Sunday, January 29, 2017

I purchased an iPad

I've never been a big fan of PDFs for my gaming books. Nothing in my mind can beat the smell, the feel, and the touch of a physical gaming book. However, more and more often I'm getting PDF copies from backing Kicstarts, bundled with physical books, or smaller publishers that only publish to PDF. With all of these PDFs, I wanted an easier way to read them. This past week I purchased an iPad Pro 9.7 with 32GB of storage. I'm actually typing this blog post using the Logitech keyboard case that I purchased with my iPad at the Apple Store. 

I'm going to start reading my PDF books and will be posting reviews and thoughts. I'm actually going to try to use this iPad Pro as my main computing device as I hate hauling around a laptop with me. 

Hopefully this means I will publish more content.

Thanks!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Discworld Roleplaying Game Review

During the summer of 2016 across various social media platforms I engaged in discussion with other GURPS fans about ways to get more players playing GURPS. I always wanted an easy entry point product for players to get into the system, see how it works, and quickly get into playing the game. Dungeon & Dragons, and many other systems have an introduction boxset that players can buy into and start playing. GURPS has GURPS Lite but that’s a free PDF and really tailored, in my opinion, to experienced gamers. GURPS Lite doesn’t make it easy for players with limited or no experience find their way into GURPS. This leads me into the Discworld Roleplaying Game.

SJ Games released a 2nd edition of their Discworld Roleplaying Game at the end of November 2016. It is the first physical GURPS book release in a few years and currently buying the physical book is the only way to purchase it. The Discworld Roleplaying Game is a hefty tome coming in at 408 pages with a full glossy hardcover and black & white interior. I know that many times reviews will go through a book chapter by chapter giving an overview of what a player will find while including some criticism of what is found in the chapter. I’m going to take a different approach with this review and instead discuss the overall product, who will really enjoy the product, and finally, why I think this product is such a great entry point into the GURPS system.

The book introduces right way what roleplaying games are, what GURPS is (including a publication history), and is pretty much the standard introduction chapter we are all used to as experienced gamers. The book then goes into a brief introduction to the Discworld and it does a really good job here. Many times with licensed books like this it’s always a balancing act on whom to the aim the game for. Should it be for the diehard fans of the underlying property? Or should it be designed for both fans of GURPS and fans of the Discworld. I actually think that the Discworld Roleplaying Game can be a valuable product for GURPS players with no real interest in playing on the Disc, as well as Discworld fans that have no experience with GURPS and have never played a roleplaying game. The games author, Phil Masters, who has written multiple GURPS supplements, did a brilliant job creating a book that serves both audiences well.  One part of the introduction chapter “On the Back of Four Elephants” that I found useful is the idea of narrative causality. Which is easily explained that Dragons breathe fire not because of any technical or scientific reasoning but just because that’s what Dragons do. For fans of GURPS that are not necessarily fans of Discworld, we will hand wave the idea of narrative causality as being something that’s good for the story and one of my guiding principles as a GM is never to fudge the die rolls and the introduction to the book does a really good job explaining this principle for newcomers to the hobby as well as, for me, putting into words something that I instinctually understand but have never been able to properly verbalize. The chapter tells a story of the “Brave Peasant Lad Who Outwits the Troll”, and for many gamers we think if we fudge the rules it may make a better story, but the book warns players to be careful doing this. Because, the real story may be that he’s actually one of the “Twenty Poor Peasants Eaten By The Troll Before the Knight Comes Along”. Something I’ve always tried to articulate to my players both old and new is that the reason I don’t believing in fudging the rules is that the players actions and their results (influenced by player choice and chance) is what tells the story and if we use meta gaming tricks we may be cheating ourselves out of the story. The book moves through explaining the Discworld to players with and without experience with Sir Terry Pratchett’s fantastic fiction series.
The book then gives players a trimmed up version of the GURPS system, including:  character creation, the concept of tech levels, advantages, disadvantages, skills, and traits. One thing that makes this book a great as an introductory product to GURPS is that the skills, advantages, disadvantages, and traits are all paired down from the full list which can be found in the Basic Set. The Skills are well presented by being grouped into categories which makes it easier for players to find a specific skill by looking under the grouping. When I’ve talked to players with some experience to GURPS or familiarity with GURPS many times the reservations they have is that they think GURPS is too complicated. When, I’ve always found, that GURPS is quite easy to play at the table but can be daunting to create characters for due to all the options players have.

The second largest chapter in the book is entitled “Doing Stuff” and it gets into the nuts and bolts of how GURPS players. From success rolls all the way to the updated magic system. Like character creation this chapter streamlines what can be found in the Basic Set. One issue I found that could impact new GMs is that there isn’t any task difficulty modifiers which could make it harder for new GMs to build a framework on what penalties and bonuses to give. The combat system does a really good job of shortening what is found in the Basic Set and making very easy for novice GURPS players to read, understand, and enjoy. The biggest change for player used to GURPs is the magic system. The system used in the Discworld Roleplaying Game is more tied to storytelling than the system generally used by GURPS. The rest of the book primarily deals with the Discworld. Giving players what they need to get in and run a campaign within the world Sir Terry created. I have read most of the books and I found enjoyment from these chapters. If a player had little to no experience with the novels by the end of these chapters they will know enough to run a campaign within the Discworld and have a lot of fun.

Back to my discussion from this past summer. How can I get more players into GURPS? I’m a transplant of Northern California to Wisconsin. Being a GURPS fan without a GURPS group is hard. I have run demos at local conventions here in Wisconsin and when finished offering players a copy of GURPS Lite or recommending the Basic Set were all I could do. What I’m most happy about with this book is now for $40, a player gets a self-contained game book that teaches players the fundamentals of GURPS. By pairing down the rules why still teaching players the fundamentals if players completely new to roleplaying games (or novices) or for players inexperienced with GURPS become interested they have an easy platform that gives them a strong foundation to graduate into the full GURPS line.  I think the upcoming Dungeon Fantasy will be another great entry point for new players.  For someone that’s trying to build a GURPS community so I have more people to play with, I am eternally grateful for that.

Some final thoughts on the Discworld Roleplaying Game: the art while black and white is very well done. I tend to be a fan of simpler art than many modern games that can feature overproduced full color pieces. I think that sometimes simpler (while still very good) art can hold up longer and be more inspirational, at least for me. My copy of the book covers/pages don’t lie flat. I don’t know if it is an issue with the binding of my book, the thinness of the hardcover, or what. But if you have had some issues with your book please leave some comments and let me know. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Happy #GURPSDay

Thursday is #GURPSDay and I wanted to write a post to join in. GURPS is actually the first RPG I ever played. My older brother and his friends played and when he would have them spend the night (they were in high school and I was in elementary through middle school) my parents made them let me join in. It was a lot of fun. Prior to this my gaming experiences were limited to video games, board games, and games like Dragon Strike and Hero's Quest. I loved that GURPS was so free form that I could do whatever I wanted. In High School, I ended up joining a Rifts game my freshman year and then moving into AD&D 2nd Edition. I did get back into GURPS with the release of 4th Edition in the early 2000's but I could never get a group to stick.

Now that I'm (almost) 34 and have a family of my own I have started to wax nostalgic on my past and I had a lot of good times playing GURPS. More than I have had play any other RPG. So I went out and purchased the characters book as well as the campaign book. I kept my copy of Infinite Worlds from the early days along with my copy of Banestorm. I saw GURPS for Dummies one day at Half Price Books and got that as well. What really got me back into it was The Mook's website. He has a book teaching players how to GM GURPS that I highly recommend. Right now, I just don't feel confident in myself to GM it. I am reading books, articles, and trying to find all the actual play podcast/videos I can and then when I feel more confident I'm going to run a demo at my FLGS here in Milwaukee. I'd love to have a bi-monthly (that is twice a month) game in the Infinite Worlds setting.

If you're a GURPS fan I recommend you participate in #GURPSDay or if you're interested in GURPS I'd suggest you read through all the blogs that participate. One thing about the GURPS community is that everyone I have ran into is friendly. There isn't the anger or "tribalism" that other gaming communities seem to have. People all seem to be more interested in the game than promoting the One True Way of Play that I found in other gaming communities. Don't be afraid to join in. +Douglas Cole runs #GURPSDay and check out his blog!

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Week Ahead

I've got a busy week ahead as it relates to gaming. My copy of The Hero's Journey Roleplaying Game should arrive on Wednesday.  I'm really looking forward to reading it and posting thoughts/pics. My copy of Dark Albion should be here by the end of the week. I'm going to pick up "The Eye of the World" in hardcover from Barns & Noble today. I am actually a really big fan of The Wheel of Time series but I haven't actually finished the books. Now that they are all written I'm going to try to slay that dragon this summer. I've read the first five or six books a couple times in various stages. I own a lot of them on the Kindle but I'm actually getting back into physical books. I just miss holding the actual book. So, I'm ordering the books one by one (as I complete them) in hardcover so I can keep them on the shelf.

A shelf full of books is a magical thing. I remember to this day picking up my dad's copy of The Hobbit from our shelf in Rocklin California when I was in the sixth grade. The book had the JRR Tolkien's drawing of the forest/mountains with the red sun and the eagle flying in the distance. The cover spoke to my 12 year old self and drew my imagination. I want my kids to be able to have that same experience and digital just doesn't do it for me.

I'll try to make at least two most postings this week.

Friday, May 20, 2016

LuLu Purchases

I made a couple of OSR purchases from LuLu this week and they both shipped. The first purchase I was The Hero's Journey Fantasy Role-Playing game and the second is from The RPG Pundit and it is his historical based RPG setting Dark Albion.

I purchased The Hero's Journey Fantasy Role-Playing game based on the recommendation of +Benoist PoirĂ© and some photos he posted on FaceBook. I am a huge fan of JRR Tolkien and love the Tolkien inspired cover. I haven't played Sword &Wizardry before but it is a self-contained product.

When it comes to Dark Albion I have read a lot of positive reviews. I know that the RPG Pundit is controversial and blusterous but I enjoy his writing (from his blog) and I do post on theRPGSite and find the management there to be fair and good. I was drawn to this setting because I am a huge fan of "historical" based settings. I love the setting for Ars Magic and would play in it if the system was more to my liking. My favorite MMO is Dark Age of Camelot. I like that I can read a novel from Bernard Cornwell or learn more from history and directly apply it to the game.

When I receive the products next week I'll post photos and after I read them I'll make sure to give my thoughts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why does Castle & Crusades Receive so much derision from OSR Gamers?

I'm going to admit that I'm not the most up to speed when it comes to RPG communities. I got started gaming in my older brother's GURPS games. I then started playing Rifts my freshman year of high school (back in 1996). I didn't start playing AD&D 2E until the summer of 1997 when I purchased the BirthRight campaign setting and then the Introduction to AD&D box set from my local Comics & Comix store.

I went through a 3.x phase in 2000-2003 but I felt into HackMaster 4E for a long time. I didn't really get into other games until I played a game of Castle & Crusades at a local gaming con here in Milwaukee the Nexus Game Fair. I really enjoyed it. I found the rules to be simple while giving me the old AD&D 1E/2E feeling that the original and games like HackMaster gave me. At this time I wasn't aware of the OSR movement at all. I'm still not exactly sure what the OSR movement actually is.

Is OSR gaming just about cloning the original rule sets of D&D? Is it only going to be the Tandy of pen and paper gaming? Do we really want a Tandy 1000 or Tandy 2000 product? On the other hand, sometimes I read about the OSR movement being more of a "feeling" or a "way to play" games which is what got me excited. A lot of modern gaming moved away from the games being focused on player action and then based on the players action the "story" unfolds into the story being told being the prime motivator of the system. I hate that. I like games that allow players to quickly get into the action and not get bogged down so they can be creative with what their characters want to do. But, I also don't want the system to be focused on telling the story. I want the system to be more like the physics of the universe they are playing in and dependent on the players actions but no systems that influence the story directly. An example would be beanies from Savage Worlds or Action Points from D&D 3.5.

Anyway, back to Castle & Crusades. I played in a game at Nexus Milwaukee and had a blast. So, I picked up a few books when TLG had a sale and was happy. I agree with +Erik Tenkar that Castle & Crusades is a Rosetta Stone for AD&D. I love that I can easily run any module or monster with Castle & Crusades with minimal changes. But, when I read forums (such as TheRPGSite) when Castle & Crusades is brought up it seems not to be well liked by the OSR intelligentsia. They seem to prefer systems that attempt to clone pre-1991 rules. But, sometimes, they are okay with the DCC RPG but less okay with C&C.

I guess I am always going to be grateful to Castle & Crusades for getting me back into pen & paper gaming and opening up my eyes to games that I wouldn't have played prior to playing in that one C&C game at a con.

Monday, May 16, 2016

5 Months Later....

I wanted to start writing on this blog. But, this has been a really hard year for my family and I. In January my family was in a hit and run accident with a drunk driver. Some college kids hit us and drove off. Luckily everybody was safe and happy but I made a (grave) error in December by switching to GEICO and when I changed auto insurance I never had collision protection and I didn't know that the policy didn't cover me. So, I had to come up with about $7,000 to cover repairs, a rental, car seat, etc. which made it really hard for me to get through. Then, a couple a weeks ago my wife broke her foot while at school which required surgery and a follow up hospital stay to deal with complications from said surgery.

The good news is that I am now going to try to start posting 3-5 postings a week. The content will vary from news, reviews, links to cool things, and whatever else is tickling my fancy. Today I wanted to share a link to a new OSR RPG I purchased through Lulu: The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying book. It's based on and fully compatible with Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox a system that I'm actually not familiar with. I picked this book up mainly because of the JRR Tolkien inspired cover and reading about the product online that this system gets into some of the great stuff that AD&D 2E brought into the hobby. The game will take 3-5 days to print and another 2-5 days to be delivered via the United States Post Office. I opted for the full cover version of the book. Once I receive it I'll be sure to post some pictures and I am thinking about recording a YouTube video discussing the book.

That's all for this morning. I'll try to be back this afternoon with another post.