Archive for the ‘Role-playing games’ Category

1
Feb

Other D&D Items of Note

   Posted by: Jim   in Role-playing games

To follow up from my previous post, a few more D&D anniversary items of note that I’ve run across in the past few days (if you haven’t seen them already):

First, Jon Peterson (author of Playing at the World) presents a video called A History of D&D in 12 Treasures, in which he lays out the game’s pre-history via 12 rare or unpublished objects.

Another video is a trailer for a documentary about D&D called The Great Kingdom, which looks like it could be interesting (warning: Zeppelin soundtrack).

Finally, a couple of great posts reminiscing about D&D: the first from Matt Forbeck, the second from Ethan Gilsdorf.

For more thorough coverage of the web’s thoughts on D&D’s 40 anniversary, you might also check out this post on Dungeons and Dreamers, in which I’m honored to be included.

D&D

When Gary Gygax died, I considered doing a podcast covering Dungeons and Dragons, but then I got busy and the moment passed.

A year or so later, when Dave Arneson died, I considered the same, but work was eating up all of my time, and again it didn’t happen.

So now, here it is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. And I am once again utterly unprepared with any sort of recording. But despite that, I can’t let this moment go by with notice.

I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in 1977. I had loved games up to that point — my family regularly played traditional (i.e. Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley) board games and card games, but nothing beyond that. My mother bought it for me (possibly due to my interest in Tolkien) and introduced me to a new world. I quickly shared it with my friends, and our regular lunchtime games of penny hockey and paper football became dungeon crawlers. We role-played at lunch for years, quickly upgrading to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, then expanding to other games such as Dragonquest, Runequest, Villains and Vigilantes, Traveller and Top Secret (some of which I’ve covered as podcasts). The friendships I built there carried me through some of the worst of middle school, and through high school.

The new world of games I discovered was broader than role-playing games. In seeking other players and shops that sold D&D modules, I discovered wargames, and some of the hobby games that were becoming more available to the broader public at that time. I slowly became hooked on games in general.

Love of video games was even driven by love of D&D. Just down the street from me, an early form of gaming cafe opened. The owner had bought a set of Apple IIs, and would let people rent floppy discs (for the save files) and come play the games he had available. I, of course, would go play Wizardry for hours on end. The cafe eventually closed, and I, in desperation to play a computer RPG, wrote my own based on the random encounter and room placement tables in the Dungeon Master’s guide (I did, however, rewrite armor class increase in number as it increased in strength, and to absorb damage).

D&D even inspired me to buy my first copy of National Lampoon (scandalous, I know). After school one day, I took a long bus trip to the west side of Buffalo, seeking a small shop which sold crystal dice and various other role-playing paraphernalia. After getting the dice — and come to think of it, my copy of Top Secret — I stopped into a convenience store and saw the Sword and Sorcery issue. Fate, I figured, so I bought it. I still have that magazine, stashed in my Basic D&D box.

I stopped role-playing for the most part after high school, taking it up again briefly with my co-workers when I entered the game industry (Shadowrun and Mage) and continuing up to the point when D&D 3rd Edition came out. But our group petered out and so I returned my dice back to their bags, with only occasional one-off adventures. But as you can see from the above, despite my leaving role-playing, D&D has never really left me.

So what would have that podcast included? Well, the plan was to do a revised history of D&D, covering David Wesely as the originator of proto-roleplaying games, and speculating on the actual contributions of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax to what eventually got published as D&D. However, since my itch to do that, the book Playing at the World by Jon Peterson has come out. It discusses the early days of miniature wargaming and reportedly has excellent coverage of the history of D&D, with much better documentation than I could have dug up (if you’re not already aware of it, Peterson is also the one pushing January 26th as the publication date of D&D, based on his research). You can also check out his blog, with treatment beyond the book. Fred Hicks, of Evil Hat fame, also has a good history of D&D as well — you can read a portion of it here. So read those books, and whenever you throw the dice, think of Arneson and Gygax, the ones who started it all.

(Oh, and before I go, let me tell you about my character. His name is Manthridor, and he’s a half-elven fighter-mage… wait, come back… I haven’t told you the best part…)

So much for every Monday. I let the links pile up until I felt there was enough for a post, and then got overwhelmed. Ah well, time to dig in.

In old RPG news, we have a few items. First, there’s the concluding articles to Ken Denmead’s Top 10 D&D Modules series: #7 Finale. I approve of both choices (but still no Barrier Peaks?).

Second, Allen Varney (no roleplaying slouch himself) has an interview over at the Escapist with Marc Miller, creator of Traveller.

The retro videogaming department is busy this week. For recent homages, we have Greg Costikyan at Play This Thing! with a review of a Japanese rogue-like and Z over at GeekDad with a review of a NES/SNES clone. For the latter, I’m glad Mur has her old SNES — this thing sounds like a cheap knockoff.

In nods to the past, Marc Cerny, creator of Marble Madness and contributor to many a Naughty Dog and Insomniac game (disclosure: I work for Insomniac Games) has been inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame. And around the same time Marble Madness came out, there was Starflight, one of the most complex games of its time. Erin Hoffman at the Escapist covers the story of its development.

Finally, a rather interesting story about how partnerships can go awry. Apparently, Konami, the creators of Yu-Gi-Oh, discovered that someone was creating bootleg cards, thereby both profiting from their creation and polluting the market with counterfeits. Little did they suspect that someone was their partner, Upper Deck… Cult-Stuff has all the details.

I keep collecting links, so here are some more. As a side note, in a wild attempt at scheduled behavior, I’m going to try to store up my vintage-gaming related links and post every Monday.

Long time listeners will remember my very early review of M.U.L.E. Well, there’s another version out there, this time at http://www.planetmule.com/. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it looks like there are clients for Windows, Mac and Linux, and eventually Debian. You do register with the site, but I don’t think they have a central matchmaking server, as they mention using the forum for that. The one strike against them is they credit Dan Bunten, not Danielle Bunten, against her wishes, but it’s probably worth taking a look if you’re a M.U.L.E. fan.

In more D&D related content, we have a repeat of a series at GeekDad, where Ken Denmead reviews the Top Ten D&D modules he found while cleaning up his storage shed. I don’t see Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but otherwise looks to be a good list of classics: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

In another GeekDad post (I need to get out more), Michael Harrison interviews Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, a memoir/rediscovery of the geek life. Plus, until January 13 (Wednesday), you can enter a contest to win a copy of the book. See the article for more details.

Finally, yesterday Terry Cavanagh’s retro platformer VVVVVV was released. I tried out the demo and it’s definitely worth it. It’s challenging and fun, and has a very nifty mechanic where you can switch the “floor” to either the top or the bottom of the screen. For a fuller review, check out this one by Anthony Burch on Destructoid.

Still trying to get my feet under me for the New Year — or the new year, however it’s spelled. In any case, here are some interesting vintage gaming links that have been sitting in my RSS feed:

First, James Maliszewski has a nice little article up at The Escapist, entitled “Founding Fathers.” In it, he covers the history of wargames, from von Riesswitz’s Kriegspiel to David Wesley’s Braunstein (the progenitor of Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign).

Related to this is Monte Cook’s most recent article at the aforementioned The Escapist magazine about the original supplements to D&D record the evolution of the rules. This is a follow-up to his previous post on D&D, already covered here.

Second, Greg Costikyan talks about the background for his new board game, Megacorps, and how he inadvertently created a future history through game design.

Greg also has a review of the Civil War tabletop game A House Divided (designed by Frank Chadwick in 1981). I haven’t played this one, but based on Greg’s review I think I’ll give it a shot as I’m a huge Civil War (or the “recent unpleasantness”) buff.

Finally, on the video gaming front, Nathan Barry on Geekdad reports that Tatio has released a remake of Arkanoid for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Many are the hours I spent playing Arkanoid on my Mac SE — as it was pirated, perhaps I should purchase a copy to balance the books. And you should too, because it’s tons of fun.

Hope your holiday season was a good one and you got to play lots of games! And if not, you’ve got a whole year ahead so get to it…

25
Oct

More on Basic D&D

   Posted by: Jim   in Role-playing games

Looks like it’s D&D month at The Escapist. This time it’s an article by James Maliszewski, talking about how he figured out Basic D&D with his friends — or didn’t really.

My friends and I were only a few years older than he was, and I’m still not sure how we figured it out. Determination, maybe. Ah well, as he says, a lifetime of gaming ensued…

18
Oct

Monte Cook critiques Original D&D

   Posted by: Jim   in Role-playing games

I had planned at some point to cover the original version of Dungeons and Dragons on the podcast. It’s pretty unlikely at this point that this will happen — I planned it all out and found that I really didn’t have much to add to the mass of critique and commentary that the game has received. In fact, I’d say it’s safe to say that this episode, which was to be the next one, has been a factor in the long delay of the podcast in general. I keep trying to rework it and it just doesn’t happen. So in the interest of moving on, check out Monte Cook’s brief critique of the original three books.

As a side note, I have to agree with Mr. Cook about the quality of the writing. After looking at my basic D&D rules (the blue book mit dem Dragon), I can’t figure out how I and my seventh-grade compatriots figured out how to play. While conversational in tone, it’s nearly incomprehensible and certainly incomplete, especially compared to today’s RPGs. But then, I doubt the original Basic D&D was meant to be complete. I believe that Gygax intended that Advanced D&D was the One True Path, and Basic D&D was nod to the past (a lot of the material came from the original three books) but ultimately a gateway drug to the New Shiny. But enough of the customers disagreed that we ended up with the odd case of two different flavors of D&D (AD&D and Basic/Expert) for many years.

But enough of that. I’m moving on. I think.

At long last, the annual Origins episode of The Vintage Gamer. As this is the third year, this officially makes it a cherished tradition. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there was no podcasters panel so instead I went around and did some interviews at some of the small press booths. A big “Thank You” to all who participated — if what you hear interests you, please support them with your dollars.

For a fuller picture of the show, I recommend you check out The Spiel Origins episode for a lot more show floor interviews, and the Dice Tower Origins episode for more info and a nice interview with (Spiel des Jahres winner!) Reiner Knizia.

Featured interviews:

Pictures of my trip to Origins including most of these folks can be found on my flickr feed. You can also see the lovely new sewer line.

1
May

Traveller Revamp

   Posted by: Jim   in Role-playing games

[From Purple Pawn] Mongoose Publishing, current publisher of Paranoia and RuneQuest, has just released a new version of the classic space trading RPG, Traveller. I haven’t taken a look at it myself, but they have previews on their site, including looks at character creation (hopefully you can’t roll a dead character), combat, and world creation. They’re also planning to expand the settings supported to include other space opera, such as Judge Dredd and Starship Troopers.

For those who want to play the original Traveller, QLI/RPGRealms has a single book that reprints the first three “little black books”, plus many other reprints and Classic Traveller-related items. They also have a d20 version of Traveller, but really, why bother…

Link

After an even longer hiatus, I’m back — at least for the moment. This week I have an interview from GDC 2007 with another gaming luminary, Eric Goldberg of Crossover Technologies. We talked for forty-five minutes about his history in the gaming industry — covering wargames, tabletop RPGs, boardgames and briefly about his later work in online and mobile games.
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