I hit it with my sword.

So, I’m starting a ”real” blog, for the new year:




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A (very) brief history of the Heng Lands

Notes for a possible game, most likely FATE-based.

(All dates recorded from the founding of the First Empire)

-???? yrs.: The first peoples – the Northern Tribes, the Southern Tribes, and the Sea Tribes, arrive in what will become known as the Heng Lands. They settle here and there, where the land is especially good, but most remain at least semi-nomadic. The greater tribes intermingle and interbreed, forming the predecessors to all of the modern tribes & clans. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Barf forth what, exactly?

Barf forth apocalyptica.” ~ Apocalypse World

Barfing forth is something I am good at. (see also: some of my recent posts)

Question: for my Dark Sun game, what am I to barf forth? I’m looking for a name / phrase, something that I can write down on my GM cheat sheet as a reminder…

(also: Something else I am good at is seeing patterns in things, even when I don’t want to.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apocalypse World

So, yeah, I picked up a copy of Apocalypse World on Saturday. Cool, awesome stuff.

Ogre had pointed me at Dungeon World, which is totally Apocalypse World D&D – except the difference is the classes.

Apocalypse World has classes and they’re the core of the system, really. They don’t need to be, you could have a much wider reach in selecting moves; but they do need to, really, because they’re part of the setting. Because that’s what classes are for.

I’m running Dark Sun, so Apocalypse World is, like, right there. I didn’t need Dungeon World to really want to dig into Apocalypse World for inspiration for my game (not that I’m saying Dungeon World isn’t cool in and of itself, or that I’m sorry I went and looked for it). But, yeah, I’m printing out the Fronts and 1st Session sheets and stuff and I’ll be using them for organizing my notes / play.

But classes, man… We have a Voidsoul Genasi Swordmage (and technically that’s class & race, but same thing, in this context) and we fir him in and it’s going to be cool. But that was world-building that we didn’t actually need to do, work and effort that we didn’t actually need to spend. None-of-the-above are really Dark Sun, and I kind of resent it (I’m not saying that I should resent it, or that I’m entitled to resent it, but that is a thing that I do, or rather feel, I guess).

I really kind of hate the “Mos Eisley Cantina” thing D&D tries to have going on. All that says is: “we don’t have an actual setting, we don’t have an actual game, we just have pushing our little men around on the board”. Less is more, it is, it is, it is.

One of my players said: “Storytelling is the heart of D&D”, and I don’t disagree. I’m no longer sure my disagreement has any real logical basis, but there you go. They shot down my idea for drama points and a more mechanical story push. Which is fine, and I appreciate the “it’s going to be distracting” much more than general disinterest.

So the mechanics are going to be procedural, and that’s it. Probably. I’m going to harp on the dramatic stuff, and drive the emotional suspense, and if they won’t act on it my guys (NPCs / threats) will. Maybe we’ll even reach the point where they want some way to actually say “No, screw that, he stays here instead of going off and getting eaten by the thing that’s getting stronger from munching on it’s victims brains”. Maybe.

We did make it work, and it will be awesome, and we did, and it will. And I don’t know how much of it, if any, will be mechanically relevant, but whatever. I’m mostly just posting this to get it out of my head so I can maybe get some sleep.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hooray, Dark Sun!

Character discussion went very well, I think. We should be on-target to run first session next week, just need to iron out the last of the prep.

Oh, and I’m also reading Apocalypse World, now… I’m pretty sure that doesn’t bode well for the PCs, but such fun, kekekek…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

to elaborate:

Got a chance to talk RPGs a bit with Ogre tonite, yay!

One thing that came up was this: as an old-school gamer I can tend to feel that systems that try to enforce / encourage “good play” (and we where specifically talking about dramatic interactions between PCs) come off as heavy-handed, because good play, and anything that makes the game more fun, should be a goal of players in and of itself. Ogre rightly pointed out that this doesn’t always work, and in particular it doesn’t work in more modern / grown-up gaming-related social situations. I no longer see the players I game with every day, no longer have lunch hour and / or the bus ride to and from school to discuss the campaign, etc.

The issue for me is that rewarding social / dramatic play also indirectly but very effectively discourages any such play that doesn’t earn that reward. Even just the expectation of this reward can have this effect, and so players who have played games with mechanical rewards / effects for this kind of play can be discouraged from pursuing it outside of those games.

One workable solution is just to embrace this – if you want drama, play a game that embraces drama. But there we come to a problem (or at least I perceive it as one): these games tend to put the decision of what dramatic goals / themes to pursue strictly in the “pre-play” / character-creation stage of the game. And while that makes sense in terms of being able to set up important dramatic events, there are a lot of moments of (at least) minor / momentary drama that you are pretty much telling the players not to explore.

I like the idea of keys (an example that Ogre brought up), but they also seem very limited / limiting. I think that’s part of the point of them: to keep the character focused on what matters, and to establish what is going to matter to the game. But I feel like I want more room to actually explore what makes these characters tick at the table, not have that all established beforehand.

Does that make sense? Or am I over-analyzing / misinterpreting this? I think what I want is in a sense something like “minor keys”, that you could whip out for a single scene. Not so much to say “this is important to my character” / “this is who my character is”, but “this might be important to my character”, and then play it out and see how things develop.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Yes, we where menaced by a giant wasp at Gary’s tonight.

But, more importantly, I picked up three gaming books today.

Firstly, on my way home from American Eagles (where I bought way too much stuff for future modeling products for my Orks, but in a good way…) I stopped by Alex’s place and grabbed the copy of the 4e Essentials Rules Compendium. From there I headed over to Gary’s where (before the menacing) I grabbed copies of Heroes of the Fallen Lands (the first of the Essentials player books) and Hamlet’s Hit Points (in hard-copy – I already own the .pdf).

First of all, let me say that it makes me happy just to be able to stack these books up. They’re all the same format (HHP is shorter than the other two, of course) and $20 apiece. Easily-portable, perfect-bound books at a price tag that has remained my “casual purchase” threshold for the last decade or so make me happy, in general. But I derive a special personal gratification from being able to stack my D&D books with what I consider more serious-minded (and in this case almost scholastic – but more on that later) works. In fact I could put my Essentials books next to Burning Wheel on the shelf and there wouldn’t be any outward incongruity.

(Aside: The art in both BW & 4eE seems eminently thematic to me. This is not a critical response to the art so much as it is ingrained expectation from my years of gaming. I don’t really like the glossy, prone-to-smudging paper in the Essentials books, but it lets WotC include the kind of colorful, cartoonish-in-a-good-way art that really evokes the “wow factor” that 4e ought to be about. In fact, that’s kind of one of my complaints about the Dark Sun material. Gaming art does a lot for my appreciation of a game’s tone, and the 4e DS art is too upbeat, in a way. Burning Wheel’s art, OTOH, reminds me of the best of the GURPS art (and there was a lot of GURPS art that was sadly far from great), boldly black and white ink-work that takes advantage of the chromatic limitations of what was primarily an economic decision…)

The Rules Compendium looks to be a very good book. I haven’t had a chance to really dig into it yet, although I’ve seen many of the more major changes previewed online already. What surprised me a bit about my quick skim was both how much non-mechanical play advice there was and that a lot of the material seemed aimed at players.

Now, the play advice is all stuff we’ve seen in the PHB2 and DMG2; not word-for-word, but it does seem to cover a lot of the same ground, albeit not as thoroughly. But for a new DM or player this is invaluable advice, and personally as a 30+ year veteran DM I find this kind of “refresher” to be both entertaining and valuable in it’s own right.

The player-focused information seemed a bit odd to me – it’s called simply “Rules Compendium”, but I’ve been under the impression that this was at least technically the GM book of the lot. I worried that, even at only $20 apiece, most non-DM players simply aren’t going to bother with the Rules Compendium (“that’s DM stuff!”). And on a practical note just getting them to read the non-crunchy parts of the book is liable to be a chore.  But what I found when I cracked the Heroes of the Fallen Lands book was that a lot of this advice (the player-centric parts, in particular) is repeated.

Now, this is kind of a catch-22. I know that I, and probably a lot of DMs, am going to want both of the player books in addition to the Rules Compendium. I haven’t opened the books side-by-side to see if they’re exactly the same – well, except for the example of play I did check that and it is indeed, word-for-word the same thing. So I’m paying twice for the same material. But I guess I’m OK with that…

HotFL was more of a guilty-pleasure purchase for me, anyway. I enjoy playing 4e, and I’m going to want the stuff in there (and in HoFK, and in neither case do I personally considered the DDI to be sufficient), but primarily I DM. And one of the great things (for me) about 4e is that I don’t really need to know all of the player-side stuff. But it’s fun to have.

Hamlet’s Hit Points I’ve already mentioned – I got the .pdf a few days ago and have already been reading it. In the introduction (titled: “How To Pretend You’ve Read This Book”), Mr. Laws states: If you walk away from reading this book thinking, “Well, that seemed obvious, now that I think of it,” and your gaming subtly improves as a result, it has done it’s job.. And yeah, wow, I’m not even through the beat-map of Hamlet (the first of three, the other two being Casablanca and Dr. No) and I’m already having that reaction. Well, I haven’t actually gamed since reading it, so I can’t say that my gaming has subtly improved, but there’s not so much direct gaming advice in here as food for thought.

There are a few things that nag at me, however. Mr. Laws points out that certain scenes in plays / movies can’t easily be replicated in RPGs because of POV issues. And this is something that I’ve been chewing over myself, recently. I really want to be able to add not only third-person scenes with dramatic irony and stuff to my games, but also soliloquy / internal monologue for the PCs. And I’d like to have a way to foster a kind of pseudo-conflict between PCs, specifically more dramatic beats. This stuff isn’t anything that the book has really solved for me (yet – I’m not a third done with it, of course) but then I didn’t really expect it to. It’s more about helping me think about this stuff in what is hopefully a more constructive way.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment