Grognard Gripe

Wizards of the Coast has deleted all their 4E content and I did not finish downloading my copies of Dragon and Dungeon.  This is one of the reasons, I am not always on board with online content; it is too easy to alter and/or delete.  This means many of the links in my blog are now 404ed.  I was not thrilled with 4E, but I really did get a lot of good ideas from that site.  I will miss it and I am irritated about the sudden (at least to me) change. Here’s the new site.

Just found a listing of articles.  I may be able to find all the things I want and redirect my links to the new pages.  Here’s hoping (2014.07.29) (2014.07.30)

Game On!

Endings, Sadness, and New Beginnings

This week has been rough on me emotionally and really brought hard questions with which I now grapple.  I finished The Warding of Witch World.  I learned of allegations of child abuse and molestation by an author, I’ve enjoyed very much over the years.  Finally, the Starter Set for D&D 5E has come out.  Individually, each event would cause me to become contemplative, but together they create a unique conundrum for me: When does the work become separate from its creator?

The Warding of Witch World appears to be the last book, Andre Norton wrote in the Witch World Series .  Even though another book for Witch World came out after this one, coauthored by Lyn McConchie, The Warding of Witch World appears to be the end of the Witch World series.  The setup of this book is the idea that some event has set all the gates of the Witch World in flux and the protagonists must seek them out and close them forever.  It is like Ms. Norton is effectively closing and locking the door on her most famous creation.  What does that mean for us the readers and for the various coauthors who wrote with her?

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter has posthumously accused her mother of physically abusing and sexually molesting her.  I met Ms. Bradley, years ago, at a SciFi Convention in Jackson, MS.  It is hard reconcile the nice writer of the Darkover Series and many other enjoyable stories with the woman portrayed in the blog post that first broke the story.  It is even more distressing when I try to wrap my head around her admissions about her then husband’s pedophilia.  All are flawed, but some are broken to the point of monstrosity.  These accusations have resulted in a number of responses.  The one that most concerns me for this blog is the question, “How far can culture heroes’ work stand apart from their lives?” (2014.07.30)

Finally, July 15th was the release date for the Starter Set for Dungeons and Dragons: fifth edition.  Here is a review of the Starter Set. I have yet to purchase it, but its very presence taunts me.  I want to begin a new campaign, build new cultures, design new plot hooks, and run new stories.  It, also, brings up some questions.  “Who owns a (insert your favorite role playing game here) campaign – is the person crafting and running the setting or is it the Players, whose PCs make all the action happen?”  “Is the person creating the campaign integral to the campaign or can anyone run it?”  Finally, “Where do I begin and end in Rilmorn?”

When a writer has done horrible things, has beliefs that are repugnant or unpopular, or has been a jerk, it is understandable for people to equate the work with the writer and condemn both.  This works fine, if one has never read anything by the author in question, but what does one do when a book has spoken to one’s soul and then the reader discovers the horrible truth about the writer?  Does that take away what one has gained from the work?  Does it make the work less, because its creator is flawed or a monster?  I’m not sure.

Does the consumer have the right to dictate the mores and ethics of the creators of whose work they consume?  No and yes; we cannot expect that those who create great things for us live up to our expectations of them; that is not fair.  At the same time, all creators are expected to be responsive to the standards of the society in which they live.  If a creator chooses to defy convention and social standards of behavior, then that is his or her choice, but the person that is creator is still responsible for his or her choice and must pay the penalty for wrong doing.

Can the public, rightfully, demand that the creator change the work to fit the public’s ideal of what the work should be?  No.  The public, the consumers of the work, can quit purchasing the work, but the creator has the final say in what happens in his or her work.

What do we, as consumers, do, when the writer, artist, actor, etc. decides to create in a way that challenges our sensibilities of the work (kills off a favorite character, replaces the actor portraying the main character, etc.)?  We can, either, drop it and go onto something else or we can attempt to expand our view of the work.  We, the consumers, never have to buy something, watch something, or read something because bought, watched, or read something before.  We cannot control what the creators produce, but we can control what we consume.

Does a creator’s personal life and beliefs irrevocably taint the creator’s work?  I don’t know.

Does the public ever gain ownership of a work or is it always the child of its creator?  Yes, the public does get a claim on a creator’s work.  Once a movie is shown, a story is published, or painting is displayed, it is no longer the sole property of the creator.  The creator should reap the benefits of his or her labor, but the creator can no longer, in good faith, tweak, fiddle, refine, or improve on his or her work.  It no longer a pupa developing with the cocoon of the creator’s art, it is a butterfly living its own life and experiences.

Is there, at any point, a time that a work can stand on its own merits without its creator?  Yes.  A work can be judged on its own merits only as long as its creator remains unknown.  Deconstructionist Theory aside, a work that has no creator to be examined by the consumer can critiqued on its only content.

Living campaigns (those run by GMs, not those put to print and pixel to be published for the masses) can never be judged entirely by their content.  You cannot separate the Game Master from the Game.  Individual games are performance art.  They are interactive theater telling a series of stories crafted through the actions of the Players and the GM.  Campaigns and Adventure Paths are the tools wherein the Game Master reveals the inner workings of his or her psyche.  The Game Master places the emphasis on the events encountered.  Whether one is running a sandbox homebrew campaign or an adventure path, the GM inserts his or her biases into the game table.  He either emphasizes the things he likes or she ignores or avoids the things she doesn’t want in a game.  Check out DMing with Charisma’s The Great Tower of Oldechi series; it talks about various styles of DMss.  The Game is the Denominator that reveals the essence of its Creator.

This post has wandered over a lot of ground and it hasn’t answered all of the thoughts and conundrums in my head, but it is a start.  Please feel free to comment and share.

Until we cross paths again, Game On!

What I Do and Do Not Like About D&D

Raven Crowking posts here about why it is important to be honest when talking about 5E: the latest rendition of Dungeons and Dragons.  He rightly points out that letting people know what you don’t like about something is as important a letting them know what you do like.  I agree with him, but I have a few caveats.  Being negative for the sake of appearing to be cutting edge, cool, or savvy is a sign of being a jerk.  The opposite pole of being a “Yes Man” and only saying positive things can be equally damaging.  If one only talks about the good things, one can skip right over parts of thing that make it miserable; this is the style of Sleazy Hucksters and Sycophants.  Giving an honest critique of a thing can and should lead to its improvement.  I hope my post proves to be an honest critique.  Thus, with this preface, I begin my “What I like and what I do not like post.”

If we take the Way Back Machine back to the Days of First Edition, we are likely to discover that most of the complaints I had about the system back then are forgotten.  It was new.  It was fun.  It stretched our imaginations and gave us hours and hours of fun.  Having said that, I must admit that I grew dissatisfied with some things in 1E.  I didn’t like alignment (and still don’t).  I found a great article on a relativistic alignment system in Dragon 101 by Paul Suttie: “For King and Country: An alignment system based on cause and effect.”  I’ve been using that idea for alignment ever sense.  I, also, felt that the minute combat round was just too abstract and was very happy when they changed it.

Second Edition, originally, offended me on aesthetic and grognard grounds.  I liked having Seven Levels of clerical spells and Nine Levels of magic user spells in 1E; it corresponded nicely to the mythology and symbolism that I had developed for Realmorein.  So, the change to Nine Levels for both spell casting classes really put me off for a while.  In time I got over that and had a great time running 2E.  TSR gave me tons of settings to use: Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Al Qadim to name a few.  There were loads of classes and variants to try.  My only real complaint is that that not all of the systems designed for all of the variants were well thought out.  Sometimes, what was written about how things worked just didn’t make sense.  I know a lot of folks didn’t like THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0 (zero)); they found trying to figure out what number they needed to hit a foe perplexing…I just used the combat tables on my 1E DM screens and never really worried about it.

Third Edition!  The year 2000 AD was to be a watershed year, when I was growing up.  It would be the year that we got flying cars and had a colony on the moon and were prepping for interplanetary, if not interstellar flight.  We got Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition; which was almost as good.  I was looking forward to 3E.  I had started a campaign away from Rilmorn, so that when 3E came out, we could start fresh from the ground up without any holdovers or complications (that didn’t work out, but that is another story).  I failed at 3E from the word, “Go.”

I didn’t like the idea that magic item creation was now an “assembly line-style” option for spellcasters.  I was poor at designing challenging combats for my players.  I just didn’t get how to equip my NPCs, so that my PCs could get their stuff and be appropriately equipped for their level.  I didn’t like the advancement scale; in 1E and 2E PCs remained at mid-levels for a long time and there was a lot of good play in those levels.  The tactical nature of the game bored me; I am not a tactics guy.  Finally, I grew to despise the idea of the Adventure Path (AP).  I believe in plot arcs and character and story development, but APs with the built in assumption that the PCs would begin as nobodies, follow a particular plot, and end as…Whatevers in a completely changed setting (How many APs end with the death of a god or demon prince?), wore me down.  At this moment, I can’t think of anything that I liked about 3E. (2014.07.10)

4E was a fun game, but it was not D&D, as I wanted to play it.  All of the classes were balanced.  Advancement seemed reasonable, not too fast and not too slow.  There was a lot of good fluff to use in developing backgrounds, plot hooks, and storylines.  There were bad things, IMO, about 4E, too.  It was a tactics games.  Magic item placement became a true joke…Don’t like the magic items provided by the GM, melt them down and make your own!  The whole game was designed to fit an AP style of play (Character Class > Paragon Path > Epic Destiny).  Finally and most damning is the fact that by the end all the classes had the same powers; they just had different skins on them.

DnD Next, Fifth Edition, 5E, call it what you want, so far, I like it.  Magic items are once again magic.  Power curve and advancement seem reasonable (may be wrong, but I’ve got to run a lot more games and find out).  Classes are distinct.  The only complaint I have, at the moment, is Hit Point recovery seems too easy, but I’m already using an optional rule from the play test and that seems to fix that problem.  I like the basic rules.  I like the play test materials.  I’m looking forward to using this edition for a while.

Whatever edition or system you prefer, I hope you play it as often as you wish and enjoy it.  Until next time, Game On!

Fifth Edition Day (or I Forgot to Remember to do This Yesterday)

Yesterday, Wizards of the Coast released the Basic Rules for D&D as a free PDF.  One is supposed to be able to run an entire campaign using just “Basic D&D.”  “Advanced D&D” will be what Wizards puts out in their pay-to-play books.  I’ve been running my games under the last play test rules for DnD Next (what 5E was called before it was released as 5E) for several months, now.  I am looking forward to downloading my copy of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and how different the final product is from my copy.  Raven Crowking has posted his review here.  Here’s to happy gaming!

Found a new blog to read and a review of 5E Basic Rules. (2014.07.30)

A review of 5E Basic Rules from Red Ragged Fiend. (2014.08.05)

Another review of 5E Basic Rules.  This one is from Dead Simple Roleplaying. (2014.08.22)

Game On!