Showing posts with label community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label community. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Oriental Adventures, One Year Later

Oriental Adventures
Hopefully, I can put the latest tempest-in-a-teapot away for the one that was consuming us all last year.  

It was one year ago that the whole Oriental Adventures deal went down.  I am not going to go into all of it; there were petitions, camels, and a lot of chicken-little hysterics.  But here are some of the salient details.

A year ago game designer Daniel Kwan posted his concerns to Twitter about how culturally insensitive WotC's (formerly TSR's) Oriental Adventures is. 

This quickly devolved into the lowest sniping that is typical of these cultural debates. 

The end result was Wizards of the Coast putting a disclaimer on all older products about how they are an artifact of their times that honestly did not appease anyone.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

So where are we now?

People made a HUGE outcry that they were going to be censored and that the older PDFs were going to get pulled or worse, they were going to be edited. People kept screaming slippery slope and other weak arguments.

None of that happened.

What did happen is that OA went from just a small handful of reviews and "just" a Platinum bestseller to a couple of score ratings (not actually reviews) and a Mithral best seller.

Screenshot 2020-01-03
Screenshot 2020-01-03

Screenshot 2021-04-12
Screenshot 2021-04-12. Only difference? Disclaimer and greater sales rank.

Comparing the files I downloaded when it was first offered in 2014, the one I downloaded in July of 2020, and the one I downloaded just now, they are all the exact same.  There is a difference of 11 bytes between the 2020 and 2021 versions that I can't account for yet, but every page is the same.

OA files
Your file sizes may vary due to name and customer ID#

Nothing in the file itself has changed.

I said at the time that WotC was not going to take it down and they were not going to change it.  I was right not because I had faith in WotC (far from it) I had faith in the money involved.

  • To take down a best-selling, low-cost, high ROI product is foolish.
  • To edit the same product incurs a cost, a high cost in many cases, that greatly reduces that ROI.

The intelligent thing to do is always make a new, better product to support the new current rules system, not anything at all for a nearly 50-year-old system with a diminishing customer base.

Also, the assertion that this would cause WotC to stop selling classic D&D pdfs altogether was easily dismissed. They kept adding more and more pdfs and PoD ready books. Focus has shifted a little from adding new pdfs (though the most recent ones are from June 18th or so) to get current pdfs PoD ready.

At the end of the day, Daniel Kwan was still making some very good claims.  These have been carefully spelled out in this series of videos. Warning this is over 26 hours long. If you want to dispute his point of view you need to watch this first.

Back then I said:

If I were in charge of the D&D line I would get in front of this now saying "Yeah, you have some great points. Let's assemble a dream team of experts both in history and in RPGs to make a new BETTER book."

I stand by that.  I have no idea if WotC is doing this or not, but I am a bit disappointed that no 3rd party publisher came forward to do it.  Now to be fair, Paizo very well could have done this and I just missed it. Brian Young has been doing exactly this for Castles & Crusades at Troll Lord Games.  Maybe the closest we have is Joesph Bloch's / BRWGames' The Golden Scroll of Justice. I don't have it, but I have read that it is good.  (edited to add. I just bought it to see how it is. First reaction, it looks good and has the level of quality I have come to expect from BRWGames, but I have no idea how representative it is, I am not qualified to measure that.)

People need to stop looking at these as "threats" and see them as opportunities to do better or at very, very least sell more books. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

TSR's Not So Great Start

The new old TSR logo
If you have been online at all this week then you likely have heard about the new new TSR. Justin LaNasa secured the trademarks that were lapsed (again).  There was a TSR Games that produced the new Top Secret game and were involved with the short-lived Gygax magazine. 

The tale began before this, but let's take the June 15th date as a start of the new TSR in the public eye when they sent out their press release.

Lots of people have dissected this already and I have no desire to retread that ground.  There are a few things I want to talk about and for that, I need to start here.  So let's establish some facts. From the PR.

The team includes Justin LaNasa (CEO), Ernest G. Gygax Jr (EVP), Jeff R. Leason (COO, and Stephen E. Dinehart (CCO).

Ok. So far so good...almost. 

LaNasa has posted some questionable material online, on his own FB page, and on the Dungeon Hobby Shop page, now since deleted.  Now people are allowed to have opinions and they don't have to agree with mine. If someone deletes something they posted I am going to assume they had a moment, thought better of it, and deleted it.  That's fine. No need for me to bring it up. But there are others, and when a pattern begins to emerge well it is less like a momentary lapse of reason and more like behavior.

Here is one from a little more recently.

how not to do social media

As a card-carrying member of the "Woke Nation," I take exception to this.  You don't have to like my opinions to take my money, but don't hold your nose and laugh while doing it.  Sorry, but if "woke" means I actually care about the opinions and feelings of others, then fuck it, I am woke.  Not only that I am a pretty big Social Justice Warrior and I have the receipts (in many cases actual receipts) to back that up.  Guess what, I can spend my money elsewhere.

If that were all, I could almost ignore it. I certainly would post anything about it, I'd just not buy your stuff and move on with my life.  There are lots of things I don't like; I want to talk about the things I do like. 

But then there was this bit from Executive VP Ernie Gygax.  It's a long video. The salient bits have been transcribed over at ENWorld

Look. It's an interview, not a presentation, not a press junket, so there are some rough bits in the presentation. But the real rough bits are really rough.

There is an absolute misunderstanding of IPs and copyright. The complete dismissal of the players of 5e is also poor professionalism.  I get you don't like the game, you don't have to like it, but dismissing the players of 5e? Sorry, my kids are huge 5e fans and they are having every bit as much as we did; maybe more. Referring to them as lemmings, also not a fan.  Also dismissing the largest population of role-players with money right now? That's just really bad business practice. 

Again, irritating, but not 100% damnable. Anyone can say something stupid once.  

But completely insulting the LGBT players by dismissing "gender identities" is so not cool and extremely unprofessional. 

why a new TSR?

Online, Justin, in his capacity as CEO of TSR, has made the claim that this is just Ernie expressing his own opinions.  Well, that doesn't really fly. The interview was in his capacity as a spokesperson for the company he is Executive VP for.  Let's be honest. No one will pay the "nostalgia dollar" based on LaNasa's name alone.  They are banking that despite not having a real plan that I can see and a lot of hope that people will buy these products based on the "TSR" and "Gygax" name. 

They want to produce a new "Star Frontiers," they own the name, but that is all. None of the IP, none of the rules.  Nothing really.

I fear they are poking a very large bear (WotC/Hasbro) and I am not sure they get that.  

Shannon Appelcline has written an update on TSR 2.0 and TSR 3.0 for his Designers & Dragons and has posted it to his Facebook page.

There is more. Lots more. But I am not really interested anymore.  This feels like a cheap cash grab to go after the nostalgia dollar and doing it by appealing to the lowest common denominator of that fan base.

Sorry but the whole thing is leaving a rather bad taste in my mouth.   I hope to see some changes, but I am not holding my breath. But I don't need to give any more of my cash to people that utterly dismiss the experiences of people I know and care about. 

Get your act together TSR or you will follow the business trajectory of the last two TSRs. And doubling down on Social Media is not only unprofessional but it is also a bad look. 

BTW: Jeff Dee is not working for them. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Ginny Di: Backstories don't have to be tragic to be interesting

Ginny Di
Let's take a quick break from Ravenloft to talk about something that will send many DM's screaming for the hills in horror.

Character backstories

Now, most old-school players will argue that 1st level characters don't need a backstory.  That would be fine and all, but I remember playing in the 80s. I have lost count of how many "disgraced princes," "lost royalty," or "tragic orphans" I ran into in games.  I get it, it was fantasy and a way to play out various ideas, concepts, whatever.  D&D was cheaper than therapy. I get it. I do.  And it is fine you don't want to do them now.

But don't pretend it didn't happen.

I have no issues with backstories.  In most of the RPGs I play a backstory is an excuse for the GM (me) to torture your character some more.  Have the Love quality/drawback in the Buffy RPG?  Yeah. Might want to rethink that one.  But I don't always have to do that.   

Our two primary modern examples of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joesph Campbell are Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter. By all accounts, they are 1st level characters.  Luke is a farm kid. Harry is an abused 11-year-old.  BOTH have great backstories.  "Yer a wizard Harry!" "My name is Luke." "Yer a Jedi Luke!"  But, yes, both are tragic backstories.  Take Campbell's own example of the Monomyth, Gilgamesh.  Gilgamesh is already the King when the story starts.  That's a backstory no one would accept!

Let's just say that there is going to be some sort of backstory.  How should you do it?

Well once again let's turn to Ginny Di.  

She might be new at D&D but her enthusiasm is greater and more infectious than a room full of Grogs blogging about it. Your humble author included.

Her recent video is overtly about one topic, but she actually makes two very good points here that pretty much everyone should agree with.

So her two major points are:

  1. Backstories don't need to be tragic or even dark
  2. Leave it open enough for your DM to work it into the campaign

That's solid advice. One I would like to hope that most Old-Schoolers follow already.

My oldest son has already instituted a "maximum" limit on what a backstory in his games are.  Right now I think it is a page, but he has talked about a paragraph.  Me? I don't care, make as long as you like just keep it in reason.

Ginny points out that characters, and this is true for every version of the game, are not normal people. A level 1 character is still better than a 0 level Normal Human.  They have more hp, are better at fighting or even have magic.  Even in Van Righten's Guide to Ravenloft, the Survivors are slightly better than normal humans.  Luke already was Force-sensitive, Harry could still do some minor magic and talk to snakes.  

Also, no normal person is going to live a life to go out adventuring.  So find those reasons.  Even if that reason is "I just want a pile of treasure." 

Taking Ginny's Advice

At the end of the video, she asks us two questions.  

Have you ever had a character with a happy backstory?
What kind of problems do you run into when writing character backstories?

These are good questions to ask.  

Happy Backstory?

Yes. My wizard Phygora, like his namesake and idol Phygor, came from a well to do, happy prosperous family in Glantri.  He was well-liked, no issues with school, loves, or friends. Just one day he decided, like Phygor before, him to travel the world to learn all the magic he could.  While this could have been tragic, it was symbolic of my own desires to learn all sorts of things.

I have had fighters and thieves that have "only it for the money" or as the kids say "the lolz."

Backstory Problems?

Sadly I do find the tragic backstory easier to write.  Larina's family died in their apothecary shop while she was away studying.  Though I recently brought her mother and father back. Johan's twin brother was killed by ghouls, then he died to become another's character's back story.  I have the usual suspects of orphans, outcasts and other murder hobos.  They far outweigh the happy stories.

Over the years though I have been looking at other ways to generate characters and backstories.

It occurred to me years (ok. decades) ago when sitting in my History of Psychology course.  We were going over Freud's theories of self and were contrasting them with later theorists. Now I have always preferred Jung over Freud.  I guess I am just Jung at heart! (sorry. That joke is mandated by my university, if I don't use it they take away my degrees.)

I am planning to expand on this, but I came to see many of my characters as representations of various Freudian and Jungian concepts.

The easiest one to show is Larina, she is a manifestation of my Jungian Anima/Shadow Self.  Phygora is my Freudian Super-Ego, Johan is my Ego and my assassin character represents my Id.  

I have always been curious if others have done this.

You can find Ginny Di online at:

Friday, March 12, 2021

25 years of The Other Side!

"A fine website, but even more than that...THANKS FOR THE GREAT PARODY OF THE DARK DUNGEONS TRASH! Best wishes."

Gary Gygax circa 1999

Back in 1994, I moved to Chicago to work on my Ph.D. and be closer to my then-girlfriend (spoiler, I married her in 1995).   I was working at the College of Education at the time as their tech-monkey.  I told them I knew how to write code. I did/do, but it was all Pascal, Fortran, and some C and VisualBasic.  What they wanted was HTML though they really didn't know it at the time.   I built their student databases and worked on their nascent website.  

My very first website, made in 1995, was The Chicago Campus Crusade for Cthulhu.  I had all my Call of Cthulhu materials online and it was a parody site.  This was quickly followed by my Gateway2000 PC site (yes I was a huge fan of Gateway computers). I had built them both in Notepad, a tool I still use today to edit all my HTML.

The earliest captures were 1998, but by then I had been on for 2-3 years. I was using the "noarchive" tag and "Frame breaker" scripts a lot back then because there was a real concern for webpage theft and spaghetti publishers. I thought that would help. What they do was keep my site from being archived by bots.

This kept me from finding the very first versions of my sites, though I still have all the HTML code backed up.  I did notice that when I went back for my second Ph.D. my student account was reactivated and there are some captures from around then as well.

In any case, the knowledge I gained from those sites was poured into my newest site, The Other Side.

The Other Side, circa late 1990s
So dark. Very Internet. Much frames.

I named it after an old newspaper column I wrote for my school newspaper in High School and then my first year of undergrad.  Plus it sounded mystical and new agey.

I am not 100% sure of the exact day it went live. I know it was between March 10th and the 12th because that was my wife's birthday.  Also, I was in a Cognition of Memory course at the time when I jotted down my first ideas for it in my notebook.  So that was Spring term 96.

The site changed over the years. I added more and more material and soon it was the home of my first Netbook of Witches and Warlocks, published in 1999. I had moved from my campus site to RPGHost for the longest time. From there I was also on Xoom, NBCi, Tripod, and then PlanetADnD.

edgy edge guy
Whoa, easy there Darklord.

Around 2003 or so I kept getting hacked and my sie taken down.  My host asked me to take it down for a bit because of all the DoS attacks he was getting.  So for a while, all that remained were some mirrors of the site that I rarely updated.

The site was revived in 2007 on this blog. 

I still use the same background, though in a much-lightened fashion. Some of the material written for that old site has also come back here. 

Sadly many of my then contemporaries are gone. PlanetADnD is no more. BlueTroll has been gone a long time. All the old hosting services are long gone. I see that ADnDDownloads is still up after a fashion. Mimir, the Planescape site, is still going and looks the same as it did back in the 1990s, though I don't think it has been updated in 10 years and many links are broken.

While I miss some of the "wild west" days of finding the perfect, or the perfectly odd, netbook, things are better now.  DriveThruRPG gives me legal means to complete my collection and DMGsguild covers my need for fan-created material. And that is just the tip of the iceberg as it were. 

Do I have it in me to go another 25? Well...I'll be in my mid to late 70s then, so no idea.  But I am going to keep having fun with this as long as I can.

Thanks for being with me this long!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme Reveal

I am considering doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge again this year.  It's been a couple of years since I have done it.  I was feeling I was alienating my regular readers with it in favor of people just coming through from the Challenge.

A to Z reveal

So this year I wanted to do something that any and all readers would enjoy.   This year I am doing Monsters.

The idea here is to give me some external motivation to get my two monster books done.

For new readers, there will monsters which are always fun. Since many come from the tales of fantasy,  myth, and folklore maybe there will be something they can use for their own writing or just enjoyment. For my regular readers, new monsters with stats.  I am also looking for all sorts of feedback on not just the monsters, but the stat blocks as well.

The one I have been using on my Monstrous Mondays has been working well for me, but I am sure I can tweak it some more.

The monsters for April A to Z will likely favor the Basic Bestiary I, covering all sorts of witchcraft-related monsters with plenty of fae and undead, but I am not ruling out some demons for Basic Bestiary II.

Both books will come in softcover (Basic red) and hardcover (orange spine) versions.  So they will work with whatever version of the game you are playing.  The interiors are the same with stat blocks designed to work with both the "Basic" and "Advanced" versions of the game.

Basic Bestiary cover, version 1 Basic Bestiary cover, version 2

So far Basic Bestiary has over 330 monsters with 156 of them complete.  The others are various points. 

Basic Bestiary II, Basic coverBasic Bestiary II, Advanced cover

Basic Bestiary II has over 500 demons, devils, and related monsters.

I am also going with my own compatibility logos on these since they really have gone beyond one system or the other.  They are still largely "Basic" in nature, but as you can see from my Monstrous Mondays stat blocks they have a little bit of everything in the OGC.  I am going to use this month to experiment.

You can see others doing their theme reveal over at the A to Z Blog until March 20.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Fall of the House of Whedon

I was debating on whether or not to remark to the latest (and maybe the last) of the ongoing drama with Joss Whedon, but I think at least a summary and retrospective might be in order.  Besides one of the reasons of for the existence of this blog was due to the earlier incarnation of The Other Side getting hacked all the time by Whedon fanboys because they did not like my message then.  So. Here we are nearly 20 years later.

burning house

First, let's start with the most recent news.  On February 10th Charisma Carpenter took to Twitter to talk about how she had been treated by Whedon while filming her last season of Angel.  While widely known to many people in the fan community at the time, this tweet was a revelation to many.  Among the other issues were asking her if she would get an abortion to accommodate the Angel shooting schedule and storyline.  What followed was a tsunami of posts from fellow actors and people associated with Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. 

This has all lead to the #IStandWithCharismaCarpenter hashtag to trend.

The question that some are asking is why is this all trending now versus 18 years ago? Or why are the actors all coming out now as opposed to then?

Well, keep in mind that a lot of the actors and people involved DID come out with these allegations.  I remember talking online about it at the time, in particular, Charisma Carpenter's firing because she got pregnant (which is illegal by the way).  What is different?

First, the actors above have the advantage of a more robust social media infrastructure.  They can get their message out to more, quicker.  Cases in point all the Tweets and Instagram posts above.

Second, there was the MeToo movement which shifted the lens of belief from the auteurs to the actresses.  There are countless stories of Kubrick, Hitchcock, and of course Weinstein but that all changed in the last few years when such behavior would no longer be tolerated.  This gave Ray Fisher a chance to speak out about how he was treated on the set of Justice League.  Cases in point were the comments made by Kai Cole, Whedon's ex-wife on The Wrap.  This was also one of the reasons that Stunt Coordinator Jeff Pruitt And Stuntwoman Sophia Crawford shared their story yet again and that James Marsters felt he could share his story as well.

I mentioned Jeff Pruitt and Sophia Crawford above with a "yet again" they shared this story before. Back in 2000.  It was detailed by Jeff, quasi-anonymously, in his "The Parabal (sic) of a Knight."  He is the Knight, Sophia is the Handmaiden and the Young Prince who becomes King is Whedon. It is also fairly negative to SMG, but that is not what I talking about today.  While he had to hide this in a story, the Buffy fandom at the time dismissed all of Jeff's and Sophia's claims.  It only took 20 years before the fandom took them at their word.

Related to that is my third point. The fandom that revered and protect Whedon is largely gone.  Back in 2003 or so, Whedon was on the top of his world.  Any complaint would have been drowned out by the screaming fans that worshipped him. Case in point. Anytime I would post something to my older version of The Other Side my host would get attacked.  It got so bad that between 2005 to 2009 there was no "Other Side" on the web.  I created this blog since I figured Blogspot/Google would be better protected. Of course by that time I had decided to move on. 

People talk about "toxic fandom" and how it can be directed in a negative way at creators.  One facet they don't mention is how un-checked praise and even worship of creators can also be damaging to others that are trying to warn us about those creatives.  Woody Hall, Harvey Weinstein, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, and yes Whedon all built their cult of personality and auteur status.  These same cults also shielded them from scrutiny.

The "Big Question" everyone is asking is "Why now?"

As I mentioned above the climate has changed.  These actors are no longer in a place where Whedon can damage their career.  They have moved on to other things. Charisma has roles, SMG is living the stay-at-home mom dream she has always wanted (and her husband Freddie Prinze Jr. is doing great), Amber has books out and has been behind the camera more than in front of it.  So the control he once had on their lives is not there.  The fan network has largely gone away as well.

Also, and this can not be stated too many times, other people do not have to conform to your timeline of healing.  Michelle Trachtenberg said it took her years to even come to terms with it.  Eliza Dushku only talked about the sexual abuse she suffered at age 12 three years ago. Michelle Trachtenberg mentions that it took her till she was a woman of 35 to deal with things that happened to her as a teenager of 15. I know others he has been involved with as well. The gaslighting he has done to them still bothers (enrages) them.  You don't get to dictate how others heal.

The question also comes up of why didn't others speak up or stop it.  Well, I think I covered that, the ones that did were blacklisted and deemed "difficult to work with."  You also have actors like Anthony Head and Amy Acker that said they did not see this abuse but support the others all the same.   Again, it can't be said too many times but abusers work by targeting those they know they can abuse and get away with it.  Bullies always pick on those weaker than themselves.  In terms of the power structure, everyone was weaker than the Grand Auteur.

Back in the early 90s I had a job at a head injury facility. I was a Qualified Mental Health Professional for the State of Illinois. I took the job because my own research was on cognitive development.  The job was so depressing. I would call my girlfriend every night after my night shift (she was living 300 miles away at the time; its ok though we got married in the end) complaining about how awful it was.  Not the staff, they were great, it's just the despair.  She asked me many times why I don't just quit.  I couldn't. Apart from needing this on CV for my Ph.D. program, I also needed to eat, pay rent, and have a job that a working grad student could do at night.  I couldn't just leave. Neither could these actors, and I didn't have a contract holding me in a place like they did. 

The Second Big Question is, for me, Why do I even care?

Over the years through my work on the Buffy, Angel, and Ghosts of Albion RPGs I have gotten to know a few of the people involved here. They are good people. In the years following, I have been able to get to know more. They are also good people.  They deserved a lot better than what they were given.

I guess really it is no surprise when given the chance to do my own versions of the Buffy-verse the people that made it over were "played" by Charisma, Amber, Michelle, Eliza, and also  Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan.

Truthfully the only answer one needs to give to a question of "Why should you care?" is "Because what happened was wrong."

Friday, February 5, 2021

#FollowFriday and Kickstart Your Weekend: Zine Quest 3

One of the things I loved about small cons in the 80s (and really, those were the only ones I went too then) was the little indie Zines.  Small, cheap (a bonus for a broke high school student) and packed with all sorts of strangeness, they had all sorts of appeal to me. 

Granted they were not all good, but they had a sense of, I don't know, love about them. This was before Desk Top Publishing was even taking off yet so often these were Xeroxed, hand stapled affairs. 

While it might be easier to get Zines out to the masses, the sense of love is still there.

This is why Zine Quest was made and now we are at the beginning of Zine Quest #3 over on Kickstarter and the choices are overwhelming. 


There are plenty of OSR and D&D 5 choices as well as plenty of other indie games in the truest sense.  

Trying to track them all is a bit more than I want to take on by myself. Thankfully there are good resources to help us all.

Hero Press / I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters

If you come here then you know "the other Tim" from across the pond.  Hero Press is my go-to entertainment blog for all things RPG, Superhero, and more. Go there. No qualifiers, just go there. But he is also covering the Zine Quest projects he likes.  You can also follow his Zine Quest tags.

Over on the Facebook side of things his group, I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters will be featuring even more Zines and project owners are encouraged to post links to theirs. 

Gothridge Manor / RPG Zines

Tim Shorts (yes another Tim!) is also keeping everyone posted on Zines.  He has been talking about them on his blog Gothridge Manor (also a great blog!) and his Facebook group RPG Zines.  This is pretty much Zine central and worth your time to check out.  Like Tim, Tim has a Zine tag for his blog as well. 

But where Tim Shorts rises above the other Tims is his own contribution to the Zine project.
Be sure to back The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade on Kickstarter. 

Tenkar's Tavern

If you have been in the OSR any amount of time you likely know about Tenkar's Tavern blog/podcast/Facebook group.  Tenkar is also covering Zine Quest with a lean to the OSR zines coming out.

You can also follow the #Zinequest3 hashtag on Twitter.

There are more launching every day in February, in fact, one launched while I was writing this post that I want to back.  So expect a Part 2 next week!

Friday, December 18, 2020

#FollowFriday: TBBYANR and More!

I figured it was time to formally merge to features.  Today is my usual (semi-usual) #FollowFriday post, but I have also wanted to do a TBBYANR post.

blogs blogging about blogs

In case you forgot (it has been a while) TBBYANR stands for "The Best Blog You Are Not Reading" and is was a great feature in the early days of the blogging scene. Since then communications have become more fractionalized with people on Facebook, Discord and other mediums.  It is hard to know how well others know about other blogs.  Plus so many blogs also have their own Facebook and/or Twitter outlets.

So in my merging of these two features or more accurately #FollowFriday assuming the role that TBBYANR once held I figure I'll post some blogs I have been enjoying and how you can interact with them on social media.

They Might Be Gazebos!

Chuck Thorin's "They Might Be Gazebos!" is a good classic OSR blog. He does some reviews and retrospectives and is usually focused on Swords & Wizardry and Dungeon Crawl Classics.  He does the occasional character write-up as well.

One of my favorite features of his is his OSR Retrospective where he looks at the games of the Old-School Renaissance. 

Chuck is also the author of "Gary vs. The Monsters" the cinematic, campy horror monster-fighting old-school RPG.

Again, I am not sure how many of you know about this site, but they are worth checking out.

Links

Mythopoeic Rambling

Theodric Ælfwinesson has been running MR for a bit now. While the focus is Old School there is still new content (like Pathfinder) but viewed from an Old-School lens. 

Some of my favorite topics are on monsters and world-building.

Definitely check it out, there is an absolute ton of material there. 

Links



Former TSR staffer and expert on all things Mystara, Bruce Heard is still giving us great content often for just the price of a mouse click.  His blog focuses on his campaign world, Calidar, but there is still a ton of great content for BECMI here as well.

Links

Swords & Stitchery is very likely a blog you all do know about.  Eric has been posting his thoughts on old-school games and his own campaigns for a long time now.  At a couple of posts per day he is constantly supplying new material. I have to pause often to just catch up to his output.  His OSR Commentary might be the best feature, and his coverage of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea keeps me coming back time and time again.  

Recently he has been discussing NIGHT SHIFT and I am very excited to see what he does with it.

Links

  That's good for now! 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Character Advice from Ginny Di (and Aisling!)

I have gone on record with my love for the newest generation of D&D Players.  They are passionate about the game they play and they LOVE their characters.  I know that can sometimes feel a bit odd to the old-school crowd, but I don't care.  They have passion and energy and it is them that will carry role-playing into the future for the next generations, not us.

Among all these "New School" players one of my favorites is Ginny Di.  I'll provide some links below.


I featured her last week as the start of my Tasha's Week of Everything. She did a cosplay of Tasha, sponsored by Wizards of the Coast. It was a fun video and I enjoyed seeing all the work she put into the costume. 

This week she is back with another great video.  Here is her Twitter post for it.

And the video itself.

I know what you are thinking and to quote the Ninth Doctor, "I bet you are fussing and moaning right now, typical."

But really, how is this any different than what we all used to do anyway?  Roll 3d6 in order and deal with it.  Ginny is not so much against "Old School" as she thinks.  Maybe against the "Middle School" of character optimization (positive spin) or Min-Maxing (negative spin).

It is also great advice.  Characters should never be perfect.  Flaws, quirks, and shortcomings make for far more interesting characters.  Stan Lee knew this well. Peter Parker was a neurotic teen struggling to make ends meet. Doctor Strange was an arrogant prick before and even after his accident.  Tony Stark was an arrogant prick alcoholic.  I have/had a cleric who is afraid of the dark, a warlock who is colorblind,  a dwarven thief that was kicked out of his clan, loves opera, and hates ale (one did not cause the others).  

One of the things the New School D&D players do and do well is to think about their characters and try to build a good group dynamic.  This is mocked in Old School circles as "back story" but that is a rather naïve or limiting way of looking at it.   It is simply a different way of having fun with the same game.

Here is another video where she talks about 50 Character Builder Questions to ask of your character.  Now in a game like D&D where characters can grow and change a lot based on what happens around them then I say it is ok to answer "I don't know yet" or even change answers later.

She does these before each session (not all of them of course) and I think that is a good way of doing things.  I have been looking at her list and thought I might use some of them for my 31-day character challenge in January. 

Aisling

An aisling is a poetic dream or vision and an Irish name for girls.  It is also the name of Ginny's elf warlock/druid character.  And she is also such a great character!   Here are some videos about her character.



Count me among those that have grown to love Aisling as well. She is such a great character and sounds like she is a lot of fun despite no because of her various flaws. 

Since I feel that Ginny's advice is actually in line with Old School character creation ethos I wanted to try to recreate Aisling for old school/OSR D&D.  Since she is a warlock/druid "witchdaughter" it makes sense to me that she is a type of witch.  Her Fey patron, Ùir, the Woman of the Soil, would make her a good Faerie Witch, but given her multiclassing into a druid and other factors, I see her as a Green Witch.   All apologies to Ginny for borrowing Aisling here.

Aisling by Ginny Di
Aisling by Ginny Di
Aisling
Female Elf
5th Level Witch (Green Witch Tradition) 

Strength 8
Intelligence 14
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 13
Constitution 15
Charisma 15

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 13
Magic Wands 14
Paralysis, Polymorph 13
Dragon Breath 16
Rods, Staffs, Spells 15

Hit Points: 19
AC: 7 (leather)
To hit AC 0: 18

Occult Powers
Familiar: Psuedo dragon "Nightshade"
Herbal Healing

Spells
1: Fey Sight, Fury of the Ancestor
2: Blazing Gaze, Evil Eye
3: Bestow Curse

Patron: Ùir, the Woman of the Soil
Coven: Solitary

I think this works well. 

There is a lot of "fan art" of Aisling out there.  Here is one from joenni, an artist I want to feature one day.

Aisling by joenni
Aisling by joenni

I can't do fan art, but I can do character write-ups.  I hope I did her justice.

check out Ginny's sites and especially her video content. It is all great fun.

Links

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Supernatural, Del Segno al Fine

Last Thursday was the Supernatural Series Finale.  15 years, the longest-running genre show on American television.  A little show that started with two brothers, some 80s mixtapes, and a black 1967 Chevy Impala. Driving the back roads of the US hunting monsters and saving people.

It was every Chill or Call of Cthulhu game I ever played.  It is exactly what I would do in NIGHT SHIFT.



It was also the one show that everyone in my family watched.  We didn't start in 2005, the pilot freaked my wife out.  But we came to it later and binged watched all the past seasons one Christmas break. We all sat together and watched the adventures of Sam, Dean, and eventually Cass, Crowley, and later Jack.  It was wonderful really.

Updating Sam
Last week I posted stats for Sam Winchester. I chatted a bit with my co-author Jason Vey and he suggested that I instead make a Sam a "Supernatural" race.  This would work well with his background as a "Special Child."  In fact, it works much better, given his ill-defined and ever-changing powers.  I would drop the level in Psychic and give it back in Veteran or more likely Sage.  

This works a lot better and ties in a little better to some other thoughts I had while watching the finale.

That Finale
Ok, Finale Spoilers follow. You have been warned.

In the mean-time here is sister group Neoni covering Wayward Son that appeared in the finale.


The last episode pretty much played out as I expected it would.  The Winchesters settling into their new routine. To me, it looks like something that would have gone on every day for months without change. Until they get notice of some kidnappings.  They consult their dad's journal (nice call back to the beginning of the series) they find some vampires, make short work of them, but in the process, Dean was mortally wounded.  Doesn't matter that they fought demons, monsters, the devil, and even God himself, they are still men and Dean gets impaled on a bit of rebar.

Dean dies and Sam has to move on.  He does. Gets married (maybe it's to Eileen, I certainly hope so), has a son (Dean Jr.), he grows old and dies.   He reunites with Dean in Heaven. 

#TheySilencedThem
Let's also talk about the finale and the things unsaid. 

The Destiel fans are upset that not only did they not get the closure they wanted, but it also seems some scenes were later edited after filming.   I get their complaints. I really, really do.  I was in the same place about 20 years ago with Tara.  Everything they are complaining about is 100% legitimate. 

I do wonder if Covid-19 had not kept Misha Collins out of the filming if things would have been different.  Evidence sadly suggests otherwise. 

Again, I am left where I was in 2002, I am just going to have to continue the story I want in my NIGHT SHIFT games.

Did Rowena get slighted in the end? No. I don't think so. Yes, there was confirmation that she was bi and then she ended up in Hell.  But she wasn't killed for that and let's be honest, Rowena isn't *in* Hell, Rowena is *ruling* Hell.   Being in Heaven would have been a punishment to her.  She even says if she knew it was going to be this good she would have done it years ago.   
No, Rowena in Hell as its Queen gives her character new horizons. 

Charlie is easily one of my favorite characters, behind Donna and Jodie, while it is never mentioned (and it could have been) we assume that Jack brought back her and Stevie along with everyone else.  While I'd love to see more stories with her I think her best story would be to retire.

My favorite series that never was.  Like Charlie, Jack brought the Wayward Sisters back. This we know because Sam gets a call from someone who got his number from Donna.   We can assume then that this means Kaia and Claire are also alive.  Whether they stay together or not is something to be played out.  I know I am not with the same girl I was with at 18 or 19. 

Knowing that they are all back though is great for my games, but sadly does nothing for the fandom wanting more.

I will say one of the first things I wanted to do was rewatch the series again from the start.  With 327 episodes that would take a little bit; 6.3 years if I watch 1 a week.   If I do I should do something with it. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Sky is Falling. Again.

So there is a new bit of errata out for D&D5.  Nothing new there, in today's Internet age errata is easy to get and often flows out easy enough. For some reason, this latest one has some of the old-school crowd up in arms. Again.  Let's see what it is all about.

This is the Errata for Volo's Guide to Monsters. A book that is described by all accounts as optional. 


What does it say exactly? Let's have a look.

Kobold Traits (p. 119). In the Ability Score Increase trait, the text has changed to read “Your Dexterity score increases by 2.”
The adjustment to Strength has been removed.

Orc Traits (p. 120). In the Ability Score Increase trait, the text has changed to read “Your Strength score increases by 2 and your Constitution score increases by 1.” The adjustment to Intelligence has been removed.

Orc Traits (p. 120). The Menacing trait has been replaced with the following trait:

Primal Intuition. You have proficiency in two of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

Ok. So this is all for characters. Optional characters. 

Checking online...oh. For fucks sake.

A message to my fellow 50+-year-old gamers. Lighten the fuck up.
Seriously. You all look like a bunch of Chicken Littles, running around screaming about the damn sky is falling.

Wizards of the Coast doesn't care what people who don't buy their product think, to be honest. 

The world didn't end when the whole Oriental Adventures debacle happened back in July.  Everyone was claiming it was the start of censorship and that Wizards would start taking down or editing older books. Censorship! Censorship! CENSORSHIP!!

These optional rules, in an optional rule book for two races that 99% of you would never allow in the first place in a system you never play has fuck-all to do with you.

In D&D5 there are 15 standard races with 28 sub or variants for a total of 34 choices. None of which have negative ability mods. The only two that did have them were in a supplement and those two are being edited to come into line with the other 34 choices. These are two outliers. They are being brought back into line.

How is this any different than say a new rule in Savage Worlds?  Or even in Monopoly? 

Yet, people are losing their shit online and looking like a bunch of idiots. 

The OSR gets a bad reputation online for the reactions of a few. This is just another example.  On one hand, the old-school community will claim not to care or even pay attention to what WotC does with D&D and then turn around and freak out when they release a rule errata that many in the 5e gaming community might just ignore.

So, stop freaking out all the time. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Official Music of the OSR is Run-DMC

Seriously. It is. 

Like Old-School D&D was a pioneer of gaming,  Run-DMC was a pioneer of old-school rap and hip hop.  Many hip-hop groups cite Run-DMC as their primary influence and for many of us Run-DMC was out first exposure to the wider world of rap and hip-hop.  Could there have been a Public Enemy without Run-DMC? Wu-Tang Clan? NWA? Snoop-Dogg? Outkast? Salt-n-Peppa, De La Soul? Cypress Hill? US3? Digable Planets? TLC? (damn, I still love TLC).

We owe it all to Run-DMC.



Silly?  Yeah, a little. But my love of Run-DMC is pure and true. And yeah I know all the words to these songs. 

But making a claim, any claim, about the OSR is pointless.  While there are trends, there are no main drivers here. No one setting policy or dictating terms save for collective memory of a time when you could turn on your radio and hear "It's Tricky."

Consequently, the claim that OSR is conservative only track because the OSR is as has been often pointed out, full of old fucks.

I am pretty far left and get more liberal and more left and more blue with each passing year. 

I shouldn't need to say this, but here it is.

Like THAC0 BLOG and The Elf Game, I don't just reject Nazis and White Supremacists, I utterly reject them and condemn them, and they are not welcome in any part of the games I play, write or enjoy.  They can take their orange shitgibbon Trump with them. 

Oh. 

And Black Lives Matter. 

And fuck Trump.

Don't like it? Get the fuck out of the OSR.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

How to Destroy a Legacy in a Week

I was not going to talk about this today.  I wanted to do a One Man's God today.

But in truth, I can't be silent about this. Last week I talked about Bob Bledsaw II and his racist, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, posts on Facebook.  Some fans of Judges Guild were content to ignore them or try to separate the "art from the artist".

Well, I am here to say that is all bullshit.


If you buy one of my books you are buying a piece of me. You are buying the stories I read, the music I listen too, the movies and TV shows I watch.  When doing research I make choices to read Book A or Book B, Article C or Article D, Documentary E or F.  This goes on and on.  What I choose is based on my interests, my time, and yes, my political leanings.  You don't have a choice in this save for one; to buy or not buy my books.  When writing I have one principle that applies; is this fun to play. If so then I do it.  If I do it right you buy and enjoy it too.

But don't pretend my politics don't enter into it.

Well. Now all the hemming and hawing and handwringing aside, Bob Bledsaw II posted the following unhinged screed on the Judges Guild official Facebook page.  There is no separation now of art and artist.  And to be 100% accurate, BBII did not, as far as I know, create anything for Judges Guild.

You might need to click on this or download it to read the whole thing.  Otherwise, Tenkar over at his eponymous Tavern has been doing a good job of keeping track of this whole clusterfuck.


There is so much wrong with this posting that it would take me several hours to point all the self-contradictory statements, the outright false-hoods and tin-foil hat wearing conspiratorial bullshit and frankly, he is not worth my time.

But there are only two facts that matter to me.
1. This was posted as part of an official release on the Judge's Guild page.
2. It is so full of hate, bigotry and vile thoughts as to be repulsive to any reasonable individual.

Does BBII have to right say what he wants? Yes. So fuck off with the "free speech" bullshit argument.  There is no such thing as consequence-free speech.  He can say what he wants. So can I.

BBII has destroyed any sort of good legacy Judge's Guild had left.

So fuck him. Fuck his ideas. Fuck his company's products.
And if you support him or his ideals then fuck you too.

I am not going to buy any of Judges Guild stuff. If you decide you don't want to buy my stuff.
Good. I don't really want your money here.

I am happy to note there are many in the community, and in the OSR community too, to stand up against this type of behavior.

Here are some videos that address the topic.





There are undoubtedly more and plenty of Twitter and Facebook conversations too.

TL;DR Bob Bledsaw II is a piece of shit and if you support him don't fucking buy my books.
Likely you are too stupid to understand them anyway.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Choose a Side, Or One Will Be Chosen For You

Because I am not including other screencaps
Years ago, so long I don't remember exactly when or how I was told that "you must choose a side or one will be chosen for you."

I think it was my dad and it was while I was in Boy Scouts (yes. I was a Boy Scout until my Atheism made it difficult) and he meant it a means of choosing good over evil, right over wrong.  The point is that sometimes making the choice is hard and sometimes good or evil is not clear cut or easily defined.

Sometimes though choosing the right side is easy.

Growing up in Central Illinois it was easy to be a fan of Judges Guild. They were "local guys" by the standards of TSR being all the way up in WI and other companies even further.  I remember playing in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord a lot back then and lamenting that we didn't have all the products we wanted for it.   I picked up Witch's Court Marshes and other books and added them happily to my collections.  Even in my D&D/TSR "purity" days, Judges' Guild products got a pass.

I liked Judges Guild.

Yet with the recent posts by current JG owner (and son of the founder) Bob Bledsaw II has changed all of that.   I was not friends with Bob Bledsaw, so I had not seen that this was a pattern of behavior that was one of those "open secrets".

I can no longer support Judges Guild. 

Frog God Games and Bat in the Attic are also cutting ties with BBII/JG and I applaud them for it.  You can see more posts from BBII's Facebook on Rob's site so I do not feel the need to repost them here.

My financial contribution to JG's bottom line is practically non-existent; anything I did buy was on the second-hand market for rare items.  But I was planning on doing a series of posts on  The Dungeoneer and Pegasus magazines and I wanted to review a couple of adventures.  I cannot in good conscience do that now.

Gaming is inclusive. We welcome all and actively seek to bring in others that may not have a place to call their own. That's our DNA, that is who we should be always.  Gaming was there for the disenfranchised teens of the 70s and 80s that were not part of the in-crowds. We are not part of a movement to bring in so many others that want a place to be themselves.

But there is no room for bigots, racists, anti-semites or anyone at all like that.
Hate has no place in my games.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

BlackStar: The United Federation of "hold my beer, I got this"

Ok. Not *really* BlackStar related, but this is in the back of my mind the whole time I am thinking about BlackStar.  This is always worth forwarding.   Some of the comments are gold too.



The United Federation of "hold my beer, I got this"




Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Going Wild for Wildemount

Wizards of the Coast just announced their next book for Dungeons & Dragons 5e and it has some sections of the fandom wailing in lamentations, but the vast majority excited about it.

Explorer's Guide to Wildemount will be out in Spring 2020 and it covers the part of the world from the highly successful Critical Role webseries.  Now I can already hear the older crowd bitching and moaning about it and all I can say is "typical".

There are people out there complaining that "Wizards has pissed off half their fans".  I would argue that "half" is really exaggerating it by quite a bit, but even so then they are at least pleasing the other half.

There are others that are also talking about how they won't be buying this. Ok. That's fine you don't need to buy every D&D book.  I enjoy 5e and I don't even have every book.  I have most, but I don't have them all.

But even then, these people are often the same ones that will claim never to have bought a WotC D&D book ever anyway, so they were never the audience.

Personally, I think this is a really intelligent move on Wizard's part.

Critical Role is hugely successful.

The Kickstarter for just the animated series brought in $11,385,449.   And this book, announced just 48 hours or so ago, has all the relevant #1 spots on Amazon.


Note that's not just #1 in the D&D categories, that is #1 in Books.  All of them.

Would I, as an old-school gamer, love to have seen Greyhawk or Mystara?  Of course!  Do I *need* them? No, not really.  I have everything I need for those worlds now.  I have MORE than what I need for my home-brew world now.  New worlds are always fun to read and maybe I can use some things from that book in my world. Or maybe not.  Who knows yet.

I do know that some sections of our hobby need to lighten the hell up and let people enjoy things.



Thursday, December 5, 2019

Updated Witch Links

I have updated my Witch Links Page.   Every so often I search the blog archives and find links to articles, posts or what have you on what others are saying or doing with witches.  Yeah, I am a tad obsessed, but anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.


So here are some of the ones I found that I thought were fun or interesting from the last six or so months.

If you visit, let them know I sent ya!
If you have a link you would like to share, post it in the comments below.

Boccob's Blessed Blog
20 Pathfinder Witch Quest Ideas
https://boccobsblog.com/2019/05/17/20-pathfinder-witch-quest-ideas/

Daemons & Deathrays
Eastern Gothic – Creatures of Slavic Folklore (Part 1)
https://daemonsanddeathrays.wordpress.com/2019/11/22/eastern-gothic-creatures-of-slavic-folklore/

Eastern Gothic – Creatures of Slavic Folklore (Part 2)
https://daemonsanddeathrays.wordpress.com/2019/11/29/eastern-gothic-part-2/

Greyhawk Stories
Iggwilv: Mother of Witches
https://greyhawkstories.com/tales-from-the-flanaess/iggwilv-mother-of-witches/

Greyhawkery
Witch Queen Iggwilv Discussion Tonight
http://greyhawkery.blogspot.com/2019/09/witch-queen-iggwilv-discussion-tonight.html

Hall of the Mountain King
Project - Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches - the Sisterhood
http://jasonzavoda-hallofthemountainking.blogspot.com/2019/05/project-blackmoor-land-of-thousand_16.html

Project - Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches - NPC Tuure
http://jasonzavoda-hallofthemountainking.blogspot.com/2019/05/project-blackmoor-land-of-thousand_17.html

Project - Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches - The Moon Hall
http://jasonzavoda-hallofthemountainking.blogspot.com/2019/05/project-blackmoor-land-of-thousand_22.html

NPC - Linnea Schnai Witch
http://jasonzavoda-hallofthemountainking.blogspot.com/2019/12/npc-linnea-schnai-witch.html

Hero Press
Which Witch Are You?
http://heropresstwo.blogspot.com/2019/10/which-witch-are-you.html

I Don't Remember That Move
a peeper deeper, Ready to Harvest the Witch's Garden
http://rememberdismove.blogspot.com/2019/10/a-peeper-deeper.html

Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque
Conjure Wife
http://talesofthegrotesqueanddungeonesque.blogspot.com/2019/10/conjure-wife.html

Satanic Temple, Witch Board Museum, Count Orlok, Lighthouse, Parasite
https://talesofthegrotesqueanddungeonesque.blogspot.com/2019/12/satanic-temple-witch-board-museum-count.html

Writeups.org
All of these are for DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Tara Maclay (!) but sadly no Willow
https://www.writeups.org/tara-maclay-amber-benson-buffy-vampire-slayer/

Evil-Lyn (Masters of the Universe cartoons) 
https://www.writeups.org/evil-lyn-masters-universe-cartoon/

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Merry Part, Witches' Voice

A non-gaming post today of sorts.

I just read the announcement that The Witches' Voice will be shutting down its service.
Witches' Voice, or Witch Vox, has been online serving the Pagan, Neo-Pagan and Wiccan community online since 1997.


Now to be clear, I am not a pagan, Wiccan or anything like that.  I have always been a pretty hard-core Atheist. But I liked Witch Vox and I like Pagans in general.

I liked going to WitchVox because it also kept me informed on what was happening in the community of Neopagans and Wiccans.  While my own witch books are what I like to think of a nice mix of myths, fairy tales, and legends, some of those myths are also modern myths.  See my Pumpkin Spice Witch book as an example.

Through WitchVox I was able to find several occult bookstores in my area, great back in the late 90s when I first moved out into the suburbs from Chicago.  I found a great little occult bookstore not too far from my Favorite Local Game Store.  Sadly that bookstore is gone. And much like WitchVox itself a lot of these places are closing due to people getting their materials online.  Amazon has replaced the occult bookstore and Facebook has replaced WitchVox.

I also used WitchVox as a starting point for research.  It was a crucial find for me back when I was putting together my first witch "netbook".   Prior to this, like all good little academics, I went through books and later journal articles.  WitchVox opened up new avenues of research to me.

Thankfully much of the original purpose of WitchVox can now be handled well with their Facebook Page, and potentially hit a much larger audience.

WitchVox may be shutting down their website, but the cycle of birth-death-rebirth is something that witches often believe.  So I am sure there will be a rebirth of WitchVox in some form or another.