Showing posts with label IRL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IRL. Show all posts

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Inaugural 2022 Post

Welcome to 2022! The year of Time Runner and Soylent Green. 

As promised, I will continue to do science fiction and fantasy book reviews. Last year I was heavy on the sci-fi so this year I hope to swing the other direction into fantasy. 

It's January 2nd and I have already burned most of a $75.00 B&N gift card and a good chunk of an Amazon Gift Card. And read a book, Inhibitor Phase by Alastair Reynolds. I have a couple of other books lined up for review this year, classics like Fritz Leiber's Swords Against Deviltry and a newer title, After Dark by Michael and Shell DiBaggio. I also have Aurora Rising, Permafrost, The Winds of Gath for my Traveller friends and Sanctuary for you murderous thieves lurking out there. 

Lastly, I have picked up about 7 game titles from Noble Knights and DriveThruRPG to round everything out.

I hope you stay tuned this year. Don't forgot to click those Amazon links above and join me on a year of epic reading. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Chaotic Good Fun - A True Lie

Ever have one of those players that creates a character that just doesn't make sense? You know the kind. The person who shows up with a Chaotic Good Assassin. 

Actually, this story is not about me. Well, sort of. 

I did create a Chaotic Good Assassin as a part of a party tasked with killing off the evil overlord of the land. I can't remember the lord's name but let's call him Lord Farquaad. 

Now for the setup. I was late for the session that night and missed the bit about killing the lord "someday". Since I was late, the DM handed me a set of pre-generated stats. I was only allowed to shift scores around or swap points for prime requisites so I didn't have the stats to be anything interesting. 

The DM looked mulled over my sheet while describing the villain and prompted me to fill out a character description. You know, the boring eye color, hair color, skin color, etc. Since he just described the lord, I simply wrote down what DM said. Since I just pulled a fast one with the alignment, I didn't wait to draw attention to myself by flat out stating that my assassin character looked just like his quarry, Lord Farquaad.  

Right off the bat, I had a humorous way of wrecking this campaign and went for it. My character infiltrated the castle and promptly failed to kill the lord. The only person to see my assassin was Lord Farquaad and the would-be assassin managed to escape by a dangerous and inexplicably lucky leap into the moat. 

Rather than getting upset by my shenanigans, the DM ran with it. Since Lord Farquaad was hunting just one obvious assassin, it gave the party all kinds of opportunities to bushwhack him. Ultimately, the lord survived all of these attacks and went on a crazy, bloodthirsty hunt for the party. He used my foolishness to really make this lord despicable. 

That's where my rouse kicked into high gear. The party fled to the silver mines. We infiltrated the lord's own most secure outpost posing as guards. At this point, my character's secondary gambit was discovered by the DM. A Magic-User was detecting alignments on new guards and the DM was non-plussed to discover my assassin wasn't evil. 

Where it became laughable was when my character got his hands on some forged paperwork that said his name imperfectly matched Lord Farquaad's. His cover story was his mother had a tryst with Lord Farquaad and she had high hopes for becoming the legitimate Lady of the Kingdom, to the point of naming her son "Lord Farquaad". His first name was actually "Lord". This got snickers all the way around the table. 

Suddenly, the whole theme of the game shifted to a ridiculous, fantasy version of the film, "Catch Me If You Can". 

Now here is the really funny part. I didn't come up with this on my own. 

There was a family friend that had a name that matched a landed person in England from the 1700s. In the early 80's, the UK did something that I can only equate with an "estate last call". They wanted people to claim abandoned estates so that they could get back to collecting taxes or clearing their records for sale or perseveration as needed. 

This family friend was big into genealogy and laid a claim to an estate back in England. It was kind of a big deal. He managed to provide all of the documents necessary to back up his claim as his family had the same name and this particular Englishmen did visit Western New York. 

It turns out that this landed gentry from England came to New York in search of a criminal. The criminal escaped all attempts at capture by taking the name of the Lord pursuing him. Annoyed, Lord went back to his estate empty-handed. 

Here is where the story goes south and where the U. S. Government got involved. It turns out that this family friend was not related to the Lord, but the criminal quarry. Which he was fully aware of, it's is kind of illegal in rather surprising ways when you seem to have documentation that says one thing, but the reality is another. Forgery isn't always required to produce "correct" documentation, sometimes hiding contradicting documentation is better than an outright fictional document. 

I'm not sure where the B.S. starts and ends with this story as this story is about the 1700s criminal leading to a land claim in England in the early 80s. I would have been about 8-11 years old myself. While I was aware of what was happening, I didn't really understand. While it's funny enough for people to retell, it's the sort of story that gets changed with every telling. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Gather & Game Review

I have no idea why it took me so long to get to this shop. Gather & Game is a real gamers' shop. I took my son, Nathan, and my daughter, Catherine. Nathan was more impressed with the shop than Catherine. She had been playing guitar while my wife was at an online class, which is less than optimal. 

Name: Gather & Game
Location: 205 Grant St., Buffalo, New York 14213
Phone: 716-342-2823

Gather & Game is located on Grant Street, a historic neighborhood with charm. Many of the shops have been there for decades and the game shop is no exception. The storefront is painted in vivid hues of purple and pink. From the outside, you'd have no idea that they crammed that much product into such a tiny space and left room for tables and gaming. 

There is no missing this place from the street, even when surrounded by equally colorful shops. 

Inside is cramped but comfortable. Shelves, displace cases, and gaming tables occupy most of the space. If you want to stroll along, you'll need to walk down Grant Street, which is always an adventure. 

I had to contain myself walking through the shelves. They have so many games. Everything from board games to Traveller5. I also had to remind myself that I had a budget to stick to, otherwise, I would have walked out with an armload of Warhammer, Battletech, and e5 products plus half a dozen board games that caught my eye. They had a few featured products but the shelves are crammed with perhaps 100 different types of games. 

They have something for everyone. 

Even better, the staff and owners are so knowledgeable about the wide array of products they have on hand. And it's not that salesman sort of knowledge, it's that warm and friendly passion about play and enjoyment that shines through. Even my heavy metal daughter smiled a bit when talking about products. 

They are already back to hosting game nights and I can't wait to go back. If you get a chance to visit Buffalo, make time to stop at our local shops for your gaming fix. 


Friday, November 5, 2021

Live Another Day Or Buy Mac A Drink (Computer Review)

I don't like to do computer reviews on as I already have a website for computers, software, and hardware called just for that purpose. However, since this is a website for Old Games, sometimes a post about computers comes naturally. 

And this is one of those rare computer-themed posts. To support These Old Games, I maintain a Blueberry Mac iBook released back on July 21st, 1999. This thing is 22 years old and still ticking despite some serious carnage done to it. Here are the specs as they stand today: 

Processor: 1, 300 MHz PowerPC 750 (G3)
FPU: Integrated
Bus Speed: 66 MHz
RAM Type: PC66 SDRAM, 144-pin PC66 SO-DIMM memory modules.
RAM Installed: 64 MB onboard plus one 512 MB module for a total of 576 MB.
RAM Slots: 1
Video Card: ATI Rage Mobility (2X AGP) with 4 MB of SDRAM.
Built-in Display: 12.1" TFT
Resolution: 800x600
Storage: 10 GB internal, 32 GB external plus a secondary 128 GB external drive
Optical: 24X CD-ROM
Modem: 56k v.90 Standard Ethernet: 10/100Base-T
AirPort: 802.11b
USB Ports: 1 (1.1)
Battery Type: 45 W h LiIon
Battery Life: 6 Hours (more with a  RAM disc, like 24 hrs+)
OSes Installed: 9.2.2 and 10.04 Kodiak.
Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.5 x 11.6
Weight: 6.7 lbs (3.04 kg)

I suppose the first question I should answer is, what is the boot time on 20+-year-old computer? About 2 minutes with all of the control panels and extensions turned on. See for yourself by watching the video below. 

With everything turned off, it boots much faster but I virtually never do that. 

So, what do I use this thing for? Gaming, writing, drawing, and CAD. A lot of what you see here and on my other websites is written on this machine. I also listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks. 

By way of example, I wrote all of my Traveller posts using this computer, which included some wireframe designs. My first ideations for the Devil Fish freighter started on the Mac and were transferred to another, more modern machine for improvements. All of the writing was done in Word and the basic outline for the ship was done in RayDream Designer 3. 

Long before I used this machine for my websites, I was using a machine very much like it to create whole books. My father's games, like Knight Hack were written on a 512K Mac and then converted several times until they reached their modern form. 

The interesting thing is, when combined with a Linux computer and some PDF software, I can bring my whole DriveThruRPG library with me on the Mac. Yes, that's right. Your modern works can be opened (usually) on a 22-year-old computer. Sometimes it balks, but most of the time it just works. 

Surprisingly, I often don't need to tweak anything in the PDFs for Adobe 3, 4 or 5. I am running a lot of older Adobe software, so if I do encounter a glitch I can usually tweak it via the Mac itself. There are some rare cases where nothing can be done to "fix" or "convert" a file to something the Mac can read. I just deal with it.

I will grant you that images are not so smooth on the iBook due to the 800x600 display. They look like they're printed on canvas. Nothing can be done to fix it, but usually, it isn't a problem worth mentioning. 

So, what can't I do with this 22-year-old machine? I can't print. Using the internet is problematic. There is software that will get me on the web, but it doesn't handle .CSS well. Believe it or not, this machine shows up as a Nokia cellphone in Google Analytics due to the handling of the emulation of the browser. 

This particular iBook has an Airport card. Theoretically, I could connect wirelessly to the internet but I would have to use an old router. As in a router old enough to have security issues, so I don't do it. Part of the process of using this machine is it forces me to create backups. While I am not an insane security nut, I do love my backups. These occur naturally by moving files to my 32 GB USB drive or the 128 GB external drive. 

Ironically, I had been creating DVD backups as a part of this process but they did not survive the house fire which did not consume my Mac, the USB drive, or the external drive despite being dowsed with fire, water, and presumably a massive power surge as the fuse box and wiring burst into flames and failed. The DVDs incinerated, right next to the hardware that didn't. How does that happen?  

To be honest, using the internet on this machine is a poor experience so I try to avoid it. I do have a local copy of Wikipedia on the 128 GB hard drive. I can access it with Netscape Navigator which is totally crazy to see in 2021. My copy of Wikipedia is wildly out of date as it hasn't been updated in years, but it works well enough for basic research. I sometimes connect for games, which seems to be less problematic as they are old enough to not break. 

In my next post for, which will be written on this Mac, is about loading Linux via Crouton to a Chromebook. 

The great thing about writing on this machine is the intimacy. I don't have updates running, firewalls popping, no Facebook or Mewe starving for my attention. It's just me and the words, not the world. It's really nice to "unplug" without actually unplugging. My first cause for getting into computing decades ago was for problem-solving, speed, and automation. The superiority of a computer over a word processor or typewriter is amazing. The ability to make digital art is complementary to physical production and allows for techniques and ideas that can't be done on paper alone. Add in that an electronic product can be created for sharing or printing is really great. 

To me, this production is what computing is all about and this iBook still produces. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Mythic Beast Found - Dragon Dice at the Dollar Store

Hardly worth an update, but I found the Mythic Dollar Store Dragon Dice set at my local Dollar Tree. See the image below. (Campaign Wiki Readers, you can move along unless you want to see the picture.) 

They are puke brown, but they have clearly labeled d10's for digit and tens place. They have a good bounce and lack any obvious flaws. While not as pretty as most dice, they do have promise. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Life is a Test. Testing 1-2-3.

A little over a week ago, I posted some test images. I hadn't realized they were live on the blog until a friend called me wondering what was up. 

A lot and very little was "up". I had pneumonia and a lot of time on my hands. You see, having pneumonia and no fever indicates COVID. That is basically the kill mechanism for COVID. You have an infection that doesn't trigger a defense which leads to pneumonia, then you die. So, aside from getting tested for COVID weekly, I didn't have anything to do except go online. 

Coughing until you have a headache isn't conducive for reading or writing so the blog went on the back burner. I did some digital drawings, download a game to review and wanted to share them on one of my favorite websites: the Cosmoquest Forums. It's all about astronomy, but it's been around for 20 years or more and I have quite a few friends there. Right now they have an issue where you can't post images via an upload but you can via load an image via URL. Hence the images uploaded in that test file. 

After a while, I started having 3 or 4-hour stints where I felt fine. I began building models and uploading the images to the blog post I didn't realize was live. 

Then more bad news followed by some good news. My house... the one that burned... had asbestos in it. Yes, the irony. Now for the good news. Nothing in the garage was burned or contaminated with asbestos so it all needed to be packed up and moved to allow for cleanup of the interior house. Of course, this happened while I was sick so I had to pay someone do it. If you ever have the chance to not clean your garage and have someone else do it, I cannot recommend this enough. :)  

Dozens of really cool items were found in the garage. A headset with a microphone, a light ring, a second microphone, some models, dozens of painted... yes PAINTED! figurings, a set of drumsticks, some books, and a few Christmas gifts we had bought for the kids.  

Suddenly, I had something to do that didn't require too much energy. Play with toys! But not the ones I bought for the kids. My wife was admendent. 

When I started podcasting, I originally envisioned it as a video series, hence the light ring and extra microphone. Unfortunately, my face is not the stuff videos are made of and I stuffed all of it into a box in the garage. 

But you know what a light ring is great for? Taking pictures of models. And fortunately, all of my Star Wars models survived the fire and found hundreds of painted figures in the garage. So, my next series will be on figurines and models. 

I just need to finish this Review Series. My latest review is of a book found in the garage, How to Make War. This is week 43 and I am on review number 44, so I'm a week ahead. And I didn't even count my laptop review as one. I've got to finish this thing.  

So back to the models. The right ring is great for taking pictures. I can control so much more with the light ring.
X-Wing Poe's X-Wing T.I.E. and T.I.E. Advanced

If I want to show off some of my models and figures, this ring will come in handly. I dropped 9 bucks on it at Mashalls. I just need a good backdrop. I'll probably start with a basic black and a basic white and move on from there. 

I can't tell you about the Christmas gifts, I'm not ready to post about the figures and the models yet, so that leaves the microphone, headset, and drumsticks. 

A while ago, I abandoned my podcast. Before I got this pneumonia which makes speaking difficult, I decided to rebrand my podcast with the name Friday Night Death Slots. Back in September, I posted a short message on Anchor which included the new theme music for the show. I am not known for my musical abilities, but I do have some tiny interest, which explains the drumsticks, the microphone and headset.

So we have some good stuff happening. This is a test. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Introduction: How to...

If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times. The 1981 Basic Edition of D&D is my edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Before that, I had the 1979 AD&D books which seemed a little opaque to 7 and 8 year old me. But by 9, I could grasp all of the ins and outs of the Moldvay set. 

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

At 49, I set a challenge of reviewing 52 gaming culture significant titles. I've done novels, movies, game modules, supplements but only a handful of rule sets. The reason is pretty clear, how does one review old or new products which emulate old games? Everyone should know everything about them already. 

A month or so ago, a reader whom I shall call Blackrazor gave me dozens of books to replace the ones I lost. Additionally, he threw in a bunch of things I have never seen. By way of thanks to my readers, I want to review them. 

This loops me back to my original observation that everyone who plays these games should know them. So true. 

Back in February of this year, I reviewed The White Box by Atlas Games. This product isn't a game, it's a developer's tool to create games. In that review, I mentioned that the vast majority of essays written for this title explore the pedagogy of games. Pedagogy is the method and practice of teaching. 

This nicely brings me around to this little piece of artwork: 

The Moldvay version of D&D was meant to teach from the book, as opposed to the methods used in the prior editions. It's a fine distinction, in intent, scope, and for my purposes, a perfect distinction.  

OD&D, Holmes, and AD&D e1 are very fine games, but they were not designed and developed as the Moldvay books were which is very evident in terms of play and players. These three sets were designed with the intention that one person would own the books and that one person would teach the rules. Moldvay on the other hand, explains the rules with an almost boardgame approach so that players pick a role and act on it rather than the exploration of roles (and rules) that older editions supposed. 

It's the method of teaching that changes between editions. Players were always cautioned against reading the DM's material. But in a generic sense, meaning they shouldn't metagame. Knowing the rules was always encouraged, but defining which rules were in play was the purview of the DM. So, when players hit those OD&D-type games, they often knew how to run a game even when in action as a player character, but they learned directly from the person hosting the game. In B/X the rules themselves teach. 

Going forward, I hope to review several B/X sets from the point of view of how the rules convey the pedagogy of the game. 

I have 10 more entries for my 2021 review series, if I could make whole rulesets half of those, I think I will have succeeded in this adventure.  

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Curio Post

I have a lot on my mind and more on my plate. I don't get to post as often as I like, but today I'd like to share a series of pictures. Think of them as writing prompts. 

All of my prior goals for 2021 have gone out the window, save one. I have only 14 more reviews to do to complete my goal of 52 reviews a week. What used to be on my goal list was scrapped and replaced with a few more manageable ideas. 

In the coming posts, you'll see some reviews, some new thoughts on gaming, and some solo gaming sessions.  

Now, let's have those pictures. 

What's in the bag?

First up is an item from Dragon Snack Games. Dragon Snack is a local game shop and is my most frequently visited shop. I even did a semi-review of it. 

They have easily thousands of gaming titles (my description, not theirs so don't hold them to that). These bright orange sacks are reusable. One of them was given to me by a local gamer, Blackrazor. The second was in the trunk of my car for months. It contained three pristine games which are going to be reviewed soonish. 

The kitten is for scale. As near as I can tell, Dragon Snack Games does not give away free kittens. As least, they haven't ever offered me one. 

They recently announced a brief closure on Facebook for some updates to the store. I'm so busy, I didn't even have to be upset about the closure, as they reopened before I could complain. 

If you're in the Buffalo area, it's a great place to check out. 

Dice and Dice and More Dice

One more image which reminds me of Dragon Snack Games. The last time I was in the shop, I found these giant dice with 3 tiny six siders inside. 

They are awesome! You can use one giant die for each character stat. I just need 3 more. It's a new quest to stop into Dragon Snack until I find more. 
The blue die is for scale. They are giant, but not that "giant". 

Dice and Dice and More Good Dice

This set of dice are from a local reader, Blackrazor. He personally took the time to reach out and gift me with more gaming materials than one game has any business having. While a dice review is silly, I will be looking at all of the books he gave me to fuel many of the last 14 reviews this year. 

Thank you again, Team 716. 

The World in Your Hands:  

I found this mini-globe at a great shop called Rustic Buffalo Artisan Market. You can shop online, here

I don't know anything about it except I like it. Apparently, it was made back in the early 2000s and usually retailed for $100. I paid a tiny fraction of that. 

I will definitely do a review of them on the soon. 

Blast Off into Adventure! 

This one is an odd one. All throughout 2020 and part of 2021, I was big into retro artwork. I did a series of rockets based on it's a small world at the Magic Kingdom. 

The result was rather striking when printed on a journal. The black one has a wrap-around cover with a mirror image of the front cover on the back. The white one is printed only on the front cover. However, the price is like a nuclear air-burst. $21.00 dollars or so before shipping for a single palm-sized journal. I'm going to find a better source for cool items like this. 

The Heart

Kingdom Hearts is my children's Basic D&D. They have played this game since the day I discovered it. Somehow, the discs we have survived the fires of hell. 

Back in 2018-19, we had the magical experience of getting to play Kingdom Hearts III in Disney Springs. We, of course, pre-ordered it. 

We did not spring for the $1000 Keyblade. 

These 9 images will spark more than a few upcoming posts. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Priorities, Priorities.

As of now, the blog and all future products all comes down to priorities.


44 days ago, our house was devastated by a fire. My family made it out, as did 2 of 4 pets. My wife was found in the front hall attempting to rescue the animals. She was scorched, but is doing fine. As are the kids and Tori dog and Shinubo the cat. 

Starting on July 19th, 8 pm, incredible support started pouring in to me and my family. I was at work at the time the fire began and raced home. On arrival, I found 7 fire departments fighting the blaze. Moments before I got there, they had retreated from the house as the temperature soared over the 1000 degree limits of their equipment. What I didn't know until weeks later, other fire departments had activated and were covering all of the areas those 7 departments normally cover. To say this was a massive response would be an understatement.  

The fire was limited to the basement, but where it burned didn't matter. The temperature was rising throughout the home. If the roof caught fire, there could have been an explosion that would ignited the neighbors houses. To prevent this from happening, fire fighters cut holes in the roof to allow the heat and pressure to escape. This would cause the roof to collapse in and the whole house would be lost to save the surrounding homes. Since the heat far exceeded their equipment's ratings, this was the only safe option. 

That isn't what happened. 

Instead the fire fighters mounted a rally and reentered the blaze to fight the flames directly. It was all hands on deck moment. They first used sheets of water to cool the 1000+ degree heat on the upper floor, so they could advance deeper into the blaze. In the middle of the assault, the chaplain lead a group of men and women to rescue our cat, Benny. Although Benny had already succumbed to heat and smoke, they retrieved his body for proper burial, over which the Chaplain presided.  

Inside, the battle against the fire continued. They marched from the front of the house to the back under a continuous blast of water to beat the heat back, to where the blaze raged in the basement. Just to convey how dangerous this was, the metal refrigerator spontaneously combusted from the heat of the smoke. In the back bedrooms, the plaster wall disintegrated from 5 feet up to ceiling level. 

It was a race against time. If the plasterboard ceilings gave and the roof timbers caught fire, that explosion I mention would have claimed the lives of 7 different department's fire fighters.

Those men and women won the race, saving the roof and the exterior walls. Everything else was gone, but at least the home is weather tight. Which will allow us to rebuild.  

Gone doesn't really cover it. Our furnace melted. The fridge is a lump of metal. The stovetop and oven as near as I can tell, imploded. All of the copper wiring and pipes burned. The iron pipes for the gas shattered. The walls of the bedrooms and bathroom are non-existent from shoulder level up. 

But this isn't "the end" or even "an end". 

Before we left our burned out home that night, our neighbors gave my wife and daughter shoes and clothes as they were wearing pajamas when the fire broke out. Our in-laws gave us a place to sleep that night. The next day, an endless stream of visitors came to see us, each bearing gifts as they though needed. And this continued for weeks. 

I think it's all over. Except for saying, "thank you". 

Priorities and all of that. 

I would like to thank "Blackrazor", a local reader who provided us with dozens of game books. I would like to thank 716 Pulp and Dragon Snack Games for their wonderful hospitality of their establishments. I would also like to thank all of my readers and associates that reached out to me, like Todd Leback, The DiBaggio Family and many, many others. 

Thank you. I really couldn't do anything else until I said, "thank you". 

In the coming days, I have a ridiculous amount of work to do, but at some point will start posting regularly, with non-fire related posts. 

I am probably not ready to stop saying "thank you", but having said it, I can do other things.  

It's a process and a long one, but thanks to all of you, I am ready to begin. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

My D&D vs. Your D&D

I've mentioned several times that I came to gaming at a young age. My parents dragged me to conventions and encouraged my interest for as long as I remember. I came into D&D so young that I can hardly remember a time where it wasn't there.  My first set was the Chainmail rules followed by the 1981 set.  I always loved the art in this pair of books and it was always my goto version. 

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

As I dragged my friends on the adventure they picked up sets, too. But theirs were different. They got the 1983 version.

That started an arms race. I had to pick that edition also.  

D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)

The big improvement in my mind was the two book set. That way the players had a reference and the DM had a reference. I was never a fan of the three column layout and the artwork was softer, grey scale instead of black and white line art. That style really didn't grow on me until Dragonlance came out. 

I wasn't the only one looking at an arms race. I recall stopping with the BECMI Expert Set. It seems like the series had no end in sight. In 1984, the Companion boxed set came out followed a year later by the Master set and by 1986, we had Immortals

Although I never purchased the last three sets in the series, I did receive them as re-gifts from friends who accidentally purchased them. In each case, it seems they believed they were getting a further refinement of the basic rules or expert rules, not a different expansion on play. I was not terribly impressed by them and never actually attempted to play them. The first two, Basic and Expert were completely sufficient for my tastes. At least my taste for b/x, I played AD&D more often than not. 

It wasn't until 1991 when the Rules Cyclopedia came out that I went back to b/x. While limited, RC was ahead of it's time. More than a decade before 3.x, it had many of the features of D&D 3.x as it introduced skills. This was something I built into my AD&D e1 campaign with my codification of skill bases for NPCs and PCs alike. In fact, what became Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners was just a series of notes and rules of thumb for nearly 3 decades. 

This is a lot longer than I meant it to be. Let's wrap it up. All of my computers have been roasted, so I've lost everything. But not really. What I intend to do is rewrite 4 of five of my offerings. I had been planning an update prior to all the changes I have experienced. Now I have good reason to get moving. There is no other path than forward. 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Second Look - The Moldy Unicorn

It's been about 18 days since the fire. Today, I want to start taking a look forward. The inventory of the house is complete. Let me show you a shelfie: 

Yeah. I can't dwell on that. 

Much to my amazement, this survived: 

Thanks to the Plexiglas frame it's only a little toasted. This is one of those products that reminds me so much of my youth and when I really took a liking to gaming. It still brings back the smell of the mall and Waldens Books. The Moldy Unicorn is great. I love this little book so much. It has a great cover, an interesting adventure and of course, an inn called The Moldy Unicorn. 

I had an interesting childhood. My dad was a big wargamer and would take me to conventions. I was a teenager before I realized that not everyone's dad played games or went to conventions. Or had a suit of chainmail or build castles to teach history. 

I don't think I had a moment where I thought playing games was odd or unusual. Or that this game was better than that game. My dad played WRG while I preferred D&D. Our middle ground was Chainmail, especially that little mini-game for jousting. He loved that as much as I did. Plus, he had the figures for it, which was totally extraneous but hella fun. 

So looking forward instead of backwards, I am going to take the time to really explore new things. This will be a new beginning. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Reading 'round the Web Wednesday...

I stumble across some cool stuff this week and wanted to share. 

First up, Ruins of Murkhill. This is a group of players with the mission statement: 

"Original Dungeons & Dragons the Old-School way. We are here to discuss ALL OLD SCHOOL table top role-playing games with a focus on OD&D; however, we also discuss Classic D&D and other TSR games and non-TSR games, Arduin, Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, Retro Games; Clones, Retro Clones, Emulations and Old School inspired games, Classic Traveller and other Science Fiction games." 

They have 3 bases on the web: The Blog, The Forum and a page on Mewe

I've jumped right into the forum and have been loving it. 

You'd be hard pressed to find a better resource for all things old cool gaming. I purchased a book, The Castle Guide from an offering in the forum. This week, it was my leading review post

Speaking of excellent resources, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Campaign Wiki. Not only is a wiki, it's a massive RSS feed of old school blogs. You need to check this one out and if you're blog doesn't appear on the list, get it added

In other news, the users of DriveThruRPG went crazy and download many copies of my offerings, Kobold's Folly and the AD&D Character Sheet for Unearthed Arcana... at full retail price. I am extremely grateful to you guys. All of my titles are Pay What You Want, so this was amazing. 

To close it out with an off note, check out The Revolution's podcast. It's like someone doing read at you or to you. Mike Duncan has a new book, Lafayette, Hero of Two Worlds coming out. He's kindly taken the time to read Chapter 4 as a preview on his podcast. This is part where the story gets good, Lafayette is shipwrecked on arrival to American and makes some interestings choices on the way to Philadelphia. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

Science Phenomena to Pump Up Game Play

I am always a big fan of having realistic details of what is happening around my players to bring them into whatever world they are in. Each of these items is based on real-world technologies and phenomena. 

Real lasers are silent unless they hit something. But the power supplies are not. They can sound like a hammer on a metal garbage can. This applies to medical lasers. Talk about making a trip to the auto-doc scary. 

Industrial cutting and etching lasers are also loud, but more like a leaf blower because the beam is close to continuous. Again, it is the power supply and the drive required to move it around that is making the sound. This also ties into fashion. Characters messing with realistic lasers should always have goggles. If the tech level is high enough protective contact lenses would work nicely, too. 

Sun Outages can drive plot points. When a satellite delivering information to a ground station passes in front of the sun the information gets garbled. The ground station loses its a connection because the sun is such a powerful source of radiation. In the real world, this happens to cable TV satellites in the spring and fall. This is a consequence of their orbit's aligning Earth's tilt. For a week or so, the satellite's signal is garbled for about 10 minutes at a time. It can be described as sparkles, pixelated or fuzzy pictures, picture freezing, audio distortions, or even a total loss of the channel. 

Since these satellites are in high Earth orbit it only happens once a day. If the satellite was in a lower orbit, it would happen several times a day based on the period of the orbit. This is great for plots involving a bit of mystery on a semi-regular basis, say every 40 minutes but the duration would be much lower, as in a few seconds. 

Vacuum cementing is another phenomenon that can either stymie players or give them a power stunt. Two pieces of material will stick together in a hard vacuum as if welded or cemented together just by touching them together. This is a good way to force repairs using little-used skills to free moving parts. Alternatively, it can be used to add protective surfaces to objects to prevent or repair the damage with little or no skill and can use junk as a resource. Astronauts on the moon noticed this happened even to dust. 

By the way, lunar dust smells like spent gunpowder or cooked meat, which can be an interesting detail to freak out the players. Why this smell (and taste) occurs is a mystery today. It is transient. Lunar dust doesn't smell like anything on Earth. It could be the release of charged particles or a quick, short-term chemical reaction with water or oxygen. No one knows how or why it happens.  

I call another trick "Zinc-Clink". Zinc oxide sensors are used to measure the amount of oxygen around a sensor. If a sensor system gets some other material on it, say soot, it will believe there is no oxygen in the area and refuse to open the door. Again, players will have to resort to little-used or differently used skills to fix the problem. Say Vacc-suit or electronics. It's a handy way to slow the action down or pump up the drama because a hatch or door is misbehaving. 

In space missions, these zinc oxide sensors are used to detect damaging oxygen around the sensor, which is counterintuitive. Oxygen in space is bad for some equipment. 

I am also a fan of the idea of the Decadal Survey to land really sophisticated machinery in a small nook in the ship. In real life, the Decadal Survey is conducted once every 10 years and asks scientists to come up with very broad science questions to research. In ship terms, these research projects could place new sensors, small power supplies, and/or radios which are separate from the ship's normal operations. Think of it as an emergency lifeline for strange happenings on the ship. The crew would be versed in maintenance functions, so the equipment which is somewhat a "black box" would be understandable to the crew. 

One of the more interesting types of research could be atmospheric aerosol tracking, which could enable a ship to use an alternative method to track other ships. GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) was a mission to look for gravitational anomalies (dense, heavy items) on the Earth's surface. In a sci-fi setting, it could locate shipwrecks, crashes, and other hidden items under the surface of a planet while also creating great maps. 

Don't forget to put the "science" in science fiction. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Let's Run That Railroad Through the Sandbox...

I had an interesting conversation with my kids about DMing games. 

Here was the scenario: The party gets in a fight. The winner of that fight gets jumped and their cash and prizes are stolen. Then the party chases down the second group of people and gets their stuff back. 

"You planned all of that in advance. You were railroading us!" they whined. 

"No. I wasn't." I pulled out my notes and showed them. 

The Party and Group A get in a fight. Only 4 things can happen: either the Party or Group A can win. Or they reach a stalemate and no one wins, either by flight or not starting or finishing the fight without winning. 

Next. The first group out of the area gets jumped. Those 4 options happen again. 

And finally, when the loser or second people out of the first situation one catch up, you basically have the same 4 options. Win, lose, or two different draws. 

That's not a railroad. The players have a choice at each event they are present for and the dice can change that outcome. When the party isn't present, I pick the most viable option because I'm not stopping play to fight combat against two NPC groups against each. When the party comes back, they get another set of choices and outcomes. 

A railroad would be if I decided what was going to happen TO THE PARTY before they were granted a choice. I know where the branches are and what should happen next, but I have 4-5 different possible choices to account for in every scenario. If the party has an obvious choice of 4 items, and they come up with the fifth, sixth, and seventh option, I have no plan and need to fly by the seat of my pants. 

I gave the kids a good example. 

I had a party meet at a tavern. They were supposed to stop the evil lord's men from shaking down the peasants for money. The party chose not to do that. So, the peasants got shaken down. Then the party gave the peasants money to replace what was stolen. I didn't expect that outcome. 

In the next session, I decided to just re-run the whole thing. Again the party didn't bite. This went on for a bit with the peasants getting shaken down and the party replacing their lost funds. 

Now the party was responsive to everything else I did in each session, but I was baffled by their lack of activity on this one point of defending the peasants. It almost rose to the level of a joke. After a few months of play, they checked back in on the peasants in the tavern. 

Since they asked, I provided. This time the lord was there to get in on the fun. And the party sat there as the peasants got beat down and robbed again. It wasn't until the lord threaten everyone and turned to exit that the whole party opened fire with crossbows. In the dark, in the back. 

The explanation for this behavior was, everyone in the party and a few of the players are lawful evil. It was just their nature to use the peasants for bait to draw the evil lord out. 

Again, this was not railroading because the players themselves asked to check on the situation and determined the outcome they personally desired.  

So when planning an adventure, you should plan for the obvious. What if the party wins? What if they lose? What if they run? What if they won't or don't fight? If you have those few things down, then the adventure probably won't go off the track, but if it does, the DM is only scrambling for a few seconds and not moment to moment. Which reduces the possibility of railroading the players. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Making a List and Checking It Twice...

I have a list of things to do regarding the blogs, the podcast and my products and DriveThruRPG. Here is a list of things you should see in the coming months. 

These do not include continuing series posts which shall continue as per normal. So far, those are reviews, spring model posts and a summer gaming updates. 

General cleanup on the blog will continue pace, which is something I try to hit once a week. I will be updating the photos of figurines to be compliant with my planned updates. This will allow me to play with my camera for item 5. 

1. Rerelease Swashbuckler Character Class as "Character Pack for OSR and AD&D"
    A. Write new character classes. 
        i. Write 3 Kobold character classes.
            a. Classic kobold class as per monster stats. 
            b. Folklore kolold class as per legends. 
            c. The kobolds of Minawan tribe character class in my campaign. 
        ii. Adapt 3 new classes for this pack. 
            a. The Hoodlum/Gangbanger class.
            b. The Monomach class
            c. The Unicorn/Pegasus class.
        iii. Create 2 new classes based on military fiction.    
            a. The 70's Era Veteran class. 
            b. The Space Marine class.
    B. Provide files in four types.
        i. A4. 
        ii. 8.5x11
        iii. 8.5x11 folding book style. 
        iv. 5x7 booklet style, requiring cutting on the purchaser's part. 

2. Remaster Kobold's Folly on Drivethru.
    A. Create a map suitable for printing, poster size.
    B. Ensure this map is suitable for VTT online games. 
    C. Add the aforementioned mention Kobold character classes. 
    D. Write an adventure for this book. 

3. Remaster Compass Rose Inn mini-settling on Drivethru.
    A. Create a map suitable for printing, poster size.
    B. Ensure this map is suitable for VTT online games. 
    C. Write an adventure for this book. 

4. Record new podcast based on HuckSawyer's feedback
    A. Avoiding the TPK. 
    B. Why TPK's happen. 
    C. Avoid dicing your way through TPK's. 

5. Put into production
    A. Record videos. 
    B. Edit video. 
    C. Record audio voice over.
    D. Launch Pilot.
    E. Collect data on viewer's opinions.  

6. Update blog
    A. Coming phone changes in the Western New York area for national suicide prevention hotline launch. (Deemed critical. complete.
    B. More reviews of Western New York products, companies and events.  

7. Update blog with tutorial on flash drives. 
    A. Purchasing. 
    B. Drive formats for a variety of OSes. 
    C. Troubleshooting.
    D. Common flash drive ripoff schemes and how to address. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Go Nuts!

Well, it's one of those days. Explosive creativity with little or no focus. In my last post, I shared the images I used to highlight my series posts. Not only did that involve Inkscape, it required Bluefish for html editing. I just need 5 more and I'll be done. I can do that another time. Can't stop now to finish something. 

I ran to the store for stuff for dinner. Before I left, I painted a panel of wood for a photographic background for my model series.

When I got home, the background was dry. So, I took some photos using a single lamp. It's not how I will do it when I launch this series, but I wanted quick results. No need to get all fancy with tiny details like using the correct lighting. 

I edited the photos down to web sized chunks. (For my own future sanity, I cropped each 2520 x 1800 then halved the resolution so they be 1260 by 900.)  

I took pictures of 3 unpainted ships and decided I needed some color. 

Well, that wasn't good enough. So I photographed an X-Wing toy. 

But that wasn't my paint job. I haven't painted figures in years. Since I had the paint out, I slapped some on a few mechs. Little details mostly, because I can't focus for more than a few minutes. 

Eh, whatever. It's just a few pictures, nothing important. 

My wife was listening to Dave Matthews Band which gave me an idea. I'd edit some album covers, for lord knows what reason. Perhaps to sell her on the idea that I need a vinyl cutter.

Not bad. I need some sort of vinyl cutter so I can do something with these. Because records are vinyl and these are images of records.

Yup. It all makes perfect sense. 

After that, I made dinner. Chicken and broccoli stir fry. I figured since I was at it, I'd make my special "dog fry" which is chicken scraps, a dash of rice and broccoli for the dog. Dogs can't eat onions or garlic, so this is a safe way to make her something special as a treat. 

I decided to add in a mix of water chestnuts, onions, celery and carrots. Sure, I'd have to go back to the store, but why not? I love that stuff. 

I had the cutting board out, I decided to treat myself with riced cauliflower. Since I was playing safe with the dog, riced cauliflower is better for me than rice. I chopped it all by hand. Riced cauliflower is great because I can't eat rice. I'm diabetic. 

Oh, shhhhiii....  I forgot one thing today. I didn't check my blood sugar after lunch. Hmm.

Yeah, I didn't notice that until I caught myself cooking, praying and talking to my son who is currently half a country away in Texas. That is classic automatism, when the body acts on it's own. It's pretty rare in diabetics, occuring in the tiny window between sanity and coma. 

Yeah... the little details. 

This is what I was fighting last year about this time. Nice to know things don't change.