The quarantine has me doing a bit of blogging lately, which means I’m also looking at my stats. With respect to my posts regarding copyright and RPGs:
The posts are broken into two separate issues. Part 1 and part 2 are about the copyrightability of RPG stat blocks, and part 3 (not relevant here) is about the OGL. As to the first issue, to date, part 1 represents ~30% of text by page count and has 17,037 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 17,667 hits), whereas part 2 (70%) has only 704 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 802 hits). Moreover, part 1 spends much of its text on going over basic copyright principles that don’t represent the actual argument. It’s clear by the stats and the basis of the criticism itself (often peppered with personal insults) that the vast majority of (non-lawyer) criticism I’ve received is from people that have read only 30% (at most) of that argument. I know it’s long, convoluted, and at times poorly written (mostly because it targets two very different audiences); and you’re under no obligation to read it (or even care about it). However, it’s all connected, and if you’re going to criticize it, you should probably understand it first.
Or not. Free speech and all that.
Part 3 has only 703 hits (edit 10/20/2020: 849 hits), which is surprising. I thought it would be the most read post.
Part 4 answers frequently ask questions and addresses frequently raised issues.
Over on a lawyers-only subreddit, the attorneys seemed to want to discuss only my side note on patentability of the Shadow of the Demon Lord initiative system. I guess it’s great that they all agree that my argument is trivially correct, but Rob Schwalb has seriously hijacked my glory. I let him have it when I saw him last February.
Before you purchase any used materials for Advanced, Basic, or Original D&D, please visit the Acaeum at https://www.acaeum.com/ddindexes/rulebooks.html. Their main homepage is here, and their methodology is here. Someone posted a list of D&D materials to the Facebook 1st Edition D&D group earlier this week. The prices were generally double what the Acaeum lists.
The guy wasn’t trying to be an asshole. He seemed like a reasonably nice guy, but his claimed success, if true, is relying on gullibility and desperation to make his sales. He may not realize that.
As rare as it is, I know there are some gamers that have a decent amount of disposable income. I, myself, have made several 1st Edition D&D purchases recently (though most were new). It doesn’t matter. If anyone is selling materials for higher prices than what’s listed at the Acaeum, don’t freaking buy them. Things cost whatever people will pay for them, but that’s exactly why you should rely on a neutral third party to assess the fair price. Otherwise, you encourage overpricing, and buyers suffer. Be patient. If everyone plays it cool, prices will lower.
I wish there was a resource for 3rd Edition D&D material. There are a couple of items I’d like, but they’re way too expensive at the moment.
Two weeks ago to the day, I wrote about a local celebrity’s death that probably had one of the biggest impacts on the DC area.
As I’ve written before, certain moments in history define a decade, such as John F. Kennedy getting shot and 9-11. At the moment this post publishes, it will be the 36th anniversary of just such a moment for my generation, but on a national scale: The space shuttle Challenger exploding shortly after takeoff.
A recent purchase sent me down a rabbit hole. Last Wednesday, I whined about my unfinished business with 4th Edition D&D (“4e“) with 3rd Edition D&D (“3e“). Yesterday, I showed how that can put you in a “you can never go back” position. Today, I’m not whining (too much), but this is really about praising a great RPG writer, Rob Schwalb, a.k.a., the Demon Lord, a.k.a., Satan Claus.
Full disclosure: Though we’ve never sat down and had a beer together (why the fuck not?), I know the guy, and I know that he’s done a lot of writing for D&D. However, I don’t pay attention to the authors on those books because I trust the brand and am going to buy those books regardless of who the freelance author was. I honestly had no idea he authored some of my favorite D&D books. Only the ones I consider my favorites are noted below, but the full list is here (or so claims Amazon.com).
Fiendish Codexes, 3e
As I’ve whined before, the Fiendish Codexes are two 3e sourcebooks I regret having sold off, and as much as I want them in my physical library, I’m not paying $135 or more for either. Rob co-wrote the second one, Tyrants of the Nine Hells, with Robin D. Laws. I’ll have to settle on the fact that my new character I’m playing at Winter Vantasy will be Tybalt the Cursed (Tyrants of the Nine Hells, page 79), or at least as close as I can get. Feel free to make suggestions to his character sheet at 1st level and 5th level.
Tome of Magic, 3e
Only one class can truly compete with bard for my favorite class: the Truenamer from Tome of Magic (for which I’m not paying $50+). I made one my BBEG for a campaign I ran but never played one as a PC. Mechanically, it’s not the best class. It has a weird power curve because it’s attacks are based on skills, so as you level up you became weaker until you hit 4th, 8th, 12th, etc. level where you get a huge jump in power. It also depends on a very specific set of magic items in order to keep up with the NPC power curve. Nevertheless, it has great flavor, so I’d have been happy to play one. I’ve annoyed people by playing bongos or a recorder at the game table for my bards, but can you imagine roleplaying a truenamer? I’d be screaming profanity in an unknown language every time I attacked.
Drow of the Underdark
Last week, I purchased a soft cover copy of Drow of the Underdark via the DMs Guild (PDF included). I loved that book and wanted it in my physical library. I’m very happy with my soft cover of the Fiend Folio for 1st Edition D&D, so the format doesn’t bother me at all.
Martial Power, 4e (the First One)
In 4e, all I wanted to play were leaders, which were the classes that did most of the healing. This is odd because I disliked playing healers in every other edition of D&D that I’ve played (though 5th Edition D&D‘s tempest cleric is reasonably fun). However, the one 4e non-leader class/build that I loved to play as much as a leader was the beastmaster ranger from Martial Power. I could win initiative and run across an entire battle map on the first turn. Impressive, though reckless. I did it only once. Once. But being able to self-flank with your beast companion was fun.
Monster Manual 3, 4e
My favorite enemies are demons, devils, drow, and slaadi. This book had cambions, 7 demons (molydeus!) 8 devils (using a picture of a Binder from Tome of Magic for 3e), 6 drow, Lolth, Eclavdra, and 2 slaadi. Lolth’s stat block was about as clever as they come, changing from a lurker to a brute when her lurker form was “killed.” Rob confirmed with me that he drafted it. (Sly Flourish‘s Cryonax stat block was pretty good too. Never used it. Shit.)
How could I not love this sourcebook? This is, of course, just scratching the surface. This sourcebook introduced a lot of iconic monsters to 4e. I added an intellect devourer to my home game as soon as I had that stat block.
Exemplars of Evil and Elder Evils, 3e
These were not among my favorites. I mention them only to say, yeah, it figures he wrote these. Crazy bastard.
This list is itself just scratching the surface. He’s done a lot of solid work, which is unsurprising. You don’t keep getting jobs if you’re producing shoddy work. Some of my favorite titles have his bloody fingerprints all over them.
I recently wrote about my unfinished business with 4th Edition D&D (“4e“). In short, the edition was (mostly) abandoned by WotC while there was still more of their material to explore. This was a problem only because most of my friends and I were the kind of people that would always move on to the current edition, so there’s no blame to assess. That’s just the way it is. Well, as I mentioned in that post, the same thing happened with 3rd Edition D&D (“3e“); it just wasn’t as devastating for me.
So, moving onto the topic at hand, I recently came across a 3e supplement I had forgotten but was a sore point for me: Dragon Magic. In WotC’s words,
This D&D supplement presents an unprecedented variety of new options for your character, each one drawing on some element of draconic might. It presents a new standard class, the dragonfire adept, who combines a potent breath weapon with various magical invocations. It reveals many new ways to wield the magic of dragons, including draconic auras, dragonpacts, and draconic racial variants.
For the DM, this book also provides dragon-themed adventure seeds and campaign ideas, magical locations to explore, and new options for making dragons more powerful and exciting.
I’ve always been a “kitchen sink” DM, by which I mean that I never forbade a player from using an official WotC resource for their D&D character. I didn’t care how it broke the game; I’d adjust. If they bought the book, they should be able to make use of it. I found it bizarre that WotC’s Living Greyhawk living campaign wasn’t so generous. They’re the ones that were trying to sell the book. Why forbid its use? But I digress. The point is that I bought Dragon Magic and really wanted to try the class it introduced, the dragonfire adept. I never got that opportunity, and the one time I tried, the DM forbade it because he wasn’t familiar with the material.
I have no idea whether it was a fun class. I have no idea whether the draconic subspecies, variant class features, draconic feats, draconic spells, dragon pacts, or draconic auras were any good. But I really wish I had had the opportunity to find out. To be clear, I’m being a whiny little bitch about this. It’s not enough that 4e, 5e, or any other game system created similar options. I wanted to play these options in 3e at that time, and I’m a little bitter I was denied that. As I’m not a fan of 3e, and the only times I’ve played it in recent years has been within the resurrected Living Greyhawk campaign, which forbids it, so this will never happen. That’s a shame.
In other words, the real message of this post is: Don’t deny your players the opportunity to use the materials for which they’ve paid good money (i.e., don’t be a dick).
Episode 3 of The Book of Boba Fett (“TBoBF“) touched off a storm of discussion on social media, and it’s continued through episode 4. I’ve engaged in that discussion quite a bit but am collecting my thoughts here.
First off, you can hate TBoBF. This post isn’t saying otherwise, which would be really stupid. You like what you like, and you can’t help that any more than I can help that I liked the Green Lantern movie. You can explain why you hate it, but that explanation might serve as the reason I like it. Different strokes and all that. I also don’t see anything wrong with expressing your opinion. Expressing hate is no or less moral than expressing like or love. It’s just your opinion, and if I open the door to hearing it, I shouldn’t shut it because I don’t agree. Frylock’s Gaming & Geekery is bubble-free.
But if you can state your opinion, I can state mine.
Here’s what I don’t get: Boba Fett isn’t a character. If this were a copyright suit, and I were the judge, I’d throw you in jail (even without the power to do so) just for suggesting otherwise. He has four lines of dialogue, six minutes of airtime, and a really cool-looking suit. Okay, maybe five lines if you count a childish scream.
Of all of that, his suit is the sole reason we liked him as kids. In copyright terms, he’s not a character; he’s a sculpture.
So in what way does this show “ruin” the character of Boba Fett?
It doesn’t. There’s nothing to ruin except the suit, but the suit’s still there. What it ruins is the head canon that you’ve created, representing your assignment of various traits to him, most of which contradict the few traits we see in him. For example, the one time we see him in combat in Return of the Jedi, he gets his ass kicked. He’s not the bad ass your mind extrapolated in childhood. To a child, no one in such a cool suit could possibly be so pathetic, but as an adult, you should know better.
This doesn’t mean that it would have been wrong to make him something other than a conflicted anti-hero. He could have been written as a straight-up villain, and even I’m getting a bit annoyed with Hollywood’s obsession with the anti-hero. There are so many of them that they collectively paint the cinematic world as a place with no heroes. That’s too close to reality. But Disney doesn’t give a shit what you’ve extrapolated onto the character. They can’t. There are too many of you, and you all have different extrapolations, ranging from subtle to monumental differences of opinion. They have to do their own thing, and so far there’s nothing inconsistent about the character because there isn’t enough “character” to contradict.
Now, if you want at least some character development, you could go to the prequels. Did you want this to be about Boba Fett as a child? Because that’s how you get a series about Boba Fett as a child. (Actually, some of you nerds would probably like that. Freaking nerds and your child protagonists.) I’m also aware that he appeared in one or more of the animated series, none of which I’ve watched. I can’t comment on that, but neither I nor (apparently) Disney care. My only concern is live-action media. In light of that, everything I said above stands.
The bottom line is that Disney has created an interesting character and story, and some (not all) of you could appreciate that if you didn’t place your head canon above all else and instead could just enjoy the ride. I appreciate that many of you would still not enjoy it. Well . . .
The world doesn’t revolve around you. If you don’t like it, you’ll just have to watch something else. I am, and I’m not angry at Paramount for it.
Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s both. Here’s a nice story about Keanu Reeves. You’ve probably heard the story before, but you should read it again. It helps the punchline land.
This was in my Facebook stream, so that’s me that gave it a laugh reaction.
Last week, I mentioned that, during my move, I found the hard copies of my Dungeon Delves from synDCon. Well, I also found some print issues of Dragon and Dungeon magazines. Any mechanics or setting-based discussed in the magazines is for 3rd Edition D&D (“3e“), which I no longer enjoy playing, but much of the material is system agnostic. It’s still good stuff.
As I’ve said in many other contexts, I left D&D in 1982 due to the Satanic Panic, dabbled a bit in the Star Trek RPG in high school and college, then finally returned to D&D and a small amount of other RPGs in 2005. Because of my age, my awareness, my family’s restrictions, and logistics, I didn’t subscribe to Dragon and Dungeon until 2005 or 2006. It was fantastic. As someone still trying to get a feel for writing and running my own gaming material, I loved the advice and rules explanations that magazine offered. Unfortunately, shortly after I started subscribing, the rug was pulled out. They announced that they were moving the magazines online, and shortly thereafter, 4th Edition D&D (“4e“) was announced at GenCon 2007. The last issues of each were dated for September, 2007.
I wasn’t a fan of the online magazines. I wanted to find a color magazine in my Delaware post office box twice a month, but the reality of our world took over, and I eventually started receiving them online with my DDO subscription. How much did I prefer print? I printed out several of the PDFs, but in black and white. It wasn’t the same, and the ink costs were too high despite not being in color, so that practice didn’t last.
Because I appreciated Paizo for publishing them, I gave them a chance by continuing to subscribe to their Pathfinder adventure path books. I recall telling them that in response to their sales pitch they delivered via email.
Sadly (for Paizo), they weren’t for me, so I never used the material. Honestly, I always found their style of artwork better suited for children (especially the goblin), and, as I said above, I also knew that I wouldn’t be staying behind for 3e due to my participation in organized play. In hindsight, that wouldn’t have been a barrier due to the introduction of Pathfinder Society, but I would have abandoned Pathfinder anyway. I greatly prefer 4e, so I’m happy with my decision. Still, I’m happy Paizo enjoyed success, even though that success created a misconception as to how 4e fared, and that people were able to continuing playing an improved system they enjoyed.
My recent revisiting of 1st Edition D&D has me asking questions, and many people have pointed me to old editions of Polyhedron, Dragon, and Dungeon magazines. Apparently, these were a valuable resource long before I subscribed.
I’m old school, so I want those magazines, but I completely understand why I can’t have them.
Yesterday, I asserted that confirming critical hits was the worst rule in the history of D&D. Why? Well, this is how I imagine the rule came to be.
Designer 1: “Do you know who I really hate?” Designer 2: “Who?” Designer 1: “Players.” Designer 2: “Oh, no kidding. They’re the worst.” Designer 1: “Well, I have a new idea for a rule that will completely screw them.” Designer 2: “Ooooo, tell me! Tell me!” Designer 1: “So, if you roll an unmodified (aka ‘natural’) 20, it’s considered a ‘critical hit’ that does something really cool.” Designer 2: “Wait, how is that screwing them? You promised we’d be screwing them!” Designer 1: “Hold on; hold on. I’m not done. So, the player rolls a natural 20, which itself is relatively rare, but in that relatively rare instance when they do, this happens:
Player: “Hooray! I get to do something cool!” DM: “Um, no you don’t.” Player: “What? I rolled a natural 20. That’s a critical hit. I get to do something cool.” DM: “Um, no. Roll again.” Player: “Why?” DM: “Because if you want to do something cool, you have to earn it.” Player: “I thought I just did.” DM: “Yeah, that was good, but I need more. Roll again.” Player: “Okay. I guess so. . . . I got a 7.” DM: “Well, that misses, so your hit isn’t critical. Just roll normal damage and be happy I didn’t kill your character.” Player: <grumbles knowing that every 3rd Edition D&D DM will do the same thing, so there’s no way out>
Designer 2: “Holy crap! That’s maddening! Players will be soooo frustrated.” Designer 1: “And don’t forget, RPGs are balanced under the assumption that things like this will occasionally happen, so even when they get it, the mechanical benefit is illusory. This is just a way to dangle a carrot of being able to do cool things, then snatching it from them. It’s all about that frustration them. Why? Because it’s what they deserve.” Designer 2: “You are a god of game design!” Designer 1: