Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Why I don’t play 5th edition D&D: Part 2

I continue my story of why I haven’t played 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. If you want to be up on the story click to read part 1.

It was about a month before fifth edition came out. As part of the run up, they organized a bunch of demos in different FLGS. My local store was one of them. The store organized the whole thing. They talked to me about it because it was the same weekend that we ran our open event and they needed two tables to run the demo. Which meant that we needed to schedule less. Which was fine, a lot people, myself included, really wanted to see fifth edition. I even arranged with the other Dungeon Masters that we could all have a slot free if we wanted to take part in the demo. I originally thought I was going to have to get people to run the event but Wizards had arranged for a couple of local DM’s to do that, freeing everyone in our group.
I scheduled myself to play in one of the last games of the day and was excitedly looking forward to it. I don’t remember who the DM was. He wasn’t one of our regulars, but he was mostly pleasant. He did a fine job of running the game. The problem arose afterwards.
I decided I would go into this with the same idea that I used in the alpha. I played the warrior to see how much they had changed the class from my last experience. The DM asked if anyone had played before and I told him the story of, “and I swing my sword.” He then explained to me a new mechanic that I think was called power dice.

I had three six sided dice that I could use during a round to improve my chance to hit, deal more damage, or defend party members standing adjacent to me. I had feats and skills that used those dice. They allowed me to do a couple of different things. The best part about them was, that I didn’t have to decide to use them until after the dice rolls were made. It meant that if I missed an attack by three I could decide to roll a power dice and see if I could hit it. However, if I missed by seven I wouldn’t roll one as it’s impossible to get a seven on a six sided dice and I was only able to roll one dice at a time.
I really liked this. It wasn’t the powers from fourth edition but it felt like a nice compromise. I was excited about this. It felt like I had been rewarded for waiting until they got it right.
The adventure starts, everything is going fine, we got to make some skill checks, do a little role play, and then combat happens. Which was expected, hell we were looking forward to it. We all had neat little rules and tricks we were going to get to try out.
We were fighting some bad guys in a barn. I rolled pretty well on my initiative and went pretty close to the front of the order. There armor class was pretty high and to hit them I needed to roll somewhere around a fourteen or fifteen on a twenty sided dice. I used one of my power dice for damage and felt pretty good about it. I think I may even have gotten to stagger the guy giving him disadvantage which I thought was really cool. The rest of the melee characters stood next to me to take advantage of my ability to defend them. I ended up using my other two dice to protect the rest of the party. It felt good.
Next round starts. When we get to me the DM tells me that since I used all of my dice in the previous round, I couldn’t get them back until I rested. Resting required me to give up my entire turn. “Okay. I rest to get my dice back.”
We have another round. I use dice to defend the rest of the party. I prevent people from getting hit. Keep the bad guys from getting the upper hand. Everything is looking good.
“I rest to get my dice back.”
At this point I detect a pattern. One that persists for another round or two. We defeat the melee enemies and the rest of the team moves forward to engage the ranged guys. I move up to join the party. “I rest to get my dice back.” At this point I am informed that I’m not allowed to do that. Resting to get my dice back is a full round action, I’m not allowed to do anything else. I’m only allowed to rest.
I decide to attack. I like at my character sheet and all of these cool attacks I can do. I want to pick one I can use against these guys. They all required power dice. “I swing my sword.”
The bad guys backed up again. I moved up to them. “I swing my sword.”
We finished the fight. Had a little more adventure. Another fight that pretty much went like the first one. There was more adventure that we didn’t get to. It was the last slot of the day, the store was closing, and we needed to wrap it up.
Afterwards the DM and I stood on the sidewalk and talked about the game. I told him I thought it was almost there. I thought there needed to be a way for warriors to get their dice back without having to rest. We went back and forth about this for a little bit and then at some point I compared fifth to the middle ground between fourth and previous editions. He explained that it has nothing to do with Warcraft D&D, which is shit.
He started explain how fifth edition was going to fix Dungeons & Dragons. Fifth edition was going to return the game to real Dungeons & Dragons players. Anyone who wanted to stay was either going to be forced into playing good D&D or they were going to quit. Nobody cared what they thought anyway.
I then made an excuse about that time and left.
I watch and listen to D&D being played on the internet. I like Critical Role; Girls, Guts, & Glory; the Dragon Friends, and several others I jump in and out of. I watched the entire 24-hour Tomb of Annihilation stream that Wizards of the Coast ran on Twitch. Most of it live. I appreciate how fifth edition works when played on streams. I like the mechanics I see. I enjoy what people do with the game. I honestly can’t even tell you if what I remember playing is how the game is played now.

After watching the Tomb of Annihilation stream, the next time I drove up to my local game store, I was planning to buy fifth edition. I walked into the store, went to the role-play section, and picked up the core D&D books. I even looked at the Tomb of Annihilation stuff they had in stock. I thumbed through the books, looked at the boxes, put it all back on the shelf, bought something else, and left.
I’ve considered buying them a couple of more times since then. Same thing every time. Pick them up, look at them, and put them back. I even planned to try the Wednesday night Adventure League. I cleared my schedule, gathered everything I thought I’d need to play, stayed at home, and watched TV.
I never think of the things I talked about in this article when I look at the books. I don’t even really decide not to buy them. I just put them back on the shelf and leave.
Part of what really sucks about this is I have friends who I like to spend time with. People who are busy with family and work. People who manage to claw out a couple of hours of free time each Wednesday at Adventure League. People I miss hanging out with, talking to, and spending time with. I realize that all I have to do to spend time with these people is play fifth edition. I just have to make that decision. I have to decide that I want to play with my friends. And I do. Every time I pick up those books it’s because I’m going to go play with my friends again.
Still, I put them back.

Well, that’s my story. I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on D&D, 5th edition, any other role-play games you enjoy, or don’t. See you next time.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why I don’t play 5th edition D&D: Part 1

I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for a long time. I got the red box for my birthday when I was maybe ten. In second edition we went into the Undermountain, travel between worlds in Spelljammer, and set up shop in the Sigil, the city of doors, in Planescape. In third edition we ventured briefly into Ravenloft. In three five we went back into the Undermountain, I started taking part in the organized play program, and I started regularly going to large events like Gencon and Origins. In fourth edition I continued to play at conventions, started organizing and running the organized play program at my friendly local game store (FLGS), I even started running battle interactives, and I started going to Winter Fantasy.
I’ve talked in different place about how I don’t play fifth edition D&D how one day I should probably explain why. This is that explanation. Before I go too much further I want to take a moment to say this. I don’t hate fifth edition, the people who play it, or the ideas behind it. In fact, I have several friends who play fifth edition, I enjoy many of the mechanics that I’ve seen on line, and I even understand the things that caused it to come into being.
Back on point. There are three things in my recollection that lead to the way I view 5th edition. It all started at Winter Fantasy. This is a small convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana that takes place in late January or early February. As I understand it, Winter Fantasy was run by a group called Baldman games. They had a deal with Wizards of the Coast that made Winter Fantasy a Dungeons & Dragons only event. This meant that all of the officially scheduled events were Dungeons & Dragons with one or two pick-up games of whatever you wanted on some free play tables. Until one year when they opened the convention to any game which let a large number of Pathfinder Society games get scheduled. I may have some of that wrong, and I apologize if I do, but this is my perception of how things were set up.
The year that the convention opened was the same year that Wizards of the Coast announced D&D Next or what came to be known as Fifth edition. It was pretty exciting. There were going to be demo games of the alpha rules for fifth edition, they were planning a couple of panels to answer peoples questions about the game, and people representing Wizards of the Coast and a couple of actual game designers were going to be there to answer questions. There was a lot to look forward to that weekend. I know I was excited.
Part of what went wrong was based on the difference between fourth edition and every other edition of D&D ever. There is a wonderful video by a man named Matt Coville that explains the difference and what happened far better than I can. To shorten this as much as possible, fourth edition was a huge divergence from and Dungeons & Dragons edition that came before it. Fourth edition was a massive overhaul of the entire system. People either loved it or played Pathfinder, which was based on the three five edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
A couple of things went wrong that weekend. The first and most honest mistake was the Alpha rules demos. I played a warrior in the demo. My reasoning is that the warrior is the most straight forward class and traditionally one of the hardest to make playable. In early editions of Dungeons & Dragons warriors became increasingly less useful and interesting at higher levels. Where wizards were calling down meteors, clerics were wielding the divine powers of their god to perform miracles, and rogues were infiltrating temples and fortresses to assassinate targets; warriors were swinging a sword. That is an exaggeration, but not much of one. In fourth edition warriors kept pace with everyone else, they had interesting things to do at every level. They could control the flow of the battle, protect their friends, and they could deal enough damage to get and keep a creatures attention.
In the alpha demo, I wanted to see if I would be controlling the flow of battle, protecting my friends, or swinging my sword. I was really disappointed that on my turn all I did was swing my sword. However, I did have a lot of Hit Points and a high Armor Class. Unfortunately, the Dungeon Master/monsters quickly realized that they could not hit me. Additionally, due to their high Dexterity and ability to dodge I couldn’t hit them either. Thus, they immediately ignored me to beat up the rest of the party. An ogre did eventually show up. I could hit the ogre. However, I didn’t do enough damage to warrant the ogre’s attention and it went after the rest of the party. I was completely useless. I could not control the flow of battle, protect my friends, or keep a creatures attention. I was so disappointed that I submitted two and a half pages of feedback on the alpha.

Before anyone says anything, I understand that this was an alpha build of the game and was going to go through a ton of work to get to the final form. It’s why I filled out two and a half pages of feedback. I wanted to make sure my concerns were heard. At the time Dungeons & Dragons was one of my favorite things. I wanted it to succeed. I even understood what they were trying to do. I could see the framework of something that could one day be great. I just wanted it to get there. If this had been the only thing that went wrong that weekend I probably wouldn’t have remembered it. But then there were the panels.
Winter Fantasy fits inside one of the large rooms at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. It’s a big room, it holds a couple of hundred people. There were smaller meeting rooms available, and some of them were often used for smaller panels and discussions. For the D&D Next Panels they set up a stage in the back corner of the room. They had a sounds system, chairs, and a microphone set up to answer audience questions. This had the effect that everyone at the convention could hear the panels as they were going on. Even if you weren’t in the audience, you were in the room and could listen to the panel if you wanted. No matter what you did you were going to hear pieces of it.
I’m sure there are many reasons for the panels to be set up the way they were. It could have been cost, space, acoustics, or any number of other things. Unfortunately, the general belief was that the reason they set it up that way was so the Pathfinder players could hear the panel even if they didn’t attend it. A lot of people, myself included, believed that the idea was to try and lure the players who had stopped playing Dungeons & Dragons because they hated fourth edition and get them to come back to the game. That’s most likely not even close to the reason, but most of the people I talked to were joking about that the whole weekend.
The panels were on days two and three of the convention. Which meant that by the time the first panel was held, people had already played in the alpha. The general consensus of the alpha was that nobody liked it. I did not attend any of the panels. I spent my time focused on the game I was playing and vaguely hearing things floating away from the panel. I cannot personally speak to the quality of the panels. That said, a lot of people were really angry at the panels by the end of day two. I don’t know what happened, who started it, what occurred, or even if it was real. But, a couple of people who attended the panel told me that an argument broke out between the people in the audience and the people on stage. I like to think I remember being skeptical of this. I hope I was. However, I remember at the end of day three hearing someone from the panel scream into the microphone, “I don’t understand why you’re fighting us on this. We’re going to fix D&D. We’re going to make it good again.” I have never heard a convention go as quiet as Winter Fantasy did right then. The panel ended shortly after that.

I going to say something divisive. I love fourth edition. I get that it’s not for everyone. Still, I adore it. I love how the powers work, the classes are all useful, and everyone feels like a part of the party. I know that it’s a different as it can be from all of Dungeons & Dragons, but I love it. The idea that they were going to fix D&D and make it fun again meant that they thought it was broken and bad. It was the worst possible way to end the convention, to hear someone representing the company that made the thing you love announce that it was broken and bad. And remember, I wasn’t the only one there that loved fourth edition there was a room full of us.
I understand that the person who said that was probably frustrated, worked up from arguing with people, and under siege from an angry audience. They came expecting people to love the idea of a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons that was going to be a return to form. Had they done that at any other convention, they probably would have been right. Unfortunately, in a moment of frustration and rage, he probably said something that had no actual reflection on his views. He had the bad luck of saying what he did while holding a microphone in a room full of people who had been joking for two days that they were replacing fourth edition because they didn’t care what we thought, they wanted the Pathfinder players back. I’m probably not the only one it had a long quiet drive home that day.
Those were the first two things. I realize that they seem small. Sometimes it’s the little things that get in and grate the gears, like sand. I wouldn’t come back in contact with fifth edition for over a year. I still took part in fourth edition, I continued to run the adventure league events and monthly living campaign at my FLGS. I had friends who were playing in the alpha, and taking part in the playtest forums, and they moved forward with it into the beta rules. I had decided that since my experience with the alpha had been as negative as it was that I would wait until the game was released or at the very least almost finished before I looked at it. We talked about it. They mentioned things like advantage, disadvantage, and a couple of other mechanics. What they talked about sounded promising and I was willing to wait until it was more complete. Then the third thing happened.

This has gotten much longer than I had anticipated. If you want to read the rest you can head here.
Let me know what you think in the comments down below. Tell me about the article, your experience with D&D, or anything else that comes to mind.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Trucker: a Christmas Story

December 24th, 1968; one hundred and thirty-two days since the incident. Local temperature 76 degrees.
Normally, when driving into the town of Bancroft, North Dakota most people note the large sign welcoming them to town. It has the smiling face of a reindeer waving at them, a brilliant strand of twinkle lights looped around the border, and the town’s motto, “Most Christmas town on Earth, save one.” There’s also a small sign calling out station WXMS 1225 AM radio and if they should turn the dial to that station they will be met with nothing but year round Christmas music. Beyond the sign was a quiet road through the forest lined with eight foot candy canes shining fire red and pearly white, each one standing at tall and straight. Signs with bright cartoon characters wishing motorists a jolly visit sat just far enough inside the forest that they could only be seen as cars passed by.
This year, as a festively decorated big rig hauled up the road past the sign the driver noted the reindeer was faded, the twinkle lights hadn’t been turned on, and the small sign for the radio station was covered with a burlap sack like the police use on out of order parking meters. The candy canes leaned at odd angles and the bright colors had chipped away leaving bare wood showing in many places. Vines, weed, and small foliage had grown rampant in the woods covering many of the signs left to welcome motorists. The cartoon characters now peeking out through cracks in the vegetation left the driver with the feeling of being watched.
The rig trundled up the road towards town. When the rig cleared the forest locals turned to stare. The candy apple red Mack truck roared into view. Several strands of shining twinkle lights hung from its sides and blinked at the people watching in awe as the truck rolled by. Stenciled up the side of the mammoth vehicle was the name Mountain Thunder. It reached the middle of town and turned to enter a public lot momentarily bouncing up on the curb. When the truck jostled a set of wrought iron and bass bells that hung from the exhaust stacks rang out loud enough to be heard over the cacophonous engine of the mighty rig.
Annette watched all of this with a bemused grin through the large window of her empty diner, the Tinsel Town Snack Shop. She sat on one of the black and silver stools and leaned against her vacant lunch counter. She had a cup of coffee held loosely in one hand and listened to the occasional clang and bump that came from the kitchen where Cookee worked at the grill. She wasn’t sure what he was doing back there as they hadn’t had a customer in two days. Even that had just been the local park ranger for a thermos full of coffee.
She sipped her cooling coffee and watched as the door to the rig swung open and what must have been the biggest man she had ever seen dropped out of the truck and onto the pavement. She gauged him to be well past six foot of muscle and blue flannel. He bore a large neatly groomed beard that must have been a full hands length.  
With nothing else of interest to do that day she decided to watch the stranger. She’d cleaned the diner six times this week and just couldn’t bring herself to re-shine the chrome railings one more time. There were some children nearby the lot playing football in a muddy field; the trucker waved at them as he walked by. He carried a bundle with him and stopped in at several of the local businesses. A stop at the post office was first, he went in pulling a large parcel out of the bag and came out a few minutes later.
His next stop was the Bernstein barber shop with its candy cane barbers pole. She nodded, it was sad when a man had a beard that long. She understood it of the few lumber men and park rangers that came this way. Those men spent weeks and months in the freezing wilderness without access to proper shaving kits. Plus the facial hair kept them warmer so it made it as much about comfort as anything else. A trucker should have better access to grooming supplies. When he emerged later with shorter hair and his beard untouched, she was slightly disappointed.
His next stop was at Ho Ho Haung’s Jewish Deli. When the trucker left there he was shoving two large paper wrapped meats into his sack. He was only a few doors away at this point and Annette would swear she heard him call out something to the folks inside the store in Chinese. Pulling a jacket out of the bag he walked into the local laundromat, Miss Klaus’s Workshop. A few moments later he exited waving to the folks in the shop.
He turned towards the diner and started walking. It took Annette far longer than she was willing to admit to realize he was coming in for lunch. She quickly moved around the back of the counter and dumped her coffee out before sliding the cup through the small panel for dirty dishes. She turned around in time to see the massive man open the door. She had a brief moment where she wondered if his broad shoulders would fit through the doorway before he entered.
“Howdy ma’am,” said the trucker. He had a friendly manner and a soft voice. He smiled easy and seemed to bring a bit of light to the room. Annette wasn’t sure how to explain it, like the room had gotten more comfortable, but not exactly.
“Welcome to the Tinsel Town Snack Shop, what can I get you stranger?”
The big man sat at the counter, resting his bundle on the stool next to him. “What’s the special today?”
“Let me check.” Annette turned to the window into the kitchen and called back, “Cookee, what’s the special?”
“Lasagna with garlic bread and a salad, like every Tuesday.”
Annette faltered for a moment. Had Cookee been making the daily special every day? If so, what had he been doing with the leftover food? Annette turned to the counter to face the stranger.
“That sounds just fine ma’am. I’ll take a plate of that if it’s ready.”
“Cookee, one special,” Annette yelled into the back. She then turned to face her customer and in a more civil voice asked, “What would you like to drink?”
The trucker smiled, “It’s been a while, but as I recall you folks have the best coffee in three states. I’ll take a cup of that.”
The statement caught Annette’s attention. It wasn’t unusual for truckers to pass through town enough to be recognized by the locals but she couldn’t put memory to this man’s face. As she turned to pour him some coffee, she asked, “You been through here before?”
“You’re not on my regular route,” said the trucker, “but I like to pass through here around this time every year.”
Annette slid the cup of coffee in front of him and moved the small pot of creamer and the bowl of sugar cubes to where he could reach them.
The trucker added a bit of cream and sipped the coffee. “Yep, still the best.” He took a deeper drink. “I like coming here around Christmas, usually it gets me feeling festive.”
“Special up,” cried Cookee from the back of the kitchen as two plates appeared on the small ledge.
Annette turned and grabbed the plates, returned to the counter, and placed them in front of the trucker. “Well, I’m sorry you came during such a bad year for it. We haven’t been in much of the spirit this year.”
“I was sorry to see that,” said the trucker. “But you’re not too far gone. You got some mistletoe hung over by the jukebox.”
Annette glanced over at the spindly piece of flora, wrapped in ribbon made to look like a piece of movie film. “I sorry, we leave that up all year. It sort of goes with the town. At least it normally does.”
The trucker leaned forward and whispered in a conspiratorial tone. “Do you mind if I move it? I happen to be an expert on where to hang any individual piece of mistletoe.”
Annette laughed. “Feel free. Where is the best place to hang a piece of mistletoe?”
The trucker swallowed another bite of lasagna, “That’s the thing. It’s different for each piece. Figuring out where each particular piece of mistletoe goes is the trick.”
“And how do you figure that out?”
“Years and years of practice.”
Annette laughed again. “I tell you stranger, I haven’t laughed this much in a long time. I hope you find someplace that makes you feel festive by Christmas. When is it anyway?”
“Tomorrow,” cried Cookee from the kitchen.
Annette turned to the window, “what?”
“That’s right,” said the trucker. “Today’s the twenty-fourth.”
Annette was staggered. Had it really been that long? How had she missed Christmas was happening? How had anyone missed it? Had anyone wished her a Merry Christmas? Had she wished anyone? “I had no idea,” she said.
“If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think anyone did,” said the trucker. He raised his voice. “Except Cookee back there. How you doing Cookee?”
“I’m doing fine,” called Cookee. “Eat your lasagna before it cools.”
“All right.” The trucker took another bite of lasagna.
Annette looked at the window and back at the trucker. “You two know each other?”
The trucker waved away the question, “We go back a ways.” He emptied his coffee cup and Annette refilled it with the last of the pot.
Annette turned and began brewing a new pot while trying to make sense of the last few minutes. While she stood staring at the coffee maker watching the dark liquid fill the glass pot she tried to reconcile what she knew of Cookee, this man, and even that she had completely missed Christmas. Well, almost missed it. She turned and refilled the trucker’s cup once more.
“Thanks,” said the trucker. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
“Not much,” said Annette. “It was about four months ago. You know that big pine tree north of town, the one we used to decorate every year?”
“I do,” said the trucker.
“Some fella hit it with his car. No one’s sure how. A little while after that the tree fell over and we hit a stretch of rocky luck. The temperature went up, there was a drought and a fire that took out most of the forest north of here. Which is where the radio station was; so it’s gone now. Tourists stopped coming. Then the townsfolk, we all just sort of stopped caring. I don’t know, it was like we just didn’t think anything mattered anymore. Then a couple of weeks ago we got just enough rain to turn the ground to mud. I think that may have been the final nail.
“You know, normally, it’s beautiful around here.” Annette found herself smiling. “We have Christmas lights up year round. Wreaths hanging from every street light. Everyone smiled, all the time. The Mayor would walk around in that ridiculous Charles Dickens outfit with the top hat and welcome everyone to Christmas. He had pockets full of candy canes for all the kids.
“Then there was the tree at the end of town. We left it bare from January to December. We had twenty-four stages of decoration. Everyday some new set of things went up on that tree. Until, well, today when we’d follow the mayor in that ridiculous sleigh we had built. It’s covered in bells and wreaths and pulled by a couple of horses from a local farm. We’d all follow it up to the tree like some sort of parade and stand there while speeches were made, carols were sung, and finally, they would light the tree and it would sparkle unlike anything in the world. Then we’d all join hands and sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
The trucker stood, his plate now empty. “That sounds nice.”
“It was.”
“Do you still have those amazing Christmas cookies?”
“I don’t think so,” said Annette.
“How many you want,” shouted Cookee from the back.
The trucker thought for a moment. “A dozen in a bag to go. Right now I’d like six on a plate.” He thought for a moment then added, “I also want nine raw whole carrots.”
There was a bark of laughter from the kitchen. Then after a moment a plate of sugar cookies, decorated like wreaths, and a bundle of carrots with the green leaves still attached slid onto the shelf for ready orders. Annette moved the plate over to the counter for the trucker. The trucker took the plate and smiled at Annette, “I’ll be right back.” He then turned and walked out of the diner carrying the plate.
Annette quickly moved around the counter and followed him out onto the street. She tried her best to keep up with him, but his strides were so much longer than hers that he easily outpaced her. Still, it only took Annette a few moments to figure out where he was going. As he walked up the street with a plate of cookies and carrots several children caught sight of the big man and began to follow him out of curiosity. As he marched the crowd behind him grew in size as some of the adults joined until what must have looked like a parade to an outsider was tromping up the street headed north out of town.
When he reached the edge of town the trucker kept going until he arrived at a large clearing with a burned stump in the middle of it. He walked out to the stump, his boots leaving deep squelching prints in the muddy ground. When he reached the stump he gave a sharp whistle and set the plate down on the charred remains of the old pine tree. The gathered crowd grew quite. The trucker was saying something but no one could hear. Annette walked as close to the clearing as she could get without walking in the mud.
Later, Annette would swear she couldn’t hear anything, but if you’d asked her that night she would have said she heard the trucker say this, “They’re good people. They just hit a bad patch. I don’t like to tell you how to do your job but they need you something awful. Besides, you still owe me for ’57.” The trucker then placed the plate on the burned out tree stump and took a deep breath.
After a moment the skeletal remains of the charred forest rattled with a cold breeze. The wind blew out from the forest and made everyone in the crowd shiver. Annette curled her arms around herself for warmth. She sighed, her breath fogging the air before her.
Leaving the plate on the stump the trucker made one final statement, “Then we’re even. Thank you.” He turned and walked back into town. The suddenly frigid air was causing everyone to run for their homes, regretting the choice of short sleeves.
The trucker headed back to the diner and gathered up his bag of cookies that had been left on the counter near his bundle. Annette followed behind him. She had so many questions and yet couldn’t get them to come out. The trucker pulled a thermos from his bag and asked. “Can I get you to fill it up for me?”
Annette nodded and poured the last of her newest pot of coffee into the thermos.
The trucker dropped some bills on the counter and turned to leave, stopping at the door long enough to say, “Merry Christmas. I think you folks are going to be just fine.”
He left, walking out into the street. Annette watched him go, only vaguely aware of the few flakes of snow falling past her window. Her eyes followed the trucker on his way to his rig, stopping at Miss Klaus’s Workshop to retrieve his jacket. By the time he’d gotten inside and started it up the snow was dropping in huge clumps. As his tail lights faded from view she could barely see across the street.
Later that night when the diner closed, Annette prepared for the walk home. Cookee had told her not to go. He offered to drive her. Normally the walk didn’t bother her, but the blizzard that had swept in that afternoon had her worried, so she took the offered ride.
As they pulled into her driveway she turned to Cookee, “Thanks Cookee. I appreciate it.”
“Let me walk you to your door,” said Cookee. “I want to make sure you don’t trip and hurt yourself.”
Cookee jumped out of the car and ran around to her side pulling the door open to let her out. Annette wanted to protest but the heels she was wearing would make the sidewalk a bit more hazardous than she was willing to risk. “Thanks Cookee.” Annette felt self-conscious for a moment. “You know I’ve never asked you your real name.”
“Mike,” said Cookee. “My names Mike.”
They navigated her sidewalk, her arm wrapped around Cookee’s, holding on to keep her footing. They climbed the two steps to her front porch and she reached out to grab the door handle and let herself in. As she did her shoes caught on a piece of ice and Annette suddenly found herself tumbling backwards. Before she had a chance to react, Cookee had caught her and pulled her close against his chest.
“Are you okay,” he asked?

Annette stared up past Cookee to the roof of her porch. Hanging above their heads was a faded sprig of Mistletoe wrapped in a piece of ribbon made to look like movie film.


Merry Christmas folks. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Extra Life 2017

What is Extra Life? The simple answer is that it’s a charity organization that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The long answer to what it is and how they got started is best told by them, here.
What does this have to do with me? This takes more time. A few years ago, I had a class assignment to do something that had a social impact. There were a lot of really fun and interesting projects. I chose to take part in the Extra Life Charity marathon. I don’t know if it was expected that we would keep doing the projects well past the end of the class, I’m fairly certain it was not. However, I find the act of helping and supporting the other people who are a part of this group deeply rewarding. That’s why I’ve continued to take part every year. It just feels so damned good. It’s selfish, I know, but that’s why I do it.
This will be the fifth year I’ve taken part in the event. All the money I raise will go to the Dayton Children’s Hospital. I personally haven’t needed the hospital for a couple of decades now, but there are plenty of people who do and I’m happy to offer as much help as I can. The first year I did this was 2012, and in that time I’ve managed to raise $1710. Last year was the best, I raised $665, cut and died my hair and shaved my beard. Shaving my beard incidentally was awful. I hated it. It scratched and burned, and itched like hell. I’m willing to do it all again and I honestly didn’t think I would.

Here’s where I ask for your help. I’m asking for folks to support me through the marathon by donating $1 here for each hour I play, in other words $25 per person. However, any amount you can give, would be amazing. Once I’ve hit my goal I start offering things for further amounts. My current goal is $500. When I hit that, I’ll include one randomly chosen donor in the annual Christmas Story I post to my blog. After that I start offering other “stretch goals” like the fore mentioned haircut and dye job. My niece has suggested I record a music video for my YouTube channel, at this point, that is a long way off, we’re looking at a ridiculous amount of money, $10,000 at the least. (If you donate all of it, I’ll let you pick the song.) Those goals come later though, for now let’s all just focus on the $500.
I’m once again taking part in the large gaming marathon that happens near the end of every year. Once again, I’ll be taking part in the annual marathon, a twenty five hour, gaming extravaganza. This year I’m having some guests at my marathon.
Typically, some of my friends and I gather at my house and play games from noon to noon. This year, to allow for more people, I’m starting differently. The first four hours of my party will be open to kids. We’re going to be playing children’s games and I’m asking all of my friends with children to bring them over to play. I’ve got Super Rhino, King of Tokyo, Fantasy Forest, and the original Fireball Island. I’m thinking of getting out the Family rules for Flash Point, Jenga, and possibly Tumbling Dice. Maybe even my Extra-Life reserved copy of Risk Legacy that I only use during the Marathon and everyone has to play at least once, so their name goes on the board.
After that, I’m going to break out the more advanced games. That’s when the adults and children whose parents don’t mind them learning that kind of language. Beyond that, I know it’s going to be fun as hell and exhausting. I’ll post photos to Instagram and Twitter. I’ll post some video to Periscope. I did last year and it was a bunch of fun.
Beyond that, I know the Dayton Extra Life Guild has some events planned. There’s a meetup in October at Epic Loot in Centerville that I will be attending. I hope to see some of you there.

That’s all for now. I’ll check back in regularly to see how we’re all doing and leave some thoughts on what’s going on. Thanks for helping out.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 31

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the final question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?
We have reached the end; the final question. And my, what a question it is. For 2018 I have a very specific hope. I recently applied to a posting for writers at an RPG publisher. They have asked me for writing samples in a follow up email. I’ll be honest it’s been a while and I’m starting to give up the hope that this will come to pass, but something has occurred recently to give me a bit more hope, at least for a little while. I know that the odds are long and I’m unlikely to get the position at this point, but in my quiet moments I can’t help but hope. After all, isn’t that the dream for all of us?
Beyond that, I want to play more. I’d like to get the chance to run a regular campaign. I’d like to try streaming a RPG on my YouTube channel. I think that could be fun. Get some friends together and stream an RPG. Heck there are some people who have moved away and I don’t get to see anymore so maybe just running a Skype RPG is just the thing we need to try. I’ve considered Roll20.net for this sort of thing, but haven’t ever used it. I’m not sure if there are any other places you can go for that sort of thing.
I’d also like to go to a convention again. Of course that will require a bit of a job and some money. If I get the second things I do want to do the first. I’m not sure which convention I’d go to. I’ve found a love of smaller cons in the last year or so, however, I do miss GenCon.

Anyway, I think that’s it for now. I hope these posts were fun for you, and I want to thank everyone who joined me along the way. Hope to see you at a con sometime. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 30

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 30th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?
This is a really hard one. I’m pretty sure most every genre mashup already exists and with systems like FATE you can make anything you want. What’s left? I’ve had this idea bubbling in the back of my mind for a few years now. What if you had a medieval, not fantasy, setting with superheroes and villains. I don’t know if it would work, but then I didn’t think post-apocalyptic fantasy would work and yet, Adventure Time is a thing.
Anyway, I think the basic idea would be to have characters with minor superpowers, not on a Superman level, but possibly Heroes for Hire or other street level heroes set in and around the crusades. We sort of have the basic DNA for this with Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers, just do that but amp it up a bit with some flight, eye beams, steampunk, magic, and maybe even an occasional extra-terrestrial. Throw in some psychotic villains bent on European domination.
I think the biggest challenge for something like this would be to create a world that people could roll into and get behind. I’d want to avoid people just making standard fantasy heroes or Batman in plate mail. I’d love to see someone like, Templar, a noble visage of righteousness. Stout, powerful, and nigh invulnerable, arrows bounce off of him. He wears all white leather with a ten foot cape that never touches the ground because it’s always billowing slightly in the wind. Granted his powers by the divine form of Joan De’Arc.

I think masks and secret identities would be important because many people at that time would just assume witchcraft and being in league with the devil putting our heroes and their loved ones at risk. This is where the game/setting gets tricky. You want to show the superstition of the times but you don’t want to just religion bash either. This may be why it’s a hard sell. Or maybe, no one else is crazy enough to come up with this.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 29

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 29th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

I’ve been a part of a couple of RPG’s on Kickstarter, the best one was X-Crawl run by Goodman Games. There are a lot of mistakes that get made by RPG’s on KS. X-Crawl avoided them all. The books came out close to on time, the promised PDF’s were quickly available, and the team communicated with the backers on a regular basis. The avoided the biggest mistake I see KS’s make and that was X-Crawl’s stretch goals that provided extra content were all new books beyond the core rule book. The only things they did to the core rule book were cosmetic; full color art, hard cover, and those sort of things. The core rules were promised on a set day, everything else was released and sent in a second wave.

The biggest mistake I see, the one X-Crawl avoided, was a lot of RPG’s make stretch goals that add pages and content to the main book. They don’t think about how much of a delay this is going to cause. They have to write the new content, edit, play test, go through layout, and add art. This invariably pushes the publishing back and causes huge delays. The ones that work the best, X-Crawl and a couple of others all sent out the core rules in wave one near when they said they’d go out and then sent everything else as supplemental material. It’s gotten to the point that when I see a KS for a new RPG if they’re delivering everything at once I try and figure out how late they’ll be.