 book and added way to many additional rules to the system.

On the other hand, the D20 based Star Wars RPG released in the early 2000’s didn’t really attract me at the time. I’m a big Star Wars fan, but I remember thinking that “Seeing Luke and company with D&D stats just seemed off.” I don’t know if it’s because of all the D6 Star Wars games that I had played, or that I just didn’t have the money at the time to buy another set of books. So I never got into the game at the time it was being published. If someone were to invite me to a game now, I’d take them up on the offer.

There are generic systems out there. I had played GURPS back in the early 90’s. It seemed ok at the time, but a lot of math. So it’s not one of my first choices. I just received Dune: Adventures in the Imperium for a birthday gift which is a 2d20 system like Star Trek Adventures. It’s been interesting to see the tweaks between the two rulebooks. (again another blog post will go into further details on this) The D6 system that was used in the WEG Star Wars system has been ported over to a series of generic RPG books. I could see myself using the D6 system for a classic Battlestar Galactica game.

I haven’t even scratched the surface on which systems have stood out to me or failed to grab my attention. There are just way to many out there. But I have tried a few. When I was going through my three-ringed binder of old characters, I noticed I had sheets for some games that I don’t even remember playing. I must not have been very impressed with the system if I can’t remember them now.

Final Thoughts:

All of the remaining dates in the challenge only have one suggestion for each day. It almost seemed like the list just sputtered out of ideas.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games

#RPGaDay2021 Day 26: Origin

Day 26: Origin

Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark.

Dr. Evil- Austin Powers (1997)

When creating an origin for a character, how much backstory is too much backstory? I believe that should depend upon what level you are starting that character out with. If a character is starting out at first level, then the backstory shouldn’t be more than a few sentences. Perhaps a half-a-page at the most. Where did you grow up at and why did you take off for your life of adventure? Is there anyone from your past that is notable? Not a ton of detail, but at least one or two ideas for the GM to use in the game if needed.

If the character has a higher level when starting, then yes create a longer backstory. I’ve heard of players who have written up an 18-page backstory for a peasant that is out seeking his fortune. That much detail may be too much for the GM to read and why would a newbie character be that detailed.

I’ve heard from some players that they have enjoyed making up the origin of their character as they play the game. A creative process between party members and game master. Sometimes these could turn out to be the most interesting stories of all.

I did have one Dungeon Master who had me give him a series of 10-20 random dice rolls before starting a campaign. From those dice rolls he sent back information on my character. Are one or both parents still alive? Any siblings? Occupation of family members (or my character) before he left for adventure. I need to see where he got that table from so I can use it in future games. I recall early characters seemed to be orphaned loners (thus the bad guy, i.e. GM, couldn’t use the family against the character later in the game. Unless you murdered your family like Elric the Kinslayer, they would probably still be around.

I’ve always thought that session zero was a perfect opportunity to talk about the origin of characters as they are being rolled up. This could also explain how the party members came to be together. If someone wrote up a reasonable backstory, I could see myself giving that player experience points for the effort.

Final Thoughts:

These last minute decisions on entries are becoming easier. I’m not certain why. I couldn’t think of anything for “Theory”. “Play” seemed very generic and could go almost anywhere. Every time I thought about “Renew”, I kept thinking of Logan’s Run.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games

#RPGaDay2021 Day 23: Memory

Day 23: Memory

I have a memory of my first time trying to be a Dungeon Master back in the early 80’s. I had the Basic Dungeons and Dragons set which included Module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. My regular gaming buddies at my junior high school already had read through this book and knew of the dangers contained within. But I really wanted to DM, so who could I get to play?

My younger brothers. This could be their introduction to the game. Perhaps they would want to play more of this afterwards. I was able to talk them into trying out the game. We made some characters and they headed up to the Caves of Chaos.

And promptly got slaughtered in the first encounter they came up to. Total (but unintentional) party kill.

Needless to say, my brothers were not impressed. They never played again (however one of them did ask me to DM an introductory session to show the game to his kids just a few years ago).

When I thought about the session afterwards, I realized I had ran the game completely wrong. We were all so excited to get into a dungeon and start swinging some swords that we missed some opportunities. I could have explained the rules a little bit better. Not just the actual mechanics, but the additional items as well such as tactics. They were very young teenagers so they didn’t know about the option to run away (insert Monty Python and the Holy Grail joke here). I could have run a little role playing at the keep itself to give the players some rumors and allow them the opportunity to bring along some hirelings. As a DM, I also could have fudged the dice for newbie players. The dice were very savage in that particular session.

I had learned my lesson and tried to implement them in a game the next time I ran one (which wasn’t for quite some time after watching a few other GMs). When my brother asked me to run an introductory adventure I came prepared. I gave my niece and nephew their own set of RPG dice that I had just picked up from a local store. I had pre-made characters created before hand and allowed the two players to take first pick. My wife also played as a cleric in the party. As a veteran player, she would know when to step in and help and heal. I had the party get into role playing by having them approach a small village at the same time that a band of low powered orc raiders showed up. The raiders were quickly driven off, but the players found out (again through role play) that the raid was a distraction. While the town and party was trying to fend off the raiders, someone had broken into the village church and stole a sacred statue. A statue that the village believed they needed to keep themselves safe and was willing to pay the party to retrieve. They were able to quickly track down the orcs and enter the caverns that they were using as a base.

Long story short, my niece and nephew had fun. My brother loved watching them have fun. I heard later that my nephew had joined a gaming club at his school which allowed him to get involved with some social interaction.

So I guess things turned out all right in the end. But every once in a while, I wonder; what would have happened if I could have turned my siblings into participants of the RPG hobby? Think of the memories we could have made.

Final Thoughts:

I was kind of lukewarm on the other suggestions for this date. “Innovation”, “Quick” and “Surprise” all had items that could have been talked about. But nothing was really coming to the surface on these three topics.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek

#RPGaDay2021 Day 15: Supplement

Day 15: Supplement

All right. The topic of the day is “Supplement”. I’d like to post some covers from my favorite role playing game supplements that I’ve collected.

The Star Trek Ship Construction Manual by FASA: I used this supplement for the Star Trek Role Playing Game so much that I had to tape the book together. Not only had I collected every starship for the game from different supplements, modules and magazine articles, I used this book to create stats for vessels found in various tech manuals and blueprints. I started scanning some of the printouts that I made in the 90’s and you can find the ships (or links) here.

The Gazetteer series by TSR: I LOVED this series. I was a bigger fan of the BECMI Dungeons and Dragons game in my earlier days of gaming. As I mentioned during the Maps entry into the #RPGaDAY2021 Challenge, I loved the created world that was presented in the game. When I heard about the Gazetteers I knew I had to check them out. I remember hoping on a bus and taking a ride to a downtown book store just to pick up the first book. It had pull out maps and a ton of details on the lands that we had only briefly seen in the game manuals. I also liked how it added elements to the game such as Dwarf Clerics in The Dwarves of Rockholme supplement. I wondered if these extra rules ever got collected into a single book.

The Prisoner by Steve Jackson Games: I had played a few GURPS games, but I was not a big fan of the system. What I did like was the many, many supplements that was released for the system. Even though you may not play GURPS, the supplements contained a good amount of information that you could use for other games. Being a big fan of the British surreal spy-fi television series, The Prisoner, I had to pick up this book when it came out.

Final Thoughts:

This was a great topic. When I was creating the spreadsheet in July with all of the suggestions on them, I filled in an idea for this topic right away.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Quotes, Rant, Role Playing Games, Video Game

#RPGaDay2021 Day 12: Triumph

Day 12: Triumph

“To feel the thrill of victory…there has to be the possibility of failure. Where’s the victory in winning a battle you can’t possibly lose?” Dr. Pulaski- Elementary, Dear Data, Stardate: 42286.3

I’ve been playing role playing games for a long time. Probably longer than some of my readers have been alive. I’ve seen and heard about many different styles of gaming and GMing. I know these #RPGaDAY2021 posts are supposed to be focusing on the positive side of our hobby. But I wanted to make today’s post some constructive criticism.

I’ve never found “Monty Haul” campaigns enjoyable. For those of you not aware of what this is, let me quote page 229 of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition Dungeon Masters guide by Gary Gygax.

Monty Haul – A campaign (or the DM running it) in which greatly excessive amounts of treasure and/or experience are given out.

Further insight on this is where the name came from. Monty Hall was a game show host who’s famous program was “Let’s Make A Deal”. He was known for giving away a ton of prizes to the contestants. DMs and GMs who give a lot of unique items, money or experience points to players beyond the scope of their character level, run the risk of giving too much. Thus the term “haul” in “Monty Haul”.

I know that when I’ve reached the top of the mountain, I’ve accomplished a major goal. That mountain I may be climbing could be a earning rank advancement in my Star Trek club through service, a character I’ve moved from 1st to 15th level naturally, or even enjoying the vegetables from my garden that I tended all summer. If I’m a 3rd-Level Fighter, don’t bequeath me a castle just yet, I know that I haven’t earned it. Yet I’ve had a DM try to do that. Let me work my way through the levels, role playing my way in the game. I know eventually I’ll get that castle/hideout/wizard’s magical realm in another dimension.

Giving away items that are too powerful (or quickly running us up through the levels by awarding excessive experience points) reminds me of the cheat codes in video games. I’ve had friends that would only play these games with the cheat codes. They wanted to get through the story faster is what I was told. I only used cheat codes in very difficult circumstances or if I’ve already played the game a million times and I want to get past an unpleasant level. WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness was a really popular video game that I enjoyed. I would still play it now. It is also popular when we use to hold LAN parties (I haven’t heard that word in a long time) with WarCraft II being one of the games scheduled. I recall one LAN party where we all had our computers in the same room with our speakers on. We could hear where other players were at when units were created or buildings finished. You could not use cheat codes in WarCraft II without the benefits also being applied to the other players. So we agreed not to use them. As I was managing my resources and building my troops, I was able to create three Griffin lairs. Griffins were flying troops and very nasty in large numbers. I had planned it so that all three would generate a new unit at the same time. In the middle of the LAN party the sound coming from my speakers was not one, not two but three Griffin cries (the sound the unit made when it was ready for battle) happening one after the other. From across the room I suddenly heard one of my friends exclaim: “He has three Griffins? Crap! I haven’t even made it to Archers yet.” My triumph was listening to the sounds of panic fill the room as suddenly everyone was re-adjusting their defenses to counter my upcoming aerial assault.

There is no winning in role playing games other than everyone having fun. I believe that fun should come through overcoming the challenge naturally and not having triumph handed to me on a silver platter. Don’t give me a helicopter to fly to the top of the mountain, let me make that climb with the possibility of my character failing.

Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Final Thoughts:

Today’s suggestions was a difficult batch. It was days like this one that made me wonder if I wanted to participate in this challenge. Other days have been just as uninspiring. “Think” didn’t make me think of anything. Same with “Consensus” and “Deep”. I almost waited until the day of to see what other participants were posting about. But I also wanted to get these blog posts done in advance and schedule them for the day of. I was really worried that I was going to turn today’s post into a massive soapbox. I may have still stood on one, but I hope it helps some DMs/GMs with their future campaigns.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games

#RPGaDay2021 Day 11: Heavy

Day 11: Heavy

One of the marvels of our internet age is the ability to obtain almost any role playing book from a variety of sources. DriveThruRPG has a large number of current titles and some classic favorites. Charity sites such as Humble Bundle and Bundle of Holding always have sales where you can get a large number of PDF books at a very good price.

However there is nothing like the feel of a physical book in your hands. Every time I pick up a role playing book from the shelf, I feel like this..

These books had weight. The best books were laid out eloquently and had wonderful artwork. Even in my later gaming groups, while we still have access to the information in soft copy and internet, we still had our books on the table. If you had just one or two books, it wasn’t that big of a deal to throw them into a backpack and head off to your friends house for the session. I’ve known some RPG buddies that have started placing their books in those portable filing boxes (with the lids that lock and the handle on top). I even recall a friend from the early gaming days that purchased a moving trunk to put his books into. This way he could just place the trunk in his car when it was time to go to the game.

My last wizard character had an Excel spreadsheet for a character sheet (provided by the DM). I remember spending time making links on the spell list to the online descriptions for quick access. I’m starting to get use to reading books on my tablet (and I like the fact that I can mark some of the text for later reference). Having the RPG books at my fingertips on my laptop for quick reference has been very useful. But when it come time to introducing myself to a new gaming system or just reading an older gaming book to relax, there is nothing like the weight of a heavy book in your hands.

Final Thoughts:

“Wilderness” wasn’t a bad suggestion and I’m sure it will generate a lot of posts about hex crawl adventures. However I think I already touched upon that topic with “Explore” a few days ago. “Listen” will probably generate some posts about past stories of trying to listen at the door. Both were decent suggestions. “Despair” made me scratch my head. I don’t know how that could be a positive #RPGaDAY2021 entry.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart

Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games

#RPGaDay2021 Day 10: Light

Day 10: Light

One of the things that Game Masters have to keep in mind is the ingenuity of their players. I had one GM keep a tally sheet for the Star Trek RPG by Decipher game that he was running. He had goals he wanted to mark down as they were part of the plot. If we accomplished the items he had set out, we earned points for meeting them. Then he had a miscellaneous section on his tally sheet. We would come up with ideas and solutions that he hadn’t thought of.

Back in the days of gaming with my junior high crew, we had come up with a few of these unusual ideas. One that has stuck with me all these years has been the “D&D Flashlight”. One of the members in our party played a wizard. He took a wand that had run out of charges and cast a spell of continual light on it. He then took some black felt and lined it inside a small scroll case. When he needed light, he would open up the cap to the scroll case and it would shine a beam in one direction. It was a magical short range flashlight. He could pull the wand out if he wanted to use it as a lantern. When he was done, back in the special scroll case it went and the light was covered up.

Every once in a while I’ll see something that reminds me of an older gaming session and how we impressed or shocked (sometimes both) the Game Master.

Final Thoughts:

This was another set of suggestions that had some good and some bad in them. “Trust” was really broad and could have been anything. It is the same with “Conscience”. None of them really inspired me for a blog post. “Advantage” had some possibilities, but lost out on the memory of the “D&D Flashlight” recipe.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Movies, MST3K, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction

#RPGaDay2021 Day 8: Stream

Day 8: Stream

Inspiration can come from a wide variety of sources. The original source can be very good work, or it can be a bad one with a good idea, just poorly delivered. An example of this is the 2000 film, Battlefield Earth. Yes this disaster of a film actually inspired a story idea for me. It was being shown on a channel after midnight (probably the only way to really watch this box office bomb) and I didn’t need to get up in the morning so I decided to see if the rumors of how bad this movie was true. Let me just say, it’s very true. But the ending made me think, what would happen to a series of conquered worlds if the occupying aliens suddenly found their source of power and transportation gone?

So I love watching various science-fiction, fantasy and horror TV shows and movies. Both the good and the bad kind. If a show is too bad, I can elect to not watch it. There is plenty of other shows to move onto. But where can you find these shows? I have lots of memories in the 80’s and 90’s visiting the local video rental store. When I went with my family, I was always trying to find the weirdest, oddest film to watch. Often I was over ruled since my siblings usually wanted to watch something from Disney or other main-stream films. So later when I lived on my own, I had to be lucky to catch the show on a time it was aired (such as Battlefield Earth listed above) or I had to buy a VHS tape (later DVD). This had two issues, if it wasn’t a money maker, it may not have had a lot of media releases. When they were found, they were either really expensive, or really cheap in the discount bin. If cost wasn’t too big of a factor, what would I do with the media afterwards. I don’t mind buying DVDs of Star Trek or other favorites that I would enjoy watching at any time. But would I really want to watch Hell Comes to Frogtown again and again?

Luckily the internet came to our rescue. The rise of streaming services has given some of these diamond in the rough films a home where you can give them a view. So I thought I’d share where I’ve found some of my more unusual films. Yes there is a large variety on Netflix, Hulu or Paramount+. However these services are like cable channels. They only hold the rights to some films for so long (unless they are originals specifically for the streaming service). I’ve discovered that some of the streaming services like Amazon Prime, Pluto TV and Tubi have held some interesting titles. I’ve been able to watch some of the films in the Darkstalker series (boy that was cheesy). You can also find shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000, Creature Features, Elvira and more where they re-show off-kilter films (sometimes by adding comedy in the process).

Another amazing service for films and different documentaries has been plain old YouTube. As I type out this blog post, I’ve been watching episodes of Timeline (where they are building a medieval castle and exploring the life of ordinary people who built them).

I’ve also added apps on my Smart TV for Xumo, Crackle, Ruko TV and others, but I don’t get a chance to get into those as often. But you can find a cheesy 80’s sword and sorcery film that may give you an idea for your next Dungeons and Dragons game.

Final Thoughts:

I suspect that fifteen years ago this topic wouldn’t have come up in an #RPGaDAY style challenge. At least not one that would have inspired discussion on streaming services. I wonder if this single suggestion was used to gather links on possible streaming sources for other’s to explore?

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Trek

#RPGaDay2021 Day 6: Explore

Day 6: Explore

There are a couple of different types of role-playing styles played by fans of RPGs. Power gaming, more acting than dice rolling and a few others. One of the biggest styles is Exploring. Star Trek is a classic for this style of gaming. Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before. Finding a strange new world and discovering new life forms. While I’ve never had the opportunity to play Traveller, I understand that Exploring is a big portion of that game as well. There have been various rules in different Science Fiction games that gave a methodology of creating new worlds (FASA had a very interesting system) and new aliens. I remember being amazed that Starships and Spacemen had a system that could randomly decide what the aliens bumpy foreheads would look like.

The Dungeons and Dragons Expert Rules introduced Dungeon Masters and Players to the hex crawl. This was the next step up from exploring underground caverns and dungeons as described in the Basic Rules. What will the players encounter when they blaze a new path (hey did I just connect to another one of the words in the challenge?). I remember reading the rules and wondered how many times the DM would actually keep track of the party getting lost? Is the adventure in the travel or is the adventure in the destination? I don’t recall which one of the retro-clones it was, but one rulebook talked about how the regular population hardly moved past the regional area that was controlled by the local baron. This made travelers from other ares carriers of news. The locals would want to know what they saw on their exploration. This could lead to some role playing opportunities when the party reaches a tavern in a new town. That is, if the citizens of the town trust outsiders (insert dramatic music here). Something for DMs to consider between dungeons and hexcrawls.

Final Thoughts:

Flavor is one of the suggestions? Really? I wonder if anyone will really post about Flavor. Path kinda works alongside Explore (which I tried above). But I couldn’t think of anything that would be interesting to post about. I’m still scratching my head about Flavor as a suggestion. Chase could have been an interesting subject. I’ve heard that the James Bond RPG had a good chase system. I’ve just never played it to try it out. Flavor? What are we going to get the homebrew stats of Flavortown King Guy Fieri?

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Star Trek

#RPGaDay2021 Day 5: Community

Day 5: Community

The stereotype of a person who plays role-play games is not a good one. Like the Trekkie, the general public tends to look upon gamers as socially inept loners who happens to get together with a couple of other loners on a Saturday night and dress up like their characters. I’ve been gaming since the late 80’s and the only time I’ve seen someone dress up as their character was for a Halloween party.

I really think that the general population doesn’t realize how much the gaming community has grown. I still meet up with friends, and possible new friends, at local gaming stores. I talk with the clerk about what is selling and what is not. And while I miss publications like Dragon Magazine and Challenge Magazine, the internet has taken on the load that those publications once served.

Not only are there active gaming communities on social media like Twitter, Facebook and MeWe, but they tend to be more focused. Want a group that only talks about 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons? There is a Facebook Group for that. MeWe has a FASA Star Trek/Doctor Who RPG community. There are a ton of twitter accounts that you can follow for both classic games and the latest releases. Discord has also become a popular destination for the gaming community for several reasons. You can have private chat rooms to hold games in. You can share files in certain channels. It’s a combination social media and communications platform.

I still think that message boards serve a purpose of bringing together the gaming community. Like some social media pages, they can be very specific, or they can be very general in nature. I’m going to link a few of them here for others to check out.

Old School Trek– If you want to talk about classic Star Trek gaming, this is a place to go. This includes some of the older classic Trek games, semi-official games and fan made creations.

Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator Online Database and Archive– This message board specializes in topics for the FASA Starship Tactical Combat Simulator for the Star Trek Role Playing Game. Lots of ship designs and homebrews posted here.

Trek-RPG Forums– This message board talks about all of the different Star Trek RPG products that are out there. Unfortunately it is not as active as it use to be.

Basic Fantasy RPG Forums– Basic Fantasy is a good retro-clone of Dungeons and Dragons with a very active community providing new content.

RPG.net Forums– The good thing about this site is it is very active. You’ll be able to find just about anything here if you just ask. The bad thing is that it is very active. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of posts made at this site.

Now like any community, the gaming community has it’s good and it’s bad. But overall I think that the gaming community is a good one. RPG.net has a series of Secret Satan (a joke on Secret Santa) gift exchanges every year. I’ve also seen gamers who have never met offer support to other gamers in times of need.

And there has been an ongoing battle to improve the image of the gaming community. My favorite Dungeons and Dragons DM would take extra time to not only help new players (especially encouraging them with the math in the game) but he would take extra time to talk with a spouse or family member of a gamer to alleviate any concerns they might have (no D&D is not of the devil, etc.)

Final Thoughts:

While “Throne” was begging for a fantasy adventure blog entry, I just didn’t have one that I could post at the time. “Include” could have been integrated in the above post. “Gamble” didn’t bring anything to mind, but I could have talked about gambling in gaming if I had more experience in the subject.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart