June 19, 2009

That Time Cometh

Oh yes, it barely seems like a year has passed, but Free RPG Day is upon us again! This Saturday, June 20th is the day, so be there.

Started by Goodman Games, Free RPG Day is simple: visit your FLGS (friendly local game store, but you knew that already) and pick up free stuff. Simple as that. It's a great way to encourage visits to that vanishing breed, the game store. And hey, while you're at it, support them. You need not buy anything to get a free goody or two, but why not support your local store while you're there?

I shop online as much s the next guy, RPG stuff included. But I sorely miss my vanished game stores. There's something special about visiting a brick & mortar store and actually flipping through that new game supplement or hefting that latest Fantasy Flight Games (free plug) board game monstrosity, not to mention the open gaming (which a surprising amount of stores still offer).

So visit your local store(s) and grab some free booty! Hey, maybe I'll see you there.

June 06, 2009

Chocolate in My Peanut Butter

Years ago in college I edited the school paper. My mentor was a professor nicknamed Tinker, a grizzled old newspaper woman who ran the paper with a firm but kind hand. Every semester it was the same: a student would arrive, new to the paper, and ask about submitting poetry. Tinker would immediately take charge and always forbid the inclusion of poetry ... it was a newspaper, dammit, and that meant just the facts, except for the Sports or Op-Ed pages. The student scurried away, a few months would pass, and another student would show up... I thought to myself, wow, this lady hates poetry.

Later, as I got to know Tinker better (a far nicer woman than she probably sounds here), I discovered that not only did she love poetry, but she had several published books of verse (and not vanity press stuff, mind you).

I asked her once about it, even though I really knew the answer by then, and she said, "Poetry is beautiful, but it belongs in the literary magazine."

Old grognard that I am, I've grown to view my D&D much the same way.

I love horror movies. Love 'em. My favorite board game at the moment is Arkham Horror. I enjoy the Call of Cthulhu RPG, indeed I recently authored an Age of Cthulhu adventure, so I have no dislike of horror games. But too much horror or "grim-darkiness" in my D&D leaves me, well, meh. That trend has gotten old fast.

Likewise, I'd jump at the chase to play the original Star Frontiers game (ears perk up Mike?) or Gamma World (man, I used to dig that game) but mixing science-fiction elements with my D&D likewise leaves me cold. I'm not talking about short adventures for a change of pace, mind you, such as Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or Mike Ferguson's excellent Talons of the Horned King (soon to be released in a 1e version at Gen Con!)—those can be great fun. I'm talking about a steady diet. It's just not my style. I'm a similar stick in the mud when it comes to Gnome gadget-makers, Dwarven railroads, steam rooms, or other non-medieval technology showing up in my game.
I've watched at least one cool History Channel special about the clever use of steam-driven statues in temples by the ancients to fool the faithful, so I know some interesting technology was certainly used in the past, but for me it just isn't what my game is about. A magic electrified floor square? No problem. Electric wires booby-trapping the floor? Don't want it ... even if the end-result is the same.

You see the trend here. I'm all for having a few laughs during the course of play. You thief blew three Climb checks and fell through a window and landed atop the mayor... that's pretty funny. But in-game gags? Yeech. Just play Paranoia already! Again, one-offs like Gygax's Wonderland-inspired modules are fine, but I don't need silly goblins or joke-cracking ettins.

I guess this makes me sound a bit close-minded. I tend to view it as the opposite ... my D&D isn't so boring that I need to mix in everything but the kitchen sink to keep it fun. I get along fine letting my imagination run with the "standard" fantasy concepts (if there is such a thing as standard in this genre). Of course, to each their own ... I've seen a lot of crazy campaigns out there, and some of them were pretty cool. What about you? Like some chocolate in your peanut butter from time to time?
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