Friday, July 11, 2014

My Week in Gaming

The first of what I hope will be many posts about what I've been reading, listening to, or playing during the week that influences or feeds my gaming habit.

First Off:

THIS arrived in the mail Wednesday!
Yeah, I know, the console is a generation old and some of the games are just remakes/re-releases, but given that I've been playing my PS2 for the last decade, anything new is exciting. Besides, PS2 games were getting way to expensive. There is enough material here to keep my rather small e-gaming habit occupied for at least a year if not much longer.

The Reading List:

I was amazed to find a new (to me) source for news on gaming and fantasy literature in the last couple of weeks. Black Gate is awesome. It is made all the more awesome by the fact that James Maliszewski is contributing to it. I had the opportunity to play with James at OSRCon in Toronto in 2011 and 2012, and have always loved his insights. I was greatly disappointed when he discontinued his Grognardia blog back in 2012, made all the worse when he abandoned working on the Dwimmermount Kickstarter (though that was thankfully kept running by the guys at Autarch). James's most recent post on Black Gate does a good job of reflecting my views on the latest (and pretty much every other) edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

"At the end of the day, “having fun playing with my friends” is all that matters... They’re just games. Whatever ones you play, whatever editions you like, if you’re having fun playing them with your friends, you’re doing it right."

Collection of Curiosities
Posts and publications from Kobold Press can be hit or miss in terms of usefulness, but one series of articles by Miranda Horner may be the most useful nuggets of gaming randomness I have ever encountered. Collection of Curiosities (there are a lot of them) is a series of d12 tables of random bizarre objects that a DM can drop in a variety of contexts. The articles give just enough info to make each item interesting for a DM to drop into a game and for players to ponder, and the inherent "strangeness" of many of them can add a lot to a game (though given player reactions, the DM had better be ready to think on his feet about what happens when the PCs start throwing them -- which is inevitable).

Random News:

Re: Let's all just take a deep breath...
There has been some kerfuffle on G+ and various blogs this week concerning Zak Smith, the fact that he got credit in the new D&D Basic Rules, some things Zak may or may not have said, and how people really feel about Zak. I will not link to any particular posts as they contain an unpleasant mix of ad hominem attacks and profanity (on both sides). Let me just chime in and say that Zak is fun to play D&D with and his particular brand of "Design by Social-Darwinism" assholery appeals to me (especially this quote).
Zak: "The DIY D&D crowd has (unlike many other game design cliques) consciously prioritized having confrontations until disputes get settled over avoiding confrontation in order to build a community of people who all play the same games and papering over differences with positivity. It might be one reason why we keep making such awesome stuff.
It works flawlessly and eliminates the weak, so I'm a big fan.
The stakes in RPG arguments are…almost nothing. So people who can't even hang in a conversation for fear someone might say "I don't like Rolemaster" are not exactly the same as underprivileged youth who've fallen through the cracks of the system."

 In REAL News:

Real-world "Roc"? (File under: Things that need to appear in a game)
From the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center:
Scientists have identified the fossilized remains of an extinct giant bird that could be the biggest flying bird ever found. With an estimated 20- to 24- foot wingspan, the creature surpassed the previous record holder--an extinct bird named Argentavis magnificens--and was twice as big as the royal albatross, the largest flying bird today. Computer simulations show that the bird's long slender wings helped it stay aloft despite its enormous size.

Why you should play an "Evil" character:
From the University of Buffalo and the Journal of Communication (no non-paywalled source):
New evidence suggests heinous behavior played out in a virtual environment can lead to players' increased sensitivity toward the moral codes they violated. The current study found such guilt can lead players to be more sensitive to the moral issues they violated during game play. Other studies have established that in real life scenarios, guilt evoked by immoral behavior in the "real-world" elicits pro-social behaviors in most people.

What I'm Playing This Week:

Ruins of Adventure:
My AD&D 2nd Edition Play by Email game has reached 48 weeks of continual play and more than 120,000 words (a good length novel right there). The characters are still 1st-level and the pacing is slow, but the character development has been awesome. The latest episode sees the party getting a much-needed respite after an eventful few days, trying to work out what has actually been happening to them, and considering some roster changes. We're starting a new "Chapter" in the posting next week, so it may be some time before another log appears on here (I'll try to keep them recent rather than the mass backfilling that I have been doing).

The Scavenger Gods:
I ran the first full instance of the aftermath of my recent Dawn of Worlds experiment this past Sunday. The game is Pathfinder with some technology upgrades and a lot of weird races.

The first session was, expectedly, weird (though probably not worth a unique post of its own). The party consisted of a gun-toting penguin, a pangolin who takes umbrage at the belief that all of his kind are terrorists (despite the pipe-bombs he was carrying), a giant butterfly wizard, a mushroom-man scholarly necromancer, and cameos by two daughters of one of our regular players as a Cat-girl (with a pet flying tiger) and a Griffon. Most of the game consisted of running, screaming, and everyone expressing their prejudices against the other races.

The scene opened with the pangolin being chased by the penguin who demanded that the pan owed money to the penguin mob. They "bumped-into" the rest of the would-be party members as they chased through the streets, through a penguin brothel (don't ask how that works), and eventually headlong into a crowd of people running and screaming in the other direction. They didn't take the hint and found themselves in the middle of a throw-down, Godzilla-style fight between a pair of Kaiju (one a giant lobster and the other shadowy and indistinct). With the help of the flying griffon and the winged tiger, they hijacked a penguin airship, lit it on fire, and crashed it into the Kaiju...saving the day, but not the city.

They were subsequently captured by the penguin mafia, who demanded recompense for the destroyed airship. Rather than breaking their kneecaps or chucking them into the sea, the penguins recruited the party to rob a museum for them. The party agreed, walked up to the front doors of the museum, caused a panic when it was discovered that the pangolin had a bomb in his pants, and the strolled peacefully up to the vault while the pangolin led all the guards on a wild goose-chase through the rest of the museum. They stole the decorative box they were sent for and saw another museum-heist in progress by a dashing, well-dressed, octopus-man. They chased after the other thief, borrowed his exit, and then got themselves charmed (and therefore refused to leave the guy's side and got to pile into his ornithopter for a quick getaway). There were some shenanigans, the ornithopter crashed into the sea, the well-dressed guy sank, and the party washed ashore with both his loot and their own.