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March 4, 2008

Greyhawk’s flags at half-staff
Posted by Avram Grumer at 08:39 PM * 254 comments

From numerous sources, we have the sad news that E Gary Gygax has died.

It’s hard to estimate the effect that Dungeons & Dragons has had on nerd culture — and by extension, the general culture. Like science fiction fandom before it, D&D provided a forum for imaginative play, and fostered an international social network for bright, quirky kids where they could find praise (and even get paid work) for their wit and creative work at an age when adults were more likely to ignore them or treat them as threats.

D&D is also a forerunner of the modern mashup-and-share approach to pop culture. You can find clear influences from JRR Tolkien, Friz Leiber, Jack Vance, Michhael Moorcock, Avram Davidson, and RA Lafferty in Gygax’s D&D writing. D&D eagerly adapted and combined the works of other authors, and shared them with each other through APAs and letters and early computer networks. It wasn’t uncommon, in a D&D game, to see a Norse viking hunting a minotaur, or even a Tolkienesque elf warrior fighting alongside one of Larry Niven’s kzinti against HR Giger’s alien. Role-playing games in general are great promoters of the make-your-own-fun habit I wrote about a couple of months back.

Gygax had his own quirks (ask me sometime about Lee Gold’s phone conversation with him), but I’m pleased to hear that, despite his health problems, he was still hosting weekly D&D games as recently as January.

Comments on Greyhawk's flags at half-staff:
#1 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 09:08 PM:

I met him only briefly, but know many who worked with him and his, and for some the memory alone makes steam come out their ears. But for all of his curmudgeonly and irascible qualities, he was a luminous and creative mind, who gave us a great gift, and we are the poorer for his passing.

Rest to him, and comfort to those who mourn him.

#2 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 09:13 PM:

More seriously, about D&D's cultural effects: hasn't Charlie Stross theorized the future "feel" of virtual reality is going to be derived from MMORPGs, and by extension, from D&D?

#3 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Odd. That was about half of my post. oh well.

#4 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 09:25 PM:

Sad news indeed. My best friend introduced me to the game in 1980, when I was ten, after I'd already found Tolkien and McCaffrey and LeGuin, but before I'd discovered fannish culture. It was through the writeups in Deities & Demigods that I learned about Moorcock and Leiber and Lovecraft.

I haven't played in years, but I can still discuss political philosophy in terms of alignment or explain people's attributes on a scale of 3-18 without thinking twice.

He will be remembered.

And I'm really curious about his conversation with Lee Gold!

#5 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 09:36 PM:

"hasn't Charlie Stross theorized the future "feel" of virtual reality is going to be derived from MMORPGs, and by extension, from D&D?"

I recall that concept first showing up in the background material provided with R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk tabletop RPG. At the time, I remember thinking that sounded utterly ridiculous...

#6 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 09:52 PM:

Also, my friend Dan Johnson has what I think is the best reaction to this news.

"What we should do is...

...every gamer nerd on the planet should chip in some dough and we should build Gary Gygax an enormous tomb filled with the deadliest traps ever devised.

#7 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 09:55 PM:

That is unfortunate. D&D sparked a whole movement, and informs every RPG to this day. I guess that's the finest tribute--that his ideas are still being used.

#8 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:19 PM:

I have drunk a farewell beer in his name tonight, and now I'm off to dig up the dice I haven't used in a decade, just for one ritual saving throw.

#9 ::: Ewan ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:31 PM:

The thread linked in #6 is great - yes, I too stepped into that sphere, damnit.

For maybe 10 years now, I pretty much always carry a d6 and d20 in my pocket. Some part of my identity, I guess. Not many folks get to change the world so obviously as did GG. Salut!

#10 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:35 PM:

Back in summer camp, I ran "Tomb of Horrors" for some friends. They all walked into the Sphere of Annihilation. I hastily improvised an adventure taking place in the metaphysical Realm of Annihilation (where annihilated objects go), because it was either that or start over or give up.

#11 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:37 PM:

jh woodyat wrote -

"hasn't Charlie Stross theorized the future "feel" of virtual reality is going to be derived from MMORPGs, and by extension, from D&D?"

I recall that concept first showing up in the background material provided with R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk tabletop RPG. At the time, I remember thinking that sounded utterly ridiculous...

Mike P. might have scaffled that idea from Dream Park (there were, AIR, some oblique mentions of Dream Park being part of the Cyberpunk continuity long before R. Talsorian did the Dream Park RPG), but I'm not sure - it would have been in the original 2013 version (when every net-cowboy had their own Interface (assuming they went to the trouble of souping up their own, instead of using one of the standards - 'Tronnic, Dungeon, or Mega City), before the Ihara-Grubb Transformation Algorithm Set up Ein Interface, Ein Protocol, Ein Internet! for all runners, weefle to pro, console jockey to amped-up special purpose AI)*.

Of course, back then (CP2013 edition came out in 1988, and I started working on 2020 stuff in '91), we caught more crap for even presuming that the Internet might have a mandatory graphical interface (even though Neuromancer, Hardwired, Ghost In The Shell, etc. all presumed one), instead of a "much more useful text-based environment" - presumably, people would want to download sensies via FTP before viewing them, or something... :-/

*umm... yeah, actually, I did all that off the top of my head, except for looking up the actual dork (and dorkette) behind the I-G Algorithm. Scary, yeah.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:46 PM:

Reposting my reactions from the Steve Jackson Games board:

Well, crap. No one lives forever, but 69 is too damn young these days.

Decade and a half year old recollections:

EGG was a frequent guest of I-Con, a campus SF convention I helped run back in the day. One year I was assigned as his driver. Got to go to dinner with him and some friends, and gave him a big laugh and big thrill half-floating, half-driving down a hillside road awash with water after a torrential Long Island rain storm. Man, he got a kick out of that . . . I was almost peeing my pants in fear.

At the time, Gygax was getting happy and grounded again after some really bad times, and some heady crazy times in Hollywood (script editor, as I recall, for the D&D cartoon . . . if you ever wonder why that show was kind of trippy, there was a contribution from consumption of a certain pipeweed). He had a new wife, and a few years later a new son. He was a good guest, in the sense of being there for the fans. He'd rather skip speeches and panels and just grab some people to game with. A real pro at having fun.

#13 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:49 PM:

His work influenced me more than most authors ever did. He will be missed.

#14 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:56 PM:

OK, here's the story. Since 1975, Lee Gold has been editing an APA called Alarums & Excursions, originally devoted to D&D, later to RPGs in general. Not long after she started, she got a phone call from Gygax himself, which went a little something like this:

LG: Hello?

GG: Hi, this is Gary Gygax, and I'd like to talk to Lee Gold.

LG: Oh wow! This is Lee Gold, and we love your game, Mr Gygax, and--

GG: No, I mean the Lee Gold who published Alarums & Excursions.

LG: Yes, this is she. As I was saying, we play your game a lot, and--

GG: You're a woman!

LG: Yes, Mr Gygax. Now, your game has quite a fandom here, and--

GG: You're a woman!

LG: Yes, all my life. Now, if we could get back to D&D, I'd just like to say that--

GG: You're a woman!

...and on like that for a while.

#15 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 10:56 PM:

I used to game. I recall the various dust-ups (my gaming days were, oh, 1980-1990), about who did what with D&D. I have the original box set of the rule.

I can't say as I am grieving at his loss, but my life would be the poorer for his not having been.

#16 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 11:00 PM:

There's an excellent article about Gygax in the Believer a few months back.

#17 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 11:14 PM:

On the more sober topic - those of us in the Industry - whether full-time pros, part-time dilettantes like myself, or folks who have moved on to bigger and better (or at least more lucrative) things, pretty much all owe Gary a debt - if nothing else, for starting the crazy madhouse of an almost-industry we call home.

Back in 1976, I got a funny looking box for Christmas. Inside was a book with a blue cover, some funny-looking dice,* and another booklet with a removable cover with some maps on it. I was eight, and soon I was enthralled.

Soon, my brother, myself, and anyone we could drag in to play a game were building dungeons out of legos, pestering our mother for trips to Campaign HQ (the city's only gaming store at the time) to spend hard-earned allowance on miniatures, modules, and other games (Traveller, whose Little Black Box enthralled me almost as completely as D&D did), and playing almost anywhere you could drop a D20 and let it stand. I can't say that we were very good players, at least at first, but we sure as hell were enthusiastic (and loud...).

A decade and a half later, I got my first chance to work on a gaming project, when the crew I had fallen in with at the UofR was tapped to work on Chromebook 2 for Cyberpunk (three of us - Benjamin Wright, Mike Roter, and I - later came to be unofficially known sometimes as "Talsorian East" because we had so much work in the Cyberpunk stable). The money wasn't much (but it wasn't bad, either), and ever since, it's been a near-constant (if sometimes slow-flowing) source of additional revenue - and a useful float in hard times.

But... that's not the reason I owe Gary. I mean, the money is nice, and I likely wouldn't have met many of the people I now know, love (or at least like a lot), etc. without gaming (including the guy who got me into my first IT job).

No, I owe him for the countless hours of enjoyment his games - and the games that followed on, from Traveller to The Fantasy Trip to Runequest, GURPS, Cyberpunk, four (five?) different flavors of Star Trek, Villains&Vigilantes, Champions, the World of Darkness, Exalted, Savage Worlds, Mutants&Masterminds, CORPS, EABA, and nigh-countless others - have brought me and mine over the years.**

In the playing, and in the reading. In the scheming, and the hours spent perched over sheets of graph paper, miniatures with paint-laden brush in hand, or glowing computer screen. In the conventions and the discussions online (r.g.frp.advocacy, how I miss your early, more innocent days... sometimes).

In all the myriad ways that gaming has brought fun into my life (even if it sometimes has also brought screeching ass-cannoning howler monkeys,*** loss of hair (and eyesight), and other evils (if minor ones) into my life as well), Thank you, Gary Gygax. You made my life better - or at least weirder, and richer - for having been around at the right place, at the right time, for getting this whole shebang rolling.

Rest in Peace.

*and soon after, the Parcheesi set was never safe again...

**pretend they're italicized where appropriate, okay?

***screeching ass-cannoning howler-monkey is (TM) Clayton Oliver, used with permission... :-)

#18 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2008, 11:41 PM:

My father used to give me hell about the amount of time I spent playing my "imaginary games with no real rules."

He assumed it would never amount to much.

I called him when I received my first freelancer's payment for fantasy art and sent him a copy of the Dragon Magazine it appeared it (it was, by the time they were done with only an inch by inch and a half--- but it was there).

I have nothing but fond memories of running campaigns in D&D settings --- I'm happy to say that I will continue to game.

Thank you Gary.

#19 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 12:02 AM:

JKRichard, my father had such an opinion of the whole field, "why are you writing that? All the stories have been told!"

Until I had my first sale to Marion Zimmer Bradley. That just left him dumbstruck.

I'd never had my father shut up about one of his opinions. It was awesome.....

#20 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 12:53 AM:

I'm on the fringes here. I've never been much of a gamer (although I do like Talisman, which is sort of a board-game version of D&D), but so many of my friends are that I've learned the language and the concepts by osmosis. Like Rikibeth, I find that gaming alignments, jargon, and stats are useful shortcuts for describing real-world events.

Here's a funny story about one such event. Russ was doing a little grocery shopping late one Saturday night, and there was only 1 checkout lane open, and he and another shopper arrived at the end of the line simultaneously from opposite directions. Russ looked at the cart's contents (chips, cookies, sodas) and the guy pushing it (heavyset, long-haired, wearing a fantasy T-shirt), and said, "Roll for initiative?"

The guy was a little chagrined at being ID'd so easily by someone who looked (relatively) mundane! But really, what would you have thought?

#21 ::: Trevin Matlock ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:17 AM:

Re #6. I'm too lazy to actually organize anything. But if others do my money is there. What a perfect idea.

#22 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:28 AM:

Russ looked at the cart's contents (chips, cookies, sodas) and the guy pushing it (heavyset, long-haired, wearing a fantasy T-shirt), and said, "Roll for initiative?"

Hee! You meet the nicest people that way - I began a long and informative conversation by sidling up to a complete stranger, of similar description but with a Chthulu/Cheney tshirt, and muttering "The Stars Are Right." Mind you, a Type 2 geek (type 1 is the little skinny type) with either abundant or absent hair is more than likely someone I know, at least by association or mutual aquaintance, in Melbourne.

#23 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:41 AM:

Without Gygax, I'd be hustling chess for pizza money instead of gaming for fun. Still got my 1st Edition, frayed from use, holding court over newer, lesser games in my storage room.

#24 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:47 AM:

I have never played D&D, but I have played other RPGs and LARPs, so I know the debt that I owe to Mr. Gygax. Most of my closest friends are folks I met through gaming.

#25 ::: Bob Rossney ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 04:05 AM:

A woman I knew, in her late thirties at the time, was with her husband visiting his brother for Christmas. She was sitting chatting with the two of them while her brother-in-law's kids, between the ages of 9 and 13, were playing D&D in the corner.

She heard one of them say "...I'm going to sneak up and attack him from behind," and she stopped her conversation, turned to them, and said, rather sharply, "Dude, you're a paladin!"

They were aghast, confronted by a) an adult who b) knew what they were doing and c) really knew what they were doing.

#26 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 04:43 AM:

There is a very long memorial thread up at

A huge part of my life revolves around gaming. D&D was what got me into it, and for that, I owe Gary Gygax a great deal. I hope his passing was peaceful. You will be missed by millions, including me, Gary.

#27 ::: John Dallman ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 05:34 AM:

You can find clear influences from ... RA Lafferty in Gygax’s D&D writing.

Maybe it's because I internalised them at about the same time, in the early eighties, but I'm having trouble working out where the Lafferty footprint in Gygax's work are. Not that it wasn;t very possible to use Lafferty in D&D; I did so in the second D&D adveture I ever ran, which eventually ran away into a scenario that took several years to play through.

EGG didn't really adapt very well to the way that everyone could make RPGs into whatever they liked; lots of his work is full of "the official way" and other attempts to impose his own vision. Dave Arneson's contribution is also often neglected. But yes, EGG was where the ideas condensed and role-playing games took their form.

#28 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:17 AM:

John Dallman @ 27: "EGG didn't really adapt very well to the way that everyone could make RPGs into whatever they liked; lots of his work is full of "the official way" and other attempts to impose his own vision. Dave Arneson's contribution is also often neglected. But yes, EGG was where the ideas condensed and role-playing games took their form."

I think it has to start that way: someone authoritatively saying, "This is the way it is!" You have to have that kind of ridiculous confidence of vision to invent a whole new idea about how to play. Then, afterwards, people can say, "Well, why does it have to be like that? Why not like this?" and create new, more flexible systems. But there's no way to start with something like GURPS or Champions--those things only make sense in the context of "Huh, I really wish I had more freedom than in D&D." Rules on how to do whatever you want is a bit of a strange sell.

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:36 AM:

Paula Helm Murray #19: That reminds me of a conversation with my father years ago about an item in the newspaper about which he was going on at length, and about which I disagreed. When he inquired as to why I disagreed I said 'I wrote it.' Never heard a man shut up so fast.

#30 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:50 AM:

D&D was actually fairly late for me, since Swedish gaming went down the route started by "Basic Roleplaying" (think RQ and CoC). I think I had been gaming for 4-5 years before seeing class-based RPG systems.

Nonetheless, it is a VERY notable person in gaming history that has now had his charsheet shredded and binned, even if I have much less sentimental memories of the gaming system he is most connected with.

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:02 AM:

Gygax's influence and D&D's... One of my buddies, who was a D&D player, once told me of the time in 1981 when he and others had gone to see Boorman's Excalibur. When Mordred ran his spear thru Arthur, the whole audience went silent. Until someone exclaimed:

"Man! That must be at least 5000 points of damage!"

#32 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:26 AM:

Fire, and fleet, and candle light / And Christ recieve thy soul!

[FX: the huge barge, made from dead men's character sheets, sails slowly out to sea while flames lick around the body of EGG. A dragon's hoard beneath him, his hands clutch a d20 at his breast.]

His influence can't be overstated - nearly all the existing MMOs are very heavily invested in the same vision he & Arneson started off. That can be frustrating for the designers sometimes, having an obsessive focus on killing and looting, but dammit... it WORKS to make a playable, happy game. And when we get more than usually irritated, we can remind ourselves that D&D wasn't just about monsters and money, but also about the wonderful imaginative magical toys, the spectacular effects you could have, and the quirky little fun things for players to find scattered in corners.

#33 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 08:25 AM:

John Dalman #27: OK, the Lafferty influence is pretty minor. One of the characters in a combat example in one of the first edition AD&D books is named "Gutboy Barrelhouse".

#34 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 08:32 AM:

They were aghast, confronted by a) an adult who b) knew what they were doing and c) really knew what they were doing.

I get that reaction fairly frequently, substituting "woman" for "adult". The folks at the local gaming store have mostly gotten to know me, but I still get the occasional annoyed-rolling-of-eyes from patrons of the place when I presume to interrupt their bull sessions with the clerks to ask a question. At least until they hear the question and realize with shock and horror that I know what I'm talking about. :) I admit I sometimes do it just for the Zaphod Beeblebrox moment*.

Gygax was the reason for a lot of the crap I hate about RPGs--the Adversarial GM stance, most especially. On the other hand, he was also a big part of why there are RPGs at all. I carry a tube of dice in my purse, just in case; like Terry, I won't mourn him personally, but my life would be poorer had he never lived.

*: "Don't try to outweird me, boy; I get weirder things than you free with my breakfast cereal." Compounded by the fact that I look so much like a girl. And I'm not buying White Wolf...

#35 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 08:47 AM:

My experience amounts to a little D&D, some Champions, and a short flurry of Shadowrun. It was fun. Thanks, Gary.

RPG'ers don't die. They just create a new character sheet and move on to a new game.

#36 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:07 AM:

I first starting playing D&D in 1982, when I was 13. I have been semi retired from it since 2000.

In 1985 I went to my first Gen Con and went to a talk by Gary Gygax. I took a back hall to get there and lo behold in that same back hall was Gary Gygax, walking along side a man who turned to be Famous Amos himself.

In that hall was just me and a couple of buddies, along with Gygax and Famous Amos. I was severely fan boy stricken by the sight of The Man but he was very nice and pleasant, and radiated a fatherly warmth. We talked as we walked but I don't remember what he talked about. I do remember just before the stage door to the conference hall he turned to me and handed me an open package of cookies and said, "Here, try my friend's cookies." and he said goodbye.

A good soul has passed on and the world is a little poorer from for his absence. Gary Gygax was amazing writer and creative mind, the father of D&D and roleplaying games.

His First Edition Dungeon Master's guide stands as a classic roleplaying reference, an epic work of game genius.

Good bye, Gary Gygax.

#37 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:28 AM:

I have no personal memories of Gary Gygax myself, but I have fond memories of evenings and weekends spent with the toys he gave us. D&D helped get me through the 80s intact and sane. Though I haven't played in 20 years or more, all my manuals, character sheets, etc. are still right downstairs in my office where I can get at them easily, neatly tucked away in the case I used to carry them to the dungeon in.

If ever someone deserved to belong to the species Homo Ludens, it was Gygax. I bet he's right now telling whoever's DMing the cosmic game how to run his NPCs.

#38 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:42 AM:

I was shocked when I heard the news last night. I think I assumed Gygax would remain the vaguely godlike, eternally youthful guy we all revered when I was a kid in the 80s.

I haven't played in years, but I still have my dice bag. Because you never know.

My brother used to DM for my cousin and me well into our 20s. My favorite memory from those days: my brother, shaking the dice in one hand, breaking into a protracted argument between me and my cousin. "So, are you going to eat the bread or not?" Good times. :)

#39 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:18 AM:

Although I never got into RPGs, despite having purchased the first edition of D&D when it was released, I'll remember Gary for his advocacy of miniatures in the wargaming world of the late sixties and early seventies. My friends and I spent many happy hours with such TSR rule books as Chainmail, Hardtack, and Tractics. He was a giant in the gaming hobby even then.

#40 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:27 AM:

For those of us who still game, I propose calling a natural 20 a Gygax in memory of the man who helped bring us the RPG.

#41 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:31 AM:

"When he inquired as to why I disagreed I said 'I wrote it.'"

Why did you disagree with what you wrote?

#42 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:55 AM:

This is a major bummer. I still miss the Dungeons & Dragons games I used to play with my friends. Let me also second the notion in # 6 - a giant tomb filled with hideous traps would be the perfect memorial.


#43 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:09 AM:

Ave atque vale, EGG, we never met, but your invention (and those that sprang from it) gave me endless hours of fun.

I first played D&D at Bob Asprin's house in Ann Arbor (1975?). Bob was the DM, I'd come up to spend the weekend and happened to arrive just as the game was starting that evening.

Bob and friends cajoled me into rolling up a character, and off into the dungeon we trundled.

(Now what I didn't know is that Bob had set a trap for this crew. Seems they had the very bad habit of everyone facing the door they were trying to open, whilst getting it open.)

So we reach a set of doors which face each other, and the group picks one to try to open. I looked the situation over, and with Thufir Hawat's injunction to Paul ringing in my head, piped up "My cleric is going to face the door that's behind us while so-and-so opens the other one...")

Bob closed his eyes a moment and sighed, and just as they got the one door open, a monster popped out of the other and killed my character.

Because my character took the brunt of the attack the rest of the group survived. Bob later told me how amused he was that the beginning player spotted the "trap" right from the get-go. I never found out if this broke the group of ignoring their 6...

#44 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:14 AM:

j h @6: These replies top it off perfectly:

"I would totally chip in for that. Particularly if the prizes were the Hand and the Eye of Gary."

"Man oh man, the Hand of Gygax..."

#45 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:19 AM:

Like a bunch of people here, I played D&D as a kid, and haven't thought much about it in years. And I still can flip into the model of the game (alignment, saving throws, NPCs). There was something wonderful about internalizing and living in/playing with a consistent and complicated set of rules, and at the same time keeping the mechanics of the game and the "story" being produced as separate images in your mind. I think there's an aspect of this that carries to complicated computer games (think something like Civilization or SimCity, which are basically graphic frontends on mathematical models), in programming (where you damned well *will* keep multiple levels of representations of the same thing in your head at once), in enjoying fantasy stories like the Wheel of Time series (where most of the "magic" used smells of engineering), etc.

One additional gift I got from Gygax: many years ago, my grandmother was a big fan of Pat Robertson (this went on till he became too obviously a partisan Republican; by grandmother would have sooner sent money to the devil than a Republican). I remember watching a "CBN News" special on D&D, in which these respectable guys in suits and ties with professional-looking backdrops got every important fact wrong, and created a completely made-up evil image from their intentional errors. It's hard to overstate the impact that had on me--the realization, at some very young age (maybe 12? 14?) that neither religious leaders nor TV news shows could be relied upon to tell you the truth, that just because someone looks respectable and is accorded widespread respect doesn't mean they know what they're talking about, etc.

Rest in peace.

#46 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:30 AM:

I never found out if this broke the group of ignoring their 6...

My Friday night game has informed the DM that the SOP for entering a new area always includes "we check the ceiling" whether anyone actually says so or not. No lurkers for us!

#47 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:47 AM:

Carrie S. @ 46:

And if I were your Friday night DM, I'd tell you the next time a Lurking Horror drops from the ceiling, "Dang! I knew I forgot to do something!"

I never let my players have SOPs like that. If they couldn't remember to do something, tough casaba mellons.

Back on topic, I met EGG at the Schectady Studio of Bridge and Games back in 1977. He was there as GOH at a week-end D&D tournament, and DM'd a game for us. Nasty, nasty DM. If there was a wayt to interpret the rules/situation that would most harm the players, that's the one he took. Made me try to raise paranoia to a new level (didn't work).

He'll be missed.

#48 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 12:25 PM:

j h @ 6:

I would definitely chip in for that. In part for the delight of confounding future anthropologists.

Carrie S @ 34:

Probably doesn't matter to you, but I've always found the Adversarial DM stance to be a useful dramatic tool. It helps my players think their PCs are in danger, despite the fact that I've never killed any of them. (I don't think any of them read this board... crosses fingers)

#49 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 12:42 PM:

There appears to be an actual effort on to buy Gary's family a $1000 diamond.

#50 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 12:49 PM:

My friends and I played D&D avidly through jr. high and high school - late 1970s. Glancing occasionally at the D&D world since then, I noticed how so much stuff had come to be laid out for you that it seemed like it would take some of the imaginative fun out of the game. We drew our dungeons on graph paper and our terrains on hex paper. Do players still do that? Anyway, probably my final experience - at age 17, I guess - was running an adventure as a DM completely from my head, with nothing prepared on paper and no books for reference. It worked. After that, I thought, been there, done that, and it was over.

While it lasted, we went to a D&D convention at Princeton (what an awesome adventure that was!) and spent many hours at the Compleat Strategist near Penn Station (NYC).

Gygax was certainly an important figure (and I don't mean a tiny lead figure painted by hand with tiny brushes - do players still do that?) - and will be missed.

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:31 PM:

If some TV station decides to commemorate Gygax's passing by airing "Wizards and Warriors", please do let us know. (Best line: "You might as well know - I'm not wearing a hat.")

#52 ::: Seth Morris ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:40 PM:

re: Jon Sobol @ #50

These days it's plastic figures and they come pre-painted or you can paint your own. The plastic is better for disassembling and recombining to make custom poses, put on your preferred weapons, etc., and they seem to have some preference not to sell children lumps of lead these days.

Yummy, yummy lead.

Which does mess up the old standby for CofC miniatures:

1) melt down a few lead minis

2) drop the liquid in cold water, like dropping cookie dough

3) paint

#53 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Duncan @ 47: I never let my players have SOPs like that. If they couldn't remember to do something, tough casaba mellons.

I'd tend to allow a little leeway in things like that, because the players can't see what the characters can, and the bad experiences are an order of magnitude removed from what the character feels on encountering it. You watch a lurking thing on the ceiling kill half your companions, and you'll be checking every cieling you ever sit under ever again, even the one at the Inn with the quaint name. OTOH, you sit at a table and roll some dice and have a storyteller say a bunch of people die, you don't develop that knee-jerk response. But saying your player does makes sense.

The assumption that the players must state everything is also closely related to things like the classic "I attack the gazebo", where the player didn't know the word and made an assumption, but the *character* would be plainly able to see that he was looking at a wooden structure. But the GM was acting sufficiently adverserial that he didn't explain what the character was looking at.

If you really want to "get" the players, or catch them out in a dumb action, you'll find a way. (Every party I've been in has done stupid things with full information at their fingertips. And the alert GMs have noticed and done something about it. Our closest thing to a TPK came from someone trying to steal a ladder in a well-lit parking lot.)

#54 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:49 PM:

Urk. "But saying your CHARACTER does makes sense."

I can tell my player and my character apart. I'm the player. The poor thing with statistics created from dice rools and serious PTSD is the character.

#55 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Avram @#10: Hmm. I think you've just summed up why I wasn't a very good GM. I was very creative with settings and characters, but I didn't have the flexibility to respond to the players unexpected responses. The "micromanaging" rules actually helped me there, but I got victimized by a couple of rules-lawyers, too.

#56 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 02:08 PM:

I never let my players have SOPs like that. If they couldn't remember to do something, tough casaba mellons.

Then you are an Adversarial GM and I don't want to play with you.

Seriously, is it fun, every time the characters enter a room, to have the players say, "OK, we check the ceiling and have the rogue check for traps on the floor inside the entrance and scan for magic and invisible things and..."? Because to me, not so much, and, unlike my character, I am not a professional adventurer and my life doesn't depend on doing these things.

There appears to be an actual effort on to buy Gary's family a $1000 diamond.

Good thing they're not using 3.5 rules--that's a 5000 gp diamond just for raise dead, and since gold pieces are 50 to a pound...well, a hundred pounds of gold isn't cheap.

If you really want to "get" the players, or catch them out in a dumb action, you'll find a way.

That's as succinct a summation of why Adversarial GM sucks as I have ever seen.

The GM is God. If God wants you dead, you're dead. Even if God goes out of His way to make it look "fair", She's still God and you're still dead.

The poor thing with statistics created from dice rools and serious PTSD is the character.

It's been my opinion for the last few years that RPG characters are, in the main, insane, and I don't just mean the CoC ones. After all these are people who make their livings out of going into places that they know for a fact are full of deadly traps, capital-E Evil villains, and creatures with types other than "abomination" only if they're lucky. PTSD doesn't quite explain it, as everyone has to go on some first adventure and not everyone has had their village burned to the ground by orcs.

#57 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Duncan @ 47: I never let my players have SOPs like that. If they couldn't remember to do something, tough casaba mellons.

I'm with Lenora on this. One of the drawbacks to RPG and LARPing is having to go through the "Do I see anything? Do I hear anything? Do I smell anything? etc" and having the narrator purposely leave something out just because you didn't specifically ask, when the character would automatically be using all of their senses in a given situation. A good GM will recognize this and not make you spell out every single aspect of your imaginary environment that you want to check.

It makes me think of the game in which you have to give an "alien" instructions on how to make a PB&J, and the "alien" has to take all of your instructions very literally and not fill in any steps you haven't specified, so you end up with two pieces of bread covered in petroleum jelly and covering a jar or peanut butter.

#58 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 02:21 PM:

I met my husband in a D&D group DMed by my then-boyfriend. Our oldest child, by dint of much begging on her part, was playing (an extremely simplified version) by age three. That Christmas, she found oversized dice in her stocking, just for her. Meanwhile, I had bought a special set for my husband, carved from obsidian. I suppose I could've told EGG that he was an honorary godfather--although I wonder how he would've reacted. (I got plenty of that from my fellow gamers, some of whom probably assumed that I would get special treatment because I was sleeping with the DM--until he unhesitatingly killed my characters one after another . . . )

The hysteria surrounding those eeeeeevilll games reached all the way up here, with one kid having about $300 worth of 2e stuff, which he had bought with his own paychecks, burned in the backyard; he wasn't even allowed to talk to his friends anymore. I also found it to be a good inoculation against trusting talking heads.

BTW, here's what you do get by sleeping with the DM:

SETTING: 2:30 AM on a weeknight.

HIM: Eheh. Eheheheheheheheh.

ME: *zzzzz* *snort* Huh?

HIM: Ohhhhh, nothing. Can't tell you. Just wait until Friday.

ME: O-kayyyyy . . . *rolls over, attempts to go back to sleep*

HIM: Heh heh heh.

CAT: *glare*

#59 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 02:49 PM:

#46 Carrie S.: I love the style of thinking that RPGs encourage... Whack-ass SOPs that are really rational for the situation. Like, I was in a game where we kept getting accidentally transported to sunless, utterly dead versions of the world... Eventually, we never moved without a fanny pack full of some ration bars, water, a flashlight, an air horn in case other teammates were in the world just around the corner, a sharpie to leave notes on the walls or to draw magic symbols that let us escape, a knife in case bleeding on it helped...

I'm not sure I'd be such a freak with the earthquake kits and all if not for the continuing reinforcement from RPGs. Or maybe I enjoy RPGs in part because they let me flaunt that "detailed planning for the unlikely" groove.

#60 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Jenny, #58: one kid having about $300 worth of 2e stuff, which he had bought with his own paychecks, burned in the backyard; he wasn't even allowed to talk to his friends anymore

Is that kid still even on speaking terms with his parents now, do you know? Because I know several people who had that sort of thing happen to them, and they aren't.

#61 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Gaming with players of the give an inch take a mile type led to me learning a lot of improv world building skills. Got so good at it it no longer mattered how far from script they deviated. Looking back I owe gaming for the development of a lot of useful skills and meeting my husband of 20 years.

Order of the Stick has a lovely memorial up.

#62 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 03:06 PM:

I have a D20 in my pocket, just in case, and I don't play. Never have. Because you never know.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 03:21 PM:

I think I started playing D&D in 1978. I played it off and on, even DMd for a while. A friend developed a system based on it and I played that from time to time (obsessively, in other words). After moving to Hoboken, my friends and I played various systems, none of which was completely satisfactory.

When I was introduced to GURPS, I described it as "D&D for grownups." It took the emphasis off killing monsters and taking their treasure, which I had long been bored with, and put it back on playing roles, where I felt and feel it belongs. It also give specific suggestions for dealing with rules lawyers!

I ran the same GURPS campaign in the same world, with many of the same players, for 18 years. Celtic fantasy with geopolitics, all governed by a hidden layer of mathematical mysticism based on the Fibonacci sequence and related phenomena. I never really fully understood the GURPS magic system, but that was OK, because I had players who did, players I trusted not to cheat, and who likewise trusted me.

Which brings me to what I consider the prime maxim of RPGs: The game must be fun shall be the whole of the law. And that means it has to be fun for the players, or they won't come back, and it has to be fun for the GM, or s/he won't run any more. There's a correlary: Cheating against the PCs is immoral; cheating in favor of the PCs is required. Sometimes you have to fudge to keep them from being killed (or killed permanently, in a game with easy resurrections). If a player character gets killed, it's usually because the GM built an adventure that was out of level for the players.

No, I'm not an adversarial GM. Why do you ask?

I feel that the GM's role is to play neutral between the PCs and their adversaries. There's a reason the DM is called the "referee" in early TSR publications. Also, since the emphasis is on roleplaying, they win by playing their characters accurately and vividly, whether or not they "win" conventionally. So I gave them adventures that were roleplaying opportunities, and didn't always involve any fighting at all (though too many of those would have violated the prime maxim, since my players liked the occasional fight).

I was more interested in the decisions they made, and why they made them. They learned to gather full data before acting. The obviously-drugged woman about to be cast into a giant bonfire by chanting priests? She's their leader, the fire won't hurt her, and she's using it to prophesy. The toothy lizard men who reek of ammonia, just like three kinds of horrific monsters you barely escaped from in previous adventures? They're refugees from a world taken over by horrific monsters, one where virtually all life produces ammonia as a waste product.

It was a lot of fun. Eventually I ran out of stories to tell adventures to run in that world, and we closed the campaign. Now I play something even more roleplaying-oriented, even more arbitrary, and requiring even more trust between players and GM. And I don't play it nearly as often as I would like.

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 03:31 PM:

T.W 61: Indeed it does. For those of you who are unfamiliar with OOTS, here's a link: OOTS Gygax tribute.

#65 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 03:46 PM:

Giant in the playground's server is slow today.

Apparently Something Positive, Dork Tower, Dueling Analogs, and Full Frontal Nerdity also have something up.

I'm certain Gary's guest spot on Futurama is on YouTube.

#66 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 04:01 PM:

Lee, #60: I didn't know him well, but I gather that he was one of the ones who left Kodiak right after graduation and never came back. I don't blame him.

The thing is, though, his parents meant well. There was another case I heard of in a gaming group where an adult shut-in with serious physical issues got his escape by gaming--until his parents, on whom he was dependent, decided that he was going to go crazy or summon demons or something and essentially told him that he would be stuck in his room alone forever if he dared to play That Game ever again.

Luckily for him, he knew more about computers than they did and they had no idea that Those People talked to one another on the Intarwebs. But he still was careful never go to to sites that displayed a lot of D&D graphics. That really set them off.

#67 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Madeline #59: Rational for the situation. Right. That reminds me of one of the moments in my gaming career that I remember most fondly. I suppose every group of players that sticks together long enough, through enough different campaigns, eventually tries the "Hey, let's play ourselves as characters!" variant.

One Saturday afternoon, our regular DM mused aloud that one day he was going to do that, without advance warning, and what we'd have for equipment would be whatever we happened to have with us that day in our pockets and gaming bags. He should have known better -- that *was* advance warning.

He waited a good six months, figuring we'd all have forgotten about it. Then one day he said, "OK, this is it. Let's see what you're all carrying today. Haul it out and put it on the table."

So I did. I opened up the big extra purse that I'd been carrying, unremarked, to every single session since he'd mentioned the idea... I'd had no idea what sort of world to prepare for, of course, and it all had to be items that were legal to carry around in real life in Winnipeg. Even back then, though (this was the 80s), I wouldn't have wanted to try to take it through an airport. Flashlight, rations, utility knife -- I don't now remember everything I included, but I know I had a snare wire in there, and a collapsible hunting slingshot.

I also had a non-leaking water pistol, rubber gloves (very important), and a bottle of liquid contact poison. Cygon 2E -- you get it at a garden center and, working very, very cautiously, you paint a ring around the bark of a birch tree to stop leaf miners; it works by making the entire tree toxic. The warnings on the label are, um, dire. You do not want that stuff to touch your skin. (Needless to say, in real life I had bought a brand new bottle to carry with me, and kept it sealed in the original packaging and securely wrapped against breakage.)

The look on the DM's face as he had to recalibrate all the weaponry in his scenario was worth every bit of effort I'd put into assembling that bag.

#68 ::: lisa ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 04:57 PM:

I normally lurk rather than comment here, but I couldn't not participate in a Gygax memorial thread.

Back when I was 10 or so, I saw that same CBN "D&D is of SATAN!" special that albatross@45 saw. In a fit of high dudgeon, I wrote to Gary Gygax at the TSR corporate address to tell him how horrible I thought it was that people were saying such ridiculous things about his game. (I was playing a ranger in my D&D game at that time, if I recall correctly.)

Gygax actually wrote back to me, a personal letter thanking me for writing. I wrote back to him, and we exchanged probably five or six letters over the course of a year. When a hurricane hit my city, he took the time to send a note just to say he hoped me and my family were OK.

So, when I think of him, in addition to being grateful to someone who created a whole genre of games that I've enjoyed so much, I'm grateful to a busy man who took the time to write back to a 10-year-old fan. It was a kind thing to do.

You'll be missed, Gary.

#69 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 05:18 PM:

I was never as awe-inspiring as Sylvia Li #67, but I did have some tricks I was fond of. For example, the female scion-of-Amber going to a formal ball in the Castle that, you never know, might get ugly. And on home turf in Amber, sorcery doesn't work. Or gunpowder. And it's difficult to waltz with a broadsword strapped across one's back.

My solution: hair ornaments that, on closer inspection, were dangerous throwing darts, and, stashed in my dainty evening bag, along with the lace hanky, lipstick, and cigarettes (oh, c'mon, even the princesses of Amber smoke, it's all over the novels), a Zippo-style lighter and a small aerosol can of hairspray.

A lady is never without her pocket handkerchief. OR her improvised flamethrower.

#70 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 05:24 PM:

Carrie @ 56:

Good thing they're not using 3.5 rules--that's a 5000 gp diamond just for raise dead, and since gold pieces are 50 to a pound...well, a hundred pounds of gold isn't cheap.

Well, sure, but why would they use 3.5? Gary hasn't had much to do with D&D lately.

#71 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 05:28 PM:

D&D was a solace in HS (and I don't know what possessed my English teacher, the year I moved to that school to tell me she let people use her room for gaming at lunch).

It was instant group ID. It gave me flexibilty of thougt, encouraged me to do reasearch. We kept the group going, even as teachers retired, and members graduated. We had time, between sessions, to think on what it was we were doing; character grew and we had SOPs (because any group like that will).

Are the "adventurers" crazy? Sure, in the way that thrill seekers and thugs are crazy. They may be thugs who play the robin hood role, but only because there are people who need it, and it has rewards. What I recall was lots of time spent (in various ongoing games) with interaction that wasn't fighting, and trying to assimilate the things which had happened to the character into how that person reacted to things in the future (I had one character get killed five times. His reactions were interesting... super cautious, to super reckless (hey, it never lasted before), to something approaching balanced.

It made it easier to stand in the other guys' shoes, so it helped me when it came to dealing with other people too.

#72 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 05:31 PM:

I opened up the big extra purse that I'd been carrying, unremarked, to every single session since he'd mentioned the idea...


#73 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Xopher, #63: I wish I'd had you as a GM, on the rare occasions when I tried to role-game. One campaign I remember vividly went roughly like this: it was Champions, and I'd very carefully built a character designed for infiltration and information-gathering -- I had Disguise, Shape-Changing, Languages, Computers, Lock-picking, all that sort of thing, but strength and fighting skills, not so much. And the GM ran a campaign in which my character was never given a chance to do anything important, and was more often than not a liability to the team. The campaign ended when 2 of the players, who had just broken up IRL, let that slop over into the game and allowed our shuttle to crash on the moon because their characters were too busy fighting to notice we were off course, and the whole party died. :-(

Jenny, #66: Yes, of course his parents meant well. So well that they probably never actually looked at the materials they were burning, just to see if what the TV told them was correct, or even factually accurate. And see what that betrayal of trust bought them in the end. "He meant well" is is what you say about the kind of person who falls for a 419 scam and loses their life savings. It's not an excuse for sheer mental laziness.

#74 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 05:49 PM:

I, too, moved from AD&D to Amber (via GURPS). I got tired of all the paperwork and die-rolling in AD&D, and preferred Amber's loose rule structure. (After a time, though, Amber's universe felt too small. How many times can the Pattern be under threat before it's repetitive? I wish I'd finished running the People's Revolution in Red Amber before I quit, though.)

When I was younger, I used role playing to work through a number of puzzles about my life and how it worked. My tattoo - a phoenix - is partly a reference to one (half of one) influential character I played. I try to bring a little Phoenix into everything I do (a thought that would make my former campaign mates blench. She was...not cautious).

I also used convention GMing to work through a lot of my shyness about dealing with large groups of people. It was my first experience of both running meetings and moderation.

About a year ago, I actually made money GMing. I had to run a brief session on how my then employer dealt with project risk. So I ran it as a role playing session about the Three Little Pigs using our risk model. My boss was so impressed he gave me a four-figure (in sterling) bonus for the year.

#75 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:17 PM:

A lady is never without her pocket handkerchief. OR her improvised flamethrower.

I reluctantly stopped carrying my lipstick-with-hidden-blade when traveling after September 11th.

My parents were somewhere between indifferent to my RPG hobby and downright pleased ("Look! She has friends at last!")

I remember being dragged into my first game in Ann Arbor, Michigan, around 1978, by an excited group of preteens at summer GSI camp. I had no idea what was going on; they just handed me a character sheet and pulled me right into the game.

I still have my dice bag, too. And all my rulebooks and modules, and a huge run of issues of Dragon Magazine. My oldest character has achieved immortality on a friend's website where she's writing out our old stories, too.

How wonderful, to change so many lives.

#76 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:22 PM:

Sylvia @ 67: That is an utterly awesome story.

#77 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:28 PM:

I have some D&D background and experience too, fairly limited by comparison to many, and it's all pretty much the kind of stuff you all know, blah-blah-blah.

What I've been thinking about Gary Gygax's life is that there are damn few people who get to popularize (if not invent) not only an entire genre, but an entire medium - games as a way of living stories. That's really what the RPG experience is about.

#78 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:35 PM:

I still play at least once monthly with my friends from college. It's the best way we have of reconnecting with each other on a regular basis. It's just that nowadays, we eat grilled salmon and homemade salsa instead of delivery pizza.

Thanks Gary.

#79 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:46 PM:

Lee 73: I wish I'd had you as a GM, on the rare occasions when I tried to role-game.

Thank you, and I'd like to point out that our lives are not over yet, and that we may at some point be in the same place at the same time. I haven't GMd since I did a session as a birthday present in August, but I have by no means sworn off. And in an ongoing campaign, I would always try to make sure there was an occasional adventure that focused on each character, and try (though this is harder) to make sure each character had some chance to affect the outcome for good or ill.

What an extraordinarily lousy GM that was! S/he did not want you playing, clearly, and in fact (unless s/he was a teenager and just had no sense) probably did not value your friendship. Either that or was just playing canned scenarios and not creative enough to fudge them so that they were interesting for you.

As for the IRL couple breaking up...I'd probably split the party at that point, and play separate sessions with the two groups (this has become known as the FarScape Solution, but we were doing it long before that show ever aired). Certainly if it were a GURPS campaign, any time they said something out of character to snark to or about each other, they would be penalized roleplaying points. That's assuming I wanted to stay friends with both.

If not...well, one of my players would occasionally tell me "If you have a nasty monster for us to kill in this expedition, could its name be Anna*?" Since I frequently invented single-use monsters out of whole cloth, I sometimes complied: "OK, the Anna swings at hits you unless you defend. OK, you blocked the Anna's claw attack, but..."

*Not her real name. It was a person at work, not an SO, if that matters.

#80 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 06:47 PM:

A lady is never without her pocket handkerchief. OR her improvised flamethrower.

Having just seen the Buffy movie last night: "No--my keen fashion sense!"

Well, sure, but why would they use 3.5? Gary hasn't had much to do with D&D lately.

That was kinda what I meant. :)

it was Champions, and I'd very carefully built a character designed for infiltration and information-gathering -- I had Disguise, Shape-Changing, Languages, Computers, Lock-picking, all that sort of thing, but strength and fighting skills, not so much. And the GM ran a campaign in which my character was never given a chance to do anything important, and was more often than not a liability to the team.

Bad GM! Bad!

Kinda reminds me of the (Old) White Wolf amalgam campaign I was in once--we had vampires and mages and the GM let me play a Highlander style Immortal from some (surprisingly well put together) online rules. So I'm 500 years old and have more money than God, and of course I have a bunch of firms on retainer to handle it all for me because I don't want to deal with it. And the GM keeps telling me, "Oh, your accountants tell you something's going wrong with your investments". So I look at my character sheet, and sure enough there's Swordfighting and 17th Century Court Etiquette, but no Bookkeeping or Accounting, and I shrug and say, "I tell them to handle it." He kept trying to get me to do something about it, and I kept saying it was their job--though I was trying to track down my Archrival, who was probably responsible--and then the game imploded.

I reluctantly stopped carrying my lipstick-with-hidden-blade when traveling after September 11th.

I had a hobby for a while of collecting objects with blades hidden in them, including a couple of pens that actually did write. Never got my hands on one of those lipsticks, though.

#81 ::: Jacob ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:00 PM:

Though I never met him, Gygax's work has been foundational to who I am. I like to remember that my father had to leave a gaming session because my mother was in labor with me.

#82 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:12 PM:

Warren Spector writes about his introduction to roleplaying:

"I discovered D&D in 1978, about four years after Gary and Dave Arneson and their Wisconsin gaming buddies invented the game. My first Dungeonmaster was Bruce Sterling, now a well-known writer, but at that time an unpublished wannabe. The rest of the players in the group were writers or wannabes, too, of one sort or another. We met once a week for about ten years, as members of The Rat Gang, troublemakers in the River City of Shang who went on to become political and military powerhouses in the world Bruce laid out for us to explore."

Cripes, to have been in that gaming group!

#83 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:14 PM:

I have never played RPGs (I suppose it could still happen), but I have lived among the gamers since 1976 and I thought I was fairly familiar with the subculture spawned by Mr. Gygax and his colleagues. However, there seems to be something I am missing.

In #9, Ewan writes:

For maybe 10 years now, I pretty much always carry a d6 and d20 in my pocket. Some part of my identity, I guess.

In #38 K.C. Shaw writes:

I haven't played in years, but I still have my dice bag. Because you never know.

And in #62 Manny writes:

I have a D20 in my pocket, just in case, and I don't play. Never have. Because you never know.

Exactly what are these people preparing for?

A spontaneous opportunity to play D&D, I'd guess, but that doesn't quite fit.

I can see keeping a deck of cards in your pocket in case you need to play solitaire or to invite someone to a poker game anywhere, anytime.

But if you wanted to play D&D on the spur of the moment, wouldn't you need graph paper, a big stack of rule books, and other accoutrements?

Also, even if you encountered someone who invited you to game, wouldn't that person be prepared with the necessary equipment, including dice?

Or is it the custom that each player must bring his own dice? (Monopoly comes with just one set, and everyone shares.)

Or has a significant literary allusion escaped me here?

#84 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:25 PM:

bryan @ #41: Why did you disagree with what you wrote?

I read that as saying that he disagreed with his father's opinion of what he wrote.

#85 ::: Melody ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:36 PM:

Bill at #83:

Because sometimes you have to roll a saving throw in the middle of your Monday morning staff meeting, and what - you're going to use someone else's d20? As if.

#86 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:48 PM:

Xopher, you have, now and forever, a standing invitation to play, DM, or both if you're ever out Minneapolis way... It's sad that so many of us don't have the time to play or run that we used to... My father thought, as a few others have mentioned, that this "D&D thing" was a phase to be outgrown. After 30 years investment in AD&D, I would hate to ever have to quit playing entirely...

Even though we thought that EGG was crazy as a loon, he was a brilliant loon whose vision brought me most of the friends I have today, and gave our marriage a common thread that has lasted 20 years.

We owe him more than words can say.

To this day the only version of writing that I've ever been good at is my AD&D campaign, now age 25 and standing at around 2000 pages of modules and backstory. Without it, I may have never had any creative outlet at all.

Today, Melody and I try to play by the same character-inclusive philosophy you espouse. We take turns running entire groups as the other DMs... An odd twist is that despite knowing Melody since infancy, I didn't know of her D&D interest until we had been married a couple years. Viva la mystere...

#87 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:54 PM:

Bill @ 83 -- Paper and pencils are everywhere. Add in just a single d20, and like some other book once said, "Wherever three are gathered..."

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 07:55 PM:

Susan @ 75... I reluctantly stopped carrying my lipstick-with-hidden-blade

There goes your career as a Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

#89 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 08:12 PM:

Bill@83: Or is it the custom that each player must bring his own dice?

You want to bring your own dice. I remember one guy I played with who had an assorted collection, various colors and sizes, and he had assigned various levels of "mojo" to individual die.

When a seriously, "I'm about to be eaten by a Grue", roll would come up, he'd dig out the somewhat smallish, pale-blue die. It, apparently, had the most mojo, and he would save it for the important rolls.

I mean, who knows what sort of mojo someone else's die might have...


#90 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 08:16 PM:

Jacob@81: I like to remember that my father had to leave a gaming session because my mother was in labor with me.

So... how'd you throw the dice from in there?

Come on, someone had to ask...

#91 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 08:47 PM:

I carry a d20 around in my daygear, but it's more of a rosary than anything else. For gaming, I have two dice bags - one set that's free for anyone to use and another that has my 15-20 year old finely aged and carefully attuned dice in them. I am not generally superstitious, but I have a very firm rule about other people not touching them.

We were recently running a D&D next-gen (where all of our kids aged 10+ get to play*) and my nephew thought he'd be cute by grabbing my dice after I announced they were off limits. He was promptly introduced to the Guy Punch rule - just his shoulder because he's still a minor, but with a moderate degree of force in order to instill a proper combination of fear and respect for the DM :)


* These sessions are some of the best adult/kid interaction time you could imagine. Everyone has a say, everyone gets to do something, everyone contributes. The looks on their faces as the story unfolds, or when one of their characters gets to be the hero of the moment is awesome.

#92 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 08:59 PM:

abi @ 74 --- Fade in to indoor scene of Risk Manager Smith in Little Pig costume:

Smith/Pig: Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!

abi/Wolf: Then I'll huff and I'll puff...

abi/GM: The Wolf casts "Whirlwind" and the house of sticks is blasted...

Smith/Pig: WAIT! You didn't concentrate! How could a Wolf with IQ 6 know "Whirlwind" at level 21 ??? And how could he afford the 50 point Powerstone to cast a 7-hex radius spell? This GURPS Risk Management sucks! What if we base our risk model on the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide instead? Is there any Mountain Dew left?


#93 ::: Lucy S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:10 PM:

My mum played in high school (1976) and in college where she got her boyfriend (later my dad) into it. Eventually they got caught up in jobs and grad school and three small children that they stopped playing. But as kids, there were always funny-shaped dice in the house.

In high school, my friends got me into 3.5, which got my parents all nostalgic and they brought out her old photocopied rulebook and lead minatures. In terms of "dice mojo" (Greg London @89), I use my mother's orange d20 as my primary die. I consider it the real-life equivilent of weilding an ancestral sword.

Now that my friends and I are in college, we only meet every couple months. Just last year after our youngest member's high school graduation, we ended our first campaign. It was six years of effort and didn't end in TPK. It was a great sense of accomplishment.

We owe a lot to Gary Gygax and he will be missed.

Did anyone else have the Gygax-designed board game called DUNGEON which came out sometime between 1987-1993? Oh how many times my brothers and I rolled snake eyes and were killed by the Dracolich!

#94 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:35 PM:

Bill@83: I RPG'd only briefly at the dawn of D&D, but my wife (who was active for ~10 years) told me that personal dice (often in fancy little bags) were very common -- standard, in the groups she played in.

There was one person in her Philadelphia group who was legendary for favorable rolls. When pressed he explained that he'd buy many dice, set them all in a ring, pick one and tell it what to roll; if it did as instructed it was petted and put in one of the fancy bugs, but if it didn't, he would smash it in full view of all the others. I do not know whether he was kidding; gamers \do/ have a sense of humor, even if they don't always have a sense of engineering.

#95 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:39 PM:

Xopher, #79: I appreciate the offer, but am unlikely to take you up on it. See, the other reason I never did much role-gaming is that I have ABYSMAL luck with dice! This shows up even on board-games, and to such an extent that people who are playing with me for the first time have remarked on it. I'm much happier playing things like Empire Builder, where the luck is in the draw of the event cards rather than the roll of the die.

My partner still has some of the ancient "caltrop" 4-siders in his dice bag.

#96 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:54 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 83:

My M.Sc. research was built on Monte Carlo simulations of atom/molecule collisions. The simulations used the usual pseudorandom number calculations, but the initial seeds were the very best d10-rolled random numbers.

More recently... well, here's a completely hypothetical situation. Suppose your most critical work project is completely blocked until you get a working device driver. From someone who works for another company, in another country, whose work to date can be described charitably as "semi-competent, ill-conceived, and not conforming to the specs". And who isn't returning your calls.

... While your next critical task involves fixing a disastrous bug caused by something which randomly trashes areas of memory -- after several indirect interactions with code, but it only happens every couple of days, triggered by conditions which are unknown but appear to involve some other device occasionally sending messages that are not quite according to spec.

... And your boss, having had all this explained, keeps demanding to know how long it will take to fix these things. And you know, based on past experience, that no matter how many times he says he understands that your estimate is, at best, an extremely crude guess, any number you give him will get written into a schedule, and you'll catch grief if you fail to meet this "commitment".

... Then you haul out your dice, pick out and roll a d4 and a d8 (which looks a bit geekier than 2d6 even though the distribution of results is similar), look him in the eye, and tell him that that's your estimate, in weeks.

#97 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 83 -

But if you wanted to play D&D on the spur of the moment, wouldn't you need graph paper, a big stack of rule books, and other accoutrements?


We had a small little gaming crew going in Basic Training - nothing more than memory (yes, scary person that I was at 19, I knew enough of the charts, etc. that I could rebuild them from memory...), paper and pencil. Randomizers were a couple of decks of cards, with various suits used as various dice types (so clubs were d4 - pull A-4, shove all the rest back in the box). Only got to play a couple of times (not much spare time...), but it was fun.

(Steffan O'Sullivan made a game called Sherpa, which is designed to be played on the trail, etc. - characters fit onto a business card, and the randomizer is the sweep hand/stopwatch on a phone, watch, etc. - but that was much, much later).

#98 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:01 PM:

CHip @ 94 --- In 1986, one of my players (and future Best Man at my wedding) became frustrated one evening with his dice rolling and forced the rest of his dice to watch as the offending d10s were squeezed into shards in a large bench vise. He kept the shards and showed them to other under-performing dice as he exhorted them to improve their performance. Over the years, several other players punished lackadaisical dice in that same vice. "Getting the vice" became (and still is) the phrase for any item (animal, mineral or vegetable)that needs to be destroyed or discarded. The threat is still offered to dice on a regular basis, although the vice itself is long gone...

Bill (from #83): While somewhat extreme, this sort of anthropomorphism is common among gamers. My own dice collection is now down to 500 or so, 30 or so of which are used ritually (and reverently) at every gaming session, and two of which sit by my keyboard to help me decide minor matters. I hope this helps shed light on the psychology of gamers...

#99 ::: Ingrid ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:09 PM:

I played D&D in 7th grade, the only girl in the group. I blame my brothers, for teaching me how to sword-fight (they were on their high school fencing team) and then giving me no castles to conquer. So I hunted up some imaginary worlds to conquer instead. I went on to other games later on - games that brought me my closest friends and fired my imagination and challenged my intellect. Thank you, Gary. You are the happy rattle of dice in a warm leather bag, forever.

#100 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:19 PM:

Lucy S @ 93 -

Did anyone else have the Gygax-designed board game called DUNGEON which came out sometime between 1987-1993? Oh how many times my brothers and I rolled snake eyes and were killed by the Dracolich!

Izzylobo (heart) DUNGEON!...

(The first version of it came out in 1975 or so, they re-released it a number of times - the first was the same basic game, but with a more expensive presentation, followed later by "Classic Dungeon" and "The New DUNGEON!" which rejiggered the rules a little bit, included some additional options, and the like).

#101 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:29 PM:


Another use for random dice!

Way Back When, the gaming crew, after an evening (and possibly night) of slaying monsters, confounding corporates, or short-sheeting Klingons* would frequently retire to Perkins (back when the local Perkins chain was a diner that had pretensions of being a family restaurant, rather than a family restaurant that had basically given up all hope of ever being though of as a diner again - open 24 hours, breakfast all hours, coffee refills til your pupils floated away in a sea of java brown). One of our number was notoriously... less than decisive... when it came to making up his mind regarding food, and frequently would just end up randomly grabbing some appetizers and/or side dishes instead of an actual "meal".

One day, while he was equivocating, another member plonked a d6 and a d10 in front of him. When Mr. Parker looked up quizzically, Dan handed him a carefully (for the time, anyways - this was maybe 91 - 92 or so...) laid out page, at the top of which was -

Bob Parker Random Perkins Table

followed by a carefully balanced set of charts detailing the process for determining a Bob Parker Special (1 - 2, roll d6 times on Side Dish table (table 3), etc.) - with details filled in from an actual Perkins menu.

The table was actually carried - and used - for some number of years (until Mr. Parker graduated, actually, I think).

*they hate that...

#102 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 10:54 PM:

"Then you haul out your dice, pick out and roll a d4 and a d8 (which looks a bit geekier than 2d6 even though the distribution of results is similar), look him in the eye, and tell him that that's your estimate, in weeks."

It's been a long time since I've had to do that. I don't remember it working very well. The good news is the spacecraft in question completely satisfied its initial lifetime expectancy...

#103 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Remember the kid I told you about who just got into West Point? He's a gamer by blood. His parents met when she played a character in his D&D campaign. She never stopped playing with him...eventually they shut down the original campaign, but not until after they'd been married for a few years. He's now started up a new one, in a whole new universe, and they still play on a regular basis.

I ran the kids, including the soon-to-be-plebe, in an ERP!* adventure when I was in Texas last October. It was set on a deep-space gravimetrics lab, far from any sun, and certainly not a good place to look for a sharpened wooden stake...

*Easy Role Playing, the arbitrary, trust-requiring system I mentioned earlier. It was invented by my friend Dave.

#104 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:14 PM:

In regards to SOPs: When I was on a tour of Hearst Castle, we were fortunate to have a guide with an encyclopedic knowledge of the art and artifacts. "In this room, the ceiling was acquired from a Spanish monastery... This ceiling was originally from a German castle," and so on. Soon, for every room we entered, a different person in our party would ask "Where is the ceiling from?" as we all looked up to see.

#105 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:23 PM:

#6: What does it mean that my reaction, when Avram told me this, and Josh's reaction, when I told him this, was (*) "Oh, yes! Absolutely!"

(*) I'm assuming "was" because "reaction" is singular. Ought it to be "were" because I'm referring to the reaction of two different people?

#75: I passed up a chance to buy lipstick case with blade because I just couldn't figure out how it could be useful in a fight. "Excuse me while I put on lipstick"? The pen with knife I got, though I don't carry it.

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:32 PM:

Diagnosing when you have an adversarial GM: If chaotic evil NPC parties work together like oiled machines, s/he's an adversarial GM. In fact, I think that's cheating.

Lisa 105: I concur. '...reaction...and reaction...' should take a singular verb. If you'd said "Both our (my and Josh's) reactions" that would require a plural, but it sure looks right to me as written.

#107 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2008, 11:55 PM:

According a comment on Warren Spector's blog, Dave Arneson is terminally ill:

Damn, damn, damn.


#109 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 12:40 AM:

I've never in my life played D&D or any of the variants mentioned...and I suddenly feel grossly deprived...

#110 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 12:45 AM:

A.J. @ 48: "I would definitely chip in for that. In part for the delight of confounding future anthropologists."

"Clearly, he must have been some sort of primitive god-king. We've dated the structure at 450 B.G.H., which is quite a bit earlier than most tombs of the Righteous Law period--we're definitely looking at something new here. The iconography is also unusual, especially the emphasis on polyhedrons--of course, when one says polyhedrons, of course the first thing that leaps to mind is the Cult of the White Wolf, right? But tombs, especially ones this elaborate (and deadly!), simply aren't found in Wolvian architecture. Also baffling is the sheer diversity of polyhedrons--not only are there the typical decahedrons (often ritually paired in the Gurpsic manner), but also tetrahedrons, hexahedrons, dodecahedrons, and most unusually, icosahedrons! Hearst's Theory of Increasing Polyhedric Complexity has definitely received a major blow with this discovery.

I think it's too early to say whether this really might be a proto-Arpeejian structure. A lot of the inscriptions haven't been translated yet--key portions of the "@#$%*@&$#% Gygax! @#($&$%& Sphere of Annihilation!" mantra have proven quite resistant to linguistic analysis. But needless to say, we are very excited."

#111 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 12:57 AM:

Lisa @ #105:

As I see it, you've condensed " reaction, when Avram told me this, was..." and "...Josh's reaction, when I told him this, was..." - 'was' in both cases, so 'was' is the correct word to use.

#112 ::: Jacob ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 01:13 AM:

Greg @ 90: In daycare (pre-preschool) a friend and I would run around the playground as centaurs and elves, fighting... monsters, I guess!

A.J. @ 48

heresiarch @ 110: "In those days, we would go to the SCA's weekend events. No, we weren't a bunch of crazies in the woods, though the more hardcore guys would go out and carve their d20's from deer bones and they'd use actual hide for their character sheets. Yeah, just like they did in the old days. But those were the Gygaxers... not everyone went all out. My favorite part was always the LARP ritual that happened on the second night. I know the real history buffs say they didn't actually use live steel back then, but I just don't see how it could have worked otherwise. We KNOW you can't summon a god with just roshambo. And I speak from experience!..."

#113 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 02:25 AM:

Hmm. Minneapolis-area gaming?

I miss the campaigns Mike used to run. John M. Ford, gamesmaster; players included Kara Dalkey, Steve Brust, and a cast of similar sorts. Don't get me started on reminiscing....

#114 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 02:30 AM:

bill @ 83: If you'd like to talk about D&D and RPGs in general, I'd love to talk with you at Minicon. I'm the programming Rachel.

#115 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 02:58 AM:

Lee, we need to introduce you and other bad-luck rollers to the fine diceless roleplaying options. There are several where you have fixed results based on your character's ratings in this attribute or that versus the target's rating, but you have a pool of resources you can spend to improve a rating temporarily. You can still end up making terrible choices, of course, but at least they're your choices rather than the dice's. :)

#116 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 03:54 AM:

I think that part of Gygax's legacy was a whole new world for people who were nerds because they were "on the spectrum" or "quirky." Within the game, even in a deep-immersion game world, a lot of your interactions are scripted and refer to neatly quantified characteristics. Just play your stats and, if you're lucky, you get to not only have fun, but have fun in the company of people who want you back. Social flailing is minimized. Plus, if your particular "quirk" combines a love of lists and trivia with social problems, you've got a humongous world to explore and create, all based on neat tables and charts. And people who like to talk about it with you!

Which is not to say that a nerd cannot be a venomous ass, of course--or a bore even to nerds of the same persuasion.

The SCA, LARPing, et al. have similar attractions for quirky, on-the-spectrum folks, but D&D was the one that went as near the mainstream as nerdy stuff could get at the time. Nowadays its attractions have been eclipsed by the many and varied dimensions of the Intarwebs, where you don't ever have to check your facial expression or struggle to interpret a tone of voice. But I'm willing to bet that tabletop gaming still attracts a lot of folks who have trouble interacting in an ordinary way in social settings.

#117 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 04:24 AM:

I was introduced to D&D shortly after a major tragedy happened in my life (death of my mother when I was 16), and it helped me to overcome the grief, become more outgoing, and meet new people. I eventually met my wife at an AD&D game, in fact.

That was over 30 years ago, and I still DM a game on Saturdays (thanks to the wonder of the Internet and online chatrooms).

Thanks Gary; may you RIP. You opened up a universe of adventure and entertainment for me.

#118 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 07:08 AM:

Shortly after starting work in the real world, I found that a meeting I was supposed to be running had degenerated into a squabble. Oh noes! My meeting iz fail! Ize get fired! I thought. Then I realised that this was just the players stopping playing and sitting around arguing over what to do next. Well, I knew what to do there!*

I hope I grew out of being an Adversarial GM, but was always willing to kill a character. The important thing was to only have them die when it was meaningful; dying from a random encounter with some wolves at the start of a session is a downer; being killed in single combat with the orc king to save the kingdom at the end of a months-long plotline means something damn it. (Also, I later realised, someone has made the choice to put their character at risk for the sake of the story; if they'd given up on the fight and run away, I'd have played that.)

* Give them a minute so they've all said what's in the front of their mind, then introduce a new factor into the situation that forces them to deal with that rather than keep arguing; in this case, I seem to remember breaking for coffee, my emergency backup plan for all work related problems.

#119 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 07:52 AM:

Lee @ 95: My brother is the exact opposite--he always rolls 19s and 20s. It totally kills game balance:

Player A: I hit! 6 damage.

Me (DM): Okay, it seems pissed off.

Player B: I roll a 6, plus 5. Does an 11 hit?

Me: Nope, sorry.

My Brother: I roll...a critical! Okay, confirmation, another 20! And then a 17! Alright, double critical damage comes 3 for strength...48 damage.

Me: ...It dies.

My Brother: Yes!

All the other players: *exasperated sigh*

Whenever I play with him, I seriously have to design every encounter with one doubly powerful opponent, just to slow him down long enough that the other players can get a couple swings in.

#121 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 08:29 AM:

Neil #118:

Yeah, this is one of those places where fiction (and gaming is cooperatively-created fiction, right?) has somewhat different rules than reality. In a novel or a game, it's pretty much unthinkable that the bad-ass combat vet is done in by a 19-year old crackhead with a cheap pistol. But that sort of thing happens pretty routinely in real life.

This introduces a kind of biased thinking into most people, I think. Because we expect the really skilled, tough folks to be immune to the attacks by incompetent nuts. If you look at most of the presidential assassination attempts that have happened, you see a pattern like this, right? The attackers are often nonfunctional nuts like Hinkley, and yet they get past a team of probably the best bodyguards on Earth to get a shot off. Because in reality, your hardened combat vet doesn't have any more hit points than a big 18-year-old farmboy, and a single .22 bullet or stab from a good-sized knife can do in the toughest guy, if it hits the right place.

#122 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 08:50 AM:

Bob Rossney at #25:

Your story sounds like it could happen at my house. I'm 37, and still game monthly with my friends. My son games too.

One day he had friends over for band practice (a gamer with a rock band! I'm soooo proud), and my Puppy was generally showing off, mouthing off, disobeying, and acting like the 13 year old he is.

Until his friend (a non-gamer) picked up my leopard-print dice bag in one hand and my block of six-sided dice in the other and started fooling around with them. I didn't see this happening; I was in the other room.

I heard it, though: My son, his voice low and careful, as if he were talking to someone holding a bomb, said, "Dude. Put my Mom's. Dice. Down. Don't ever touch my Mom's dice."

The other day after I saw this thread, I went out to the living room and said, "Hey Puppy, did you hear that one of the creators of D&D died?" And he said, "Gary Gygax? Really. Oh My God. What happened to him, can you find out?"

D&D has affected generations of my family and my friends' families, all for the better.

Peace to Gary, along with many, many thanks for the countless hours of super-fun, elf-on-orc, stabbity-stabbity, quality mother-son bonding and evisceration time his work influenced and encouraged.

#123 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 09:49 AM:

Jon Sobel at 50,

I just started playing (3.5, my S.O. is the DM), and we draw out some of the terrains and dungeons on a 1" square grid surface with wet-erase pen. Also, they still make the lead figures, since that's all any of the players who have figures are using. (I didn't want to get into the painting end of things, so I paid someone else to paint for me.) Those of us who don't have figures are using Red Rose tea animals.

#124 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 10:55 AM:

I can no longer roleplay, after discovering that it's something to which I am susceptible as an addict. The addiction cost me my first college experience (not by itself; bridge and girls were in there, too, but they didn't need to be quit cold turkey); three semesters of gaming and no classes will do that.

On the other hand, it produced a classic moment. I was hanging with the DM, casually discussing the world. There were five or six calendars in use in the game, all of whose origins were known save one, the so-called "CLG" calendar. J asked me what I thought it meant, and I unthinkingly and innocently replied "cute little girl."

Before I knew it, he had the front of my shirt in a deathgrip and me on my tiptoes. When the kerfuffle died down and I convinced him that I hadn't been peeking in his world logs, and then somewhat later, I found out that that was the name of the spaceship that had brought the first humans to the world (on which elves, dwarves, etc. were native). After that I kept me guesses to myself :-)

There's no doubt that roleplaying informed my growth, though -- it facilitated serious social development -- and the world, as a whole. It's rare that a man (or two) can change so many lives, and I salute Mr. Gygax for it.

#125 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Above, someone asked why people carry around d20s whether or not a gaming opportunity is expected.

Penny Arcade shows why

(I apologize, as that particular strip is basically incomprehensible to someone who doesn't read PA, and is part of dread continuity to boot, as part of a rare story arc. But the point is comprehensible, at least, if nothing else is.)

#126 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 12:17 PM:

#126: Then I realised that this was just the players stopping playing and sitting around arguing over what to do next. Well, I knew what to do there!

(first warning as dice are rolled) "The monsters are getting impatient ... "

#127 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 12:38 PM:

123: we draw out some of the terrains and dungeons on a 1" square grid surface with wet-erase pen.

1) you must need a steady hand.

2) all the dungeons must be pretty much like being locked in a telephone box.

#128 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 02:29 PM:

I suppose the next big jump was the Traveller game, which broke away froim character classes and levels.

That was sometime around late '77 or early '78. It wasn't the first sci-fi game, but Metamorphosis Alpha and Starships and Spacemen were both built around the class/level idea.

Starships and Spacemen was heavily inspired by Star Trek, but got away with it by virtue of defining a Level 2 Security Guard.

Metamorphosis Alpha was D&D in a generation starship.

Firefly is a lot like Traveller.

#129 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 02:48 PM:

Carrie S. @ 34: I get that reaction fairly frequently, substituting "woman" for "adult".

Yes, I used to get that at the local comics store: token female comics fan, that was me.

It's been a while since i played anything like regularly, but without D&D I'd never have had the moment when I glared at a friend at university and he said "Quick, quick, I need a D20 to roll againt petrification!"

#130 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 02:52 PM:

Oops! Forgot to add - Now I'm off to the pub to raise a glass to Mr Gygax - long may we game!

#131 ::: Manny ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 03:09 PM:

In #83 Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey writes:

And in #62 Manny writes:
I have a D20 in my pocket, just in case, and I don't play. Never have. Because you never know.

Exactly what are these people preparing for?

A spontaneous opportunity to play D&D, I'd guess, but that doesn't quite fit.

It's a random number generator. You never know when you might need a random number. Either that or a carabiner.

#132 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 04:08 PM:

#118: Lee Gold's apa, Alarums and Excursions, recently had an Ignorable Theme about whether and when random meaningless deaths should occur in rpgs. I'm solidly on the side that says they shouldn't. Michael Cule is solidly on the other side, which is fine -- not everyone has to game the way I do -- but has not yet come up with what I consider an example of a random meaningless death. Maybe I'm being too persnickety with my definitions. Or maybe, what he's objecting to is what Lee Gold called "meaningless life", something that happens when GMs won't let the PCs die even when they should, or when nothing really matters because the PCs simply can't fail, or when nothing really matters because the scenario is a total railroad.

#128 Is Firefly really like Traveller? I've never played or even rolled up a character for Traveller. The impression I got of the game is that cargo gets traded at as little risk as possible, and that the role playing tends to be minimal. Oh, and I've heard the bit about how one's PC can die during character generation.

#133 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 04:36 PM:

A follow-up to the blog comment I linked to in #107 suggests that Dave Arneson is far less ill than suggested. Whew.

* * *

I hope someone collects all the stories and anecdotes about the early days of TSR and D&D. None of the memorials I've read recently point out that TSR was not initially a RPG company. Gygax and friends were miniatures gamers.

One of their early efforts was a Barsoom miniatures game, which had its own miniatures . . . by Grenadier, as I recall. And it had its own lawsuit! The game was pulled from the shelves and is obviously a major collector's item. There was a tie-in with D&D; the very early versions of the D&D rules mention thoats and tharks and other martian beasties in the wandering monster tables!

#134 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 04:49 PM:

albatross 121: In GURPS, that's true. You can get harder to hit (by wearing armor, having spells, learning to dodge) but number of "hit points" doesn't change, or at any rate doesn't change much. Not like in D&D where a high-level character can get sprayed up and down with machine-gun fire and still fight.

Oh, and I forgot one rule change I had to make to keep the PCs from exploiting a bad wording: They were using various Dome spells to trap enemies. I ruled that since they're protection spells, they keep things out but won't keep someone inside if they want to leave.

I had to do it. Combat was getting stupid. I was fair about it; I emailed them between sessions to explain the change. In retrospect I should have just ruled that any Protection spell can be resisted by the subject automatically if s/he wills it. Oh, well.

#135 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 04:59 PM:

Lisa @ 132 --

Traveller is set in a distant, vast Galactic Empire, so you can wind up doing almost anything.

I've had Traveller players realizing that their characters were in the midst of a large, extremely illicit, antimatter explosives factory that the Imperial Navy had sent heavy fleet units to "neutralize"[1], characters trying to hack the competition's routing tables for cargo transhipment to find the secret planet, and the PCs who got to be the engineering troubleshooting team for an automated cargo-flinging hyperspace transport system.[2]

[1] In Traveller, the mild form of "neutralize", at least at that scale, is "slather with many, many energetic decaying mesons".)

[2] Traveller FTL is by discrete jumps, and it uses appropriately insane amounts of energy; you use 10% of the mass of the ship in hydrogen to go one parsec. But the essential thing is the grid in the hull, rather than the specific source of energy, so a set of Very Large solar arrays, some 100 ton (the Traveller displacement ton is not a mass ton, and let's leave it at that) cargo cans with the appropriate grids, and some semi-disposable busbars and voila! the other inhabited system a parsec or two away is subject to cheap bulk shipping of goods.

#136 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 133: You probably already know that Gary's set of rules for medieval miniatures, TSR's Chainmail, included a chapter on fantasy creatures and combat. Although I never played D&D, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Chainmail, which was published a few years earlier, had an influence on it....

#137 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 05:13 PM:

My mother, a devout Catholic, was a DM in the early 80s. This was partly due to the fact that she had (and has) a fully functioning set of synapses and was easily able to tell that "D&D is a tool of the devil!" claims were errant nonsense.

One of my brothers told a story at my parents' 25th anniversary, about how he'd had to purchase a second phone line for the house after Mom got annoyed with him for taking up all the time. "What do you do on there, anyway?" So he told her about BBSes, and how they were discussing and playing D&D on there. "We haven't seen the computer, Mom, or the phone line since..."

Incidentally, she hasn't roleplayed in years, but now, in her 60s, she and my dad take part in another geeky pursuit, geocaching. They're almost up to 5000 finds, and their slogan is "We can quit any time."

My own experience with RPGs is tangential and limited. I had a character in a campaign run by my other brother when we were teens; he kept trying to kill me off since he was still in the "stupid bratty little sister" mode. I haven't really had time to get involved since, but I use the language all of the time, because it's really useful IRL to describe, for example, the concept that Intelligence ≠ Wisdom.

And now I'm remembering a campaign about four or five years back that led to absolute geekery. I wasn't in the campaign, just in the room, listening, because Evil Rob was in the campaign and I didn't want to step on his fun. This was the campaign setup where, when you were killed, you were a ghost with certain, limited abilities until you were resurrected. Evil Rob was a half-elf paladin with a fondness for Lochaber-type axes, and there was a great setup with the GM's wife playing an NPC that was an adorable little girl, whom the paladin had promised to protect.

Well, along the way things got seriously messed up, and the little girl died. As said above, she was not entirely gone... though due to unusual circumstances, she wasn't precisely a ghost and couldn't easily be resurrected until whatever Quest they were on fixed the world.

The joke became, "How do you make a paladin cry?" because the GM's wife started saying, "You promised..." in this little-girl voice any time she wanted to lay on the guilt.

Anyway, the absolute geekery came partway through the campaign, when Evil Rob was offered an incredibly nice promotion... in another state. I had to stay behind for a few months to prepare for moving and run out our lease, and he realy didn't want to just drop out of the game. So... since the GM had broadband, we got a couple of iSights (which were pretty new, if you want to date this.) Twice a month I'd go over for the campaign, and they'd set up the iSight (moving it as necessary for battle strategy), and he'd play the game from his office, 1800 miles away.

Another campaign member wrote up an article on the setup, for Pyramid magazine (I think.) Don't know if it was published.

So... yeah. I only barely knew the man's name, but he obviously has had quite an effect on my life, even if I barely touched anything he'd designed. (Mom does still have the electronic Dungeon game stashed in the back somewhere.) Since I'm a theist, I'll go with the phrase "leveled up."

#138 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 05:37 PM:

D&D moment: A little orange cat followed my boyfriend home one day. I kept him for a few days, until we found his owner, at a time in my life when I was very cat-starved. That little cat brought me great joy for the couple of days I had him. (I cried when we had to return him to his owner, but his owner was a great person and I knew he wanted to go home.)

Our other roommate, an inveterate roleplayer, was rolling up a character on the living room floor, when the little cat frolicked over and snagged the d20 with one paw, then batted it across the living room.

The cat rolled a natural 20, and sat there looking extremely pleased with himself.

Jenny Islander @116 -- actually, social flailing is exactly the reason I never took to roleplaying. I couldn't ever sort out what my character knew and didn't know, what kind of initiative he/she would take, how he/she would react. And I could never remember what skills and spells and weapons I had at my disposal, and what the rules for using them were, quickly enough in a moment of combat. There was just too much to keep track of, at the same time that I was trying to navigate the real-life social scene of a roleplaying group.

It really comes of being a perfectionist who gets overwhelmed and paralyzed by too many options, along with not being the sort of nerd who has a fantastic memory for all trivia. I never stopped panicking that I would somehow accidentally ruin everything.

That said -- I've hung around with enough roleplayers that I still constantly use all the D&D metaphors. I appreciate Gary Gygax for bringing such useful metaphors into my life. May he be rewarded in the afterlife for bringing so much happiness to so many people.

#139 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 05:37 PM:

I gave up D&D when I left town to go to university. In, um, 1983. After playing it more or less continuously from either 1974 or 1975. (Yes, my group started on the Basic D&D book then added the original rules then we absorbed the AD&D rule books as they came out, starting with the Monster Manual. Yes, that is my name in the credits to the Fiend Folio, thanks to my earlier professionally published work -- in White Dwarf, circa 1980 or 1981.)

I probably survived my teen years due to D&D.

#140 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 05:48 PM:

@#132 Lisa Padol:

Of course, there can also be missions where the characters can easily survive, (or not even be in danger) but still fail their objective!

Rules-hacking: Oh yeah, I also did up some extensions to the Amber Artifact & Creature tables. Working out the points for creations with "real" stats, filling out the minor powers, that sort of thing.

#141 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 05:57 PM:

On using a wet-erase marker and a grid for dungeons

1) you must need a steady hand.

2) all the dungeons must be pretty much like being locked in a telephone box.

Actually, as long as you don't have a steady hand, it's more like being locked in a large room with uneven walls, and the grid (we use those big yearly planners, and put a few rooms on each one) looks enough like bricks or stone to evoke the proper stone-wall feeling.

Non adversarial GMing can go too far, if you ask me. Our party, playing Call of Cthulhu last night, was shipwrecked off the coast of Spain, possibly involving Byatis, although I suppose it could have been some other huge malevolent crab with thousands of little chittering, toxic-biting followers. And no one died. I swear, if our GM was in charge of the Titanic, that movie would have ended with a wedding.

#142 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 06:26 PM:

#139: Charlie, let me know which issues of White Dwarf you're talking about. I actually have those primeval early issues with the mono-color covers.

If there were a Museum of Roleplaying, I could make quite a donation to the library. As it stands, the young folk don't seem interested in the old days, what with their computeroliums and videotron games. Bet not a one of them could whittle a d12, like we had to do.

#143 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 06:26 PM:

OK, just to amplify on the Traveller/Firefly similarity I mentioned. People have mentioned the Jump Drive concept of the game. Everything happens close to planets (early on in the history of the game a lot of the concepts were a bit vague). One of the standard player-groups was the crew of a small merchant starship, struggling to pay the bills, and not too scrupulous about the cargoes they carried. And the guns people used were recognisable 20th Century firearms.

Oh, and there was the little problem of Psionics being illegal.

Anyway, while it would be a bit of a stretch in some ways, you could get something like the ship, the crew, and the setting using the original Traveller rules.

#144 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 07:18 PM:

Firefly is Traveller plus cowboy hats and space whores. If Joss Whedon were one day to reveal that Firefly started as a write-up of a Traveller campaign he ran in a homebrew setting, nobody would be in the least surprised.

#145 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 07:36 PM:

Elise, you have been touched by the D&D gods... I would LOVE to have played in one of Mike's campaigns... I never even got the chance to meet him... Jealous/Sad/Jealous/Sad/Jealous/Sad...

#146 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 08:20 PM:

CHip #94

Various methods of 'training' dice were always common with the gamers I used to know here in Canberra, regardless of game system.

Smashing one as an example to the others was also talked about (usually as a friend of a friend had done it), so it may be an urban legend.

And one friend was infamous for being able to mentally control dice to roll high or low at will. He certainly did have an uncanny ability to get good rolls, but whether this was coincidence or he really had his mojo working, is open to speculation.

#147 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 08:24 PM:

Charlie @ 139 --- Although my game is on pause, both Melody and I are, at this moment, battling your Gith in Neverwinter Nights 2.

I can't thank you enough for the Slaadi, which I discovered in the FF when it first came out. I developed a large societal backstory for them in the early '80's, since the FF info was limited to the space available. They were my campaigns' major Big Bad Guys for about three years. I didn't know their origins pre-dated the FF. Is your original concept available anywhere online?

#148 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Edward, I always wanted to go to a gaming convention with Mike, but we never got around to it.

The other thing I'm thankful to Gary Gygax for is that he brought about a world where, when Mike and I were getting romantically involved after being in a gaming group together for a long time, he could say to me in a romantic situation, "Roll for it," and crack me up entirely.

Gotta do some gaming again some time. Must first find copious free time; I think it's rolled under the couch again.

#149 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 08:35 PM:

The inappropriate use of a spell that our local DM* finally had to outlaw was the use of Teleport to drop ten-foot cubes of dirt onto opponents. That was a sad day for all concerned.

*Aren't some of you folks Washington University types? He went to school there in the mid-seventies, and used rule variants that he said had originated in St. Louis.

#150 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 09:34 PM:

My first large college computer programming project was a D&D databased populated dungeon generator written in COBOL.

#151 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Dave@143: One of the standard player-groups was the crew of a small merchant starship, struggling to pay the bills, and not too scrupulous about the cargoes they carried. And the guns people used were recognisable 20th Century firearms. Oh, and there was the little problem of Psionics being illegal.

Never played "Traveler". That sounds freakily suspicious, though. Not that I mind. ;)

Probably the most important thing I learned from gaming was how magic systems can be completely abused by players. Anytime I think about writing a story with magic in it, or critiquing someone else's story with magic in it, the first thing I do is figure out some basic rules for what magic can do. The very next thing I do is imagine what three or four particular guys I used to game with would do with those very rules.

If JKRowling were a GM, she would have been eaten alive by those guys, finding loopholes and abuses in just about every spell and rule-of-magic she has.

The other thing I learned from gaming is that realistic combat doesn't often make for interesting storytelling. People are fragile. And it's no fun having your main character get killed by a random, but completely realistic, IED. Combat systems in most games are designed to have players beat up on each other, get some experience points, and play another day. Something like Die Hard would be a perfect gaming environment. I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with that in writing.

#152 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 10:06 PM:

vian @ #143:

I think ajay's comment was referring specifically to the bit about the map being 1 inch square...

#153 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 10:12 PM:

It's safe to say that D&D was one of my foundational influences, even if I didn't get to play it much as a kid. Those books were a source of enormous pleasure to me all by themselves, full of wondrous potential and deliciously arcane strangeness; I felt inspired to be exploring the world they described even if I had to do it all by myself.

Later, when I actually had the chance to game with friends, we'd moved along to more flexible engines like GURPS and Call of Cthulhu; since then I've become increasingly fond of rules-lite and grainy systems that get out of the way so the story can go on. (I am, at the end of the day, an unabashedly pretentious narrativist.) But D&D opened the door for all that, and for the sake of the way it created a whole mode of entertainment that's given me boundless joy, I'll raise a glass to Gary Gygax and wish him safe journey into the Mystery.

And in honor of how deeply gaming has influenced the way I think about things, a post of some of my thoughts on writing during NaNoWriMo 2006: Everything I Need to Know About Plot I Learned from Running RPGs.

#154 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 11:19 PM:

I recall some clever gamers (both sides of the screen). I had one GM take some serious armor I had (very needful in the game it was gained in, sort of overkill for more sedate scenarios), and have a large beasty grab me by the heels, and pound the wall with me. The wall took a beating. So did I.

We also looked at hit points beyond about Level 3, as increases in skill. A critical hit was against the "core points" one had gotten in the first three levels, ameliorated by any armor which might be in the way.

They were seen as stuff that just sailed past the skills one had built up over time.

Then again, we tended to put the rules in soft focus, in the interest of having a good storyline, and lots of side talk, going on.

No one was immortal, but getting killed took work, bad luck, or some really strange stupidities.

#155 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2008, 11:41 PM:

My rule was that the players had to be stupid AND unlucky in order to die. They had to be doing something really stupid, and then roll badly.

#156 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 12:01 AM:

I'd forgotten about it until the words "White Dwarf" were mentioned, but I too had a monster in the Fiend Factory. Aug/Sept 1980, for those playing along at home.

#157 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 12:08 AM:

Oh XKCD you sweet clever nerd, a tribute on this Friday's strip.

#158 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 05:19 AM:

Edward @147: that stuff predated my first computer by several years, so it's not online anywhere (or even preserved on paper).

Stefan @142: I think the last White Dwarf I had anything in was either issue 18 or issue 19, and I didn't succeed in getting anything into their monster column until issue 6 or 7, but if you trawl issues 6-20 you're sure to come up with my stuff. (I wouldn't mind some scanned PDFs for the archives, if you've got the time and inclination ...)

#159 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 06:53 AM:

Charlie Stross #139: Yes, that is my name in the credits to the Fiend Folio, thanks to my earlier professionally published work -- in White Dwarf, circa 1980 or 1981.)

Ha, I was in White Dwarf #2 in 1977!

#160 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 10:15 AM:

Greg #151:

Yeah. The weird thing is, in gaming, that's bad--you're messing up the game balance by exploiting the rules in weird ways. But in real life (particularly science and engineering), it's a wonderful thing.

What is quantum computing, really, but some people finding loopholes in the magic spells of the game? (So the system is in a superposition of states, and not just one unknown state described by a probability distribution? Fine, let's do some computations on the superposition of states, so that the distribution when I finally measure it gives me a useful answer!)

And all kinds of other cool technological ideas work this way, too. Think of using radio (here's a magic spell: it lets you communicate at long distances, but it doesn't go through metal or rock all that well, and sometimes atmospheric conditions mess it up) to make radar, or microwave ovens. Or X-rays (here's a problematic substance; if you set it close to film, even inside a desk drawer or envelope, the film is exposed. Some kinds of box will protect your film from closeness to this stuff, but some kinds of boxes offer only imperfect protection).

And, of course, this sort of rules-gaming plays hell with game balance.

#161 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 11:16 AM:

One player wanted to be a baby Golden Dragon.


Baby Golden Dragons don't seem to know that breathing flame in a confined space will painfully scorch their delicate skin.

#162 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 11:25 AM:

Someone gave my parents the original D&D as an anniversary present. No, I don't know either; it was the 70s and I'd rather not, thanks. They never opened the boxes - I found them in a closet when I was about eight and loved 'em so much that I never switched systems (AD&D? pfui!) until I went through that Vampire phase in high school.

Without a doubt, I never would have become a SysAdmin without that first experience writing random treasure generators in BASIC...

#163 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 11:59 AM:

As a GM, I was always about the story. I didn't see why characters should die needlessly, but on the other hand, it should always be in the players' minds; Don't Do Stupid Things is always a good motto.

My favourite story around that was a Cyberpunk campaign I ran (tour of a rock band; PCs were the security officer and the lead singer/renegade). Of course, in that atmosphere, the threat of death - even random death - needed to be always in the air. We were heavy on atmosphere in this campaign; I'd do up the room in blue/red/UV lighting, posters, we'd play in costume, ... I do remember freaking them out once by doing up my mooding (showing off a painting I had made by a friend, in total surprise). I brought them in nicely quiet, had them sit down, started the music, turned the light off, and left.

To Iron Maiden's "Fear of the Dark."

By the time I came back from making the drinks, they were *gone*. I had the thing very carefully timed, but it didn't involve trying to find my players... but at least they had the right idea.

Sorry, digression. Favourite story, right. They were touring <famous place>, and standing in a very cramped line. Part of the setup was a cap-firing fake "hand grenade", which I had absconded with earlier. I lobbed it over the screen and onto the players' couch.

On cue, as if they'd planned it, they both were over the couch sides, and on the ground.

I ruled they were safe from the blast.

I miss that campaign; but still have the T-Shirt.

#164 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 12:30 PM:

Of course, everything I said above went out the window when running Paranoia (which I was locally famous for). Characters Died. A lot. I tended to have a 4-1 kill ratio, as it happens; the players killed off 4 clones for every one the NPCs and hazards did. I think that's about right.

But my introduction to gaming was Chevalier by EGG and The Arab-Israeli Wars, AH. Both have sculpted my life in ways too various to enumerate, mostly for the better.

Re: Magic: Dave and I took over the Wizards' Duel, which never worked, and figured out rules to make it work (but is a clear poster child for "the magic rules is broke"). I don't have the books, and don't want 'em, for 3/3.5 ed; but here's the idea:

- 6 18th level mages in a room about the diameter of a Fireball range. Basic, 2ed rules only.

- 65 points to put in to attributes, with a mandated 13 CHR.

- Spells of your choice (from 2e PH).

- Components to be assumed, but you can't use them outside of the spells they're needed for.

- Any non-magical items you choose to bring in and can carry.

- Each round, you can move full, cast 1 spell, or move half and cast or cast and move half. Orders entered to GM simultaneously and secretly.

- After all orders are in, roll d10 initiative, and that segment is when you start doing whatever the order says. GMs then wander into the back room and try to figure out what happens.

Please note, this game is best done with 2 GMs and a second map (because the first thing everybody does is go invisible); a third is recommended simply to break ties when the two GMs can't agree on what the rules mean!

Now that I think about it, it would make a great PBeM/PBW game. Maybe I should figure out how to tie it into a Dip-like server.

#165 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Brothers and luck with dice. I now realise I've been waiting 15 years to tell this story.

[Background: I never had much sense of Gary Gygax - although I used to play a lot of RPGs, it was mostly Rifts and other Palladium stuff, although occasionally I've played AD&D (as was). The group I belonged to had a couple of extremely good DMs, and I still remember the campaign one of them designed which met virtually all of Xopher's requirements - roleplaying mattered more than dice-rolling, and each character had a chance to use not only their special skills but also their backstory. I rarely DMed, because I didn't think I could live up to that responsibility. And frankly, it was more fun to play, and let someone else do the work.]

Anyway, once I tried to get my brother interested (he's ten years older than me). I persuaded him to play a solo game of Call of Cthulhu, with me as GM; he had never played an RPG or read any Lovecraft, as will become clear.

We began with his character discovering an old warehouse by the docks; on penetrating further, he discovered a group of cultists around some kind of ancient sign and chanting "Nyarlathotep". As he watched, the chanting reached an ever-greater pitch, until ... *something* ... began to form in a mist in the centre.

Being entirely innocent of HPL, he stuck around. I had him make a sanity roll (d100). He rolled a natural 1. When he looked back, the cultists had fled and a very dapper, apparently quite ordinary (if vaguely Egyptian-looking) man strolled up and offered to share a cigarette...

I never went back to DMing, but that game - and that event, really - still makes me think I might have had some aptitude for it.

Oh, and Adversarial DMing? Why not persuade them to run a game of Paranoia? Dying as a PC was never so much fun.

#166 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 12:43 PM:

One thing I always wondered: Did Gary Gygax invent the concept of the non-player character or was there a similar thing in games and simulations that showed up before D&D?

#167 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 01:11 PM:

#158: "(I wouldn't mind some scanned PDFs for the archives, if you've got the time and inclination ...)"

Mmmmm, could be.

#166: "Did Gary Gygax invent the concept of the non-player character or was there a similar thing in games and simulations that showed up before D&D?"

Well, maybe, but there was very little notion of game characters before D&D.

There were play-by-mail wargames and Diplomacy games that had a role-playing-ish aspect. Some of these had non-player forces that were controlled by a referee.

e.g., in this ancient (1972?) hoary rules set called "Space Centurions V" I have a photocopy of, the galaxy has zones controlled by "Buccaneers" and others by robots which attack player forces who intrude.

But they weren't really dramatic presences. Personifications of nations and kingdoms, more like.

So, Arneson and/or Gygax were likely responsible for NPCs as we know them.

#168 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Stefan: ... NPCs, yes, and also treating players' roles as Characters is most of what I meant by my comment up-thread about their shared invention of games as a medium for experiencing stories. If D&D didn't entirely invent that, it certainly took it out of hidden backwaters and into millions of people's lives, and eventually into popular culture.

#169 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 01:56 PM:

BTW, for those who never read it, here's Charlie's 2006 essay which was referred to upstream:

Gary Gygax, World Dictator

#170 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 02:06 PM:

I work at an art school library and we have a complete set of the basic game, dice and players manuals (v3.5) available for students, faculty and staff. This may be due to the fact that at least a handful of our illustration dept. grads end up at White Wolf.

It's probably about time for another donation form the Gamer's Guild as well. beets the hell out of the books the painting department donates. They're all covered in linseed oil.

#171 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 02:49 PM:

I've been avoiding a nostalgia-driven perusal of my very oldest D&D material, but stuff keeps bubbling to the surface of my memory . . .

One thing interesting about the very oldest conception of D&D is its tie-in to the miniatures wargaming experience. CHAINMAIL rated monsters and heroes and superheroes on the sand table as the equivalent of multiple single figures. e.g., a troll figurine or a Hero might fight as though it were "four men." (Technically, four figures . . . a figure / man in a miniatures wargame might represent 25 actual beings.)

This actually carried over to D&D, with character levels giving equivalences, e.g. 2 men +1 (roll two dice, adding one to each). Movement and distances were given in inches, as in inches on the game table.

The CHAINMAIL way of doing things was swiftly forgotten, replaced by the hand-to-hand combat simulation using d20s, hit points, and weapon damage rolls.

#172 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 03:30 PM:

There are people in this thread who got paid to contribute to the game that started my family.

This blog is socool.

#173 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 05:31 PM:

Carrie@56 & Terry@71:

PCs aren't necessarily crazy -- my favorite campaign was set on a fantasy version of Varley's Titan, where God was insane, and all of the PCs hailed from a Secret Valley Hidden in the Rimwall. Their jobs were a) to conceal the existence of the valley / free humans, elves, etc, b) to explore and gather intelligence, and c) to find outside allies in the task of overthrowing God. Ruleset was a local extremely mutated variant of 1st edition.

The characters in that run were totally sane (at least in their motivations).

#174 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 06:17 PM:

There are people in this thread who got paid to contribute to the game that kept me blissfully childless.

This blog is so cool!!!

#175 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Ah yes, players who can outmagic the GM. There was a rumor around MIT SGS that a PC called Superdwarf had taken on a balrog after the GM had destroyed all their magic weapons; in this ruleset only magic weapons (even -#) could affect a balrog, so S told a mage to Sleep the nearest wall and munged the balrog against it. No GM I met would admit to having walls that could be affected by Sleep.

#176 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2008, 11:32 PM:

Lenora Rose #53:

Our closest thing to a TPK came from someone trying to steal a ladder in a well-lit parking lot.

A game I DM'ed: Some of the party were KO'ed during a combat with rakshasa, so they got stashed in a safe place - in the middle of the pentagram on the floor.

Xopher #63:

I feel that the GM's role is to play neutral

My sentiments exactly. My normal gaming group has a tendency to deviate sharply from the nominal plot. Keeps me on my toes, is harder to run but ultimately, some of our best games resulted from spontaneity on the part of players & GM. That's when the magic happens.

Terry Karney #71:

It made it easier to stand in the other guys' shoes, so it helped me when it came to dealing with other people too.

You too, huh? It's helped me resolve an awkward situation or two being able to 'see' the problem from the other person's prespective.

Joel Polowin #96:

Have you seen this idea to use a Markov Chain Monte Carlo optimization algorithm to reduce time taken by passengers boarding planes?

Xopher #155:

My rule is 'fair play'. The world should be internally consistent & the players/characters should be informed. If e.g. the 1st level adventurers decide to attack the red dragon in its lair knowing that more experienced adventurers have tried & died, then they deserve what's coming to them. I despise employing 'hand of god' to keep characters alive. I think it cheapens the game if the player goes in knowing that the GM will bail them/their character out of a tight spot. Character death can be an appropriate outcome. But finding the balance can be tricky. My ultimate yardstick is: are we still having fun?

#177 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 03:10 AM:


My husband and I both sneer at the Encounter Level tables in 3.5. We generate random encounters by climate and terrain, adjusted by rarity of the monster in question, just like they useta do it back when all of the women in the Player's Handbook had big hair and lingerie. Translation for nongeeks: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 is designed so that players can be pretty sure about defeating anything they face, barring a bad die roll or bad player decision. 1e and 2e, OTOH, had no such provision. Because sometimes it really is smarter to sneak past or run like hell.

We use the 2e encounter generation rules when we DM, in expectation that the players aren't just in the game to rack up experience points (as if you could turn in your character for a prize token at the end or something!). If a green dragon flies overhead while your 1st-level party is working its way up a ravine, you throw yourselves flat under your camouflage cloaks and have the guy who's best with pack animals keep the mule quiet. And you sit on the idiot who proposes backtracking along the dragon's flight path to steal its treasure. Likewise, if your 8th-level party is riding down the road and a pack of mangy wild dogs trots alongside you with hungry expressions, you cast sleep on them and ride on. You don't kvetch about allll the damage you didn't get to doooooooo.

3.5 calls our type of play "deep immersion." I call the other type "if you're going to treat it like that, just get a first-person-shooter computer game; you can rack up points like crazy and there are pretty graphics too." There's something wrong with the rules when simple internal consistency--that is, if trolls have always lived in these woods, they accost everybody, not just the ones who look badass--is considered "deeper" than the "norm."

#178 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 03:42 AM:


#179 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 05:44 AM:

Jenny @ 177: Have you seen the GNS (Gamist-Narrativist-Simulationist) theory that's become popular in RPG analysis? It might help explain why D&D 3.5e doesn't appeal to your style of play, and why both styles of play are right. Neither of you is wrong; you just have different goals. (I personally prefer a game much more similar to what you're describing.)

Everyone who mourns the passing of D&D, or who dreams of picking up the dice again: Why not try to get together a game? If you can't find the time or people, that's understandable. But if it's because you don't want to buy and learn the rules all over again, spend a lot of time making characters, etc., there are lots of games out there that are cheap or free, very well designed and very rules-light, so things can go much faster. First one that comes to mind is Risus. The basic game has a humorous bent, but it's quite easy to make into a more serious game. Character generation can easily take less than a minute, if you want, and the mechanics are dead easy. And, of course, there are lots of other games out there with similarly low levels of required investment.

#180 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 09:35 AM:

On killing characters/adversarial GMs: The last few times I ran a game it was War Hammer, with a magic system written to test some ideas for what became my third trunk novel. The thing I most loved about the War Hammer system was fate points. Players got a d4's worth of do-overs to be used over the life of the character. The way we played them was that the degree of do-over was entirely based on how entertaining the player made the fate point.

So, you could automatically not take that crit hit when you were down to 1hp, but if you wanted to get your butt completely out of the middle of combat, you had to make up a good story about how the giant's club actually knocked you clear and sent you tumbling down the stairs...etc. If the story was good enough, you'd end up in a much better place.

Pretty much everything in my games was in service of the story we were telling each other and that included the rules. Didn't mean you couldn't die, just that you had to earn it, which could be done with the right sort of heroism or the wrong sort of stupidity.

I do miss roleplaying but it uses some of the same brainspace I need for writing novels and that means its not something I get to indulge in any more. At least not if I want to keep working.

#181 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 12:55 PM:

Soon Lee @ 176 re: plane boarding, no, I hadn't seen that -- thanks! (As a couple of people commented in follow-ups to that article, I'd like to see how windows-first, aisles-last seating order compares with the others.)

As an RPG player, I've always been a mixed blessing for DMs. I'm good about role-playing: if it's appropriate and in-character for my PC to do something dangerous/thoughtless/stupid, I go ahead and do it -- that's the price I expect to pay for the benefits that go along with those character traits. I once ran an Ars Magica character whose primary characteristics involved +4 "Charmed Life" and +2 "Good Luck" traits, along with a variety of negatives that translated approximately into "utterly oblivious to danger". I played him as an early ancestor of Niven's Teela Brown, who'd fluked into the "luck" trait early; because nothing seriously bad ever happened to him, he never learned to be careful. So while the Ancient Mystic Artifact was obviously powering up and about to go ZOT!, and all the other characters were diving for cover, my guy would be standing there, on the pedestal with all the runes, fascinated by the pretty lights.

But I usually ran magic-user characters, because I had a lot of fun using combinations of spells in ways that the GM hadn't thought of, in ways that tended to thoroughly derail whatever he had planned. "A dozen giants on their way to attack? Are they spread out or sticking close together? ... Close together? Okay, I'll take care of them. Yes, just me. Oh, I'll need a mouse, or other small mammal -- preferably a sick one... Yes, I'm serious. Does the alchemist have a mouse that he's been using for potion testing..?" Invisibility; fly high overhead; polymorph the mouse into a whale. Splat. (The poor health reduced its resistance to the polymorph.) DMs started getting worried expressions when I started asking odd questions, or my character started doing odd things.

I first played D&D with a group of friends who were mostly a couple of years younger than I was. It was the first time I'd had anything like a social group, as opposed to the few friends that I had in school, and the emotional environment in my home when I was growing up was disastrously bad. I've never been particularly socially inclined, but playing with those people taught me a lot about being a member of a group.

#182 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 12:58 PM:

The problem with 3e+ (The "new" d20 Open Source D&D) is that it is clearly designed for the younger crowd who have had a taste of the faster paced computer games.

When many of us started playing in the late '70s, being in your late teens was the norm, with only the occasional Tween getting involved. The rules were complex enough that to truly "get" them, you had to have developed the critical thinking skills rarely found in the average 12 year old.

As evidence, I offer a few points: The first is the simplification of what used to be Non-Weapon Proficiencies. In 3e/3.5e the system has been "streamlined" into a point-based Skill and Feat system. This system actually has some interesting concepts that can be retro-fitted into a hybrid 1e/2e hybrid system like mine. But it clearly is a more linear system than the older and more nebulous NWP rules. Younger players seem to be able to grasp the concepts better from what I have observed.

The other, and more telling point, is the increase in the pace of combat. There is a clear inflation of both the hit points enjoyed by the characters, and the damage done by both players and enemies. To me, this is designed to appeal to the younger players (the ones who begin at age 10 instead the 14 or 15 we used to see) who have been exposed to the faster pace of electronic gaming. Characters are easier to design, and can die much quicker. If they survive to higher levels, there is much higher shoot-em-up gore potential in having a character with more hit points, and monsters who deal out significantly more than they used to. There are more attacks happening, with all characters gaining multiple attacks at higher levels (not to mention the explosion of violence allowed by Attacks Of Opportunity!). This seems designed to appeal to those who are still the most in love with hack-and-slash gaming: the young.

Knowing that us older players would find ways to bring out the role-playing aspect of the higher hack-value Open Source games anyway, the game companies have done this with marketing in mind. Their philosophy is that if they catch the player at a younger age, s/he will buy more STUFF over their gaming career. They know that many people drift away from table-top gaming after college, so this can easily double the period where the player will invest fresh cash into books and such.

Another piece of evidence is the appeal of the computerized versions of 3/3.5e games, Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2 being the ones I am most familiar with. 1e/2e were not conducive to the computer environment, but the later d20 system is. NWN 1 & 2 appealed to me because of the D&D tie-in. I had bought all the available d20 source books the first couple years it was out, so the underlying principles were clear.

Today, we play NWN because it fits into a busy life better than real table-top gaming, but giver our druthers, we would much rather be playing our tried-and-true 1e/2e hybrid. We still do table-top every few months for a long weekend or two, but it just isn't the same...

Finally, to me, the newer versions just feel, in a visceral way, like they should appeal to younger players. I got this feeling from the first 3.0 game I ran, right on through the next several years, and it is this feeling which underlay much of this analysis.

Those of you actually in the industry may or may not agree. Please be assured that despite enjoying 1e/2e much more, and despite believing that 3.0+/d20 Open Source being mainly the result of a new marketing strategy, I do not see the whole shift as a cynical marketing ploy. It's just the way business works, as we all try to make a living where the profit potential lies... I would love to hear your opinions, to see if others, closer to the center of the industry, share my point of view...

#183 ::: George ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 01:31 PM:

I first heard about D&D in High School in 1978. Jeff Dee and Jack Hermann were both in our graduating class of 1979. During study hall I would look through the hardcover D&D books Jeff owned.

College is where the gaming took off. Every Tuesday and Saturday - pizza, soda, friends, Greyhawk - very good

#184 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 01:39 PM:

I just looked up Risus... pretty cool!

#185 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 01:53 PM:

I once illustrated characters for a tournament game at a small gaming convention, and stayed in the room while the game was being played, working on some prizes that the LARPers had requested. The players in question were all adults who had been an elven orphanage, with their foster mother who had, at some point, been hit with a severe absent-mindedness spell. (Her character portrait included little strings around her fingers.)

There was a half-elf paladin who was sniping all the time with one of the full-elf characters (the players were married, which made it more fun), and a druid-type who, I swear, was based on the Crocodile Hunter. The two characters that were the most fun were the ones based on the protagonists in Absolutely Fabulous. One of them, a spellcaster, had managed during the course of the game to completely de-label all of his spells (while he was high on magic mushrooms), so every time he cast a spell he'd hand the sheet over to the DM and roll some dice to see what it was.

Crazily enough, they managed to complete the quest, at which point they all looked around and said, "That's the first time we've survived to the end of the game."

#186 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 02:16 PM:

David @ 184: And that's just the tip of the iceberg. :) There are many, many more games out there that are just as cool.

If anyone would like any pointers towards games to get them back into tabletop RPGs, let me know. I don't know nearly all the games out there, but I know quite a few.

#187 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 03:12 PM:

Edward #182: The rules were complex enough that to truly "get" them, you had to have developed the critical thinking skills rarely found in the average 12 year old.

That's the opposite of my experience. Back when I first started gaming, right around age 12, all those big books of complex rules and tables were just the thing for me and my friends. We were teenaged nerds with high tolerance for complexity, and being able to master complex rules was a status marker.

Nowadays, I'm a middle-aged nerd who wants to get all those annoying rules out of the way and just make up a character and do cool stuff. When I hear my friends in their twenties go on about current attack-of-opportunity rules, my eyes glaze over like a Krispy Kreme donut. (But not as tasty.)

#188 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 03:19 PM:

Regarding PC insanity:

As a bit of irony, I just started in my first ever RPG a couple of weeks ago. (Not D&D; something that my GM tells me is loosely based on the Nemesis rules.)

My character very definitely didn't start out crazy, or at least not any crazier than the typical chemistry grad student. But somewhere in there he ended up to a point of calmly saying things like, "It's just written in blood. [fx: looks up at chemical cabinets lining his lab] It can be erased."

#189 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 04:37 PM:

Avram 187 -- I think we're not that opposite after all... I follow the child psychology theory that deep down most kids are concrete thinkers and desire some level of structure in their lives. Now, forgive me some elitism here, but I believe that complex rules systems feed right into that for the upper intellectual quadrille. When I was 17 and first gaming, I thrived on the details, as you did at 12. But because (like many late-teenagers) my critical thinking skills were developing quickly at that point, I learned earlier in the process how to figure out which rules needed to be abandoned or heavily modified. This led to the "Fun is more important than rules" principle which almost everyone here uses today.

Again, being a little elitist, I think most kids are not equipped to thrive on complex rules and are overwhelmed instead. This made the original D&D game more of an "adult" game than one for Tweens. In a way, I was lucky not to be exposed to gaming earlier, so although I learned the details quickly (by starting off as a DM from day one), I didn't spend much time locked into the "official" rules, and was able to progress fairly quickly to the concept that fun trumps rules.

All of which is a way of saying you (and probably many of the others on this blog) were exceptions to the rule. Does that make any sense? Modules I can write, but despite my D&D elitism, writing to writers always leaves me thumb-tied...

#190 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 05:25 PM:

@ deathbird 146

I witnessed my husband smash one of his ten-siders to set an example to the rest. One of the plastic ones, with a hammer, on the concrete floor of the garage. They'd been rolling poorly (think it was a 7th Sea game, so d10s were all we had) and he suddenly stood up, scooped them all up, and said he was going to teach them a lesson. The rest of us followed him to the garage and witnessed the carnage.

I can't remember now if it helped. But soon after he obtained a set of the steel d10s, so smashing was no longer an option.

#191 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 05:44 PM:

Rachel #179: Have you seen the GNS (Gamist-Narrativist-Simulationist) theory that's become popular in RPG analysis?

Are you talking about things like the Daedalus Project?

#192 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 05:53 PM:

Earl, #191: More like the Forge.

#193 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 08:07 PM:

Avram, #187: my eyes glaze over like a Krispy Kreme donut. (But not as tasty.)


You've just given me a lovely damning-with-faint-praise description for Krispy Kremes: "Well, they're tastier than glazed eyeballs."

(Note to self: Stop by Dunkin' Donuts on the morning of Chocolate Decadence and pick up a couple dozen chocolate donut holes...)

Oh, and Talisman (the board game) is good for people who like D&D-style play without endless rounds of character generation and rules arguments. Based on my own playing experience, my advice is to get the Dungeon and Village expansions; City is optional; Timescape seriously mucks with the game parameters and is only worth it if you really like outer-space adventures; and DO NOT get the Dragon expansion, because it renders Craft-based characters effectively worthless.

Even though I don't play, I collect dice. Pretty-colored dice, unusually-shaped dice, dice made from interesting materials, and BIG dice. I've got brass and crystal 20-siders, and a couple of 30-siders, and a nice set that's about 2" on a side, and I'm debating getting some marble ones from the same place where I buy my mortar & pestle sets (sadly, they only have 6-siders). They've got marble 6-siders that are 6" on a side -- that gives whole new levels of meaning to the phrase "roll for damages"!

#194 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Soon Lee, #176, Steffan forgot the babies and old gimps boarding. If I head down a ramp first, a quarter of the plane will have passed me before I get to the cabin. I don't want to board last because I actually might need meds in my carry-on and I like a window seat.

Back when I did the day-to-day management on OMNI's AOL forum, OMNI's Games Editor, Scot Morris, once made a pronouncement that all dice only have six sides. I could feel all the volunteers IMing each other. I went to a con the next weekend -- Balticon, I think -- and bought several non-six-sided dice and sent them off to him. He emailed back that he'd really never seen any other than six-sided dice before.

#195 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 10:29 PM:

Marilee #194:

It's all in the implementation.

Where theory meets practice.

Where the rubber meets the road.

At the coalface.


#196 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Marilee #194:

It's all in the implementation.

Where theory meets practice.

Where the rubber meets the road.

At the coalface.


#197 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2008, 11:21 PM:

Earl @ 191: Yes, what Carrie said.

#198 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 12:17 AM:

#183: I wrote a bunch of stuff for Jeff and Jack's V&V game when I was freelancing for FGU. Jeff worked there as a staff artist for a year or so.

V&V is actually still in print. This has kept Jeff from getting the full rights back.

#199 ::: A ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 01:06 AM:

Stefan #198, as I understand it, V&V is only technically in print. One of things where the publisher produces some tiny number of copies every so often just to fulfill some contractual clause that keeps the rights from reverting.

#200 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 01:35 AM:

#199: Yes, but last I checked some copies still get sold as well. Probably some ancient copies of my V&V stuff as well. But I'm not all that motivated to track down Scott for two dollars worth of royalties . . .

#201 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 06:45 AM:

Knowing how the rights situation sucks, I'm a little hesitant about this, but...if you want old FGU stuff (and is there any other kind? :), you can get it in PDF form from RPG Now/Drive Thru RPG. (Originally two separate business, they now share the same database, but have somewhat different front ends.) Lots of other fun stuff there, too, including D&D back to the original three booklets and all kinds of buried treasure it wouldn't be worth reprinting but is worth someone's time to scan or OCR.

#202 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 08:59 AM:

Lee @ 193... DONUT WARS!!!

War is Hole.

#203 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Serge @ 202: I'm duckin' donuts over here! Oh no! Tim didn't duck in time -- he's now Tim bits!

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 12:47 PM:

Ginger @ 203... Do you think the Donut Wars involved some doughboys?

#205 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 12:59 PM:

Serge @ 204: D'oh! Homer wrote about the Donut Wars. Remember Episode IV? "Look Sir! Donuts!"

#206 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 01:46 PM:

Ginger @ 203... Oh, that Homer, who caused the death the civilization(*) on Earth when he failed to take care of the Y2K bug for his employer's nuclear plant?

(*) Including a spaceship with Oprah onboard plunging the heart of the Sun.

#207 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 09:46 PM:

Lee @193:

The right choice of dice can be useful even in a non-superstitious way. A few years ago, I was playing a halfling character. So I purchased some of those 2" dice and a large bag. Seeing them in my hands produced an instant scale illusion, and I could get a better feeling for how small I was in the game world.

#208 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 10:48 PM:

Joel@181: you would have loved the stunt my wife pulled once, as a mage working with weird phenomena ranging from amber to lightning. "This 10' demon is on the edge of the roof holding 5' me upside down?" "Yes." "That puts my hands where?" "uh..." "Shocking Grasp!"

#209 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2008, 11:11 PM:

#201: The one item of mine there was written for a flat fee. In the past they had others that should have been earning royalties.

#210 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 09:24 AM:

And a new gamer is born... my husband and I were talking about EGG, and of course my daughter wanted to know who'd died. We explained, and then she wanted to know what a roleplaying game was. I ran a five minute demo for her (involving a sad troll who couldn't figure out how to fix his wilted flowers), and you could see the light go on over her head - make believe? With rules? She insisted on playing a full campaign right then.

I told her it would take a little more time than that, plus it was almost bedtime, but I found Faery's Tale by Firefly Games and on Saturday I ran the included Jack and the Beanstalk scenario for her and my husband. (Which wound up with the utterly awsome ending of her using her brownie's household magic to polish the beanstalk to a slippery finish, making the giant lose his grip and plummet to his doom.)

Then (it gets better!) she insisted on running her own game, so I scratched up a character and we were off. She had us searching for magically multiplying horses in a mysterious desert that had appeared in the middle of the forest. We finally found the horses and the desert disappeared. We were rewarded with a castle but told "never to go in it". Ok, so it didn't make a lot of sense, but she definitely has the feel of the thing down. Did I mention that she's four?

I expect her to be running full dungeon crawls for us by this time next year.

#211 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 11:42 AM:

I've been DM'ing since...well, it seems like forever, but I guess I started around 1980, with the first edition rules (the ones in the blue box). In college I DM'ed both AD&D and Champions; the time the ranger in the party was granted 3 wishes (and promptly messed up all three) is still laughed at by my wife and I. Now I run an online AD&D campaign on Saturday evenings for some friends of ours scattered all over the country.

Right now they're trying to wrest control of a town from a high level wizard/vampire who's managed to control/intimidate/replace/convert the Council and other important personages. They've had some successes, suffered some difficult defeats, but we've been doing this for over two years now and everyone's still having fun.

#212 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 01:06 PM:

Cat, that is totally awesome. It's so cool to hear about kids learning whole new kinds of creativity and fun.

#213 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Cat Meadors: Ye freaking gods! A gamer is born, indeed. I'm also faintly boggled by the fact that you could instantly lay hands on a downloadable game suitable for a four-year-old.... My, how things have changed since I had to trek down to The Compleat Strategist to get RPGs and such.

#214 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 03:26 PM:

When I hear my friends in their twenties go on about current attack-of-opportunity rules, my eyes glaze over like a Krispy Kreme donut.

Speaking as one of the offenders referenced above, I'd like to say that part of the reason we have to go over AoO rules so much is that they make so very little sense. Timing rules, as we stand at the end of the 3.x lifecycle, are even worse, if that's possible. Luckily, 4E seems to be much more "just do cool stuff" oriented.

Though your comment is absolutely correct: Even over the course of the campaign we started with 3.0, I can see my own preference going from "use the rules to do something interesting" to "find rules or subvert them in order to do the interesting thing I want".

#215 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 03:45 PM:

Cat, how delightful! Now you have me thinking of grabbing that ruleset and seeing if my 6 year old is interested, though I haven't played in ages. The teenager might be interested too.

#216 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 03:52 PM:

BSD 214: Why not just do something interesting, and let the DM rule on whether it works? Please note, any good DM or GM will let something work if it's REALLY cool, even if the rules don't really justify it. Then s/he'll rule that oops, that was a misplay and it's never going to work again, which is consistent with the "cool things work" rule, because doing something the second time is never as cool as doing it the first time you thought of it.

And if that undermines the ruleset that the entire game needs to function, I say so be it: it defers to a higher law, which is The Game Must Be Fun.

#217 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 04:19 PM:

Well, of COURSE, Xopher. But that's not the way I played when I was 15, or even 18. It's how I made characters, but it's not how I played.

Now it's how I play, and how I TRY to DM/GM.

#218 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 05:26 PM:

The Champions 4th Ed. rulebook had a great section on GMing & included a list of types of roleplayers. Similar list here. Not all gamers are created equal.

#219 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 06:06 PM:

This Friday a bunch of friends played a night of of D&D (The Keep on the Borderlands module) in Gary's honor. Miraculously, despite the fact that all of the characters were level 1 with stats rolled in order down the page, only one person died. It was nice to say "Hmm. I probably don't want to be firing into a melee" and have the answer be "There are actually no penalties for that."

On the coolness of things:

I deeply love Shadowrun because you can burn your experience (Karma points) to instead get an automatic success on something (before the attempt, GM's discretion). This allowed one of my friends to leap over an attacking yeti and ram a grenade down its throat, rolling away unharmed.

At some point I read a review of Shadowrun that accurately summed up how I feel about the system. It said that it wasn't the perfect game as far as design went, but that he'd gotten more cool stories of stuff that happened from Shadowrun games than any other system. It's the mixture of magic with a society that is pretty familiar at its base that does that, I think.

#220 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 10:24 PM:

Cat@210: We were rewarded with a castle but told "never to go in it". Ok, so it didn't make a lot of sense,

Oh, that just means she hasn't mapped it out yet and created a module for it yet. Give her some time.


Did I mention that she's four?

(disbelief roll, natural 1, loses 1 point intelligence)

Ouch! you hurt my brain.

#221 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 10:32 PM:

Leah@219: I deeply love Shadowrun

mmmmmm... Shadowrun...

num num num....

The only issue I had with Shadowrun was it's infatuation with the cyberworld was damn hard to GM.

the rule "don't split up the group" didn't apply to deckers versus the rest of their team. I played with a couple of different GM's and what always happened was the decker would spend a big chunk of time trying to hack into some computer, maybe get some info, and then unjack and the rest fo the team would go in without him. This was almost required because, well, a computer geek, with no hit points and no heavy weapons skills, in a firefight was likely to end up dead.

If I keep reading this fricken thread, I'm going to end up scouring the ads for a local RPG club or something...

#222 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 11:02 PM:

Greg, the current (4th) edition of Shadowrun made some significant changes to netrunning, in very large measure to address that problem. The general consensus among players seems to be that the effort was a success, too. Preview goodies and the like are at the current publisher's website.

#223 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2008, 11:57 PM:

I kept waiting for someone else to mention this, but looks like no one else will... I credit DnD for thePolitical Compass Web site's idea of political orientation, where the Lawful-Chaotic/Good-Evil Alignment grid corresponds fairly well to politics. Thus, Chaotic=Libertarian, Lawful=Authoritarian, and (for U.S. liberals) Good=Liberal, Evil=Conservative (and is this reversed for U.S. neo-cons?).

E.g., Charlie Stross has speculated on what the three major presidential candidates here in the U.S. would look like if written up in the original Monster Manual, and has assigned their Alignment as follows: McCain is Lawful Evil (Authoritarian Conservative), Clinton is Lawful Neutral (Authoritarian Center), and Obama -- well, I'll let you go to the post yourself: Link.

#224 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 08:18 AM:

David @213 & anyone who wants to game with kids: I've been looking for and reading about kids' RPGs since my daughter picked up her first doll and said, "hello, I am a goat". (She's always been big into pretending.) Even just four years ago, I wouldn't have been able to find something so easily. But this time I came across this list of RPGs for kids, rated by difficulty, and a collection of articles on roleplaying with kids. (Those have been around for awhile, but everyone always talked about their homebrew systems - now that more gamers have had children in the right age group, more formal systems are popping up. It's actually really neat to watch.)

I think most people advise starting at the 5-6 year range, and being able to read would be a big help, but if you've got a highly imaginative pre-reader, I say go for it. Worked great for us.

Oh, turns out the castle has a giant in it. But that is, in fact, next week's adventure, when we accidentally go in it even though We Have Been Warned.

#225 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 08:31 AM:

I refuse to migrate over to AD&D v4.0 because they are blowing up the Forgotten Realms and getting rid of the Vance-type magic system in favor of "points" or whatever the current WoW popular gaming system is. Call me an oldtimer if you like, but I prefer the "must memorize specific spells before being able to cast them" rather than "gee, I've got enough points for Super Fireball, I cast that".

Not to mention all the $$$'s I've got invested in 3.5 stuff already...

#226 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 09:22 AM:

Call me an oldtimer if you like, but I prefer the "must memorize specific spells before being able to cast them" rather than "gee, I've got enough points for Super Fireball, I cast that".

Guh, I call you an oldtimer. My very favorite innovation in 3.x was the spontaneous caster, because there is nothing like staring at the chasm and thinking, "Gee, good thing I have fly in my spellbook. Would have been handy had I freaking memorized it today..."

#227 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 09:23 AM:

John L,

I'm looking forward to picking up a few more books when people convert to 3.5!

The first game I tried to play was Shadowrun, but I never got past character creation, which I was to anal retentive to handle.

The second game I played was a single session of a GURPS horror.

The third game is the current one in the 3.5 system.

#228 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 09:41 AM:

Carrie S.,

Plenty of ways to get over a chasm other than Fly, though. Feather Fall, Jump, Teleport, Polymorph Self, various magic items, or just climb in a Portable Hole and let someone else fly/jump/carry you over.

We've always been selective over what can and cannot work from the 3.5 rules; the HTH combat stuff is so complicated I just tell my PC's to make a d20 roll, add Strength bonuses and I'll tell you what happened. Attacks of opportunity and flanking are some others; I just go with how the fight's going and let the players know if an AoO happens or not.

And don't get me started on the turning undead rules...

#229 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 10:12 AM:

Plenty of ways to get over a chasm other than Fly, though. Feather Fall, Jump, Teleport, Polymorph Self, various magic items, or just climb in a Portable Hole and let someone else fly/jump/carry you over.

The fact that this is true does not refute my point, that being that the memorize-in-advance spell system is horrifically frustrating when you are presented with a situation which could be fixed with a spell available to you that you've nonetheless neglected to memorize. Because, say, you knew you were going into combat today so you decided to memorize on more fireball in place of invulnerability to foozles because what were the odds you were going to run into a foozle before you had a chance to rest?

Vance could get away with it because he was writing stories and his characters could just happen to have memorized the seven perfect spells to get past the seven challenges they were going to face that day.

#230 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 10:42 AM:

That's what scrolls, potions and those odd little magic items the PC's find are so useful for; to cover the possibilities that their spell memorizations don't take care of.

Changing the spell memorization for "spell points" or whatever the hell they're going to in v4.0 completely alters the entire game, IMO. Players no longer have to plan, they just "point and cast".

#231 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 12:20 PM:

John L. & Carrie S: I'm with Carrie here, I actually brought in a mana point system even before I switched to other systems (GURPS, Amber). (I did limit the total number of spells they had access to at a given time).

It's all very well to say "shoulda thought ahead", but in practice, the available slots didn't provide the flexibility for "unknown situations". I had low-level PCs taking their spellbooks into the dungeon, which was ridiculous.

#232 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 12:35 PM:

Both play styles have their appeal - the "what did ya memorize" Vancian magic appeals to the logistician in me, while the "pay as you go" system encourages more fluid, agile play (in some respects).

The Vancian style also encourages innovation in spell use (Wall of Stone to create a bridge!) in some ways.

ehh. I like both styles, although I'll admit to preferring more fluid systems, these days.

#233 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 01:05 PM:


If you prefer a spell point system, that's fine with me. Knowing you don't have a spell available for every possible eventuality, though, IMO tends to get players thinking a lot more creatively about how to deal with situations. I don't like the idea that a wizard could cast any spell within his point limit simply by thinking about it, though. It's too...munchkin for me.

#234 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 01:20 PM:

GURPS is a hybrid system as far as spells go. A spell is a skill, and you spend character points to learn it. Then you know it, and can cast it whenever you like, at a cost that varies according to the difficulty of the spell, for area spells the area of effect, and how well you know it. The cost is in fatigue points, so you just get tired when you cast a big spell.

If the cost of the casting you're attempting is more than you can handle without passing out, there are various ways of getting extra fatigue to use (potions, powerstones, bunches of people holding candles and chanting, whatever), or you can cast it and pass out. I had mages take that second option from time to time; their party members carried them until they recovered enough to walk. I never had a mage decide to cast a spell that would kill him or her; I'm not sure what I would have done.

At the beginning of a character, I assumed that a mage character had been to mage school somewhere or other, so they had access to yer basic spelz. If they found a spellbook they could learn the spells in it, but they had to spend earned character points to do it, as with any skill. And I did NOT assume they carried their spellbooks with them; "I have some leftover points, so I'm learning Fly, right now" was not something one of my players could get away with.

One time a new book came out with a bunch of additional spells. My players asked me if I would allow them, and I told them that my source rules applied; in other words, a character who's never seen a gun before can't learn the Handgun skill just because s/he finds a handgun; s/he needs a teacher or at least some instructions! They took this as a no, which for the moment it was; there were time travel spells in there, and I really didn't want to allow them.

Ultimately I decided to have an adventure where they were pursuing an unknown mcguffin; they knew there was a briefcase involved, but not what was IN the briefcase. After fighting a hydra (and my hydras are MUCH worse than the ones in the D&D manuals, trust me on that) and figuring out some pretty exotic puzzles, they got the briefcase and managed to open it, and found the Golden Grimoire of Shahen Vesh, which included the subset I'd decided to allow of the spells from the new book, a couple of new spells I'd invented, and a treatise called On Sequences and Keys, which was a source for the Thaumatology skill, which one of them also wanted.

Gods, that was fun. Sigh.

#235 ::: hedgehog ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 03:00 PM:

#230: Changing the spell memorization for "spell points" or whatever the hell they're going to in v4.0 completely alters the entire game, IMO. Players no longer have to plan, they just "point and cast".

There are other controls you can apply. Which spells you've learned (as opposed to a single-shot memorisation), and having your ability-to-cast depleted by casting (and recover with time), for example.


[I also had a revamped spell system featuring spell composition with higher-order spells. Gosh, how did you know I was a programmer?]

#236 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 04:58 PM:

hedgehog 235: Which spells you've learned (as opposed to a single-shot memorisation), and having your ability-to-cast depleted by casting (and recover with time), for example.

That's exactly what GURPS does.

Gosh, how did you know I was a programmer?

I once had some players who needed to consult an oracle in an Egypt-like society which was ruled by a caste of priests who never let anyone else but them in to see the oracle. The players made a very reasonable set of proposals, but unbeknownst to them the priests had lost the path to the oracle long before and had been making up prophesies for their own benefit for generations.

So they told the PCs "No, no, it's much too complicated, just give us the questions and we'll give you the answers, there are intricate rules and rituals, and besides you have to learn the Special Question Language."

It was not lost on them that they had to query the Oracle in SQL.

#237 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 05:10 PM:

Xopher @ 236

Oowwwww! Or maybe Eewwwww!

#238 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 05:25 PM:

P J...the oracle turned out to be a black quartz sculpture of a sphinx, and the priestess they put in charge finally (oddly, I remember her name: Ayaporrit) had to swear an oath before it, and have it prophesy whether she would keep it, in letter and spirit.

Guess what she said when she was finished swearing the oath?

#239 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Xopher @238: Tell me that the priesthood kicked out the priestesses that said, um, prophesied that they were never going to break the oath, and kept the ones that said that they were going to break it on a certain date or in particular circumstances.

#240 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 06:11 PM:

@John L #233 It's too...munchkin for me.

Munchkin! Current favorite game, by far, when player count is at least 4. (The rest of the group prefers RISK or LoTR RISK, but that usually takes several hours to play...) Between my wife and I I believe we have every set, in a nice wooden box that it has sadly outgrown. (Still need to modify that shiny aluminum-clad briefcase to hold 'em all, Munchkin Impossible style.) Need to get the group together for another session, though I'm fairly sure one of our group would have little trouble DM'ing a good D&D game, which I haven't played in ages. I think the group I hang out with now would be lots of fun in a campaign.

Only played some version of D&D once in high school and once at university. At university and a year or so afterwards while everyone was still "around", I played one or two GURPS Cyberpunk games, and lots of White Wolf LARPing of the werewolves/vampires sort. Some fellow players were quite good at their costumes, too! Good times, those. Oh, and there were several times that I wanted to play Car Wars, but the group never got around to setting up a block of time for vehicle creation, and the guy with experience with that system kind of scared everyone off with tales of "one minute of in-game time takes 10-20 minutes real-time for all the physics calculations". Sounded fun though!

The stories up-thread about young-uns getting interested in games is heartening - my wife and I have little time to do involved gaming with a 1yo in the house, but it sounds like in a few years we may be able to bring her into the mix!



#241 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 06:30 PM:

NelC 239: That would have been wise had that been the situation, but it was the oracle who prophesied on her oath-keeping. And the oracle never lied and was never wrong ("GMing that is impossible!" "Difficult. Not impossible.").

Below is what she said at the end of her oathtaking, in ROT-13. It has a peculiar property that is preserved in the ROT-13 process, which should let the more thoughtful of you guess what it is without actually decrypting it.

"Fcuvak bs oynpx dhnegm, whqtr zl ibj!"

#242 ::: Rachel ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 08:23 PM:

John L @ 230: I keep hearing people say that. I wonder if WotC has a Windows Vista situation on their hands. The parallels are strong.

#243 ::: Joseph S ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 09:41 PM:

John L @230: I'm not sure where you are getting your information from. While it may have been rumored that they were going to a spell points system, that doesn't appear to actually be the case.

Here is an interview with Chris Perkins from WotC that addresses the change from a pure Vancian magic system. The new system has spells in three categories: at will, per day, and per encounter.

This is indeed different from previous editions, but it's not a pure spell points system. It even seems to have some of the same choices about what spells you memorize that day. For example, the character sheets which were used at the D&D Experience event a few weeks ago (available here) include a wizard who must choose at each rest whether he wants to have Sleep or Acid Arrow for each day.

#244 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Xopher @236 ...but unbeknownst to them the priests had lost the path to the oracle long before and had been making up prophesies for their own benefit for generations.

Damn it, are there any priests who don't do this?

Which doesn't stop their oracles from being true; sometimes truer than they expect or want. (Well, that's the way I played it)

Cat Meadors @210 Ok, so it didn't make a lot of sense, but she definitely has the feel of the thing down.

In all seriousness, when players run riot even in a carefully plotted adventure, things don't make sense. I don't have children, but when I babysit, storytelling is defintiely a co-operative process. As it always is, but my roleplaying experience definitely informs it.

albatross @121 You packed a tremendous amount to think about into one short comment. I'll note that highly trained teams of bodyguards discourage and stop nuts all the time.

It's not unthinkable for the 19 yo crackhead to kill the hero in a game or novel (closer to unthinkable in a movie) but it generally makes for bad fiction, unless it's thematically important. I seem to remember a thread on The Forge (site mentioned at #192) using Bruce Willis films as an example. A Die Hard game wouldn't be a lot of fun, because unless John McClane makes it to the final confrontation, there's no point to the exercise**, so we know that he makes it there; unless he wins it isn't Die Hard, it's some other game (film) entirely.

(I think it was Vincent Baker on The Forge, or maybe his own website, who said that when we watch a film we know the hero(es) will win; what we don't know is what it will cost them; or to put it another way, what will they sacrifice for their victory/happy ending etc. That's where the suspense is; not in the nature of the ending, but the price paid)

More interesting is if we play the game "Which Bruce Willis Movie Are We In?" (spoilers for some of the most well known Bruce Willis Films); maybe we're in Twelve Monkeys and are doomed to die at the end; maybe we're in Armageddon and choose to die at the end; maybe we're in the Fifth Element and survive and get the girl; may we're in The Jackal and die at then end, and happen to be the villain. Maybe we're in Hudson Hawk and the plot makes no sense, and (allegedly) our hair has been computer enhanced. The game that finds out which film we're in might be worth playing.

** Which doesn't mean we should ignore the Nakamura Tower security guards, but playing them isn't a lot of fun. Which doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't play games in which we're cannon fodder, but the point of those games is how and why we go down.

#245 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Neil@244: we know the hero(es) will win; what we don't know is what it will cost them

That's pretty powerful stuff right there.

Maybe we're in Hudson Hawk and the plot makes no sense

Hey, I still liked it.


I don't think any movie that starts out by introducing what kind of character the hero is by revealing his phobia of simple wristwatches and his amazingly complex compensation system whereby he has memorized an entire library of songs down to the beat to count different lengths of time is a movie that sets as its goal the intention of "making sense" to its audience.

But I did find it extremely entertaining in its own way.

#246 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2008, 11:30 PM:

I'm going to play my first DnD game ever tomorrow. Thanks to this thread, I made sure to ask my friend if the GM was sadistic. Apparently not. Why am I still terrified?

#247 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2008, 01:37 PM:

Greg @ 245:

Hudson Hawk is a damn good movie. The narrator you ehar is the same one who narrated the Rocky and Bullwinkle tv show, which tells you exactly the mood they werre going for. They even succeeded, overall. (Nobody I know has ever **complained** that an R&B storyline makes no sense...)

The reason it crashed was because it was promoted and reviewed as if it were an action movie.

#248 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2008, 08:34 PM:

My favorite movie of all time (tm) is "Buckaroo Bonzai", which might indicate my movie picks are to be taken with a grain of salt,

a wedge of lime, and a shot of tequilla...

Number 2 is "Princess Bride".

it gets slightly more fuzzy from there...

#249 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2008, 08:45 PM:

Aw. Hearting on the Buckaroo Banzai, Greg!

Which reminds me:

So, had a friend over, was inflicting upon her Torchwood Season One. The following dialogue happened:

HER: What's that pterodactyl doing there?

ME: We'll tell you later.

The legacy lives.

#250 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2008, 08:58 PM:

The legacy lives.

I don't know what to say. Lectroids. Planet 10. Nuclear extortion. A girl named "John".

#251 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2008, 09:01 PM:

Lithium is no longer available on credit.

#252 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2008, 09:22 PM:

My favorite 'defeating expectations' action movie* was Executive Decision. The action hero lead (Steven Seagal) dies in the first half hour, and it's left to the professor (Kurt Russell) to lead the team.

* As it turns out, there are not too many 'defeating expectations' action movies; this is the only one in its class (hence favorite).

#253 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2008, 10:08 PM:

@250: And a watermelon.

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