Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Cyclopedia Resurrected?

I am taking this news with a pillar of salt. It has come to my attention that the Rules Cyclopedia, the book that was my bible for a good part of my D&D playing is available as a Print on Demand. About a year ago I repurchased that same book, so I wonder if I should buy it again.

Being the father of a two year old, happy and healthy warp core son, I wonder if a working copy will help initiate him in my strongest hobby. There is no doubt that I would want to do it with this edition of D&D (a forthcoming rant on the subject of textbook-rulebooks is in the works).

I have no doubt that the entire old-school world is either extatic over this announcement or waiting to see the quality of the re-issue. Like pre-ording a game or early access be wary of this greatly. I have no doubt that Tenkar's Tavern will be roaring with this news in tonight's chat

One thing I felt good about is the price. At about thirty dollars it didn't seem that different from its original price of 24.95.

Seems like old times, but I will wait for the reviews, muchas gracias.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: Quill White Box

I think the word "Box" preceded by a color (white, red, blue or black) should be used in the role-playing world in the same way a dark mischievous and omnipotent demi-god's name should be used within his realm. That two-word combination, dangerously weighed down with hundreds of nostalgia coins, instantly transports us old-school gamers somewhere between the late 70's and the early 80's.

In short if you name your game "'White, Red, Blue,  or Black' Box" you better be ready and willing to back it up- like pulling a sword from a stone.

While many many old school systems fall far from this responsibility, "Quill White Box" by Scott Malthouse has not. While Quill took first person writing to the realm of medieval courtesy and etiquette, "Quill White box" supplements these rules for full fantasy gaming. In Quill you earn points for using words from a list called the ink pot, hopefully scoring points at the end of each paragraph.

In Quill, various medieval scenarios are given as well as characters (like the monk and the courtesan) with class points in penmanship (how well your letter is perceived), language (how the character uses the words) and heart (the emotion the writer has placed in the letter). Going over the rules I couldn't wait to start writing a letter. I started by writing a letter to a grieving father about their son's body being found on or about my recedences and barely scored seven points, a neutral reception to my letter. Since then I have not dared try out the scenario where one writes to the King.

Quill White Box takes these basic rules and trebuchets them into the realm of old-school fantasy. For those that have written under the hand of Quill rules, White Box is a true blessing, introducing gold rewards with marketplaces to spend your gold. Items in the marketplace such as King's Parchment, magic ingredients and holy water propel your letters to gracious reception by its fictional recipients.

The key to Quill and its White Box is immersion. Almost like LARPing, the letter writing takes you as far as you take it. As an example, below are two pictures. One is a letter I "Quilled" while looking after my two year old nuclear boy, the other is by +George Gillam, incorporating his love for calligraphy and rpgs. Any parent could tell which one is mine. Any parent could tell which one is mine.

Being a die-hard dungeon crawler, I confess I crave a way of having a good old-fashioned dungeon-romp. But, since Quill and Quill White Box are heavily supported by its community on Google+, with members posting created scenarios, it's just a matter of time before someone creates a dungeon-crawl scenario to "play-write". When that happens, no doubt I will either post them here, or retreat into my cloisters, a reclusive monk writing letters to the imaginary characters. I can't say right now which one I would prefer.

Conclusion: "Quill White Box" is an old school supplement to the very successful solo writing rpg "Quill". With it, writer/players will take their letters from humble medieval beginnings to the darkest lands of sorcery, swords and magical items. Its simplicity relies on its rules while its depth relies on the player- thus it deserves the title of 'White Box'.

PWYW Goodness

To advance my efforts in thwarting thick high-priced games books, a quixotic attempt to resurrect those thrilling days when all you needed was a thin workbook-like set of rules and a thirteen year old brain, I want to mention a Play-What-You-Want link and recommendations that Martin Ralya posted on his blog- Yore.

While I'm not sure if a blog should send you to another blog (this is all new to me), in the days where way too many games have turned into something like an organic chemistry text-book of rules, I think it is a welcome mention.

Thanks Martin!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Review: MiSO RPG

I confess I have an "envy" book, a book I wish I had written. The book is 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman The moment I read through its pages, the moment I experienced the caress of pantheons of gods joining me here on earth, I felt a literary tear in my eye.

I am here to also confess that I have an envy role-playing game. The game is Minimal Solo RPG (MiSO) by Sophia Brandt and it is quite brilliant in its simplicity- serious "why hadn't I thought of that before!".

Inspired by Bivius RPG by Riccardo Fregi's strict binary choices, MiSO assigns a die of differing faces to one of two choices. Like reaching a fork in the road and assigning the high sunny road a (d20) and the low dark road a (d4) (I mean wouldn't you?) and rolling. The winning fork continues the journey that is the story/ game.

As many of you know that are still reading this blog or follow me on G+, I am always looking for a system, or a machine, that fuels both my fantasy writing and my solo gaming. That fusion is what most of my fiction (sparse that it is) stems from. MiSO is the perfect choice for anyone with gamer's/writer's block. Nearly an oracle, I have even given MiSO some real world choices:

                -watch another episode of Star Trek (d12) 

                 -vacuum the living room (d6) 

                 (wouldn't you believe that I vacuumed!) 

Expanding (or branching) on it, I have assigned characters, enemies, or things, a heavier die based on their skills or experience; much like The Window RPG. In the future I will be writing up a session where I use MiSO to knock out one of my fatal writer's blocks.

Conclusion: The rules are straightforward and clearly written for the storyteller-gamer in mind. The examples given are all about branching the story, and thus the creation of other sub-stories. So I would definitely recommend it. In fact, every time I read through it, I feel that tear on my cheek. A happy muse that something great was lying right there on the road less traveled (d4).

Friday, February 2, 2018

Before Entering The Keep

The following is something I wrote for my play-by-post game over on RPoL:

I just want to say something before we all enter the Keep on the Borderlands- Red Box edition.
As it says on my profile, I am an ancient role-player. I grew up with the original red box, way back in the day when a rule book was less than one hundred and fifty pages, rules scant, bent toward on the fly gaming, and more interested in 'fee' and 'atmosphere'.

I was lent the original Advanced books so never owned them. Now that I think about it, in the good ol' days all my friends had some weird library pool of roleplaying books that floated from one guy to the other. So going for broke and buying hard cover things just didn't do it for me.
I tried following the great game, Dungeons and Dragons, into its more coastal wizardly manifestations- ie. 3rd edition. Things got really really fat since I was gone (about fifteen years) and complicated. Feats was a lot like choosing a career, or meeting with a guidance counselor that never made you feel good enough. I tried, I tried hard but craved those times in the back of chemistry lab playing D&D with a disected frog on our table, rolling with a pencil (we did not dare bring in dice because the Catholic school authorities would be on us instantly. You see at our school we had samurai nuns) and making rules up by inspiration. We got so good at improv that we declared...

"Any rule that needs to be looked up should not be used..."
And we played on. And that's the way I play.

In the last twenty years I don't think I have payed more than ten bucks for a rule book (oh okay I just had to buy the Ars Magica bundle on the Bundle of Holding but when I do find people crazy enough to play, I think I will throw a good sixty percent of the rules out the window. I just like the feel, the idea of a Covenant). In light of that I have gotten into free and minimalist role-playing (fudge, Risus, The Pool, Donjon, The Bean, Sword and Back pack, Oculus, the Black Hack, MiSO and others I cannot think of right now because my two year old son is watching Chuggington and it causes me Brain Bleach) and pretty much never came back. I like words over rules, imagination over stats, and "wowness" over calculating experience or rewards.

That is how I am going to run this game. I think I left rules-lawyers back in 1990, imprisoned in a phantom zone in the past. So while we are playing D&D Red Box for inspiration and mood and labyrinth lord for some sort of structure and accountability it will be a bunch of thirteen year olds getting together in the basement dreaming of fantastical beasts and legendary locations.

Ok? I mean just look at the font I used!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tired Daddy Gaming

I am getting strange strange inspirations these days. 

Being a stay at home dad, full-time dad, what have you, my mind wanders quite a bit when my son is asleep or I am watching him play. My mind wanders while my body rests in bed, my strength only enough to surf the net or play the finger-loving Junk Jack. 

These days my mind craves a quick dungeon crawl. Something so basic that a checkmark means a horde of orcs. I want to work on a system that I can either do with a free finger on an iPhone, or with two thumbs on an iPad. 

And no I am not looking for an app that basically will play for me like Baldur’s Gate or something. No, a solo scratch pad solo-rpg. 

I call the intent simply, Tired Daddy Gaming, or Tired Daddy Crawl. I assure you, no child was harmed, neglected or ignored in this venture. I mostly run these experiments when he was taking a nap. Infact I will post an adventure using +Sophia Brandt’s Miso system that was specifically designed around his nap. 

But alas we do have a tired Daddy, thus I will only declare what I have been working with thus far. 

1. DunGen app: for the dungeon.

2. Modified FU for attributes and action resolution
    • I use a 1d10 on a modified d10 so that I can use the timer on the ipad or phone. 
Like this:

10- Ye gods, gods have touched thee 
9- yes, and behold
8- yes, solidly unremarkable 
7- yes, but 
6- yes, from the abyss
5- no, at yes's door  
4- no, but 
3- no, with certainty, unchanging 
2- no, and 
1- Demon have grabbed your toes 

    • I make my character with but one attribute to start. If this attribute is involved I choose the best of 2d6. 
    • If the character is challenged I 
    • If I pick up equipment or coolness I add d6 and choose the best. 
3. iPad timer for rolls (using the tenths part). When I need a number, I simply stop the timer. 

4. I simply can’t get away from the Miso system. I like to tell a story, and I may use it to create scenarios. I like something more complex than a yes or no spectrum. 

There is much more to do, and explain, but alas now the tired daddy is even more tired!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

NAGADEMON, SGAM, and NaNoWriMo Update

Report for Day Three:
About a week ago I had the masochistic idea of participating in National Novel Writing Month (why November? Why not June? where here in New Orleans nothing is gone on!), writing it as a grand solo adventure to commemorate solo gaming appreciation month and trying to design an oracle based solo engine called the Oracular for Nagademon (national game design month). Oh so much room for abuse!

It has been three days, and all I can say is I feel like a philanthropist gone completely mad! Without being judgmental and squashing the creativity, here is what I have.

Eight thousand pages where my mind has wandered to places that my fingers dread to go. I have hundreds of words of a first person Victorian letter-writing with a little steampunk helping, all thanks to the circles of perdition rpg called De Profundis. I have an oracle based RPG taken from the burned ashes of Oculus. Upon which I follow absolutely no rules and just grab the nearest tarot card, rpg, cubes, dice or random pet I could find and write about the nearest world I can think of. All in all, I’m not even sure if I am playing or writing, doing it for Nanowrimo, or solo gaming or thinking about dice mechanics (well, not that, because there aren’t any).

No matter what I try or what I do, I keep coming back to that mythical world I created in my head, sent in a (rejected) short story; cranked out a draft, and have played in my head ever since- The Barony of Rivermoon. For like its inspiration, New Orleans, I will always return to that place. It is my literary/RPG home.

I have garbage, I have a mess, I have a ball of yarn made out of words and phrases, tangled mess of ejaculate that can hardly be called creativity.

And I have never been happier.

 Plus I got three hundred more words for that Nano, don’t I- don’t I?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Oculus Review- Ah yes here it is!

Oculus, to me, is barely a game. I do not think it deserves the shackle of ‘game’. Oculus is a writing exercise placed into RPG terms. In the exercise you play an unnamed character using a vague instrument- the oculus, to look up an infinity of worlds through the eyes of what the game calls a familiar, with a character sheet to fill out as you see the person’s attributes.

One looks through these eyes until your interest wains (the seeing and the interest are the parameters of the oculus instrument). The ‘player’/writer is to write down everything they see into their notes. The seeing is generated by the lens of the oculus which is a set of two tables of random descriptions. Roll a d20, look on the table (entitled ‘Focus), get a word, and start writing. If one needs clarification you can roll again and look at the second table (called Lens). The words are preferably vague like ‘Conspire’ or ‘Ancient’ giving the playing writer (or is it writing player?) the freedom to go where they wish without being tied down to only one genre.

So where is the RPG part, so far it sounds like writing. The familiar has a character sheet with abilities ranging from +4 to +1 (much like Risus). In a resolution action (pick a lock, defeat an enemy, climb a wall) a d20 is rolled against a favorable to alarming table (much like FUDGE) and the result is placed into the unfolding story.

But what takes oculus from the world of simple writing exercise to a surreal experience is the transcendence points- where the oculus viewing follows the writing player into their reality. When the oculus closes and the game is over, the player walks away. But if the player thinks of the experience, of the viewing, if something reminds them of the game-play, you add a point to the transcendence bank. These can then be used to ‘fudge’ the familiar’s dice rolls in a critical situation when the viewer returns to the Oculus. This made me carry around the oculus as a journal and be in constant communication with my familiar. And at times, he needed it.
It is a remarkably simple system that works wonderfully. The Oculus pulls the writing player into a universe. The rules themselves suspend reality completely (well at least for me, my brain is always looking for ways of suspending reality). Best of all, the writing never suffers, never is cut by the need of rolling dice or referring to a rule. The writing player could go pages and pages with one word, or just two, the dice forgotten until a resolution wall is hit- which is rare.

 All in all, I go to my Oculus when I feel blocked or when I can’t think of what to play, or get bogged down in a system’s rules.


There is a fine line for me between writing and role-playing. Somewhere along the line, a line that stretched to the 1980’s, the two got strangely confused. I use the process of dice, dice-writing, to recreate, well, mimic, the act of throwing dice and seeing what the hell happens.

I have spent some time trying to find a game that recreates a company of (fantasy) characters as they progress through a dungeon. The major problem is the wish for writing gets in the way of rolling, or the rolling gets in the way of the writing. There is little or no breaks that allow you to write, or figure out where to roll, or oddly what to write. I want to play or I want to roll and the things get confused in the mix.

Writer as role-player is nothing easy. A psychotic break between the game master and player must occur for the rolling dice to turn into ink. I think the key is a system that does not allow the entire picture to be revealed all at once, the curtain of mystery must hold up until the last possible moment. That where the thrill of the dice come in, waiting anxiously with a pen in one hand and a die in the other.

There are two games that allow the player to breath, to freeze and let the ink flow while still holding that curtain of mystery. They are:

Oculus and Four Against Darkness

Scrawling for Thirty Days

I think this year I am once again scrawling for thirty days over at Nanowrimo. I am thinking of entering a thirty day dungeon of the mind. A dungeon crawl into my own brain using a curious tool- The Oculus, a solo rpg engine which creates prompts for observations by an operator.

I have no idea where these adventures will lead, who I look at or anything of the sort. Me, just thinking. I hit National Novel-Writing Month three times and hit the mark twice. Somehow having a child appeared to have killed my thoughts for a whole month.

What I am wondering is if I should post the entries in here. But the moment I write that it is one of those ideas that seem stupid half way out of your mouth. Though, still, would anyone read that nonsense Kerouac crap?

Here is the instrument I plan on using to guide me. I think I have a review of it somewhere or the other.

Oculus Trifold