Thursday, August 9, 2012

Proper Musical Accompaniment for Rodney Matthews' Artwork

Listen to this while looking at my previous post.

1970s Fantasy Art: More Rodney Matthews Awesome

Folks seem to have really liked my previous Rodney Matthews gallery and so here is another helping of his particular brand of fantasy weird. These would make an amazing inspiration for a campaign world. I mean who wouldn't want to play in a campaign where wizards ride giant wasps and the moon is a fanged skull? I'm in.

Gaming History: Interview with Dave Wesley.

Check out this interview with Dave Wesley conducted by Clyde Rhoer for his podcast Theory from the Closet.  Clyde makes it clear to his listeners that he doesn't really do any editing so what you'll hear is the conversation as it happened warts and all.  I find this approach oddly refreshing. I'm a sucker for a good interview and this one is particularly interesting for Old School gamers--especially if you have an interest in wargames and the early days of the hobby.  

Dave Wesley is the guy who might be described as the first GM.  His game Braunstein  inspired a guy named Dave Arneson (who you might have heard of) to run a fantasy version of Braunstein for his Twin Cities wargaming group in the early 1970s.  Dave later hooked up with another wargamer from the Lake Geneva area named Gary Gygax and here we are in 2012 still enjoying the can of worms opened up by these gentlemen.

I find Dave's description of the freewheeling days of wargaming particularly inspiring.  DIY was the order of the day even then.

Here the link to the show (also on iTunes):

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Abstraction and the Narrative of Combat

I’ve been researching the rules for Squad Leader via the internet, and one of the things that people often comment about SL and ASL is the way the game builds a narrative of events. As play unfolds we answer the question: what’s going to happen when these forces come into contact with each other? In the original SL the main unit of time is the 2 minute turn. This means that while there is a lot of specific information coming our way throughout the turn—there is still some level of abstraction going on. I think that open abstraction is one of the key elements to the game. We can fill in the blanks based on what happens as the turn unfolds. And in SL/ASL these will likely be terrible, terrible things (that’s what happens when you fire high velocity pieces of metal at groups of human beings).

So we get this strong narrative unfolding in the game which allows us to fill in the details as we see fit. This principle is the secret of what makes tactical games like SL/ASL so much fun. This idea of narrative is an element of many boardgames and it is largely ignored in the rules which concern themselves with resolution and determining what happens. Who wins?

Interestingly, these ideas are the primary fuel in RPGs. Building a narrative is what RPGs are all about, right? So when folks complain about the 1 minute round in AD&D as being “too abstract” I thinks they’re missing that Gary Gygax was a wargamer. He was probable very comfortable with the abstract nature of D&D combat because he saw it simple as a fun way to resolve what happened and build that narrative of combat. That means it is incumbent upon the DM and the players to make this stuff come alive. Add or subtract your level of gore to suit your group’s taste.

So next time you’re in combat: remember to make it come alive and tell the story of what happens. Be descriptive. Make it live. The dice give us information, and we have to put it back into the fiction of the game.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Runequest 6 Video Preview

I've been curious about Runequest 6 for a few months now. I never bought Mongoose's Runequest II (now Runequest 5), but about a year ago I acquired a copy of the old Runequest 2nd edition by Chaosium which is an amazing game (and quite innovative for the time). This new edition sounds like it is exactly what I'm looking for.

 Fantasy toolkit. Intuitive system. Check.

Optimized for an ancient world / sword & sorcery setting (although medieval and later fantasy worlds are still possible). Check.

A number of different magic systems which can be customized for effect. Check.

Gritty and vivid combat. Check.

Social and societal background has an effect on character creation. Check.

Religion and cults. Check.

Social mechanics. Check.

 Lots of GM advice on how to make running Runequest better. Check.

Passions and hatreds (similar to Pendragon). Check.

And if you'd like a look at the book you can check out Lawrence Whitaker's preview video of what you get. Check it out:

I've come down with Avalon Hill Syndrome

The last few weeks I've been bitten by a "nostalgia" bug which has never hit me before. I've become obsessed with trying out some of the old Avalon Hill wargames. I remember looking at these bookcase games back in the day, but I found them too intimidating for whatever reason. Now I've only limited experience with real wargames, but I'm determined to give a few of these a go. Only problem is I don't own any of these games! So I'll be looking to get one or more of these in the next few months. My experience of wargaming comes down to a handful of various boardgames like The Game of Thrones boardgame and Harpoon a naval simulation game by techno-thriller writer Larry Bond and which helped inspire his friend Tom Clancy to write The Hunt for Red October. Here are two of the games on my hit list:

Squad Leader: I've been looking at the box for this game for a huge section of my life. It might be my favorite box cover ever even though I've never owned the game! I'm super excited to play this along with the first expansion Cross of Iron. From what I've read with Cross of Iron is where the game's design was at its strongest point. The two later gamettes added lots more "chrome" to the basic engine of Squad Leader and began to pull toward the total simulation of what would become Advanced Squad Leader. ASL is still in print and has a large active fanbase (which is great), but I'm not looking to invest that much in a game right now. I'm just looking to finally get a chance to play the original Squad Leader.  

Panzer Leader: This game covers some of the same ground as Squad Leader in that it is a tactical WWII game featuring tanks, but it is really an entirely separate game. It is the sequel game to the popular Panzerblitz which was criticized for a number of rules that Panzer Leader manages to fix. I'll try to report back about the outcome of my foray.