My 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons Database #DnD #RPG #ADnD

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Before I was an attorney focusing his practice in part in intellectual property law (foreshadowing!), I was a database developer. Accordingly, I’m always looking for an excuse to relive my <sarcasm>glory days</sarcasm> and automate my life. RPGs give me an opportunity to do that. I’m always building databases or writing JavaScript behind PDFs in order to make playing or running games easier.

Now that I’m relearning 1e AD&D, I’ve decided to create a database and fill it with enough information to serve as a gaming resource. To start, I’m loading it with all the spells in the Players Handbook and Unearthed Arcana. Starting with the Players Handbook, I’ve loaded all of the spells for clerics and druids and halfway through level four for magic users. That took almost a week (I have a job). After that, I’ll add an initiative tracker, a time tracker, and maybe even a character builder. This is going to take a while, though I have Labor Day weekend and then a long vacation coming up, so I’ll make some significant progress in the near future.

Why do all this work? There are three reasons. First, it’ll make preparing and running games rather easy. Second, it’ll keep my database skills from declining further. Third, and most importantly, it’s going to force me to learn the rules thoroughly, which I want to do before attempting to run a game. That’s what makes it worth my while.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll publish it for others to use. I may because I think it could help people, but boy those ridiculous claims of “You can’t do that because it’s not OGL!” are annoying, especially coming from the Wizards of the Coast‘s legal department who know better. Ultimately, it depends on whether I do enough work to make it presentable for public consumption. It may be so clunky that only I can work with it. We’ll see, but I’m preparing it in such a way that it won’t infringe any valid copyrights. In fact, with the exception of Blink, I’ve never read a single spell from the OSRIC doc so that I can say that any exceptional similarities between my work and theirs is purely coincidental (i.e., independent creation). That doesn’t mean I won’t get threatened by Wizards of the Coast, but any such empty threats won’t rattle me, so that won’t factor into my decision.

Nothing’s nerdier than a gamer with a physics degree who knows how to code.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Cultural Similarity of Mythological Traditions @undercoverloon1 @CSMFHT @editingwizard #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

C.f., Sumerian and Babylonian mythology.

I love this. There are only seven stories one can tell, and (obviously) the more people travel, the further the reach of specific elements of those stories. It’s no surprise that a culture that replaces another keeps some of the remnants of the replaced culture, but it’s notable that Roman mythology was so very similar to Greek mythology. It’s almost like Chicagoans’ jealous appropriation of everything New York. 🙂 <ducks> But hey, Chicago has much better pizza. <still ducking>

The explanation is interesting, and goes beyond mere travel.

When the Romans invaded Greece starting in 146 BC, their gods were not as developed and sophisticated as the Greeks. The Romans knew that bridging the differences would add to their influence over the conquered nation. Captured Greek scholars were used to tutor Roman children because they knew that the Greeks had an excellent educational system comparatively. And because Greek literature was also superior, the Romans adopted much for the Greek literature, much of which was about their gods.  The intermixing of the literature resulted in a cross-pollination of all the Greek gods and deities with their own.

Where the Romans paved their own way, it was clear. Their original stories were often based on politics rather than the divine. While I’m sure little of this is new to you, it’s an important in understanding not only our past but also our present.

I know. Not exactly an Earth-shattering post.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow point five @undercoverloon1
Follow Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens @CSMFHT
Follow AutoCrit Editing @editingwizard

In case the original tweet is ever deleted.


Das Trek @StarTrek #StarTrek

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s a video that hit my stream before I woke up this morning. It’s a mashup of my favorite Star Trek episode (any series), Balance of Terror, and Das Boot.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. When the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in DC had a Star Trek exhibit (1992-1993), I read that Roddenberry stated the Romulans represented the Soviet Union (the current threat), and and the Klingons represented China (the growing future threat). Both my uncle and I found this odd. We both always assumed that the Romulans were the Germans, and the Klingons were the Soviet Union. Romulans with cloaking devices resemble German U-boats (the episode was basically The Enemy Below in space), and they were enemies from a prior war. Klingons, on the other hand, were participants in a cold war with the United Federation of Planets. They had never had an actual war with us, but there were several near misses.

Now, if you go on Facebook, MeWe, Twitter, or any social media site, you’ll get disagreement on what on-screen cultures represent what real-world cultures. Everyone has an angry opinion about that. This video, however, is just another piece of evidence as to which position makes the most sense. No analogy will be perfect; it’s just a matter of finding the one that fits better than the rest. Racist makeup aside, there’s simply nothing about the Klingons that screams “Chinese communism” at me.

But back to the episode. Why is Balance of Terror my favorite?

Star Trek was originally about the morality play first and the bells and whistles of advanced technology second, but both were important. This one gave us both wrapped up in a tense combat with both personal and political consequences. What’s not to love?

Best episode ever.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Star Trek @StarTrek

It’s Roleplaying Cats and Dogs! #Caturday

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

File this under, “What?”

Apparently, a line of miniatures inspired it’s own RPG universe. These aren’t anthropomorphic races, but rather the animals themselves roleplayed as PCs. Again, what? The Kickstarter was successful, so if this is your thing, go for it.

Why would anyone want to roleplay a pathetic animal like a dog. Be a cat. Have an ego and kill something.

Follow me on Twitter at @gsllc


Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

The Starfleet Insignia Explained @KesselJunkie @StarTrek #StarTrek

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Yesterday I recorded my second-ever podcast. Again, it was with my cousin, Kessel Junkie, and again it was Star Trek related. In light of that, I bring up a related, recurring social phenomenon. Every now and then, a misconception enjoys new life on the internet despite having been thoroughly debunked just a few years prior. This one came up again recently. Many people still think that the Star Trek “arrowhead” logo denotes a specific ship, the Enterprise.

Well, no, it doesn’t. As this article on StarTrek.com explains, the arrowhead insignia is the insignia for Starfleet. All Starfleet crew are supposed to use it. The misconception arose from an error in production for the episode, Charlie X, in which a ship’s crew was given a different insignia. That ship, however, was not part of Starfleet. The crew “were the equivalent of merchant marine or freighter personnel,” and thus didn’t use the arrowhead insignia.

I’m not sure how this misconception stays alive after all these bouts with social media. The communication badges for every single person I can think of in Next Generation are based on the arrowhead insignia. That alone should have put this puppy to rest long ago.

Yeah, I know. It’s not the end of the world, but have you ever met a Star Trek fan? Despite unavoidable inconsistencies, but producers and fans alike want consistency from episode to episode and series to series. Considering how extensive the Star Trek intellectual property is, it’s amazing that we’ve enjoyed that.

I’m probably going to have to re-blog this after another five years.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Kessel Junkie @KesselJunkie
Follow Star Trek @StarTrek

Grading Customer Support at the DMs Guild @ChrisSSims @dms_guild @DriveThruRPG #ADnD #DnD #RPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

I’ve been prattling on for weeks as to how I’m relearning 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (“1e”) and posting images of my recent purchases from the DMs Guild. On Tuesday (8/24), I received my last shipment for the time being: The print-on-demand reprints of the 1e Players Handbook, 1e Monster Manual, and 1e Fiend Folio. This happened.

Because people have asked about the quality of the materials (addressed in this post), I think a longer story is in order. The reprinted Fiend Folio is available only in soft cover, and that apparently allowed the cover to get caught up in the glue that binds the packaging. Moreover, the ends of the packaging were open. I’m genuinely surprised that nothing fell out during shipping, but it’s clear that the books were able to move around far too much. That movement almost certainly contributed to the damage.

Here’s the thing: The product is technically usable. The only damage is to the back cover, so while that makes it “ugly,” all the substance is there. But I don’t want ugly. I’ve already arranged to purchase an original, hard copy of the Fiend Folio from a friend. As with all my 40+ year-old original copies, that will go on the shelf not taking any further abuse. Buying the reprint is about having a clean copy for my daily use, so the starting point needs to be new/mint condition. In other words, I’m being high maintenance, and perhaps unreasonably so. However, the DMs Guild is accommodating that. They sent three emails at various stages of analysis and shipped a replacement by the next morning.

I received a response from Chris Sims.

For the record, the DMs Guild uses the same engine as Drive Thru RPG. If I log into one, I can see my purchases with the other. Accordingly, Drive Thru RPG deserves the credit as well, so it’s important to mention that here. In fact, the response to my complaint was from them.

The only open question is this: Do I have to return the damaged copy? In my complaint form, I mentioned that I’d be happy to do so if they sent a return label from FedEx, UPS, or whomever. They didn’t mention that. I may be able to keep it, but I don’t want to abuse the system. If they don’t want it back, then I’ll probably give it away to someone who doesn’t mind the damage. Spread the wealth, and all that.

DMs Guild customer service is yet another reason to buy from them.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Chris S. Sims @ChrisSSims
Follow the DMs Guild @dms_guild
Follow the Drive Thru RPG @DriveThruRPG

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Old-School v. Modern Approach #DnD #RPG #ADnD

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Edition wars are an unfortunate reality of our community. They’re silly. Why should anyone care what someone else is playing or how? I haven’t been pondering that question, but my revisiting of 1e has made me think of the source of this tension. In other words, I’ve been contemplating how the play styles differ. Not everyone plays a particular edition the same way, but looking at my own anecdotal experiences and hearing people prattle on about how much better their way is than others, I have an answer to that question. The answer is important because I plan to run 1e as written. This is a rather silly notion considering how vaguely some rules are written and that some rules are so ridiculous that they won’t be used, but that’s the point. Any modern player playing at my 1e table deserves to know what to expect, and their instincts are likely based on modern notions of game play.

Time

As a general matter, I first want to revisit time in 1e, because it drives every consideration I’m going to discuss. Draconian timekeeping (q.v.) is designed to keep the game from slowing to a crawl.

You may ask why time is so important . . . . It is a necessary penalty imposed upon characters for certain activities. Beyond that, it also gives players yet another interesting set of choices and consequences. The latter tends to bring more true-to-life quality to the game, as some characters will use precious time to the utmost advantage, some will treat it lightly, and some will be constantly wasting it to their complete detriment. Time is yet another facet which helps to separate the superior player from the lesser ones.

1e DMG, p. 38

As arrogant as that last part sounds, Lord Gygax makes a good point. I’m all for immersion, and applying the right bits of logic to the calculus of consequences helps players immerse themselves in the game. If players want to check every square inch of a wall for a secret door, that’s fine, but it takes a lot of time, and they’re inviting multiple encounters with wandering monsters, just like they would if the situation were real. Given a choice between finding the door and almost assuredly being TPKd, I suggest players let the whole door thing go.

But let’s now look at the difference in playing style that are driven by the rules as written.

Being Too Thorough is Suicidal; Stay Focused on the Mission

In any given adventure, not every monster must be killed, not every secret door must be located, and not every magic item must be found. Modern players have the expectation that they’re not going to miss anything, which seems to come from an arrogant notion that their low-level characters can save the world. They shouldn’t expect to be capable of that. Even high-level characters don’t save the world by killing every last orc on the planet. They stop the world-ending ritual or diffuse the apocalyptic relic. Players of all levels should focus on their characters’ mission. If their job is to find the noble’s missing child, then they should be laser-focused on that. Once they find the child, or determine the child’s final fate (that got dark quickly), they should return back to home base, collect their reward, and rest up. Sure, there’ll be some leftover creatures, but that’s a fight for another day (and perhaps even for someone else).

This (as well as everything that follows) is enforced by way of the draconian tracking of time. 1e threatens players with wandering monsters, most of whom don’t hold any useful information, and even fewer carrying any treasure. With the limited resources 1e characters have, they’re unlikely to survive if they dawdle. Besides, the noble isn’t paying them to find every secret door. Sometimes that will be necessary, but in most cases it isn’t. 1e will still give focused players plenty of opportunity to decapitate bad guys. If the players bring unnecessary encounters upon themselves, their characters’ survival rates will quickly drop to 0%.

In the first column, fourth full paragraph of page 109 of the 1e PHB, there’s a great paragraph on this topic. It starts, “Avoid unnecessary encounters.”

Cats Aren’t the Only Ones Killed by Curiosity

If the characters find a magic item, they’ll not likely be able to use it until after the adventure. Sometimes wizards may be able to deduce the effects of a potion by sampling a small drop, but sometimes they won’t learn what they think they learned, especially if the potion has multiple effects. It’d be great if the sword the party just found were magical, but not if that magic is a curse. Sometimes it’s best to leave the testing for later when time isn’t a factor. That means that most items won’t be safe to use until after the adventure. But hey, feel free to tell me to shove it and grab that Sword -2, Cursed (1e DMG, page 166). Damn the consequences!

Not Everything is About Offense and Defense

Sometimes I wonder why anyone would play a wizard in 1e. The spell progression is terrible, and in 1e, utility spells are absolutely critical. I strongly suggest that every caster tries to gain the following spells if they’re on their spell list: Detect Magic, Dispel Magic, Identify, Neutralize Poison, Remove Curse, and Wizard Lock. During a trip through an adventuring site, players will inevitably need a means to stash safely what they’ve found along the way, hoping it isn’t stolen while the players continue their mission. Wizard Lock may prove invaluable in that regard. If a single character has been poisoned in an otherwise trivial encounter, that poison will continue to damage the character until dead. Identify allows using an important magic item during the adventure in which it was found. In other words, modern players need to consider seriously giving up Magic Missile, et al. to start their adventuring, or at least limit how often they choose to memorize it. It would seem that the more spellcasters, the better, but the same thing could be said about fighters and thieves for other reasons. There are always tough choices to make.

Some Things Are Abstracted

Even if I were a poet, I doubt I could express in words how much I like this. There have been too many arguments or unexpressed frustration (often lost on the socially-unaware DM) around too many tables. DMs insist that the players didn’t say what they needed to say to indicate they were looking for traps. Players insist that the DM’s description was unfairly vague or incomplete. Many complain that it’s the person on the other side of the screen that’s to blame. Some of that goes away in 1e through the use of dice in ways modern players don’t experience.

For example, to determine if a party is surprised in 1e, roll a d6 (1e DMG, pps. 102-03). Whether or not the character was dozing off at that particular moment, or whether the character’s sword was on hand, etc. are sometimes determined by a die roll, regardless of whether the DM explained it ahead of time. To determine the distance at which an encounter starts, roll an Xd6 depending on the environment (1e DMG, pp. 49, 62). To find a secret door, roll a d6 (1e DMG, p. 97). Sure, characters can, for example, increase their odds of surprising a group of goblins by walking at one inch per hour, but that takes time. Players should expect taps on the shoulders from trolls that’s snuck up from behind them.

Distance

A few weeks ago, I complained about 1e’s obsession with the inch. Everything is in inches, requiring players to translate inches into feet or yards depending on whether they’re outdoors. However, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I like it. Movement and attack ranges are measure in inches. Indoors, 1 inch equals 10 feet, but outdoors 1 inch equals 10 yards (30 feet). That seems unnecessary at first, but I can’t easily brush aside the distinction. Missile weapons and spells have ranges expressed in inches, which means they have different ranges indoors and outdoors, and that makes sense. When outdoors, the wide open areas should open lanes for casting and missile weapon attacks against enemies. Indoors, the walls, fixtures, and furniture can block attacks that are even a fraction of a degree off from their intended direction. Decreasing the size of an “inch” indoors accounts for that.

This takes away yet another opportunity for tension. If a player states that they should have a greater range outdoors because they’re in a desert, the DM can end the discussion with little resistance by pointing out the rules account for that, already having tripled the range for the player’s arrow attack. Of course, there’s always flexibility — a DM may treat a dense jungle as “indoors” for these purposes — but the less opportunity for tension, the better. Besides, I’m already accustomed to translating inches to the appropriate units, at least while reading (we’ll see about playing).

I’d be interested in any other aspects of the game you think would require an adjustment for modern players. Many of you have been thinking about this longer than I have.

Time is money. Don’t waste it.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure, L1: The Secret of Bone Hill #DnD #RPG #ADnD

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

In preparation for my return to AD&D, I’ve been reading the sourcebooks, but I needed a break. I wanted to get into the nitty-gritty, so I decided to read an adventure that seemed like a good candidate for running my first 1e game since 1982. Last weekend, I chose L1: The Secret of Bone Hill, because it’s low level and most of the people with whom I regularly gamed who also responded to my announcement said they weren’t familiar with it. It was the perfect choice, until I realized it wasn’t.

AD&D v. Modern Gaming

None of us want to turn D&D into A&A (i.e., attorneys and accountants). Tracking rations, encumbrance, the number of non-magical arrows you have, and the like gets tedious quickly, so modern D&D isn’t often played that way. (Of course, all my writings are giving my anecdotal experience. YMMV.) However, there’s a method to that madness, and I didn’t realize I missed it until I started reacclimating myself with 1e. The DM is expected to keep track of time (which is tedious) so that the players don’t constantly waste time searching every inch for secret doors, traps, etc. (which would otherwise make the game itself tedious). While I’m a big fan of passive perception speeding up these aspects of the game, I don’t like its consequences. I’ll be more specific tomorrow, but for now: Suspending your disbelief in magic and monsters for the sake of the game, if you’re not treating the game world like it’s a real world, then you’re not immersing yourself in the game world, and that takes a lot of the point of playing the game away from me.

Despite how much work it will be, my intention is to track time per the rules, which will inherently punish dawdling and unnecessary combats. That’s where L1 breaks down. It’s the consummate sandbox.

Defining “Sandbox”

To me, a sandbox can be as innocuous as the DM refusing to spoon feed the players. The DM gives you your specific goal, but it’s up to the players to figure out how to achieve it. If the players have no idea how to start the rescue, it’s still up to them to ask those that could provide suggestions. If players have been playing the game for even a short time, they should know by now that a town constable exists. They should know that the town guard exists. They should know that the town has a mayor or other leader. They should know that there’s such a thing as sages. They should initiate contact with all these resources, rather than receive suggestions from the DM. This encourages the immersion in the game world that I like to talk about. Place yourself in the game world and pretend it’s real. No voice in the sky is going to shout down from the heavens, “Hey, go ask the mayor!”

However, L1 is the most sandboxy of sandboxes. It’s not just that players aren’t given the solution to their problem; they aren’t even given a problem. There’s no defined mission, which means that, by design, all the conflicts for the adventure represent picking exactly those fights that the game system discourages. That’s not a good way to get modern players to learn the system. It cuts against everything I’ve said above about my experiences on how AD&D differs from modern play. Unsurprisingly, L1 received a lot of bad reviews, and still does.

Laziness

Obviously, the fundamental problem with running Bone Hill can be solved simply by giving the characters a specific mission. However, I want to approach the game as lazily as possible at first because I want to minimize the chances of running a terrible game. A good mission requires a bit more than, “Save the princess!”

For me, the only criticism that sticks, though, is one I’ve never seen mentioned: It goes into painstaking detail on what characters need to do to succeed, detect things, etc., mentioning spells and items to which characters of levels two through four won’t have access. However, I still want to run it.

Nostalgia can be a powerful motivator.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

Myths for Millennials #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Okay, settle down. I know that millennials aren’t teenagers, and that millennial jokes have grown tedious (as are your complaints about those jokes). This isn’t that, so don’t have a fit. Just enjoy the jokes.

Who says mythology can’t be funny? Nobody I know.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc


Some Iconic Art from First Edition D&D @Grand_DM #ADnD #DnD #RPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, well, I’m still on a D&D kick, so it’s about other people’s D&D work.

My recent revisiting of First Edition AD&D has me revisiting the art as well, which endured longer for me than the game did. My favorite art work comes from Jeff Dee, but there are tons of others that I loved. I forgot the name of them but never her art. Darlene Pekul, now known simply as Darlene, created a ton of material for TSR. You can see a lot of her material here. Grand DM posted a couple of her most iconic work here.

I found Darlene on Facebook and friended her. She provided her Patreon link, which you can use to support her continued work.

I love D&D artwork.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Grand DM @Grand_DM

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)