About Me

Friday, April 15, 2016


I was with my Pennsylvania friends again, last weekend. I brought over Game Of Thrones season 5 and a bunch of board games, namely Loot Letter and Pandemic. We collectively kicked Pandemic's ass and then did a bunch of rounds of the Loot Letter. An awesome little game. I think that it makes more sense and has a better context for its cards than does its original version, Love Letter.

As we were getting ready to go out and eat and I was packing up the board-games, I heard the litany of what games they liked best - there was Escape From New York, Dungeon!, Elder Sign and Dungeons and Dragons. Wait, Dungeons and Dragons? That was the group that didn't want to play that game anymore after I finished my mega-dungeon in August 2009!

Did I hear them correctly? They want to play D&D again? I am not ready to run the Season 2 of Midlands again, but I can run them through classic AD&D Modules... they would like?... Really? Game on next time!

The other day I was playing Scrabble with a couple of members of my erstwhile New York City group. Same mega-dungeon ran out of steam with them back in the fall of 2012. This time it was because I got a new job and my G/F moved into my walk-up flat, and that brained me as a DM for a while. That and a loss of my arguably best player - mapper and caller combined - to an unhappy spouse who neded more quality time. For a year or so he was waiting for his player character to die, so that he could gracefulluy bow out, but he never got killed. That's how good that player is. Anyway,

I told them that I could run through my collection if AD&D modules, if they were interested... and they were.

So, I broke out my collection of AD&D Modules for starting characters. There are B1, B2, B3 on Horizon, Horror on the Hill. For my Pennsylvania group, I decided on the B8, Journey to the Rock as the first adventure. They are all former military, innocent of any knowledge of D&D rules or tropes. So, the wilderness adventure suits them better, to be followed by Horror on the Hill and Keep on the Borderlands, since they seem to like military patrol type of gaming. I was planning to use In Search of the Unknown as an opener to Season 2 of Midlands campaign. Of course, it wasn't going to be so easy, players will have to track the doomed expedition to that site, it will be a rescue mission, but before they can do that, they will have to investigare all over the Blacklands barony to figure out where the teen-age wouold be adventurers snuck off to. That was the big plan for the Quesqueton site.

For my New York City bunch, I will start with the clearing of the Castle Caldwell, from the B9 Module, to be followed by the Journey to the Rock. PA players already cleared that one way back in 2006.

Initially I was looking to run these adventures separately from the Midlands setting, but the more I think about it, the more stuff I come up with to incorporate these adventures into Midlands Season 2. It looks like I will be running two parallel campaigns in the same setting.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


They say that silence is acquiescence. If I can't call Pundit on his vileness on his blog, I will do so on my own, where this will get wider dissemination.

RPGPundit is beneath contempt. He wrote a good article on Tantric Buddhism, and got zero comments. Wrote a few more mediocre posts and got the same results. He then proceeded to ridicule and trash a rape victim and got a lot of comments. He then did a subsequent post and did more of a the same. Before I offer a glimpse of what RPGPundit actually is, I will address the original comments, which he ridiculed.

Comments here

While I don't agree with author's point of view, and I am well aware that there may be some political context behind this, I do not doubt the veracity of what she is describing, because I have seen much of the same over my years in gaming.

She confuses terrorism with mundane daily bullying and intimidation, which under U.S. law amounts to hostile work environment and makes employers liable for not providing people like her with a safe work environment. Secondly, this type of bullying harassment, in which RPGPundit freely engages, serves to drive the outsiders, the non-whites from their hobby community. The kind of crassness, which she describes is not accidental, but deliberate, and that type of rude boy harassment on the internet serves to deny access to outsiders to discussion forums. Again, if the internet space is employment base, the administration of the site may be liable for such harassment.

I will second the game store incident with one of my own. I was once talking to a similar kind of a clerk about the communication and cultural exchanges in antiquity, and that particular person started glorifying the rape and pillaging of yore. I was taken aback by the glee, and later understood, that this was a sexually frustrated individual, who was stuck in the same dead end low salaried position twenty years later, product of a white middle class household, where he could not afford the lifestyle of his parents in our modern shrinking economy. She is right on the money on that one. The ugly underbelly of suburban middle class geeks doomed to economic destitude if not for their parents.

I am not sure what to make of her Keycon rape incident. It sounds like she is describing the effect of Rohypnol on her body in accurate detail. This was Canada. had this happened in the US, presence of Rohypnol confirmed with a blood test and with the proper measures taken by convention staff and the police to identify the alleged rapist, would have gotten a mandatory minimal 8 year sentence if this was prosecuted in the U.S. Sounds like something had happened to her at that convention and she did not get justice.

Racism is real. I was talking to some otherwise sane Australian cops once, when the subject of the Australian Aboriginals came up. It was as if a dam burst - the stream of disgust and derision that poured out, driving the point that aboriginals are something less than human. Most angry boy D&D gamers are too insulated inside their geekiness and their parents' suburban homes to actually be aware of what racism is and how it is played out. Case in point: I am with some of my friends at an archery range. They are decked out in camouflage hunters tactical gear head to foot. All of a sudden a dozen or so LRP archer march on the range, all dressed as elves. They got simple wooden bows you can get for 20 bucks. There is a black guy with his white girlfriend, who is dressed as an Elf. The black guy is handsome, obviously former military who spent a few years in Germany. He is uneasy and is giving us nervous looks, thinking that we might be trouble. The entire LRP contingent is oblivious. They had no clue.

Regarding the RPGPundit, he is a shameless opportunist who will do anything to market his materials. Notice how he will never criticize any publisher, who could potentially help him. This is a man, who never threw a punch in anger, dug a ditch, or put in a full day of real physical labor. Despite his obsession with supernatural, spirituality eludes him, the way empathy eludes a psychopath. He is a short fat man with a scraggly beard, reminding one of an Ettercap, a Forgotten Realms mythical humanoid spider creature, hiding behind a mask on a photograph, and hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. Make no mistake, he is a right-wing racist. Just look at his description of his wild west game - he thinks in terms of racial and ethnic stereotypes. If his writing offends you, do not buy his products. Boycott him, until he apologizes to your satisfaction. I understand that everyone has a right to make a living, especially, when you can't make a decent living doing what you love best, but the vileness of his recent posts does not allow me to ignore him.

Friday, April 1, 2016


By now we have established that to bring a truly two-dimensional sandbox campaign to life, we need a keyed area map, backed with a well developed setting of your own design, that you will know like the back of your hand, and also a Timeline for the place that exists outside your players and is largely independent of their actions. The goal of the campaign, the measure of the players success, is how much and in what direction the players were able to affect the events in Timeline with their adventuring. The players need not be aware of this, by the way. If they develop interest and what is known as Player Agency, they will figure out what they need to accomplish and will align themselves with one or more sides involved in the events.

The one last thing that is left to do is to breathe life into your sandbox. You do this by requiring players to play through the lives of their characters between the adventuring - leveling up, acquiring knowledge, spending wealth, healing, and keeping track of the time that they do. Gary Gygax writes in his DMG about the importance of keeping track of days between the dungeon expeditions for the purposes of keeping track of the party members as they go about their separate ways between the adventures and have to get together for the next adventure.

The way you set your sandbox in motion is by creating a set of random events tables to cover your world. Usually yearly events at national level, seasonal events at regional, and monthly events at the local level of the city, town or village, where the players are based. In addition, there should be weekly events in the lives of your players. This, and the wilderness map key, is your real and only chance to immerse your players in your world and show them what is in it. Does your world have volcanoes or purple mountains? Dark forests or elven cities with landscaped wilderness? Your area maps should show these details. Events likewise, should show off your unique setting. Pick up Gary Gygax's Oriental Adventure supplement, that he published in 1985. In it he invented the use of random events to make the players' setting be reminiscent of the classical Chinese literature that he bases the setting on. He breaks the major yearly events into three tables - Sociopolitical events, natural events, and special events. There are weddings, princely births, comets, famines, peasant uprisings ands visiting armies. This is your chance to express your unique and original setting in terms of major events that happen in it.

The second book that you may find helpful in The Insidiae, which I reviewed previously, the Vol. 5 of the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds series. Essentially, that book is the version of the Oriental Adventure created for the more storyline centered conventions of the AD&D Second Edition game rules. It features NPC centered adventure design - you create NPC's, give them a role in the story of your players, and the adventure hooks come out of their motivation. I don't like it for many reasons, primarily because it was written by someone who is neither a literary scholar, nor a genuine gamer, so the ideas seem a bit abstract and generic. Also I don't like the casualness in which powerful magical items, demons, and other fantasy elements are treated. Everything is mundane and is taken for granted. Where the Insidiae book works wonders for me, is in setting the timeline for each area in your campaign setting. You get to flesh out the underlying issues and the direction of the historic development for each individual region. When I tested it on my own Midlands campaign setting, it coalesced beautifully with my own ideas about the place and formed a rich backstory for the place, a neighboring Barony to the east of Barony, where players are based. I could also use the Backstory as the inspiration for the random major events that will be scheduled on the campaign calendar, that will include fairs, celebrations, religious festivals, that happen regularly in that fantasy world.

Finally, with the fantasy world in motion, we need to create events that affect your players to distract them from their daily business of life. Keep in mind that your thieves and magic users will be affiliated with guilds, your players will be somebody's warriors or men at arms or knight errants, if they have the money to afford it, etc etc, every player will have his or her routine and some kind of minimal affiliation with the outside world. Into this routine, you throw random events, which cover events at their guilds or places of business, encounters with friends, enemies, patrons, family members - NPC's of significance. Players own backstories are a great source for random events for the player characters - mostly people from their claimed (by the player) past coming to visit them and sometimes player characters' past coming back to haunt them. That is why I say, anything that is said in the campaign is CANON, whatever players want to claim for their charters is fine - exiled princes, demons, sons of King Arthur, it's all good! No need to roll for 3d6 starting gold if your dad is a rich vampire! Of course, a good DM can twist all these fairy tales into deadly and terrifying adventures for players! Another thing I like doing, making players roll 3d6 or 4d6 pick the highest against each ability. Players can roll up a smany sets of stats as they like until they get the character that they truly like! DM saves all of the rolled sets of stats. These all will come into game as NPC's from the player character's past trying to kill them.

And there you have it!

A Sandbox!