Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mazes & Monsters

This isn't a review. There are plenty of reviews out there for this movie, and any old-school gamer worth his/her salt has seen this. I just think that every so often we should watch this movie, to sort of refresh the wackiness that resides deep down in all our souls.

If you don't own this movie, do yourself a favor and buy it on Amazon. Do yourself another favor though and skip reading the book it's based on. Or, I suppose if you are the kind of person who is into self abuse, go ahead and buy it (for a whole penny). It is kind of interesting in a sense, because it focuses much more on the personal issues of the kids involved. I don't think it blames "the game" much at all.

However, if you are looking for a far more interesting read, I definately recommend The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III. I found this book fascinating, and couldn't put it down. I read it at almost one sitting. There is a detailed example of play in there that puts most examples in actual RPGs to shame, and I'm pretty sure based on what was said that the detective must have bought Moldvay's boxed set.

I leave you with this advice: Always obey your MAZE CONTROLLER!

Game on!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Unifying the Old-School Renaissance

There are discussions from time to time about trying to "unify" the various active people in the "old-school renaissance." What I mean by "active" are people who are creating material and posting it on the internet, or publishing it in print form.

I think that unification is a great idea, depending on the context. However, I don't think we can or even should try to unify efforts in terms of how or what to create. Part of the vitality of the old-school renaissance, IMHO, is the diversity of interests and talents. I think we should promote the creation of diverse material, even material that covers the same ground but has a different twist.

One idea I'm implementing is a Lulu store (group) focused on the "Old-school Renaissance." The group is open to everyone who has material to share. You can provide material for free or for sale, and it can be a polished work with art or just a simple text file. The idea here is that this storefront is for the Old-School Renaissance in general, and is not necessarily focused on a commercial goal. It is focused on providing a central place for people to find all the great stuff out there.

Ok, so how it is set up?

Go here:

You need to have a Lulu account, and you can post material. With Lulu you can share PDFs, at no cost, or you can post print material. This is not moderated, so you can post material as you see fit. There is also a column for people to have a link to their own Lulu store, but this I have to add manually, so drop me an email at goblinoidgames "at" yahoo "dot" com, tell me who you are and what your Lulu store address is, and I'll get you added. I'll just have the list in alphabetical order.

A note about the page format:

I am very limited in how I can design a web page with the Lulu tools. I can't seem to have links to outside content, otherwise I'd have links to peoples' websites. Also, the banner and things I've created do not have to remain this way. If any talented people out there want to design a new banner, please feel free!

This will only work if we all promote the group store. I'm not saying to promote it exclusive of your own website, just in addition to it.

Who's with me!?!?! ;-)

(shaking my fist in the air)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Goblinoid Games in 2009

For those of you unaware, Goblinoid Games entered its "terrible twos" in October of 2008. So what is in store for 2009, as GG becomes 3 years old?

Looking back it's been an interesting ride so far. I started Goblinoid Games initially to support OSRIC. Then I got some other crazy ideas to add on to this. My first tentative stab at writing a retro-clone game was GORE. I've sort of let that lie fallow for a long time, but at some point I want to clean up the presentation. Then of course I wrote Labyrinth Lord, which is starting to pick up a little steam, then my good friend Ryan Denison and I put together Mutant Future. I think MF is also picking up steam, but it will get a major kick start when it reaches distribution. Which brings me to the goals of 2009.

1) Get Mutant Future into distribution. I'm still thinking about how to approach this, but tentatively I think I'll release a limited edition hard cover of MF some time this summer, to help generate funds for a print run of MF to send for distribution. This limited MF book will be different than what I did with LL, though. I think I'll commission a new cover illustration just for this book, to make it truly unique. I'm not sure what the illustration will be just yet but I want it to be full of hardcore mutant ass-kicking goodness. It will likely be a full page size, and maybe even a wrap around cover. It will probably go the Lulu route because a) their hardcovers are good quality and b) this means I don't have to buy a print run ahead of time, in case there is not much interest in this book. The sales would likely be limited to about 75 copies at $50 bucks apiece. Anyway, more on that in the coming months.

2) Release more LL and MF material. I'm going to be under time constraints this year (and into the first half of 2010) because I'll be doing my analysis/writing up of my dissertation. None-the-less there are a few projects I want to get out the door.

The first is a campaign supplement I've been plugging away slowly at for...damn...a year now. More on it later, but it will be cross-compatible with OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, and Swords & Wizardry. For this one I'm still debating whether it will be print only or also in PDF. I've noticed some of my products appearing on torrent download sites, which is frustrating because I make so little off this stuff anyway. But there is no way to stop it.

Other things that will see light in 2009 will be an Advanced Edition Characters supplement for LL, that will allow LL to be played more like "advanced" fantasy games. This will be similar to the already available Original Edition Characters, in that it will be a complete player's guide. I also have the beginnings of an MF adventure I'd like to get out.

Finally, I have been toying around with the idea of a project for which I would solicit submissions. It would be a book that is basically a collection of briefly described campaign worlds, inspired by the way the deadworld book from Eden Studies was handled (I wrote a world that was included in that, in case anyone is curious). I'm tentatively thinking submissions would be around 5,000 words, and could be worlds for Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, or a combination of the two. Please do not send me emails yet asking about this! I still need to think about it.

Of course, small things may come up here and there, and I do plan to continue with support for the Scribe of Orcus.

Friday, January 2, 2009

A clarification and harsh realities

In my last post I made a statement in passing that I want to clarify:

Since Gary died, there have been many changes in the gaming world. His death led to a disentanglement with Troll Lord Games of the properties Gary built. This has angered many people, I think partly because there are many people out there who believe that TLG is the "legitimate" heir to the Throne of Old-School, seeing Gary's involvement in their company as an exclusive endorsement of Castles & Crusades as the true successor to AD&D. But that is a topic for another day.

I don't mean this to say I think all fans of C&C are this way, or that the Troll Lords themselves think this. I've seen this sentiment around, though, and I think it is not just unfounded, but selfish. Old-school gaming belongs to everyone. We are all heirs to this legacy, and no one game or publisher should be viewed as the most "legitimate" one to carry on any sort of legacy. That's just my opinion, and I won't make too fine of a point of it, or specifically point any fingers at anyone. I'll leave it at that.

Except of course for D&D 4e, which is the sum of all evil. Just kidding ;-)

As to harsh realities. In my last blog post I made a very fine point of emphasizing Gary Gygax's passing. It may have seemed harsh, but I created that tone for a specific reason. It can be too easy in fandom for people to forget that underlying the objects of fandom are real people. I am probably preaching to the choir, because most people who read this blog are not the people I am talking about, but we should be careful to remember this. I too have been guilty from time to time of getting too involved in fandom and forgetting that real people, real feelings, and real lives are involved. So making a fine point of Gary's mortality was only done to try to ground the discussion of his properties and what will happen to them. No matter how badly people want to see Gary's work published, this desire should never be placed ahead of Gail Gygax's needs. As fans who loved Gary's work and respected the man, we should honor that. Anyway, that is one of the reasons I phrased my argument the way I did, for better or worse.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Idol Worship

It's been about a year now since I met Gary Gygax for the first and last time, and had the chance to play in a game session at his house. He was in poor health, but he ran the game none-the-less. From all reports that was what he was like, a generous man who loved to game.

If you see statements by the people who gamed with Gary regularly, they all say he was a cunning and brutal Dungeon Master. His tricks and traps could foil the best intentions of any thoughtful player. They say that gaming with Gary was a unique, and treasured, experience. I wish our game session could have been longer so that I could have seen the end effects that almost certainly would have occurred after my character foolishly man-handled an evil demon idol (and Gary mysteriously consulted some notes, made a die roll, and had a disconcerting look on his face...).

Since Gary died, there have been many changes in the gaming world. His death led to a disentanglement with Troll Lord Games of the properties Gary built. This has angered many people, I think partly because there are many people out there who believe that TLG is the "legitimate" heir to the Throne of Old-School, seeing Gary's involvement in their company as an exclusive endorsement of Castles & Crusades as the true successor to AD&D. But that is a topic for another day.

The issue I want to address here is related to the reactions of people who are mad that Gygax Games pulled the properties away from TLG. Forget for a moment that Gail Gygax has every right to do whatever she wants. Forget for just a while that getting through the loss of her husband is far more important a thing than worrying about what fans think.

The issue here is not what will happen to the Gygax properties. The issue here is that Gary is dead. People are worried about who will produce the next Gygaxian product, a product that is infused with the "Gygax Credibility." What people are either unwilling or unable to see is that this is an irrelevant issue. Gary is dead. It doesn't matter which company produces the next dungeon, source book, or what-have-you with the Gygax name on it, the fact is that Gary will never pen another thing. People may claim to be writing "in his spirit," whatever that means, or writing with exclusive access to Gary's secret notes as if they are magic writings lending some special recognition, but it doesn't lend any sort of special credibility to anyone. Anyone can write in his spirit if they are familiar with his many works.

When I was in the Greyhawk dungeon adventure with Gary at the helm, I had the chance to take a glance at the map he was using. You know what? It looked like every other dungeon map I've seen thoughtful DMs scribble down onto a 8.5 x 11 piece of graph paper. When Gary rolled dice he rolled them just like any other DM rolls dice.

The point I'm trying to make is that in the end what truly made an adventure "Gygaxian" was probably having Gary run the game. His unique cunning was best expressed at the gaming table. That's why all these concerns about who is "better informed" in the Gygaxian School, as if it is some torch to be passed along, are silly. They are concerns that are too wrapped up in the idol worship of fandom.

We shouldn't look for some kind of Gygax Official Seal on our dungeons before they are legit and worthy of being old-school. Gary wouldn't have wanted that anyway. No one can ever create like Gary, because no one else is Gary. We should all create the dungeons we think are fun, in whatever style we think is fun, and DM them as we see fit. That's the way Gary would want it, not creating or DMing with some sort of insecure need to have an official stamp. I submit that in the end what is truly Gygaxian is the whole concept of D&D. You can play in a module written by Gary, but I bet that the experience is different, not necessarily "better" mind you, if Gary actually ran it himself.

What we have really lost is Gary Gygax the person and DM. Gary Gygax the game is still alive in all of those copies of OD&D, AD&D, modules, and other writings that are out there. Those are your textbooks to old-school. Nobody should be seen as the "true" inheritor of Gygaxian Gaming, because we all are his heirs in that sense. So game on, secure in this inheritance, and don't worry about whether you are "good enough," because Gary wrote many times that each DM is the final arbitrator. He never asked people to seek him out for the final answer, because the final answer is with each game player. I would also say to be wary if anyone claims any special credibility when publishing "Gygaxian" material. That isn't to say that Gygax Games doesn't deserve support, because if they produce good product, then they certainly do deserve support. But we all need to keep things in perspective and realize that we can't get or expect "true Gygaxian" from anyone. Only Gary himself could do that.